If Week 12 was an appetizer, then Thanksgiving is going to be a hell of a lot of fun. Sunday had it all including two overtime games, a first in the book of Brady vs. Manning, players still not knowing the rules, a spectacular day by a young wide receiver that will likely go unnoticed, and a proclamation by every team in the NFC North that they don’t want to win the division.
There’s plenty to get to this morning. So, on a short work week, sit back, relax, and check out everything you need to know in the Week 12 Rewind.
1. Belichick Rides The Wind To Victory In A Game For The Ages.
If you didn’t stay up last night, you missed a classic. It might not be the most memorable game in recent NFL history as some are saying, but the Patriots 24-point comeback against the Broncos last night was another legendary chapter in the book of Brady vs. Manning.
After a first half that couldn’t have gone any worse, including 3 fumbles, New England stormed out of the gates in the 3rd quarter and scored 31 unanswered points. A late Broncos touchdown tied the game at 31 and sent us into the second overtime game of the day.
What Bill Belichick did next what, well, one of the things that makes him great. The Patriots won the toss … and elected to take the wind. The wind?!?! Yes, the wind. However, unlike former Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg years ago, the move paid off. New England held the Broncos on the opening drive and a botched punt touched by Tony Parker led to a game winning field goal for the Patriots.
There was so much to this game. The Broncos opening dominance. The Patriots second half resilience. Two future Hall of Famers battling back and forth on a gusty stage that is usually reserved for books on football history. The game had it all and is likely to be one that we’re talking about for a long time.
2. Have the Broncos Peaked?
It’s not a ridiculous question. The Broncos set the league on fire over the first 8 weeks of the season scoring 35 points or more in every game. But since their bye week, Denver has failed to hit 35 points and has been held under 30 in 2 out of 3 games.
It’s no coincidence that the cooling of the Broncos’ offense coincides with a dipping of the temperatures across the country as we hit late November. Peyton Manning simply isn’t a cold weather quarterback. Never has been. Never will be. The reality is that this is an offense built for a dome stadium — like the one in which Manning used to play in Indianapolis. With Denver unlikely to be warmer than 25 degrees in the playoffs, and potential road games in New England, Kansas City, or Cincinnati, this offense may have already reached its peak.
3. The Lions Are Trying To Give Away The NFC North.
If you watch Sunday’s 4th quarter between the Bucs and Lions, you would’ve thought that both teams were playing for a tie. Missed field goals mixed with fumbles and interceptions made for a sloppy final quarter — resulting in Tampa Bay’s 24-21 defeat of Detroit.
Give credit where it’s due. The Bucs have now won 3 in a row and Greg Schiano might be doing enough to save his job in Tampa Bay. But this loss falls squarely on the shoulder of Jim Schwartz and his Lions. Matthew Stafford had his worst game of the season throwing 4 interceptions and the Lions had 5 turnovers as a team.
Sunday marked a prime opportunity for the Lions to grab ahold of the NFC North. Instead, the problems that have plagued this team in years past now create a situation where they’ll need to win on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2003 in order to have any hope of making the playoffs.
4. An 8-8 Team Will Likely Make The Playoffs In The AFC.
Much of the attention in the AFC this season has been paid to the dominance being exhibited in the AFC West by the Chiefs and Broncos. But as the regular season winds down, it’s time to start paying attention to the bottom where the likelihood of an 8-8 team making the playoffs is very likely.
If the season ended today, the Tennessee Titans would be the #6 seed in the AFC. They are currently 5-6 — tied with a host of other teams including the Jets, Dolphins, Chargers, Steelers, and Ravens. Of the 6 teams vying for the spot, none are particularly good. But with the Chiefs looking like the presumed #3 seed in the AFC, betting on the odds of one of those teams going to Kansas City in January and winning a game could set us up for another wild playoff run in the AFC.
5. The Chiefs Are Coming Back Down To Earth.
The Chiefs are finding out that maintaining success over a long period of time might be a little more difficult than they originally thought.
After a tough road loss to the Broncos last Sunday, the Chiefs faced another tough divisional matchup against the Chargers on Sunday. Kansas City’s offense posted 38 points, but that wasn’t enough as a Philip Rivers threw a touchdown with 24 seconds left ripping out the hearts of Chiefs fans in a 41-38 victory.
Alex Smith threw for nearly 300 yards, but Kansas City felt entirely unbalanced throughout the entire game. Andy Reid ran the ball just 18 times in a game that exemplified his pass-happy tendencies in a game that really didn’t warrant such an approach. After a 9-0 start, Kansas City has now dropped 2 straight and faces a critical game again next Sunday when the Broncos come to town.
6. Indianapolis Can No Longer Be Trusted.
It would be unfair to say that the Colts kept the wrong coach after Bruce Arians and his Cardinals dominated the Colts 40-11 on Sunday. But Chuck Pagano’s team has now fallen behind big in each of their last 4 games and, at this point, they can no longer be trusted as a formidable challenger in the AFC.
Let’s face it. The Trent Richardson trade has been a complete bust for this team. Instead of harmonizing the running game, Richardson has been the equivalent of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole each game until the team falls behind and abandons the run.
The Colts also desperately miss Reggie Wayne. Andrew Luck threw for just 163 yards on Sunday and it has become clear that the quarterback misses his biggest security blanket. At 7-4, the Colts now need to start looking over their shoulder at the 5-6 Titans. Either way, this team looks like a far cry from the one that many picked as a sleeper Super Bowl team at the beginning of the season.
7. The Ravens and Steelers Are Hanging Around.
Other than their lackluster play, nobody has really talked about the Ravens and Steelers this season. However, the rest of the AFC should be concerned. With wins on Sunday, both Pittsburgh and Baltimore now sit at 5-6 — tied for the 6th seed in the AFC playoffs. Coincidentally enough, these two teams also square off on Thanksgiving night adding another chapter to their Rust Belt rivalry. The winner will still be alive. The loser will likely be done. And with their playoff history, it’s a team that nobody in the AFC will want to see come knocking in January for a playoff game.
8. Let’s Give Some Credit To Tony Romo.
Tony Romo was in a familiar position on Sunday. With his team tied, he had a chance to drive his team down the field and win a big game. And, instead of choking like a dog like he’s been prone to do, Romo succeeded as Dan Bailey booted a field goal with 4 seconds to go en route to a 24-21 road victory over the Giants.
This is a huge win for Dallas. With the win, the NFC East has now separated into the haves and have-nots as Dallas and Philadelphia are two games clear of the Giants. But let’s give some credit to Romo. He came up big when it was needed the most and it’s a victory that could put Romo into another familiar position playing for the division title in Week 17 against the Eagles.
9. Josh Gordon Did His Best Impression Of Calvin Johnson On Sunday.
Josh Gordon appears to be the guy suffering from the Calvin Johnson Curse. That is, he’s a hugely talented receiver on a bad team plagued with poor quarterback play. But as Gordon showed on Sunday, if you’re that good, it might not matter who is throwing you the ball.
Cleveland’s offense was anemic on Sunday in their 27-11 loss to Pittsburgh with the exception of Gordon who torched the Steelers’ secondary with 14 catches for 237 yards and a touchdown. It was the second highest receiving total in the NFL this year — ironically enough, behind Johnson. As the Browns continue to address their quarterback needs this offseason, it won’t be the last time we raise our eyes and our glasses at what Gordon is doing on the field to secondaries across the league.