Another week is in the books. Week 12 has some exciting finishes, but most importantly, it separated some contenders from pretenders. That means we have plenty of winners and losers to get to.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks (Won 30-27 at CAR)
The most shocking outcome this Sunday was the Seahawks rallying in the 4th quarter to win on the road against the Panthers. After all, Carolina had won ten straight at home and was at 6-2 not too long ago. To add on to that, Christian McCaffrey had 237 total yards for the Panthers, and Seattle’s league leading rushing attack was held to 2.7 yards per carry. Still, they got the job done, and they can thank Russell Wilson for that. Wilson threw for 339 yards, came through in the fourth quarter, and had a passer rating of 128.3. Every time it looked like the Panthers were starting to gain momentum in this game, Wilson would respond. He had a superb connection with Tyler Lockett (5/5, 107 yards, 1 TD) and David Moore (4/5, 103 yards, 1 TD), who both look to be long-term options at receiver for the Seahawks. On defense, Seattle allowed 476 total yards, but held Carolina to a 38% third down conversion rate, had a red zone interception, and also made a goal line stand on the first possession of the game. That’s how the Seahawks defense plays- they are a bend, but don’t break defense that forces a lot of turnover. With so much working on offense and with that defense doing just enough, Seattle has a chance to make a run. Considering how well Pete Carroll has coached them this season, they should be considered a front runner to get a wildcard spot. With an easy home matchup against the 2-9 49ers, Seattle will almost certainly continue to surge into one of those two spots.
Loser: Atlanta Falcons (Lost 31-17 at NO)
With so many key players injured on defense, no one is expecting the Falcons to hold opposing offense. What they are expected to do, however, is light up opposing defenses with an electric offense. That’s what makes this Thanksgiving loss to the Saints so disappointing for them. Atlanta’s defense held New Orleans to 312 total yards of offense and intercepted Drew Brees. In fact, the Falcons outgained the Saints by around 50 yards. So what went wrong? Turnovers. Atlanta turned the ball over four times, three of them coming in the red zone. All of them were more on them playing careless than the defense forcing them, and it was almost pathetic. Matt Ryan didn’t see Marcus Williams blitzing right in front of him, Julio Jones tried to do a helicopter jump, and Calvin Ridley lost the ball at the one yard line. If all three of those red zone turnovers turn into touchdowns, then the Falcons win this football game. Instead, they wasted an opportunity to pick up a big divisional road victory, and blew it. At 4-7, Atlanta is out of the playoff picture. At this point, they’re playing for nothing more than to save members of their coaching staff from being fired for this disappointing season.
Winner: Houston Texans (Won 34-17 vs TEN)
Winners of seven straight coming in, the Texans desperately needed to make it eight straight when facing the division rival Titans on Monday Night Football. Houston lost to the Tennessee in Week 2, so a loss would’ve have slimmed their division lead to one game, and would’ve put them in danger with the Titans having the head to head tiebreaker. Down 10-0, it looked like the Texans were indeed going to be in danger of losing control of the division. Instead, Houston flipped a switch, and dominated for the rest of the game. A lot of the credit needs to go to the offense, which put up 462 total yards of offense. Deshaun Watson had a passer rating of 130.9, throwing for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 70 yards and a score using his legs. Speaking of the running game, Houston rushed for a total of 281 yards led by Watson and Lamar Miller. Miller had 162 rushing yards, averaged 13.5 yards per carry, and had a 97 yard touchdown that gave Houston a two score lead, one that remained in place for the rest of the game. With an offense so balanced, it’s going to be tough to beat them, no matter what their defense does. However, if their talented defense continues to make plays, as they did in this game, they could be downright unstoppable. The Texans did allow 365 total yards, but they sacked Marcus Mariota six times, made a goal line stand that changed the momentum of this game, and limited Tennessee’s two running backs to 38 rushing yards. At 8-3, the Texans are in complete control of this division. With very winnable games the rest of the way, it should surprise no one if they won out and secured a first round bye.
Loser: Cincinnati Bengals (Lost 35-20 vs CLE)
Coming into a Week 12 affair with the previously 3-6-1 Browns, the Bengals were sitting at 5-5 and needed to win this game to keep their playoffs hopes alive. A win seemed certain; the Bengals had the better record, were at home, and the Browns are the Browns. Instead, Cincinnati suffered a beating so brutal that head coach Marvin Lewis should lose his job a result. Don’t let the score fool you, the Bengals faced a 28 point deficit for most of the third quarter, and it required garbage time touchdowns by backup Jeff Driskel to have them only use by two scores, which is just sad. Driskel had to come in to replace Andy Dalton, who suffered a season ending thumb injury and had just a 70.7 passer rating before exiting. At this point, the Bengals need to seriously consider moving on from Dalton. They once again struggled to move the ball without AJ Green, and it says a lot about the team in general that they are so unproductive without one receiver. Without Green, they still have Tyler Boyd and speedster John Ross, as well as Joe Mixon out of the backfield. There is no excuse to be so awful without one player, no matter how productive that player has been for this franchise. On defense, the Bengals allowed 28 first half points, and let Baker Mayfield make a mockery of them. They didn’t sack Mayfield once, and had little resistance to anything the Browns did. It’s become the Bengals are a bad football team, and at 5-6 with a backup QB, they have a good chance of losing out and finishing 5-11. That’s a major fall from 4-1, and that could cost several coaches and players their jobs as a result.
Winner: Denver Broncos (Won 24-17 vs PIT)
Just two weeks ago, the Broncos were 3-6 and looked to be as good as dead. After all, they had two extremely difficult games against two Super Bowl contenders in the Chargers and Steelers, two games that they were given close to zero chance to win. Their response? Denver won both games, and now is right back in the playoff picture. In this game against the Steelers, they played their perfect brand of football. Case Keenum only threw for 197 yards, but he was efficient and the Broncos didn’t rely on him to make plays. That’s because they were able to rely on their rushing attack, led by rookie Phillip Lindsay (110 rushing yards, 7.9 yards per carry, 1 TD). Despite going undrafted this offseason, Lindsay has become a star, and looks like Denver’s clear running back of the future. His ability to make plays as a runner and a receiver takes so much pressure off of Keenum, and makes the offense significantly better as a result. On defense, Denver also did what they needed to do. Forget that they allowed 527 total yards and 464 passing yards, they made plays when it mattered most. Denver forced four turnovers, including an interception at the goal line with the game on the line. Three of those turnovers came in the red zone, so Denver played the perfect way of defense against an explosive offense. You’re going to allow yards against a team like the Steelers, but when you can make as many big plays as Denver made when they got close to scoring, you’re going to have a great chance to win. As long as the Broncos continue to play efficiently on both sides of the ball, they’ll continue to win games. With an easy schedule the rest of the way, they have a great chance of securing the last wildcard spot in the AFC.
Loser: Miami Dolphins (Lost 27-24 at IND)
Coming in as 9.5 point underdogs on the road against the Colts, the Dolphins were never expected to win this game. That says a lot about the Dolphins though, that they could be that big of an underdog despite playing a team of the same record. For most of the game on Sunday, Miami was proving their doubters wrong; they had a 24-14 lead late in the fourth quarter. Then, they fell apart on both sides of the ball and allowed 13 unanswered points to lose the game. The coaching and play calling by Adam Gase was horrendous; the Dolphins offense got so conservative that it didn’t even look like they were trying. Miami had negative one yards on its last two drives, which is unacceptable.The defense also had no answer for Andrew Luck, who shredded the defense in the fourth quarter and allowed three scoring drives in the fourth quarter. This collapse proves what the Dolphins are- are poorly coached team that has to overachieve just to reach mediocrity. With games against the Vikings and Patriots coming up soon, this loss effectively puts the Dolphins out of the playoff picture. That may be for the best for football fans; Miami wouldn’t have stood a chance again anyone they face if they got there.