Week 12 Recap - The Playoff Picture Takes Shape
That was fun. After the misery of watching the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Sunday brought us back to the norm. Dramatic and underserved wins for the Vikings and Patriots, a very strange game in Denver, and the Jets being utterly useless. Good to have some sense of normalcy in 2020.
It’s a little bit of a different column this week. There’s a lot of different storylines I wanted to touch on, but also realise you all have better things to do than read an essay written by me, so I’m gonna touch briefly on a few different things as we look back on Week 12. Lots to discuss, so let’s get into it, as the playoff “in the hunt” graphics really start to take shape. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Mahomes Sits On The Throne
Tampa Bay… Bruce Arians… TB12… Congratulations. You got Mahomes-ed. To be honest, you got Chief-ed. The scoreline looks close in the end, but this game wasn’t. At all. Tyreek Hill is insane. Tyreek’s stat line? 13 catches, 269 yards, 3 TDs. TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY NINE YARDS. Truly outrageous. Oh and Travis Kelce had 8 catches for 82 yards too. And they’ve got Clyde Edwards-Helaire AND LeVeon Bell in the backfield. And a good defense. And this was against the “SuperBowl Contender” Buccaneers. Wow. Incredible. Patrick Mahomes is that damn good.
The Chiefs – for me – are clearly the best team in the league (no disrespect meant @Steelers), and are headed right back to Tampa in early February. Sure, they might not win it all again; these things happen, but my money is not going to be on anyone other than Patrick Mahomes when it matters most. The Saints might be the only thing standing between the Chiefs and a 15-1 record when they clash in week 15. What a game that should be. In the here and now, this felt like the final confirmation of the usurping of Tom Brady by the heir to his throne. Arise, King Patrick Mahomes. Long live the King.
The Curious Case Of The AFC East
Let’s take a minute to chat about one of the more interesting divisions this year – for the first time in FOREVER, we have an actual competitive race for the AFC East crown. Yes, the Patriots – despite their win yesterday – are having a bad year, but overcoming the stigma of the New England unbeatable juggernaut was still important for the Bills and (to a lesser extent) the Dolphins. Now, both teams sit with clear winning records, at 8-3 & 7-4 respectively, and both could find themselves in the playoffs come January.
The Dolphins got back on track following an egregious loss to the hapless Broncos last week. Fitzy was squeezing some more magic out of his limbs, including a wonderful throw to Mike Gesicki for the opening TD of the game. The Dolphins face the Bengals next week with a huge opportunity to get their 8th win, before the real meat of their late schedule commences in week 14. The Fins’ final four games are against the Chiefs, Bills, Patriots & Raiders. All tough, but the optimists in Miami will suggest they have 3 winnable games and Mahomes. Is 10-6 enough to get the Dolphins into the post season? I think it could be.
For Buffalo, Josh Allen was inconsistent yesterday, but they still had enough about them to defeat the (admittedly befuddling badly-coached) Chargers. The Bills defense, which has been suspect for much of the year, appears to have woken up following their bye week. Buffalo seem destined for a home playoff game, unless they find a way to lose to the Dolphins and perhaps another game or two. Thankfully, Josh Allen was able to recover from what looked like a potentially dangerous hit from Joey Bosa and lead the Bills to this victory. He’s such a threat in the Red Zone, and is improving as a passer every week. You kinda wish they had a true stand out running back to help carry the load, but they’ve won 8 games so far, what do I know? Here’s to Sean McDermott and the the job he’s doing.
Tractorcito Rolls On For Tennessee
I waxed lyrical about Derrick Henry last week, and then he went and topped his performance SIGNIFICANTLY this week. Three TDs, 178 yards rushing, and the lead in the division for Tennessee. What a day. It is OFFICIALLY #TractorcitoSZN. Sure, he had a quiet-ish second half, but the damage was done. The Titans, when they play like they have done the last two weeks, are a serious force and will not be an easy out come play off time…
Remember, they only missed out on the SuperBowl last year because they got Mahomes-ed. Vrabel is doing a great job, and special shout out to AJ Brown for constantly making big plays. I love seeing Ryan Tannehill thrive. Throw to Jonnu Smith more though, please – my fantasy team needs it. The Titans should be comfortably on their way to the AFC South crown now. The Colts are so hit-and-miss. Like I’ve written previously, I just don’t trust Philip Rivers. I’m not convinced the Colts make the playoffs, despite their stellar defense. I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I can’t take them seriously as a contender until they’re a lot more consistent with their offense.
Green Bay Embarrass Chicago
This was an absolute massacre. Similar to the Bucs/Chiefs game, the final scoreline makes this look a lot closer than it actually was. Aaron Rodgers and his Cheeseheads absolutely demolished Matt Nagy’s finest. Well, they’re not even that fine, but they’re apparently his finest. The reintroduction of Mitch Trubisky did… nothing to change Chicago’s general offensive malaise. I will never understand how this team was 5-1. 5-6 makes a lot more sense.
Green Bay continue to hunt down the Saints in pursuit of the #1 seed in the NFC and that elusive playoff bye. With Rodgers tossing touchdowns like it’s nothing, they’ve absolutely got a chance. The 1-2 punch of Jones & Williams, coupled with the threat of Adams, MVS and Lazard out wide… the weapons are exceptional. Chicago’s impressive defense could do nothing to stem the tide. The Rodgers Revenge Tour rolls on. Chicago need to blow this thing up and start from scratch.
– Gutted for the Cardinals. Zane Gonzalez missing a 45 yarder, leading to the Patriots 50 yarder to win it? Brutal. They deserve to be a playoff team. Hope they’re able to recover from this little slump they’re having.
– Mike McCarthy, you owe me and everyone else who bet on the Cowboys on Thanksgiving a serious apology.
– Deshaun Watson is still really really good and Will Fuller V (you have to include the number when it’s in their name) is also really good.
– Do I feel a little bit sorry for the Broncos? Yeah, a bit. Was it also hilarious watching that offense play a 0 QB scheme? Also yeah.
– Respect to Kendall Hinton for trying. Can’t knock the hustle. It didn’t work – clearly – but it also was 100% not his fault. Interesting to hear Vic Fangio call out his QBs post game…
– The Saints, on the other hand, continue rolling even without Drew Brees. 8 straight wins. They’re 7-0 over the last two seasons without Drew Brees. Think they’re gonna suffer hugely when he retires? Not for me Jeff. They’re very impressive, especially when you consider they’ve won these games in a wide variety of different ways. Peaking at the right time? Yup. NFC Favourites? Them or Green Bay for me.
– For the Giants, you really gotta hope Daniel Jones’ injury isn’t a bad one. I can’t bear the thought of Washington as a playoff team (sorry Alex Smith), and clearly the Cowboys don’t want to win the NFC East…
– Justin Jefferson needs to get some serious votes for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He’s class. The perfect replacement for Stefon Diggs in Minnesota.
– Raiders… what the hell was THAT?! Strange team, are Vegas. Honestly not a clue what to make of them. They’re the only team to beat the Chiefs, and yet can produce clunkers like this performance. Frustrating.
– I’m still angry at Mike McCarthy.
– Hey, 49ers, welcome back. Nice to see you looking like your normal selves. Shout out Robbie Gould. Big leg.
– Jarvis Landry, I love you. I’ve loved you since Miami. It was great to see the real you yesterday. Give Baker some credit too. Yes, the Jags are not a premier NFL team, but you gotta beat the team in front of you. The Browns are GUARANTEED a not-losing season, and look destined to break their long playoff curse. Good for them.
MNF/TuesdayNF Predictions: (Season Record 11-3)
My proud predictions record took a little L last Monday thanks to the Rams defense shutting down Tom Brady. Maybe I was overrating the Bucs a little bit!? Ah well. This week, we’re back to a COVID-influenced double-header of midweek action, and we’ll be getting a Monday double-header next week too with the already moved Cowboys-Ravens game joining the 49ers-Bills matchup.
Tonight, I’ve got to stick with the formula that’s worked so far this season: Believe in the Seahawks, especially when Chris Carson is in the backfield. The Seahawks are getting back their indispensable RB tonight, facing off against an Eagles team who’s playoff hopes are only still alive because of the sheer mediocrity of the NFC East at large. It’s embarrassing really.
Anyway, with rumours of Jalen Hurts becoming more involved in the Eagles’ offense (good idea!!), and our inability to be sure which incarnation of Carson Wentz will show up tonight, I can’t willingly pick Philly over Seattle. There’s just no guarantees with Doug Pederson’s team right now. They still have a chance at the playoffs even with a loss tonight, as the week 17 clash with Washington looms large down the stretch.
If the Eagles beat the Cowboys and ONE of the Cardinals/Packers/Saints, they would have a shot of stealing the NFC East crown in Week 17. Wild. But tonight? Chris Carson is going to run all over them, and DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett might each have 100 receiving yards. Seahawks to win.
On Tuesday, we get the 2nd most COVID-affected game of the weekend, and the return to the starting QB position of the fantastic RG3. I’m an on the record disliker of the Washington football team, but back in 2012 I LOVED me some Robert Griffin the 3rd. He was ELECTRIC as a rookie and I’m glad to see him being given another starting shot in lieu of Lamar Jackson.
Speaking of Lamar, get well soon to him and all the other Ravens (and Steelers, and other players throughout the league) who have tested positive for COVID. Here’s hoping everyone recovers easily and without any ill effects. But, as far as the game itself goes, I can only see one outcome on Tuesday night. The Steelers are 10-0 and dealt with the Ravens handily a few weeks back, and that was with Baltimore at near full strength.
I see this being a fairly one-sided affair with the Steelers picking up their 11th win of the season. Baltimore have an easier run in than most, which you would assume sees them into the playoffs still, but that might also depend on a few teams around them too. Crazy to think how far the Ravens’ stock has fallen since pre-season. I think a lot of that is unfair – this is still a very good football team – but their flaws have definitely reared their heads consistently more this season than last. Lamar’s SuperBowl isn’t happening this year. Steelers to win.
With all the COVID drama, I’m a little hesitant to make any concrete predictions until later in the week, but I can say I’m really looking forward to the Titans – Browns matchup. Two very good teams with exceptional rushing attacks. It might be a quick game (the clock might never stop running aside from TV timeouts), but there should be some explosive plays nonetheless.
Beyond that, the Cardinals – Rams matchup is two teams desperate for a win after tough losses this week. That one could be a killer in the NFC West race if you lose it. Anyway, onwards and upwards. Enjoy MNF & TNF, I’ll see you back here next Monday! As always, I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram. Come chat! Have a good one. Stay safe, stay healthy.
CALLUM IS FROM LONDON BUT PLAYED COLLEGE SOCCER AT UNIVERSITY IN SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, WHERE HE LEARNED NEVER TO CHEER FOR THE COWBOYS. CALLUM IS A LONG-SUFFERING DOLPHINS FAN WHO BELIEVES THE TUA HYPE.