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WHAT WE LEARNED: NFL WEEK 16

We had so much NFL football this past weekend we had to spread it over four days and it still feels as if it wasn’t enough. What was sorted? Not a lot, but it was fun and frankly, for my particular fandom and betting this past week, could not have gone better.

Still, we had some major events go down over the weekend and this is where we get to pop out our spyglass and deerstalker hat to really investigate what went down.

LAMAR JACKSON TAKES OVER THE MVP RACE

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t a Brock Purdy believer in the offseason. In fact, if you go back to my 5 Bold Predictions for the 2023 NFL season article, I predicted that Purdy would be benched for Sam Darnold by Thanksgiving. That obviously didn’t happen.

Is Purdy a legit NFL starter? It looks that way. I’ve seen all the comparisons to what Jimmy Garoppolo did in that same offense and the excuses made about talent around him, but that’s all ridiculous. I defy you to show me the MVP that didn’t play with elite talent around him.

My eyes work. And even though I’m a Los Angeles Rams fan and, as such, hate the San Francisco 49ers, I also live in reality. He looks like the real deal to me. Has he looked like the NFL’s Most Valuable Player? No. He’s not even the most valuable player on his own team and hasn’t been.

Now, to be fair, Purdy also humbly thinks he’s not the MVP or, at least that’s what he’s publicly said and I buy it. He doesn’t seem like some egocentric guy. In fact, he looks like your sister’s middle school boyfriend who she broke up with because he always has a booger in his nose.

But, for whatever reason, Purdy was the odds-on favorite to be handed the MVP Trophy at the NFL Awards after the 49ers endure their annual NFC Championship loss, but that changed significantly after the events of a pretty phenomenal Christmas weekend for your humble narrator. Lamar Jackson is now atop the pack as he should ne. Purdy, well, let’s just say it’s a precipitous drop.

Here’s our current odds as of Tuesday;

Lamar Jackson -190

Christiam McCaffrey +340

Josh Allen +900

Tua Tagovailoa +1100

Brock Purdy +1200

Dak Prescott +2000

Tyreek Hill +2000

Patrick Mahomes +5000

That is a quick elevator ride down. It’s like the Wild Eagle roller coaster at Dollywood. It’s steep, happens fast and once you’re going down, there ain’t no way to stop it.

With two weeks to go, Jackson probably has it sewn up. A win over the Miami Dolphins this coming week will not only seal home field advantage in the playoffs and will likely seal the deal on this trophy for Jackson, who has been incredible this season, as I knew he would be, in an actual NFL level offense. I’ve been screaming this in Jackson’s defense for years. And, sure, it validates every criticism I leveled at Greg Roman and John Harbaugh for keeping the Pop Warner play caller employed, but I’m happier for Jackson and the NFL than I am for me. But, you know, I was dead on correct. Just saying.

Could anyone else realistically sneak in there with just two weeks to go? Probably not. McCaffrey has done all he can and he’s still No. 2. Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa face off in Week 18, maybe for the AFC East, but the consistent big game performances aren’t there. Miami, as of this writing, still has just one win over a team with a winning record — the Dallas Cowboys, and that literally happened this past weekend.

Dak Prescott has a stat argument, but not the big game argument. The Cowboys have been crushed too many times and have lost two straight to contending teams. Tyreek Hill has missed games and time and probably isn’t even the No. 1 contender for Offensive Player of the Year right now. As for Patrick Mahomes? That’s a “no.”

So who should be in here that isn’t?

How about Matthew Stafford? No quarterback on the planet is playing better than he has over the last six games. He’s got the Los Angeles Rams in the current playoff bracket and is doing things with the football in each of those games that blow your mind. He wouldn’t win, but I’d have him listed over Hill and Mahomes. And, if you’ve been paying attention to what’s happening in LA, you would too.

And that’s not just my fandom talking.

NO, THERE ISN’T A TAYLOR SWIFT PROBLEM WITH THE CHIEFS

Yeah, I know you’ve seen it. Make no mistake, this critique of the Kansas City Chiefs current problems on the field is stupid across the board. Taylor Swift is not the first famous woman to date an NFL player and she won’t be the last. She’s also not the first to be shown on TV during the game. It happens every single time. Simone Biles, Gisele Bundchen all the way back to Angie Harmon in the 1990s.

But, of course, we live in the dumbest possible world right now and the chorus of morons harping about this on Twitter, or X if you’re an idiot (or are forced to say it by the media company for which you work) have ulterior motives in espousing this particular conspiracy theory.

Now, if you’re a regular reader, you know I try to keep politics out of my writing here unless the article is specifically about something political. The, you know, I have fun with it.

The animus toward Swift and Kelce comes from his commercials promoting and supporting the COVID-19 vaccine, his commercials for Bud Light, the fact that he’s one of the few white players who took a knee during the Black Lives Matter protests and Swift’s own political leanings which, let’s just say, align closely with mine and not with, say, someone who’d storm the US Capitol on or about Jan. 6, 2021 with a noose in one hand and a fistful of their own poop in the other.

So, when you see some mouth breather rambling on about Swift and Kelce affecting the Chiefs today, just take into account their other posting habits and whether or not they’re currently wearing an ankle monitor.

How about, instead of blaming a billionaire recording artist who has the audacity to be dating a guy on an NFL team, we blame the Chiefs themselves for letting every single bit of wide receiver talent out of the building and not replenishing it? What about letting Orlando Brown walk in free agency and replacing him with Donovan Smith? Could the absence of Eric Bieniemy in the play design and week to week prep be a bigger deal than we thought? If anything, the offense depends far too much on Kelce and Mahomes can’t throw and catch it too when he’s firing balls to future Subway Sandwich Artists and Fudrucker’s Grillmasters.

All those reasons are legitimate football problems that have caused, or could be causing, some serious problems for KC on the field. What isn’t? A pretty blonde woman watching a football game in a luxury box. There are a ton of those up there. Trust me.

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

Alright, here’s the fun part of our weekly recap. Let’s see how the conferences are currently stacked up headed into Week 17.

AFC

1. Baltimore Ravens 12-3

2. Miami Dolphins 11-4

3. Kansas City Chiefs 9-6

4. Jacksonville Jaguars 8-7

5. Cleveland Browns 10-5

6. Buffalo Bills 9-6

7. Indianapolis Colts 8-7

In the mix: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7), Cincinnati Bengals (8-7), Las Vegas Raiders (7-8), Denver Broncos (7-8), Houston Texans (8-7)

Eliminated: New York Jets (6-9), New England Patriots (4-11), Tennessee Titans (5-10), Los Angeles Chargers (5-10)

Key games this week: Jets at Browns, Dolphins at Ravens, Patriots at Bills, Raiders at Colts, Panthers at Jaguars, Titans at Texans, Steelers at Seahawks, Bengals at Chiefs, Chargers at Broncos

What’s funny about this week is, while I’ve not removed any team from the “in the mix” section due to actual reality, we still have some eliminated teams that could do some real damage in the matchups. Cleveland is safe, even with a loss to the Jets, but Buffalo isn’t if they fall to a suddenly respectable New England team. The Raiders at Colts contest is basically an elimination game. Neither the Jaguars nor the Texans can afford to take a loss this week and remain in it. Pittsburgh, who we all thought was dead in the water, just shot up out of Crystal Lake like a young Jason Vorhees at the end of the first Friday the 13th. Cincinnati fell hard last week, but they’re facing a Chiefs team they’ve owned for the last three years that looks very beatable. Lastly, the Broncos can’t afford another loss and the Chargers have apparently rediscovered how to play football since Brandon Staley’s canning.

Playoff scenarios: Kansas City clinches the AFC West with a win this week. The Browns clinch a playoff berth with a victory. Baltimore will wrap up AFC homefield with a win over the Miami Dolphins. Those same Dolphins can clinch the AFC East with a victory and take over the No. 1 seed heading into Week 18 since they’re playing the Ravens.

NFC

1. San Francisco 49ers 11-4

2. Philadelphia Eagles 11-4

3. Detroit Lions 11-4

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-7

5. Dallas Cowboys 10-5

6. Los Angeles Rams 8-7

7. Seattle Seahawks 8-7

In the mix: Minnesota Vikings (7-8), Green Bay Packers (7-8), Atlanta Falcons (7-8), New Orleans Saints (7-8), Chicago Bears (6-9)

Eliminated: New York Giants (5-10), Washington Commanders (4-11), Carolina Panthers (2-13), Arizona Cardinals (3-12)

Key games this week: Lions at Cowboys, Falcons at Bears, Rams at Giants, Cardinals at Eagles, Saints at Buccaneers, 49ers at Commanders, Steelers at Seahawks, Packers at Vikings

Normally I wouldn’t have put the Bears “in the mix” considering that they are realistically, if not mathematically, out of contention, but they draw an interesting game this week. The Falcons, in spite of, well, everything that’s happened in their organization this season, are still contending for not only a Wild Card spot, but the NFC South title. So their contest probably serves as an elimination game. The Cowboys could still end up winning the NFC East, but to even have a shot they have to knock off Detroit, a team that has already sewn up its division, but is playing for seeding now. Philadelphia needs to continue to get right and the Cardinals haven’t been an easy out for most teams this season, especially since Kyler Murray returned. The Rams have been one of the hottest teams in the league since Thanksgiving but can’t take their foot off the gas and look past the Giants for their Week 18 showdown with the Niners. Speaking of San Fran, Brock Purdy is banged up, suffering a stinger in consecutive weeks and while I don’t think the Commanders can beat them on their best day, they can put some pressure on the young QB and cause some health issues at the worst possible time for a team looking to win a Super Bowl this season. The Packers at Vikings is basically an elimination game as well. Lastly, the Seahawks have stumbled back into a winning record, something I did not think would happen again in 2023. To keep it, they’ll have to hold off a Steelers squad that seems to have found something last week and has a defense that can make Geno Smith scream to the heavens.

Playoff scenarios: The Buccaneers clinch the NFC South with a win. The Rams clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Seahawks loss. Philadelphia clinches the NFC East with a win and a Cowboys loss.

Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.

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