Jimmy Garoppolo, Tennessee Titans
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

What did we learn from NFL Week 14 and what’s worth keeping an eye on down the road? Here’s a little insight, review, and preview.

Russell Baxter

Three weeks remain this NFL season and only three teams have secured playoff berths. The New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs are division champions while the Baltimore Ravens head back to the postseason for the second straight year. Five more teams—the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and Seattle Seahawks—can punch their ticket to the Super Bowl LIV tournament.

So here are some more observations and a few numbers as well when it comes to Week 14 (and beyond) in regards to the NFL’s 100th season.

5. Could the Lions get off the Matt?

It’s the lone franchise in the National Football Conference that has yet to make a Super Bowl appearance. And when it comes to postseason failure, no club epitomizes that more than the Detroit Lions. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff game since beating the Dallas Cowboys in the 1991 NFC Division Round. Detroit has dropped an NFL-record nine consecutive postseason games.

But not so long ago, under head coach Jim Caldwell, this was a team that made a pair of playoff appearances in both 2014 and 2016—albeit losing to the Cowboys and Seahawks, respectively. The Lions also finished 9-7 in 2017 but general manager Bob Quinn and the organization opted to part ways with Caldwell.

Enter Matt Patricia, the one-time defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots who has had a miserable time of it at the helm of this club. The Lions have currently dropped six consecutive games and have already locked up last place in the NFC North for the second straight year. Under Patricia, the team owns a 9-19-1 record and this season alone is 0-5 vs. their divisional brethren.

4. Seahawks exposed in primetime?

For the most part, Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks have been playing a somewhat dangerous game this season. The club won 10 of its first 12 contests but the days of the “Legion of Boom” are well in the rearview mirror. It’s been the Russell Wilson show for this club as the ‘Hawks have done it with the NFL’s fifth-ranked offense and the league’s 26th-ranked defense.

But Seattle is coming off a distressing 28-12 setback to the Los Angeles Rams. This was a team they managed to score 30 points against back in Week 5 during a one-point Thursday night victory.

On Sunday at the Coliseum, the Seahawks’ offense failed to reach the end zone. Can Carroll and company come up with some defensive help down the stretch? While the team has amassed 29 takeaways this year, the ‘Hawks have allowed the fourth-most passing yards in the league. This is a 10-win club that has outscored its opponents this season by only a combined 20 points.

3. Have the Broncos locked in on a quarterback?

Even when the men from Mile High were busy winning Super Bowl 50, general manager John Elway and the Denver Broncos relied on their defense while quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler struggled to take care of the football.

Over the past three-plus seasons, the franchise has gone through its share of starting signal-callers. This offseason, the club traded for veteran Joe Flacco, who wound up struggling and injured. Enter Brandon Allen, who had his ups and downs.

But the past two weeks, Vic Fangio’s team has been led by 2019 second-round draft choice Drew Lock. It’s obviously a small sample size but the rookie has thrown for five scores and only been picked off twice in wins over the Chargers and Texans. Lock has connected on 72.7% of his throws and been sacked just once in two outings.

2. 49ers come up big in the Big Easy

A year ago, the San Francisco 49ers won only four games. Some of that was due to the fact that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was lost for the season with a knee injury late in a Week 3 loss at Arrowhead Stadium. This offseason, the one-time member of New England Patriots prospect struggled with accuracy and was throwing his share of interceptions at training camp. And throughout the season, the veteran performer has been the little sloppy when it comes to ball security.

But as time wears on, he has begun to hone his game. Keep in mind that Garoppolo hasn’t played a lot of football in six seasons in the league. And his 16 turnovers in 13 contests are certainly a bit of an issue. But after throwing 14 touchdown passes and giving up the football 12 times in his first nine contests this season, Garoppolo has thrown for 11 scores, been picked off just twice, and lost only one fumble. That’s progress! And so is a come-from-behind win at New Orleans this past Sunday.

1. Titans looking very dangerous

Buehler. Buehler. Buehler.

In each of the past three seasons, the Tennessee Titans have finished with a 9-7 record. In 2016 and 2018, the club fell short of the playoffs. In 2017, Tennessee secured a wild card berth and pulled off a huge comeback win at Kansas City in the first round before succumbing to the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots one week later.

This is a franchise that hasn’t won at least 10 games since finishing with the league’s best record in 2008. That 13-3 club from 11 years ago also marks the last time the Titans won a division title.

But after a slow start this year, head coach Mike Vrabel opted to sit quarterback Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill, obtained from the Miami Dolphins via trade this offseason. He’s come in and given the club a little spark and suddenly the team is on quite the roll. With Mariota as the starter in the first six games, the Titans scored a total of 98 points and the offense reached the end zone just 11 times.

In Tennessee’s last seven outings, the club owns a 6-1 record with Tannehill as the starter. Vrabel’s squad is scoring 220 points on 27 offensive touchdowns during this run. And on Sunday in Nashville, the Titans and Houston Texans—both sporting 8-5 records—will clash for the first of two meetings in the final three weeks.

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