NFL Week 14: The road less travelled
What we learned
If the Oakland Raiders fail to make the playoffs they can blame the time zone.
The Raiders couldn't hang on in Jacksonville on Sunday, and have been outscored 111-47 in losing all three of their 1 p.m. ET starts.
Let's take a trip and see how the teams still with passable playoff hopes have fared in their travels:
Jacksonville is 1-2 outside of its time zone, but were hammered in their losses in San Diego and Kansas City. They aren't exactly lengthy trips, but the Jags still have to play in Indianapolis and Houston.
The other Florida teams have done well.
Miami is logging more air miles than anyone this season as far as the nominal contenders still left, at just under 35,000 kilometres. Strangely, they have played better farther afield than at home. The Dolphins managed wins in Green Bay, Minnesota and Oakland.
The Buccaneers are 2-0, though Arizona and San Francisco are hardly overwhelming foes.
San Diego will have flown nearly as much as the Dolphins in 2010 when it's all said and done. They are 2-2 outside of the Pacific, with games to go in and Cincinnati and Denver (granted, a short trip).
Seattle? Yup, they travel a lot, though not well. They're 1-3 in other time zones ahead of big game in Tampa Bay in the penultimate week of the season.
The Seahawks get the advantage of hosting the St. Louis Rams in a game that could decide the NFC West on the final Sunday, Jan. 2. After losing their first four outside of their time zone, the Rams have won the next two.
Obviously, teams in the middle like the Rams generally venture out of their zone more often, if not for individual treks that are as long. New Orleans will have gone airborne out of their zone in seven of eight road games. They've lost just one of five of those games so far.
The Giants deserve a nod too. Including a win in their annual trip to Dallas, New York is 3-1 in such games, with a big one on tap Boxing Day in Green Bay.
Who got off light?
Pittsburgh will have logged just over 12,000 kilometres, by far the lowest of any of the contenders. They were defeated in their farthest trip this season, to the Saints.
- 1. New England
- 2. Pittsburgh
- 3. Kansas City
- 4. Jacksonville
- Wild Card: N.Y. Jets, Baltimore
The Dolphins on the fringes of the playoff picture and next have home dates with 3-10 teams Buffalo and Detroit … followed by a season finale in New England, who smoked them by 27 in Miami. You have to like the chances of the other 7-6 teams (Indy, San Diego) better.
- 1. Atlanta
- 2. Chicago
- 3. Philadelphia
- 4. St. Louis
- Wild Card: New Orleans, N.Y. Giants
Tampa Bay leapfrogs Green Bay for seventh in the NFC. The Packers next face the hottest team in the NFL, New England, while the semi-charmed life of the Bucs continues with a home game against Detroit.
Some follow up on earlier trends tracked.
We mentioned in Week 11 that 100-yard games were trending downward compared to at similar points in recent years.
With the winds picking up and the weather getting cold, running has predictably come to the fore a bit more. The past two weeks each saw nine men go over a century.
The total of 100-yard games this week is a season-high 11, with four teams still in action on Monday.
Through the end of Sunday total points per game averaged 40.57 this week. That's on pace to be the lowest since the opening week.
Yet the average margin of victory has been 13.71 this week, one of the highest totals of the year.
Deducing with the best of them, yes, there were some futile offensive efforts in Week 14. There were four teams held without a touchdown, with eight others managing just one major.
It sure was a nutty Sunday when it came to teams in the running for a premier draft pick next April.
Carolina and Cincinnati lost, which was not surprising. But Buffalo and Detroit won despite scoring a total of 20 points, and the Arizona Cardinals, on their third starting quarterback, put up 43 points.
The interesting prospect is now Denver, currently third in the draft order. Quarterback Kyle Orton has been the very least of the team's problems until the last two weeks, and even then, they've got gaping holes on defence. Of course, Josh McDaniels prepped for the horrific trade of Peyton Hillis and two draft picks for Brady Quinn by selecting quarterback Tim Tebow in the last draft.
Would the Broncos take yet another pivot in what could be a deep class, or make up for the picks lost in the Hillis misplay by trading down with another team?
The current draft order is: Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Buffalo.
Let's face it. We're at the point in the schedule where nearly every game is important, either with respect to the playoffs or the draft order. But even allowing for that, there's an absurd number of big games in Week 15:
Philadelphia (8-4) at N.Y. Giants (8-4): Eagles won the first game in the battle for NFC East control, benefiting from New York's turnover festival.
Jacksonville (8-5) at Indianapolis (7-6): The Jaguars won the first meeting in the AFC South, and a second win would put the Colts in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Green Bay (8-5) at New England (11-2): The Pack have won big games at Philadelphia and the New York Jets this season, but even with a healthy Aaron Rodgers their chances are slim. Tom Brady is 26-0 at home since Nov. 12, 2006, the year before New England's perfect season.
N.Y. Jets (9-4) at Pittsburgh (10-3): New York offensive unit: Zero TDs in last nine quarters. Pittsburgh defensive unit: 3 TDs allowed in last four games, none of them on the ground. Can you say pressure?
New Orleans (10-3) at Baltimore (8-4): The visitors have won six in a row and complete their AFC North turn against a team 5-1 at home.