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Thoughts on Week 12 + Contenders and Pretenders

Week 12 of the National Football League saw many forms of football played on Sunday. From tight games to blowouts to upset specials, everything was covered this weekend. And just like we saw some teams make huge statements by winning big, other teams weren’t so lucky either getting stunned at the last minute or flat out humiliated. And although some teams can recover quickly and jump back in the race, there are quite a few whose seasons are damaged beyond repair. As we venture into our first week of December football, let’s look back on some of the most significant games of the week and their impact on the playoff picture.

Thanksgiving, Thu: 

Bears @ Lions

The Detroit Lions played perhaps their best game of the season on Thanksgiving. The defense was flying and Jared Goff threw two touchdowns both over 15 yards. But unfortunately for Dan Campbell’s crew, Matt Nagy’s Bears would get the last laugh. As backup QB Andy Dalton led Chicago down into the redzone, setting up kicker Cairo Santos for a chip shot field goal in the waning seconds.

Raiders @ Cowboys

Like the Lions, the Dallas Cowboys once again faced heartbreak this Thanksgiving, this time at the hands of Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders. Dallas fans knew it was going to be a long night right from the first Vegas opening drive, where Carr proceeded to connect with wide receiver Desean Jackson on a TD pass of 50 plus yards. Dak Prescott managed to lead the Cowboys back in. However, a Raiders’ overtime field goal sealed Dallas’ fate and sent their fans back home, disappointed once again on Turkey Day. 

 Bills @ Saints 

 The Buffalo Bills seem to be stuck in some sort of limbo, going back and forth between statement wins and sloppy losses. Luckily for them, Thanksgiving was a statement game as they decimated the New Orleans Saints on the road. Take away the two interceptions, and Josh Allen pretty much had a perfect game. On the other hand, It seems to me like the Bayou has an identity crisis at the quarterback position, as Trevor Siemian is no Drew Brees. Although both teams face consistency issues, I could see them making the playoffs. And Buffalo has a fair shot at the moment to surpass New England for the division title in the AFC East. 

Sunday:

Steelers @ Bengals 

You can sum up the performance by each team using a single word. For the Cincinnati Bengals, that word is perfect. Minus a few mistakes that the Steelers failed to capitalize on, the Bengals played nearly four flawless quarters of football on Sunday, methodically imposing their will on Pittsburgh. They bullied the Steelers on their way to a 41 – 10 victory, the largest victory Cincy has had over the Steelers since the ’80s, yikes. As for Pittsburgh, the one word to describe their performance on Sunday would have to be embarrassing. Take all the good vibes and praise given to the Bengals, and flip it on its head, turning it into straight-up disappointment. You had no excuses this week Pittsburgh, your defense and offense were both 95 percent healthy. Just poor play on all three phases.


Titans @ Patriots

The New England Patriots were probably expecting more resistance before they ran through the Titans, winning by a score of 36 -13. But to be fair the Pats probably were expecting Derrick Henry, and AJ Brown to play when they were handed their schedule. Now am I saying if Henry was in that New England would have lost? No, but the score probably would have been way closer if King Henry was on that field, and Tennessee would have at least 1-2 more wins under their belts. But injuries are a key part of the game so you have to give credit where it’s due. So give New England props for not only winning but getting Ryan Tannehill benched late in the game to prevent injury. 

Buccaneers @ Colts

Jonathan Tayor wasn’t as explosive as Indy hoped he’d be against a stout Bucs front seven. But managed to the wheels churning when he needed them most. He rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown. However, Leonard Fournette was the star bell cow in Indy on Sunday, running in the game-winning touchdown for the Buccaneers. This game stretches Tampa even farther ahead in the NFC South and sets the Colts way back in the competition for the AFC South. 

Chargers @ Broncos 

One name comes to mind when you think of the x-factor in this game. That name is Patrick Surtain II. Picking off Justin Herbert twice and taking one of those interceptions back for 6. Herbert (minus the two interceptions) played pretty well, throwing for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Again those two turnovers were just too costly for LA to rebound from. leading to a 28 – 13 Denver victory, and a tied record between the two teams in the hectic AFC West.

Rams @ Packers

Unfortunately for Mathew Stafford, this may be yet another year he goes without hoisting the Lombardi trophy. Simply put it’s because the Los Angeles Rams are fading out right before the home stretch. And it didn’t help that they had to go searching for answers in Green Bay, where an angry two seeded Packers squad was looking to vent some frustration. Although Stafford played quite well boasting juster over 300 yards through the air and a two to one touchdown interception ratio, The LA defense was lackluster. The Rams defense allowed 300 yards to Arron Rodgers in the air, and 100 receiving yards to Devante Adams. The Defense also surrendered 36 points which was too much for the offense to keep with. The Rams have a lot of regrouping to do if they want a shot at contention. 

Browns @ Ravens

Rarely do you throw four interceptions in one game, and come out on the winning end. Somehow Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens did just that Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns. For some reason, it’s always divisional matchups that have those kinds of crazy stat lines. And of course, besides the four Interceptions, everyone will remember perhaps the catch of the year in witnessing Mark Andrews one hand catch a prayer on his back after being pass interfered with.

Other key takeaways from the weekend:

  • Eagles fail in run game, and fall to Giants 
  • Jimmy G and the 49ers end the Vikings win streak at two
  • Seahawks fail to come up with a two-point conversion, fall to the Washington Football Team 

2 Contenders + 2 Pretenders:

  • Patriots – Contenders

New England has shown nothing but unity and consistency since their week 1 loss to Miami, expect them to have a legitimate shot at winning their division, and possibly a first-round bye by the end of the season.  

  • Steelers – Pretenders 

The franchise is what makes this team sound like they’re still in it. Pittsburgh’s had some great rebound seasons, but after that embarrassing loss in Cincinnati, I just don’t see it happening. Roethlisberger’s last season will go down in the L column.

  • Rams – Contenders 

Despite the tough stretch of luck, the Rams have had the past few weeks, I still feel there’s far too much talent on their roster to just not make the playoffs let alone win a game. Not to mention you have Mathew Stafford has the experience and is quite the playmaker. Pair him with Cooper Cupp, Van Jefferson, and an elite Rams defense and you could possibly see the LA Rams in the NFC Championship Game. 

  • Vikings – Pretenders 

The Minnesota Vikings were shut down by the Niners on Sunday leading me to believe they are simply just a thorn in the side of true contenders. On top of that their 5 – 6 record really doesn’t really help their case.