It was just a few years ago when Bills fans, having watched Andy Dalton lead a miracle comeback over the Ravens, began flooding his foundation with donations, that touchdown to Tyler Boyd putting Buffalo in the playoffs for the first time in forever. Jets fans may want to adopt a similar approach with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and/or receiver Henry Ruggs, after they connected on a 46-yard touchdown with five seconds to play to hand New York another defeat and keep hopes alive of a winless season that lands them a prize far more profound than the opportunity to play in a Wild Card game.
Jets fans were not on the edge of their seats, by and large, because they might finally win a game; instead many were panicking about potentially blowing a chance to land Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first-overall pick.
Let's face it, this Jets season is going to be ugly and tough to stomach no matter what. At this point, with Christmas around the corner and the Jaguars threatening to beat the Vikings (Jacksonville entered Week 13 with one victory and pushed Minnesota into overtime with a crazy comeback), Jets fans would be best served by making sure all of this losing results in landing Lawrence, a potential generational talent who might finally get this franchise out of the dregs.
A win over the Raiders on Sunday would have been a massive loss in the big picture. The more people I talk to about Lawrence, and the other quarterbacks in this draft class, the more clear it is that he is far and away the superior quarterback prospect in this draft, and it isn't even particularly close. He checks every box. Think Joe Burrow, even with a more thorough body of work and even more polish.
Yeah, quarterbacks will very likely go 1-2 in the draft, but trust me, you want the first pick. Evaluators I trust maintain there is a steep dropoff between Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields or BYU's Zach Wilson.
"Lawrence is the guy," said one NFL executive who has been sizing up the first-round quarterbacks. "He is plug-and-play from day one. There aren't any real question marks. Fields decision making, his processing, some of the things that you see on film the few times the going got tough, it's a big drop from one (first overall) to two."
Another evaluator told me recently: "Lawrence is truly special. This isn't a 1 and 1A situation. He is the guy."
The Jets ending up 1-15 or 2-14, only to lose out on this kid due to a tiebreaker would be crushing. You can applaud the team's spirit and fight, and they have definitely been more competitive in recent weeks, but as much as a victory Sunday would have crushed the Raiders season, it would have inflicted even greater potential damage to the Jets.
Go ahead and watch Carr navigate the pocket, find some room to operate and uncork a strike over and over. Watch Ruggs put on that double move and head to the empty end zone on repeat. It was the biggest play of the Jets season by far to this point and might end up being one of the biggest moments in franchise history (along with Sam Darnold's Hail Mary falling short as time expired).
After enduring four years of the Jets, it's time for Darnold to move on. It's best for him, and, if the first-overall pick is secured, it's best for the Jets. With any luck, he plays just well enough to perhaps boost his trade stock a smidge, but not well enough to avoid catching four more Ls. Make no mistake, the Jets dodged a bullet today, and their rebuild got a boost; Ruggs happened ... because the Jags ended up losing late in overtime, which would have tied them with the Jets where it matters most had New York actually held on.
Where are the Tua doubters now?
Seems to me that people were a little too quick to pile on Tua Tagovailoa. I get the feeling that unless he does what Patrick Mahomes did in 2019 or something close to what Lamar Jackson did a year ago then the haters are gonna hate.
What the young man is, is what you would expect him to be if you kept a level head about this. He is a work in progress. Yes, he looks raw at times and he can fall into a little rut where he misses an easy throw or two and forces something (generally he's gotten away with that stuff when it comes to interceptions) or he might sail a few balls more than would be ideal.
But he's also been an NFL start for about a month and he's already been beaten up a little and wearing a splint on his thumb and hasn't received as many reps in practice as you would like. Oh yeah and he's thrust into Miami's first legit playoff chase in a while and not exactly playing behind the best offensive line in the NFL. And his head coach sent out some funny vibes benching him with 10 minutes to go in Denver last month. So give the kid a break.
What he is doing is winning meaningful football games. He is keeping his team in it even when the offense is stuck in neutral (like in the first half against the lowly Bengals Sunday). Sure, does he force it to his two main guys -- Devante Parker and Mike Gesicki -- too much at times in the red zone? Yes. And that's typical of young quarterbacks who have a top-heavy pass-catching roster and not much else.
And as much as that offense was misfiring at times, Tua ended up 26-for-39 for 296 yards and a touchdown. The need to open up the redzone playbook (too many fades to Gesicki), get him booted out a little more down. But he also made some huge throws in what was a tight game until the fourth quarter and he unleashed a perfect, 55-yard bomb from the shadows of his own end zone that was dropped by Jakeem Grant otherwise he may have taken it all the way to the house.
Tagovailoa is a gamer, he doesn't get rattled and I hope everyone in Miami can relax and enjoy what they have without pining for what he could already be so early in his career.
This could be it for Nagy and co.
The Bears hole gets bigger each week and I don't see a way out for that regime. Blowing a big lead to a Lions team that appeared moribund much of the day, suffering a shattering sack-fumble to hand Detroit the ball at the 12 in the dying minutes down by three, with the defense collapsing again and the offense still a mess. Man, that looked like a circle closing. Mitch Trubisky threw the ball 34 times, all dink and dink. Everything is limited and it's a tough watch every single week (Chicago has scored 14 third-quarter points all season and half came on a kick return TD).
There is no explosion in the offense and there will be none. For the first time in recent memory they came out able to run the ball down an opponent's throat, but then still lost anyway despite all of the Lions' shortcomings (they fired their coach and GM last week). That 5-1 start was always a mirage, but now the Bears have dropped all the way to last in the NFC North and trending in all the wrong directions ...
More insider notes
- Not sure how that Titans/Browns game ended up having a consequential onside kick at the end after it was 38-7 at one point, and kudos to the Titans for playing every minute of the second half like it mattered, but man, their defense is a big problem. No pass rush and constant coverage issues allowed Baker Mayfield more than enough time to find a bunch of wide-open targets. It was free runner galore as Cleveland rolled to that huge halftime lead. The Browns held the ball for over 21 minutes in that half (despite struggling largely on the ground) with Mayfield starting the game 12-for-14 for 186 yards and three touchdowns and oozing confidence at a time when his play has been suffering. I can not help but wonder about the impact of the Titans catching the Colts and Ravens without those teams having the heart of their defensive lines available on successive weeks ...
- Anyone who wasn't sure how outstanding DeForest Buckner is (and Denico Autry) just watch the difference in the Colts defense from Week 12 to 13. Their return was everything and Indy pretty much suffocated the Texans in the second half of what looked like it might be a shootout up until the final minutes. A bad snap fumble cemented the win for the Colts, and that AFC South race is going to be wild ...
- The Saints completed a stretch where the defense went 42 straight possessions without allowing a touchdown. That side of the ball is lights out, Taysom Hill played his best game by far with Drew Brees likely back next week, and New Orleans might be the best team in football. Sean Payton can keep people guessing with his two starting QBs and alternating styles. Throw with Brees to open the game (with Hill involved as a running back/receiver) and then run with Hill to close games out? Fascinated to see this team down the stretch.)