Scrapping for a foothold in the playoff chase.
Some pretty big stuff went down in NFL Week 12 as contenders scrapped for a foothold in the playoff chase heading into the season’s final quarter.
One game that featured teams on the other end of the spectrum gave us one of the most poetic moments of the season.
With only two teams on a bye this week, there was plenty of stuff to digest.
These were the biggest winners and losers from the action.
Winner: Browns get revenge
Cleveland did some incredible stuff in the first half on the road against Cincinnati Sunday. The Browns put up 28 points in the first half — essentially putting the game away before halftime. It was the first time since 1999 that they’d scored that many points in a first half.
It was also the first road win in 26 tries, saving the Browns from the embarrassment of setting another dubious NFL record.
Along the way, Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb continued to show they’re going to be centerpieces in Cleveland for a long time. Mayfield threw multiple touchdowns for the fifth game in a row (he finished with four and no interceptions!), and Chubb racked up 128 yards with two touchdowns.
Oh, and they did it all against their former head coach.
Loser: Who’s trash now, Ramsey?
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey made headlines before the season for an interview he did in which he blasted many of the league’s quarterbacks. Among them, he singled Buffalo’s Josh Allen out, calling him “trash.” He would also take to social media to troll Allen, making his disdain for the rookie all the more clear.
Well, Allen and the Bills took it to Ramsey and the Jaguars on Sunday, winning 24-21 in Buffalo, and honestly the game wasn’t really as close as all that. Allen outplayed Blake Bortles, throwing a gorgeous 75-yard touchdown pass and scoring twice, helping his team hand Jacksonville its seventh loss in a row.
Right now, it’s clear that the Jags are trash. Being dismantled by Allen and the Bills at this point in the season accentuated that fact
Winner: Lamar and Gus do it again
For the second weekend in a row, Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards led a winning offensive attack as the Baltimore Ravens easily cruised past the Oakland Raiders.
Jackson accounted for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and Edwards was brilliant on the ground going for 118 yards on 23 carries — a lot of that coming in the second half as the Ravens protected the lead.
Earlier on Sunday before the games began, a report emerged that Jackson had a “strong shot” to retain the job even if Joe Flacco is healthy. Based on the way things have gone the past two weeks — Baltimore snapped a three-game losing streak last weekend and is now very much in the playoff hunt — benching the rookie would be a tough sell.
Loser: Oh, No, Gano!
There are a few things that stand out as big mistakes by Carolina on Sunday in their three-point loss to Seattle. The decision to go for it on fourth down at Seattle’s five-yard line on their first offensive possession backfired, for one. Cam Newton’s interception in the end zone on the first drive of the second half was brutal, too.
At the least, those mistakes cost Carolina potentially six points.
But despite them, the Panthers had a real chance to win at the end of the game. Newton and the offense moved into field-goal range with under two minutes remaining. Then, just like last weekend, Graham Gano — usually extremely reliable — missed the potential game-winner.
Seattle would drive down the field and converted the actual game-winner with time expiring, instead. Now at 6-5, having lost three straight games, a playoff spot is in no way guaranteed for these Panthers.
Winner: Philip Rivers getting better with age
The Los Angeles Chargers had no trouble dispatching the two-win Arizona Cardinals at home Sunday afternoon, winning 45-10. A huge reason why the game was so easily won was that Rivers put together a historic performance, breaking two NFL records and tying another before leaving the game early with the outcome well in hand.
All told, Rivers completed an astonishing 28-of-29 passes for 259 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. It really was one of the most brilliant displays of passing the NFL has ever seen.
The Chargers might have a dark cloud hanging over this, however, as Melvin Gordon exited the game with a knee injury.
Loser: Adam Gase goes conservative, blows huge lead
The Miami Dolphins have now lost six of their last eight games after dropping Sunday’s road game to the Indianapolis Colts. A lot of factors have played into this team’s devolution.
But on Sunday the players really did enough to win. Xavier Howard picked off Andrew Luck twice in 14 seconds. Ryan Tannehill came back from his shoulder injury strong, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Fins had a 24-14 lead after Kenyan Drake punched in a 14-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
They would run just six more offensive plays the rest of the game for a total of minus-one yard. Gase got way too conservative with his play calling in the fourth quarter, allowing Andrew Luck to lead his 21st career fourth-quarter comeback.
Winner: Dallas finally has its Big 3 again
The Dallas Cowboys are primed for a late-season push into the playoffs. With their big win on Thanksgiving Day over Washington, the ‘Boys are now in first place in the NFC East and have momentum on their side.
A big catalyst for this surge has been the arrival of Amari Cooper. Thursday’s incredible coming-out party — Cooper had eight catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns — showed what the Dallas offense is capable of doing with a dynamic receiver in the fold.
Now with a clear Big 3 — Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Cooper — Dallas finally has the weapons on offense to potentially get back to winning playoff games once again.
Loser: Big Blue with a big choke in Philly
Odell Beckham’s biggest wish for the 2018 season doesn’t appear to be coming true, after all.
The New York Giants had the defending champs on the ropes in a big way in the first half. They scored on their first four offensive possessions and jumped out to a 19-3 lead. Saquon Barkley was a big reason for this early success, and his 51-yard beauty of a touchdown gave them the 16-point lead near the end of the second quarter.
Then the wheels came off.
Inexplicably, Pat Shurmur didn’t ride his phenomenal rookie running back, who only had 13 carries in the game (for 101 yards). Instead, the offense once again was on Eli Manning’s shoulders, and that strategy predictably failed. Manning’s final six drives amounted to three points, four punts, one interception and the end of the game.
The Philadelphia Eagles scored 22 of the game’s final 25 points en route to a 25-22 victory.
Winner: Vikings back on track
After getting roughed up by the Chicago Bears in their last game, and with the playoff chase heating up in the NFC, Minnesota needed a big win Sunday night. The Vikings got it, beating the Green Bay Packers 24-17.
Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs were fantastic. Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Sheldon Richardson were phenomenal going against Green Bay’s decrepit offensive line, and Aaron Rodgers had a rough night because of it.
Now at 6-4-1 this season, with five games left to play, the Vikings are in fourth place among NFC playoff contenders. They’re just a game-and-a-half behind Chicago in the NFC North, and they’ll face the Bears in the final game of the regular season. This hasn’t been a dream season by any means, but the Vikings are in great shape to make noise when the games really count in January.
Loser: Second-half turnovers doom Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers turned the ball over four times in Denver Sunday in their 24-17 loss to the Broncos. Three of those turnovers came in the second half, and two of them led directly to Denver touchdowns.
The Steelers had just gone up by a touchdown after Ben Roethlisberger connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 97-yard touchdown strike (watch here). The next drive, he tried to force feed Antonio Brown, overshooting his star by a considerable amount for his first of two interceptions. Two plays later, Denver tied the game up.
Two Pittsburgh possessions later, James Conner coughed up a fumble, which led to an 11-play touchdown-scoring drive for the Broncos, who took a one-touchdown lead. Remarkably, Pittsburgh had a chance to tie the game up at the end but that’s when Big Ben inexplicably tried to force the ball into Brown again, even though he was not remotely open in the end zone.