A few days left in 2021 (please hurry up) and if you pull up the NFL standings today and compared them to what you were putting together in your head maybe while you were sitting on the beach in August, I’m going to guess it’s actually not much different.
For example, here are your division leaders:
Cowboys, Rams, Packers, Bucs
Bills, Chiefs, Titans, Bengals (I see you, Cincy.)
Nothing crazy at all. Here we are as fans (and more importantly the media) freaking out week after week, hot takes exploding left and right, yet look at the state of the league. Nothing odd at the top.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is great. Yep.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is awesome. Yep.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen has his arms and legs. Yep.
No breaking news here.
After a wild week of football every day but Wednesday, we had tons of statement games and way too many “meatball” plays.
I didn’t get to travel to a game because my baby tested positive for Covid-19, but I watched plenty of football while he rested.
(I was actually able to cook Sunday. If you’d like my meatball recipe, here it is:
As for our Sunday Sauce, let’s get to it:
Garlic bread: A little something that tastes so good.
Joe Burrow wore a Santa Claus hat in his postgame press conference, probably because he was handing out gifts all day on Sunday. Gifts that were in the form of yards and touchdowns.
In a divisional match-up with major playoff ramifications, Burrow and the Bengals delivered a performance that should give all of Cincinnati confidence that the home team is not just a flash in the pan this season, but a sign of great things to come. Burrow and his weapons scorched the Ravens’ defense to the tune of 575 yards of total offense. The QB had a career day with 525 passing yards and four touchdowns. Wow.
Pasta: We cook ours al dente (Al dente literally translates to “to the tooth.”). So, let’s take this literally.
We knew the Bills were going to give the Patriots a competitive game, but I don’t think many of us expected what my colleague Mike Reiss tweeted: “The Bills did not punt today. And that made them the first team ever to punt zero times in a game against a Belichick-coached team” Bill Belichick has coached 474 games in his long head-coaching career, and this was a first. The Patriots no longer have control of the AFC East and have now lost two weeks in a row. While the Bills weren’t perfect, their attitude on offense was a little different and it worked. The Bills went for it four times on fourth down, with the offense converting three of them.
The Sauce: The most important part of the meal. All the ingredients have to come together at the right time. Some people like it spicy, some people like it sweet, but either way the sauce is the star of the show.
The Philadelphia Eagles are in position to control their destiny due to their dominant run offense, and for good reason. Their run game has become such a threat that ESPN’s Rex Ryan suggested Sunday the team changes their anthem from “Fly Eagles Fly” to “Run Eagles Run.” That in mind, over the last few months there has been the emergence of two pass catchers, tight end Dallas Goedert and rookie wide receiver Devonta Smith.
Since Goedert signed his extension with Philly in November, making him one of the highest-paid tight ends in the NFL, he has played like it.
And Smith, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, has already proved he was the right choice for the Eagles in the draft. His ability to adjust, high point the ball and make toe-tap sideline catches has been so fun to watch over the last couple of months that he says he feels like Michael Jackson. Regardless of the quarterback, the Eagles’ offense might have way more pieces in place than we gave them credit to start the season, with Goedert and Smith; left tackle Jordan Mailata; second-round pick left guard Landon Dickerson; All-Pro center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson, who is having another All-Pro year, on the offensive line.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni is in his first year and currently has the same record as Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.
Maybe I’ve been spending too much time around Philly people, but did GM Howie Roseman get this right already? Remember this is a team with three first-round picks in the 2022 draft.
What a meatball! Most of us really like meatballs and they are essential on our Sundays, but if you are called a “meatball” by one of my uncles, you probably did something really stupid, so this could be a play, a team, or a coach.
The Jacksonville Jaguars had an opportunity to take two shots and win with seconds left on the road against the New York Jets. However, the Jags downed the ball on third down instead of taking a quick-hit shot into the end zone, wasting one of the two plays they could have left. Then on 4th down, Trevor Lawrence’s pass to Marvin Jones fell short and the Jaguars were called for an illegal shift penalty, which the Jets declined, ending the game. The Jets win. The Jaguars lose. Both teams are terrible.
I was going to select Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield for throwing four picks against the Green Bay Packers, but I don’t want to overload on him. We’ve done enough of that here.