Week 10 featured an ungodly amount of last-second field goals, creating an exciting weekend to recap. Then the news that Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is out for the season hit Wednesday morning. This week’s Four Verts is still going to focus on four teams who won or lost in the final moments of the game, setting the stage for intense moments for the rest of the season. First up, the team that Watson's Browns just beat ...
Ravens are and will be fine, especially after Deshaun Watson injury
No sugarcoating it, the Ravens’ loss at the hands of the Browns is a stain on the stellar season they’ve had. It was their third loss of the season where they had a shot to win and blew it. The Colts won on a last-minute field goal in Week 3, the Ravens dropped a million passes against the Steelers in Week 5 and recently had a calamity of errors that allowed the Browns to rally from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Those are terrible losses that have hurt the Ravens’ chances of winning the AFC North and owning the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But there really isn’t a need to panic about what’s going on here yet.
For starters, the Browns were arguably the Ravens' chief competition in the division, and now they'll reportedly rely on rookie fifth-round draft pick Dorian Thompson-Robinson, whose lone start this season was a short-notice blowout at home against these same Ravens. They also have backup P.J. Walker, who has been inconsistent at best, and possibly a new QB whom Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry said the team would look to bring aboard in light of Watson's injury.
The Browns' defense has been arguably the league's best and there's other talent on the roster, but missing the quarterback in which they invested $230 million and a ton of premium draft capital will undoubtedly hinder them. And Baltimore's own problems are fixable.
At least the Ravens have been in a spot to put the games they lost away, they just haven’t been able to finish them. Being up 31-17 with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter means you're in good shape, just don’t let Watson go 14-of-14 passing to finish the game. Having wide receivers run wide open against the Steelers is a winning position, just catch the ball when it arrives. The Ravens have the players and system in place to beat any team, but they keep shooting themselves in the foot at the worst time. The Browns’ pick 6 in the fourth quarter perfectly encapsulated some of the late-game misfortune the Ravens have had. The ball was deflected by a pass rusher and landed into the arms of Browns cornerback Greg Newsome, who was already in full stride and took the ball back for a touchdown.
One problem the Ravens' defense needs to clean up is Baltimore's performance in crunch time, which may just be fluke plays. According to RBSDM.com, the Ravens rank third in expected points allowed per play (-0.112) and fourth in success rate (39.5%). There are very few teams better at getting teams into third down than the Ravens, but that’s where they’ve struggled this season. On third and fourth down in the second half of games, they merely become a league-average defense ranking 18th in expected points allowed per (-0.044) and success rate (43.6%). That’s below their standard as one of the most feared defenses in the league, but the good news is that the Ravens can easily boost their performance in that specific timeframe with the talent and players who are available. Linebacker Roquan Smith, safety Kyle Hamilton and defensive lineman Justin Madubuike are playing elite football, and the rest of the Ravens' defense is playing at a high level as well.
Even with the turnovers, Lamar Jackson has played great football for this team and should be considered as an MVP candidate this season. The defense is still one of the top units in the league. Just stop making the goofy mistakes at inopportune times and go make a run for the Super Bowl — it’s possible for this team.
Lions can hit the No. 1 seed
The Lions, who beat the Chargers Sunday with a walk-off field goal, are in play for the top seed in the NFC.
This is less about them being one of the best and most complete teams in the NFL and more about the incredibly easy schedule they have the rest of the way. Barring a spate of injuries, the Lions should be challenged in only a couple of their games. Head coach Dan Campbell has a real opportunity to lock up Coach of the Year before the end of December.
Detroit’s next six games are against the Bears, Packers, Saints, Bears again, Broncos and Vikings before a game against the Cowboys on Dec. 30. No slight to those teams not named the Cowboys, but the Lions are in a different class. Maybe the Vikings can muck it up with Josh Dobbs running circles around the Lions on his scrambles, but Detroit should be favored in almost every game to finish the year. This is the perk of being a great team in a down time for the NFC. When it’s time to play out the conference and division schedule, there isn’t much by the way of sturdy competition to get in the way of their goals for the season.
The game against the Cowboys is the hardest one left on the Lions' schedule. This is about as advantageous of a situation that they’ve played in. Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta have turned into dynamite playmakers at their positions as rookies (sorry about that F grade, Lions fans) and the offensive line gives them a chance to pummel any opponent into submission. That’s way more than a lot of NFL, and NFC, teams have right now at their disposal.
Real playoff expectations are here for the Lions, which is a far cry from where this franchise has been for the past ... forever. Running the table will be difficult because this is still the NFL, but Lions fans should feel like their team can win any game for the rest of the way. That’s massive progress!
The Eagles still control their playoff path as far as the No. 1 seed is concerned, but they have to play the Chiefs, Bills, Seahawks and Cowboys again before their season is over. It’s a much more difficult slate than what the Lions face.
It’s a Detroit Lions world, we’re all just along for the ride.
Ken Dorsey is a weak scapegoat for the Bills
The Bills’ postseason hopes took a hit this week with their last-second 24-22 loss at home to the Broncos. The AFC is loaded this season and even with Josh Allen as their quarterback, they sit at 5-5 and currently hold the 10th seed in the AFC. That’s a major disappointment considering the Bills should have Super Bowl aspirations every year with Allen as their quarterback. To show their unhappines over their current situation, the Bills made a drastic move and fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey on Tuesday — a completely ridiculous scapegoat and reactionary firing based on an embarrassing Monday night loss.
How the Bills lost this game is actually important context in regards to Dorsey’s firing. Allen threw an interception right into the hands of Broncos cornerback Fabian Moreau. Wide receiver Gabe Davis had a pass bounce off of his hands and into the hands of Justin Simmons. Allen just straight up dropped the ball trying to hand it off to running back James Cook on one play and Cook added in two more fumbles by himself, albeit one was on a 42-yard run (the longest Buffalo play of the day). The Bills were unreasonably aggressive at the end of the game and called back-to-back Cover 0 blitzes — they got a sack on the first one, but the second one resulted in a pass interference penalty that put the Broncos in game-winning field goal position. And of course, the Bills had 12 men on the field when the Broncos missed their first field-goal attempt, which would have sealed the game for the Bills.
Those are all things that happened that are outside of Dorsey’s control, and it’s hard to believe that Dorsey would be out of a job if they had 11 people on the field for the first field-goal attempt, which kicker Wil Lutz missed. Another baffling aspect of this is that the Bills' offense has been damn good under Dorsey since former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll took the Giants’ head coaching job last season. According to RBSDM.com, Buffalo ranks second in expected points added per play (0.113) and first in success rate (49.9%) since the start of the 2022 season.
Even in a down year for the team, Buffalo ranks fourth in yards per drive (37.6), fourth in points per drive (2.6) and third in touchdowns per drive (0.33). They rank 26th in turnovers per drive (0.16), but as the Bills showed Monday night, sometimes there’s nothing that a coach can do to prevent turnovers from happening.
Buffalo is on the right track in terms of the idea that something needs to change here, but there’s nothing the Bills can do before the end of the season that’s going to greatly increase their chances of maximizing the offense — that was already happening with Dorsey calling plays. It’s hard to be much better than the second-best offense in football in a league where Patrick Mahomes exists. Of course, Allen's presence makes calling an offense much easier, but it’s not like the Bills have been embarrassing underachievers on that side of the ball.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott must be feeling some pressure to make this move because there isn’t a strong understanding for it now. The Bills need to have a productive offseason because the depth of this roster has slowly been lost due to poor drafts, age and injuries. It’s on general manager Brandon Beane to knock the 2024 offseason out of the park, but for the immediate timeline, this somehow became Dorsey’s problem. That ain’t right, man.
Time to find out just how good the Seahawks are
It’s hard not to immediately look forward into the season, especially for teams that tend to win a lot of games. The Seahawks sit at 6-3 after a last-second win against the Commanders, which should get the ball moving as far as postseason possibilities are concerned. Seattle has found new life with Geno Smith at quarterback, but now it’s time to recapture the postseason success of the previous era of this team and the Seahawks will quickly find out how they stand compared to the rest of the league.
This schedule is a far cry from what the Lions have in front of them the rest of the season. The Seahawks still have to play two games against the 49ers, host the Eagles and travel to Dallas for a prime-time showdown against the Cowboys. Outside of Detroit, who they defeated earlier this season, those are the teams in the NFC that the Seahawks need to view as their competition on a deep playoff run. The NFC as a whole is still a weak conference, but those three teams on their schedule are some of the best in the NFL.
While the Seahawks are 6-3, on the whole they’ve performed like an average team up until this point. Seattle is 16th in point differential (minus-1) and according to RBSDM.com, they’re 16th in expected points allowed on defense (-0.014) and 12th in expected points added on offense (0.048). Even Smith is statistically performing like an average quarterback (although the film paints a better picture for him), ranking 19th in expected points added (0.012) among the 33 quarterbacks with at least 160 plays this season.
The Seahawks are one of those teams that might not be as complete as the competition at the top of the conference, but still have the high-end talent to win any game that comes across the schedule. Smith can get hot like any quarterback in the league, both of their running backs have big-play potential and the wide receivers room is still stocked with talent. Injuries at the offensive line have stifled some of what they’ve attempted to accomplish this season, but this is still a good team with a lot of good players.
Even the defense has gamebreakers. Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Jordyn Brooks, Devon Witherspoon and breakout pass rusher Boye Mafe can take over a game at any moment. The only thing that the Seahawks are missing, and it’s a big one, is down-to-down consistency relative to the players on their roster.
If Seattle can be a more consistent team, it has the talent to go on a run in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks' upcoming schedule is a great time to see how good they really are. They can't hide from the teams that are coming down the pipe.