Greetings, readers! We're back after the Thanksgiving holiday with more nonsense about the NFL. The country's most popular sport had one heck of a day on Thursday, with two solid games followed by an absolute beatdown. More on that in just a second. I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and that they enjoyed the games this week.
Of course, we have to start with the first game and the absolutely abhorrent rule that basically allowed the Texans to win. As I understand it, the rule goes something like this: if a coach challenges a play that was going to be reviewed, his team is penalized 15 yards and no review takes place. In this case, the TD that should not have been was not reviewed because Lions coach Jim Schwartz challenged the play, even though all TD's are reviewed automatically. Because Schwartz threw the flag, the play was not reviewed and the TD stood, even though it was never a TD in the first place! What a bunch of...gizzards. Much as I'd love to think otherwise, the Texans are 10-1 and have a stranglehold on the division and the AFC as a whole.
The Cowboys took on Washington as well, and while there wasn't much in the way of controversy, my favorite team still managed to end up on the losing side. There wasn't a lot of excitement either until the second half. RGIII and the one or two decent receivers he has managed to put up 28 before the first half was over, and despite the Cowboys' comeback attempt, it was indeed over by halftime.
Lastly, the New England Patriots put up another spectacular beatdown. This time, the Jets were the victim. I think there was probably a little bit of concern when Gronk went out, but Tom Brady and the rest of his cadre decided to put that to rest quickly. The effort was assisted by the defense and special teams, which put up a couple of TD's by themselves, taking the onus off of Brady just a bit. All in all, a fun game to watch, unless you're Fireman Ed. Or a less notable Jets fan.
Let's move on to Sunday's games. First up is the 10-1 Falcons. They had a little trouble with the Bucs, but this is no surprise. The Bucs have been playing well recently and Atlanta has had problems putting teams away. It looks like they'll be the top seed in the NFC as the only team that's close is San Francisco, and they're burdened with a tie. I guess Chicago could be considered close as well, but I don't trust them to finish the deal.
Speaking of the Bears, they're 8-3, as is Denver. Chicago didn't have much trouble with Minnesota. Jay Cutler came back after missing the 49ers game; obviously, given the score and the win, he played well enough. Denver wasn't quite as fortunate, as they had problems playing in Kansas City all day. Peyton Manning did just enough to win and keep his Comeback Player and MVP candidacy alive. But it was far too close for comfort.
Indianapolis won against Buffalo and is now 7-4. Currently, they're the fifth seed in the AFC, which means they'd be heading out to Denver if things hold up. That would just be serendipitous, wouldn't it? People are calling the Colts a surprise team, but I don't see anything really "surprising" about them. Reggie Wayne was one of the only holdovers from the 2011 squad and has played like an elite WR. Andrew Luck, obviously, is the rookie of the year. The other receivers are serviceable, and RB Vick Ballard has won a game by himself and played well generally.
4th & 29. That play was many things, depending on the observer. But the result was that Baltimore won and San Diego didn't. If the fate of coach Norv Turner wasn't already decided, I think that play is the one that ensures that he gets fired. Of course, since they're so far out of the division race, they're likely not making the playoffs. Even the Wild Card looks out of reach; they'll likely end up under .500, and though the sixth seed is up for grabs, I don't think San Diego has a chance for it unless they win out. How likely is that? Not very. Baltimore is 9-2 despite some shaky play of late. Joe Flacco has regressed from supposedly "elite" back to bottom-third in QB play. How that works out in the playoffs, I'm not sure; Flacco could conceivably raise his level of play when the games mean more.
Colin Kaepernick started another game for the 49ers and not surprisingly, it was a win. Some were thinking that the Superdome crowd (and decibel level) would derail the rookie. And for most of the first half, they were right! Then the defense showed up and made some big plays, and the rookie's confidence grew as he played better in the second half. I'm not too big on the whole QB controversy nonsense; as long as Kaepernick is playing well, there's really no reason to sit him, especially for a guy that isn't better. People can make arguments about completion % and the other things Alex Smith brings to the table (notably, wins), but really, the guy just throws screen passes and other short balls and doesn't really look to throw it down the field. Kaepernick, on the other hand, can get the ball down the field. The offense isn't handcuffed when he's in there.
The last game on Sunday was between the Giants and Packers. Funnily enough, after delivering a beatdown a few Sundays ago in front of the entire country, they succumbed to a Giants team that had previously been moribund. Aaron Rodgers has grown out the 70's mustache again and this time it didn't do anything to help. In fact, not many guys on the team really showed up. Thus, they fell in the Rankings while the Giants got back in again.
Here are the Rankings for Week 12:
1.) Houston (10-1) [no change]
An easy game, albeit a divisional opponent, after a lucky break.
2.) Atlanta (10-1) [no change]
Another divisional game on a short week. Hard to see how the Falcons don't get upset.
3.) Baltimore (9-2) [no change]
Flying back from San Diego and getting the Steelers again has to be tough. But if Roethlisberger is still out, it's gotta be another win for the Ravens.
4.) San Francisco (8-2-1) [no change]
Another meeting with the team they tied with. I really hope another tie isn't in the offing.
5.) New England (8-3) [+1]
After beating down one division rival, the Pats get a chance to beat down another one.
6.) Denver (8-3) [+1]
Manning &co. get a chance to play the Bucs. Hope Von Miller and the rest of the defense are up to taking on Doug Martin.
7.) Chicago (8-3) [+1]
Playing a team without their starting corners (pending appeal, of course) has to get Cutler and Marshall salivating.
8.) Indianapolis (7-4) [+2]
The "most surprising" team in the NFL heads to Detroit with a chance to go 8-4.
9.) NY Giants (7-4) [-]
Back in the Rankings after a few weeks, they head to Washington in a battle of overrateds.
10.) Green Bay (7-4) [-5]
One bad game, or a sign of decline? I'm leaning toward the former...for the moment.
That's all for this week. See you next week.
Three Games to Watch (Week 13):
New Orleans @ Atlanta (Thursday, NFL Network)
Tampa Bay @ Denver (Sunday, FOX)
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (Sunday, CBS*)
*edit: I had mistakenly attributed this game to NBC in the previous version; also, we can't edit blogs any more? Ridiculous.