Welcome to Ricky’s Round-Up, where I discuss five big takeaways from the blockbuster action the NFL has to offer each week as we approach the playoffs. What better place to start a weekly column than Thanksgiving weekend, one of the NFL’s most prized traditions. As Fabrizio Romano would say, here we go!
#1- How about those Philadelphia Eagles!
You just cannot write them out of the script. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills were phenomenal, up by 10 points heading into the half and holding the Eagles back with a strong defensive performance.
Up step the Eagles and quarterback Jalen Hurts, Superman in Kelly green (undoubtedly the best retro kit around). In that second half, Hurts threw for 167 yards, three passing touchdowns, 43 rushing yards and a walk-off rushing touchdown in overtime to win the game.
Credit must go to Eagles kicker Jake Elliot. Elliot made one of the best kicks of all time to take the game into overtime, in wet and windy conditions and under huge pressure. A simply unbelievable game, showing exactly why the Eagles are the best in the NFL right now.
#2- Pathetic Panthers lose again, resulting in head coach Frank Reich’s departure.
The Carolina Panthers have endured a miserable 1 win- 10 loss season, and sacking head coach Frank Reich is just the tip of the iceberg. They have now fired their head coach mid-season two years in a row, but the problems aren’t just there. You can arguably say the head office has set their franchise back about five years in the off-season.
The Panthers traded away their best wide receiver (WR) in DJ Moore, their first-round pick in 2024 and more to the Chicago Bears, just to have the number 1 pick this year. With that pick, Carolina selected quarterback Bryce Young, who is undoubtedly a great talent that needs proper support from his receivers and protection from his offensive line. Young is getting neither.
With no real talent on the roster, and limited future high-round draft picks, it will remain that way for quite some time. Worrying times for them.
#3- Dallas Cowboys lassoing their way to the number 1 NFC seed?
The Cowboys look good, and I mean really good. They will most certainly be thankful for cornerback DaRon Bland who, on Thanksgiving Day, broke an NFL record by scoring his fifth ‘pick-six’ (defensive interception and then scoring a touchdown in the same play) of the 2023 season. He was not even a starting cornerback before Trevon Diggs got injured in week three!
The defence has been impressive as expected, but in recent weeks the offence has been shining. QB Dak Prescott is quietly driving himself as an MVP frontrunner, throwing 23 touchdowns (second in the league) and only six interceptions through 11 games.
If his receiving core, most importantly WR CeeDee Lamb, can maintain their high level of production, I will not be surprised if they beat their bitter rivals in the Eagles in week 14. It will undoubtedly be a tight race between the 49ers, the Eagles and the Cowboys for that number one NFC seed.
#4- Are the Lions on FraudWatch?
FraudWatch will become a regular part of my column, and first to feature is the Detroit Lions. A team that has been quite impressive most of the season, but if you really study their wins and losses, you can see they are a top candidate for this illustrious award.
Through 11 games, they have only faced one Superbowl contender in the Baltimore Ravens, and they were absolutely dismantled on all sides of the ball losing 38-6. The loss to the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving will set alarm bells ringing, particularly regarding how simple it was for Packers QB Jordan Love to carve up their defence.
No insult to the Packers, who may be in for a late playoff challenge themselves. However, if the Lions offence is not thriving and QB Jared Goff continues to make crucial mistakes, I would not be surprised to see them stutter in their late season push.
#5- Hello Denver!
When the Denver Broncos began the season with one win out of six, I thought Sean Payton’s head coaching magic had waned. I was wrong. They have since won five on the bounce, and one of those being a resounding win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
QB Russell Wilson seems to have found his touch again under Payton, and the Mile High City is loving it. It has required a full system reset however, which did involve a 70-point battering at the hands of the Miami Dolphins early on this season.
The receiving core isn’t glamorous, but it is a functioning system that is allowing Russ to both check it down and chuck it over when he sees fit. The running game is solid, and the defence has really stepped up. Will we see Denver in the playoffs?
What a Thanksgiving!
That concludes week one of Ricky’s Round-Up in what was a delightful slate of Thanksgiving games. I hope you enjoyed, and I look forward to summarising yet another brilliant weekend of the NFL after week 13!