Probably the most vexing questions of this NFL season has been: “What’s the drawback with the Buffalo Payments?”
Possibly there isn’t one. The Payments, who began sluggishly and couldn’t fairly put all of it collectively for a lot of the early season, have rounded into type of late. And on Sunday, they put collectively maybe essentially the most spectacular win any workforce has produced all season: a 31-10 demolition of the Dallas Cowboys, who entered with a 10-3 file and had been humbling the competitors week after week with their high-flying quarterback-and-receiver duo of Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb. However when the Cowboys acquired to western New York, the Payments greeted them rudely: Prescott was beneath duress all afternoon, Lamb had no separation from the Payments’ defenders, and the Buffalo protection was suffocating towards an offense that had appeared inconceivable to cease. Dallas completed with 10 factors, however all of them got here in rubbish time. For Buffalo, it was nearly as good as a shutout.
The Payments’ offense had no such hassle, and the house workforce moved to 8-6. They might want to win a minimum of two of their final three video games to get right into a playoff spot that when appeared a lock after which appeared extremely unlikely. However Buffalo, ultimately, are on the identical strong footing they gave the impression to be on on a regular basis after they made the playoffs every of the previous 4 years. Possibly there’s a future for this workforce but.
Maybe essentially the most placing a part of the Payments’ dominance was that it got here on a day when Josh Allen, the franchise quarterback, couldn’t get a lot going together with his arm. Allen solely threw 15 passes and accomplished seven of them for 94 yards. It didn’t matter a lot, as a result of the Payments’ offensive line was serving as a battering ram for gifted working again James Cook dinner. His huge males blew open working gaps with abandon, and Cook dinner ran by means of them with authority en path to 179 yards and a landing on 25 carries. It was Cook dinner’s first 100-plus-yard speeding sport since 13 November; he had been an environment friendly possibility in current video games and had a profession outing on this one. The second-year man from Georgia paced the offense on a day when Allen didn’t do a lot (and, in reality, wasn’t wanted a lot).
The Payments’ season has modified dramatically in eight days. Heading into final week’s sport towards the defending Tremendous Bowl winners, the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, the Payments had been 6-6 and reeling from embarrassing revelations about coach Sean McDermott’s management. (Amongst different issues, McDermott was revealed to have praised the teamwork of the 9/11 hijackers in making an attempt to make some type of level to his gamers.) However the Payments outlasted the Chiefs with some assist from KC receiver Kadarius Toney, who lined up offside on what would’ve been a game-winning landing. And so they wanted no such luck to dismiss the Cowboys.
The Payments are unlikely to win the AFC East, because the high-flying Miami Dolphins have 10 wins to their eight. And as video games wrapped on Sunday, they remained, by way of tiebreakers, on the improper facet of the wildcard playoff image. However they’d make the playoffs in the event that they gained out, and two of their remaining three video games are towards the horrid Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots. (Each are on their second quarterback of the 12 months, for causes of damage or efficiency.) The Payments look to have cured their greatest ills, so the operative query about them is now not what’s improper. As a substitute, it’s extra forward-looking: How far might they go?
MVP of the week
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins. Tagovailoa has developed into one of many league’s best passers over the previous two years, however his naysayers have stayed loud anyway. Tagovailoa, detractors assume, is a mediocre quarterback who seems to be higher due to coach Mike McDaniels’ scheme and the supernatural means of his talent place gamers – primarily wideout Tyreek Hill, the league’s quickest participant. Hill sat out Sunday with an ankle damage, and Tagovailoa put collectively a dominant effort anyway in a 30-0 rout of the woeful New York Jets. He accomplished 21 of 24 passes for 224 yards and a landing, that one to Hill’s partner-in-speed, the lightning-fast Jaylen Waddle. Tagovailoa was masterful and continued to seem like a franchise quarterback on his personal phrases, one who actually advantages from the greatness round him however is certainly not depending on it. If he performs half this properly in January, the Dolphins are a playoff risk. He’d have had gaudier numbers on Sunday if McDaniel hadn’t proven the Jets mercy in mild of the lopsided margin.
Stat of the week
13. That’s what number of consecutive years the New York Jets have missed the playoffs, a streak that formally grew by one when the Jets misplaced to Tagovailoa on Sunday and the remainder of the AFC playoff image failed to interrupt their approach. One consequence is that quarterback Aaron Rodgers appears even much less prone to return this season. Rodgers has made noise since his Week 1 achilles tear about mounting a stunning early return and enjoying this season, out of both a need to assist the Jets, burnish his credentials as a grasp of therapeutic, or each. However Rodgers has additionally hinted that he won’t return if the Jets will not be in playoff rivalry, and Sunday’s loss took care of that. The 5-9 Jets will most likely need to attempt once more with Rodgers in 2024, however in any occasion, they’ll want a greater backup than the depressing Zach Wilson. Rodgers’ rapid damage could not have doomed the franchise to such a awful season if his bosses had put a greater insurance coverage coverage in place behind him.
Video of the week
Justin Fields’ three years in the NFL have been up and (more frequently) down, but the Chicago Bears’ young quarterback has put together a lot of nice plays of late. The story of a 20-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns was Fields making incredible plays that his pass-catchers (usually) failed to turn into anything. Case in point: a game-closing Hail Mary heave that fell into the arms of receiver Darnell Mooney, before Mooney literally kicked the ball away for a game-ending interception. There was good news, however: Maybe the finest touchdown pass of Fields’ career came in the first half, when Fields found himself under immense pressure, ran off to his right, then back to his left, and delivered a strike in the corner of the end zone to tight end Cole Kmet. The Bears must soon decide whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Fields’ rookie deal, which would extend his time under contract through 2025. With so much of the league in need of passable QB play, Fields will have value whether the Bears keep him or jettison him for a rookie like North Carolina’s Drake Maye or Southern California’s Caleb Williams.
Elsewhere around the league
With impending Rookie of the Year quarterback CJ Stroud out with a concussion, the Houston Texans went on the road and beat the Tennessee Titans 19-16 on a last-second field goal in overtime by Ka’imi Fairbairn. The Texans improved their playoff position in an astonishing comeback season under first-year coach DeMeco Ryans, and their fans got a measure of revenge, too: The Titans wore throwback Houston Oilers uniforms, nodding to the identity the franchise had before it packed up and left Houston for Nashville. On Sunday, the Titans lost to the expansion franchise that replaced the Oilers in their old city. Football can, at times, be poetic.
The Atlanta Falcons slipped further into disappointment. Playing a miserable Carolina Panthers outfit that brought in a 1-12 record, the Falcons couldn’t gain traction in a Charlotte rainstorm and mustered just one touchdown drive in a 9-7 loss. Carolina’s rookie quarterback, No 1 overall pick Bryce Young, struggled immensely as usual in front of a nearly nonexistent crowd. But the Panthers’ franchise player did lead a slogging 17-play, 85-yard touchdown drive as time was winding down. Eddy Pineiro’s 23-yard field goal as the clock expired was the difference. The Falcons moved to 7-7, squandering a major chance in the race for the awful NFC South division. With the loss, head coach Arthur Smith, who went 7-10 in each of his first two seasons, made it less likely that he’d get a fourth year in the job.