Mike Freeman's NFL Grades: Pre-Week 17 Edition

Mike FreemanNFL National Lead WriterDecember 24, 2013

Kelley L Cox/USA Today

The Philadelphia Eagles were among the most impressive teams from the past week, and they now get a cakewalk postseason play-in game against Kyle Orton and the Mouseketeers.

Can the Cowboys win that game? We've covered that. No Tony Romo, no chance.


Dallas coach Jason Garrett gives the speech of his life. It should go something like this:

"No one thinks we have a chance. You read the crap in the media. You hear it. You see it. No one. Why even bother to play this game? You know why? Because you (points to one Dallas player) and you and you…you all have heart. You have things inside of you that the critics and the media can't account for. You have more of it than them (points to Eagles locker room).

We all love Tony, but Tony is one man. We are a team. We are a team that has never quit and never will.

You think Roger Staubach quit? You think Michael Irvin quit? You think Tom Landry wouldn't stand before you the way I am and believe in you? Do you know who we are? We are the Dallas Cowboys. Do you know who that is? (Points to Eagles.) That is the team we are going to beat. 

"My brothers of the sword! I would rather fight beside you than any army of thousands! Let no man forget how menacing we are. We are lions! Do you know what's there, waiting beyond that beach? Immortality! Take it! It's yours!"

OK, I took that last part from the movie Troy, but you get my point. 

The pressure is all on Philadelphia. If the Cowboys can make the Eagles feel that, then they might have a snowball's chance.

Now, on to the grades.

49ersBAn all-out blitz causes Matt Ryan to throw the ball faster than he wanted, and it ended up in NaVorro Bowman's hands for the touchdown. What a way to end it.
BearsF-Chicago gave up 514 yards of offense, including 289 on the ground. Dick Butkus just threw up a little.
BengalsBAndy Dalton is heating up. Against the Vikings, he had a 136.5 passer rating and completed 71.1 percent of his passes. If he keeps playing like this, the Bengals will be tough to stop.
BillsA-The defense got seven sacks against Miami and held the Dolphins to 103 yards offensively. Imagine if the Bills had any semblance of an offense.
BroncosB+Peyton Manning set the season passing touchdown record (51), but that Broncos defense continues to show it can be had. Now, the loss of Von Miller with a torn ACL puts even more pressure on Manning.
BrownsDThe stat line for quarterback Jason Campbell: 18-of-40 for 178 yards, zero touchdowns, two interceptions and sacked three times. Yucky.
BuccaneersDThey had just 170 yards of total offense. That's a season low for the second consecutive week. If the players are trying to save Greg Schiano's job, they need to use a different strategy.
CardinalsBThey gave Seattle its first home loss since December 2011. They are officially the scariest team not in the playoffs because of that defense. If the Cardinals get in, they can beat anybody. Their grade would be higher, but Carson Palmer threw four interceptions. That's how terrific the defense is.
ChargersB-The lower grade is due to the three turnovers. If San Diego was playing any team other than the Raiders, it probably would have lost. 
ChiefsD-The team is showing some cracks at the wrong time. That once-impressive defense allowed 23 consecutive Colts points. It was disgraceful.
ColtsAGoing in to Kansas City and manhandling a very good, well-coached football team says a lot about the Colts. They did not simply catch the Chiefs on a bad day.
CowboysBThey showed guts in hanging with Washington, and I don't care how much Washington stinks. Still a great win. Now comes life after Romo, which won't be pretty.
DolphinsFThat was an impostor Miami team. Had to be. The Dolphins are not that bad. Chalk it up to one of those days.
EaglesA+++I know the Chicago defense is absolutely terrible, but that is still an NFL team the Eagles dropped 54 points on.
FalconsC+Valiant effort. For once this season, that Atlanta defense hit somebody. For once, the entire team showed toughness.
GiantsBIf you can't make the postseason, ruining someone else's is the next best thing.
JaguarsC-What you see now with this team is maximum effort. What you also see is a depleted roster that just doesn't have enough talent to compete.
JetsBGeno Smith did not have a turnover. Not a one. This is the player the Jets hoped to see all season.
LionsF-Lose at home in what is essentially a playoff elimination game to the Giants, who can't beat anybody. This loss could cost Jim Schwartz his job.
PackersB-The thing that keeps going through my thick skull: If Aaron Rodgers had not gotten hurt, the Packers would have won their division by three games—and crushed a team like the Steelers.
PanthersBI've wanted Cam Newton to have a drive like that. There it was. He saves the game, and the Panthers are a force. Pair that last drive with incredible defensive play from Luke Kuechly all game, and you see why Carolina beat New Orleans.
PatriotsATom Brady won his 11th division title. That's more than any other quarterback ever. Incredible. And I don't care if the division has been sorry either. Eleven is 11.
RaidersDOakland had 12 penalties for 73 yards. Same ol' sloppy Raiders have now lost five straight and seven of eight. 
RamsA-Have a chance to finish the season .500, which hasn't happened since 2006.
RavensD-Got rolled 41-7 by New England. Worst home loss ever.
RedskinsB-Everyone watching that game thought Romo would be the one to choke.
SaintsB-Can't win on the road, and this will be a problem since, well, they're gonna have to win some road playoffs games to go deep into the postseason.
SeahawksC-First home loss since December 2011 removed the air of invincibility. At least that's the theory. Russell Wilson also looks…skittish.
SteelersB+Playoff hopes still alive. It's in times like these when Ben Roethlisberger is incredible. His scrambling, almost desperate efforts to keep plays going are a microcosm of what he's doing for the season.
TexansD-Let Peyton Manning set the touchdown record against them. Oh, and gave up 21 fourth-quarter points. 
TitansBReceiver Nate Washington had six catches for 117 yards and a score. He was the Titans' star of the game.
VikingsFGet their oars blown off by the Bengals. Leslie Frazier is done. 


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