And then there was one.
The Patriots bowed out from the ranks of the unbeaten by falling to the Broncos in snowy Denver on Sunday Night Football, leaving the Panthers alone at the top of the pile. New England led by 14 points early in the fourth quarter, but Denver stormed back to take a late lead. The Pats weren't done, and the ever-dependable Stephen Gostkowski forced the game to overtime by hitting a 47-yard field goal as regulation expired. Denver finished it though with a 48-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson on a key third-and-1 on Denver's first possession of the overtime period.
The Broncos' offense looks rejuvenated under Brock Osweiler, and the defense got the job done, even despite starting the game without DeMarcus Ware and losing two key starters in Sylvester Williams and T.J. Ward to injury. The Broncos move to 9-2 and have a potentially key tiebreaker over the Patriots for playoff seeding.
Meanwhile, the Bengals won in convincing fashion over the Rams to move to 9-2, as well. They are pulling away from the Steelers in the AFC North after the Seahawks beat Pittsburgh at home in a wild barnburner of a shootout. It wasn't a characteristic win by the Seahawks, who got 345 yards passing and five touchdowns out of Russell Wilson but surrendered 538 yards of offense, but it was a huge victory nonetheless. Seattle moves to 6-5, above .500 for the first time this year, and have positioned themselves well for another run at the playoffs.
Speaking of a run at the playoffs, the Chiefs have won five in a row after starting the season 1-5, and look like one of the best teams in the league right now after knocking off the Bills in rain-soaked Kansas City. Alex Smith is passing deep bombs (?), third-stringer Spencer Ware has rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns in the last two games and the stifling defense has emerged to become what many thought they could be pre-season.
The Colts and Texans both won to stay notched at first place in the AFC South. Indy beat the streaking Bucs even without Andrew Luck, who remains out with a lacerated kidney. No worry though, as the Colts move to 4-0 on the year when the 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck starts, showing some of that depth on both sides of the ball that some doubted Indianapolis possessed. With Houston's rout of the hapless Saints, both Indy and the Texans sit at 6-5 and there's a solid chance right now that two playoff teams could come out of the AFC South, a weird proposition for what's been probably the worst division in football for years.
The Vikings beat the Falcons to improve to 8-3 while Atlanta continued their nose dive in the NFC South. After starting out the year 5-0, Atlanta has lost five of six games and does not look like a post-season team at this point. Minnesota, on the other hand, continues to play to their identity as a strong defense with a solid run game, and faces a tough matchup next week with Seattle that should have some big playoff seeding implications.
SB Nation presents: The most embarrassing fumble of 2015?
Speaking of that, Washington moved into first place in the mess of the NFC East with a huge win over the Giants. Yeah, yeah, we like that, Kirk Cousins. Elsewhere, the Chargers beat the Jags, the Raiders knocked off the Titans, the Jets beat the Dolphins and the Cardinals narrowly defeated the 49ers.
Win the water cooler:
Arm yourself with a few interesting tidbits from Sunday's action so you can impress your coworkers around the water cooler.
The diminished beard still plays
Ryan Fitzpatrick finished 22 of 37 passing for 277 yards and four touchdowns to no picks in the Jets' 38-20 blowout of the Dolphins, and in doing so moved his season total to 20 passing touchdowns. As my esteemed colleague Ryan Nanni pointed out, two professional football teams of the National Football League -- the 49ers and Rams -- have combined for just 18 touchdown passes on the entire year.
Those 20 touchdowns has Fitzpatrick tied for ninth in the NFL, even with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Ryan Tannehill and Matt Stafford. On the back of a very good defense and some better-than-expected play from Fitz, the Jets are 6-5 and knocking on the door for the playoffs in the AFC. For a bridge option that New York picked up for a 2016 conditional late-round pick (essentially nothing in draft capital terms), that's a pretty solid piece of work so far.
Speaking of getting something for essentially nothing, the Jets gave up a fifth-rounder to pick up Brandon Marshall, and he's rewarded that gamble with 931 yards and nine touchdowns through 11 games. He's on an easy pace to become the first Jets receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards since Jerricho Cotchery did it in 2007.
Chargers avoid punt returns ignominy
In one of the weirdest statistical oddities of the year, San Diego went into this week's matchup with the Jaguars with just one punt return yard all season. The Chargers had 33 times the amount of punt return yards Sunday, though, netting 33 yards on two returns by Javontee Herndon. Phew.
Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates continue chasing history
It's been a rough year for the Chargers but Philip Rivers continues to do as much as he can to carry a shallow, beat-up roster. He threw four touchdown passes in a winning effort to move to 275 on his career. That moved him past Joe Montana to 12th on the all-time career touchdown passes list, even with Vinny Testaverde.
Two of Rivers' touchdown passes this week went to his all-time favorite target, Antonio Gates. A week after a testy exchange on the sideline, the two were on best of terms and hooked up for their 75th and 76th career scoring connections. As Chase Stuart points out, that's the fourth-most touchdown connections between a quarterback-receiver duo in NFL history, tied with Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne. It's just six touchdown connections away from tying Dan Marino and Mark Clayton for the third all time.
The two scores were Gates' 102nd and 103rd career touchdowns, just eight shy of the all time record for a tight end of 111, held by Tony Gonzalez.
Hey, speaking of crazy impressive tight ends, Rob Gronkowski sits at third on the all-time touchdowns list for NFL tight ends, passing Shannon Sharpe with his first-quarter score. As Stuart pointed out, Gronk now has more career touchdown catches than any tight end currently in the NFL Hall of Fame. He's 26 years old. Let that little bit of perspective sink in.
Don't forget about Delanie
As long as we're talking about tight ends, let's just take a minute to appreciate one of the more underrated players in the league in the Titans' Delanie Walker. Walker caught six passes for 91 yards in a losing effort to the Raiders, but now leads all tight ends this year with 59 receptions while coming in third in yards with 708 (behind Gronk and Greg Olsen).
It's easy to get overlooked on a bad team but Walker definitely deserves some praise for his production in Tennessee.
The tale of two halves
The Bills attacked the Chiefs defense in the first half without mercy, primarily feeding Sammy Watkins downfield, and the stats were historic. Tyrod Taylor's 236 first-half passing yards marked the second-highest total for the Bills in the past 15 seasons, and Watkins became the only player this season to have 150-plus receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in the first half.
And yet, the Chiefs won the game. How? Well, Watkins had zero catches for zero yards in the second half. That's making halftime adjustments by Kansas City.
Peterson still rolling
Adrian Peterson is quietly having an amazing season, leading the NFL in rushing yards and a full 126 yards ahead of the second-most prolific rusher this year in Doug Martin. He's setting records along the way, too. With another 158 yards on the ground on Sunday, Peterson moved to 20th on the career rushing yards list, passing O.J. Simpson.
And, if you needed more perspective into the caliber of running back we're witnessing right now, this stat by Michael David Smith shows the kind of company that he shares:
On the list for most career 125-yard rushing games:
46 - Barry Sanders
41 - Jim Brown
38 - Walter Payton
36 - Eric Dickerson
34 - Emmitt Smith
30 - Adrian Peterson
Wow. That is quite a list.
Russell Wilson is heating up
Since Russell Wilson's dismal performance against the Cardinals in Week 10, he has turned things around. He completed 21-of-30 passes for 345 yards against the Steelers on Sunday while throwing a career-high five touchdowns. It also just so happened to be his birthday. He became the first quarterback to throw five touchdowns on his day of birth since Warren Moon (a mentor to Wilson) did that in 1990.
Over his last eight quarters, Wilson is 45 of 59 (76 percent) for 605 yards with eight touchdowns and no picks, including a staggering line against the blitz. When teams send five or more at him, Wilson is 20-for-26 for 352 yards with six touchdowns, no interceptions, and 13.5 yards per attempt (per PFF). That's staring down the gun barrel and pulling the trigger.
Sunday's performance marked the 20th time in Wilson's career that he's thrown multiple touchdown passes without an interception, the most by any player in his first four seasons since the 1970 merger.
DeSean Jackson still dangerous
Kirk Cousins hit DeSean Jackson for a 63-yard touchdown bomb early in the second quarter and it served as a great reminder that Jackson is still one of the league's most effective deep threats. Jackson's big time catch was his 19th career 60-plus-yard touchdown catch, which ties him with Lance Alworth for fourth in NFL history. 49ers great Jerry Rice still holds the all-time record (23).
Steelers WR Martavis Bryant recorded his first career rushing touchdown. He now has 14 TDs (13 receiving, 1 rushing) in his first 16 NFL games.
Final Scores for Week 12:
Lions 45, Eagles 14 (Thursday)
Panthers 33, Cowboys 14 (Thursday)
Bears 17, Packers 13 (Thursday)
Minnesota Vikings 20, Atlanta Falcons 10
Cincinnati Bengals 31, St. Louis Rams 7
Houston Texans 24, New Orleans Saints 6
Indianapolis Colts 25, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12
San Diego Chargers 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 25
Kansas City Chiefs 30, Buffalo Bills 22
Oakland Raiders 24, Tennessee Titans 21
Washington 20, New York Giants 14
New York Jets 38, Miami Dolphins 20
Arizona Cardinals 19, San Francisco 49ers 13
Seattle Seahawks 39, Pittsburgh Steelers 30
Denver Broncos 30, New England Patriots 24 (OT)
The Rams decided not to cover A.J. Green. How'd it go? Not great, Bob.
Tevin Coleman found out that sometimes you eat the Barr and sometimes the Barr eats you.
The Rams denied the Bengals -- and us -- a fat guy touchdown.
Odell Beckham Jr. might have topped his most famous catch with this touchdown.
SB Nation presents: Eli Manning's overthrows lead to good and bad
LeSean McCoy did the Aaron Hernandez touchdown dance again.
T.Y. Hilton caught his first touchdown pass from someone besides Andrew Luck and he celebrated with his own Bluth-like chicken dance.
Meanwhile, Travis Kelce hit the Quan after his touchdown.
How many Dolphins does it take to tackle Chris Ivory? Apparently more than five.
A ref fell on his butt, but it might have saved him from getting blasted by a Chiefs defender.
Which was more NFC East: this interception-catch-interception or the supremely dumb ending of the Giants' loss to Washington?
The Dolphins' onside kick attempt against the Jets went just as poorly as everything else in their 38-20 loss.
Matt Millen finally gave Lions fans an apology they've been waiting years for.
The Seahawks weren't fooled at all when the Steelers tried to run a fake punt with their backup quarterback.
Screw logic -- this play should be a touchdown.
Jimmy Graham is pretty good at catching footballs.
Tramaine Brock is going to think about this dropped interception a lot over the next week.
Justin Houston left the Bills game with a knee injury and did not return.
Bills rookie RB Karlos Williams hurt his shoulder and did not come back in against the Chiefs.
An already thin Giants offensive line suffered a big blow when Geoff Schwartz fractured his left leg against Washington.
Allen Hurns was stretchered off late against the Chargers. He gave the crowd a thumbs up before he left and the Jaguars announced that he sustained a concussion.
Garrett Celek, the 49ers' starting tight end after they traded Vernon Davis, was carted off the field with an ankle injury.
Oof. The Seahawks lost Jimmy Graham for the season with a torn patellar tendon.
Ben Roethlisberger entered the league's concussion protocol and left the Seahawks game late.