Week 14 NFL Recap: Denver stumbles, Dalton’s dinged, Panthers keep winning

Denver and Cincinnati both stumbled in efforts to inch closer to divisional titles (and also allowed New England to pull away for the AFC’s overall #1 seed) in home losses to Oakland and Pittsburgh, respectively. The Broncos, who hadn’t lost to Oakland in eight tries, have to be wondering what happened after their defense held Derek Carr and the Raider offense to 15 points and still came away with an “L.” For Oakland, it’s another step in the right direction in what’s been a surprisingly good season for the Silver and Black. Charles Woodson, Oakland’s ageless wonder, went on Sirius XM’s NFL Radio to celebrate the talent that Khalil Mack is and how his five sacks helped shut down Denver’s offense.

Following their home loss to the Steelers, the Bengals real concern is the health of Andy Dalton’s throwing hand thumb moving forward. AJ McCarron was absolutely serviceable against Pittsburgh’s “OK” defense, but if Dalton is out for an extended period, the likelihood of Cincy beating a great defense, say Denver’s, in the playoffs seems slim. We’ll all be getting a dress-rehearsal of that potential playoff tilt (and McCarron’s response to Denver’s fearsome defense) in a Week 16 match-up at Mile-High Stadium. Until then, let’s catch you up on what else came out of Sunday’s NFL games.

Carolina keeps winning

Keep the bubbly on ice for another week, ’72 Dolphins. Cam Newton guided the Panthers to their 17th-straight regular season win on Sunday. The Panthers exploded for 21 points in the first quarter while burying the listless Falcons, leaving the rest of the game as nothing more than a formality. With their punishing defense and the hyper-efficient offense helmed by MVP candidate Newton, the Panthers (and maybe the Cardinals) still appear to be the cream of the NFC crop.

Seattle and Green Bay are rounding into playoff shape

Green Bay’s offense looked as complete as it has all season in defeating the Dallas Cowboys at soggy Lambeau on Sunday afternoon. Not only was Eddie Lacy punishing would-be tacklers, this is quietly his third 100-yard effort in the past four games, but Aaron Rodgers was in-sync with his receivers all afternoon. Save for some big runs by Darren McFadden, the Packers’ defense also looked solid, albeit against Matt Cassell and not Tony Romo, sorry Cowboys.

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks demolished the Baltimore Ravens; and Russell Wilson has now thrown 16(!) touchdowns to zero(!!) interceptions in his last four games. Seattle, who was sitting at 4-5 a month ago, is 8-5 after reeling off four straight wins.While it seems incredibly unlikely for Arizona to stumble down the stretch, the ‘Hawks have an outside shot of nabbing the divisional crown from the Cardinals and are in the driver’s seat for the first wild-card berth in the NFC.

The Kansas City Chiefs have now won 7 in a row

Understandably left for dead after losing Jamaal Charles for the season, the Kansas City Chiefs have won seven straight and are showing no signs of stopping. If KC winds up in the playoffs, they would be only the second team to ever qualify after losing five of their first six games.

Could the Jacksonville Jaguars win the AFC South?

It’ll take some luck, but after hanging 51 against the Colts, the Jaguars are only one game back of both Houston and Indianapolis in a division where not one team has a positive point differential. Reread that last part and consider how hard that is. Jacksonville likely won’t make the playoffs, but their 51-point outburst speaks to how potent this offense can be. Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are an incredibly lethal trio to build an offense around and it’s paying dividends for the moribund franchise in what’s arguably the league’s worst division.

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