8 Grueling Truth’s we learned during week 17 of the 2021 NFL season

What did we learn?
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JANUARY 02: Ja'Marr Chase #1 of the Cincinnati Bengals carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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1) The Cardinals are a threat, and the Cowboys have a lot of questions

When you thought the Cardinals were going to finish the season with a whimper, they jump up on the road and bet what looked to be a red-hot Dallas Cowboys team. Is it an anomaly? I don’t think so. The Cardinals went on the road and beat an 11-4 team, which shows all the signs of a true contender. The Cardinals have had some big wins on the road this year, and while I don’t think they will end up in the Super Bowl, a win or two in the playoffs would not surprise me.

On the other hand, the Cowboys had a four-game winning streak, but those teams they beat, New Orleans, Washington (twice) and the New York Giants, were losing teams with poor quarterback play. The Cowboys defense has thrived off turnovers, and it’s hard to win a Super Bowl that way. The Cowboys look more like a one and done playoff team.

2) The Cincinnati Bengals are for real

I caught a lot of, let’s say, ill-will by writing in this column last week that the Bengals were the biggest threat to the Kansas City Chiefs. Will on Sunday? I think the Bengals prove me correct! The Bengals trailed by 14 points on three different occasions and still beat the Chiefs on a last-second field goal. Zac Taylor has caught a lot of grief from Bengals fans for how he coached the team, but after Sunday’s monstrous win, it’s time to give Taylor a lot of credit. This team plays with a swagger and attitude needed come playoff time. The offense is the most explosive in the NFL, and if the Bengals can improve the offensive line over the next few years, the sky will be the limit in Cincinnati.

3) Ja’Marr Chase is the Offensive rookie of the year

This can not be questioned as Sunday Chase was utterly unstoppable. Mac Jones has done great in New England, but Chase has done things no other rookie wide receiver has ever done. Chase has blown the top off most defenses he has faced, and the Chiefs tried to play man on him, and it never worked.

4) It’s time for a coaching change in Denver

Vic Fangio is a great defensive coordinator, but I am sorry it’s not working out with him as a head coach. On Sunday, they lost to the Chargers, but it’s not the loss that bothers me. It’s the way they lost. Everybody knows the Chargers can’t stop the run, and the Broncos had success on the ground when they utilized a multi-tight end look, but they didn’t do that nearly enough against the league’s 29th-ranked run defense and bailed on the run game long before the scoreboard said they should. Throw in a pathetic special teams performance, and you have a team that has consistently failed in 2 out of the 3 phases of football in every game.

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5) Kansas City is no longer a lock to win the AFC

I never thought they were a lock to win it, but it seemed like most people were leaning that way. My issue has all year been the defense, and for the last two months, the defense has played well, but on Sunday, the problems the Chiefs have had on defense reared its ugly head again. They missed tackles, committed penalties and broke down in coverage like they hadn’t since early in the season. The coaching has to be questioned! Why would you try to single cover Ja’Marr Chase for almost the entire game? A lot of questions in Kansas City with the defense. Luckily for the Chiefs, there aren’t too many offenses like the Bengals, but these issues can get you beat against anybody come playoff time.

6) The Tennessee Titans are a Super Bowl contender

Tennessee held the Dolphins to three points and allowed Miami to convert on only three of 12 third-down opportunities. Toughness wins championships in most sports, and that’s especially the case in football, and the Titans have that toughness! The offense looks a little disjointed sometimes, but the run game is as good as it gets even without Derrick Henry. D’Onta Foreman has gradually emerged as a threat rushing the ball, and he had 26 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown against Miami. The play-action passing game truly opened up because of Foreman’s success on the ground. The Titans dominated on both sides of the ball, and right now, they would be my favorite to win the AFC.

7) The Colts will make the playoffs, but they will be one and done

The Colts will have to beat the Jaguars to make the playoffs. After that, they will be done! Carson Wentz is inconsistent, and you can’t really on a running back to make a Super Bowl run. I think it’s time to question Frank Reich in Indianapolis as the Colts have a lot more talent than the record would indicate. The Colts blew a golden opportunity to make the playoffs on Sunday against a Raiders team that is tough but not very good. The difference in this game was Derek Carr is just better than Carson Wentz.

8) The Las Vegas Raiders are a win away from the playoffs

Three weeks ago, I never thought I would be writing those words! Derek Carr got off to a great start, then Derek Carr threw interceptions, and then Derek Carr led a last-minute comeback, and the Raiders won. It was typical Derek Carr! The Raiders have gone through the Gruden scandal, the Ruggs incident, and after all of that, they sit just one win away from the playoffs. Do not be surprised if the Raiders find a way to win against the Chargers next weekend.

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