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Top takeaways from NFL Week 12

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Gifted an additional day of NFL action.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The football world was gifted an additional day of NFL action this week as the league celebrated Thanksgiving. That day’s slate of action saw the Dallas Cowboys earn a first place tie in the NFC East with a win over the division-rival Washington Redskins.

Then, on Sunday, the Vikings might have saved their season in a win over the struggling Packers on prime time television. Prior to that, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles also seemingly saved their season with a comeback victory over the Giants.

These are among the top takeaways from NFL’s Week 12 action.

 

Kirk Cousins vastly outplayed Aaron Rodgers in huge NFC North tilt

Christopher Hanewinckel, USA Today Sports

The Green Bay Packers entered Sunday night in need of a win if the team didn’t want to face irrelevance over the final five weeks of the season. Having seen two long drives result in touchdowns over the first 16 minutes of the game, it sure looked like Aaron Rodgers and Co. would come out on top here.


That’s when Green Bay’s offense stalled big time while Kirk Cousins picked apart an injury-plagued Packers secondary. In the end, Cousins completed 29-of-38 passes for 342 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in a flawless performance. Meanwhile, Rodgers put up only 198 yards on 28 attempts in Minnesota’s 24-17 win. With this victory, Minnesota is 6-4-1 on the season. The Packers? Well, they’re toast at 4-6-1.

 

Chargers rebound in a big way

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Following last week’s narrow loss to the Denver Broncos, Philip Rivers and the Chargers knew they needed a rebound performance. The tonic here was apparently an Arizona Cardinals team that entered Sunday’s action with a 2-8 record, because Los Angeles destroyed the lesser squad.

After seeing Arizona open up a 10-0 lead, Los Angeles scored the game’s final 45 points in a stirring overall performance. Rivers completed 28-of-29 passes for 259 yards with three touchdowns — breaking an NFL record in the process. Meanwhile, Joey Bosa showed himself to be 100 percent healthy en route to racking up two sacks in the blowout win. Now at 8-3, the Chargers remain alive in the AFC West race heading into Week 13.

 

Cowboys make their statement in the NFC East

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knew it would be tough sledding for the Redskins heading into Dallas Thanksgiving afternoon. Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith had just recently suffered a devastating leg injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Colt McCoy has never proven himself to be a starter-caliber quarterback, and we saw more of that in a 31-23 Cowboys win.

But it’s more about what Jason Garrett and Co. did in this one. Proving himself to be a difference maker in just his fourth game with the Cowboys, Amari Cooper scored touchdowns of 40 and 90 yards in helping Dallas romp all over Washington’s previously stout defense. Now at 6-5 on the season, Dallas seems to be the class of the NFC East. No one would have imagined this just three short weeks ago.

 

No reason for the Ravens to turn back to Joe Flacco

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Making his second career NFL start on Sunday, Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson struggled to an extent throwing the ball. He tossed two interceptions, including one in the end zone. But at the end of the day, Jackson led the Ravens to their second consecutive win with him under center.

This included the former Heisman winner tallying 249 total yards and two touchdowns. All said, Baltimore went for 242 yards on the ground in a game that saw the team punt just two times. Now at 6-5 on the season, Baltimore is right in the thick of the AFC Playoff race. At this point, John Harbaugh can’t possibly turn back to Joe Flacco, right?

 

It’s time to move on from Marvin Lewis

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

We sound like a broken record here. Every year for the past decade, it seems that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has been on the hot seat. In fact, it was noted late last season that he was simply going to resign. That didn’t happen. Instead, Lewis received a contract extension. It really does seem like Lewis has an unflattering tape he’s holding over the brass in Cincinnati.

Following their 35-20 blowout loss to the cross-state rival Browns on Sunday, one really has to wonder why Lewis is still employed. More than his lack of playoff success, the Bengals have regressed terribly over the past two seasons. Getting blown out at home by the Browns only magnifies this further. At what point will the Bengals’ brass say “enough is enough?”

 

Wasted opportunities dooms Panthers

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Not too often does a team see its running back go off for 237 total yards, only to lose a game. But that’s exactly the situation Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers find themselves in following a brutal 30-27 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Outside of not taking advantage of Christian McCaffrey’s awesome game, Carolina missed out on a ton of opportunities en route to a third consecutive loss.

Four of the Panthers’ drives inside Seattle’s 20-yard line resulted in a grand total of six points. Meanwhile, Graham Gano missed what would had been a go-ahead 52-yard field goal with less than two minutes left. Overall, it was an absolutely huge game for Carolina to lose. It is now tied with Seattle and Washington in the NFC Playoff race at 6-5. Head-to-head losses to both teams will hurt big time moving forward.

 

Big Ben throws away Steelers’ winning streak

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The bad version of Ben Roethlisberger showed up at Mile High Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Sure the 462 yards he threw for will look good on the box score. But 97 of those came on this JuJu Smith-Schuster catch-and-run. Outside of that, Big Ben was all sorts of sloppy in a 24-17 loss to Denver.

The most obvious mistake was this interception in the end zone with the game on the line in the final minute. Forcing it to Antonio Brown, Big Ben made a rookie mistake. It led to a game-ending interception and Pittsburgh’s first loss since all the way back in Week 4.

 

Eagles save season

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It was rather obvious heading into Sunday’s matchup with the last-place Giants. If the defending champs didn’t find a way to win, their playoff aspirations would’ve been thrown completely out the window. And for a while there, it looked like Philadelphia was going to lose yet another game.

That’s until Philadelphia’s defense stepped up big time in the second half, holding the Giants to a grand total of three points. Meanwhile, Josh Adams did major damage on the ground. He went for 84 yards and a touchdown, including 29 yards on three attempts on the Eagles’ go-ahead touchdown drive to open the fourth quarter. Now at 5-6, Philadelphia is just one game behind Dallas in the NFC East.

 

49ers are a hot mess

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend’s action didn’t get off to a great start for the downtrodden 49ers. Second-year linebacker and former first-round pick Reuben Foster was arrested Saturday night at the team’s hotel in Tampa after an alleged DV situation. He was ultimately released by San Francisco hours later.

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If that wasn’t enough, this team’s performance against the Buccaneers on Sunday was as uninspiring as it was sloppy. San Francisco fell by the score of 27-9 against a Bucs squad that had lost seven of its past eight games. Now at 2-9 on the season, it’s reasonable to conclude that the 49ers won’t win another game. If so, a season that started with playoff aspirations will end with way more questions than answers.

 

Yet another humiliating effort from the Jaguars

Blake Bortles

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

It’s now becoming clear that last season’s success in Jacksonville was a mirage. With pretty much the same roster of players, these Jaguars are now among the worst teams in the NFL. That came out in droves Sunday against a bad Buffalo Bills team in Western New York.

Whether it was Blake Bortles continuing to struggle under center or Leonard Fournette making a fool of himself, Jacksonville couldn’t get out of its own way in a 24-21 loss. Bortles threw for just 127 yards with two interceptions. Fournette was ejected for fighting. Meanwhile, Jalen Ramsey seemed to think it made sense to trash talk the Bills in a game Jacksonville ultimately lost. Now losers of seven consecutive games, the Jaguars themselves are the joke.

 

Baker Mayfield, Offensive Rookie of the Year

Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a three-touchdown performance in a near-flawless effort against Atlanta back in Week 10, Mayfield came out of his team’s bye on absolute fire against a bad Bengals defense. How good was he in Cleveland’s 35-20 win? The rookie No. 1 overall pick completed 19-of-26 passes for 258 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s now tallied 474 yards and seven touchdowns with zero picks over the past two games.

In leading Cleveland to its first winning streak since 2014 and first road win in 26 attempts, Mayfield proved himself to by the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. It might not go that way with how Saquon Barkley is playing in Jersey, but Mayfield deserves this award. Any thought given to the idea that he was not ready to start can now be thrown completely out the window. The dude is a legit starting quarterback in the NFL and has given his Browns renewed hope.