OK, folks. Week 12 is in the books and the NFL playoff races are heating up. The sixth seed in the AFC is anyone’s at the moment, while we will get a double-digit win team as the fifth, and maybe the sixth, seed in the NFC.
The playoff picture is wild and changes week to week. I love it. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers of the weekend, along with the current playoff standings.
It hasn’t been pretty lately, but the Patriots are still ahead of the Ravens in the standings, even after the Ravens stomped all over the Rams on Monday night. The Patriots’ offense can’t move the ball regularly. I know it was raining Sunday in their 13-9 win over the Cowboys, but that excuse isn’t great. New England once scored 50 points in the snow.
The problem is the Patriots don’t have dynamic playmakers anywhere on offense. They might finally be getting healthier, though. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn is back and rookie N’Keal Harry is playing now. Mohamed Sanu shouldn’t be out long either.
The Patriots’ biggest positive, again, is their defense. The Cowboys entered Foxboro Stadium with the top-ranked offense, according to Football Outsiders. Then, they did not score a touchdown and only averaged 5.4 yards a play. They were 2 of 13 on third down and could never muster enough offense to keep drives going. Amari Cooper had a disappearing act. No catches for the first time in his Cowboys career. Credit Stephon Gilmore, who had Cooper one-on-one for 90 percent of the snaps.
The Patriots’ defense is still elite. They will need to rely on this defense for the rest of the season unless their offense can pick it up.
The Chiefs got the weekend to rest and recover. Oh, and they won their bye week with the Raiders losing to the Jets. The Chiefs have a one-game lead on the Raiders in the AFC West and have tiebreaker for now. They play Oakland next weekend and Andy Reid is something like 10,878-2 after a bye week. When the Chiefs beat the Raiders next weekend like I expect, they will essentially have a three-game lead on the Raiders with the tiebreaker.
The Chiefs would then have to lose three of four games against the Patriots, Broncos, Bears, and Chargers for the Raiders to win the division, and that assumes the Raiders win three of their last games. So, the Chiefs can feel good about their chances of repeating as AFC West champs
3. The wild card teams
Just win, baby, and the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers are doing that. They handled their business Sunday and are currently fifth and sixth in the wild card race, respectively. It wasn’t pretty for either, but they got it done.
The Bills might be one of the worst 8-3 teams ever. They are 25th in team DVOA! The Steelers aren’t good right now at quarterback, but they beat a bad Bengals team anyway after benching Mason Rudolph for Devlin Hodges. Now they get the Browns at home next weekend. That will be crazy.
4. Cleveland Browns
After a terrible 10 days dealing with the aftermath of the Myles Garrett incident, the Browns kicked the crap out of the Dolphins, which is exactly what they needed. They looked like a real offense. The sixth seed in the AFC looks like it’ll go to a 9-7 team, so the 5-6 Browns need to win four out of their last five games, something that seems doable. They have the Bengals twice, plus the Steelers, Cardinals, and Ravens. Watch out for the Browns.
5. Ryan Tannehill
Since he’s entered the lineup for the Titans, all he’s done is win games while putting up impressive stats:
Ryan Tannehill in five starts for the Titans: 98-of-138 (71%), 1,276 yards, 11 TD, 3 INT, plus 3 rushing TD. The Titans are 4-1 in those games. He’s led them back into the playoff mix and is an intriguing name for the 2020 FA QB class.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 25, 2019
Not only has Tannehill positioned his team into the playoff hunt — as they face the division-leading Texans twice down the stretch — but he’s going to get paid this offseason by a desperate team looking for some stability at the position.
1. Oakland Raiders
The media was loving themselves some Raiders the last two weeks. The Raiders went across the country to face the New York Jets in a classic trap game. And the Raiders fell into the trap. They lost, 34-3, and never had a chance.
Sam Darnold tore them apart for 315 passing yards. The Jets’ defense shut down the Oakland rushing attack, holding it to just 68 yards. All that goodwill the Raiders built up over the last few weeks is over now. I don’t think they are good enough to win a wild card spot.
2. Nick Foles
He got paid. He’s set for life. He deserved that money for what he did in Philadelphia. He unfortunately got injured in Week 1 and missed the first half of the season. He came back last week and I had high hopes for the Jaguars, who stayed afloat in his absence with Gardner Minshew.
Well, Foles’ first two games have been underwhelming, and the Jaguars are now out of the playoff hunt. He’s thrown for mostly garbage stats, including Sunday in Tennessee. They were down, 35-3, to the Titans before scoring a couple late touchdowns. Yikes. I was rooting hard for Foles to succeed this season, but it doesn’t appear to be happening. He’s surely going to have another head coach in 2020 and will need to start over.
That was a dominant victory for the 49ers on Sunday Night Football against the Packers. Their pass rush is elite and something they can rely on each week. Offensively, they had another strong performance, especially with George Kittle back in the lineup. While their offense won’t ever blow you away, they play well in the scheme.
The 49ers are the most complete team in the NFC, but their schedule is totally brutal. They still have to play on the road against the Ravens, Saints, and Seahawks. It’ll still be tough to win the division with that schedule, but that doesn’t make their 37-8 win on Sunday any less impactful.
2. New Orleans Saints
They are a weird team against division opponents when a big favorite at home, huh? Last season, they were a 10-point favorite in Week 1 against the Bucs. They lost. This season, they were 13.5-points favorites against the Falcons. They lost. This week, they entered as a 9.5-point favorite against the Panthers and needed a missed point-blank field goal by the Panthers to have a chance to win the game in regulation. They allowed 31 points, which is the most they’ve given up all season.
But this time, they won. The Saints are keeping pace with the 49ers, who are still a game ahead in the NFC standings. The Saints head to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, and then get 10 days to prepare for the 49ers, in a battle that could be for homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs.
3. Seattle Seahawks
The train keeps rolling. The Seahawks don’t ever get style points, but in the NFL that doesn’t matter. Wins do — and they won another road game. Entering the week, the Seahawks under Russell Wilson had been 15-5-1 against the spread playing a 1 p.m. ET kickoff. They are now 16-5-1 in those situations after beating the Eagles. Even more impressive, they are undefeated on the road this season.
They still have matchups remaining against the 49ers and Vikings at home, and the Rams and Panthers on the road. They’re currently the fifth seed, but they still have a good chance at moving up. Losing the tiebreaker to the Saints could hurt, but that No. 2 seed is still there if they can beat out the 49ers for the division.
1. NFC East
Yikes. What happened to the Eagles and Cowboys? Both teams looked awful offensively, and it’s clear this division isn’t any good. Whoever wins will have the No. 4 seed and might be the underdog to the 49ers/Seahawks sitting at No. 5 in the Wild Card Round.
But, I do have some good news for one of these fanbases: The Eagles finish the season with the Dolphins, Giants twice, Washington, and Cowboys at home. The Cowboys have the Bills on Thursday, plus the Rams and Eagles still. The Eagles could easily finish the season on fire to win the NFC East.
2. Jason Garrett
He has to be gone at the end of the season. Just unacceptable coaching in New England. That is all.
3. Green Bay Packers
Frauds. They were coming off a bye and look completely outcoached in San Francisco. The 49ers looked more physical, or at least played more physical. They were faster and quicker. They appeared to know there was a game.
The Packers have a single good win this season, and that’s the Vikings all the way back in Week 2. They’ve beaten the average Cowboys, Raiders, and the Chiefs without Patrick Mahomes. I’m not buying this team. I think the Vikings win the division.
As a refresher, here’s what the playoff standings look like after Week 12:
- New England Patriots (10-1)
- Baltimore Ravens (9-2)
- Houston Texans (7-4)
- Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
- Buffalo Bills (8-3)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
- San Francisco 49ers (10-1)
- New Orleans Saints (9-2)
- Green Bay Packers (8-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
- Seattle Seahawks (9-2)
- Minnesota Vikings (8-3)