The playoff race is heating up as week 13 is almost a wrap. In “three up, three down” we look at three teams that are trending up with impressive wins and three teams who are on the decline and suffered a significant loss. So, let’s get right to it.
Seattle Seahawks – The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in a must win game at home to stay competitive with the Los Angeles Rams and wild card teams in the NFC. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was a man among boys on Sunday night, passing for 227 yards, rushing for 31 total yards and throwing for three touchdowns.
Wilson has to be “money” for the rest of the season if the Seahawks want a crack at the playoffs. The defense is banged up, the ground game has not been good and have a tough road ahead facing Jacksonville and Dallas on the road; plus, they face the Los Angeles Rams at home in what looks to be a make or break game. However, a big win against the NFL’s top team does a lot for team morale and could be just what the doctor ordered for Seattle to gain much needed momentum towards a playoff push.
Minnesota Vikings – The Minnesota Vikings are not a fluke. I repeat the Minnesota Vikings are not a fluke! The Vikings stunned the Atlanta Falcons on the road in a low scoring, defensive game. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum has played extremely well during the Vikings eight game win streak and, in his last four starts, Keenum has a passer rating of 115.
Other than Keenum, the defense has played outstanding football. They held Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to a mere 173 yards and zero touchdowns. Falcons superstar receiver Julio Jones only reeled in a dismal two catches and, although the Falcons had opportunities, they couldn’t cash in. If the Vikings get the first round playoff bye, they need running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon to lead the way on the ground while Keenum cannot turn the ball over. The Vikings are exciting to watch and are a lock for the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens – What a win for the Baltimore Ravens. They shut down Matthew Stafford and company posting 44 points. Ravens running back Alex Collins came up huge in the fourth quarter rushing in two touchdowns and shutting the door on the Lions afternoon. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco played his best game of the season and if the Ravens want the playoffs, they’ll need more performances from Flacco just like that to get in.
I have the Ravens as a playoff team in the AFC and the defense will lead the way. The Ravens defense ranks in the top three in least amount of points per game allowed and in the top ten in least amount of yards per game given up. So, who becomes the X-factor for the Ravens success? The Ravens receiving corp. They have been banged up and have not played well this season, posting the second least amount of yards receiving as a unit in the league. Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace must play better and more consistent. With their additions, the Ravens could have a legit chance to make noise in the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs – Look away Chiefs fans, you are in trouble. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was unstoppable against the New York Jets, throwing for 366 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions and also ran for 70 yards – and you still lose?! During the current four game losing streak, the teams they lost to have records at .500 or less.
The defense is playing sloppy and unable to hold any lead whereas running back Kareem Hunt has been a shell of himself from the first few weeks of the season. The Chiefs jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead against the Jets and then made quarterback Josh McCown look like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. If the Chiefs don’t shape up, and fast, they are in danger of missing the playoffs. Especially, in a highly competitive AFC West.
Atlanta Falcons – Losing to the Minnesota Vikings was HUGE. The Falcons three game winning streak is snapped and they fall to 7-5 in a tight NFC South division. A win would have kept them in distance to still win the division and now a wild card birth is even in question.
Last year’s NFC conference champions need to get better as soon as possible. What makes this loss sting the most is their upcoming schedule; two games against the division leading 9-3 New Orleans Saints and one game against the 8-4 Carolina Panthers. With wins, the Falcons have a chance to control their own destiny. But, they will need Matt Ryan to play like the MVP he was last season. In addition, they definitely need the two headed horse of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to play well coming down the stretch.
Detroit Lions – Had the Detroit Lions won in Baltimore, it would have been a huge momentum gaining win. Instead, they now sit at 6-6 and in an ultra competitive NFC; their chances of reaching a wild card spot is now slim. The Lions ground game has been awful, the defense is too inconsistent and Stafford needs more than one wide receiver to step up in a game. It is always either Golden Tate or Marvin Jones, never both at the same time.
And where oh where is Eric Ebron? Ebron should be a threat every time they are in the red zone. The Lions need to play better if they will have a shot for the playoffs. Fortunately, they have a relatively easy schedule down the stretch and still have a shot, but a win Sunday would have put them in a great spot to reach the playoffs.