With just two games remaining on the Week 14 slate, the final three weeks of the season is upon us. Not much has been settled in the wild and crazy NFC which saw the Eagles and Vikings trade ownership of the top seed on Sunday. The top of the AFC looks like it will be the Steelers and Patriots maintaining their stronghold on the top two seeds. However, seeds 3-6 are a bit murkier as the Chargers continue to make noise in the West.
With all that said, there are a few things that we learned during this crazy week of football. And no, we did not learn that the Browns are really bad. We have known that for some time now. Here is what we DID learn after Week 14.
The Redskins should let Kirk Cousins walk
The bottom line here is that the Washington Redskins are perfectly capable of being this bad without throwing $30 million a year at Kirk Cousins. Cousins has proven on more than one instance that he is an above average quarterback. Perhaps he is a franchise quarterback but the team has not helped him reach that potential. In fact, they seem to have held him back a bit. (See: Letting Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson walk; Sign a fragile Terrelle Pryor).
The Redskins have now fallen to 5-8 and out of the playoffs after a throttling at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers. This ensures that their streak of two consecutive winning season will not continue. So now the Redskins are once again facing the dilemma of what to do with Cousins. (They should have signed him two seasons ago, saving themselves some money). Most believe they will franchise him, yet again. However, what is the point? Why waste all that cap room when you’re incapable of putting a good team around your quarterback? Keeping Cousins will ensure several more years of middling success. Think Jeff Fisher led teams. The Redskins need to walk away and start over.
Jimmy Garoppolo is the real deal
49ers fans should be excited. After several years of trotting out quarterbacks such as Blaine Gabbert and Brian Hoyer, Jimmy Garoppolo finally looks like THE guy. In a shocking trade earlier in the season, the 49ers acquired the prized Patriots’ backup. In doing so, the outlook for the franchise has done a complete 180.
Garoppolo did not see the field for the first time as a Niner until late in a Week 12 loss to the Seahawks. In the closing moments, Garoppolo drove the 49ers down the field and threw his first touchdown with his new team. The following week against the Bears he didn’t throw a touchdown but completed 70 percent of his passes for nearly 300 yards, notching the team’s second win of the season.
In his encore against the Texans, Garoppolo went 20-of-33 for 334 yards and touchdown as he led the 49ers to their second straight win. Garoppolo showed a veteran’s poise as he moved in the pocket, ala Tom Brady. Another instance of him replicating his mentor was at the end of the first half he led the 49ers down the field for all import points at the end of the half. A Patriot staple in the Brady-era. Now, 49ers fans hope it becomes a staple of their team for years to come.
The Chargers are really, really good
It is crazy to think that this team started 0-4. Then again, the revolving door of placekickers helped contribute to that poor start. With that said, the poor start combined with the Kansas City Chiefs 5-0 start seemed to put a wrap on the Chargers season before Halloween. However, after back-to-back losses to the Patriots and Jaguars as the calendar turned to November, the Chargers have rattled off four consecutive wins. Combined that with the Chiefs losing six of the last eight, the Chargers are once again very relevant. Although they sit outside the playoff picture, they share the same record as the division-leading Chiefs. They are set to square off one more time this season.
A lot can be attributed to the Chargers recent success. Philip Rivers, as he has been for a number of years, has been great behind center. In addition to that, the Chargers are actually healthy at the end of the year. In years past they have dealt with a bevy of injuries to key players, often derailing them for the entire season. But now, they have a healthy receiving core. This includes Keenan Allen and the ageless Antonio Gates. Running back, Melvin Gordon has been a sparkplug for an offense that has been creeping towards ranking within the top 10. With the 0-4 start now in the distant past, the Chargers can now focus on a potentially deep playoff run. They are one of those teams that ‘nobody wants to play’.
Carson Wentz injury drastically changes the landscape of the NFC
In what was perhaps the game of the year, the Carson Wentz and Jared Goff showdown certainly lived up to the hype. The top two picks of the 2016 draft were meeting for the first time as both of their teams represented the best of the best in the NFC. Both team’s defenses ranked in the top seven in the league, however, this was a showdown of the top offenses in the league. After a rocky start, Wentz came out on fire, tossing three touchdowns in the first half. He added one more in the second. It was a huge statement after the loss against the Seahawks last week. However, on a play that eventually got called back, Wentz went down with a knee injury and was quickly ruled out for the game.
Eagles are concerned QB Carson Wentz tore his left ACL, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 11, 2017
The early news out of Philadelphia is not good. As Adam Schefter reported, the team fears Wentz has torn his ACL, effectively ending his season. The Eagles went on to win the showdown with the Rams, however, the long-term outlook is bleak. Wentz was among the top candidates for MVP heading into the week and seemed to strengthen his case as the game went on. Now, the Eagles will have to turn to Nick Foles to fill Wentz’ shoes. A serviceable quarterback, the task may be too tall for Foles to handle considering the deep NFC and the Eagles aspirations of making it to the Super Bowl. For now, Eagles fans and the league in general, hope the early prognosis is premature.