There is only one way to sum up Week 15 of the NFL season: Chaos.
Just when we thought we were getting an idea about how the run home was going to go, the NFL threw up another wild and unpredictable week on the field.
Arizona stumbled to a stunning loss in Detroit, Baltimore fell at home to Green Bay and Tom Brady got shut out in a game for the first time since 2006 and the first time ever at home.
Off the field Covid continues to hover over some teams with three games postponed this week alone and several players are trying to clear the protocols and return to action.
We’re recapping all of the on field action below so find our biggest takeaways from Week 15 here.
1 – The Pressure Got To Brandon Staley
It was the biggest game of the season for the LA Chargers on Friday (AEST) and they will have spent the weekend ruing multiple missed opportunities.
A win would have given them the lead in the AFC West thanks to a season sweep over the Chiefs and for a while, it looked like they might pull off the upset win.
Knowing how important this game was for his team, Chargers coach Brandon Staley was super-aggressive in his decision making from the outset and that would ultimately be what cost his team the game (well, that and a complete inability to tackle Travis Kelce).
Andre Roberts started the game with a 75 yard kickoff return and the Chargers got down to the Chiefs five yard line.
Facing a fourth down and knowing his team would need plenty of points, Staley went for it but Justin Herbert’s pass fell incomplete.
Then just before the half, LA had a fourth and goal from the Chiefs one yard line with three seconds on the clock while holding a 14-10 lead.
Instead of taking the points and extending the lead to seven, the Chargers again went for it but Herbert could not find Keenan Allen.
Seemingly having not learned his lesson from the first half, midway through the third quarter Staley opted to go for it again on fourth and two from the Chiefs 28 yard line.
While the “advanced stats” may have supported Staley’s aggressiveness, taking even just one of those field goals would have changed the entire complexion of the second half.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, a lack of execution on those crucial plays allowed Kansas City to hang around and tie the game up with 1:16 on the clock.
Then with a defence that was exhausted, they were sent back onto the field for the only possession of overtime as Travis Kelce scored the walk off game winner.
That loss just about clinched the AFC West for the Chiefs, giving them a two game lead over the Chargers and taking away the head-to-head tiebreaker from them as well.
LA will now turn its attention to earning a Wild Card spot in a very congested AFC field.
The good news is Houston is up next and that should be an easy win as long as they don’t do anything stupid.
2 – Jonathan Taylor Has The Best MVP Case
A Sunday special gave us a huge game in the AFC playoff race as the Colts ran over the Patriots.
Both teams were coming off their bye but only Indianapolis looked ready to play as their red hot defence produced big play after big play.
But the star of the show was Jonathan Taylor, a guy in such good form that the 2000 Ravens and 1985 Bears would have a hard time slowing him down.
When New England fought back in the second half and got the score back to 20-17, Taylor got behind his offensive line and put the game to bed.
Currently on the fourth line of MVP betting behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady ($2.50) and Patrick Mahomes ($9.00), Taylor might have the best case of anyone on this list.
He is only in his second season but Taylor looks ready to take the “best RB in the league” crown off the injured Derrick Henry.
Having already amassed 1518 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns through 14 games, he is over 400 yards clear of his nearest rival for the rushing title and leads the league with 19 total touchdowns.
While it may be a quarterback driven league in 2021, there is no questioning that the best performing player at the moment is Jonathan Taylor and he should be the MVP.
3 – Derrick Henry May Not Save The Titans
When Derrick Henry was placed on IR in November, the Titans were holding out hope that he could return in time for the playoffs, however it sounds like the superhuman running back may be back on the field before then.
Based on the evidence from the last few weeks, getting Henry back may not be enough to make them Super Bowl contenders.
A combination of injuries and poor execution has dropped them back to the third seed and there was plenty to worry about in their loss to Pittsburgh this weekend.
The offence struggled to get going, committing four turnovers including this which was officially counted as one of five fumbles on the day, three of which were lost.
Tannehill also had an ugly interception midway through the fourth quarter that ended a drive that crossed into Pittsburgh territory.
Henry can be a huge boost to the team if they can get their stuff together but it is fair to be concerned about a guy his size coming off a foot injury.
Mike Vrabel will have his team fired up and competitive in every game but if they play like they did against Pittsburgh, just being motivated might not be enough.
4 – Jacksonville Needs To Get Its Next Coaching Hire Right
You would have needed to look long and hard to find someone who did not think that Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence was a generational prospect that was capable of turning around a struggling franchise.
The guys who have been able to change the trajectory of a franchise have all had one thing in common, a solid support system in the early part of their career.
Urban Meyer did not provide that for Lawrence and it was why the rookie should be the happiest person in Florida right now.
Admittedly there were several reasons why he had to go with the final straw being the report that he kicked a player in practice during preseason.
It also makes hiring the right replacement the most important decision of Shad Kahn’s ownership tenure.
There are plenty of qualified candidates out there including Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, both of whom have experience developing young quarterbacks.
Jacksonville is in a decent position right now, almost a lock to earn a top five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and the favourite to “earn” the top pick, they are essentially playing with house money over the next few weeks.
But when it comes time to hire the new coach, Lawrence should be the driving force behind any
5 – It’s Time To Worry About Arizona
Last season the Cardinals started out 5-2 but finished the season at 8-8 after a November collapse.
This season the Cardinals started out 7-0 but have lost four of their next seven games to drop to 10-4 and they insisted that this year it is a different story.
On the surface that is not a bad position to be in, but it is not a good sign when your 10-win team loses to a 1-11-1 Detroit Lions team.
Arizona produced a complete no-show and did not look interested in playing at all, falling behind 17-0 early.
That 30-12 defeat ended their perfect record away from home and opened up the NFC West for the LA Rams.
Whatever momentum the Cardinals generated with their wins over Seattle and Chicago has well and truly evaporated.
It will not get any easier with Indianapolis up next with the Cardinals coming into it on short rest.