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Overreaction Tuesday - Flacco is Back

From House Enterprise, and inspired by Rich Eisen, I’m introducing “Overreaction Tuesday.” Every Tuesday throughout the NFL season, I will overreact to what I deem the biggest storyline to come from the prior weekend’s games across the league, that includes Thursday, Sunday, and Monday. 

In the NFL, the stories and narratives change every single week. The bottom line is that it’s a long season (five months from Week 1 to the Super Bowl to be exact) and we don’t know how it’s going to end. All we can do is overreact to the most recent data, so let’s do that. 


Week 14 - December 7 - December 11, 2023

New England Patriots 21 (3-10) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 18 (7-6) 

Overreaction: The Steelers are trending the wrong way at the wrong time and will miss the playoffs. Mike Tomlin’s team is always one of the league’s best-coached. However, his team has now lost back-to-back games at home against the 3-10 Cardinals and the now 3-10 Patriots. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Steelers were 7-4 and set up nicely for an easy playoff push, likely needing just three wins in the final six games to secure a spot. Now, they are one of six AFC teams that are 7-6 and in a fight for a playoff spot. It only gets harder from here. Pittsburgh plays a fellow 7-6 team in Indianapolis on the road next week before coming home to face the 7-6 Bengals, then back-to-back road games to finish the year at Seattle and at Baltimore. Based on where the Steelers are trending vs. where their future foes are trending, it’s looking more and more likely that Pittsburgh will end up on the outside looking in in the AFC playoff picture. 


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29 (6-7) @ Atlanta Falcons 25 (6-7) 

Overreaction: Tampa Bay is going to win the NFC South. The Buccaneers are the best team by default in the NFC South, and now sit atop the league’s worst division with a 6-7 record, ahead of the 6-7 Saints and Falcons due to tiebreakers. The Bucs have now won two straight games by finding more of an identity on offense; running back Rashaad White has run for 100+ yards in two of his last three games, rushing for 84 in the one where he didn’t break the century mark. The offense took good care of the football and won the game despite being outgained 434-290, thanks in large part to an opportunistic defense which capitalized on Atlanta mistakes. The main problem for Tampa or whoever wins the NFC South is that the home playoff game on wildcard weekend will be against whichever team doesn’t win the NFC East. I’ll take Philly or Dallas in a game against the NFC South champ every day of the week. 


Detroit Lions 13 (9-4) @ Chicago Bears 28 (5-8) 

Overreaction: The Lions peaked too early. Detroit is 9-4 and in prime position to win the division and host a playoff game, baring a miraculous comeback by Minnesota paired with an epic collapse by the Lions. However, Detroit’s best football is seemingly behind them as we move toward the final four weeks of the season. Over the past month, Detroit barely beat the struggling Chargers, pulled off a wild fourth quarter comeback to beat the Bears, lost to the Packers on Thanksgiving, barely beat the Saints, and then lost to the same Bears team they should have lost to a month earlier. They’ve given up 26 points or more in each of the last five games, forcing the offense to have to throw the ball more and get away from the ‘run-first’ identity. Too much of the burden is falling on quarterback Jared Goff, who has been asked to make bigger and bigger plays that he’s not equipped to make. Ideally, the Lions rely heavily on David Montgomery and Jahymr Gibbs in the run game and the Goff passing game is complementary. However, when you’re in shootouts like they have been, that’s harder and harder to do. Detroit still plays the Vikings twice along with the Broncos and Cowboys; they’ve got a month to get the mojo back. 


Indianapolis Colts 14 (7-6) @ Cincinnati Bengals 34 (7-6) 

Overreaction: Jake Browning has the Bengals very much alive in the AFC playoff picture. Cincinnati’s season looked over when Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending injury in the Thursday night loss at Baltimore a little over three weeks ago. However, under backup Jake Browning, the Bengals are 2-1 and have scored 34 points in each of their last two games, wins over the Jaguars and Colts. With the emerging rookie RB Chase Brown paired with Joe Mixon in the run game and the star receivers on the outside Cincinnati has at its disposal, Browning shouldn't have to be doing too much. And yet, he’s been phenomenal for them and has his team as one of the six AFC teams that are 7-6 with four games to go. Six teams fighting for two spots. 


Jacksonville Jaguars 27 (8-5) @ Cleveland Browns 31 (8-5)


Overreaction: Joe Flacco has the Browns looking the best they’ve looked all season on offense. In his two starts, Flacco is putting up an average of 282 yards per game, which is two yards less than Tua Tagovailoa’s average for the season. Obviously, a small sample size, but Flacco’s efficiency and numbers as a 38-year old QB signed off the couch a few weeks ago has the Cleveland offense looking the best it's looked all season. He’s the fourth different QB to start a game for the Browns and is coming off a huge win over Jacksonville on Sunday; a win Cleveland needed in the worst way. Over the final month of the year, the Browns take on the Bears, Texans, Jets, and Bengals. With the Ravens atop the AFC, Cleveland will very likely not be in contention for the division, but will be a viable playoff team that has a dangerous defense and a veteran QB who has a Super Bowl victory in his back pocket. 


Carolina Panthers 6 (0-0) @ New Orleans Saints 28 (6-7) 

Overreaction: It’s so hard watching Bryce Young play football. The 2023 #1 overall pick has less passing yards than Kirk Cousins, who only played in 8 games this year compared to Young’s 12. Currently, he sits 25th in the league in passing yards, behind guys like Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson, two guys who have played at least one full game less than Young. Through 12 games, the rookie has thrown as many touchdowns as interceptions (9) and has the worst QBR in the NFL among starters (29.6). In Sunday’s loss in New Orleans, Carolina had the ball at the New Orleans 45 with 18 seconds left in the first half and gained no yards and scored no points. To close out the game, the Panthers turned it over on downs three straight possessions, ending the day 1-7 on 4th down and two turnovers, including a fumble by Young, who finished 13/36 for 137 yards passing. Sure, not all rookie QBs have success immediately in the NFL, but generally there are at least flashes of future greatness if he’s headed that direction. With Young, 12 games into his career and he already looks like a massive bust. 


Houston Texans 6 (7-6) @ New York Jets 30 (5-8) 

Overreaction: If the Jets can win out, they might be able to sneak into the playoffs. Not much of an ‘overreaction’ when using the words ‘can’ and ‘might’ but man the narrative around this Jets team changes every single week. Currently, it’s a logjam in the AFC with six teams at 7-6 and another at 8-5. Those seven teams are vying for three spots, with a few teams beyond those seven that are still somewhat in the mix. One of those teams is the New York Jets, who looked the best they have since the October 15 win over the Eagles in a 30-6 win over Houston on Sunday. If, and it’s a big if, the Jets can shock Miami on the road this weekend and hand the Dolphins its second straight loss, they will be 6-8 with three games to go against Washington, Cleveland, and New England. And if at some point in that stretch Aaron Rodgers can re-enter the mix, it’s not crazy to think the Jets can win out and be right in the thick of the AFC playoff picture over the final month of the season. 


Los Angeles Rams 31 (6-7) @ Baltimore Ravens 37 (10-3) - OT

Overreaction: The AFC runs through Baltimore. What a massive win for the Ravens in the rain on Sunday against the surging Rams. The Ravens needed overtime and a 76 yard punt return for a touchdown to win, but got it done to stay atop the AFC and in-line for the #1 seed. Along with that, the Dolphins and Chiefs both lost on Sunday, solidifying Baltimore’s position at the top. Lamar Jackson is playing like an MVP candidate, throwing for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns while rushing for 70 in the victory. The problem for Baltimore is the teams that lay ahead; the Ravens play back-to-back road games at Jacksonville and San Francisco before returning home to close out the year against Miami and Pittsburgh. All tricky, if not difficult games for a Baltimore team that has looked a bit shaky in the last two wins against the Chargers and Rams. A win in Jacksonville on Sunday night would dramatically increase the Ravens’ odds of securing the #1 seed in the AFC. 


Minnesota Vikings 3 (7-6) @ Las Vegas Raiders 0 (5-8) 

Overreaction: The Josh Dobbs experience is over in Minnesota. The journeyman QB started the season in Cleveland, was traded to Arizona right before Week 1 and then wound up in Minnesota at the trade deadline only to be thrust into game action just days after becoming a Viking. Flash forward to Sunday and his dream season came crashing to an end. In a 3-0 win over Las Vegas, Dobbs went 10/23 passing for 63 yards; he was benched early in the 4th quarter following a three-and-out, the seventh drive of the game led by Dobbs which resulted in a punt. From there, QB Nick Mullens took over. In less than a full quarter of game action, Mullens threw for more yards than Dobbs, finishing 9/13 for 83 yards, including a drive that set up the game-winning field goal in the closing minutes. With Dobbs quarterbacking the Vikes to back-to-back losses entering the game, he was already on a thin leash. After that performance, he’s unlikely to touch the field again this season, barring injury. 


Seattle Seahawks 16 (6-7) @ San Francisco 49ers 28 (10-3) 

Overreaction: Now that they have it, they won’t lose it; the 49ers are the NFC’s #1 seed. San Francisco has won five games in a row, all by multiple possessions. In fact, only one of the 49ers ten wins this year was by one possession, a Week 2 win over the Rams. Quarterback Brock Purdy is playing like the MVP candidate he is (although he should not win it) and the team is the healthiest it’s been all season. If the 49ers are firing on all cylinders and keep the top seed in the NFC, they might as well book the trip to Vegas for the Super Bowl as the conference representative. 


Buffalo Bills 20 (7-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs 17 (8-5) 

Overreaction: The Chiefs have too many problems on offense to be concerned about officiating. I am a huge Chiefs fan, and I love Patrick Mahomes, but the reaction to the 20-17 heartbreaking loss to Buffalo on Sunday was unjustified and out of character. KC leads the league in dropped passes and it’s no secret that they’ve had their issues with wide receivers throughout the year. That came to a head on Sunday when Kadarius Toney lined up offsides on a play that resulted in what would have been the coolest touchdown I have ever seen the Chiefs score. In this situation, several things are true; Kadarius Toney was offsides, the officials could have given a warning as they do in these situations nearly every time, and Mahomes and Andy Reid should not have reacted the way they did, although I get it. Whether it’s last year's Super Bowl, last week’s game against Green Bay and the PI no-call, or the game against Buffalo on Sunday, I am sick of hearing and talking about officiating when it comes to the Chiefs. Because here’s the thing; in order to win the Super Bowl, you gotta get some calls from the officials. You also have to be a really good team. Go back to any Super Bowl champ in history. With every single one, you’ll find help from officiating in the Super Bowl, a playoff game, or a regular season game that later helped determine seeding. I agree with Mahomes’ message that it feels like we’re always talking about officiating at the end of games, but I don’t agree with his reaction or that Toney should not have been called. Line up correctly, don’t complain about the refs, but also the NFL has a major officiating problem. Several things can be true. Good thing for the Chiefs that their remaining four games are against QBs who were not Week 1 starters. 


Denver Broncos 24 (7-6) @ Los Angeles Chargers 7 (5-8) 

Overreaction: Denver is one of the 7-6 teams in the AFC that will end up in the playoffs. The Broncos have won six of seven games and are one of six AFC teams with a 7-6 record with four games to go. Denver travels to Detroit for a Saturday night game against the reeling Lions before finishing out the year against the Patriots and Chargers at home followed by a Week 18 road trip to Vegas. If they can get by the Lions, Denver will be favored in its final three games, setting up a massive opportunity to not only snag a playoff spot, but potentially come out of nowhere to steal the AFC West title from the Chiefs. 


Philadelphia Eagles 13 (10-3) @ Dallas Cowboys 33 (10-3) 

Overreaction: The NFC East will be won by the Dallas Cowboys. Outside of the Cowboys’ early season woes in losses to Arizona and San Francisco, they have looked absolutely dominant throughout the year. They’ve won seven of eight games since the 42-10 loss to the 49ers and avenged the lone loss in that stretch with a 33-13 shellacking of the Eagles on Sunday night. I think Dallas is the better team and should win the division. The issue is the contract in the remaining schedules for both teams. The Cowboys play back-to-back road games against Buffalo and Miami before returning home to take on Detroit, followed by a Week 18 game in Washington. The Eagles travel to Seattle this week, but finish out the year with two games against the Giants with a matchup against Arizona sandwiched in-between. If the Cowboys do surge to win the division, there’s a chance that they’ll be able to lock up the top seed in the NFC as well. 


Tennessee Titans 28 (5-8) @ Miami Dolphins 27 (9-4) 

Overreaction: Tua Tagovailoa cannot win a big game. That is of course, unless he’s wearing an Alabama Crimson Tide uniform. Tua famously came in at halftime of the National Championship game as a freshman at Alabama and helped the Tide win a title. However, in the pros, he has struggled to deliver when the lights are brightest. On Monday night, Tagovailoa went 23/33 for 240 yards and 0 touchdowns, taking 5 sacks along the way, including on the final offensive play for the Dolphins. All night, Miami’s high-flying offense was stagnant, only taking control of the game when the Titans had back-to-back self-inflicting turnovers in the closing minutes, only to have the Dolphins defense, which was dominant all night, come up short as Miami blew a 14 point lead with less than three minutes to play. Had Miami won, they would have shot to the top of the AFC standings, leapfrogging the Ravens and moving to the #1 seed in the conference. As it stands, they’ll have their work cut out for them, beginning this weekend with a home game against the Jets and the all-important Week 17 game in Baltimore looming. In the game on Monday, the NFL’s best receiver, Tyreek Hill was sidelined with an ankle injury for much of the second half. If the Dolphins don’t have him, what is that offense going to look like going forward? 


Green Bay Packers 22 (6-7) @ New York Giants 24 (5-8) 

Overreaction: The Giants should do everything they can to dump Daniel Jones for Tommy DeVito ahead of next season. This past offseason, the Giants signed Daniel Jones to a four-year, $160 million extension to make him their franchise quarterback. In the Week 9 loss to Las Vegas, Jones suffered a season-ending injury, leading to Tommy DeVito taking over as the starter. In games he’s started, DeVito is 3-1 and has thrown 7 touchdowns and 1 interception in those four games. On the flipside, Jones, who started six games this year, finishing just four of them, threw 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. This season, DeVito is making $750,000 compared to the $40 million Jones is making. I’m not necessarily saying DeVito is the long-term solution at QB, but if the Giants can get Jones off the books moving forward, imagine what they could do with all the cap space to build around DeVito. Exhibit A: the 49ers, who are paying Brock Purdy $870,000 this season. 


Week 14 Teams on Bye: 

  • Arizona Cardinals (3-10)

  • Washington Commanders (4-9)


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