The playoff picture is starting to take shape in both conferences. Some division races are starting to widen while some are getting tighter. New England, Oakland, Seattle and Dallas are the teams with the byes right now. Interesting fact about Week 11, there were 11 missed extra points which is the most on one day in NFL history. Let’s get to the recaps:
New Orleans vs Carolina: Finally a Thursday night game worth watching. Carolina was looking to continue the trend of TNF blowouts by taking a 20-3 halftime lead before eventually holding on for a 23-20 win. When the Saints Drew Brees caught fire in the 4th quarter, the Panthers must have been thinking about last week’s debacle against Kansas City.
But Panther wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin caught a huge 3rd down pass with less than three minutes left in regulation to seal the win. Both teams sit at 4-6 and have a slim shot for an NC playoff berth.
Detroit vs Jacksonville: The Detroit Lions defense is getting healthy at the right time as it came up huge in a 26-19 win over Jacksonville. The front-seven weren’t credited with any sacks, but they provided constant pressure to Jags quarterback Blake Bortles. Backup safety Raphael Bush also returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown.
If there is any cause for concern with the division leading Lions it’s the running game. Since starting running back Amer Abdullah was injured in Week 2, the Lions have only crossed the century mark once.
Pittsburgh vs Cleveland: Apparently the only tonic that NFL teams need is a game against Cleveland. After a 24-9 win, the Steelers moved back into a tie for 1st in the AFC North. The Steelers didn’t need much from Ben Roethlisberger in this one as they rode running back LeVeon Bell to victory.
The Steelers defense also came to play by forcing two turnovers, eight sacks, fourteen QB hits and yielded only one touchdown. They also knocked Cleveland quarterback Cody Kessler out of the game with a concussion. Poor Browns; can the season just end already?
Baltimore vs Dallas: Dak Prescott had his second straight 300 yard passing day and Dez Bryant caught two touchdown passes as the Cowboys picked up their ninth consecutive win 27-17. Prescott has now cemented his status as an MVP candidate.
This was also the first came he played with Tony Romo looking over his shoulder and he didn’t falter. It’s probably time to start looking at the Cowboys as a serious Superbowl contender.
Tennessee vs Indy: Andrew Luck continued his dominance against his division rival and the Colts moved into second place in the AFC South with a 24-17 win. The Colts jumped out to a 21-0 lead before a valiant Titans comeback came up short. Luck has now won 11 straight games against the Titans.
Buffalo vs Cincinnati: Tons of injuries in the matchup of AFC playoff hopefuls. Bills running back exited the game with a thumb injury and wide receiver Robert Woods suffered a knee injury. For the Bengals, All-Pro wide receiver AJ Green was carted off with a hamstring injury while change of pace running back Giovani Bernard’s season ended with a full ACL tear.
The Bills were able to stop a three-game losing streak while the Bengals probably fell out of the AFC playoff race.
Tampa Bay v. Kansas City: Tampa Bay strolled into Arrowhead and snapped the Chiefs’ five-game winning streak with a 19-17 victory. The Chiefs were without top cornerback Marcus Peters and the Bucs Jamies Winston took full advantage, piecing the KC secondary for 331 yards.
This game actually would have been worse for KC if it wasn’t for the fact that Tampa couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. Tampa Bay moved to within one game of first place Atlanta while the Chiefs fell into a two way tie for 2nd with the Broncos.
Chicago vs New York Giants: The New York Giants, now winners of five straight, picked up a critical win against a bad Bears team, 22-16. It took a while for New York’s offense to wake up, but a 13-point 3rd quarter was better late than never.
At 7-3, the Giants now control their own destiny for the NFC playoffs, while the Bears are starting to get their draft board ready.
Arizona vs Minnesota: Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes intercepted two passes and returned one 100 yards for a touchdown as Minnesota snapped a four-game losing streak, 30-24. The Vikings also got a score from its special teams as Cordarrelle Patterson returned the open kickoff of the second half 104 yards for a touchdown.
It was the first time since 1962 that a team had a 100+ yard kickoff and interception return in the same game, according to ESPN’s Stats and Info. The Viking will now travel to Detroit for a pivotal NFC North matchup.
Miami v. Los Angeles: Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff made his NFL debut. It was underwhelming. The Rams couldn’t muster any offense whatsoever. The Rams still fell short and there’s not much more to say about that.
The Dolphins moved to 6-4 and are somehow still in the playoff race. They just don’t have the look of a playoff team but stranger things have happened.
New England vs San Francisco: Tom Brady was up to his usual standard by throwing four touchdowns in a 30-17 win over San Francisco. The Patriots defense battered 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick with five sacks and six quarterback hits. Running back Dion Lewis also looked good (49 total yards, three catches) and adds another dimension to an already potent offensive attack.
This had the feeling of a preseason game as the Patriots didn’t seem to be clicking on all cylinders. But, because the opponent was San Francisco, it didn’t matter much.
Philadelphia v. Seattle: Seattle won its third straight game and have taken a stranglehold on the NFC West. Russell Wilson did everything in this one; 272 passing yards, 19 rushing yards and a 15 yard touchdown reception. The Seahawks also made it through the game without an injury to starting running back Thomas Rawls.
Once Rawls gets up to speed, the running game should be in much better shape than it has been all year. This spells bad news for the rest of the NFL.
Washington v. Green Bay: In a Week 12 primer against division leading Dallas, the Washington Redskins beat the Packers 42-24 and won for the sixth time in eight games. Kirk Cousins (see below) was dominate from the start and didn’t let a little wind ruin his passing day. He also set the Redskins team passing record for the most 300 yard games in a career. The Packers lost their fourth in a row and all the chatter about Mike McCarthy’s job security just got louder.
Oakland vs Houston: Derek Carr led the Raiders to come behind victory over the Texans in the second game ever played in Mexico City. It took a while, but Carr and the rest of the offense woke up in big way to outscore the Texans 14-3 in the 4th quarter. The Raider receivers had at least five dropped balls which contributed to the overall bad play of the offense. With the win. Oakland stayed in atop the AFC West while the Texans hold a slim one game lead over the Colts in the AFC South.
- LeVeon Bell (PIT) – 201 total yards, 8 catches 1 TD in a win over Cleveland.
- Rob Kelley (WSH) – 137 rushing yards, 3 TDs in a win over Green Bay.
- Kirk Cousins (WSH) – 21/30, 375 yards 3 TDs in a win over Green Bay.
Honorable Mentions: David Johnson (160 totals yards, 7 catches, 2 TDS); Aaron Rodgers (351 passing yards, 3 TDs; 33 rushing yards), Dak Prescott (27/36, 301 yards, 3 TDs).
- Detroit Lions running game – 21 carries, 14 yards in a win over Jacksonville.
- Josh McCown (CLE) – 118 passing yards, 1 INT in a loss to Pittsburg.
- Tyrod Taylor – 166 passing yards, 1 INT in a win over Bengals.