Week 12 was full of excitement and important games. Carolina continued its’ undefeated season by becoming just the 12th team in the Superbowl era to start 11-0. Cincinnati and Denver now trail New England by 1 game in the race for the #1 seed in the AFC. Both conferences have four teams within 1 game of the final playoff spot. And are we really going to see a home playoff game in Washington? We’ll have to wait a few more weeks for the answer to that question.
The Raiders stayed in the playoff hunt by beating Tennessee 24-21. Derek Carr’s (330 yards, 3 TDs) play was night and day from last week’s performance. Carr is young, but he will need to be more consistent if the Raiders hope to sneak in the playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs moved into the 5th spot of the AFC playoffs by beating wildcard Buffalo 30-22. This game had a playoff feel to it with both teams currently in wildcard contention. Kansas City doesn’t play a team currently above .500 the rest of the way, so they are in good position to hold onto its’ spot. Indianapolis moved into the 4th AFC playoff seed after defeating Tampa Bay 25-12. Matt Hasselbeck (315 yards, 2 TDs) has found the fountain of youth and is single-handedly saving the Colts season.
Houston kept pace in the AFC south by beating the staggering Saints 24-6. With upcoming games at Buffalo, home to the Patriots and at Indy, the Texans are in perfect position to solidify a playoff berth. Cincinnati got back on track by beating the Rams 31-7. Andy Dalton was efficient and the run game was excellent (140 yards, 4.5 per carry). The only downside to the win is the health of tight end Tyler Eifert, who left the game in the 3rd quarter with a neck injury.
Baltimore beat Cleveland 33-27 in one of the more exciting games of the week. With less than one minute to play, Cleveland’s Tramon Williams intercepted Houston’s Matt Schaub near the midfield line. Cleveland looked like it had the game under control, as their kicker, who hadn’t missed all season, lined up for a field goal. The snap was high and Baltimore managed to block the kick, then returned the recovery 64 yards for the game winning touchdown. The Jets kept its playoff hopes alive by beating Miami 38-20. Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed 4 TDs and rushed for 21 yards in the win.
San Diego virtually ended Jacksonville’s playoff hopes with a 31-25 road win. The Broncos knocked the Patriots off the undefeated mountain 30-24. This was a statement win for the Broncos. Denver controlled the time of possession for 37 minutes by relying heavily on the run game. (For once C.J. Anderson is alive). This kept the Patriots offense on the sidelines, which was a good thing because Tom Brady was vintage in this game. On a positive note for New England, early reports are that TE Rob Gronkowski’s injury wasn’t as bad as it looked. For Denver, Peyton Manning deserves the benefit of the doubt when/if he returns, but could we have a QB controversy brewing with Brock Osweiler?
The Lions started off turkey day by crushing the Eagles 45-14 at Ford Field. The offense has finally decided to wake up in Detroit. This game did come against a bad defense, but things have looked noticeably different on offense since the “London Massacre” of Week 8. Philadelphia looked lifeless on defense, allowing Detroit to rush for 100 yards for the first time all season. Rumors continue to swirl about Chip Kelly’s future. With performances like this one, no wonder.
Things didn’t get much more competitive in the second game, as the Panthers walked all over the Cowboys 33-14. The Panthers defense pounded the Cowboys into submission early, as Tony Romo managed to throw two interceptions which were returned for touchdowns before exiting the game with yet another shoulder injury. Carolina continues to hold a two-game lead over Arizona for the top spot in the NFC. For Dallas, it may be time to start thinking about drafting Romo’s replacement.
Chicago went into Lambeau Field and picked up a win against Green Bay. Since starting 0-3, the Bears have won 5 of 8 and find themselves within one game of an NFC wild card berth. The Redskins took advantage of an erratic Eli Manning and beat the NY Giants 20-14. Washington holds the tie-breaker over the Giants and if the season ended today, would host Green Bay in the wild card. Atlanta has officially played themselves out of the playoffs after losing to Minnesota 20-10. After such a great start, what went wrong for the Falcons?
It would be easy to reference the soft opening schedule, but that wouldn’t be totally accurate. Atlanta did beat Houston and Washington during their 5-0 start. Atlanta has lost a few games it should have won, but every team in the NFL can say that, besides Carolina of course. Other than turnovers, nothing jumps out statistically, (offense & defense rank in upper half of league).
This could be the classic case of an average team in a super competitive league; NFL parity in full display. Arizona kept pace with Carolina for the top spot by beating San Francisco 19-13. The win was costly for the Cardinals who lost two running backs; Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson. But with a substantial 3 game lead in the NFC West, the Cardinals have the cushion to get some of their players healthy. Seattle used a 19 point four quarter (and a couple questionable calls) to hold off Pittsburgh, 39-30. The win was important for Seattle, who as of now is clinging to the 6th spot in the NFC playoff race. Russell Wilson had his best passing game as a pro (see below) and Thomas Rawls filled in admirably for the player formerly known as Beastmode. Seattle did lose security blanket Jimmy Graham for the season, but should have enough depth at TE to compensate.
Week 12’s Top Performances
- Seattle’s Russell Wilson – 21/30, 345 yards, 5 TDs in a win over Pittsburgh.
- Seattle’s Doug Baldwin – 6 catches, 145 yards, 3 TDs in a win over Pittsburgh.
- Carolina’s Luke Kuechly – 7 total tackles, 2 pass deflections, 2 INTS, 1 TD in a win over Dallas.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Marshall (131 yards, 2 TDs), Markus Wheaton (9 catches, 201 yards, 1 TD), Jarvis Landry (13 catches, 165 yards, 1 TD), Matt Stafford (27/38, 337 yards, 5 TDs),
- St. Louis’ Todd Gurley – 9 carries, 19 yards in a loss to Cincinnati.
- New Orleans’ Drew Brees – 25/44, 228 yards 1 INT in a loss to Houston.
- Detroit Lions’ pass catchers – 7 total drops in a win over Philadelphia.