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NFL Week 12: Ten Things You Need To Know

Almost three quarters of the NFL season has now passed, and if you are New England, Carolina, Cincinnati, Arizona and Denver, you could be f


Almost three quarters of the NFL season has now passed, and if you are New England, Carolina, Cincinnati, Arizona and Denver, you could be forgiven for having one eye on January already. Anybody else, however, and you might be one week from preparing for the playoffs, or one week from preparing for 2016. Let us see how Thanksgiving week played out on Sunday:   1. Then there was one. It wasn’t Manning vs Brady like most of us hoped, but by jove it was some game, which saw the New England Patriots lose their undefeated record. Fast forward to the fourth quarter and the Patriots are up 21-10 in a snowy, windy Mile High Stadium. Everybody would have said job done at that point. Not Brock Osweiler and the Broncos. Bit by bit, they found their groove, with Demaryius Thomas finally catching his first ball of the game on a 36 yard bolt. Add in a touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell and C.J Anderson rushing for 113 yards, and the Broncos clawed their way back to pull ahead 24-21. In the midst of this, the Patriots, already missing: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and a ton of players on both lines, saw tight end Rob Gronkowski exit the game with a serious looking knee injury. Banged up, but not beaten, Brady got the Patriots into field goal range with four seconds remaining to tie the game up. The Broncos defense finally warmed up on the most important drive of the game, forcing Brady to a three-and-out to open overtime, and the comeback was completed by Anderson scampering away to complete the comeback, and condemn the Patriots to their first defeat of the season. The Panthers are the sole remaining undefeated team in the NFL. Who predicted that at the start of the season?   2. After Dallas and Philadelphia’s failings on Thanksgiving day Thursday, I wrote about how the biggest beneficiaries would be the New York Giants. Well, after Sunday it is now the Washington Redskins that top the NFC East. After their secondary was shredded by the Panthers last Sunday, the Redskins made amends by intercepting Eli Manning three times and holding the Giants without a score until the fourth quarter. Even then, the Giants made a go of it, including Odell Beckham doing Odell Beckham things, having a one handed diving touchdown grab that defied superlatives. But as the dust settles on Monday morning, it’s advantage Washington in the division.   3. Minnesota would have watched the Packers loss on Thursday with a wry smile. Those smiles will be bigger today after their victory over the hapless Atlanta Falcons puts them back on top of the NFC North. Adrian Peterson bounced back from his underperformance against the Packers last Sunday with 158 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile the Falcons, who started the season 5-0, now sit at 6-5. Missing Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman proved ineffective for the majority of the game, then fumbled when he broke off big runs. The biggest problem may be the play of Matt Ryan at the moment. The first quarterback taken in the 2008 draft has had a major issues protecting the ball, throwing for 12 interceptions in just 11 games. After seeing the NFC South fall into the clutches of the perfect Panthers, the Falcons are now clinging on at the back of the NFC playoff picture.   4. The Oakland Raiders got their first win in four games against the Tennessee Titans, but they were made to work hard for it. Trailing 21-17 at the two-minute warning, a holding call on Tennessee prevented the Raiders from turning the ball over on downs before Carr threw a beautiful touch pass to Seth Roberts in the end-zone to seal the deal. Marcus Mariota and the Titans had the ball back with two timeouts, but in a rash decision by the rookie quarterback, he threw a pick to end the game. Roberts had himself a day with six catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns, while rescuing the Raiders playoffs hopes. The Titans’ slim-to-none hopes of reaching the postseason found slim wanting, with the Texans and the Colts taking a stranglehold on the AFC South.   5. In one of the games of the week, if not the season, the Seattle Seahawks overcame the Pittsburgh Steelers 39-30. As two times that pride themselves on their defenses, both were left wanting. That does not mean to say that they did not impact the game at all though. With the Seahawks trailing 20-21 at the start of the fourth quarter, Richard Sherman nabbed an easy interception of Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which led to the Seahawks go-ahead touchdown. In the midst of which tight end Jimmy Graham left the game with what turned out to be a torn patellar tendon, ending his knee. The Steelers were aggressive throughout, including a fake-punt that backfired when backup quarterback Landry Jones lofted the ball into the waiting arms of Jeremy Lane, setting up a Seattle score again. That aggressiveness deserted them, and possibly cost the Steelers the game-winning momentum, when down 32-27. On fourth-and-three with the goal line beckoning, the Steelers took a field goal to reduce the deficit to two. Russell Wilson, who threw for 345 yards, promptly then hit Doug Baldwin for 80 yards and his fifth and final score. Game: Seattle.   6. The Jacksonville Jaguars were looking to boost their playoff hopes with their third-straight victory against a San Diego Chargers team that had not won since October 4th. Philip Rivers, who has been the Chargers’ sole bright point this season, had other ideas, throwing four touchdown passes in a 31-25 victory. With his 275th career touchdown pass, he tied Vinny Testaverde and passed Joe Montana in the NFL all-time passing touchdowns list. His Jaguars counterpart Blake Bortles continued his impressive passing yards numbers, throwing for 329, but continued to throw interceptions, with his seventh straight game with a turnover (the longest current streak in the NFL). Coupled with that, he had two head scratching plays where he threw the ball past the line of scrimmage, drawing illegal forward pass flags. The Jags are on the precipice of greatness, stacked with young talent, but hurt themselves too much to be a real threat still.   7. In a rematch of the first International Series game of 2015, the New York Jets completed the division sweep of the Miami Dolphins 38-20 to halt a run of four losses in their last five games. A newly trimmed Ryan Fitzpatrick turned on his ‘Fitzmagic’ as he toasted the Dolphins with four touchdown passes. The Dolphins have now dropped four of five, and the problems are summed up best by their inabilities on third down on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins offense was 4-of-15 on third downs, while the defense allowed 10-of-17 third conversions to the Jets. Yikes. The Dolphins prop up the AFC East at 4-7, while the Jets continue to trade positions with the Buffalo Bills, who lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and are now second with a 6-5 record.   8. Despite the San Francisco 49ers propping up the NFC West while the Arizona Cardinals top it, Blaine Gabbert and crew kept the Cards honest before ultimately losing to hand Arizona their first win in San Francisco since 2008. It says a lot about the two franchises that the Cardinals struggled for large parts of the game but found a way to win (ultimately on a Carson Palmer rushing TD, says it all really), while the 49ers relied on the likes of Gabbert, Blake Bell, Vance McDonald and Shaun Draughn to make plays. The Cardinals are strong postseason contenders, but it’s the improvement of the 49ers defense that impressed me most. After being blownout in the reverse fixture, they constantly got pressure on Palmer and played tight coverage on Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown all game. There’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic for both sides.   9. Sitting at 8-2, Bengals fans had no real reason to panic. But losing two straight games will put doubts in your head, so it was to their relief that Cincinnati got back to winning ways with a mauling of the St. Louis Rams 31-7. St. Louis could not have been inepter than if they had actual Rams playing instead of humans. In fact, they would have been better putting anything in at quarterback than Nick Foles, who in his return to the team threw for three interceptions. I say remove the quarterback position in St. Louis and just let Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin run with the ball, at least that will be different and exciting. If any more evidence was needed that that is clearly the way to go, the Rams best offensive play of the game came off a direct snap to Gurley in the wildcat formation, who handed it off to Austin for a 60-yard gain. Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher told those questioning the team’s desire after the game to ‘kiss my a**’. Well, coach Fisher, I’d sooner catch tuberculosis than do such a thing, but your team has lost four straight and has 13 or fewer points in your last three games. I’m struggling to see any desire there…   10. Matt Hasselbeck continues to lead the Colts further than Andrew Luck as they overcame the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25-12. Their third straight victory, Hasselbeck had 315 passing yards and two touchdowns to give the Colts a share of the lead in the AFC South. The Houston Texans continue to be a force with their recent winning ways, this time despatching of the New Orleans Saints 24-6. J.J Watt had two second half sacks to give him 13.5 for the season, which will surprise no-one as the highest mark in the NFL. It’s all set up nicely for the Colts/Texans show down in three weeks which may go a long way to determining who is going to win the AFC South and steal into the playoffs.


NFL Week 12: Ten Things You Need To Know

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