With December knocking on the doorstep, NFL fans around the world are warming up for the best football of the year. With clubs jostling for position and postseason slots up for grabs, this is the point in the schedule where being hot “now” is far more important than your overall wins and losses (within reason of course).
And last weekend we were treated to more than a couple playoff type contests, including a possible prelude to the AFC Championship that went down to the wire.
On Sunday Night Football at a snowy Mile High Stadium, the Denver Broncos did something that no other team has been able to accomplish all season long: beat the New England Patriots.
And they did it in style, with C.J. Anderson rumbling 48 yards for the winning touchdown in sudden-death overtime.
It was a win that Denver’s young quarterback will never forget. In just his second start under center, Brock Osweiler did just enough (23 of 42, 270 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) to lead his team to victory over the world champs. Perhaps more importantly he added further validity to the argument that he, and not Peyton Manning, should be leading the Broncos into the postseason.
On the other side of the field there was less jubilation from Tom Brady, who after all these seasons earmarked this loss as one of the toughest to swallow.
— ESPN (@espn) November 30, 2015
And sure, there were more than a couple of questionable calls, particularly on third down plays where completed passes past the line of gain were called back – but having watched the full game from start to finish I’d definitely say there wasn’t enough evidence of potentially foul play to call up Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts to film Conspiracy Theory 2.
Tasty Tidbits from Week 12
Which leaves Carolina, who embarrassed Dallas on Thanksgiving 33-14 while sending Tony Romo to the IR, as the only undefeated team left in football. It’s hard to believe how recently we pondered the depths to which this team would fall after losing Kelvin Benjamin in preseason to a torn ACL.
Yet here they are, just 5 wins away from a chance at just the second perfect season in the history of the NFL.
And guess what, the only team left on their schedule with a winning record is the Atlanta Falcons (twice), a franchise that is threatening to turn their (5-0) start into a losing season.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) December 1, 2015
Speaking of seasons being flipped upside down – how about those Chiefs?
The just keep winning and winning and winning. Five straight now.
This week 30-22 over a Bills team that was desperate for a win that would keep them in the thick of the playoff race.
Alex Smith is now (4-0) in his career versus Buffalo and actually threw the ball downfield to his wide receivers for once. Well, mainly to Jeremy Maclin who hauled in 9 catches for 160 yards including a gorgeous 41-yard touchdown bomb.
Alex Smith throws DEEEP https://t.co/AyBSHBml2u
— Spark Sports (@SprkSports) November 29, 2015
Kansas City is now sitting pretty in the 5th seed with a pretty cushy schedule down the stretch. They’ll face a talented but inconsistent Raiders team twice as well as the Browns, Ravens and Chargers.
The Seahawks have also shifted from “doom & gloom” to controlling their own destiny after pulling off a clutch 39-30 win over Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers at home.
While shoddy secondary play and outscoring opponents in a passing shootout is far from Seattle’s ordinary repertoire, the formula worked well on Sunday with Russell Wilson enjoying the first 5 touchdown performance of his career.
The passing frenzy came at the perfect time as the (6-5) Seahawks are now the 6th seed in the NFC. The Hawks will need to split two tough road games at Minnesota and Arizona and then take care of the Browns, Ravens and Rams.
The jury’s still out on whether Seattle is poised for yet another run of late season momentum or if inconsistency will once again bite them in the ass.
Some good news for the 12s is that aside from the Falcons, every other contender for the last NFC Wild Card spot has already lost 6 games. There’s a reasonable possibility that (9-7) could be good enough to sneak in in 2015.
In related news – despite the Seattle D giving up a staggering 456 passing yards to Ben Roethlisberger, Richard Sherman was still talking trash after the game.
— NFL (@NFL) November 30, 2015
Sherm did do a great job on Antonio Brown and he did pick up his first pick of the season – but the Seahawks had no answers for Markus Wheaton who wound up with 201 yards on 9 catches with a touchdown – so perhaps a little more humility in the post-game would have been more apropos.
Offensive Player of the Week
Matthew Stafford looked like his old self out there on Thanksgiving as the Lions won their third straight game to improve to (4-7) by demolishing the Philadelphia Eagles 45-14.
While his hot streak may have come a week or two too late for making a legitimate playoff run it’s still nice to see that Detroit hasn’t regressed nearly as far as their (1-7) record had us believing in early November.
Hell of a game, Matthew Stafford. pic.twitter.com/HKJbxEDS3V
— Detroit Lions Fans (@DetLionBlood) November 26, 2015
Defensive Player of the Week
And speaking of the Lions, they got it done on the defensive side of the football, too.
Ziggy Ansah was ridiculous. Piling up as many sacks in one game as quality defensive ends like Malik Jackson or Sheldon Richardson have all season.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 28, 2015
Team on the Rise
The Texans easily handled the Saints this week to improve to (6-5) and extend their winning streak to 4 games (3rd longest in the NFL).
Brian Hoyer may not be a superstar but he may be just good enough to lead this Houston team to their first division title since 2012.
That is, of course, if the team can survive road trips to Buffalo and Indianapolis and a home contest versus the now semi-fallible New England Patriots.
Supposedly the win streak began with the defense collectively deciding that “enough was enough.” Personally I believe they’re putting out that extra effort for those Papa John’s discounts.
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) November 30, 2015
Team on the Decline
This was supposed to be the year when St. Louis finally got back into the postseason and many pundits predicted three playoff clubs would come out of the NFC West.
Not after this 4 game losing streak.
At (4-7) they are technically still mathematically alive but that doesn’t account for much.
Go ahead and put a fork in a Rams team that’s ranked 31st in the league in scoring at just 16.9 PPG and has a remaining schedule which includes the Cardinals & Seahawks as well as the red-hot Lions, formidable Buccaneers and surprisingly competitive 49ers.
Just in Case You Missed It
- Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham is out for the season with a torn patellar tendon.
- The Redskins beat the Giants 20-14 to seize first place in the NFC East.
- Chris Johnson (fractured tibia) is out indefinitely for Arizona, putting a damper on his comeback season.
- Matt Hasselbeck just keeps on winning for the Colts (4-0 on the season) but Coach Pagano assured us that the job belongs to Andrew when Luck is healthy enough to play.
- The Vikings have won 6 of their last 7 to remain on of the league’s hottest teams.
Games to Look Forward to in Week 13
Packers at Lions – Detroit may be out of the playoff race (for all intents and purposes) but the fact that they finally beat Green Bay at Lambeau makes this game a must-see. The Lions would love to play spoiler on their arch nemesis.
Seahawks at Vikings – Big time playoff implications here. A Seattle win on the road helps put them in the driver’s seat for the final NFC Wild Card loss. A loss will have the opposite effect.
Texans at Bills – Houston needs this victory to keep AFC South title hopes alive. Buffalo needs this victory to keep hopes alive in general.
Cowboys at Redskins – Why? Because it’s Dallas at Washington and the Skins are in 1st place.