Week 12 overreactions: Sleepless in Seattle?
By Lorenzo Reyes, USA
Monday - November 28, 2016 2:59 pm     Article Hits:423     A+ | a-
With the calendar about to flip to December, the NFL's regular season is officially entering its home stretch. But there's still plenty of time to draw some dubious conclusions across the league.

Here are five overreactions we're pushing back on after Week 12:







© Provided by SB Nation NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

You can't fault Kubiak's gamble

Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak went for the win during Sunday night's crucial AFC West showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs. But should he have done so?

In this case, no.

Trotting out kicker Brandon McManus on fourth-and-10 with 68 seconds left in overtime to try a decisive 62-yard field goal was well-intentioned but reckless — and the Chiefs made Denver pay after McManus missed. Kubiak defended the decision by noting he was out of timeouts, meaning Denver almost surely wouldn't regain possession.

But that only underscores why, after he burned his second and final stoppage right before McManus' kick, the coach should have punted and played for the tie.

Consider: In three seasons played in Denver's Mile High altitude, McManus’ career-long field goal is a modest 57 yards. There have only been six of at least 62 yards in the history of the NFL, though three did occur in Denver.

Yet according to ESPN Stats & Information, the Broncos' win probability was highest had they punted (52%), instead of going for the first down (46.9%) or, worse, trying the field goal (41.1%).

To be fair, this was as tough a decision as a coach will face. Had the Broncos won, they would've moved into the AFC's fifth playoff seed and gained a critical win in the tiebreaker formula.

But what Kubiak perhaps failed to consider was that a tie would have left Denver even with Kansas City at 7-3-1, also leaving both teams in wild-card position.

For now, the Broncos are on the outside looking in, and a 1-3 division record greatly reduces their margin for error as the reigning champs seek to secure a sixth consecutive playoff berth.


The Raiders can't be for real


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© Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the first quarter at Oakland Coliseum. A 14-year streak without a playoff appearance looks like it’s about to end in Oakland.

The Raiders' (9-2) gritty, come-from-behind victory against the Carolina Panthers, when quarterback Derek Carr played through a finger injury, is just another example that this team should be considered a contender. The AFC West-leading Silver & Black are currently projected to get a first-round bye. 

But they're still the Raiders, right? Oakland's nine wins are the high-water mark since the Super Bowl XXXVII loss following the 2002 season.

Actually, that's just one indicator that this squad is different.

The Raiders won five in a row. Their 307 points are third most in the AFC. They're undefeated (5-0) on the road. A dominant offensive line sets the tone and has allowed quarterback Derek Carr to become one of the NFL’s top young passers. Carr himself has engineered five fourth-quarter comebacks this year. The team's skill position players are young and talented, and the edge rushers — like budding star Khalil Mack — can get after opposing passers, as Mack did against Cam Newton on Sunday.

Years of futility have given way to smart drafting and shrewd acquisitions in free agency. All that should pay off in January.

Don't buy into the Bucs



 

© Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) scrambles away from Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead (35) during the first quarter. Dirk Koetter is in his first season as Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, so a few bumps were to be expected.

But this team has caught fire, winning three in a row, including a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium and Sunday's defeat of the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks. The Bucs (6-5) are now just one game back of the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South and just a shade behind the Washington Redskins (6-4-1) for the NFC's final wild-card berth.

Second-year quarterback Jameis Winston continues to make strides, forming a dangerous combo with dynamic receiver Mike Evans. But coordinator Mike Smith’s defense, which has allowed fewer than 300 yards per game during the hot streak, is a main reason this team looks like it could contend for a playoff spot. Seattle converted just one of 11 third-down attempts as the Bucs limited what was a red-hot offense to 245 total yards. Perhaps most impressive, the Seahawks never penetrated the red zone.

Tampa Bay faces just one team with a winning record over the final five weeks, so ignore them at your peril.

Seattle should be worried

© Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports Week 12 overreactions: Sleepless in Seattle? This brings us to the Seahawks.

The offensive line continues to be an issue, as it was in the 14-5 loss to Tampa Bay. On top of the third-down failures, Seattle's running backs only gained 38 yards, while quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked six times.

But this is nothing new. The unit has been plagued by injuries — starting center Justin Britt was inactive Sunday, leading to another shuffle — and is one of the most inconsistent and inexperienced in the league. And don't forget, several key defenders, including Michael Bennett and Earl Thomas, were out.

The letdown in Tampa is also consistent with the team’s struggles (2-3-1) on the road this year.

But in a down year for the NFC West, Seattle will almost certainly host a playoff game at CenturyLink Field — and, if the standings hold, that would come after a first-round bye.

The blocking and injuries could be potential fatal flaws, but Seattle is talented and deep — especially on defense — and has a championship pedigree. There's a reason the locker room isn't concerned.

Osweiler’s contract gives him long leash


© Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) throws for a first down in the second quarter against San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Houston. It may not be time to pull the plug on the Brock Osweiler experiment just yet, but could it be coming?

That four-year, $72 million contract looks worse and worse each week. The Houston Texans are on a two-game slide, including their first loss at home this season, Sunday's 21-13 defeat against the San Diego Chargers. Osweiler completed just 22 of 37 passes for 246 yards and heaved three interceptions in front of the home crowd. 

Though he's still learning coach Bill O’Brien’s system, Osweiler has shown little improvement and has posted a passer rating above 90 just once. His 13 interceptions are most in the league, and his 59.5% completion rate ranks 28th among quarterbacks who have attempted at least 100 throws. That puts him behind players like the Los Angeles Rams' Case Keenum, who was benched two weeks ago, struggling Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and even Trevor Siemian, whom the Broncos used to replace Osweiler. Brian Hoyer, Houston's quarterback in 2015, thoroughly outplayed Osweiler despite an inferior supporting cast with the Chicago Bears this year.

O'Brien isn't one to put financial considerations ahead of the team, and the Texans suddenly find the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts closing in the AFC South race.

 



 
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