Top 10 takeaways from Sunday’s Week 14 NFL action

Dec 11, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) walks off the field after the Seahawks lost to the Green Bay Packers 38-10 at Lambeau Field.

Week 14 of the NFL season presented teams with an opportunity to prove their worth among top contenders heading into the stretch run. While some of these teams failed miserably, others stepped up when it counted the most.

Relying primarily on a ball-hawking defense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers maintained their status as a legit playoff contender while sending the New Orleans Saints to irrelevance.

Over in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans’ defense stepped up in a game that saw Marcus Mariota struggle to do anything. The end result here was another Titans victory, one that pushes them closer to a surprise spot in the playoffs.

While these two young quarterbacks are leading their squads to surprising success, other veterans continue to struggle. We mentioned Brees above, but it must be noted that both Carson Palmer and Russell Wilson put up disastrous performances in games their respective teams needed to win.

These are among the top-10 takeaways from Sunday’s Week 14 NFL action.

1. Broncos fall back against Titans

Despite a horrible performance from Marcus Mariota, the Tennessee Titans were able to keep pace with the Houston Texans in the AFC South. It came in the form of an ugly 13-10 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Tennessee opened up an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter and was able to hold off a Denver comeback throughout the remainder of the game. Mariota struggled to get anything going through the air, completing 6-of-20 passes for 88 yards. Though, Tennessee’s rushing attack absolutely dominated a good Broncos defense to the tune of 180 yards on 42 attempts.

Despite Mariota’s struggles, his team was able to hold the Broncos’ offense in check. First-year starter Trevor Siemian was forced to put the ball up 51 times with Denver’s rushing attack showing itself to be non-existent.

By virtue of this win, Tennessee is tied with the Houston Texans at the top of the AFC South with a 7-6 mark. It is also just one game behind Denver for the final wild card spot in the conference.

As it relates to the Broncos, they’re now two games back in the AFC West with three left. This means that their likeliest path to the playoffs is through the wild card. Even then, Denver finds itself tied with the Miami Dolphins at 8-5 while losing the tiebreaker to the 7-6 Titans.

2. Ryan Tannehill’s injury throws wrench into Dolphins playoff hopes

The Miami Dolphins were having themselves a splendid day in the rain on Sunday. They held the lead over the Arizona Cardinals for most of the game, thanks in large part due to the performance of Tannehill. After all, the much-maligned signal caller finished his day completing 15-of-20 passes for 195 yards with three touchdowns in what ended up being a 26-23 win.

This was most definitely good news for Miami, who now finds itself tied with the Denver Broncos for the final wild card spot in the AFC. That’s the only good news the team received.

Tannehill, who is playing the best football of his career, reportedly suffered a torn ACL in the third quarter of the game and is out for the remainder of the season (more on that here).

Veteran backup Matt More will take over for Miami. In reality, he’s likely one of the top backups in the NFL. It’s in this that there’s no real reason to believe the Dolphins are out of the equation in the AFC.

With road games coming up against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills before they close out the season at home against New England, the Dolphins are still very much alive. Though, the next two weeks will definitely be telling.

3. Le’Veon Bell absolutely dominates hapless Bills

If Bell hadn’t been suspended for the first three games of the season, he’d currently be on a record pace. The do-everything running back just put up an astounding 298 yards on 42 touches en route to scoring three touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. This helped Pittsburgh overcome three interceptions from Ben Roethlisberger to win the game, 27-20.

It was a much-needed win for Pittsburgh, which now awaits the outcome of the Baltimore Ravens’ Monday night game against the New England Patriots to see if it will be alone in first place in the AFC North when Week 15 comes calling.

Bell’s performance adds to what has been an absolutely dominating season for the Pro Bowl running back.

In addition to this, Bell is averaging a whopping 29 touches per game. Needless to say, Pittsburgh is relying more on its running back than it is a future Hall of Fame quarterback. That’s an amazing realization considering the weapons Pittsburgh’s passing attack features.

4. The Los Angeles Rams are just brutal

Los Angelenos deserve better than this. They’ve waited over 20 years for professional football and are now watching an NFL team barely act the part. Sunday’s humiliating 41-14 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons was just another example of this. The Rams’ first 10 offensive possessions in this one were about as bad as it gets for an NFL team. No, seriously.

Rams’ first 10 possessions Sunday.

Fumble (TD)

— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) December 12, 2016

If the stink hasn’t worn off yet, get a load of this. The Falcons’ defense scored more points in this game (21) than the Rams have scored in all but three of their games this season. That’s just brutal.

What makes this even more disastrous for Rams fans in Southern California is the fact that it’s being done under a head coach in Jeff Fisher who just recently signed a two-year extension. Can owner Stan Kroenke possibly justify firing Fisher after showing him a ridiculous level of trust? We’re not too sure of this.

How bad is it? Second-year running back Todd Gurley called his team out after the game. In doing so, he put the offense on blast while pretty much indicating that some players simply aren’t showing up at this point in the season (more on that here).

We made the point last week that San Francisco and Cleveland might be the two worst teams…