Week 12 in the NFL brought us plenty of Thanksgiving humor from the Jets and the end of the “QB Killa” era in Philadelphia. The top four remains the same, but the Giants restated their case to be included among the elite and Charlie Batch reminded us that he never really was all that good 10 years in his prime. The playoff picture in the NFC is tight, with two games separating the No. 4 and No. 11 teams, but pretty close to set in the AFC, where only seven teams are above .500.
Coming up: Which 49ers quarterback has a better career winning percentage than Joe Montana? How did the Chargers lose this week? And which stadium is tied with 31 others as the hardest place for the Chiefs to win?
1. Houston (10-1); Last week: 1
Week 12 result: Won at Detroit, 34-31 (OT)
For the second straight game, the Texans needed overtime to win. Against the Lions, they also needed some serious help from the officials, as Justin Forsett was clearly down on his 81-yard touchdown run. Matt Schaub, who received a kick to the groin of debatable intent from Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, said he would not want Suh as a teammate because “that’s not Houston Texan-worthy”. Think Jay Cutler agrees?
Next up: at Tennessee
2. Atlanta (10-1); Last week: 2
Week 12 result: Won at Tampa Bay, 24-23
Only three of Atlanta’s 10 wins have come by more than seven points. Is their ability to win close games a measure of their mettle or a harbinger of playoff flameout to come? Still, can’t argue with results. Matt Bryant’s extra point off Michael Turner’s three-yard touchdown run with eight minutes remaining proved to be the winning margin over Tampa Bay. The Falcons hold a four-game lead in the NFC South with five to play.
Next up: vs. New Orleans
If Mike Vick is declared healthy, who should be the Eagles’ starter?
3. New England (8-3); Last week: 3
Week 12 result: Won at New York Jets, 49-19
Another easy win for the Patriots, in much more hilarious fashion. New England scored five touchdowns in the second quarter, three of them in just a 52-second span that included an 83-yard Tom Brady pass to Shane Vereen and two fumbles returned for scores. Julian Edelman returned one of the fumbles off a Jets’ kick return and also scored on a 56-yard reception, but left the game with a head injury.
Next up: at Miami
4. Denver (8-3); Last week: 4
Week 12 result: Won at Kansas City, 17-9
Peyton Manning threw touchdown passes to Demaryius Thomas and Jacob Tamme. That’s really all you need to say about a win over the Chiefs, as the Broncos’ defense held Kansas City to three field goals. The win was Manning’s 149th in the NFL, passing John Elway to move into second place all-time behind Brett Favre (186). Denver has a four-game lead in the AFC West and the same number of wins as their division rivals combined.
Next up: vs. Tampa Bay
5. San Francisco (8-2-1); Last week: 6
Week 12 result: Won at New Orleans, 31-21
The 49ers’ win over the Saints had everything to do with Jim Harbaugh giving up on tobacco, Diet Coke and Alex Smith, and nothing to do with San Francisco’s defense notching two pick-sixes and sacking Drew Brees five times. Colin Kaepernick threw for a touchdown and ran for another in the win, not necessarily leading the 49ers to victory but certainly doing enough to make his case to be the starting quarterback.
Next up: at St. Louis
6. New York Giants (7-4); Last week: 9
Week 12 result: Won vs. Green Bay, 38-10
Welcome back, two-time Super-Bowl-winning right arm of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. After three games with no touchdown passes, Manning threw three scores and, more importantly, zero interceptions in New York’s surprisingly easy win over Green Bay. Andre Brown suffered a broken fibula in the win and will miss the remainder of the season.
Next up: at Washington
7. Baltimore (9-2); Last week: 7
Week 12 result: Won at San Diego, 16-13 (OT)
The Ravens were on the ropes in San Diego, but this unbelievable play by Ray Rice on 4th-and-29 late in the game allowed them to kick the tying field goal and go on to win in overtime. Rice totaled 164 yards on 30 touches and Joe Flacco threw for 355 yards and one touchdown. Baltimore’s defense sacked Philip Rivers six times.
Next up: vs. Pittsburgh
8. Chicago (8-3); Last week: 10
Week 12 result: Won vs. Minnesota, 28-10
ESPN’s Tom Jackson had some weird things to say about Jay Cutler before Sunday’s game, who threw a touchdown pass in his return to the field after missing 1.5 games with a concussion. He obviously didn’t know the man ties his teammates’ shoes. The Bears ended their two-game losing streak with Cutler’s return, but lost Devin Hester, Matt Forte and Charles Tillman to injury, and guard Lance Louis to a torn ACL.
Next up: vs. Seattle
9. Green Bay (7-4); Last week: 5
Week 12 result: Lost at New York Giants, 38-10
Down 31-10 at halftime, the Packers’ only touchdown came on a long pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson. Rodgers was consistently under pressure from the Giants’ defensive line, which was unbowed by No. 12’s Movember contribution, and the Green Bay defense had no answers for New York’s passing attack. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak.
Next up: vs. Minnesota
10. Pittsburgh (6-5); Last week: 8
Week 12 result: Lost at Cleveland, 20-14
Who would have thought a Steelers offense commanded by Charlie Batch would account for eight turnovers? Batch threw three interceptions, but four Steelers running backs combined for five fumbles. Chris Rainey’s fumble (Turnover No. 7, Fumble No. 4) with 2:25 remaining sealed Pittsburgh’s fate. On the bright side, Ben Roethlisberger might be back for the Week 13 matchup with Baltimore.
Next up: at Baltimore
11. Indianapolis (7-4); Last week: 15
Week 12 result: Won vs. Buffalo, 20-13
T.Y. Hilton picked up where he left off against the Patriots, accounting for two touchdowns as the Colts hung on to beat the Bills. Hilton returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown five minutes into the game and caught an 18-yard touchdown in the third quarter. With Hilton’s recent emergence, it’s fair to ask if Andrew Luck even the best rookie on the Colts. (Just kidding, no it’s not.) In the touching gesture department, two Colts cheerleaders shaved their heads in support of Chuck Pagano.
Next up: at Detroit
12. Seattle (6-5); Last week: 11
Week 12 result: Lost at Miami, 24-21
After their last-second loss in Miami, the Seahawks are 5-0 at home and 1-5 on the road. That does not bode well for their playoff hopes, should they make it, considering they are 2.5 games behind the 49ers in the NFC West. During the loss, it was reported that cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner were suspended four games for using Adderall. But, they got the Taiwanese animation treatment for their trouble. They are also appealing.
Next up: at Chicago
13. Tampa Bay (6-5); Last week: 13
Week 12 result: Lost vs. Atlanta, 24-23
Josh Freeman was held without a touchdown pass for the first time all season as the Buccaneers narrowly missed an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and other playoff contenders. Tampa Bay also lost starting cornerback Eric Wright to a four-game suspension after he tested positive for Adderall, which won’t help a passing defense that is last in the NFL in yards per game.
Next up: at Denver
14. Cincinnati (6-5); Last week: 17
Week 12 result: Won vs. Oakland, 34-10
Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes as the Bengals embarrassed the Raiders in Carson Palmer’s return to Cincinnati. The Bengals led 24-0 at halftime, thanks in part to this sweet touchdown grab by Mohamed Sanu, and the defense forced two turnovers and sacked Palmer four times. A.J. Green’s nine-game touchdown streak came to an end, however.
Next up: at San Diego
15. Minnesota (6-5); Last week: 14
Week 12 result: Lost at Chicago, 28-10
Christian Ponder has regressed slightly. After not throwing an interception in the first four games of the season, Ponder has been picked off nine times in the last seven. The Vikings trail everyone but the Seahawks and Bears in passing yards per game. Adrian Peterson ran for 108 yards, passing the century mark for the fifth straight game, but lost a fumble and missed the team bus before the game, which was obviously the reason the Vikings lost.
Next up: at Green Bay
16. Washington (5-6); Last week: 18
Week 12 result: Won at Dallas, 38-31
Robert Griffin III threw four touchdown passes for the second straight game, fulfilling the ever-important sportswriter narrative of a quarterback winning an NFL game in the same state in which he starred in college. Griffin won the Heisman at Baylor but was never a Cowboys fan, which makes perfect sense because he did not grow up in one of the Dallas fan hotbeds like Akron, OH or Hampton, VA.
Next up: vs. New York Giants
17. New Orleans (5-6); Last week: 12
Week 12 result: Lost vs. San Francisco, 31-21
And the Saints are dead again. New Orleans could not avenge last season’s playoff loss to San Francisco and may have killed their own chances of earning a playoff berth this season. Drew Brees threw three touchdowns, but gave two back as the 49ers returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns. He was also sacked five times.
Next up: at Atlanta
18. Dallas (5-6); Last week: 16
Week 12 result: Lost vs. Washington, 38-31
Tony Romo threw for a career-high 441 yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions. It was the first loss of Romo’s career on Thanksgiving. With what appears to be another forgettable season for the Cowboys, some fans are petitioning the White House to remove Jerry Jones as owner and general manager. It’s the smartest thing someone from Texas has done since the secession talk started.
Next up: vs. Philadelphia
19. Detroit (4-7); Last week: 19
Week 12 result: Lost vs. Houston, 34-31 (OT)
The Lions were hosed by a play that obviously should not have been a touchdown. They were then hosed by their coach, who threw the red challenge flag despite it being a scoring play and therefore automatically reviewed - except when the coach throws the challenge flag, in which case the play is not reviewable. But despair not, Detroit faithful! The NFL is going to change the rule very soon. That will make you feel much better. Oh, and your season is over.
Next up: vs. Indianapolis
20. Miami (5-6); Last week: 20
Week 12 result: Won vs. Seattle, 24-21
No one was watching this game because, c’mon, it’s Seahawks-Dolphins and you have NFL RedZone, until the field opened up at Sun Life Stadium and unleashed a furious stream of...cold, refreshing, probably chemically-enhanced water from the sprinklers. After a brief delay, the teams got back to their mundane brand of football, with Ryan Tannehill driving Miami 65 yards to set up Dan Carpenter’s game-winning field goal from 43 yards as time expired.
Next up: vs. New England
21. San Diego (4-7); Last week: 21
Week 12 result: Lost vs. Baltimore, 16-13 (OT)
You thought 4th-and-26 was bad for the Packers? Try 4th-and-29 for the Chargers, where the ball carrier caught the ball one yard beyond the line of scrimmage and ran for 28 yards. Of course, Ray Rice pales in comparison to the immortal Freddie Mitchell. San Diego once again invented a way to lose, but at least this wasn’t a playoff game. The Chargers’ postseason hopes died weeks ago.
Next up: vs. Cincinnati
22. St. Louis (4-6-1); Last week: 25
Week 12 result: Won at Arizona, 31-17
Janoris Jenkins accounted for two of St. Louis’ four interceptions, returning the first for a 36-yard touchdown and the second for a 39-yard score. The four-interception outburst for the Rams’ defense ended a five-game stretch in which they had not forced a turnover, a span in which they probably not coincidentally had been winless. In fact, it was the Rams’ first win since Week 5 against the Cardinals.
Next up: vs. San Francisco
23. Buffalo (4-7); Last week: 23
Week 12 result: Lost at Indianapolis, 20-13
Buffalo has won one of its last five games, sending another season spiralling into nowhere. Receiver Stevie Johnson questioned the playcalling after the loss, which is something that happens when Chan Gailey is your head coach. The Bills rank seventh in the NFL in rushing yards per game, but are 31st in rushing yards allowed.
Next up: vs. Jacksonville
24. Tennessee (4-7); Last week: 22
Week 12 result: Lost at Jacksonville, 24-19
The Titans moved the ball inside Jacksonville’s 25 six times in their loss, but scored only one touchdown, a six-yard Jake Locker pass to Kenny Britt. In the aftermath of the loss, Tennessee fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. His crime? Not scoring enough points to keep up with a Titans defense that is allowing the second-most points per game (30.5).
Next up: vs. Houston
25. New York Jets (4-7); Last week: 24
Week 12 result: Lost vs. New England, 49-19
Come on, Jets. This, followed by this, followed by this? Too much. The Jets were down 35-3 at halftime and Tebow still couldn’t get in the game. Even Fireman Ed can’t put out this fire. All the feet in the world couldn’t cheer Rex Ryan up.
Next up: vs. Arizona
26. Cleveland (3-8); Last week: 27
Week 12 result: Won vs. Pittsburgh, 20-14
It takes a special kind of team to force eight turnovers and win by only six points. The 2012 Cleveland Browns are that special team. They also lost Brandon Weeden to a concussion, so now the Browns may get to see Colt McCoy work his magic. Joe Banner has the best timing.
Next up: at Oakland
27. Arizona (4-7); Last week: 26
Week 12 result: Lost vs. St. Louis, 31-17
This was the seventh straight loss for the Cardinals, whose 4-0 start seems like it took place before the team moved to Arizona. Third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley threw for 352 yards but was intercepted four times, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Cardinals have used six different quarterbacks since Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season, and that could cost Ken Whisenhunt his job.
Next up: at New York Jets
28. Carolina (3-8); Last week: 29
Week 12 result: at Philadelphia
Not surprisingly, Cam Newton had his best game of the season against the Eagles. Newton led the Panthers to touchdowns on their first two drives, with defender-free passes to Gary Barnidge and Brandon LaFell. He added two rushing touchdowns in the second half and combined for 358 yards (306 passing, 52 rushing) while not turning the ball over. After weeks of late collapses against superior teams, Carolina finally met an inferior opponent.
Next up: at Kansas City
29. PHILADELPHIA (3-8); Last week: 28
Week 12 result: vs. Carolina
The Andy Reid Era is going out in style, with seven consecutive losses and counting. This was likely the last winnable game on the Eagles’ schedule, but fumbles by Bryce Brown and Brandon Boykin killed any chance of a comeback in front of a crowd that was only in it for the jeers. The Eagles’ secondary left not one but two Panthers receivers wide open in the first quarter, leading to two touchdowns. Now, Jason Babin is gone and DeSean Jackson is done for the year after breaking his ribs. The only thing left to ask: Did Andy Reid get fired yet?
Next up: at Dallas
30. Jacksonville (2-9); Last week: 31
Week 12 result: Won vs. Tennessee, 24-19
Jacksonville is undefeated in the one game Chad Henne has started this season, and 1-9 in the games Blaine Gabbert started. Since taking over for Gabbert after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Week 11 loss to the Texans, Henne has thrown six touchdown passes in a little less than two whole games. He’s also invigorated Jaguars’ first-round pick Justin Blackmon, who has 11 catches for 283 yards and two touchdowns since Henne replaced Gabbert.
Next up: at Buffalo
31. Oakland (3-8); Last week: 30
Week 12 result: Lost at Cincinnati, 34-10
The Raiders are second-to-last in the NFL in point differential with minus-138. Only their division-rival Chiefs’ is higher (minus-140). Oakland’s defense allowed more than thirty points for the fourth straight game in Carson Palmer’s Cincinnati “homecoming”. On the plus side, they’ll probably get to face Colt McCoy this week.
Next up: vs. Cleveland
32. Kansas City (1-10); Last week: 32
Week 12 result: Lost vs. Denver, 17-9
Every time the Chiefs play at home, you hear about Arrowhead Stadium being a tough place to play. That must be in reference to the home team, because the Chiefs are 0-6 there this season. Kansas City has not scored a touchdown since the first quarter of their Week 10 loss to the Steelers and are officially eliminated from the playoff race. But hey, three games in a row with a lead.
Next up: vs. Carolina