Week 14: Steelers, Packers, Bills can clinch playoff berths

As we approach Week14, teams are starting to clinch, while others continue to battle for one of the 14 playoff spots in the NFL. Last week, the Chiefs and Saints clinched playoff spots and can win their respective divisions this week. 

The Bills, Steelers, and Packers can clinch playoff berths in Week 14, and if few things go their way, Pittsburgh and Green Bay can win division titles this weekend.

Below are the playoff scenarios for Week 14: 

AFC

CLINCHED:

Kansas City Chiefs – playoff berth

BUFFALO BILLS (9-3) (vs. Pittsburgh (11-1), Sunday night, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

Buffalo clinches playoff berth with:

  1. BUF win + BAL loss + MIA loss + LV loss + NE loss or tie

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-1) (at Miami (8-4), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Kansas City clinches AFC West division title with:

  1. KC win or tie OR

  2. LV loss or tie

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-1) (at Buffalo (9-3), Sunday night, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division title with:

  1. PIT win + CLE loss

Pittsburgh clinches playoff berth with:

  1. PIT win or tie OR

  2. LV loss or tie OR

  3. MIA loss or tie OR

  4. TEN loss

NFC

CLINCHED:

New Orleans Saints – playoff berth

GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-3) (at Detroit (5-7), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

Green Bay clinches NFC North division title with:

  1. GB win + MIN loss or tie OR

  2. GB tie + MIN loss

Green Bay clinches playoff berth with:

  1. GB win + ARI loss or tie OR

  2. GB win + LAR loss or tie OR

  3. GB win + SEA win or tie OR

  4. GB tie + ARI loss OR

  5. GB tie + LAR loss + ARI tie OR

  6. GB tie + SEA win or tie + ARI tie

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-2) (at Philadelphia (3-8-1), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:

  1. NO win OR

  2. TB loss OR

  3. NO tie + TB tie

Jags’ Schobert on Rodgers: ‘He’s still a person, can still be affected by pressure’

It’s been a long first half of the season for Jacksonville Jaguars, and after defeating the Colts in Week 1, Jacksonville(1-7) has lost seven in a row. Now, they have to go on the road to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers(6-2), which won’t be easy. 

In eight games, Rodgers has thrown 24 touchdowns(third-best in the league) and only two interceptions. Rodgers also has the best QBR(87.6) in football.

 “He’s as advertised,” Jaguars S Jarrod Wilson said on Thursday. “He’s just a really big arm. He can make every single throw on the football field, just [has] a big arm. I only played him that once. That was actually my first game in the league, so definitely remember him; just [has] a big arm. I’ve been watching film on him all week, and he definitely throws it up there and gives his receivers opportunities to make plays, so just his arm…

“I think it’s his experience too. To have an arm like that, it’s kind of like arm talent is key, but he’s just experienced now. [I] think he’s in over year 13, 14, I’m not sure, so he’s seen everything. There’s not anything that’s going to go out there and surprise him, so it’s really just kind of doing what you have to do, being in your right spot to make the plays, and they’ll come. I know he trusts his arm, and he can make every throw, and I just know his experience is what usually takes over for him.”

While Rodgers is not turning the football over much in 2020, Jaguars LB Joe Schobert, a Packers fan as a child, believes any player can make mistakes, including Rodgers.

“Growing up as a Packer fan, I was spoiled with Brett Favre, transitioned to Aaron Rodgers for my whole childhood watching them play,” Schobert said on Thursday. “He’s just done a lot of great things in Green Bay. He’s been MVP of the league multiple times, probably has a case for multiple more.

“As you get into the NFL and you understand how hard the game is and how fast and how good defenses are and defensive backs are, [it] makes you appreciate it a little bit more that he’s still doing it at such a high level when he was doing it for a long time since I was in third, fourth grade. But at the same time, you’re up here, and you see things on film, you realize he’s a person. He’s made mistakes. He doesn’t make as many mistakes as some other people, but he’s still a person, can still be affected by pressure, throw some balls that are up for grabs. So, we just have to be ready to take advantage of it because he will give an opportunity. He’s a human just like the rest of us.”

At times, it appears Rodgers is not human on the football field, but in the end, Schobert is right. If the Jaguars can find a way to make Rodgers uncomfortable, maybe mistakes will happen. However, all those things are easier said than done.

 

 

 

Rodgers on loss to SF: ‘It’s different ballgame playing in 20-degree weather with snow, cold, and wind’

Anytime you win 14 games in a season, which was the case for the 2019 Green Bay Packers, you could probably call your season a success, especially when you consider that the Packers were 6-9-1 in 2018.

Under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, Green Bay had a lot of success in 2019, including winning the NFC North, but they just were not good enough to get past the San Francisco 49ers, who defeated the Packers 37-20 in the NFC title game at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.

In two matchups with the 49ers in 2019, one in the regular season and playoffs, San Francisco dominated the Packers and outscored them 74-28, but according to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, the talent gap between the two teams is not that big.

“It looks pretty big,” Rodgers said after the game. “They got us a couple of times, but I don’t think it’s that big. I think we’re really close. We’re just a little more consistent performance away from consistently playing with these guys.

“We got them at their place twice. I’ve said this before, but we’ve got to get one of these at home. It’s different ballgame playing in 20-degree weather with snow, cold, and wind. It’s a different type of game to play in.”

The 36-year-old Rodgers, who just completed his 15th NFL season, is still playing at an elite level, but he is getting older, and after how things turned out for the Packers in 2019, Rodgers thought that Green Bay could possibly win it all in 2019. 

“Yeah. It’s a little raw right now for sure,” Rodgers said. “It definitely hurts a little more than earlier in the career just because you realize how difficult it is to get to this spot. With all of the changes this offseason, the installation of a new system, and a new program, to get to this point, you feel like it was something special because it just didn’t really make sense.

“We weren’t picked by most people to win our division, but we found a way to not only do that but to win a home playoff game and get to this spot. It just kind of felt like it was meant to be almost, so that was a little bit disappointing. It’s a little more disappointing when you realize that I don’t have the same number of years ahead of me as I do behind me.”

The Packers will always have a shot as long as Rodgers is playing at an elite level. However, they have to improve their run defense and get Rodgers more to work with on offense. In reality, anytime you give up 285 yards on the ground as they did against the 49ers on Sunday, it’s tough to win, and while they won 13 games in the regular season, this team was not championship-caliber, which means they have more work to do in the offseason to make this roster better.

Giants interview Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy, a Super Bowl champion and one of the most successful NFL coaches of this era, today became the second candidate to interview for the Giants’ head coaching position.

McCarthy, 56, met with team president John Mara, general manager Dave Gettleman, vice president of football operations Kevin Abrams, as well as other staff.

Pat Shurmur was dismissed as head coach on Monday.

Kris Richard, the Dallas’ Cowboys’ defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach, interviewed for the position yesterday.

McCarthy was the Green Bay Packers’ coach from 2006-2018 (when he was let go with four games remaining), which was one of the most successful eras in the franchise’s storied history. In his 12 full seasons, the Packers qualified for the playoffs nine times, including eight seasons in a row from 2009-16, which is tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history.

McCarthy is one of just four coaches to lead a single franchise to eight or more consecutive postseason appearances, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Tom Landry and Chuck Noll, as well as New England’s Bill Belichick.

Green Bay capped the 2010 season with a 31-25 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV as McCarthy joined Bill Cowher as the only coaches to lead their respective teams to three road victories as the No. 6 seed in the playoffs en route to the championship (a feat Tom Coughlin and the Giants accomplished as a fifth seed in 2007).

McCarthy was 125-77-2 (.618) in the regular season and 10-8 (.556) in the postseason for a combined record of 135-85-2 (613). The 135 victories are the 28th-highest total in NFL history and place McCarthy one victory behind Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram and two behind Sean Payton, whose New Orleans Saints host an NFC Wild Card Game on Sunday.

McCarthy’s 135 victories are the second-highest total in Packers history, trailing only Curly Lambeau’s 212.

Two of McCarthy’s postseason losses were to the Giants in Lambeau Field, in the 2007 NFC Championship Game and a 2011 divisional playoff game.

His 2011 team set a Packers record with 15 victories (against one loss) and established franchise standards for points (560), touchdowns (70), passing touchdowns (51) and total net yards (6,482).

McCarthy is one of the NFL’s most innovative offensive coaches. From 2006-17, Green Bay averaged 26.1 points a game, the league’s third-highest total during that time. The Packers finished in the top 10 in the NFL in total points every season from 2007-14 and in nine of the 12 seasons McCarthy completed. Over the same 12 year-year period, they finished in the top 10 in total yards nine times. Green Bay’s 242 giveaways in that time were the NFL’s second fewest.

In his first two years in Green Bay, McCarthy worked with Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. In 2008, Aaron Rodgers succeeded Favre and went on to become a two-time NFL MVP. In addition, McCarthy and his offense produced five Pro Bowl wide receivers in Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams.

When he was hired by the Packers on Jan. 12, 2006, the 42-year-old McCarthy was the NFL’s third-youngest head coach, behind Payton and the Jets’ Eric Mangini. He took over a team that had finished 4-12, its first losing season since 1991 (pre-Favre). Green Bay was 8-8 in McCarthy’s first year and 13-3 in 2007, when the Packers won their first of six NFC North titles during his tenure (including four in a row from 2011-14).

McCarthy entered the NFL in 1993 as the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive assistant/quality control coach and held that same position in New Orleans from 2000-04. Two years later, he began a four-season stint as the Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach. McCarthy first moved to Green Bay as the quarterbacks coach in 1999. He was the offensive coordinator for the Saints from 2000-04 and the San Francisco 49ers in 2005.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen

Rodgers on winning division: ‘Other than James Jones, probably, there’s not many people who thought this was possible’

The Green Bay Packers(12-3) are NFC North champions after going on the road and defeating the Vikings 23-10 on Monday night, and with a victory against the Lions in Week 17, can secure the second seed in the NFC, which means they will get a bye and host a playoff game in the Divisional Round.

What has made the Packers so successful in 2019 was on full display on Monday night. They got 154 yards on the ground, and two touchdowns from RB Aaron Jones, and defensively, Green Bay sacked Kirk Cousins five times, including 3.5 sacks from LB Za’Darius Smith. 

According to Packers Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers, winning the division is the first step for this football team.

“That’s really sweet,” Rodgers said about winning the NFC North. “To celebrate in the locker room with those guys, a lot of guys weren’t here in 2016, the last time we got to put these hats on. That was a sweet run, winning six in a row to finish it up inDetroit. But there’s really nothing like checking that first box on the goal list of winning your division, obviously secures a home playoff game, and now we’re playing for even more coming up next week.”

Coming into the season, many were questioning whether Rodgers and Packers head coach Matt LaFleur could be successful together, but that has been since quieted. After the game on Monday night, Rodgers discussed when he realized the Packers could be very good this season.

“I believed, I would say midway through training camp, that we did have something that could be special,” Rodgers said. “But like I just told Matt, nobody expected us to be in this position, to be 12-3, to win the North. Other than James Jones(former Packers WR), probably, there’s not many people who thought this was possible, just with so many moving pieces and new players and a new scheme. That feels pretty good for sure. To do it with Matt and just to see the emotion — I just told him I thought he just made some really good tactical decisions tonight that were important.”

The Packers, who have won four in a row, are in a good spot right now, especially if they can secure a first-round bye, which is very likely. Green Bay is peaking at the right time, and as long as they have Rodgers, they’re going to be a tough out in the NFC.

 

Vikings OC Stefanski on Cousins: ‘He’s playing at a high level’

The last time the Minnesota Vikings(10-4) faced the Green Bay Packers(11-3) was in Week 2, and at that time, Minnesota’s offense was struggling, including their quarterback Kirk Cousins. In that game against the Packers, Cousins struggled early, played better later, but ultimately was picked off in the end zone with an opportunity to take the lead in the fourth quarter, as the Packers defeated Minnesota 21-16.

On Monday night, the Vikings get a chance to avenge their loss to the Packers when Green Bay travels to Minnesota to battle the Vikings. 

For the Packers, who have already clinched a playoff spot, if they win, they win the NFC North. The Vikings can still win the NFC North, but Minnesota would need some help. Minnesota would have to defeat the Packers and Chicago in the season finale and hope that the Packers lose to the Lions in Week 17. With those scenarios, more than likely, the Vikings will make the playoffs as one of the wild card teams, which will happen with a win in the next two weeks or a Rams’ loss. 

A lot has changed since the Vikings played the Packers in Week 2. Cousins is playing at an elite level. He is seventh in touchdown passes(25) with only five interceptions, and more importantly, the Vikings are 9-3 since their loss to Green Bay, including a 39-10 victory over the Chargers last Sunday.

“He’s playing at a high level,” Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski said about Cousins on Friday. “He’s doing the things that we’re asking him to do. He’s the same guy walking into the building, and he’s putting in the effort every day.

“I just think Kirk (Cousins), individually, collectively as an offensive, I think the guys are playing fast. I think they’re playing to their strengths, and I think you’ve seen over the course of the season, Kirk’s play has been stellar. I think you can go across the board and point out a bunch of guys that have really rose to the occasion.”

Offensively, the Vikings have a lot of weapons. They can run the ball with Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, and they have weapons on the outside with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, which means Cousins just has to get the ball to his playmakers and let them do their thing. 

The Vikings will go as far as Cousins will take them, and if how he has played this season is any indication, maybe Minnesota is in a good place right now. 

 

 

Giants’ Barkley on ‘Go Pack Go’ chants: ‘We’re 2-10 right now, you kind of expect it’

The New York Giants(2-10) continued their losing ways on Sunday. In the snow at MetLife Stadium, Giants rookie QB Daniel Jones would throw three interceptions, and the Giants’ defense allowed Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to throw four touchdown passes, as Green Bay defeated the Giants 31-13.

New York has now lost eight straight games, and they have not tasted victory since September. When that happens, the fans become indifferent. As we know, the Packers have a lot of fans around the country that travel to opposing stadiums to cheer on their team, which was the case against the Giants. At times on Sunday, we heard the “Go Pack Go” chants, which Giants RB Saquon Barkley heard loud and clear. 

“Yeah, that sucks,” Barkley said about hearing the chants. “We’re 2-10 right now, you kind of expect it, I guess. They are a playoff team; they are a great team. I’ve never played at Green Bay, but you hear about the great fans they have. Kudos to them, we just have to play better.”

Even though things look bleak for the Giants, Barkley continues to believe that better days are coming. 

“I know I sound like a broken record, but I promise when this thing turns around, I’m going to sound like a genius,” Barkley said. “We have to continue to keep working. Even though our record is 2-10, you have to come into the building like you are 10-2. That can’t change; your attitude can’t change; your work ethic can’t change. I talked to these guys, and we have to keep fighting, there’s better days ahead.

“I know I sound like a broken record, and everyone is probably going to roll their eyes, saying here he goes again, but when it happens, it’s going to be a beautiful thing.”

When you have a season like the Giants are having in 2019, things can only get better. While both Barkley and Jones are struggling right now, the future appears bright for both players. Hopefully, that means better day are on their way in New York City!

Mike Singletary: Bears most complete team in NFC North

The surprising Chicago Bears are 3-1 and on top of the NFC North after blowing out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-10 at Soldier Field on Sunday. In that game, their second year QB Mitchell Trubisky threw six touchdowns passes, and their all-world DE Khalil Mack recorded a sack and a forced fumble.

The Bears are rolling, and according to Hall of Famer and former Bears LB Mike Singletary, Chicago has the best team in the NFC North.

“I think there is some things going on in Minnesota right now. I think Everson Griffen(out indefinitely with mental health issue) is a huge part of their defense, and it’s going to be hard to replace,” Singletary told TMZ Sports. “I think Green Bay they’re doing okay, but at the end of the day, I think the Bears are the most complete team in that division.”

Minnesota is struggling right now, and they have a tough road game coming up against the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles this week. If they lose on Sunday, Minnesota would be 1-3-1. Concerning the Packers, they still have Aaron Rodgers, and with Rodgers in the mix, they will have a legitimate chance to win the division.

The Bears seem to have a good team, and if Trubisky continues to play decent football, and Mack continues to play at an MVP level, maybe the Bears will win the North, but the Vikings and Packers still have decent amount talent on their respective rosters, so winning the division won’t be easy for Chicago.

Ex-NFL WR Andre Rison believes he is a Hall of Famer

When you talk about former NFL star WR Andre Rison, you tend to talk about all the other things instead what he did on the field. You talk about his relationship with the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes from the group TLC and her burning down his house, you talk about some of the times he got in trouble off the field, but in reality, Rison was an outstanding player.

He won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 1996, he led the NFL in receiving touchdowns(15) in 1993, Rison was a five-time Pro Bowler, and became only the 5th wide receiver in NFL history to notch 60 touchdowns in his first six seasons in the league, but he moved around a lot. Rison played for seven teams in his 13-year career and did not always have the best reputation in the locker room.

With all that being said, Rison believes he belongs in the Hall of Fame:

“Do I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Yeah, I scored double figures in touchdowns about four or five straight years(1990-93) and went to four or five Pro Bowls (in) straight years,”(1990-93) Rison told TMZ Sports. “I proved I can play when I was 30. I played in AFC championship games, NFC championship games; I won Super Bowls.”(Won Super Bowl with Packers in 1996)

Rison has borderline Hall of Fame numbers. He is 42nd in receiving yards(10,205). His numbers, in terms of yards, are better than Hall of Famer wide receivers like Raymond Berry, Fred Biletnikoff, Charley Taylor, Lynn Swann, Tommy McDonald and John Stallworth, but those guys played in a different era, so their numbers are not going to be the same. In terms of receiving touchdowns, Rison is 18th in receiving touchdowns(84), which is the same as Tommy McDonald, but it’s better than Biletnikoff, Taylor, Berry, Swann and Stallworth. Also, Rison has more touchdowns than Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, but Irvin did win three Super Bowls with the Cowboys.

In the end, I think Rison’s reputation is going to hurt his chances. Recently inducted Hall of Famer Terrell Owens had first ballot Hall of Fame numbers. However, Owens’ reputation was the reason he had to wait. Rison does not have T.O. numbers. Therefore, I think Rison misses the cut.

In my mind, Rison makes the Hall of Very Good.