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Hawks in the NFL - Week 17

Dane Belton and Geno Stone both came up big in week 17.

Syndication: The Record Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Sorry - Iowa playing on Monday and getting smoked sucked up all available oxygen for me on Monday, and then Iowa kicked us all in the nuts again with the loss in Madison (thank GOD for Caitlin Clark). There were NFL games played last weekend. Nearly done with football for the year, you guys...

Dane Belton

I haven’t mentioned Belton much, if at all, this year. That’s mostly on the Giants and the turd season they’ve pushed out. There’s just no shining this. And that mostly continued on Sunday, as they lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 26-25. The Giants had a chance to tie, but decided to go for 2 after an encroachment penalty on the extra point try. Of course, the conversion failed and the Giants fell to 5-11.

But enough about them - Dane Belton!!! Belton collected THREE takeaways in this game, snagging two picks - his first picks of the year - and recovering a fumble.

Geno Stone

We stay with the defensive players. Stone had a remarkable 6 picks in the first 9 games of the season. He’s had none since a 37-3 win over Seattle on November 5...until Sunday, when he snagged his seventh interception of the year in Baltimore’s 56-19 demolition of Miami.

That pick pushes Stone to second in the league in interceptions, one behind Dallas’s DaRon Bland. What a remarkable season for Stone, the 219th pick in the 2020 draft. Expect more from Stone as we progress deeper into January, and maybe even into February. Baltimore is good - the win locked them into the AFC’s top seed - and peaking at the perfect time.

C.J. Beathard

Beathard picked up his first start since 2020, and while he didn’t have any touchdowns, he was turnover-free - Jacksonville had 10 turnovers in a recent 4-game skid - as the Jags hammered the dreadful Carolina Panthers, 26-0. CJB didn’t put up huge number - 17-24 for 178 yards, as well as 3 carries for 24 yards - but he was steady as the Jags got back in the win column and moved to 9-7. Both Houston and Indianapolis won as well so we still have a 3-way tie atop the AFC South going into Week 18.

Bronco Corner

We had a mini-reunion in Denver Sunday afternoon as the Denver contingent - Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann, and Riley Moss - welcomed Ben’s brother, Nick, and the awful Los Angeles Chargers to the Mile High City. Denver won this overall boring game, 16-9. There wasn’t a lot to report. Jewell had 9 tackles and a fumble recover, while neither Moss nor Ben Niemann recorded any stats. On the other sideline, it was an up-and-down day for Nick Niemann. He finished with 11 tackles, including 1 for loss, but he was responsible for a turnover on down as the Chargers attempted a fake punt late in the first half. Niemann took the direct snap but fumbled it on 4th and 1, which he recovered but for no gain, which led to a Denver field goal. Kind of sums up the Chargers season.

Denver, meanwhile, moved back to .500 at 8-8 but will miss the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season as the Chiefs beat Cincinnati right as Denver won their game. A Denver win and a KC loss would’ve left the door open for Denver to win the AFC West with another win and another KC loss in Week 18 - a ridiculous notion, but it was in play - but KC’s win saw the division go their way for the 8th consecutive season. Denver has not made the playoffs since they won Super Bowl 50.

Tight Ends

Kind of a quiet week for this group.

Sam LaPorta continued his incredible rookie season, finishing Detroit’s controversial 20-19 loss to Dallas with 7 catches for 84 yards. You know - you could have just tied the game, then tried to win in OT, Dan Campbell. Dallas could not stop your offense, especially in that two-minute drill. It didn’t matter to Detroit since they are already in the playoffs and clinched the NFC North, but Dallas’s win and Philadelphia’s shock loss to Arizona means Dallas can now win the NFC East with a win on Sunday.

Sunday saw a mini-resurgence for Noah Fant, though Seattle lost to Pittsburgh, 30-23, and saw their playoff hopes dimmed significantly (Seattle now needs a win in Week 18 plus a ton of help to make the playoffs). Fant had 6 targets on Sunday and finished with 5 receptions for 59 yards. Not a huge day, but he had a three-game stretch in the middle of the season where he registered 3 receptions for 10 total yards. Still no touchdowns on the season for Fant, and 59 yards was his second-highest yardage output for the season, behind a 63-yard effort in Week 3 against the New York Giants.

George Kittle and the 49ers rebounded from their 33-19 loss to Baltimore with a win in Maryland, a 27-10 win over the Commanders. Kittle finished with 3 receptions for 29 yards as the Niners hammered the hapless Commanders. God, the Commanders stink. San Francisco’s win plus the Philadelphia loss means the Niners are the 1-seed in the NFC.

Potpourri

Desmond King continued his stellar play in Houston, finishing their 26-3 win over Tennessee with 8 tackles and 1 pass deflection as well as 2 punt returns for 30 yards.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette had 3 catches for 12 yards, 1 carry for 0 yards, and 2 punt returns for 9 yards in the loss to Jacksonville.