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2013 NFL Grades, Week 15: Kirk Cousins helps his stock

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

After a really impressive first half, Kirk Cousins cooled down considerably Sunday in Atlanta. After starting out 13 of 20 for 248 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half, Cousins went 16 of 25 for 133 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

The completion percentage is higher, of course, but the difference in yards per attempt from the first half (12.4) to second half (5.3) is pretty staggering. Cousins and the Redskins couldn't pull off a surprise win -- Mike Shanahan eschewed a game-tying extra point to try and win the game with a two-point conversion -- but Shanahan's still getting what he wanted by making Cousins look good.

Did Kirk Cousins help his stock on Sunday?
Kirk Cousins passes for 381 yards. Surely some teams needing QB help took notice. (USATSI)

That should continue, too: the Redskins will play the Cowboys (28th in pass defense efficiency at Football Outsiders before this week) and Giants (13th) in the final two games of the season. Cousins will get a chance to whip the ball around and he'll get a chance to make Shanahan look like a guy who can coach up quarterbacks.

There's going to be a LOT of talk about what Cousins is worth in a trade over the next few weeks. It's hard to argue that benching Robert Griffin III was wrong given that this window of games lets everyone see what Cousins has from the pocket and lets RG3 get healthy (although he misses reps). But remember to keep a level head. There's a reason Cousins fell to the fourth round in the 2012 NFL Draft. There's a reason he's a backup.

Matt Flynn and Kevin Kolb are both excellent cautionary tales.

TeamGradeAnalysis
Steelers 30, Bengals 20
D-Playing in Pittsburgh is tough but the Bengals just blew a chance to leap up in the AFC playoff seeding. The running game was totally flat and Andy Dalton never pushed the ball down the field.
B+Ben Roethlisberger played a very efficient game and Antonio Brown keeps having a monster season that no one's really noticing. The Steelers defense smothered Cincinnati early and Le'Veon Bell keeps looking better and better for Pittsburgh.
TeamGradeAnalysis
Chiefs 56, Raiders 31
B+So now the Chiefs are average on defense and great on offense? I'm so confused. The Raiders aren't very good, but Kansas City still hung a freaking 50 burger on a divisional rival on the road. Jamaal Charles is a fantasy football playoffs GOD.
D-Can't give up 50 points to a team that's run by Alex Smith. It's just unacceptable. Matt McGloin threw four picks and Terrelle Pryor tossed in one of his own. Small moral victory that the Raiders weren't eliminated from the playoffs until December.
Panthers 30, Jets 20
C-Santonio Holmes and Co. couldn't back up his "weak link" smack talk. Geno Smith got smothered and the Jets passing game got shut down. They did an alright job containing the Panthers offense but were overmatched most of the day.
B-Not a totally dominant outing you would like to see but they took care of business. (And the Jets added a semi-garbage touchdown.) Cam Newton was efficient, DeAngelo Williams was explosive and the defense roughed up Geno Smith and Co.
Packers 37, Cowboys 36
C+Inspiring comeback for the Packers, who suddenly look kind of scary in the NFC if Aaron Rodgers can get back on the field next week. Matt Flynn was overmatched in the first half and carved up Dallas up in the second. Eddie Lacy is a MAN.
C-First half grade: A. Second half grade: F----------------. (Those are minuses.) What a debacle for Dallas, particularly on the defensive end. They only ran the ball six times in the second half and couldn't stop Matt Flynn despite a 23-point lead at halftime.
Rams 27, Saints 16
D-So weird how badly the Saints struggle in St. Louis. The Rams just match up well with them, I guess. They got battered and bruised on Sunday and really let the Panthers back into the hunt in the NFC South. Drew Brees was horrible and the running game was nonexistent.
B+Zac Stacy with a statement game for Rookie of the Year on the same day Eddie Lacy made noise (and not long after Keenan Allen did the same thing). Kellen Clemens was efficient and the Rams defense made life miserable for the Saints.
Cardinals 37, Titans 34
C+Pretty scary that the Cardinals let the Titans back into this game. Overtime never should've happened. Andre Ellington and Rashard Mendenhall are developing into an interesting little pair of running backs. No INTs for Carson Palmer either.
C-Just your casual 400-yard performance for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Weird, weird game. Kendall Wright is quietly maturing into a very nice option at wide receiver. Meh game from Chris Johnson though.
TeamGradeAnalysis
Falcons 27, Redskins 26
C-Nice game from Kirk Cousins against a depleted secondary. The Redskins receivers were actually able to win early but he cooled in the second half. The Washington defense made some plays too but a two-point #YOLO gamble didn't pay off.
CThe Falcons keep pushing themselves further and further from Jadeveon Clowney. Not a good game for Matt Ryan or the Falcons secondary but a win is a win I suppose. Pair of tough ones for them the last two weeks.
Vikings 48, Eagles 30
FPhilly failed its big chance to really put some distance in the NFC East with an easy opponent. The secondary got shredded by Matt Cassel and the offense took too long to get going.
B+With Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart sidelined the Vikings still managed to run the ball extremely well with Matt Asiata. *furiously Googles Matt Asiata* Stunner of a win for Minnesota.
Dolphins 24, Patriots 20
C-Tom Brady threw for 364 yards but it took him 55 attempts to do it. He was relatively sharp in the first game without Rob Gronkowski but New England's offense doesn't look dynamic enough with just Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola out there.
B-Heck of a game for Ryan Tannehill. Miami has been doing a great job protecting him the past few weeks, particularly impressive given all their personnel issues. Massive win that -- for the moment -- puts the Fins in the playoff picture.
Bears 38, Browns 31
B+Marc Trestman's call to start Jay Cutler looks pretty smart right now: Cutler went 11 of 12 on third down and led the Bears to a critical victory on the road. Alshon Jeffery continues to dominate. The Chicago defense is a major question mark but that's not breaking news.
C-Josh Gordon keeps putting up big stats (albeit in garbage time) and the Browns defense did its best to hold up against the Bears while it could. There's only so much you can do with an offense based on Jason Campbell and Edwin Baker.
Colts 25, Texans 3
F-Honestly don't understand how Houston gets worse and worse every single week that goes by. Embarrassing to go into Lucas Oil and not even manage to score a single touchdown against the Colts. Embarrassing.
B-Like taking candy from a baby. Robert Mathis dominated on the defensive end, becoming the Colts' all-time and single-season sacks leader. They put pressure on Case Keenum and ended this game early.
Bills 27, Jaguars 20
B-Nice road win for a previously struggling Bills team against the hot Jaguars. Both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson put up yards and the defense limited Chad Henne and company. Nice moral victory for Doug Marrone.
C+And so the long-shot playoff run dies. The Jaguars are officially eliminated. But they got some nice contributions from young players again, including Jordan Todman and Ace Sanders.
49ers 33, Buccaneers 14
B+Colin Kaepernick played well and Michael Crabtree kept working into shape (but what was that stupid penalty?). The defense and special teams helped put the Bucs away late.
C-Couple of nice throws -- including a touchdown to Timothy Wright -- from Mike Glennon but the Buccaneers only felt "in" this game for about 10 minutes or so. They managed to tighten things up and quickly egged.
Seahawks 23, Giants 0
A-Not a perfect game, but going on the road and blowing out an inferior opponent is impressive. Russell Wilson was typically awesome, Marshawn Lynch ran well and Richard Sherman feasted on a generous Eli Manning.
FEli Manning threw five picks (five!) and averaged 5 yards per attempt. The Giants defense couldn't slow down anyone and the running game was nonexistent. Nightmare of a game in front of a home crowd.
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