With four weeks remaining in the NFL season, it’s still all to play for with many teams still in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Week 14 got off to a fantastic start with a classic finish between Minnesota and Pittsburgh before Monday morning saw a pair of classic finishes in Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.
Mercifully it was also the final week of the byes, with every team in action every week for the remainder of the regular season.
We’ve got our NFL Week 14 recap below so read on and find our biggest takeaways.
1 – The Bad Teams Are Really Bad
While several NFL teams remain a nightmare to try and work out, Week 14 served as a nice reminder that the bad teams are always good to back against.
Houston was the first team eliminated from playoff contention last week and they offered up this meek effort at home against a bad Seattle team.
Jacksonville was eliminated from the race this week after this horrendous effort against the Titans.
Not to mention the reported behind the scenes turmoil surrounding Urban Meyer and if he will be one and done.
Then there’s the Jets who made New Orleans look like a team that wasn’t battling injuries on offence in a 30-9 loss.
Following all of that, in the late window of games, Detroit was blown out by a motivated Denver team that was honouring the recently deceased Demaryius Thomas.
When those four teams play, you are unlikely to get a competitive game but at least Week 15 gives us a toilet bowl as Jacksonville and Houston play one another.
2 – Finding A Super Bowl Winner Is As Tough As Ever
Normally by this stage of the season, there is a runaway favourite for the Super Bowl but it is tough to make a clear cut case for any team to be the favourite.
Instead, there is a massive pack of teams in contention and there is a case to be made for at least nine AFC teams to make the Super Bowl and six in the NFC.
Unfortunately, every single one of those teams has a major question on it, whether it is over their roster depth like Baltimore and Green Bay, the sustainability of their play in New England, the inconsistency of Dallas and the LA Rams or just not believing they are actually good like San Francisco.
The winner of Super Bowl LVI might just be the team that falls into the most favourable situation come mid-January.
Or it could be a super talented team playing up to its potential and taking the throne as the challengers around them fall apart.
Right now it looks like that team could very well be the Kansas City Chiefs who look like they are in form at the right time of year.
They destroyed the Las Vegas Raiders last week, going up 35-0 before the Raiders even had a chance to get their bearings.
Even their backups were running over them in garbage time at the end of the game.
There is the potential asterisk attached that they were made to look better than they are because it was the dysfunctional Raiders but if they can execute at that level on offence and defence, they might just find their way into a third straight Super Bowl appearance.
Up next for the Chiefs is the toughest remaining test on their schedule
3 – The Bye Was The Matchup to Have This Week
It was chaos aplenty as some teams took big hits to their playoff positioning this week, and the biggest beneficiaries were the teams on a bye.
Philadelphia was able to sit back and get quarterback Jalen Hurts healthy for the stretch run while seventh seeded Washington went down to Dallas to drop to 6-7 and stay level on record with Minnesota, Atlanta and New Orleans.
Factor in two games against Washington in the span of three weeks and the Eagles can potentially take control of the race for a playoff berth.
Miami might be the AFC’s 13th ranked team at the moment, but they are one win behind the sixth placed Colts.
Their push for an unlikely playoff spot was helped with Buffalo, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh all losing and preventing those teams putting any distance between them and the chasing pack.
Not to mention the gut wrenching way the Bengals lost to the 49ers after rallying to send the game to overtime and taking the lead before this play.
Indianapolis was able to maintain its hold on a playoff spot, jumping over Buffalo and Cincinnati with their losses and keeping ahead of those two sides plus Cleveland and Denver with their 6-3 conference record.
However at the top of the AFC it was a familiar refrain, as cries of “it always works out for the Patriots rang out on broadcasts and online” throughout the day.
Their former quarterback Tom Brady did them a huge favour, knocking off the Buffalo Bills with this pass in overtime.
That gave them a two game lead in the AFC East and put them in prime position to host at least one playoff game at Gillette Stadium.
With a 7-1 record in AFC games, the Patriots also were boosted by the Ravens losing against the Browns and know that if they win out, they will not have to travel until a hypothetical Super Bowl appearance.
Should they claim that top seed, they will have been forced to earn it with a tough run home that starts on Sunday (AEDT) with a big game against the Colts.
4 – Buffalo Still Has Some Fight in Them
A week after a draining loss at home against New England and down 24-3 to the reigning Super Bowl champions, Buffalo could have very easily gone in the tank and written off their season.
It is $1.01 that there were some reporters beginning their “Bills season ended tonight” stories at halftime in the Buccaneers press box.
But to their credit, the Bills found something to rally around in the second half, held Tampa Bay to a single field goal in the second half and were able to tie the game up and send it to overtime.
While losing was not ideal, it was the little effort plays that the Bills made to keep themselves in the game that gave them something to build on in the final month.
Carolina at home next week should give the Bills a chance to get themselves right and avoid their first three game losing streak since the end of the 2019 season.
5 – Cam Newton’s Revival Was Fun While It Lasted
The reason next week’s Bills game should be a layup is the mess of a quarterback situation in Carolina.
It was Sam Darnold’s job at the start of the season before injuries and poor play forced them to bring back favourite son Cam Newton after his release from New England.
While Newton may be one of the most likeable and engaging players in the NFL, his time as a starting calibre player is well and truly finished.
There was a hope that his eight passing touchdown season from 2020 was due to a lack of supporting talent in New England but based on his early returns in Carolina, it might have been him.
In his first game there were a few flashes of potential and he can still produce as a runner, as evidenced by this touchdown effort.
But when it comes to the most important aspect of his job, throwing the ball, there are far too many moments like this.
It is why Matt Rhule has been forced to rotate Newton with PJ Walker (who was a far from impressive 6/12 for 75 yards himself).
And also why Newton did not get a call until Week 10.
We’ll always have highlights of his 2015 MVP season when he personified Superman though.