After Week 14’s games, there is officially only one month left in the NFL regular season. The stretch run is here, which means every team’s move is magnified in their quest to reach the postseason and play for the Lombardi trophy.
Let’s take a closer look at three things we noticed over the weekend as the standings tighten up in both conferences.
Tampa’s Tumultuous Offense
It’s easy to look at the names on Tampa Bay’s roster and convince yourself that they have a second gear to get to. There’s no way that a team which features Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette should struggle to move the ball and put points on the board. Every week, fans assume that this group is going to light up the scoreboard and figure out a way to get their sputtering offense figured out.
The problem is, Week 15 is just around the corner, and the Buccaneers don’t appear to be anywhere near close to looking like their old selves. After a 28-point beatdown at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay is once again looking for answers on how to spark a dormant passing game.
Tampa Bay still leads the NFC South despite all of their issues, which is a testament to how lackluster the division is this year. Still, the path for the Buccaneers to qualify for the postseason is pretty clear, but it’s hard to see them doing anything of note if they get there.
Detroit’s Dashing Into The Playoff Hunt
The Lions were no one’s idea of a playoff team heading into the season, or even as recently as a month ago. Detroit was supposed to be in rebuilding mode for a couple of seasons, retooling their roster with high draft picks and a flexible chest of assets.
As unlikely as it seems, the Lions are right in the thick of the Wild Card chase in the NFC. They played a really impressive game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and are getting it done with a variety of contributors. Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift headline a talented and productive backfield, and third string ballcarrier Justin Jackson has also been a factor. The receiving corps has been led by Amon Ra’ St. Brown, but he’s been joined by solid players like D.J. Chark, Josh Reynolds and Jameson Williams.
Head coach Dan Campbell is an easy leader to fight for, as he throws his heart and soul into every game. It’ll be interesting to see how much ground they can make up after a putrid start to the year.
Making Adjustments Against Miami
The Dolphins fell to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football, in a game that went in a direction many were surprised by. Fans thought that this matchup would yield a ton of points, but it was a pretty conservative affair relative to expectations.
While Miami shouldn’t panic with an 8-5 record, their performance on Sunday night certainly puts the ultimate ceiling on their season into jeopardy. Their schedule doesn’t get much easier with a trip to play the Bills in Buffalo next Saturday night.
NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth noted on the broadcast that in the last two weeks, teams are defending the Dolphins differently. They’re dropping their linebackers deeper in order to prevent Miami’s utilization of the middle of the field with wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The Dolphins will need to find a way to adjust to get their offense back into gear.