Happy holidays. We are approaching the end of both the calendar year and the 2023 NFL Season. Week 15 in the AFC North is over. Same as last week, if your team isn’t the Pittsburgh Steelers you came away with a victory. The Baltimore Ravens continue to further distance themselves as the number 1 seed in the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals have now won 3 straight games and the Cleveland Browns continue to defy the odds and win another game they have no business winning.
Enjoy this touchdown pass by Joe Flacco to Amari Cooper (still trying to figure out how he made this throw):
Minnesota Vikings 24, Cincinnati Bengals 27 F/OT Saturday
Let me be honest for one second. I only watched half of this game live (I saw the end of it) because I was out doing some last-minute Christmas shopping on Saturday but thanks to NFL+, I was able to rewatch it.
Exciting game, it was better than what I thought it was going to be. Like Joe Flacco in Cleveland, quarterback Jake Browning had his moments but he found a way to pull something out of nothing. The first half was rough but he was able to get something going in the 2nd half which made a difference.
Wide receiver Tee Higgins, in a contract year, has been struggling but he came through when he was called upon. Ja’Marr Chase left late in the 4th with a shoulder injury which allowed Higgins to showcase why he should get paid this offseason (Cleveland should make a move for Higgins, so should Jacksonville but that’s beside the point).
Defensively, the unit showcased their bend don’t break mentality but the bad news is that nose tackle D.J. Reader is gone for the season with a torn quad muscle (Reader is also a free agent after this season).
B.J. Hill had an interception while he was on the ground (that’s new) and they were able to get contributions from others as well.
This was a game that the Bengals could’ve lost considering how things were trending but they found a way. Do I think this team can make the playoffs? No. They play Kansas City and Cleveland to finish the season.
Anyway, enjoy this clip of Jake Browning getting revenge on the team that cut him:
Pittsburgh Steelers 13, Indianapolis Colts 30 F/Saturday
Another day, another loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This time at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Gardner Minshew.
It feels like a broken record for what I have to say about the Steelers so I am not going to bother repeating what I have said, wait... yes I am.
What do I need to say about the offense that everyone doesn’t already know? Everyone knows that whoever is behind center isn’t good, it’s pretty obvious. From the wide receiver room, it feels like every week someone is getting attention for the wrong reasons.
Wide receiver George Pickens has had his fair share of problems, even he has every right to be frustrated, but he’s allow it to affect his performance on the field. He also shouldn’t be the main reason why the offense is struggling.
Diontae Johnson on George Pickens and if his emotions are a distraction to the team:— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) December 19, 2023
"Emotion is a part of the game, but I don't want to just sit here and just make it like George is the problem of the offense. That's not the case."
Defensively, I don’t have much to say. It’s not a good unit. The run defense is abysmal, and they aren’t much better in the passing game.
The Colts lost running back Zack Moss during the game but it didn’t matter as undrafted rookie Tyler Goodson and Trey Sermon picked up the slack.
Playoff hopes are done (not officially), and the team needs to seriously think about their franchise and the direction it’s going in. They have been stuck in neutral for a while now and I don’t believe firing Mike Tomlin will fix everything but who knows?
Baltimore Ravens 23, Jacksonville Jaguars 7
Let’s talk about Baltimore. If there are two teams I wouldn’t want to play in the postseason in the AFC, it would be the Baltimore Ravens and the Buffalo Bills (if the Bills were to sneak in).
Baltimore became the first team in the AFC to clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Offensively, the unit played well but let’s talk about the main guy. I understand San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy is the odds-on favorite to win the regular season MVP, but Lamar Jackson should be the favorite at this point. He has been sensational for Baltimore this year and his growth as a passer is remarkable to see.
Lamar Jackson: highest graded passer on 10+ yard throws in the NFL for week 15 (96.2)— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) December 19, 2023
1 TD pic.twitter.com/mfFiWgRgUj
The way he maneuvers the pocket, trusting his receivers and delivering the ball where he can only place it is why the Ravens offense has been successful this season.
Lamar Jackson is RIDICULOUS pic.twitter.com/W2qz4dBb2V— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) December 18, 2023
Tight end Isaiah Likely has filled in for the absence of Mark Andrews as a reliable passing option and the receiver room is getting better every week.
However, the bad news is undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
Defensively, the unit was able to keep Jacksonville’s offense in check and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike is lining up for a huge payday this offseason. Christmas Day will be important as the Ravens will take on the 49ers as major implications will be at stake, mainly for MVP considerations. This could also be a Super Bowl preview. It will be a huge test for Baltimore on Monday.