Things I Noticed from Week 12 in the NFL

Green Bay Packers (11-0) defeat Detroit Lions (7-4) 27-15

– The undefeated season of the Green Bay Packers continues. 16-0 seems more and more likely by the day. The New York Giants are really the only team left on the schedule that I believe could cause them some trouble. Games against the Raiders, Chiefs, the Cutler-less Bears and one last game against the Lions (whom they just thumped) round out the schedule. You want a Walder guarantee? The Packers win out the rest of the regular season, and finish a perfect 16-0. Book it. Ndamukong Suh just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. After getting tangled up with Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith, Suh proceeded to stomp his foot on Smith, which got Suh ejected from the game. It looked pretty intentional to me, and with Suhs history of “dirty play”, it really is hard to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

– The Lions have now lost 4 of their last 6, and are on the outside looking in as it pertains to the playoff race. To be fair, their 4 losses (Bears, 49ers, Packers, Falcons) were against teams that, in my opinion, were better than they were anyways. It would be a shame to not see the Lions in the playoffs this year, as they have turned out to be one of the better Cinderella stories in the league so far. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see what the Stafford/Johnson combination could do in the playoffs?

Dallas Cowboys (7-4) defeat Miami Dolphins (3-8) 20-19

– Why is it that Cowboys TE Jason Witten (4 catches, 43 yards) falling into a Cowboys cheerleader on the sideline became a bigger story than the game itself? At the very least though, it does give me a reason to put up a picture of the young lady to the side here.

– It is nice to see that the Miami Dolphins finally realized that losing might actually be a better option than going on 3-game winning streaks. Unfortunately for them, it might be to little to late. The Indianapolis Colts are just awful, so the “Suck for Luck” train may finally have left the station in Miami.

– What a revelation Laurent Robinson (7 catches, 79 yards, 2 touchdowns) has been for Dallas. He has stepped in and held down the fort nicely while Miles Austin has been out with injury. There isn’t a better receiving core in the league right now than what Dallas has with Austin, Bryant, Witten and Robinson, in my opinion.

Baltimore Ravens (8-3) defeat San Francisco 49ers (9-2) 16-6

– For the first time in NFL history, 2 brothers (Jim and John Harbaugh) coached against each other in a game. That must have made Thanksgiving dinner quite the awkward experience for that family. They are both 2 of the top coaches in the entire league, and it was nice to see that both wanted to take the emphasis off of them and put it on the teams, where it rightfully should be.

– I am positive Alex Smith (15 for 24, 140 passing yards, 1 interception) woke up the following morning with some major bumps and bruises on his body. The Ravens front-four got to the Quarterback 9 times on Thanksgiving day. Baltimore’s pass-rush may be the best in the league, but you have to protect your QB better than that San Fran.

– I believe this win by Baltimore vaults them into the number 2 spot in the NFL for the time being. San Francisco may still have a better record at 9-2, but Baltimore jumps ahead for the sole reason that….well, they defeated them. Not a lot of teams can say that they have taken care of the 49ers this year. That defense is daunting, and the offense is finally finding some consistency with Joe Flacco (15 for 23, 161 passing yards, 1 touchdown). My Packers/Ravens Super Bowl prediction is looking better by the second.

Atlanta Falcons (7-4) defeat Minnesota Vikings (2-9) 24-14

– The Atlanta Falcons need to be more cut-throat when it comes to closing out games. After holding a 17-0 lead at the half, they allowed the mediocre and Peterson-less Vikings offense to come back in the final quarters and draw within 3 points. They just seemed like an entirely different team in the 2nd half. They should feel lucky that they walked away with the win yesterday. Every game matters if they want to see some post-season action.

– The Minnesota Vikings may want to consider finding some sort of contingency plan if, god forbid, Adrian Peterson ever has to miss a prolonged period of time. Having Toby Gerhart (17 rushes, 44 yards, 1 touchdown) as your main backup and having to use your best WR in Percy Harvin (5 rushes, 11 yards) as a back just won’t suffice.

– I am surprised more people around the league aren’t mentioning QB Matt Ryan (27 for 34, 262 passing yards, 3 touchdowns) more often when it comes to the best Quarterbacks in the game today. He is slowly but surely having himself a terrific season, and if the Falcons can somehow sneak into the playoffs, he can take the team far. Remember, it was just last year that Atlanta was 13-3 and the number 1 seed in the NFC.

Carolina Panthers (3-8) defeat Indianapolis Colts (0-11) 27-11

– Will anyone disagree with me when I say that the Indianapolis Colts will not win a game for the rest of the season now? This was their best opportunity to at least notch 1 win for the year, and they couldn’t pull it off. Now they must play games at New England, at Baltimore, vs Tennessee, vs Houston and the finale at Jacksonville. At least their prize for going 0-16 will be Andrew Luck.

– I almost didn’t recognize Curtis Painter (15 for 29, 226 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions) on the field there for a second. Once I saw a Colts QB break the 100 passing yard mark, I figured Peyton Manning had miraculously healed. Then again, Peyton Manning probably would have beaten the lowly Panthers.

Cam Newtons (20 for 27, 208 passing yards, 9 rushes, 53 yards, 1 touchdown) rushing score ties him with Billy Kilmer for the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie ever. He still has 5 games left to break the record, which he will clearly do at this point. The scary thing is that he can put up rushing numbers like that for the rest of his career if he stays healthy.

Tennessee Titans (6-5) defeat Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) 23-17

Chris Johnson (23 rushes, 190 yards) emerged from the clouds of inconsistency and had himself a terrific outing against Tampa Bay. He has been a see-saw of production the last 4 games though (64 yards, 130 yards, 13 yards, 190 yards). If I had to guess based on his production as of late, I wouldn’t count on him to produce these numbers next weekend against Buffalo.

– The free-fall of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continues. This makes 5 games in a row without a win. They don’t seem anything like the 10-6 team we saw during the 2010 season. Josh Freeman (18 for 33, 199 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) is clearly regressing and on a big downward spiral. He has almost tripled the amount of interceptions he had all last season, and has less than half of his total touchdowns from a year ago as well.

Houston Texans (8-3) defeat Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8) 20-13

– The Matt Leinart era in Houston lasted a grand of total of 1 and a half quarters, after Leinart suffered what appears to be a broken collarbone. Now the Texans playoff hopes may rest with third-string QB T.J Yates (8-15, 70 passing yards). With the Texans having a 2 game lead in the division, they shouldn’t take their chances with what  Yates can do. Either start newly signed QB Kellen Clemons, or look elsewhere for a veteran.

– I am surprised Jacksonville rookie QB Blaine Gabbert ( 13 for 29, 136 passing yards, 1 interception) hasn’t shown more improvement at this point in the season. He is completing less than 50% of his passes, has just as many touchdowns as interceptions (6:6), and shows no willingness to throw the ball down the field. Perhaps Gabbert was thrown into the lion’s den a tad to early. It must be hard to keep up with the amazing pace set by other rookie QB’s like Newton, Dalton and Ponder.

Arizona Cardinals (4-7) defeat St. Louis Rams (2-9) 23-20 What else can you really say about Cardinals return man Patrick Peterson? He tied the NFL record yesterday with his fourth punt-return for a touchdown this season. Devin Hester may have to start looking over his shoulder soon, because Peterson has all the time in the world to make a run at Hester’s records.

– This weeks award for “the game that means absolutely nothing to anyone” goes to…..”open envelope”….the Cardinals and the Rams! However, one good thing that came from this game was watching RB Beanie Wells (27 rushes, 228 yards, 1 touchdown) run all over the Rams defense.  It was against the lowly Rams, but 200+ yards against anyone is still very impressive. It was only his third 100+ yard rushing game in his career, which was very surprising to learn after watching him run yesterday.

New York Jets (6-5) defeat Buffalo Bills (5-6) 28-24 Anyone who has a problem with Stevie Johnson’s (8 catches, 75 yards, 1 touchdown) touchdown celebration needs to lighten up a bit. Johnson pretended to shoot himself in the leg, as a slight shot to Jets receiver Plaxico Burress. Who cares. It was funny. Let’s move on shall we.

Mark Sanchez (17 for 35, 180 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception) wasn’t the most accurate of Quarterbacks yesterday, but he played well enough to get his team the win, and at least got the New York fans and media off of his back for 1 week anyways. The Jets are still in the playoff race, and beating the Bills will go along way into determining if they can make one final push to sneak in to the postseason.

– What happened to the Buffalo Bills team that started the season 4-1?  They are now losers of 4 straight, with 3 of those losses coming within the division. There playoff hopes are dwindling with each game. Maybe everyone should have thought twice before jumping on the Bills bandwagon.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) defeat Cleveland Browns (4-7) 23-20

– A division match-up against a team that wasn’t from Baltimore or Pittsburgh was just what the doctor ordered for the Bengals. QB Andy Dalton (21 for 31, 270 passing yards, 1 touchdown) orchestrated another second-half comeback to help the Bengals snap their 2-game losing streak. This win for Dalton and the Bengals has them tied for the most games won after trailing by 10 points or more at halftime in NFL history. They are still right in the thick of things in the AFC playoff race. Don’t be surprised to see 3 teams from the AFC North make the playoffs this year.

– Do my eyes deceive me? Was that Peyton Hillis (19 rushes, 65 yards) on the field for the Browns yesterday? He has been gone so long, I almost didn’t recognize him. The Browns do need him back on the field to be successful, but at the same time, they also need him to produce the numbers that got him such a lucrative contract in the first place.  What an unbelievable dive by Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson. This was a soccer quality dive. He literally flew in the air to make it seem like he got nailed, when in actuality, he barely got touched. It was stupid on his part, but hilarious to watch.

Washington Redskins (4-7) defeat Seattle Seahawks (4-7) 23-17

– You know what? I stand corrected. THIS was the game that deserves the award for “the game meant absolutely nothing to anyone” this week. A Rex Grossman (26 for 35, 314 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) vs Tavaris Jackson (14 for 30, 144 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) showdown would put anyone to sleep.

– During a season full of low moments for the Seahawks, the one thing they can be optimistic about going forward is the play of RB Marshawn Lynch (24 rushes, 111 yards, 1 catch, 20 yards, 1 touchdown). I wrote him off last season for being one of the least passionate running backs in the league, but perhaps his post-season performance against the Saints last year motivated “Beast-Mode” Lynch. He has rushed for over 100 yards in 3 of his last 4 games, and has scored a touchdown in 4 of his last 5.

– It is nice to see Mike Shanahan come to his senses and give the ball to RB Roy Helu (23 rushes, 108 yards, 1 touchdown, 7 catches, 54 yards). Helu is clearly the best offensive weapon the Skins have right now, so I hope they stick with what works and ride Helu for the rest of the season. Then again, it is Mike Shanahan after all. They probably won’t.

Oakland Raiders (7-4) defeat Chicago Bears (7-4) 25-20

– Not often will I give the credit of a teams victory to a kicker, but in this case, I sort of have to. Sebastian Janikowski broke a Raiders record with 6 field goals (40, 47, 42, 19, 37, 44) to help the team beat Chicago yesterday. Kickers can win games, and they can lose games for a team. On a day where the Raiders offense had trouble finding the end-zone, Janikowski stepped up and put 18 points on the board for Oakland. Not too shabby.

– Bears QB Caleb Hanie (18 for 36, 254 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) must have had some end of game jitters yesterday. I still have no idea what he was trying to do there. If he just spikes the ball, then the Bears still have time to come up with 1 or 2 more plays to win the game.As far as his numbers go, you could get worse from a back-up quarterback. None of that really matters though if you lose the game, especially like that.

New England Patriots (8-3) defeat Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) 38-20

– The Philadelphia Eagles are an absolute wreck these days. The fans are booing DeSean Jackson (4 catches, 73 yards, 1 dropped end-zone pass), and are starting to chant “Fire Andy!” in the stands. QB Vince Young had a productive day (26 for 48, 400 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception), but that was against a Patriots secondary that is ranked last in the league, so don’t look too much into it. He may need to put up another game like that again on Thursday though, as Michael Vick may not be ready to suit up that soon. At 4-7, the year may be all but lost at this point.

– What a year TE Rob Gronkowski (4 catches, 59 yards, 1 touchdown) is having. His 11 touchdown catches have him ranked 2nd overall in the league, right behind Calvin Johnson. At 6’6 and weighing just under 270 lbs, its no wonder why he has become just a favorite target of Tom Brady. Speaking of Tom Brady (24 for 34, 361 passing yards, 3 touchdowns), it was nice to finally see him and star receiver Wes Welker (8 catches, 115 yards, 2 touchdowns) get back on the same page. This offense is picking up a lot of steam as the season draws to a close.

Denver Broncos (6-5) defeat San Diego Chargers (4-7) 16-13 in Overtime

Tim Tebow (9 for 18, 143 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 22 rushes, 67 yards) pulls another Broncos victory out of nowhere. With the game on the brink of ending in a tie, Tebow would move the Broncos down the field so that kicker Matt Prater could win the game with a field goal. I will admit that I was wrong about Tim Tebow, for now anyways. I am still not sold on whether or not he is the long-term solution at Quarterback, and I don’t know if the Broncos know either. The releasing of Kyle Orton may signify that Denver is going to look at taking a QB in the up-coming draft. Regardless, all that matters is that Tebow has the Broncos winning right now. No one really has anything to complain about as long as they keep on winning. No wonder Nick Novak couldn’t hit the field goal to win the game. Maybe if he kept his bladder full, it would have given him the incentive to finish off the game right then and there, so he could use the bathroom.

Norv Turner is officially on the hot-seat in San Diego. His past successes with the Chargers may buy him one season, but this is a Chargers team that was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender this year. Now they sit dead-last in the AFC West. Philip Rivers (16 touchdowns, 17 interceptions this season) isn’t exactly endearing himself to Chargers fans either.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) defeat Kansas City Chiefs (4-7) 13-9

– If there was ever a “bad win” in the NFL, this was it. The Pittsburgh defense won this game for the black and yellow, intercepting Tyler Palko (18 for 28, 167 passing yards) 3 times and holding the Chiefs to 257 yards of total offense. Ben Roethlisberger (21 for 31, 193 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) had an off day throwing the ball, and had the Steelers offense at a stand-still for most of the game.

– How did the 4-7 Kansas City Chiefs land 4 Primetime games in 2011? Maybe if guys like Jamal Charles and Matt Cassell weren’t hurt, then maybe they would be somewhat watchable. But a Sunday night game between the Steelers and Chiefs probably won’t be setting any ratings records anytime soon.

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