This holiday NFL weekend was filled with joy (playoff berths) but also much sorrow as two bright young quarterbacks -- Oakland's Derek Carr and Tennessee's Marcus Mariota -- suffered broken fibulas. The only answer is next man up, but that’s easier said than embraced.
Those next men could make next week's list, but here's at the Week 16 horribles.
The Vikings secondary goes rogue
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer installed a game plan designed to take away Jordy Nelson with cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadowing the Packers’ top wideout. Citing a history of having never done what Zimmer instructed against Nelson, Vikings cornerbacks decided to stick with their own plan as Nelson ripped them for seven catches, 145 yards and two touchdowns before halftime.
Rhodes followed Zimmer’s orders in the second half and Nelson was mostly silent. “That’s what he was supposed to do the whole game,” Zimmer said. “Someone decided they wouldn’t do that.”
It’s almost as if this Zimmer guy knows what he’s doing.
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The New York Jets continue to skid off the runway
The Jets are entering familiar just-end-this-season territory after a dismal showing on both sides of the ball at New England in a 41-3 shellacking that saw Bryce Petty injure his shoulder while trying to tackle Malcolm Butler, who was returning a fumble by Jets RB Khiry Robinson.
That’s the mark of a season gone horribly wrong, made worse when DT Sheldon Richardson called out WR Brandon Marshall in vague terms and said he “should be embarrassed” but didn’t elaborate much: "No reason. He just should be. He knows what he did."
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The Bills picked the wrong time to have only 10 men on field in OT
There’s never a good time to have only 10 players on the field but an especially bad time is toward the end of overtime when your team needs every body possible to contain a tireless opposing rusher. But it happened with about 4 minutes remaining in the extra session, and Dolphins rusher Jay Ajayi rumbled for 57 yards, helping to set up the game winning field goal for the Dolphins.
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen, and it should never happen but it did happen," head coach Rex Ryan said of the miscue. "And it cost us the game. That's how I'll look at it."
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Matt Barkley’s stock takes a dive
After stringing together some encouraging, expectations-exceeding performances (despite lots of drops from Bears receivers) in his first few starts, Barkley turned in a real dud against the Redskins with five interceptions in 40 pass attempts. There’s room for debate but this one, but a Barkley heave down the field into TRIPLE coverage early in the second quarter probably was low point of his day.
The San Diego Chargers lost to the Cleveland Browns!
This is actually fitting in a season of fourth-quarter meltdowns and unmet expectations for San Diego. The Chargers managed to sack Browns quarterbacks nine times, but Cleveland didn’t commit a turnover, rushed the ball effectively at times and turned San Diego one-dimensional on offense, holding ball carriers to just 34 yards on 19 carries. Good for Cleveland -- and remember the 2016 Chargers, who just became the answer to a trivia question.
When winning is also losing, starring San Francisco
Tanking in football is more challenging than in basketball in part because players, in theory, give full efforts every Sunday because they’re competing for their jobs or his next contracts with every game. Also unlike in the NBA, a top draft pick in the NFL is unlikely to transform an organization, making the possible benefit murkier. Still, the 49ers brass probably wouldn’t have minded an L on Sunday. Getting a comeback win over the Rams is commendable but also self-defeating from an organization-building standpoint because the victory handed the No. 1 overall pick back to the 1-14 Browns.
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About that No.1 overall draft pick
The 49ers' victory would not have been possible without the most recent No. 1 overall draft choice (Jared Goff), for which the Titans traded the Rams for a package of draft picks. Rams coaches didn’t ask Jared Goff to do much, and he met that low expectation with 11-for-24 passing, 90 yards, one TD and two interceptions. Through six starts, Goff has offered little promise that he’ll be a franchise quarterback for years to come.
The Broncos fall flat in a must-win spot
The defending champions’ title defense is officially over after the Chiefs’ 33-10 shellacking that culminated with defensive tackle Dontari Poe’s “Bloated Tebow Pass.” Unlike the 16-3 loss to the Patriots one week earlier, this one isn’t squarely on the offense, although Broncos QB Trevor Siemian stunk it up as the Broncos offense managed only 246 yards and 14 first downs. Kansas City put Denver in an early 21-7 hole, and the Broncos just aren’t built to mount comebacks.
The Seahawks lose their grip on home-field advantage
As nearly 10-point favorites over the nothing-to-play-for-but-pride Arizona Cardinals, the Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor-less defense (Chancellor did return to the game after leaving with a foot injury) showed cracks and fell short in a comeback bid during a 34-31 home loss. Now Seattle will need to win at San Francisco in Week 17 and have the Falcons fall to the Saints in order to capture a first-round bye. The road back to the Super Bowl just got a lot bumpier.
Carson Wentz’s Oscar-worthy flop against the New York Giants
You don’t see much successful flopping in football, but the Eagles rookie QB victimized Giants first-round pick Eli Apple on Thursday night with theatrics at the end of an 8-yard scramble. Apple pulled up short and put a hand on Wentz as the QB flung his head and shoulders backward, prompting a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. The officials some made some other dubious calls in this game, but this one was the worst.