B/R NFL Staff's Biggest Winners and Losers of Week 14
During Week 14, reality started to set in for many teams across the NFL landscape. Some had their playoff aspirations validated, while others fell out of the mix. Some even saw their seasons essentially end since they were eliminated from postseason contention.
The Kansas City Chiefs became the first squad to capture a division crown. The Green Bay Packers followed suit shortly thereafter.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Minnesota Vikings' 26-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pushed Mike Zimmer's squad out of the seventh seed in the NFC, and the Arizona Cardinals filled the void. The New York Giants, meanwhile, went from NFC East division leaders to 12th in the conference with their loss to the Cards.
Plenty remains in play over the next three weeks, though team goals are only part of the equation.
Individuals continue to make their cases for MVP consideration, All-Pro status, Pro Bowl berths and possibly jobs after this season.
Bleacher Report's team of NFL writers—Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport and Kalyn Kahler—watched Sunday's slate, weighed all the outcomes and identified the biggest winners and losers from professional football's latest action.
It wasn't always pretty, especially for some of the league's most identifiable names.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich
Reich needed this. His team is trying to keep pace with the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South race, and it probably couldn't afford a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
Not only did the Colts win handily on the road, but they did so with much-needed offensive balance as Reich essentially made rookie running back Jonathan Taylor the centerpiece of the offense. A lot of folks had been clamoring for Taylor to get more action, and the Wisconsin product delivered with 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
Beyond that, Reich called his best game of the year as the Colts offense consistently moved the ball down the field in a performance that resulted in the Raiders firing defensive coordinator Paul Guenther on Sunday evening.
If they can keep buzzing like that, the Colts could go deep in January.
Loser: Las Vegas Raiders
Meanwhile, the Raiders would be mired in a four-game losing streak if not for a Hail Mary against an inexplicable New York Jets blitz at the end of their Week 13 meeting.
For the second year in a row, this overrated team is falling off a cliff down the stretch after a promising start, which shouldn't be surprising because the defense still stinks (and they know it after firing Guenther) and the offense doesn't have enough big-play ability.
A soft finishing schedule could allow the Raiders to sneak into the playoffs, but it became obvious during Sunday's embarrassing home loss to Indianapolis that Jon Gruden's team still doesn't have a deep run in it.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick
Reddick, who the Cardinals selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2017 draft, has been benched, placed on the trade block and called a bust during his four-year career. Arizona didn't pick up his fifth-year rookie option this past offseason, either.
Yet he's continued to work hard and led the Cardinals with five sacks entering Week 14 before exploding with five more sacks during Arizona's much-needed 26-7 victory over the New York Giants.
Reddick has struggled to find a home within the defense. He now seems comfortable working as an edge defender, which is where he should have been all along, and the performance overwhelmed him after his previous struggles.
"I'm still processing it, still taking it in," Reddick told reporters after the career-defining performance. "I cried at the end of the game, filled with joy. I felt blessed. This whole year has been important to me, and to see things going the way I wanted them to go, to see today happen, it's just amazing."
Reddick likely earned a rather nice payday—either from the Cardinals or some other team in free agency—based on this performance alone.
Loser: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes
The MVP race has been quite interesting this season because nobody seems to want the hardware.
The Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson emerged as the early front-runner before stumbling a bit along the way. The Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray entered the conversation for a hot minute. Then it looked like Mahomes would run away with the award for a second time until the Chiefs met the Miami Dolphins.
From an overall perspective, the Chiefs won Sunday's contest. Mahomes threw for a whopping 393 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In fact, Kanas City is now 8-1 after trailing by 10 or more points with Mahomes under center, per ESPN's Field Yates.
Mahomes presumably won't care about falling behind the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers in the MVP race, but the reigning Super Bowl MVP certainly won't be happy that he threw three interceptions against Miami. He won't like what the coaching staff will have to say about the Dolphins sacking him for an inexcusable 30-yard loss, either.
Comparatively, Rodgers improved to a 39-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio during Green Bay's division-clinching victory over the Detroit Lions.
Mahomes is great, but he's not perfect. He shouldn't be off-limits when he deserves a little criticism.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Granted, the Buccaneers didn't exactly pile up the style points Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. They barely cracked 300 yards of offense against a suspect defense. But after dropping three of four before their bye week, they didn't need style points; they needed a win.
Now, with its "toughest" remaining test of the season over, Tampa is well-positioned for a nice winning streak to close out the year.
The Buccaneers have two meetings against a bad Atlanta Falcons team sandwiched around a trip to Motown to face a worse Detroit Lions squad. Win those three games, finish 11-5 and get a little help, and the NFC's No. 5 seed could be in play.
And that would mean a date in the Wild Card Round with the "champion" of the NFC Least.
Loser: New York Giants
The Giants entered Week 14 with quite a bit of momentum. The G-Men had peeled off four straight wins to move into first place in the NFC East, punctuated by a stunning Week 13 win in Seattle. Better yet, they were set to get second-year quarterback Daniel Jones back against an Arizona Cardinals team that had backslid of late.
All that momentum vanished in a putrid performance at MetLife Stadium.
Jones completed just 11 of his 21 passes for 127 yards. He was sacked half a dozen times and fumbled three times, losing one. The Giants had 159 yards of total offense, turned it over three times and converted just three of 12 third downs.
It was all kinds of ugly, as well as a reminder that no matter who "wins" the NFC East, that team is likely looking at getting drilled at home in the Wild Card Round.
Winner: Washington Football Team defense
Sunday was a good day for the Football Team, who took the lead in the NFC East.
Defensive end Chase Young had a spectacular game, registering his first career touchdown on a scoop and score. He has demanded attention all season, and now the whole Football Team might demand our attention, too.
"We're relevant. We're in the conversation," head coach Ron Rivera said after the game.
At 6-7, Washington has a great shot to claim the division after somehow winning four straight games with the most conservative offense in the league.
Young and the defense have proved they can power the team to wins.
Loser: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz
Jalen Hurts really did provide that spark the Eagles needed. It wasn't perfect, but he rushed for 106 yards and didn't hold the ball too long to create the negative plays we've seen from Wentz so often this season.
We're not jumping to conclusions here and saying Wentz is done and this job is Hurts' forever. But at least for the remainder of this season, this feels like Hurts' team.
The offense was much more functional under his command.