Week 17 TNF Recap

Written by: William Petersen

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Week 17 of the NFL season found itself falling on arguably the best time of the year as we got to kick off our Christmas week with a AFC showdown between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns. The Browns have been one of the most surprising teams of the season after losing starting quarterback Deshaun Watson early in the season and were forced to start four different quarterbacks in his place throughout the season. The fourth and final quarterback seems to be the Browns signal caller for the rest of their season as Joe Flacco has risen from the retirement couch and has had one of the most electric returns to professional sports I have ever seen. Flacco led the now 11-5 Browns to a dominant 37-20 win while going 19/29 for 309 yards and 3 touchdowns. The former Super Bowl Champion and rival Baltimore Ravens QB has now found a second home in Cleveland after going 4-1 as the Browns starter, only losing his first start of the season to the Los Angeles Rams on the road. Cleveland has a serious belief of making a playoff run after clinching a spot in the playoffs following this statement win for Flacco and a Browns team that has been led by their defense all season. Trevor Siemian was under center for a New York Jets team that continues to look forward to next season where they will hopefully have a full season with Aaron Rodgers. Siemian finished 32/45 for 261 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on a night that was characterized by frustration and the Jets inability to move the chains.

The New York Jets are now just waiting for their 2023 season to come to an end next week ast they travel to the New England Patriots who are arguably even worse than this Jets squad who now move to 2-5 on the road this year and 6-10 overall. Breece Hall continues to be one of the only bright spots for this lackluster Jets offense as he finished with 13 rushes for 84 yards and 9 receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. After tearing his ACL in his rookie season last year, Hall has shown why the Iowa State running back had such a high draft stock and continues to show how his explosive running style will help Aaron Rodgers move the ball next season. The Jets disappointment of a season was foreshadowed with Rodgers getting injured on his fourth snap for the team but I also believe Robert Saleh has to hold the majority of the blame. His defense has been a top fifteen, top twelve unit all season but Saleh has done nothing to try and figure out how to produce points on offense even without Rodgers. It seems to me Saleh just wanted to play the victim role and pout about how unlucky they have been instead of being a solid coach and figure out how to win with the players around you. The only reason why Saleh still has a job with the New York Jets is because Rodgers made the call to Woody Johnson and told him to at least give it a legitimate shot before blowing everything up. I do not think Saleh is fit to be an NFL head coach and will not be surprised to see the Jets in the coaching carousel yet again after the Jets will struggle even with Rodgers next season. The Jets will be better than they are in 2023 but I do not believe they will get out of the first round if they do make the playoffs in 2024.

If you were to tell me that Joe Flacco would lead the Cleveland Browns to a playoff berth this year, I would have checked you into a mental institution. The Browns are as legitimate as any other playoff team in my eyes as long as Joe Flacco continues this historic run off the couch that he has produced these last five weeks. Flacco has now thrown for 300 plus yards in four straight games and the Browns defense continues to look like an absolute juggernaut after holding the Jets to only 107 yards on the ground and 261 through the air. Even without Amari Cooper, the Browns offense continues to move the ball with relative ease and Flacco continues to show his longtime critics why everyone used to consider him an elite quarterback in Baltimore. The difference between the Browns and Jets is found within their head coaches. You already know how I feel about Saleh and Kevin Stefanski is the penultimate example of NFL Coach of the Year after leading this Browns team to a playoff berth after starting four different quarterbacks this season. Stefanski has found an identity through his tough-nosed defense, and with the help of David Njoku who finished with 6 receptions for 134 yards tonight, and an offense that has no quit. If Joe Flacco continues to play this brand of football I have no problem seeing the Browns make a Cinderella run in a playoffs that could find even more parody than the league is accustomed to. Stefanski has his Browns now sitting at 8-1 at home this season but will most likely be playing a road playoff game to start the postseason as the Baltimore Ravens won the AFC North and locked up the number one seed with their blowout win against the Miami Dolphins on New Years Eve.