By John Jastremski
» More Columns
Our column is a day late (or two), but it’s anything but a dollar short! That’s what back-to-back double dips of JJ After Dark will do to you.
I’m fired up for the final three weeks of the regular season. Week 14 was a telling tale throughout the league and there were a couple of outcomes that really shaped my view of how the stretch run and postseason will play out.
So What Did We Learn From Week 14?
Hallelujah! It’s Johnny Football Time In Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns should have read last week’s column. I advocated a quarterback change for the Browns against the Indianapolis Colts. Head coach Mike Pettine didn’t take my advice, shame on him! He started Brian Hoyer and the result was heartbreaking.
The Browns defense did everything it could against Andrew Luck and the Colts. They had a double-digit lead, the defense made play after play, but yet it wasn’t enough. Why? Cleveland simply did not get enough from their offense — and specifically their quarterback.
Hoyer once again was horrific. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes, didn’t throw a touchdown, threw two picks and the Browns missed an opportunity to enhance their playoff chances.
Over his last four games, Hoyer has been an absolute joke. He’s thrown one touchdown with eight picks and has only led the Browns on one touchdown in their last 29 drives. Unacceptable.
If Cleveland even got halfway COMPETENT quarterback play, they would have beaten Indianapolis. However they did not, so now the stage is set for the must-see event of Week 15.
Johnny Football Time!
Manziel the electrifying rookie will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Bengals. Bengals HC Marvin Lewis threw a little fuel to the fire this week referring to the Browns new starting quarterback as a “midget.” I expect a fired-up Dog Pound and a fired-up Browns football team.
We’ll find out once and for all how Johnny Football translates as an NFL quarterback, but I’ll tell you one thing: he can’t be any worse than Brian Hoyer over the last five weeks!
The Championship Window Has Slammed Shut In San Francisco
You’ve heard rumors, rumblings and all sorts of nonsense surrounding the San Francisco 49ers this season, despite the fact that this team has been in the NFC Championship game each of the last three years.
However after losing last Sunday to the hapless Oakland Raiders, it’s clear that it’s the end of the Jim Harbaugh era in San Francisco. I don’t understand it, I don’t know what happened between Harbaugh and ownership and the general manager, but it’s over now.
There’s no way the 49ers can move forward with this circus and it’s clear Harbaugh wants out. It’s unfortunate because he is the main reason the 49ers were able to turn their franchise around.
Harbaugh’s future will be discussed quite a bit over the next couple of weeks. He is an outstanding head coach and will do a great job wherever he ends up. It’s just abundantly clear that both sides are ready to move on.
The future of this 49ers team is anything but pretty.
They have a record of 7-6, but look at the way they have regressed this season. They have lost their identity as a tough-minded offensive power rushing attack, the O-line is all beat up and their quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has taken a major step back.
It’s amazing to think the 49ers’ days as a championship contender are over, but they are. If you are a Niners fan, the last three years will haunt you for years to come. The Kyle Williams fumble against the Giants in the NFC title game, the horrific play calling in the Super Bowl against the Ravens 2 yards away from a championship, and last year’s collapse at Seattle with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Coulda, shoulda, woulda.
Baltimore Ravens Are The Biggest Dark Horse In The AFC
If you were to ask the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos privately the team would you like to avoid in the postseason, they would both give you the same answer.
The Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens showed you the heart of a champion Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. They had lost a heartbreaker the week before against the San Diego Chargers and on Sunday they were on the ropes in the first half Sunday against the Dolphins.
They trailed 10-0 in the first half, but then proceeded to outscore Miami 28-3 for a much-needed win in the AFC playoff picture.
The Ravens may be beat up in the secondary and the loss of Haloti Ngata may loom large down the road, but I really like this football team.
The Ravens have a lot going for them. They have a battle-tested quarterback in Joe Flacco with a pair of gutsy talented wide receivers Steve and Torrey Smith.
Justin Forsett has done a great job running the football that gives them an added dimension they did not have a year ago.
And even with some of those key deficiencies defensively, the Ravens have an X-factor that could propel them through the month of January: a pass rush that has the talent to be dominant.
Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs would scare the living daylights out of me as an offensive coordinator. You throw ex-Giant Chris Canty into the equation and you’re really looking at a unit that can be special.
All of these elements combined with John Harbaugh a head coach who knows how to win in the month of January leads me to believe that IF the Ravens can make the postseason, they will be very, very dangerous!
JJ’s Studmuffin Of The Week
Le’Veon Bell – RB – Pittsburgh Steelers
In only his second season, Le’Veon Bell has become one of the best running backs in the league. His talents were on full display last Sunday in a pivotal divisional matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bell made life miserable for the Bengals defense. He ran for 185 yards and scored two touchdowns. Pretty good, right? Well, he wasn’t done. In addition to his big day on the ground, the versatile back caught six passes for 50 yards and an additional score.
I hope you had Bell on your fantasy team on Sunday. I did, but it didn’t even matter! Thanks a lot, Peyton Manning!
Charlie Brown Of The Week
The Miami Dolphins Coaching Staff
I’m going to use this platform to vent a little bit. Shame on the Miami Dolphins. Shame on their coaching staff! Shame on the entire operation! You have a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, a game you need to win against a team that has owned you for the last decade, and you get outscored 28-3?
It was a shameful, gutless, pathetic second half. John Harbaugh and the Ravens staff ran circles around Joe Phlibin and his staff. The Dolphins couldn’t protect Ryan Tannehill, they couldn’t get after Joe Flacco and couldn’t stop the run. Not exactly a recipe for success.
After being outcoached, outplayed and outclassed against the Ravens, the Dolphins now must run the table most likely in order to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Up next on Sunday: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Good luck.
Here’s to another holiday season ruined. Thanks to the Miami Dolphins.
Game Of The Week
Dallas Cowboys (9-4) @ Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)
There are a lot of good games comes Sunday, but you’ll be waiting all day for Sunday night. This matchup between the Cowboys and the Eagles will flat-out decide the winner of the NFC East in 2014.
It had better be a much different Dallas team than the one we saw on Thanksgiving Day, when the Eagles punked the Cowboys every which way in a 33-10 rout.
Tony Romo was uncomfortable, the Eagles’ front four manhandled the impressive Cowboys offensive line and Mark Sanchez looked like Joe Montana against that Cowboys defense.
I would expect a much better performance from the Cowboys offensively, but is their defense up to the challenge?
JJ’s Lock Of The Week (4-2)
Falcons +2.5 Vs. Steelers
I know what you are thinking. How in the world can you trust a team in the NFC South? Fair question, however here’s my rebuttal. How in the world can you trust the most Jekyll & Hyde team in the National Football League?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have played well when their backs are up against the wall, but when they’ve dealt some prosperity, they have fallen right on their faces.
The Steelers will be dealing with a desperate Falcons team still very much alive in the godawful NFC South. The Steelers secondary is atrocious — remember AJ Green went off for over 200 yards last week against the same D. Atlanta has the weapons with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas to exploit the Steelers’ weaknesses.
I expect the Jekyll & Hyde nature of the Steelers to continue.
JJ’s Sucker Bet Of The Week (2-4)
Green Bay -6 @ Buffalo
This one seems too easy. Packers on such a roll, with Aaron Rodgers playing at a MVP level with a Buffalo offense struggling. No way you can go with the Bills, right?
This is a trap line to the fullest degree. I think the Buffalo Bills have shown you that they have one of the better front fours in the league. I expect them to play well in this spot and this has all the makings of a game that comes down to the wire.
I’m not going to go out on a limb and say the Bills win outright, but I like them to cover the number with relative ease.
John Jastremski was the winner of Fantasy Phenom in 2011 and can be heard on his program, “JJ After Dark,” on WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. This week: Thursday, Friday and Sunday 2-6 a.m. (WFAN) and next Monday 2-6 a.m. (CBS Sports Radio). Follow him on Twitter — @john_jastremski.