Patriots’ Super Bowl Hopes Thin Without Rob Gronkowski, Andy Dalton Is Bengals’ Key Among Week 14 Reactions

Rob GronkowskiLet it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

If NFL games are going to continue to be anything like they were on Sunday, then they should be forced to play in snow more often — bring a few snow makers down to Miami already. The Lions and Eagles played in what might be best described as a Nor’easter, and still managed to put up a combined 700 yards of total offense and 54 points. The Steelers nearly pulled off a miracle on the last play of the game, but the snow-covered field caused Antonio Brown‘s little toe to scrape the out-of-bounds line, yet the two teams still managed a 34-28 finish. Oh, and the Ravens and Vikings managed to combine for five touchdowns in the final 2:05, including a controversial touchdown catch to clinch the win for Baltimore. All that said, the snow is more than welcome back anytime.

Beyond the good play in bad weather, though, there were exciting finishes all across the NFL in Week 14, including an epic comeback in New England and a nail-biter in San Francisco. So, without further ado, let’s sort through some of this week’s rapid reactions.

Three Up:

1. Andy Dalton – He might be the most frustrating player in the NFL. Andy Dalton has looked like a MVP at times this season, and like the reincarnation of Rex Grossman at others. There really is no telling which Dalton is going to show up on a weekly basis, and the Bengals can’t continue resting their Super Bowl hopes on whether Jekyll or Hyde plans to show up each week. After a month of turmoil that included nine interceptions, six touchdowns and a 2-2 record, Dalton finally returned to life on Sunday, throwing three touchdowns to zero turnovers and getting the Bengals a 42-28 win.

2. Outdoor Super Bowls – I don’t know if any one thing saw more of a rise in popularity on Sunday than the idea of an outdoor Super Bowl. No, you still can’t tailgate before or even walk to the game in northern New Jersey, but the amount of excitement that filled the half dozen snow bowls on Sunday was plenty to cause some hubbub about the possibility of a Super snow bowl. Listen, the uppity types are never going to be happy with a Super Bowl played outdoors in the northeast in the dead of winter, but the majority of fans could at least appreciate it if the on-field product was damn good. The Lions-Eagles, Dolphins-Steelers and handful of the other exhilarating results from Sunday’s stormy lot at least set a good precedent for February at the Meadowlands.

3. Philip Rivers’ Chargers – The San Diego Chargers held ever so tightly onto their postseason hopes on Sunday, tearing apart the Giants en route to a 37-14 win. The big reason behind the Chargers’ success on Sunday, and all season for that matter, has been Philip Rivers. The veteran quarterback led the charge again on Sunday, completing 21 of his 28 pass attempts and tossing three touchdowns. Sunday’s performance was just even more proof of his continued importance to the Chargers’ success this season.

Three Down:

1. Washington D.C.’s professional football team — Mike Shanahan seems like he’s lost control of his team. By the sounds of it, Robert Griffin III may have lost control of his starting job. And the ever popular Washington D.C. football team just continues to flat out lose. Things seems like they are only going to get worse before they get better in Ashburn, Va., and that doesn’t bode well for Shanahan’s future. All signs would point to the 61-year-old seeing his way out at the end of this season, but a new coach may not even be able to fix the problems brewing in that locker room. The only upside at this point is the high draft pick they’ll likely have come April.

2. Patriots’ Super Bowl chances – The Patriots have dealt with injury after injury this season, and somehow they’ve been able to overcome them all. Losing Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo left their defense crippled, but at least they could still rely on the offensive output each week. Now, without Rob Gronkowski though, Tom Brady and the offense may not be capable of carrying the same load. Sunday’s epic comeback win was both exciting and invigorating for a team so limited by injuries, but their chances at winning a Super Bowl were slim even before Gronkowski went down. I’m not saying it’s impossible now, but it certainly less likely.

3. The vaunted Panthers’ defense – Heading into New Orleans on Sunday night, the Panthers’ defense had allowed just two first-half touchdowns and 11 total on the season. The Saints scored three touchdowns in the second quarter alone and four for the game, figuratively stomping on Carolina’s “vaunted” defense. The Panthers are still damn good defensively — better than four-fifths of the league in almost every viable category — but maybe they need to do a little retooling before welcoming the Saints into Charlotte for a Week 17 rematch.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

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