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Five Conclusions from Gameweek 16 in the NFL

Shane O’ Mahony brings us this week’s Five Conclusions from Gameweek 16 in the NFL.
1. Bruce Arians is as good a coach as anyone

We could have talked about how we learned that Seattle can be beaten at home, but the Cardinals deserve to be the focus of this discussion instead of the losers on Sunday. Holding Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to just 10 points at home is a remarkable achievement.

Arizona put on one of the best defensive performances of the season, without Tyran Mathieu in what was arguably the year’s biggest upset. The praise that coach Bruce Arians deserves from this is enormous.

Last year’s coach of the year winner has worked similar miracles up at Arizona as he did as interim coach of the Colts. Last year he took Indianapolis from 2-14 to 11-5 going 9-3 in the games he was in charge of while Chuck Pagano was out.

This year he’s brought the Cardinals from 5-11 to at least ten wins. Yes they’ll need to improve on Carson Palmer who threw 4 interceptions, yes they probably won’t make the playoffs and yes their offense definitely needs improvement, but Arians has got to be in the conversation for coach of the year again.

2. Defensive Player of the Year is going to be a tight call

It was a week for defensive performances as the Saints and Panthers and the Seahawks and Cardinals played out tight defensive battles while the Patriots and Colts held their opposition to just 7 points. Even the Buffalo Bills managed to pitch a shutout against the Miami Dolphins.

All of this means that we are none the wiser as to who is going to be the front runner for defensive player of the year. Unlike MVP where Payton Manning has been the likely winner from pretty much the first week, defensive player of the year has had many different, plausible candidates.

This week Luke Kuechley was simply sensational against the Saints. The Panthers’ linebacker has been in the running for a few weeks now and his 24 tackle performance that included an interception will definitely have him towards the top end of the voting.

His main competition will probably be Seattle’s lockdown corner Richard Sherman. The trash talking corner leads the league in interceptions and added another 2 this week to the two he got off Eli Manning a week ago.

These two will probably be the frontrunners but Sherman’s teammate Earl Thomas, Robert Quinn of the Rams, Colt’s Robert Mathis and even J.J Watt of the Texans will be in contention. It’s definitely going to be an interesting race.

3.Jim Schwartz’s time is up

It was a must-win game for many reasons for the Detroit Lions, not least that their playoff hopes were on the line. Having lost it in overtime one has to wonder about Jim Schwartz’s future as head coach.

The Lions should never have been in a situation where they had to win or go home in their last two games. Control of the NFC North was completely in their hands after they beat the Chicago Bears for the 2nd time.

Since then they’ve gone 1-5, a run that includes a home losses to Buccaneers who had two wins at the time, the Ravens who scored only field goals and the New York Giants who are simply awful.

Now they’ve allowed the Packers and Bears to leap them despite the fact they’re both playing with their backup quarterbacks. It’s quite possible that the Lions will go from favourites to host a playoff game to a losing record.

On this evidence Schwartz has to go. His play calling has at times been crazy including the infamous fake field goal in the loss at Pittsburgh that started this rot.

Matthew Stafford is going to have to deal with a lot of attention now but the person who needs to go is Schwartz. He had a team that had the NFC North in their hand and he blew it.

4. Be wary of the Eagles

Sunday night’s win over the Bears was a huge statement for Chip Kelly’s team. Now that Tony Romo and Sean Lee are out of next week’s play-in game for the Cowboys, you’d have to back the Eagles to win the NFC East.

Holding the Bears offense to just 11 points was as impressive as putting up 51 in what was easily the best moment of their season so far. Yes, the result of the game actually didn’t matter since Dallas won earlier but to put up a performance like that on the national stage was huge.

Now, the teams in the NFC should be concerned about the Eagles. The likelihood is since they won this game that Philadelphia is going to hold the 3rd seed giving them a game against the Saints in the Wild-Card with a trip to Carolina the reward for the winners should all stay as is.

The Saints have been woeful on the road this year and the way that the Eagles offense effectively avalanched the Bears was impressive enough to think the Eagles can win it. For a team built around explosive offensive play, building up momentum from a blowout, a play-in win and a Wild Card win could make them really dangerous opponents through January.

   5. Week 17 is set up for a grandstand climax

The final week of the NFL regular season is set up for some wonderful drama following this week’s games. Both the NFC North and East have showdowns where the winner takes the division title while playoff spots need filling in both conferences.

The NFC North gives us the surprising play-in contest between the Bears and the Packers. The focus of this one is going to be around whether Aaron Rodgers will be fit enough to play and play well.

Then in Arlington we have the third year in a row that the Dallas Cowboys will be involved in a Week 17 play-in game, this time without the injured Romo. The Eagles are hot, the Cowboys are anything but this one is unlikely to be so similar.

The AFC’s 6th seed is still open as the Dolphins and Ravens both suffered poor losses in what was a perfect week for the Chargers. Each team needs to win their game and hope at least one other team loses in a crazy scenario.

There is also the issue of seeding on the line although Seattle looks as though they’ll have the number 1 seed in the NFC. The Patriots can still claim the top spot of the AFC but they need the unlikely prospect of Denver losing to the Raiders.

Pundit Arena, Shane O’ Mahony.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.