The Cowboys began week 13 with a crucial home matchup with Washington on Thursday night football. In the do-or-die contest, Dallas found an offensive rhythm for the first time in nearly a month and were finally able to run the football. This opened things up for Dak Prescott downfield and the Cowboys finally looked effective and took down Kirk Cousins and Washington 38-14.
Running back Alfred Morris had his best performance as a Cowboy with the healthy offensive line to run behind. Despite what they’ve probably been telling themselves, Ezekiel Elliot is not the be all end all of this team. If the O-line continues playing up to par like they did Thursday, Morris and Rod Smith are more than capable of keeping Dallas relevant until Elliot’s week 16 return. At 6-6, the Cowboys aren’t dead yet. However, they will need to keep winning in order to keep pace in a competitive NFC wildcard chase.
The Texans played a competitive game with divisional foe and first-placed Tennessee Titans on the road. Houston stayed alive for the majority of the game and had a chance to take the lead with a touchdown late. In order to do this, quarterback Tom Savage needed to convert a fourth down and four in enemy territory. However, left tackle Jeff Allen amazingly committed three straight false starts to make it fourth and 19. To Savage’s credit, he was actually able to move the chains with a 20-yard completion. Alas, Houston would turn the ball over on downs and allow a late touchdown run by Tennessee’s Derrick Henry to fall to 4-8.
The Titans stayed atop the AFC South with the win, but the Jaguars kept pace with a home victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Jacksonville has incredibly held their opponents to 10 points or less in seven games this season and currently hold the AFC’s first wildcard slot. The Titans hold the division thanks to a head-to-head win, but the two teams will meet again on the last game of the season.
With the South still open for the taking, the AFC West became even more interesting with another Kansas City Chief loss on Sunday. The Chiefs finally seemed to get their swagger back on the offensive side of the ball with a big game from quarterback Alex Smith, but the defense remained horrendous and gave up 38 points in a loss to the Jets. Kansas City’s morale seems depleted and cornerback Marcus Peters showed his frustration by actually throwing a penalty marker into the stands on Sunday. After a 5-0 start, the Chiefs are out of sorts and flailing for answers.
With the downfall of Kansas City, the Chargers continue their resurgence in the AFC West. They hardly looked to special in a 19-10 home win over the Browns, but the Chargers are hitting the right notes at the right time and find themselves in the middle of a three-way tie with Kansas City and the Oakland Raiders for first place in the division. All three of the teams are 6-6.
At this point, I have to give the upper hand to the Chargers too take the West. First off, they’re the hottest of the bunch and have played the best football as of late. The team has won six of their last eight after starting the season 0-4. While the Chiefs have been close in their losses, they have absolutely no momentum at this point and will need a quick turnaround to hold onto their top spot.
The Raiders just defeated Geno Smith and the lowly Giants at home, but they have also been very underwhelming all season. Out of the three teams, the Chargers are the only one with a serious defensive threat with pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Oakland and Kansas City will meet on Sunday and the Chargers will play both before the season ends.
The NFC playoff picture was severely shaken on Sunday when the injury-riddled Seahawks handed the soaring Eagles their second loss of the season. Seattle absolutely needed this win to stay alive in the playoff picture, and even replaced Atlanta for the very last spot for now. Despite the absence of the team’s top defenders, Russell Wilson has kept his Seahawks afloat pretty much by himself. The defense still isn’t bad, but it’s a far cry from the Legion of Boom we’ve come to know in recent years. In order to qualify for the playoffs, Seattle will likely have to finish with a better record than the Falcons. They currently possess this, but they’ve also lost to Atlanta. Wilson will have to stay dominant if he expects to hold the wounded Seahawks in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia lost their first game since week 2 and are now the second seed in the NFC playoffs behind the Vikings. Minnesota holds the spot for now thanks to some deep tie-breakers and are now the league’s hottest teams with their current eight-game winning streak.
The Saints took care of the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans to maintain their lead in the NFC South. The Saints have now defeated Carolina twice, giving them the inside track to easily win the division. With running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara dominating opposing defenses, Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense have been unstoppable. I believe this balance as well as a stout defense makes New Orleans the team to beat in the NFC. They have an outside shot at a first round bye along with the Rams, who picked up another win in Arizona.
The Rams and Eagles will go at it in Los Angeles next weekend for each team’s biggest matchup yet. The Eagles will have a chance to show us they’re actually one of the top teams in the conference or begin a war for playoff seeding.