Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Top 25 Games of the 2018-19 NFL Season!

Reliving the good, the bad and the woefully uneventful of the pro football season that was …

By: Jimbo X

Well, that’s another National Football League season in the books, folks. Personally, I tuned out as soon as I realized Jon Gruden was making the Raiders lose on purpose, but pending you’re NOT a Silver and Black fan, for some stupid reason, I suppose you still had plenty of stuff to be entertained — and flummoxed — by in the NFL’s 2018-19 campaign.

The past NFL season had a little bit of everything. New stars emerging from out of nowhere, while stars of the past continued their freefall into inexplicable sucktitude. We saw defensive juggernauts from last year collapse like a supermassive black hole and offensive dynamoes from 2017-18 transmogrify into endzone-averse punting factories. Meanwhile, we saw hard-hitting defensive machines rise to power and emerging offensive powerhouses put a flurry of points on the scoreboard — only for said teams to unexplainably give up 400 yards the next week and fail to produce more than 10 points seven days later. If you like wildly unpredictable (and inconsistently played) football, then by golly, the 2018-19 NFL season was just your speed.

Now that Super Bowl LII is behind us and it’s only a few weeks until free agency begins, I reckon now is as good a time as any to reflect on the greatest games of the recently departed National Football League season. From epic comebacks to old school defensive slugfests to NFL Blitz style scorefests to professional wrestling-esque screwjob finishes, the 2018-19 NFL season gave viewers a little bit of everything — including the formerly unthinkable: Cleveland Browns games that were actually fun to watch for a change.

Anyhoo, here’s my personal selections for the 25 best games of the NFL season that was, ranked in no particular order … except for chronological. Which, let’s face it, is really the only smart way to even think about doing this shit, when you think about. And with those pleasantries out of the way, WHO’S READY FOR SOME (REMINISCING ON) SOME FOOTBALL?

Green Bay Packers 24, Chicago Bears 23 (Sept. 09, 2018)

This is exactly the kind of game you want kicking off the first week of play — a bitter, historical divisional rivalry featuring one of the game’s best defensive players up against one of its established offensive dynamoes. New recruit Khalil Mack had a hell of a game, recording a sack, and interception and a defensive touchdown for the Bears, but it was Aaron Rodgers who walked away hero of the day. After exiting the game early with an injury, he returned in the fourth quarter to lob three touchdown passes — including a brilliant 75-yard toss to Randall Cobb with about two and a half minutes remaining in regulation — to give the Pack the come-from-behind victory on prime time TV.

New Orleans Saints 21, Cleveland Browns 18 (Sept. 16, 2018)

A.K.A., the game where Tyrod Taylor almost outplayed Drew Brees. The vastly improved Browns looked to rebound after a demoralizing week one tie against the Steelers, and to their credit they hung in their against the Saints, at one point amassing a 12-3 lead with 15 minutes left on the scoreboard. Of course, Drew Brees would go on to do what Drew Brees does, as he tagged Michael Thomas for a five-yard TD pass that put Nawlins ahead of the Dawg Pound. With 90 seconds left, however, T-Mobile connected with Antonio Calloway for a 47-yard touchdown pass, only for kicker Zane Gonzalez to fuckin’ whiff on the PAT. Deadlocked at 18-18, it seemed like this one was destined for overtime play … that is, until Saints kicker Will Lutz made it good from 44 yards out to give New Orleans the game-winning points with less than 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

New Orleans Saints  43, Atlanta Falcons 37 (Sept. 23, 2018)

A straight up NFC South veteran QB duel, with Matt Ryan and Drew Brees combining for almost 800 yards of aerial offense. In an absolutely bonkers outing that witnessed no less than nine lead changes, the Falcons QB went 26 for 35 for 374 yards and five passing TDs, but that still wasn’t enough to surmount the Saints, who managed to collect 143 yards — plus two touchdowns — on the ground en route to a thrilling overtime victory, which saw Brees sneak it in from one-yard out to give New Orleans the in-division W.

Oakland Raiders 45, Cleveland Browns 43 (Sept. 30, 2018)

Well, you won’t find too many highlights for the Raiders in 2018, but this was undoubtedly one of the beleaguered franchise’s few bright spots for the season. With neither team really interested in showing any signs of defensive capabilities, Derek Carr had a field day against the Browns’ secondary, lobbing the rock for 437 yards and four touchdown passes — including a seven-yard shot at Jared Cook with 42 seconds left on the clock to put Oakland in position to tie the game with a ballsy two point conversion … which is exactly what they did when Carr tagged Jordy Nelson on the subsequent play. Matt McCrane would eventually boot it 29 yards out with less than two minutes remaining in overtime to give the Raiders their first win of the year — which, obviously, is something the Silver and Black didn’t see too many of for the remainder of the year, either.

Cleveland Browns 12, Baltimore Ravens 9 (Oct. 07, 2018)

The kind of old-fashioned, down-and-dirty, defensive stalemate you just don’t see too much of in today’s NFL product. Despite the low final score, both quarterbacks nonetheless managed to rack up some serious aerial yardage, with Baker Mayfield alone garnering 342 yards in the air (for those curious, Joe Flacco wasn’t far behind him, finishing the outing with 298 passing yards to his stat sheet.) After roughly ten minutes of each team failing to sniff opposing end zone, the Browns ultimately won the game with just two seconds left in overtime, as Greg Joseph made good on a 37-yard field goal attempt to give Cleveland the extremely hard fought victory.

New England Patriots 43, Kansas City Chiefs 40 (Oct. 14, 2018)

The Pats exacted a little vengeance for their blowout loss to the Chiefs in the 2017 season opener in this high-scoring primetime thriller — this, despite their defense allowing Patrick Mahomes to lob the pigskin for 352 yards and two TD passes. Heading into the second half the Patriots had a sturdy 24-9 lead, but by the midway point of the fourth the Chiefs had stormed back to make it a 33-30 contest in their favor. A scrambling Brady score and a field goal from Steve Gostkowski gave New England a seven point lead with about three minutes to go in regulation, but wouldn’t you know it, Mahomes would hit Tyreek Hill on the very next play to tie everything up again 40-40. Alas, Brady would marshal the troops downfield, as Gostkowski booted a 28-yard chip shot to give New England the three point win just three seconds left on the clock.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Cleveland Browns 23 (Oct. 21, 2018)

They may not have finished with a winning record (hey, what else is new?) but there’s no denying the Browns at least gave their fans some exciting football in 2018, with no less than a quarter of their games going to overtime and half of their contests being decided by six points or less. The Bucs held a firm 23-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter in this one, as Cleveland valiantly clawed back to make it 23-all  following a one-yard Nick Chubb saunter into the end zone and Baker Mayfield’s 16 yard TD zip to Jarvis Landry. Alas, Tampa Bay did their part to quash the mad comeback attempt, as Chandler Catanzaro hit a 59-yard field goal with less than two minutes left in overtime to give the Buccaneers the deuce.

Los Angeles Rams 29, Green Bay Packers 27 (Oct. 28, 2018)

In hindsight, we may have just seen a passing of the torch in this one, as hot up-and-comer Jared Goff soldiered his troops past Aaron Rodgers and the gang in a thrilling quarterback duel. Of course, what everybody remembers about this one isn’t Goff’s 19-for-35, three-touchdown, 295-aerial-yard day, but rather Green Bay running back Ty Montgomery fumbling the ball away after an explosive 22-yard gain that would’ve put the Pack in prime position for the comeback victory with roughly two minutes to go in regulation. Needless to say, the Rams played it safe as they ran out the clock in the waning seconds of the game, thus safeguarding their narrow two-point margin of victory over Green Bay.

New Orleans Saints 45, Los Angeles Rams 35 (Nov. 04, 2018)

The two best teams in the NFC met for a midseason romp, and aerial offense was definitely on the menu. In a losing effort, Jared Goff went 28 for 40 for 391 yards and three touchdown passes, while winning QB Drew Brees went 25 for 36 for 346 yards and four passing touchdowns. The big variable, however, were the discrepancies in the run game; whereas New Orleans accumulated two rushing touchdowns and 141 yards on the ground, the Rams could only muster 92 yards running the ball — not that the Rams wouldn’t have an opportunity to get sweet, sweet revenge in about two months’ time, though.

Los Angeles Rams 54, Kansas City Chiefs 51 (Nov. 19, 2018)

Patrick Mahomes had 478 passing yards and six goddamn touchdowns against the Rams, but that STILL wasn’t enough to overcome Los Angeles and Jared Goff, who finished the outing with a moderately less statistically impressive four TD passes and 413 yards on the day. The final 15 minutes of play may have been the most entertaining quarter of the whole NFL season, with the Chiefs quickly amassing 14 points over the span of barely one minute via a 75-yard Tyreek Hill TD reception followed by a defensive fumble recovery score by defensive end Allen Bailey. Goff ot L.A. right back into it, though, as he hit Gerald Everett for a seven-yard TD pass with nine to go in the fourth; the Chiefs regained the lead with a 10-yard passing TD to Chris Conley, but Goff ultimately had the last laugh, targeting Everett again — this time, for a thunderous 40-yard TD pass — to give the Rams a lead they would never again relinquish.

Seattle Seahawks 30, Carolina Panthers 27 (Nov. 25, 2018)

At the midway point of the season, the Panthers stood at 6-2 and looked like a legitimate playoff-caliber team. Few would have imagined Carolina would proceed to lose its next seven games en route to a disappointing (and certainly not postseason-worthy) 7-9 final mark. Still, that didn’t mean the Panthers didn’t have some exhilarating games during their downturn in the win column, as evidenced by this barnburner against Seattle. Indeed, a two yard scorcher from Cam Newton to Christian McCaffrey with seven minutes to go in the fourth seemed like it would be just enough to give Carolina the win. Of course, Seattle had different plans, as Russell Wilson tagged David Moore for a 35-yard touchdown pass with about three and a half to go in regulation; Sebastian Janikowski would boot the game-winning 31-yarder for the Seahawks with a mere four seconds left in the final quarter.

Denver Broncos 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 17 (Nov. 25, 2018)

While neither of the usually perennial AFC postseason squads made the playoffs this past season, they at least gave us this entertaining slugfest, which saw Ben “No Means Yes and Yes Means Anal” Roethlisberger collect 462 yards in the air but still succumb to Denver in a one possession game. A five yard TD pass from Case Keenum(15 for 28 for 197 yards and two touchdowns) to Emmanuel Sanders tied the game late in the third, while a two yard run by Phillip Lindsay about halfway through the fourth gave the Broncos all the wiggle room they needed to hold onto the W; by the way, Linday’s 11o-yards on 14 carries outpaced Pittsburgh’s total ground production for the day by 30-plus yards — think they missed having Le’Veon Bell in the backfield for this one?

Los Angeles Chargers 33, Pittsburgh Steelers 30 (Dec. 02, 2018)

Heading into the second half the Steelers held a comfortable 23-7 lead over the overachieving Chargers. Which, of course, meant Los Angeles NFL Team B would go onto score 23 unanswered points to take the lead with about eight minutes left to go in the fourth. Pittsburgh made a brief comeback, however, as Big Ben hit Jaylen Samuels for a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie things up 30-30 with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. There wouldn’t be any need for overtime, however, as kicker Michael Badgley won it for San Diego … I mean, Los Angeles … via 29-yard field goal with nothing but zeroes on the clock.

Chicago Bears 15, Los Angeles Rams 6 (Dec. 09, 2018)

For those of you that thought defensive play was dead in pro football, this late season skirmish ought to make you reconsider your assertions. Neither Jared Goff or Mitch Trubisky could exceed 200 passing yards on the day, as the QBs combined for a horrendous seven interceptions throughout the contest — ultimately, Mitch the Bitch would conclude the outing with a piss poor QBR of 33.3, while Goff finished the game with an even worse QBR of just 19.1. It was an 8-6 baseball score when the fourth quarter began, and the game’s only touchdown came with about 10 minutes to go in regulation, as Trubisky tagged 315-pound offensive tackle Bradley Sowell for a two-yard TD pass.

Oakland Raiders 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 21 (Dec. 09, 2018)

OK, so this game had virtually zero playoffs implications and was pretty much a game sans significance of any kind, but like shit I’ll turn down an opportunity to revel in a Raiders victory over those shitbum Steelers. There were four lead changes in the final 15 minutes of play, as Big Ben (25 for 29, 282 yards, two touchdown passes) hit JuJu Smith-Schuster on a one yard TD strike, only for Derek Carr (25 for 34, 322 yards, two passing touchdowns) to tag Lee Smith on a three-yard TD pass. Ben would hit JuJu again to give the Steelers a four-point lead with less than three minutes left in the fourth … and then it was time for Derek Carr to pretend it was 2016 again, as he lobbed a six-yard TD pass to Derek Carrier to give Oakland the last-second victory with 25 seconds to go in regulation.

Los Angeles Chargers 29, Kansas City Chiefs 28 (Dec. 13, 2018)

Bitter AFC West rivals collided in a pivotal late season contest with gargantuan playoff implications — and it did not disappoint. The Chiefs made it a 28-14 game with eight minutes to go in the fourth when Damien Williams ran it straight up the gut for a one-yard touchdown, but it didn’t take long for Phil Rivers and the Bolts to bounce right back. Justin Jackson turned in a three-yard TD run to pull the Chargers within seven, and with just eight seconds left, Rivers hit Mike Williams for a one-yard TD pass. Alas, rather than settle for the overtime-instigating tie, L.A. decided to go for all the marbles and try to win it right then and there on a two-point conversion attempt … which ultimately proved successful when Rivers connected with Williams again on the game-winning play.

New Orleans Saints 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 28 (Dec. 23, 2018)

Two veteran quarterbacks going at it in a good old-fashioned gunfight right here. The back-and-forth affair saw Big Ben complete 33 of 50 pass attempts en route to concluding the contest with 380 yards and three touchdown passes, while Drew Brees wrapped up the outing 27 for 40 for 326 yards and a one-to-one TD-to-INT ratio. Down by four points, the thrilling finish saw Brees hit Michael Thomas on a two-yard TD strike with less than 90 seconds remaining on the clock … this, after a one-yard Brees-to-Thomas touchdown throw got overturned by the striped shirts.

Seattle Seahawks 27, Arizona Cardinals 24 (Dec. 30, 2018)

The Cardinals looked to play spoiler against the Seahawks in this Week 17 affair, which was way closer — and way more entertaining — than it probably had any right to be. Things started getting wacky in the third quarter, with Mike Davis mulching up the field for a 17-yard rushing touchdown, only for the Cardinals to block a subsequent Seahawks punt, resulting in linebacker Dennis Gardeck registering a defensive touchdown for Arizona. From there, it was a battle of field goals, with Sebastian Janikowski booting the game-winner for Seattle from 33 yards out and with a mere three seconds left on the clock.

Dallas Cowboys 24, Seattle Seahawks 22 (Jan. 05, 2019)

The last three minutes definitely made this a riveting wildcard round matchup. Up by three points, the Cowboys managed to increase their lead to 10 when Dak Prescott scrambled for a one yard touchdown run with about 74 seconds left on the clock. Less than a minute later, however, Russell Wilson hit J.D. McKissic on a seven-yard TD pass — which, following a successful two-point conversion run from Chris Carson — all of a sudden made it a 24-22 game with just 90 left in regulation. Alas, Seattle couldn’t recovering the ensuing onside kick, and the Cowboys — for one week, at least — exacted a little vengeance for the shortcomings of 12 years’ past.

Philadelphia Eagles 16, Chicago Bears 15 (Jan. 06, 2019)

The game that will forever be known as the “Double Doinker,” and the reason why Cody Parkey’s kids can never, EVER attend a public school in Illinois again. Alas, even before the Bears turned in their best Ray Finkle impersonation, we had a bona fide thriller on our hands; lost amidst the sheer Schadenfreude of the spectacle was Nick Foles’ heroic comeback late in the fourth, when he tagged Golden Tate on what proved to be the game-winning pass with a mere 61 seconds remaining in regulation.

Los Angeles Rams 30, Dallas Cowboys 22 (Jan. 12, 2019)

Another year and another colossal postseason collapse for the Cowboys. By the midway point of the third quarter the Rams had already attained a substantive 23-7 lead over Dallas, and despite a (sorta) valiant comeback attempt from Dak Prescott and company, the Cowboys just couldn’t leap back into contention. Needless to say, Los Angeles just plain ran over the Cowboys all day long; the Rams outgained the Cowboys on the ground by an absurd 273 yard to 50 yard differential.

New Orleans Saints 20, Philadelphia Eagles 14 (Jan. 13, 2019)

The overachieving Eagles hung in there, but ultimately the New Orleans Saints offensive machine was just too much for the reigning, defending Super Bowl champs. Despite Philadelphia leaping out to an early 14-0 lead, it didn’t take long for N.O. to hop right back into the thick of things, as the Saints would go on to record 20 unanswered points while their defense did its job to stifle the Iggles. For those keeping count at home, Drew Brees finished the outing 28 for 38 for 310 yards and a two-to-one TD-to-INT differential, while the Saints’ running back committee outgained the Eagles 137 yards to 49 on the ground.

Los Angeles Rams 26, New Orleans Saints 23 (Jan. 20, 2019)

Not since the Tuck Rule has a single playoff game been marred by such a preposterously awful call. At this point, there’s no denying it; yes, Rams’ defender Nickell Robey-Coleman totally got away with blatant defensive pass interference when he tried to give Tommylee Lewis of the Saints a full body cavity search on third and 10 from the LAR 13 with just 1:48 left on the clock. Alas, that doesn’t mean the Saints don’t have to accept a LOT of blame for the loss, considering their defense took a powder allowing the Rams to get within field goal range with 15 seconds to go in regulation in the first place. And correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t New Orleans get possession first in overtime, and didn’t Drew Brees, you know, lob a goddamn interception to set up the Rams’ game-winning field goal?

New England Patriots 37, Kansas City Chiefs 31 (Jan. 20, 2019)

Well, it’s pretty hard to complain about an AFC Championship-determining contest with a mere six lead changes in the fourth quarter, ain’t it? Indeed, the final 15 minutes of this game might just be the most thrilling 4Q the NFL has seen in a long time, as the Chiefs and Patriots exchanged points like it was a fishbowl party or something. Of course, Lady Luck smiled on New England that cold evening in Arrowhead, as the Pats got O.T. possession first; and 13 plays and 75 yards later, running back Rex Burkhead punched it in from two yards out to send Tom Brady to only the ninth Super Bowl of his career.

New England Patriots 13, Los Angeles Rams 3 (Feb. 03, 2019)

What a fitting end to the season, eh, kids? After record-breaking, high-scoring slugfests en masse, the pro football year that was concluded rather anticlimactically with a defense-oriented stalemate that saw each team struggle to whiff end zone like a teenager with hooks for hands trying to snap off a bra. The only touchdown of the game came at the seven-minute mark of the fourth, as Sonny Michel chugged 2 yards to give the Pats the game-winning integers. And, of course, Tom Terrific celebrated his sixth Super Bowl championship the only way he could — by kissin’ his 77-year-old team owner with his mouth open.


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