I may be a day late, but never a dollar short. Week 12 of the NFL is in the books and the favorites continue to be on top. I hadn’t realized I chose all of the favorites except for the Cowboys over the weekend, and it amounted to a 13-3 week and a season-long 66% success rate. As teams are settling into that playoff push, we are in the midst of a crucial stretch in the campaign. Let’s take a look at what’s happening in the NFL.
Vikings tame Lions 30-23
It was a valiant effort by the Lions to try to snap the Vikings’ 6-game winning streak on Thanksgiving, but ultimately they fell just short. With the loss, Detroit falls 3 games back of the Vikings and 1 game back from a playoff spot. While the NFC North is all but wrapped up, Matthew Stafford and the Lions still have a lot to play for as they look ahead to a pretty favorable schedule.
Minnesota can now set their sights on clinching the NFC. With 7 straight wins and a 9-2 record, Minnesota finds themselves as the 2nd best team in the NFC behind the Eagles. They will continue their difficult road trip against the Falcons and the Panthers before returning to the Midwest to face a few cupcakes. Worst case scenario, the Vikings should finish with at most 4 losses. Not too shabby.
Chargers shut down Cowboys 28-6
No Zeke, big problem. With Ezekiel Elliott out, Dallas has yet to eclipse double digits on the scoreboard. Dak Prescott’s struggles with the team on his shoulders has been well documented, and they’re creeping into panic mode with their season on the line this Thursday. The bitter Cowboys-Redskins rivalry is going to play a huge role in determining the NFC Wild Card race.
Speaking of Wild Card race, the Chargers surged back to 5-6 in a crippling AFC West division. Despite their 0-5 start, L.A. is incredibly very much in the playoff race with a visit from the Browns next on the docket. This is your reminder that there is still a lot of football to be played with 5 weeks left in the season.
Redskins stomp Giants 20-10
It might have been easy to write off the Giants, but this was still a big win for the Redskins. New York is proving that they aren’t about to be walked over in any game, and they still have a couple of wins left in them. Janoris Jenkins is playing like one of the best DBs in the league, and the Giants defense as a whole is pretty suffocating to its opponents. Their season may be over, but they have a couple shockers left in them.
Meanwhile this was a must-win for the Redskins as they now pull back to 5-6 and two games out of a Wild Card spot. So, a win against the 5-6 Cowboys would be HUGE. Not only would they would knock off their arch-rival, but at 6-6 they would finish the season with one of the easiest schedules in the league. I haven’t been this excited for two teams below .500 playing in prime time in a while.
Falcons “Jones” Buccaneers 34-20
I know that doesn’t make sense… but did you see Julio Jones?? My man went for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns on 12 catches. It’s the 3rd time in his career to surpass 250 yards receiving, which is 2 more than anyone else in the history of the sport. What a phenomenal talent!
The win keeps the Falcons locked into that 6 seed at 7-4. However, they probably have the toughest remaining schedule as they face the Vikings, the Saints twice, and then the Panthers. If Atlanta is going to be playing into 2018, they are going to have to earn it. For the Bucs, just worry about that high draft pick.
Bengals bite Browns 30-16
As an Ohio resident, there has been a lot of local talk on Joe Mixon’s failure to pass 20 carries and 100 yards. Well, on Sunday he did both in a balanced Bengals offense. In addition, while the defense has been better, they kept the Browns out of the end zone minus one DeShone Kizer scamper.
The win keeps the Bengals’ playoff hopes alive as they move to 5-6 and one game back of their division rival Ravens. Before they can look ahead to their up-and-down schedule, they have an extra day to prepare for a crucial matchup with the Steelers on Monday. Without so much as a good showing, it’s possible to write off Cincinnati.
Titans overcome Colts 20-16
Marcus Mariota is in some kind of funk. Last Sunday his 52 QBR was well below a playoff quarterback’s standards. In fact, he has an average QBR of 53 since his last convincing win over 6 weeks ago (against none other than the Colts). Yes, the Titans are tied for the division lead, but if they want to win the division or make noise in the playoffs, Mariota has to backup his talented backfield.
This game was way closer than it should have been. Indianapolis dominated the game until the 4th quarter when DeMarco Murray’s 1-yard run with 6 minutes to go finally put Tennessee ahead. There’s something to be said about Indy’s toughness as they continue to play contenders close (for example, the Steelers), but in truth the contenders have no excuse to play down to their opponents like the Titans did.
Bills stampede Chiefs 16-10
It’s crazy to think that the Chiefs were once 5-0 and by far the best team in the league. They are the proud owners of the Eagles’ only loss, and the shameful owners of falling to 5 of their last 6 opponents. Somehow, they remain in first place thanks to the ineptitude of the rest of the division. They must figure this thing out against the Jets next week. They are too talented on all three facets of the game to be suffering like this.
For the Bills, it’s probably the opposite. LeSean McCoy isn’t having a great season, and Buffalo’s recent QB troubles have been well documented. Nevertheless, the Bills are 6-5 and tied with the Ravens for the final playoff spot. Their defense is preparing for a tough test against the Patriots to stay there before playing to pretty easy games at home. The worst case scenario should be 8-6 after Week 15.
Patriots punish Dolphins 35-17
Any Patriots fan will tell you that New England always inexplicably struggles with the Dolphins. However, that wasn’t the case on Sunday. Tom Brady launched 4 touchdowns despite only throwing for 227 yards. However, the duo of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead combined for 162 yards and another score. Combine it with a much improved defense, and you have a 7-game winning streak and one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
The Dolphins’ loss all but puts them out of the title picture. Their offense rivals the Ravens, Texans, and Browns among the worst in the league and their defense is only average. With a 5-game losing streak and a difficult upcoming schedule, it’ll be interesting to see if they step up, or fight for a higher draft pick.
Panthers escape Jets 35-27
As expected, the Panthers’ potent rushing attack was a solid matchup for a stout Jets defensive line. New York gave Cam Newton all he could handle, but a late kick return for a touchdown broke the game open and all but finished off the Jets. With the win, the Panthers move to 8-3 and join the Saints in first place of the highly competitive NFC South.
Meanwhile, the Jets fall to 4-7 and are out of the playoff race. They have exhibited an above average defense all year, and Josh McCown and Robby Anderson might have something special on offense, but it’s too soon for anything substantial. Keep in mind that they were projected to be the worst team in the NFL, so 4 wins or more this season is far above expectations. I think they’ll pick up a couple of offensive tools in the draft and be a borderline playoff contender in 2018.
Eagles eviscerate Bears 31-3
The score doesn’t show how lopsided this game was even with the 28-point differential. The Eagles jumped on Chicago with 3 quick touchdowns from Carson Wentz before the half, and it was cruise control from there. In fact, the Philly players could be seen playing tic-tac-toe on the sidelines.
The Eagles move up to 10-1 and remain in total control of the NFC while the Bears stay close to the top picks in the draft. Chicago fans probably shouldn’t get too excited because they blew it last year with Mitch Trubisky. Whether or not he proves me wrong over the next couple of years, there is no way the Bears should’ve taken that trade.
Seahawks sweep 49ers 24-13
The Seahawks swept their bitter rival in 2017, but it was closer than they probably would’ve liked. After a narrow 12-9 victory in Week 2, they were able to extend their margin to 11 in Week 12. Russell Wilson was brilliant again with 228 yards passing and a couple of TDs in the air and one on the ground.
The win quells some fears about the legitimacy of Seattle, but not by much. At the end of the day, they only beat a 1-10 San Fran team that is destined for a top-3 draft pick. A true title contender would’ve dismantled the 49ers similar to the way the Eagles handled their business. On that note, we’ll find out what the Seahawks are made of when they welcome Philly this week.
Raiders slip past Broncos 21-14
It was tough sledding for a while after Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib got ejected after a brawl early in the game and were then suspended for two more. Again, by my count that’s 3 equal fights and 3 different punishments. The NFL needs to write a rule on this or something because I, for one, think it’s really embarrassing when the league can’t make up their mind about these incidents.
Besides that, the Raiders were able to get 21 unanswered to open up the game before allowing 14 in the 4th quarter. The win doesn’t do much for Oakland, but it’s not the end of the line for them. For the Broncos, it’s a tough 7th-straight loss and back to Trevor Siemien for the rest of the season thanks to Paxton Lynch’s injury. Who knows what the future hold for this upside-down division.
Rams upend Saints 26-20
After L.A.’s collapse a week ago to the Vikings, I didn’t think they would be ready to rebound against the Saints. However, a steady diet of Jared Goff left the Rams with just 3 punts over the course of the game. You could point out their 5 FG to 2 TD ratio, but in this case, a score is a score, and the Rams are back to the #3 team in the NFC.
The Saints do fall into a tie for 3rd place in the NFC, and a tie for the NFC South lead with this loss. That is not nearly as significant as New Orleans’ next 4 weeks though. After they face the Panthers next week to decide the new NFC South leader, they have a “home and home” against the Falcons coming up. The Saints are in total control of their own destiny, and you can bet head coach Sean Payton knows that.
Cardinals stun Jaguars 27-24
Who would’ve thought that Blaine Gabbert was going to be the one to break through the impenetrable Jacksonville defense? Not only did the former Jaguar burn his old team, but he very well might have solidified his spot as Arizona’s quarterback for the coming years. Obviously that could change in an instant, but if he can continue to play like he did on Sunday, Gabbert’s time in the NFL will live on.
Just when you thought the Jags were going to run away with the AFC South, the loss drops them back into a tie with the Titans for the lead. The good news is that they definitely have one of the easiest schedules remaining until that New Year’s Eve clash with Tennessee. There’s a lot on the line, but the Jags can’t afford to look ahead that far just yet.
Steelers kick Packers 31-28
It took a Chris Boswell career-long field goal as time expired to finally put Green Bay away, as the Steelers eclipsed 30 points for the second time in a row. Ben Roethlisberger, and especially Antonio Brown, were outstanding as they connected for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns.
While the offense is starting to peak at the perfect time, the defense is equally slipping. The Packers’ offense is not the threat we’re used to seeing, and there is no way that this should’ve been close. The Steelers have a few more cakewalks at home before the season ends to prove that this was a fluke, but I’m not so sure…
Ravens hold off Texans 23-16
Justin Tucker won the field goal battle as both of these atrocious offenses struggled mightily. After a methodical opening drive by the Texans, followed by a couple of quick defensive stops, the “boo birds” were out early in Baltimore. Then John Harbaugh drew up a crucial fake punt to keep the Ravens in the game and spark his team to victory.
It seems weird to say that the turning point was in a 7-0 game in the 1st quarter, but the Ravens offense just looks miserable and without an elite Joe Flacco, I doubt that the Ravens will find themselves in the playoffs playing like this. Stout defense or not, playoff teams need to find a way to make it work on both sides of the ball.