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Winners, losers from NFL Week 12: Trevor Lawrence has defining moment, NFC powers collapse

NFL Week 12
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Unio / USA TODAY NETWORK

NFL Week 12 is coming to a close and between entertaining Thanksgiving football and some thrilling finishes on Sunday, this will definitely be one to remember for many teams and players.

Football fans enjoyed plenty of entertainment on Thanksgiving. While all three games were entertaining, the Dallas Cowboys’ victory over the New York Giants might have the greatest ramifications on the NFL playoffs.

A single moment can change the trajectory of an entire team or a single player. In the case of Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday’s fourth-quarter comeback victory might have represented both. NFL Week 12 could be a franchise-changing moment.

Related: NFL Week 12 scores

Winners also mean there are losers. It’s not hard to find them, ranging from Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett to problems for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, changes are coming.

Let’s dive into the winners and losers from NFL Week 12.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys cement status as Super Bowl contender

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Division games, especially on a short week, are always challenging. The New York Giants have posed a problem for the Dallas Cowboys in recent years, even when New York wasn’t a playoff contender. On Thanksgiving, Dallas erased any remaining belief that these teams were neck-and-neck in the NFL hierarchy.

Related: Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants smashes NFL television records

The Ezekiel Elliott-Tony Pollard duo combined for 152 rushing yards, forming the perfect thunder-and-lightning combo that makes this rushing attack so dangerous. While Dak Prescott was far from perfect he lifts the ceiling of the Cowboys’ offense. Pair one of the best NFL defenses with an offense averaging 36 points per game in the last month and you’ve got a bonafide Super Bowl contender and that’s before Odell Beckham Jr. joins the mix.

Loser: Nathaniel Hackett seals his fate

NFL: Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for the Denver Broncos to be honest. They hired Nathaniel Hackett almost entirely to convince Aaron Rodgers to demand a trade. It didn’t work and now Denver is experiencing one of the worst first-year coaching experiences in recent memory.

Firing Hackett goes beyond a single game. A team with Russell Wilson is now averaging 14.3 and points and 319 total yards per game. It’s not something any organization can tolerate. Besides, Hackett stopped calling plays after Week 10 and he has an assistant covering clock management. Ownership didn’t hire Hackett, they will not have any trouble firing him.

Winner: Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars have defining moment

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Lawrence needed this moment. The Jaguars’ second-year quarterback showed flashes of the player selected with the No. 1 overall pick who received generational hype. Prior to Sunday, though, Lawrence had a career 58.6 QB rating with a 2-4 TD-INT ratio and a 53.9% completion rate when trailing in a game with under two minutes remaining.

Trailing by a touchdown with 90 seconds left, Lawrence delivered a strike on fourth-and-5 to keep the drive alive. On his game-winning touchdown drive, the Jaguars’ star covered 81 yards on six completions and hit Zay Jones for the game-winner. Jacksonville and its franchise quarterback lacked that signature comeback, the final hurdle to be viewed as a legitimate threat. After NFL Week 12, it’s clear the Jaguars’ climb to the top is beginning.

Loser: Tampa Bay Buccaneers are sunk

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cleveland Browns
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

After taking on water for much of the season, it finally started to look like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers found their way back into contention. The victory over he Seattle Seahawks, right before the bye, offered enough reason for optimism as Tom Brady took the field in NFL Week 12.

Related: Highest-paid NFL quarterbacks

Instead, we saw the same team that has frustrated the fan base and coaching staff all year. Nick Chubb decimated Tampa Bay’s run defense, with Cleveland becoming the fifth team to rush for 150-plus yards against the Buccaneers this season. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay converted just 26.7% of its third-down attempts with penalties and a lack of explosive plays doing even more damage. Tampa Bay might host a playoff game this year, but a team many viewed as a Super Bowl contender is destined for a first-round exit.

Winner: Mike White changes the New York Jets season

NFL: Chicago Bears at New York Jets
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets waited far too long to bench Zach Wilson. Fortunately, the former top pick opened the door for his benching with comments that angered the locker room. While the Jets’ front office is making it clear how much they still love Wilson, it’s clear which quarterback needs to start moving forward.

Simplicity works when you have a great defense and playmakers on offense. Mike White executed Mike LaFleur’s offense beautifully. Quick throws to Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore opened up big plays downfield, opportunities both young wideouts happily welcomed. Coming out of NFL Week 12 with a 7-4 record, White at least gives New York a shot against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 4.

Loser: All-In strategies by New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

NFL fans want to see their favorite team be aggressive when there is an opportunity to win, making whatever moves are necessary to increase their Super Bowl odds. The problem is what happens when that reckless pursuit of immediate wins backfires.

The Los Angeles Rams are a perfect example. Constantly flipping first-round picks for players who could make an immediate impact works initially, but there is a cost to everything. Los Angeles suffered massive losses on the offensive line and it could never find a way to film them. It’s led to the deterioration of the entire offense and the same lack of depth is starting to hurt the defense, too. Suddenly, a team viewed as a Super Bowl contender is one of the worst teams in the NFL and it will enter 2023 without a first-round pick or any cap space to improve.

At least Los Angeles has a Super Bowl to show for it. The New Orleans Saints have spent a decade mortgaging their future to keep their window alive. Even when rebuilding was the obvious move, the Saints’ front office created a larger debt just so it could fall short in the playoffs every year. It’s time to pay the bill. New Orleans is $50 million over the 2023 salary cap and it won’t have its 2023 first- or 2024 second-round picks.