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Absolutely everything you need to know about Week 12 in the NFL

WEEI
November 26, 2018 - 10:04 am

By JOHN ANDERSEN

Here’s everything you need to know about Week 12 in the NFL:

BYE WEEK: Rams, Chiefs (about time)

(Thurs.) Bears 23, Lions 16

Chase Daniel just earned himself another few million as a backup either in Chicago or somewhere else. The Bears didn’t restrain Daniel as much as some thought they would: Chicago threw the ball over two times more than they ran. That’s putting a ton of trust in a backup QB who has Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen at his disposal. Perhaps it’s because of the Lions’ run defense or Matt Nagy just came up with something so crazy it just might work. Daniel kept the ball safe and thus the Bears came away with the win. On the other side, the Lions had a chance to win and Matthew Stafford tried to make a throw to the flat that Eddie Jackson closed on with the speed sound and took directly to the end zone for what eventually was the game-winning touchdown. It’s a microcosm of the disappointing year it’s been for Stafford despite finally getting a run game and some help on the offensive line.

(Thurs.) Cowboys 31, Redskins 23

This is an issue every Thanksgiving. Whoever’s idea it was to leave a 45-minute gap in between the first and second games of the day needs a stern talking to. That gap is where anyone who inhales as much food as possible on Thanksgiving says sayonara to being awake. Luckily any sort of peak into this game may have snapped anyone right out of the turkey as for once the Cowboys are actually (TROPE ALERT) *swallows pride*...fun to watch. The Amari Cooper trade, while I’m still not onboard for Cooper getting oil money this offseason, is working out because A. Dallas actually sends Cooper on mostly intermediate or deep routes and B. Cooper isn’t dropping half the passes thrown to him. It’s a nice complement to have so in case Zeke struggles at least some part of the offense would work the way it’s supposed to. The rise of Dallas’ pass rushers continued in this game, as Colt McCoy was sacked three times and pressured countless more. That and McCoy’s loose cannon QB style led to three interceptions and some better field position for the Cowboys, who, for the time being, take over first place in the NFC East.

(TNF) Saints 31, Falcons 17

New Orleans’ defense continues to have its way with bad offensive lines. The Falcons’ OL is another example of the NFL being virtually unpredictable on a year-to-year basis. Alex Mack was a Pro Bowl center who’s turned to mush, and both starting tackles are decent but as a whole, the unit has taken a significant step back. As a result, Matt Ryan was faced endless pressure, lost two fumbles while taking hits in the midst of his throwing motion, and was unable to spark any sort of run to get Atlanta back in the game. Even with the offensive woes, the fact Atlanta’s defense held Michael Thomas to four catches and didn’t let Alvin Kamara do Alvin Kamara things is quite amazing. LB Deion Jones, one of 2017’s best linebackers in coverage, will make his return to Atlanta’s lineup just in time for their last-ditch effort to snag an NFC Wild Card spot.

Browns 35, Bengals 20

Hue Jackson being disliked in Cleveland is one of those concepts that just is ... there doesn’t really need to be proof because of how apparent it is, like ghosts or aliens. When there is proof it isn’t surprising, but it sure is amusing. Today not only did Damarious Randall hand the ball to Hue on Cincinnati’s sideline after intercepting Andy Dalton, who did not return after, "suffering," a thumb injury, but Baker Mayfield reportedly awkwardly avoided a sentimental moment with Hue after the game. Admittedly I did not watch the video because interactions like that make my skin crawl, but it happened. The Hue variable didn’t need to be isolated but now that Hue is at the crossroads of what may amount to petty bullying from his former team and Baker Mayfield’s numbers multiplying like rabbits left to their own devices it’s abundantly clear what/who the issue was. Now the Browns find themselves on a two-game win streak and while contending for the playoffs is a bit of a stretch there are a few reasons to pay attention: Joe Schobert is getting recognition as one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL, the Browns are stacked with talent and have a real chance to play spoiler down the stretch, and Bruce Arians reportedly wants the head coaching job.

Chargers 45, Cardinals 10

There was 4:26 left in the first quarter when the Cardinals went up 10-0 on the Chargers. The fibers of society and sports gambling were on the verge of giving, crumbling under the chaos breaking loose around them, approximately 12 football minutes later (90 minutes in real minutes) the Chargers would take the lead and not only hold it for the rest of the game, but flaunt it to all within their radius. Philip Rivers completed 28-of-29 (!!!!!!!!) passes, the lone incompletion coming when Rivers was hit as he threw, Joey Bosa adopted a scorched earth policy regarding Arizona’s backfield, and Derwin James was Disney shooting down drones that fly too close to Star Wars filming locations. There’s not much else to say; these two teams performed exactly like the teams they’re perceived to be. Markus Golden even lined up in the neutral zone twice on the same drive. The only asterisk here for LA is that Melvin Gordon suffered a bad-looking knee injury that as of this writing is being reported as a, “MCL injury.” That could mean anything from Gordon’s MCL was removed with a rusty razor and shot into the sun to Gordon just needs to rub some cocoa butter on it and he’ll be fine to pull firetrucks by this afternoon

Patriots 27, Jets 13

A fun way to illustrate the pros and cons of this Patriots win is to do is to juxtapose it with Matt Barkley and the Bills’ 41-point dismantling of the Jets two weeks ago, a talking point that is already being used to belittle the Patriots’ win.

“617-779-7937, let’s go to Sully in Dorchester, Sully you’re on OMF.”

OHDWAY, THE BILLS PUT UP 41 POINTS ON THIS JETS TEAM! PATRIOTS STINK! NO ONE’S TALKIN’ ABOUT THIS!”

The Bills have a great defense. That’s the difference; the Bills can rush the passer, the Bills can force turnovers, the Bills can handle offenses that clearly aren’t good. The Bills let up a lot of points because their offense hands the ball to the other team with a short field several times a game-- at least they did up until the Jets game from a few weeks ago in which they leaned on LeSean McCoy, Matt Barkley played mistake-free, and their defense gave their offense shorter fields via stops and/or turnovers. The Patriots’ pass rush did fine against the Jets’ OL, as any pass rush comprised of two-legged humans has done in 2018. The point isn’t that the Patriots’ defense didn’t do anything Buffalo’s did, the point is that they DID, just to a lesser degree. This lesser degree, combined with a myriad of drive-killing penalties, can easily account for the Patriots not scoring 14 more points in an otherwise dominant performance that every member of the team pointed out required some actual coaching and halftime adjustments when the Jets showed up at MetLife with an expected game plan. So keep in mind this week when the Boston atmosphere ignites: there are a handful of reasons why the  Patriots didn’t match Buffalo’s 41-point mark against Jets, none of them are performance-based issues, and the end result is virtually meaningless. The only aspect of this game the carries meaning is Gronk splitting a cover two and holding onto a touchdown catch despite receiving an immediate blow from Morris Claiborne. Is Gronk back?

Bills 24, Jaguars 21

Respect to both Donte Moncrief and Levi Wallace, who simultaneously caught a pass in the end zone and as a fight broke out both refused to let go of the ball. They laid on the ground with vice grips around the football for several minutes as scrums broke out all around them. The play was ruled down at the one-yard line, but you can’t knock the move to just lay there limp, hands sewn to the football, just in case the refs pull some funny business with some simultaneous possession ruling that no one’s ever heard before. Bortles was hopeless as it was, ending the game with just 12 completions, but after Fournette was ejected as a result of the aforementioned scrums there was nothing the Jacksonville offense could do to score points. Buffalo’s offense was reliant on big plays, which they got and which made the difference in this game.

Ravens 34, Raiders 17

Another big win for the Ravens means the door is closing more and more on Joe Flacco returning to his starting role. Lamar Jackson led a run-first Ravens offense that controlled the ball and relied on its defensive counterpart to come up with some plays against a vastly inferior Raiders offense. “Coming up with stops” in itself is not exactly what defenses need to do against the Raiders’ offense as the Raiders’ offense will usually do that to itself, but in this game, they held on until well into the second half. This was the point in which the Raiders’ OL fell apart and a full game of Derek Carr missing passes finally caught up to Oakland. Carr finished with under a 50 percent completion rate, Oakland’s leading rusher was Doug Martin and their leading receiver was Seth Roberts. That combination will never equal points.

Seahawks 30, Panthers 27

The Panthers have now lost every single game since I said you can pencil them into the first NFC Wild Card spot three weeks ago. Now the Seahawks have a firm grip on that spot as we move into the last five games of the season, with these two teams and the Viking likely to duke it out for the NFC Wild Card. When it comes down to it, a Cam Newton red zone interception that wasn’t a horribly placed pass but was more of a great play by Bradley McDougald than a bad one by Newton, and obviously Graham Gano’s missed field goal that would’ve given the Panthers at least a 30-27 lead as they kicked back to the Panthers late in the game is what decided this game. The majority of NFL games feature teams more evenly matched than stats or final scores give on, but rather come down to just a couple plays. For the Seahawks, the play of the game might just a 4th-and-3 attempt on which Russell Wilson decided against all logic to throw a perfectly placed 35-yard to David Moore in the end zone to tie the game at 27.

Eagles 25, Giants 22

OK, NOW we can say the Giants are done. They got off to a hot start against the Eagles’ 50th and 51st string cornerbacks, going up 12-0 before the Eagles got on the board with a field goal. Carson Wentz’ receivers went back to their roots of his rookie season in 2016 when they all loved to run horrible routes and drop passes at their QB’s expense. Just as that aspect of the game started to clean up the Eagles’ pass rush came to life and Eli struggled mightily to move the ball down the field. Manning threw a bad interception right before halftime that he seemingly never recovered from. The second half was the Eagles’ as the Giants merely added a field goal in the second half. Thus, the Giants move to 3-8 while the Eagles move to 5-6, well within range of the Cowboys’ and Redskins’ 6-5 marks. The NFC East is going to come down to the wire this year.

Buccaneers 27, 49ers 9

Winston doesn’t turn the ball over and the Buccaneers win a sound game. Funny how that works. It won’t last as Winston has been anything but consistent, but it’s a clear sight into how the Buccaneers could be if they had a consistent QB who doesn’t turn the ball over. Tampa’s lack of run game wasn’t detrimental to their offense in this game because their WR corps can overwhelm opposing defenses. Mike Evans is the type of receiver who can go up against a superstar like Richard Sherman, even in what’s been one of the best seasons of his career, and go over 100 yards. The pressure Tampa was able to conjure on Nick Mullens, which is notable because the 49ers have a decent offensive line and Tampa’s pass rush isn’t exactly among the elite, shook Young Mullens to the core and is what gave Winston the opportunity to secure an easy win by way of not turning the ball over.

Colts 27, Dolphins 24

IT HAS BEEN [ 0 > DAYS SINCE THE LAST ACCIDENT

The rumors are true, Andrew Luck was finally sacked. Only once, but he seems unphased, unlike when the genius Frank Reich called an RPO with Jacoby Brissett under center and the “P” option being an uncovered Andrew Luck in the flat, who upon up to catch the pass was laid out. Quite the game plan with your franchise QB coming off missing an entire season mostly because the team physically could not protect him. Regardless, Luck once again turned in a phenomenal performance as the Colts move to 6-5 and are within striking distance to either win their division or grab the coveted non-Chargers AFC Wild Card spot. The Dolphins are at 5-6 and it’s still hard to believe they’re even decent, mainly because it’s so conditioned into us that the Dolphins are a joke. But keeping this game tied for as long as it was is certainly a defensive feat for the Dolphins and maybe teams that typically struggle when they go to Miami need to be careful in the coming weeks.

Broncos 24, Steelers 17

There’s always the concept to be aware of regarding a running back in their first year of a heavy workload (have I harped on this before? Probably, but maybe not with James Conner. Thoughts kind of blend together these days. Anyways, back to the pertinent stuff): Most of the time there’s a drop off. James Conner’s poor outing last week against the Jaguars found itself under the veil of the slight possibility of the good defense that is hidden somewhere in all the hot air of Jacksonville actually showing up. This week, however, the Steelers were up against one of the worse rushing defenses in the NFL and not only did Conner only muster up 53 rushing yards but the Steelers are even giving part of Conner’s workload over to Jaylen Samuels. This lack of complementary play resulted in Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball 56 times. Ben will always end up throwing for a million yards in games like this but seven points via an offense like that clearly doesn’t work; the only reason the Steelers were in this game was because their kicker threw a touchdown pass to their left tackle. TJ Watt and Bud Dupree were hopeless in rushing Case Keenum because Denver’s finally realized how to use Case Keenum: have a running game and use rollouts. All the free sacks Watt and Dupree have been gifted this season by way of being left unblocked don’t come easy when play action is doing what play action is supposed to do. The Steelers will have another disappointed Steelers season if they can’t balance their offense instead of relying on broken 97-yard touchdown passes.

(SNF) Vikings 24, Packers 17

Mike McCarthy was a dead man walking when the Vikings recovered Green Bay’s onside kick attempt late in the game. I actually felt a lick of empathy as McCarthy looked like he was about to sob, especially after the Vikings threw the ball on 3rd-down, knowing full well that strange things happen when you punt the ball back to Aaron Rodgers when the Packers are down by pretty much any amount. 4-6-1 has to be the end of the Packers’ playoff chances this season, and it has everything to do with McCarthy’s lack of creativity and Brian Gutekunst unnecessarily exiling Jordy Nelson. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, who are confirmed to be real people, are 5th-round rookies played as second and third-string WRs with a QB who needs his WRs to understand the nuances of how he throws the ball against particular coverages and schemes. While both have shown to be decent as rookies both are not Jordy Nelson. That’s the big picture with the Packers. In this game, in particular, it was the injury to the league’s premier left tackle, David Bakhtiari, that caused the Packer’s pass protection to break down in the second half and prevent the Packers from scoring any sort of points. Kenny Clark and the Green Bay pass rush kept the Packers in the game the best they could, but the lack of QB-WR chemistry or the time/opportunity to make anything happen kept the Packers from mounting any sort of comeback, and likely ended Mike McCarthy’s tenure in Green Bay.

MNF: Titans @ Texans 8:15pm (ESPN & Westwood One)

Written in duress by John Andersen, award-winning NFL journalist who has written books on David Nelson and Tim Hightower...maybe. You can follow John on Twitter @_JohnAndersen.

Related: Tom Brady explains on M&C why Patriots desperately need a running game

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