NFL: Week 12 Thoughts

12 down. 5 to go.  Divisions have tightened up, making for a fun last month of the season.

How do I sum up week 12? Big Losses, Bad Losses, and a tie… oh my god football is great.

NFC EAST (It’s Officially a Two Horse Race)

  • Eagles: Bye Week. (6-5)
  • Cowboys: Tony Romo has been exceptional in the 4th quarter this season, and showed it once again.  Big 3rd down conversions helped set up a Dan Carpenter game winning 35-yard field goal.  Romo finished with 2 touchdown passes, both to Jason Witten.  Dez Bryant finished with 102-yards, and DeMarco Murray ran for 86-yards on just 14 carries.  A big fumble recovery for a touchdown helped get the Boys the win.  Now the fate of the division lies in two match-ups with Philly starting next week.  (6-5)
  • Giants: A late second field-goal sunk any hopes they had of completing a huge playoff resurgence.  First half struggles included Victor Cruz’s first fumble returned for a score, and an inability to get into the end-zone.  They ran the ball effectively with Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown combining for nearly 200-yards, but abandoned the run in the red-zone. Eli Manning finished completing just 50% of his passes, but threw 2 touchdowns and no turnovers.  They managed to score 15 unanswered to tie the score late at 21, but the defense struggled to stop Tony Romo on 3rd down in what became the Cowboys game winning drive.  Strange play-calling and penalties are the biggest reason for their 4 game win streak coming to end. They lost both games to Dallas by a combined 8 points. (4-7)
  • Redskins: He’s not the same guy as the Robert Griffin III that own rookie of the year last season. RGIII finished with just 127-yards on 17-27 passing.  THe offense couldn’t muster anything more than a couple Kyle Forbath field goals, both coming in the 2nd quarter.  There won’t be a 7-game win streak to propel them into the playoffs this season. Now they have to hope they can beat the giants to stay out of last place, and not go from first-to-worst. (3-8)

NFC NORTH (A Tie Means Nobody Won this week)

  • Lions: They had a chance to get a last second win, instead Matthew Stafford threw his 4th interception of the game, sealing their fate. Stafford threw 3 touchdowns to go with those 4 turnovers.  Calvin Johnson went over 100-yards again, while Nate Burleson had a good day in his return from injury, catching 7 passes for 77-yards and a score.  This team continues to show potential, then have let-down games like this against bad teams. (6-5)
  • Bears: Josh McGown passed for 352-yards and two touchdowns with an interception.  Chicago had a Devin Hester 62-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty in the fourth quarter.  But it didn’t matter, since the defense couldn’t stop the Rams offense.  That’s nothing new for a defense that has struggled since their 3-0 start.  Lucky for them, Detroit couldn’t put any separation between them. (6-5) 
  • Packers: After an early touchdown, Green Bay couldn’t do anything on offense.  That is until Matt Flynn came to the rescue, bringing them back to tie the game at 23 in the 4th quarter.  But didn’t do it alone, getting a lot of help from running back Eddie Lacy, who got back over the 100-yard mark and found the end-zone. Scott Tolzien wasn’t horrible, scoring a touchdown on the ground, but he was just 7-of-17 before his benching. They forced overtime, and kicked a field-goal to take the lead, but because of the new overtime rules, Minnesota tied, and that’s how it ended.  It was the first tie in the league since November of last season. (5-5-1)
  • Vikings: For 3 quarters, they shined. Adrian Peterson led the way with 146-yards rushing and a score, though he did lose a fumble.  Blair Walsh continues to show why he’s one of the top kickers in the league, hitting on all four of his attempts.  Christian Ponder threw 2 touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over.  But the defense wavered in the 2nd half, and nothing good happened in overtime.  A tie for this team is better than nothing, but they had a 3rd win in sight and let it slip away. (2-8-1)

NFC SOUTH (The Final 4 Weeks are Going to be Fun)

  • Saints: They weren’t sharp, but they made the plays when they had to in order to get the 4-point road win.  Drew Brees threw his two touchdowns to his tight-ends Jimmy Graham and Benjamin Watson.  Pierre Thomas led the way on the ground with 73-yards on just 10 carries.  All that damage came in the 1st half, with a Garrett Hartley field-goal the only New Orleans scoring of the 2nd half.  But the defense pitched a shutout in the 2nd half, giving this team just enough for the win.  (9-2)
  • Panthers: More late game heroics for Cam Newton, who engineered a game winning drive capped by a Greg Olsen touchdown with 43-seconds left in regulation.  It was a rare slow start, 16 points allowed in the 1st half that made the comeback necessary.  The game winner was Newton’s lone touchdown pass, though he did find pay dirt on the ground.  Other than that rushing TD, Carolina had no real success on the ground. But the defense showed up in the 2nd half, pitching a shutout.  The 7-game win streak is their longest in a decade.  They kept pace with New Orleans ahead of their first match-up of the season next week, a game that becomes a battle for first.  (8-3)
  • Buccaneers: Three straight wins, and they took down their best opponent in Detroit this time around. According to NFL.com, their 3 game win streak after losing the first eight of the season puts them in rare company, joining the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals as the only teams to do so.  Mike Glennon continues to show he can win in this league, completing 14-of-21 passes for 247-yards and 2 touchdowns.  Bobby Rainey didn’t come close to his break out performance from a week ago on the ground, but it didn’t matter.  It was Tiquan Underwood that had the break out week.  The 5th year wide-out went for 108 and 2 scores on the day. And obviously the defense did a good job turning Stafford over 4 times to help hold on in the end. (3-8)
  • Falcons: A loss on Thursday Night meant a lot of bad things for Atlanta.  Their 5th straight defeat ensured their first losing season since 2008, and eliminated them from playoff contention.  This is not how anyone saw a Superbowl favorite showing up this season.  Not saying much, but Matt Ryan had one of his best performances of the season, completing 30 of 39 passes for 292 yards with no interceptions, but no touchdowns either.  Steven Jackson ran one in for his first rushing score as a Falcon.  2 Matt Bryant field goals made up the rest of the lack luster offense.  The defense did a pretty good job holding a good New Orleans team to 17 points.  (2-9)

NFC WEST (The Race For 2nd is On)

  • Seahawks: Bye Week. (10-1)
  • 49ers: It’s always a good day when your defense holds the opponent to field goals.  And he wasn’t good last week, but boy did Colin Kaepernick look good this week. San Fran’s man under center threw 3 touchdowns, finished with a total of 255-yards and no turnovers.  Anquan Boldin was the recipient of two of those touchdown passes, with the other going to Vernon Davis.  The run game was lacking, but they did enough to win and keep pace with the cards.  (7-4)
  • Cardinals: This team continues to win, and this week they made a statement against a very good team. Carson Palmer threw for 2 scores and over 300-yards. Larry Fitzgerald caught five passes for 52-yards and 2 touchdowns, and according to NFL.com, become the youngest player in NFL history to reach 11,000 yards receiving.  Jay Feely added 4 field-goals to the 40-point effort. The defense shut down the Colts offense, including a Karlos Dansby pick 6 in their 20-point 2nd quarter.  Head Coach Bruce Arians beat the team that he was the interim head coach for a year ago when Chuck Pagano fought leukemia.  They’ve moved themselves into playoff contention. (7-4)
  • Rams: I’ve said it all year, this defense is for real.  And this week, the offense matched their greatness with a season high 42 points.  It’s their 2nd game in a row where they’ve looked unstoppable on offense, and against good teams.  21 in the 1st quarter made it an uphill battle all game for Chicago, and they couldn’t recover.  Kellen Clemens’ performance wasn’t anything to write home about, 167-yards, and a touchdown.  The story was the run game.  For a team that took til week 9 to drive it in on the ground, the Rams picked up rushing touchdowns from 3 different players.  Rookie rushers Billy Cunningham and Zac Stacy each found the end zone, as did rookie wide-receiver Tavon Austin.  The defense got a pick and forced 2 fumbles. (5-6)

AFC EAST (A Big Win All But Ensures New England’s Division Championship)

  • Patriots: An atrocious 1st half was followed up by an incredible 2nd half.  Two early fumbles which led to 2 touchdowns put New England down 14-0 quick.  Down 24-0 at the half, 31 unanswered points in the 2nd half to take a 1-score lead in the 4th quarter.  Tom Brady was brilliant after early struggles, finishing with 344-yards passing and 3 touchdowns.  Julian Edelman had a huge night, finishing with 9 catches for 110-yards and two touchdowns.  After the defense allowed Denver to tie the score forcing overtime, Stephen Gostkowski hit his 21st straight to give them the big come-from-behind victory(8-3)
  • Jets: It was all bad on Sunday, leading to their first 2-game losing streak of the season.  Geno Smith was as bad as he’s been all season, completing just 9 of 22 passes along with committing 3 turnovers.  The run game didn’t help, low-lighted by a Chris Ivory ankle sprain. It doesn’t help when the offense finishes just 1-for-12 on 3rd down conversions either. The defense wasn’t terrible, but they did lose Antonio Cromartie to a hip injury. (5-6)
  • Dolphins: They got off to a hot start against one of the hottest teams in the league, but then the Panthers defense tightened up, and the Miami offense had no answer. The run game continues to suffer following the bully scandal and the loss of two key offensive linemen.  Ryan Tannehill passed for over 300-yards and threw a touchdown, while Caleb Sturgis hit 3 of his 4 field goal attempts.  But all the good came in the 1st half before they could do nothing right in the 2nd half.  Mike Wallace had 127-yards receiving and a touchdown, but missed on a possible game-winner from Tannehill. (5-6)
  • Bills: Bye Week. (4-7)

AFC NORTH (The Cats are Still Sitting Pretty, but Things Are Tightening Up)

  • Bengals: Bye Week. (7-4) 
  • Steelers: The comeback from an 0-4 start continues.  Ben Roethlisberger threw 2 touchdowns, to Antonio Brown in the 1st half, and Emmanuel Sanders in the 2nd half to keep playoff hopes alive.  Le’Veon Bell added 80-yards on the ground to Big Ben’s 217 passing. 4 forced turnovers didn’t hurt either. It’s Roethlisberger’s 16th win over Cleveland in 17 career starts, and gives Pittsburgh the season sweep over their division foes. (5-6)
  • Ravens: Jacoby Jones has a big day receiving, finishing with 103-yards on just 4 catches.  Joe Flacco finished with 1 touchdown thrown to Jones, 1 pick and 273-yards passing. Justin Tucker continues to come up big, hitting all 4 of his field-goal attempts, including a 53-yarder.  The run game disappeared again, but it didn’t matter with how the defense played.  They didn’t allow the Jets to sustain drives, while recording 3 sacks and forcing 3 turnovers.  The win puts Baltimore back in contention for a wildcard spot(5-6)
  • Browns: The season got off to a promising start, but losing 6-of-7 have turned it into another season that could end at the bottom of the division.  Injuries at quarterback have defined the season, and their 3rd starter of the season went down, when Jason Campbell left with a head injury after being sacked.  Brandon Weedon came back in, but couldn’t help stop another loss.  4 turnovers, including 3 lost fumbles led to the two score loss.  Not even Josh Gordon’s 227-yards receiving could help stave off defeat. (4-7)

AFC South (Indy Running Out of Luck?)

  • Colts: This team can’t continue to get off to such bad starts.  After a strong 1st half of the season, this team is starting to show why a lack of a run game could hurt them in the playoffs. Andrew Luck came within 2-yards of being the team leader in rushing against Arizona, which can’t happen with a non-mobile quarterback.  Luck wasn’t good passing either, throwing a pick 6, and throwing a garbage time touchdown to Coby Fleener. At this point, they’re just lucky they built up a big lead in the division with Tennessee not going away. (7-4)
  • Titans: Don’t look now, but Tennessee is the number 6 seed in the AFC.  It took til the 2nd half to score a touchdown, but Ryan Fitzpatrick found the end-zone twice, including a game-winning strike to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds left in regulation.  The defense held Oakland to one touchdown and field-goal attempts, and they were helped out by a couple misses.  They also won the turnover battle, which was key in a 1 score game. (5-6) 
  • Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew continues his 2nd half resurgence, rushing for 84-yards on 14 carries including a touchdown. Chad Henne managed the game well, throwing for 239 with no touchdowns but no turnovers.  The defense held late as Houston drove down the field, when rookie Ryan Davis grabbed a deflected ball for the interception to seal the victory. (2-9)
  • Texans: Things went from bad to worst for a once highly thought of Houston squad.  Make it 9 straight losses,dropping them into a tie for last place after the home loss to the Jaguars. Case Keenum was back under center after being benched in the 2nd half last week in favor of Matt Schaub.  Keenum with his worst performance of his young career, completing just 18 of 34 passes for 169-yards and an interception. It’s hard to win when you can’t do anything but kick field-goals, no matter who you’re playing. (2-9)

AFC WEST (Denver Blows Opportunity to take a lead in the Division)

  • Broncos: A week after coming up big, Peyton Manning came up small on the road against New England.  A season low 150-yards, two touchdowns and a pick, Manning couldn’t pick up a big road win despite being spotted a defensive touchdown and good field position on another early turnover.  Knowshon Moreno did his best to save Denver, rushing for a career high 224-yards and a score.  Bad news on Moreno, he as found on crutches after the game.  The defense couldn’t do anything in the 2nd half, allowing the Pats to score on  their first 5 drives of the 2nd half. (9-2)
  • Chiefs: Defensive injuries are piling up at the wrong time, leading to their 2nd straight loss.  Both Tamba Hali and Justin Houston left in the 1st half with bad injuries.  Alex Smith threw the ball as good as he has all year, going for nearly 300-yards, 3 scores and 1 pick.  Jamaal Charles added his 7th and 8th rushing scores on the year as apart of a 115-yard performance.  Dwayne Bowe’s touchdown catch with under 3 to play looked to be the dagger to help overcome their injuries, but it wasn’t to be. (9-2)
  • Chargers: Make it 11 wins versus the Chiefs for Philip Rivers. San Diego’s QB took advantage of Kansas City’s defensive injuries, torching the depleted secondary for  392-yards and three touchdowns, the final one a 26-yarder to Seyi Ajirotutu with 24 seconds remaining to snap their 3-game losing streak.  Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead added scores on the ground.  Their defense wasn’t great, but they were lucky Kansas City was so banged up, and that the offense clicked on all cylinders. (5-6)
  • Raiders: Sebastian Janikowski doesn’t miss many, but he missed two on Sunday, in a 3-point loss.  Matt McGloin wasn’t too bad, throwing for 260, a score and a pick.  Rashad Jennings couldn’t crack the 100-yard mark again, but it wasn’t a bad effort by Oakland.  A win would’ve put them in the 6 seed in the AFC, instead they fall further down in the playoff hunt, and drop to the bottom of the West. (4-7)

That’s it.  Week 13 approaches as division foes square off to better their playoff standings, play spoiler and pick up as many wins as possible.

Enjoy.

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