The NFL Sunday Review: Week 12

A very happy belated Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate; I hope you enjoyed the Feast of Football as much as I did! We’ll revisit the Thursday slate later, after we’ve digested what impact those 3 games had on the Playoff picture, as well as do our usual recap of all the drama from yesterday! We start with the unexpectedly entertaining Sunday Night game in Philadelphia.

Eagles Stampede Packers, Love Cameo Impresses

The ONE thing I didn’t expect when turning this game on at 7:15pm Sunday night… was a shootout! And look what we got! I wonder if this is a sign of things to come for PrimeTime games down the stretch?! Lord knows we deserve more of this, and less of Colts @ Broncos from a couple months back. And who thought we’d end this game talking (at least a little bit) about Jordan Love? I felt happy for Cris Collinsworth and Mike Tirico who could barely contain their excitement about the game they were calling having some excitement in it! 

This game was strange from the start, with the Eagles up 13-0 (having missed an extra point) in the blink of an eye, and then the Packers up 14-13 before you could grab your phone to text your mate about how good the Eagles were. Back and forth they went, but Philly did feel largely in control throughout. Jalen Hurts’ attempt to wrestle the MVP out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands continued successfully, as he looked every bit the franchise QB that Eagles fans could barely have dreamed of coming into this season. He only threw for 153 yards, but when you rush for 157 nobody is going to complain. Random sidenote, but Miles Sanders is not cool enough to have the blacked out visor. I’m not buying it. That said, the Eagles run game is good enough to lead them all the way to the SuperBowl.

This team is built for the playoffs, with Jason Kelce and the boys up front unstoppable when creating holes, and Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott and Hurts (who himself had 100 rushing yards… IN THE FIRST QUARTER) wreaking havoc on the Packers to the tune of over 360 total rushing yards – the most the Eagles have had in a game since 1948. The Eagles are determined to hang onto the #1 seed in the NFC, and quite frankly I struggle to see anybody – except MAYBE the Cowboys – who could beat them out to a spot in the SuperBowl in February. Lastly, Hurts’ post-game interview was everything you want in a young superstar. Happy, humble, confident, hungry, and thankful for those around him. It’s impossible not to love and root for this guy. Good for you, Jalen. Class.

For Green Bay… Jordan Love’s cameo was… impressive! Certainly more so than his lone start last season against the Chiefs. When Rodgers went out with what looked like broken ribs, you could have been forgiven for thinking this game was done, but Love came in and went / for yds and a TD. He hit Christian Watson in stride for 63yds which made everyone watching sit up and go “…Oh!” Do Green Bay actually have a successor for Rodgers? Is the much-maligned Love draft pick going to eventually be viewed as a sensible choice?! It’s far too early to say, but what he flashed against the best team in the NFC tonight was certainly enough to give Packers fans some hope for the future. That said, their faint playoff dreams have certainly now been extinguished, and you wonder if we’ll see Rodgers again this season. 

Chargers & Jaguars Roll the Dice... and Win!

I love it when using analytics and taking risks works. Every TV analyst is so quick to jump on a Coach’s neck when they go for a 4th down and don’t get it, so I’m determined to give adequate praise when a Coach rolls the dice and gets the win. On Sunday, there were two who deserve recognition! The oft-maligned Brandon Staley, and the oft-happy to be chaotic Doug Pederson. Both pulled gutsy calls to go for 2 inside the last 20 seconds of the game, and attempt to win the game, rather than send it to overtime with the extra point. I LOVE it when this situation occurs, and I think both Coaches were absolutely correct in doing what they did. 

For Staley, he proved he can win important games and that the moment isn’t too big for him, or Justin Herbert. The Chargers have struggled for consistency this year (as per usual, if we’re honest), as evidenced by their 6-5 record, but with the injuries they’ve suffered it’s impressive they’re still right in the thick of it in the AFC. I really do hope Herbert gets the chance to shine in the Playoffs, which he was cruelly denied by the “almost a tie” game against the Raiders in Week 18 last year. Having largely trailed throughout this game against (still the unluckiest team in the league) the Cardinals, Staley’s gutsy decision not to leave the outcome up to the toss of a coin was brilliant, and showed the trust and belief he – and the team – has in Herbert, who duly delivered the game-winning 2pt conversion to Gerald Everett. Cue pandemonium as the Chargers crashed the endzone, and LA remain a contender in the AFC wildcard chase.

For Pederson, he gave Trevor Lawrence his first true signature NFL moment and victory. The Jaguars received a lot of early season hype after they started 2-1 and crucified the aforementioned Chargers 38-10, but since there have been swirling takes of Lawrence potentially being “a bust,” and not playing well enough to justify having been the #1 overall pick two years ago. That said, this was a great performance from Trevor, showing you why so many view him as the greatest college quarterback of all-time. 321yds passing and 3TDs, plus the all-important 2pt conversion to end this game. Sure, they left just enough time for Tucker to try a 67yd FG to win it, but we can forgive Trevor for that.

You gotta score when you can. Credit to Zay Jones (11 catches, 145 yards) for an incredible receiving effort, but without Travis Etienne – who left the game early – this was largely all about Lawrence. The Jags’ D did a great job frustrating the Ravens – and forcing 4 Justin Tucker Field Goals to be Baltimore’s only scoring heading into the 4th quarter – but when you know you’re outmatched, as the Jaguars were, it’s immensely intelligent from Pederson to go for the win rather than taking it to OT. The Ravens could have won the coin toss and just ran the ball down the Jags throat. They never got the chance. Great coaching, and the future is bright in Jacksonville.

One important note – Lamar Jackson is going to receive a lot of criticism for firing back at a fan on Twitter for criticising his play and leaving the Ravens’ chances of winning to a very long Justin Tucker Field Goal attempt… Sure, the language involved might be “fruity” to some, but give me a break if you haven’t seen, read, or heard FAR worse in every single bar you’ve ever watched an NFL game in. Fans do not have the right to abuse players week in, week out, and then cry foul when a player fires back. I’m on Lamar’s team, and my affection for him has grown following this. He doesn’t like to lose, he’s real, he’s authentic, and he SHOULD be paid by the Ravens this off-season. Stop trying to drag this league’s young stars down. 

Thanksgiving Throwback:

It was a pretty good Thanksgiving slate all things considered! Obviously, the NFL PR machine has been everywhere touting that the three games broke all viewership records, and that Cowboys-Giants is now the most-watched NFL regular season game in history, but the games either side of that were great too! 

They may have just fallen short, but it’s important to note that the Detroit Lions are for real. They went punch for punch with the Buffalo Bills, and kept standing even after Josh Allen threw a couple of haymakers. Give Dan Campbell a ton of credit. Yes, this loss snapped a 3-game winning streak, but the Lions were close throughout and laughed in the face of bookmakers who made the Bills near 10pt favourites. I can’t wait for Jameson Williams to join their ranks, and then they will really be an electric offense. Special mention as well for Jamaal Williams who continues to lead the league in TDs, despite none of them being longer than a 2yd rush. Icon. The biggest story for the Bills coming out of this was Von Miller’s health, but thankfully his knee injury does not appear to be season ending.

The Cowboys dispatched the (fraudulent, but also quite injured) Giants with an impressive 2nd half display. Dak Prescott shook off a poor first half to find Dalton Schultz twice for TDs in the 3rd Quarter, allowing Jerry Jones and 100,000 Texans to go home happy. The Giants were stifled on offense throughout, with Saquon Barkley unable to take over the game from the backfield. Dallas’ defense continues to swarm opposing QBs, with Micah Parsons’ Defensive Player of the Year Campaign almost becoming a waltz to the finish line. The Cowboys – genuinely – have what it takes to make a run, as long as Mike McCarthy doesn’t accidentally hamper them somewhere down the road. 

And then, the nightcap was way more fun than anybody could have ever believed it would be. Who on earth thought that the Vikings and Patriots would score 59pts between them!? Kirk Cousins’ PrimeTime curse was somewhat held in check, but he did have his usual egregious INT, just a little earlier in this game. I was surprised how well the Patriots played in all honesty, and think they have a right to feel aggrieved that Hunter Henry’s 2nd TD of the night was overturned by video review. Minnesota escaped with another 1-score win, and they continue to put pressure on the Eagles atop the NFC. 

Quick Hits

  • The Miami Football Dolphins put on a First Half clinic to absolutely outclass the (admittedly very out-matched) Houston Texans. The final score of 30-15 made this seem far closer than it ever was, with the Miami players looking like they were playing at MAYBE 75% of their max throughout. Skylar Thomposon player the entire 4th Quarter (and should maybe have played the entire second half), replacing Tua Tagovailoa, who was showered with “MVP” chants by the home fans before the break. The biggest concern for Miami will be the pectoral injury suffered by Terron Armstead. He is not a piece they can afford to lose. The Dolphins will have far sterner tests… starting next week with Mike McDaniel’s homecoming to the San Francisco 49ers. #2 in the AFC, vs #3 in the NFC. What a game that should be.
  • Speaking of the Niners, they shut out the Saints in a game so devoid of interesting plays it’s scarcely believable. How does a game featuring both Alvin Kamara & Christian McCaffrey have only 13 points scored in it? A combination of two good defenses, and two atrocious QBs. There really isn’t that much difference between Andy Dalton and Jimmy G, aside from the Hollywood good-looks and the supporting cast in the Bay Area. I still can’t fathom how bad Jameis Winston must be in practice for Dennis Allen to believe in Dalton ahead of him. Nothing would make me happier than the Dolphins beating the 49ers next week.
  • Mike White! Is he the Guy!? The Jets hammered the Justin-Fields-less Bears by 21, which keeps their playoff dreams alive, and helped Chicago fans keep dreaming of a Top 5 draft pick next season. White was a complete breath of fresh air when compared to Zach Wilson, hitting Garrett Wilson early and often, and even helping welcome Elijah Moore back into the fold. White threw for 315yds and 3TDs, on 22 of 28 attempts… which is absolutely enough for New Yorkers to get excited again. White gets a BIG opportunity to upset the Vikings next week.
  • The Washington Commanders are currently 2 games above .500 and well and truly in the playoff hunt. How on earth did that happen?! The Falcons have started to fall back towards the sub .500 team they should be! Ron Rivera should be in Coach of the Year discussions, even though he won’t win it based on a couple other candidates and the Franchise he coaches for.
  • Sam Darnold! Welcome back to the NFL. Darnold’s Panthers poured even more misery onto Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett’s squad, which I feel like we shouldn’t even name out of respect for all their fans who are no doubt absolutely miserable, having endured a torrid season. Darnold showed more today than Baker Mayfield has shown all season (sorry, Baker… *sad face*) and has deservedly already been confirmed as the starter for next week against the Seahawks. I remain convinced that whoever the Panthers tap as their new permanent Head Coach will still go QB searching in this year’s upcoming draft, but Darnold showed enough today to suggest he can be their guy for the rest of the season. Denver… Yikes. Officially unsure Hackett survives this.
  • Joe Burrow won in Nashville again, as the Bengals jump up to tie the Ravens atop the AFC North. Cincy have won 3 in a row, despite missing Ja’Marr Chase who wasn’t able to make his return this week. The Titans couldn’t get their ground game going, and were frustrated by a penalty denying them a chance to drive down the field and try to win the game. Tee Higgins caught the eventual game winner for the Bengals, and has shown he could absolutely be a 1st WR option in almost every other offense in the league. Derrick Henry was held in check on the ground, but did give us one of the best comedy moments of the season when he fumbled approaching the goalline after a huge screen play, only for Treylon Burks – who is really starting to flash his talents – to recover the ball in the endzone for a chaotic Touchdown. Both teams have huge games next week (vs KC and PHI respectively), and don’t be surprised if we see this matchup again in the Playoffs.
  • Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs continued their waltz through the rest of the NFL, with a fairly straightforward win over the suffering Los Angeles Rams. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that this was kind of still a game in the 4th quarter? Sure, it never really felt like the Rams had a shot, but give Bryce Perkins credit for hanging in there in an incredibly tough situation in which to make your first NFL start. Mahomes may only have thrown 1 TD, to the chagrin of Fantasy owners worldwide, but the Chiefs continue to roll and really do seem to be a cut above EVERYONE else in the AFC (with all due respect to the Bills).
  • The Raiders walked it off in OT for the 2nd straight week, with Josh Jacobs this time the hero, after a crazy back-and-forth game with the Seahawks. Derek Carr attempted to give the game away, with a couple of early INTs, but the Raiders showed grit and determination that has been missing for too much of Josh McDaniels’ debut season as Head Coach. If the Raiders could upgrade the QB position in the offseason, you feel as though they do have the pieces to compete in the AFC, but health concerns surrounding Renfrow, Waller, and others would have to be alleviated for Vegas to be important next season. Seattle still have a chance to win the NFC West, but they’re starting to fade whilst the Niners surge, which isn’t a good sign. 
  • Are the Cleveland Browns still alive?! Just in time for He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Playing to return? It’s almost like the very evil plan is all coming together… Anyway, I feel sorry for Browns fans, because (mostly) they didn’t ask to be put in this position, but from next week the Browns will be unanimously the least likeable team in the league, which is impressive in a league containing the New England Patriots… But before that, we should give Jacoby Brissett his flowers. He’s played way better than any Browns fan could have envisioned, especially considering how pedestrian he was for the Dolphins at times last year. The Browns had to win this one to give themselves a slim chance at a playoff run, so we’ll see where they go from here… I, for one, hope it’s not into the Playoffs. Oh, and David Njoku is a star TE. Respect him. We should also say Chris Godwin (12 catches, 110 yards, 1TD) was superb for the Bucs, and Rachaad White was great in place of Leonard Fournette (who may struggle to regain his starting spot here), but the Bucs were largely lethargic, and didn’t deserve to win this game. They’re looking like a playoff team only because of how weak the NFC South is.

MNF Prediction: (Season Record: 9-6)

We went 2-1 in the aforementioned Thanksgiving games, and now look forward to our regularly scheduled Monday Night Prediction this week. It’s probably one that ESPN wishes they could flex out (there’s gonna be a few more of those in the next few weeks, you’ve been warned…) but it’s set in stone… so it’s Jeff Saturday’s rejuvenated Colts, against Mike Tomlin’s underwhelming Steelers.

Matt Ryan vs Kenny Pickett is actually quite an interesting Quarterback duel, as both are trying to prove they belong as starters at this level, but for very different reasons. Ryan is trying to cling onto his last few years as an NFL QB, and Pickett is trying to start to build a legacy in Pittsburgh. Kenny has done pretty well this year all things considered, but it does feel like Tomlin’s record of not having a losing season is very definitely coming to an end this year. Jonathan Taylor and Najee Harris have underperformed and underwhelmed this season, but both have looked better in recent weeks. Let’s hope for an entertaining game but at home, under the lights, I’m gonna have to favour the Colts to win.

Week 13 Preview

Week 13 is a GREAT slate of games. It begins with an intriguing Thursday Night offering between the Bills and the Patriots, as the former Top Dog of the AFC East hosts the New Kid on the Block. Josh Allen vs Bill Belichick will happen twice before the end of the season, and could go a long way to determining whether or not the Bills win the division, or the Patriots sneak into the playoffs.

Then, on Sunday, we have what I thought would be another “Ownership Bowl” as the Packers head to Chicago to face the Bears, which you just know would have been Aaron Rodgers’ best game of the season so far. However, with the injury last night, it may now become Jordan Love’s first chance to “own” Soldier Field. There’s also an intriguing matchup between the TItans and the Eagles, as two of the league’s best rushing offenses collide in Philly, and the “he-who-should-not-be-playing” return game, which will make serious headlines one way or another, as the Browns travel to Houston to face the Texans.

In the late window, we get two absolutely fantastic matchups, as the Chiefs and Bengals reignite their hostilities from last season’s AFC Title game, AND Mike McDaniel makes his return to the Bay Area, as the 49ers host the Dolphins. Both of those contents have “game of the year” potential. Sunday Night gives us the Colts again, as they travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys, before the Saints and Bucs almost certainly get into another brawl on Monday Night. It’s a reeeeeally good week of football. As always, thanks for taking the time to read this article. I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter & Instagram. Come say hey. Hope you all have a great week. Cheers.

Callum Squires