The Weekly Kickoff with Geoff Schwartz: NFL Week 13
Editor’s note: The Weekly Kickoff is a regular column from the pen of former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. Check back every week for the latest edition.
Games in December are the ones to remember, or something like that.
As the NFL season heads down the back stretch, the Super Bowl contenders become known. There’s a short list of teams that begin with the Kansas City Chiefs and end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In between we have about five teams. With just over one month left in the season, should you bet on the Chiefs or the field to win the Super Bowl? I’d go with the Chiefs.
Kansas City has Patrick Mahomes, the best quarterback in the NFL. Mahomes is on track to win his second MVP in his first three seasons as a starter. Mahomes’ ability to make plays with his once-in-a-generation skills is something to behold. He can throw from the pocket, on the run, from weird arm angles, with pressure in his face, and can also beat you with this legs. He’s also never had a bad game in his career. With Mahomes as the signal caller, the Chiefs will always be the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
Anytime I mention Kansas City as the clear favorite to win the hardware this year, I get pushback about its defense, which is middle-of-the-road. Outside of the two Raiders games, the Chiefs’ defense has played well. Overall, their pass defense is ranked 11th in the NFL, which is good enough to win. Because the Chiefs are almost always ahead at the end of games, having a better pass defense than run defense is ideal.
My concern, if there is one, is the Chiefs have not closed out games well enough lately. They make errors, whether dropping balls, committing penalties, lack of execution, lack of pass rush at times and more. It is worrisome because in the playoffs if you can’t finish games, good teams will beat you.
The reason I’m not worried about this is I get a Golden State Warriors vibe from the Chiefs. They know that when they are “on,” no one will beat them. They can flip the switch and win anytime. They appear bored at times. They are just waiting for the postseason. This is why I believe the playoffs will look cleaner for them. That’s why I take them. But let’s take a look at the other contenders.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 11-0. Their start can not be discounted, but we can’t just look at their record and claim they are the best team. Defensively, the Steelers are elite. They do everything well. They pressure the quarterback with TJ Watt and company. They are physical against the run. Their secondary blankets wide receivers and forces turnovers.
My issue with the Steelers is their offense. Nothing ever looks easy. Where are all the open receivers at? Their big plays are all go routes where Claypool has to catch a 50/50 ball. They need to find ways to get Ben easier big play opportunities. That is what worries me about the Steelers.
According to Football Outsiders DVOA, the New Orleans Saints are the best team in the NFL, on the strength of their improving defense. Their defense, which is now up to second in DVOA, does so many things well. First, they get after the passer. Two weeks ago they sacked Matt Ryan eight times. They have a back end that’s feisty and can run with the opposing offense.
My concern is twofold for them. First, Drew Brees’s health. Yes he should be back soon, but is he the same player? Can someone at his age play well with multiple broken ribs that are healing? Also, the Saints have underperformed in the postseason the last two seasons, which is worrisome. I don’t totally trust them yet.
The Packers and Seahawks are in the same boat. They have outstanding offenses lead by future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. But do we trust their defenses? I do not trust the Packers’ defense. They’ve done nothing to show me they could handle the Chiefs’ offense. They’d have to win that game by outscoring Kansas City. It’s possible of course, but I wouldn’t count on it.
The Seahawks’ defense has actually improved over the last few weeks with the addition of Carlos Dunlap via a trade and adding Jamal Adams back into the lineup. I need to see a few more weeks of improved performance before I’d back them.
Lastly, we get to Tampa Bay. Tampa’s offense is a wreck. The Bucs have no identity and aren’t on the same page. One play will look awesome and they next pathetic. People keep preaching patience with their offense but guys, it’s week 13. There’s no more time for patience. They must start to gel on offense out of their bye. If they do, watch out. They can beat anyone in the NFL.