With so many good NFL teams in the league right now, what teams really scare others?
We would like to say that the New England Patriots still scare quite a few teams but after being exposed Dec. 11 and losing to the Miami Dolphins for the third time in the last four games, I’d say they aren’t looking too scary right now.
With the win over the Patriots, the Dolphins have beaten both teams that played in Super Bowl 51. With the Patriots loss, there is no one dominant team and with three games left to play, there still could be some shakeups at the top of the playoff picture.
I don’t know if I should give all the credit to the Dolphins or if the Patriots just underestimated Miami but its clear the Dolphins punched the Patriots in the mouth from the start and they never recovered.
Miami held New England to 20 points and held them to zero third down conversions in the game. New England quarterback Tom Brady was intercepted twice by Dolphins cornerback Xavier Howard. The Dolphins also snapped the Patriots eight-game winning streak with the surprising victory.
Miami looked like the team we thought they would be at the beginning of the season and for this one game they showed they can be that team. The Dolphins were an 11-point underdog at home, but they kept the Patriots from clinching their ninth consecutive AFC East title, even if it’s just for one week.
Brady went 24 for 43 for 233 yards and one touchdown. The Dolphins sacked him twice, hit him five times, and held the Patriots to only 25 yards rushing. New England was 0 for 11 on third downs and Tom Brady was 14 years old the last time that happened.
New England takes on rival Pittsburgh Steelers Dec. 17 and this will be the game that decides who will have home field advantage throughout the entire playoffs. I’m sure the Patriots will come ready to play for this one.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell are looking like the superstars they are in Pittsburgh. The Steelers now have the AFC’s best record at 11-2. Though they have not looked great getting to this record, all that matters is they have the wins.
With the Patriots loss to a lesser Miami team, the Steelers will still have to play a lot better if they want to beat New England. Not just next Sunday in the regular season but also when they most likely face each other in the AFC Championship game.
In the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Los Angeles Rams and are now the first seed after the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Carolina Panthers, but the injury bug bit the Eagles hard when their starting quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL.
With backup quarterback Nick Foles, the question is will he be able to take the Eagles deep into the playoffs and ultimately the Super Bowl? Foles has enough experience as an NFL starter and in Doug Pederson’s system to offer at least some hope that he can pull a Kurt Warner or if not, at least a Jeff Hostetler.
Wentz’s injury is surely the latest gut punch in a season that has seen way too many fun and exciting stars suffer season-ending injuries: Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, Richard Sherman and Odell Beckham Jr., just to name a few.
But Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich have shown enough to make you think they can scheme ways to put Foles in the best possible position to succeed. They have enough pass rush on the defense to control the game and they have enough running backs to control the ball when they have it on offense. That sounds like a good recipe to me.
The Seattle Seahawks loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars allowed the Atlanta Falcons to creep back into the sixth playoff spot after their nail biter against the division-leading New Orleans Saints. This season, the Eagles beat the Rams, who beat the Saints, who beat the Lions, who beat the Vikings, who beat the Falcons, who beat the Lions, Saints and Seahawks, who beat the Eagles.
There are no teams that should completely scare another so the NFC wins and losses come full circle making all teams pretty equal.
Shaquita Newton is a sports blogger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.