Week 12 in the NFL began with two blowout wins on Thanksgiving. On Sunday, the Falcons followed suit by routing the Raiders in a 37-point win. The Giants got win No. 4 on the season to move into first in the NFC East, the Titans made a statement in the AFC South and the Patriots kept their dim playoff hopes alive with a last-second field goal. Elsewhere, the Browns escaped an upset scare, and the Vikings pulled off a game-winning drive to just get by the Panthers.
All that and more in Week 12‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.
Standout performer: Patriots K Nick Folk, 2-for-2 FGs, 50-yard game winner
It’s a fine line in football, and Cam Newton was walking it in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over the Cardinals. His late-game interception could have been the backbreaker that essentially ended the Patriots’ slim playoff hopes. But when the team got a second life after a missed field goal, Newton willed the offense into field goal range with a 14-yard run on third-and-13. That determination was critical, as was a 15-yard penalty on Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons at the end of the play. Had the Cardinals won, the question of if it was time for the Patriots to turn things over to Jarrett Stidham might have been asked. But Newton’s resolve was critical to the final outcome, as the Patriots (5-6) still cling to long-shot postseason hopes. — Mike Reiss
Next game: at Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The Cardinals saw their playoff hopes take a hit. But they also saw more of the blueprint to stop quarterback Kyler Murray, who ran for 31 yards in the loss. His inability to make plays with his feet had a clear impact on the rest of the Cardinals’ offense. If the Cardinals want to find success moving forward and possibly make the playoffs, the rest of the offense needs to find a way to make plays when Murray isn’t able to. — Josh Weinfuss
Next game: vs. Rams (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Titans RB Derrick Henry, 178 rushing yards, 3 TDs
The Titans now hold sole possession of the AFC South lead, as they turn their attention to a showdown with the Browns at home next week. Once again, the Titans rode Derrick Henry to a big first-half lead, and Henry finished with 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns. — Turron Davenport
Next game: vs. Browns (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The Colts went from being in position to get a good grasp on first place in the AFC South and an automatic playoff spot to now having an uphill climb to get into the playoffs. The Colts’ final five games are against Houston (twice), at Las Vegas, at Pittsburgh and versus Jacksonville. The Raiders and Steelers are the only teams with a winning record remaining on Indianapolis’ schedule. — Mike Wells
Next game: at Texans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Derrick Henry puts on a show in the first half with 140 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Standout performer: Falcons DT Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries
The Falcons played their best defensive game of the season against the Raiders, forcing five turnovers and producing five sacks. It was the type of defensive effort the Falcons have been looking for over the past few seasons. If they’re able to put together similar performances in the final weeks of the season, Raheem Morris has to like his chances of becoming the permanent head coach. — Harry Lyles Jr.
Next game: vs. Saints (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The Raiders are not elite, and they are not a playoff team. Getting embarrassed in Atlanta showed the Raiders were not ready on Sunday. The question: Can they avoid a repeat of the letdown that sank their season last year — a 34-3 loss at a terrible Jets team that dropped the Raiders’ record to 6-5 en route to a 7-9 finish — in 2020? Las Vegas’ record after the thumping it took in Atlanta? Yeah, 6-5. And guess where the Raiders play next week? Indeed, at the Jets. “I apologize to the Raider Nation,” Las Vegas coach Jon Gruden said after the game. — Paul Gutierrez
Next game: at Jets (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Bills LB A.J. Klein, 13 tackles, 0.5 sacks
Buffalo’s defense is back. Although the Bills still didn’t put together a full, four-quarter effort on both sides of the ball, Sunday’s win over the Chargers represented their best defensive performance of the season, despite allowing 367 (mostly garbage-time) yards. It’s their fifth consecutive impressive game, holding Los Angeles to 3-of-15 on third down; it’s a positive sign as they enter an important stretch run to close the season. Buffalo’s three fourth-quarter turnovers were brutal, but it remains atop the AFC East for at least one more week. “We’re 8-3,” quarterback Josh Allen said. “That’s what our goal was entering this game, whatever it takes.” — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Next game: at 49ers (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday, Dec. 7)
After just a week of practice (since his serious hamstring injury in Week 4), Chargers running back Austin Ekeler looked great with 14 rushes for 44 yards and 11 catches for 85 yards. But the offense couldn’t capitalize on the play of the defense, which provided three takeaways in the second half. — Shelley Smith
Next game: vs. Patriots (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Justin Jefferson, 70 receiving yards, 2 TDs
Mike Zimmer’s assessment of the Vikings’ thrilling win was spot on: Minnesota was “very fortunate” to come away with a victory against Carolina. There have been only a few instances this season when the Vikings successfully clawed back from a deficit and closed out an opponent, after blowing chances to do so against Tennessee and Seattle, which are two playoff-caliber teams. In two of the past three weeks, Minnesota has been able to do just that, albeit against lackluster competition in Chicago and Carolina. But that does not diminish what quarterback Kirk Cousins did on those game-winning drives to help his team seal wins. The two aforementioned wins weren’t pretty, but when it mattered, the Vikings got the job done and kept their playoff hopes alive. — Courtney Cronin
Next game: vs. Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had a chance to be a hero in his return to Minnesota. He wasn’t good enough. Kicker Joey Slye had a chance to be a hero in the final seconds with a 54-yard field goal. He wasn’t good enough. The defense had several chances to be heroic in the final minutes. It wasn’t good enough. In the end, Sunday’s loss to the Vikings summed up this season, in that the Panthers (4-8) aren’t good enough to be a playoff contender, and this loss made sure they won’t be a factor. “Instead of pointing fingers, I’d rather point the thumb back at me. I’m disappointed in myself and my staff tonight,” coach Matt Rhule said. — David Newton
Next game: vs. Broncos (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Dec. 13)
Trailing by six with under a minute to play, Kirk Cousins fires a pass to the end zone for Chad Beebe, who reels in the 10-yard touchdown to put the Vikings ahead.
Standout performer: Dolphins CB Xavien Howard, 1 INT, 3 pass breakups
No matter the quarterback, the Dolphins’ playoff push will depend on their defense. All season, Miami’s unit has been key to the team’s success, and Sunday’s win was another example that it will be just as important down the stretch. The Dolphins’ defense got two interceptions, making it 17 consecutive games with at least one takeaway, best in the NFL. The Jets are a bad team, but the Dolphins continue to show they have a playoff-caliber defense. They’re just waiting for the offense to catch up. — Cameron Wolfe
Next game: vs. Bengals (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Quarterback Sam Darnold returned to the lineup after a two-game absence due to shoulder injury, but he threw two interceptions and failed to get the offense in the end zone — another step backward in his 2020 regression. Clearly, the Darnold-Adam Gase marriage has failed, and they won’t be together much longer. Darnold could be traded in the offseason, and Gase’s days are numbered. — Rich Cimini
Next game: vs. Raiders (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Giants RB Wayne Gallman, 94 rushing yards, 1 TD
The Giants snuck out of Cincinnati with a win and a share of first place in the NFC East. Technically, they’re in first place because they swept Washington. But Sunday’s win didn’t come without a price. Quarterback Daniel Jones left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Colt McCoy. Jones will have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. Coach Joe Judge said he was “optimistic” about Jones being back next week based on what he knows about him as a competitor. Jones said he wasn’t discouraged and was taking it day by day. He conceded it was “tough to say” at this point if this was a long-term injury. The Giants (4-7) better hope not. Their defense needed to close out this game by forcing a pair of turnovers. Up next, four teams (Seattle, Arizona, Cleveland and Baltimore) with winning records. The Giants haven’t beaten a team with a winning record this season. — Jordan Raanan
Next game: at Seahawks (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The Bengals need more from their offense if they want to have a chance at winning another game this season. That means an uptick in production from their quarterbacks not named Joe Burrow. On Sunday, Brandon Allen made his fourth career start and couldn’t find a rhythm in the middle of the game. He was 17-of-29 passing for 136 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a lost fumble that stifled any hopes of a miraculous comeback. When Burrow was on the field this season, the 2020 top overall pick was able to move the offense effectively. While Allen looked good at times, he wasn’t able to do enough to help the Bengals steal a win against the Giants. For the moment, Allen is the best option on the roster. Cincinnati has to hope that more reps with the first-team offense for Allen this week will be enough to boost an offense that will be without Burrow indefinitely. — Ben Baby
Next game: at Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Browns WR Jarvis Landry, 143 receiving yards, 1 TD
Though it wasn’t pretty, the victory clinched Cleveland’s first non-losing season since 2007; the Browns are tied for the second-longest streak of consecutive losing seasons in NFL history. More importantly, the win edged the 8-3 Browns one step closer to finally snapping the longest playoff drought in the league (18 years). Minus multiple key starters, Cleveland’s defense didn’t make many plays Sunday. The Browns’ defense did, however, make the final one. Safety Andrew Sendejo batted down Jacksonville’s passing attempt at a game-tying two-point conversion, and Cleveland escaped Sunday with a victory over the one-win Jaguars. — Jake Trotter
Next game: at Titans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Mike Glennon gives the Jaguars the best chance to win, and he should be the team’s starting quarterback the rest of the season. Glennon completed 20 of 35 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly, he drove the Jaguars down the field late and had them in position to tie the game and potentially force overtime. It was the best the offense has looked in more than a month. While losing out and going 1-15 would be the best thing for the franchise’s future because it would guarantee the Jaguars at worst the No. 2 pick and a shot at quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) and Justin Fields (Ohio State), that’s not the way coach Doug Marrone or any of the players are thinking. Go with Glennon over Gardner Minshew II and Jake Luton. — Mike DiRocco
Next game: at Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Jarvis Landry catches eight passes for 143 yards and a touchdown as the Browns improve to 8-3 with a 27-25 win vs. the Jaguars.
Standout performer: Texans WR Will Fuller V, 171 receiving yards, 2 TDs
Deshaun Watson has been playing well for most of the season, but he had perhaps his best game in Thursday’s victory. He has now thrown 15 passing touchdowns and no interceptions over his past six games. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he is just the fifth different quarterback to post at least that many passing touchdowns without a pick over a six-game span within a single season. In just the Texans’ second game of the season on national TV, Watson gave a great pitch for any future candidate of Houston’s head-coach opening. — Sarah Barshop
Next game: vs. Colts (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The Lions have fired general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia, ending a disastrous head-coaching tenure and sending the franchise into a complete reset. Owner Sheila Ford Hamp said Saturday the losses to Carolina and Houston really made it clear that change needed to happen. Patricia ends his tenure at 13-29-1, having never won more than two consecutive games in his two-plus seasons in Detroit. It was, frankly, a move that needed to be made. Darrell Bevell will be the interim head coach for the rest of the season as the Lions try to figure out who they want to lead their front office and their football team for 2021 and beyond. — Michael Rothstein
Next game: at Bears (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Washington RB Antonio Gibson, 115 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Washington running back Antonio Gibson is becoming a dangerous player. His patience and vision have improved every week, and the nation saw what the rookie third-round pick can do on Thursday. Thanks to Gibson, Washington is developing an identity on offense. He has the ability to make big plays, but he has also been consistently getting positive yards on first down of late — those 4-yard gains that might be nondescript but that coaches love. Washington has many holes, but it has improved enough to factor into the NFC East race over the final five games, thanks to players such as Gibson. It has found a back it can enjoy for a while. — John Keim
Next game: at Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
At 3-8, the Cowboys aren’t out of the NFC East race — but their 41-16 defeat to Washington was crushing in many respects. The day after the tragic death of strength and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul, there was the calf injury suffered by Zack Martin, curious coaching decisions, ineffective offense and a porous run defense. “All of these things that we’re experiencing right now, it’s only going to make us stronger,” linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “We don’t have any quitters. We have fighters in this organization from top to bottom.” — Todd Archer
Next game: at Ravens (5 p.m. ET, Monday, Dec. 7)
CB Stephon Gilmore doesn’t report for New England Patriots’ mandatory minicamp, source says
Gilmore could be making a statement about his contract, as he is scheduled to earn a base salary of $7 million in 2021.
The Patriots had advanced $4.5 million of Gilmore’s 2021 salary to him last year, leading to this year’s low figure.
Gilmore, who turns 31 in September, is in the final year of the five-year, $65 million pact he signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. The deal included $40 million in injury guarantees and $31 million fully guaranteed at signing.
At the time, a contract with those guarantees and an average of $13 million per season was viewed as a strong deal. The cornerback market has since exploded, with Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams topping it with a contract averaging $20 million per season.
Acknowledging they didn’t have specifics of the situation, teammates noted Gilmore’s absence in the locker room Monday, as well as on the practice field.
“I support my brother. I wish he was here, but I support him all the same,” veteran safety Adrian Phillips said. “What he has going, whenever he gets back here, he’ll let you know how it went.”
Longtime captain Matthew Slater added: “That’s a situation I don’t want to get too far into, because it’s frankly none of my business. Obviously you support all your teammates, whether they are here or not.”
Head coach Bill Belichick deflected questions on Gilmore earlier Monday and wouldn’t reveal whether he has given him (or any player) an excused absence. Players who don’t report for mandatory minicamp can be fined up to $93,085 — which breaks down to $15,515 for the first missed day, $31,030 for the second missed day and $46,540 for the third missed day.
Gilmore partially tore his quad in a Week 15 loss last season, landing on injured reserve.
The Boston Globe first reported Gilmore’s absence.
Hamstring forces Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence out of team drills on first day of minicamp
The tightness that limited Lawrence last week in OTAs reemerged during the first day of mandatory minicamp on Monday, forcing the Jaguars to keep him out of team drills. Coach Urban Meyer said that’s likely to happen on Tuesday as well.
“Our trainers and Schotty [passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] are being a little cautious because right now when you’re a month out, you yank a hamstring now you’re going to miss the early part of the training camp,” Meyer said. “That’s that one muscle that, you guys have all seen it like I have, you pull a hamstring at this point you’re going to miss all your summer conditioning so we’re being somewhat conservative on it.
“But he actually could play a game if he had to.”
Lawrence did some work off to the side while the rest of the team did their stretches and warm-ups, but he did participate in individual drills and 7-on-7 sessions. He did not participate in 11-on-11 drills.
Lawrence said he would rather be practicing fully, but understands the Jaguars’ approach.
“It’s been about a week and trying to work it back to full capacity and yeah, it’s a little frustrating just not being able to go full speed, but I’m feeling good,” Lawrence said. “I’m just trying to not have any more setbacks, so taking it slow. Got some good reps today. So start getting more and more each day this week and kind of work back into it.”
The Jaguars have one more day of mandatory minicamp and then break until training camp starts in late July.
Madden NFL 22 teases cover athletes with goats
The Madden NFL 22 game cover will be released later this week. The day when we see which superstar nabs the cover is another big date on the NFL’s offseason calendar.
To promote this year’s cover release, EA Sports is teasing the identity of the athlete with literal goats. Former cover athlete Peyton Hillis interacts with the animals and reacts to the cover.
The video seems to promise two GOAT (greatest of all time) athletes. Given his Super Bowl win last season and his untouchable status as the NFL’s greatest QB, it’s safe to assume that Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady will be one of the athletes featured.
But who could join him? Could it be Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, who lost to Brady in Super Bowl LV? Maybe it’s a former or current Brady collaborator. Whomever it is, the ungulate ad men in the video aren’t saying.
Who do you think will be joining Brady?
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