Lombardi: A look ahead to NFL Week 14 – VSiN Exclusive News – News

Last night the NFL gave us their version of a Hallmark make-believe Christmas movie. The lead character is a former first-overall pick Heisman Trophy Winner with great commercial appeal, who loses his job after four seasons and gets traded to another team with hopes of revitalizing his career. Then after playing poorly for six games, and having the lowest starting quarterback ranking in the NFL, those hopes fade, and he loses his job again. He then gets demoted to third string and finally released, only to be claimed by another team 48 hours before a game. He dashes to the airport, learns a few plays, and then leads them on two fourth-quarter drives to win the game with ten seconds left on the clock, ending their six-game losing streak, the longest by a Defending Super Bowl Champion. The title of our little movie: “A Baker’s Christmas,” starring Baker Mayfield.

Making their little movie more compelling, the NFL, by having the Raiders on Thursday, a team that had lost two games already this season when leading at the half by ten, lost another one. That’s the most losses ever in an NFL season when leading by 10 or more points at halftime. Going back to 1930, no NFL team has lost 4 games in a season after leading by ten or more at halftime. What would a good Hallmark movie be without an unprobable occurrence?

The Raiders have no one to blame for this loss but themselves. They helped Baker write this script with their poor play, horrible penalties, red zone failures, and poor execution in the fourth quarter. When Derek Carr threw that incredibly bad interception at the end of the first half, keeping the Rams in the game, you knew something funny might happen. And for the second time in four days, we have witnessed two fourth-quarter comebacks—one by Tom Brady and the Bucs over the Saints and last night with Baker.

The loss ended the Raiders’ slim playoff hopes. NFL teams form patterns during the season—some good, some bad, and last night, what has haunted the Raiders all season allowed the Rams to win the game—their poor execution in the red zone. Entering the game, the only strength the Rams held on defense was their ability to play great in the red zone, as they were the number two-ranked team in that area. The Raiders ranked 29thth on offense, losing at least four games this season because they couldn’t make plays in the red area. When a team keeps another one engaged by kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns, the fourth quarter can get wild-like last night. Coming out for the second half, the Raiders had to realize they needed 20 or more points to win the game—instead, by only scoring three, they kept the Rams attached and then through a series of mistakes, ranging from being offsides to a personal foul for touching the ball, the Raiders self-destructed. That allowed Mayfield to make easy throws on the outside versus man-to-man coverage—two nine routes, which ultimately won the game, the last one to Van Jefferson. This loss will sting for all Raider fans as they allowed another bad team to beat them when they could have controlled the game by making one or two plays.

For the Rams, Mayfield gave them some hope. It also gave Sean McVay another quarterback he could Coach on the field until the 25-second clock turns off. During the game, it was clear that McVay was playing quarterback, not only telling Mayfield the play but where to throw the ball—as Mayfield played faster and with more rhythm than he had all season. Mayfield was McVay’s “Mini Me,” and the two of them worked together perfectly. Can this last? I don’t think so, as when the Rams face better teams with better corners, these 50/50 balls might not go in their favor. But Mayfield did enough playing in the McVay role for him to be on their team next season—and give them someone who might help, depending on the status of Matthew Stafford for 2023.

Only on Hallmark, and only in Hollywood, could a script so improbable come true.


Top Five

  1. Patrick Mahomes – The Bengals’ offense did a good job of keeping the ball from Mahomes and giving him a chance to lead the Chiefs back. Last season in Denver, he threw for 280 yards and scored 28 points. If the Chiefs score that many again, the Broncos will lose by 14.
  2. Joe Burrow – Burrow has been playing well largely because his Offensive line provides protection. Last season, Burrow was sacked 8.9% of the Bengals’ pass plays, and this season 7.2%, which is a significant improvement and why Burrow is shining.
  3. Josh Allen – Allen needs to Revenge his horrible fourth-quarter performance against the Jets in Week 9 of the season. Two bad interceptions allowed the Jets to steal the win. Count on Allen to play his best as the snow falls in Buffalo.
  4. Jalen Hurts – The Eagles allowed Hurts to establish his play-action pass game, and he responded well. Hurts throws one of the best deep balls in the NFL, with great accuracy and touch.
  5. Justin Herbert. Herbert is 21-23 as a starter and has 20 300-plus-yard passing games with three more at 290. He plays at a high level, and if he ever gets any help from a defense, he will consistently rank in the top two of NFL passers for the rest of his career.

Side Note… Jared Goff has played some of his best football in the last five weeks of the season. He is having an incredible year, throwing for 7.5 yards per attempt, his best since 2018, and 251 yards per game with a 1.7 interception percentage, well below his league average of 2.1.

Bottom Five

28. Sam Darnold – Was decent in his first start of the 2022 season two weeks ago against the Broncos. He travels to Seattle this week, and ball security will be of the utmost importance.

29. Kyler Murray – The Patriots come to town this week and have always struggled with running quarterbacks. This might be the spot for a good Murray game. When the Patriots take away DeAndre Hopkins, who will Murray throw to?

30. Russell Wilson – Wilson has thrown for eight touchdown passes all season, and his completion percentage is the lowest in his career. His 7.1 yards per attempt is also his lowest, as last season, he was at 7.8.

31. Deshaun Watson – Yes, there was more Rust on Watson than on the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic. He will need to shake that off this week against a good Bengals team that the Browns always play well.

32. Davis Mills – Mills Returns after watching Kyle Allen play as badly as any starting quarterback in the NFL. Mills wasn’t playing well when benched, Allen was worst.






San Francisco

Kansas City




NY Jets

New England






Tampa Bay

NY Giants




Green Bay

Las Vegas


New Orleans









Philadelphia, with their best game in the last four weeks against the Titans, moved to the number one spot. The Bengals have been steadily climbing in recent weeks, as have the 49ers. Can they maintain their spot with Brock Purdy, or are they overvalued? We will find out this week as Tom Brady returns home.

I know Houston is an 18-point dog against the Cowboys, and that seems too collegiate of a number. However, when you break down the Texans, their game statistics are historically bad in every area. And when you allow a touchdown on a quarterback sneak, another on a screen pass and a punt return, while playing in front of the home fans, the 18 points might not be enough.


When you break down the 2022 season, unofficially, in 80% of the games, the betting line has had no impact. Meaning, if you took the dog and the points, like the Rams and the 7 last night, they won outright. Or if you took the favorite and they won, they covered. Picking the Winner seems to have more value than projecting the line in 2022. Yet, we all know picking winners this season is hard. Ask any of the 6,000 who were eliminated from the Circa Survivor contest.

I love Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ offense, but I don’t trust their defense at all. The same applies to the Dolphins. Their offense is excellent when Tua has time to throw, and their defense struggles to handle good passing games. The Chargers are the home dog and seem like an easy play to take the points, but when you don’t trust either side, it’s best to stay away—which makes this game a Hall and Oates play for me.


It appears the 49ers are getting tremendous respect from the bookmakers, opening as a 3.5 home favorite against the Bucs—until you peel back the facts. Initially, you might ask yourself: How many times in Tom Brady’s career has he been an underdog to a rookie quarterback on the opposing team? I’m confident the answer is one—this Sunday. This line is an indication of how good the 49ers play defense and how bad the Bucs have been on offense—especially on the road, where the Bucs are 2-3 and have been outscored 91-63 in their five road games. Their only road cover was against the Saints in Week 2 when they went off as a 2.5 favorite and needed 17 points, 7 from their defense in the 4th, along with five Saints turnovers to cover and win. It’s easy to say, take Brady against Purdy—but losing to Jacoby Brissett, not covering against Kenny Pickett, and losing as a 13-point favorite to PJ Walker of the Panthers might deter you from making that pick.


Cardinal defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was honest when asked about the Patriots’ offense. They said: “I see an offense that’s running the football well. It’s a very conservative pass game—lots of screens, all kinds of screens. It’s how a defensive guy would call Offensive plays—’let’s not turn the ball over, Let’s get four yards a play, and Let’s try to Burn clock,’” Joseph said, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. “That’s what they’re doing, and that’s what he’s going to do on Monday night. He’s going to be patient. Maybe take a shot from time to time. But for the most part, it’s run game, it’s quick game, and it’s screens.”

He is right. And now with his comments available for all to read, including the Patriots, it will make this battle even more fun to watch on Monday night.

Make sure you get the Sunday email for my picks, as this season I am 25-19. 56.8% and my overall record since posting Picks is 132-97 57.6%


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