"Merry Christmas, you're fired!"
I'm not sure if that's actually how Jon Gruden fired Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther yesterday, but I could definitely see it going down like that, and to soften the blow of the firing, I bet he even threw in a Hooters gift card for good measure.
I would say the Raiders were the biggest disaster of Week 14, but the Jets also played, the Vikings kicker missed three field goals and the Dolphins blew a double-digit lead to the Chiefs. Also, the Texans lost by 29 points to a team quarterbacked by Mitchell Trubisky and the Giants played like they didn't spend a single day practicing last week.
I'd love to go over every disaster from Week 14, but we've got a newsletter to get to. As always, if you want to share this newsletter with everyone you know -- it's a cheap and easy Holiday gift -- just click here to grab the link and then send that link to everyone on your email list or just sign them up without telling them. That's what I did with my wife's family. Let's get to the rundown.
1. Today's Show: Week 14 winners and losers plus full recap
It's Monday, which can only mean one thing: I stayed up until 3 a.m. last night recording a podcast with Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson that touched on everything you need to know about Week 13, and let me just say, it's probably for the best that you listen. We dissected the playoff picture, we dissected all the games that were played Sunday, and to be honest, the only thing we didn't dissect was a frog.
One thing we do every week is hand out our weekly winners and losers from Sunday's action. For our winners this week, Wilson manned up and picked the team that beat his Steelers, Brinson went with a coach of an NFC East team and I went with an actual NFC East team. And no, I definitely didn't think we'd see two NFC East winners this week.
- Winner: Bills. Not only did the Bills cement themselves as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but they're also on the cusp of winning their first division title since 1995. To put that in perspective, Josh Allen wasn't even born yet (If you want to feel super old, he was born in May 1996).
- Loser: Giants. The Giants were in the driver's seat to win the NFC East, but then they went out and crashed the car. The four NFC East teams went a combined 3-1 on Sunday and I'll go ahead and let you guess who lost.
- Winner: Ron Rivera. Not many coaches have had to deal with more than Ron Rivera this year. Not only did he get stuck in the middle of Washington's name change controversy, but he also coached part of the season while battling cancer. Despite that, Rivera has Washington in first place, just a few wins away from potentially clinching their first playoff spot since 2015.
- Loser: Deshaun Watson. Watson got outplayed by Mitchell Trubisky, which is definitely a sentence I never thought I'd have to write. Watson had to play this game without Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills and David Johnson, which is kind of symbolic of his time in Houston. The team puts nothing around him and expects him to single-handedly win games. The biggest problem for Watson is that it's going to be hard for the Texans to make this team better in the offseason, especially in the draft, and that's because the Dolphins have Houston's first-round draft pick this year.
- Winner: Eagles. I understand why a team wouldn't want to bench their $128 million starting quarterback, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do and the Eagles finally did that by sending Carson Wentz to the bench in Week 14. Jalen Hurts made the gamble pay off by leading the Eagles to a shocking win over the Saints.
- Loser: Anyone who takes a double-digit lead on the Chiefs. If you want to know what it feels like to have your heart ripped straight out of your chest, just watch any Chiefs game where the other team jumps out to a double-digit lead. We saw it happen three times in the postseason last year and once again, we saw it happen on Sunday. The Dolphins led 10-0, which is a comfortable lead against most teams, but not the Chiefs, who reeled off 30 straight points after falling behind. I think the moral of the story here is that you should never have a double-digit lead on the Chiefs because you're just going to lose. Patrick Mahomes is 9-5 all-time as a starter in games where he trails by double-digits. He's the only QB in the Super Bowl era with a winning record under those circumstances.
2. Jalen Hurts starting again after Doug Pederson takes time to think it over
After suffering through 13 weeks of watching Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson finally benched his quarterback this week and even though the new quarterback (Jalen Hurts) led one of the most shocking upsets of Week 14, Pederson STILL WOULDN'T COMMIT TO HIM AS THE WEEK 15 STARTER AFTER THE GAME.
As a matter of fact, even after he had a chance to sleep on it, Pederson still wouldn't name Hurts the starter when he was asked about it on Monday morning.
"I'm going to take a look at [the Saints film]. I'm going to look at a lot of different things before I make that determination this week," Pederson told 94.1 WIP, via ESPN.com.
Someone must have told Pederson that the city of Philadelphia would literally riot if he didn't name Hurts the starter, because just hours after his interview, Hurts was officially given the job for Philly's game this week against the Cardinals.
Pederson didn't really have a choice here, especially after the way Hurts played against the Saints. Before Sunday, the Saints had gone more than three years without giving up a 100-yard rusher. Not only did Hurts end that streak by himself with 106 yards, but his mobility created room for Miles Sanders to run and Sanders took advantage of that by also topping the 100-yard mark with 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Naming Hurts the starter for Week 15 was such an obvious decision that the Eagles might have fired him on the spot if he didn't let the rookie start. The good news for Pederson is that he made the right decision and he now gets to keep his job... at least until the end of the year.
3. Monday preview: Prepping you for Ravens-Browns
If it's starting to feel like the Ravens are playing on every day of the week, that's because they are. Two weeks ago, we saw them play on a Wednesday. Last week, we saw them play on a Tuesday, and now, to complete the early week trifecta, they're playing on a Monday and they get to play a Browns team that they beat 38-6 back in Week 1.
These are the top-two rushing teams in the NFL, so don't be surprised if you don't see a forward pass thrown tonight.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a few keys for each team tonight in a game where the Ravens are favored by three points:
- Ravens: When these two teams met back in Week 1, Lamar Jackson had his best game of the season. Not only did he complete 80% of his passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns, but he also rushed for 45 yards on just seven carries. If Jackson plays like that again, it will open up Baltimore's ground attack, and if that happens, the Ravens should roll. The one thing to keep in mind about Baltimore is that they will be coming into this game on a short week after playing on Tuesday in Week 13.
- Browns: The Browns game plan isn't going to be any secret here: They have the second-best rushing attack in the NFL and they're going up against a defense that has struggled to stop the run over the past few weeks. Since Week 9, the Ravens have surrendered an average of 127.4 yards per game on the ground, which means their defense is probably going to see a heavy dose of both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Breech's prediction: Ravens 23-20 over Browns.
For a more in-depth preview of this game from Jared Dubin, be sure to click here.
Every week, I team up with six of my colleagues here at CBSSports.com to hand out grades, and this week, I'm not going to lie, I paid way more attention to the Cowboys-Bengals game than I probably should have. As the president of the Andy Dalton fan club and the resident Bengals homer at CBSSports.com, I was morally obligated to grade that game sternly, but fairly.
Here's a look at the grades from two games that were played Sunday, including that Dallas-Cincinnati game:
Cowboys 30, Bengals 7 (Click here for full recap)
Cowboys takeaway: When you're playing a team like the Bengals, sometimes you just have to let them beat themselves and that's exactly what the Cowboys did. The Bengals lost three fumbles before the first quarter ended, which allowed the Cowboys to jump out to a quick lead. Andy Dalton may not be a top-tier QB, but he definitely knows how to nurse a lead and that's what he did in this revenge game win. Grade: A
Bengals takeaway: This game couldn't have gotten off to a more disastrous start for the Bengals. Not only did they fumble on each of their first three possessions, but one of those fumbles was returned for a touchdown as Cincinnati fell in a 10-0 hole before nine minutes had even gone off the game clock. It was an ugly performance all around for a team that will be lucky to win any more games this season. Grade: F
Cardinals 26, Giants 7 (Click here for full recap)
Giants takeaway: The Giants could have easily lost this game by 50 points if not for a somewhat valiant effort from their defense. The defensive performance was the only highlight in a game full of lowlights. The Giants probably brought Daniel Jones back one week too early from his hamstring injury and that decision might end up costing them the NFC East title. Grade: D-
Cardinals takeaway: It took nearly a month, but Kyler Murray finally looked comfortable in the pocket and comfortable running with the ball. After carrying the ball just 15 times over the past three weeks combined, Murray rushed 13 times in the win. Murray, who had been battling a shoulder injury, also looked like he wasn't too worried about taking any hits. The result was a 244-yard passing day that included throwing nearly every ball to DeAndre Hopkins, who finished with nine catches for 136 yards. Also, Hasson Reddick single-handedly wrecked the Giants' offensive line with five sacks. Grade: A+
As for the other 24 grades we handed out on Sunday, you can check those out by clicking here.
5. NFL playoff picture heading into Monday night
In a span of just seven days, the top of the NFL playoff picture has been turned upside down. Last week, the Steelers held the top seed in the AFC while the Saints held the top seed in the NFC. This week, there's a new number one in both conferences, which is kind of a big deal, since the No. 1 seed is the only one that will be getting a bye.
So who bullied the Steelers and Saints out of their spots? Let's check out the playoff picture and find out.
Two key things to remember before checking out the standings below is that SEVEN teams will be getting in and that only the top seed will be getting a bye. Also, the "First team out" is being listed because that team could end up making the playoffs if the NFL ends up expanding the postseason to 16 teams. That proposal has already been approved, but the expansion to 16 will only happen if multiple regular season games that have a bearing on the playoff race get canceled.
Note: Teams with an asterisk next to their name have clinched a postseason berth. The Bills can clinch one tonight if Cleveland beats Baltimore.
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the Steelers season is slowly starting to unravel to the point where Ben Roethlisberger is now threatening to retire if he can't play better. Not only have the Steelers dropped out of the top spot in the AFC, but they could tumble another spot if they end up in a tie with Buffalo at the end of the year. The one thing about the current playoff picture is that it won't change no matter who wins tonight's game. The Browns can't improve their standing with a win and the Ravens will still be the first team out if they win. That being said, the Ravens need the win a lot more than Cleveland does, which is one reason why I'm picking the Ravens.
For the third time in four weeks, we have a new team at the top of the NFC East in our weekly look at the NFL playoff picture (The Giants were still on top last Monday because Washington hadn't played its game yet). I would say Washington is in control of the NFC East, but let's be honest, no one is in control of that division, it's total chaos. If you get to 10 wins in the NFC, that will guarantee you a playoff berth, which means the Seahawks and Rams could both clinch a spot in Week 15.
6. Raiders fire defensive coordinator
For the second week in a row, the losing defensive coordinator from the Raiders game has been fired. Last week, it was Gregg Williams and the Jets. This week, Raiders coach Jon Gruden decided to dump Paul Guenther after watching Las Vegas' defense surrender 37 points to the Colts on Sunday (The Colts scored 44, but one touchdown came on a pick-six).
The last straw for Gruden was apparently the fact that the Raiders gave up 456 yards of offense to a Colts team that was being run by an aging, immobile quarterback (Philip Rivers), who's dealing with turf toe. Rivers should have been a sitting duck on Sunday, but the Raiders didn't sack him a single time.
On one hand, I absolutely agree with the firing. The Raiders brought in a lot of free agents during the offseason, but that didn't help things as the defense has been an absolute disaster. Through 14 weeks, the Raiders have are surrendering an average of 30.1 points per game, which ranks 30th in the NFL, ahead of only the Jets and Cowboys. That's not a list you want to be on.
That being said, the timing here is curious, if only because the Raiders are scheduled to play on a Thursday this week. With Guenther out, that means it will be up to interim coordinator Rod Marinelli to rally the troops in time for the Raiders' short-week game against the Chargers.
Guenther was hired by Gruden in 2018 after spending three years as the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati. And since you're thinking it, I'll just say it, that's what you get for hiring a defensive coordinator from the Bengals.
7. The Kicker!
I almost had to cancel the final segment of the newsletter this week because it was a disastrous week for kickers: There were 12 missed field goals and six missed extra points over 14 games on Sunday. At one point during the day, I thought Dan Bailey was going to pull a Vontae Davis and retire at halftime. If you're not familiar with Bailey, he missed three field goals and an extra point during Minnesota's 26-14 loss to Tampa Bay.
At one point, he missed a field goal by the most I think I've ever seen someone miss a field goal by (You can see a photo of the miss by clicking here). Over the past seven days, there have been three kickers who have missed three or more field goals in a game, which is crazy when you consider that there was only one instance of that happening through the first 12 weeks of the season (Stephen Gostkowski in Week 1).
If there are any more missed field goals in Week 14, I might have to take a personal day on Tuesday to mentally recover. Of course, we have Justin Tucker kicking tonight, so I'm guessing there won't be any misses (unless Joe Buck jinxes him, but the game isn't on Fox, so he should be good). See you guys tomorrow!