Welcome to the Week 12 NFL recap! We are entering the final month of the season so that means it’s time for the NFL Playoff Machine! It also means that by now most teams have fallen into a particular category and this week I will designate which category every team falls under. In addition I’ll have my takes on last week’s games but they will be a little shorter this time. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Let’s see which category each team falls under with a month to go:
The Super Bowl Contenders: Carolina Panthers (11-0), New England Patriots (10-1), Arizona Cardinals (9-2), Denver Broncos (9-2), Cincinnati Bengals (9-2).
Obviously these aren’t the only teams that can win the Super Bowl (after all we have quite a few examples of fringe playoff teams getting hot over the last month and riding that momentum to a title), but right now I think no one would be surprised if any of these five teams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February. I thought about giving the Panthers their own spot as they are the only undefeated team left, but perfect season or not their goal is still to win the Super Bowl. I do think that they have become the favorite thanks to all of the Patriots’ injuries but they are not a lock by any means. The Cardinals will want revenge for losing to the Panthers in last year’s playoffs while the Patriots and the Bengals have offenses capable of overcoming Carolina’s defense and the Broncos have a defense capable of shutting down Cam Newton.
Want A Little More Than Just Make Playoffs: Minnesota Vikings (8-3), Green Bay Packers (7-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5), Seattle Seahawks (6-5), Indianapolis Colts (6-5), Kansas City Chiefs (6-5).
These are teams who will not be satisfied with just making the playoffs. If there is a “hot playoff team” this season, it will probably come from this group with the Seahawks and the Steelers as the likely suspects. The Vikings are here and not in the contenders group for the time being, but could easily jump if they beat the Seahawks this week and either beat or come close to beating the Cardinals next week. The Packers are also a team that could jump up but they have been so unimpressive the last few weeks I don’t think you can call them contenders at the moment. The Chiefs are currently the hot team but I wonder if they might have peaked a few weeks too early and will cool off by the start of the playoffs. The Colts are only in this group because they are still placing high expectations on themselves even though those expectations seem a little unrealistic at the moment.
Just Happy If They Make The Playoffs: Atlanta Falcons (6-5), Houston Texans (6-5), New York Jets (6-5), Chicago Bears (5-6), Buffalo Bills (5-6), New York Giants (5-6), Washington Redskins (5-6).
In college basketball this group would be called the “bubble”. At least one of these teams will make the playoffs (because the rules state someone has to win the NFC East) but there is a possibility that two or even three could play in January. What separates these teams from the group above is that there are no expectations if they make the playoffs. The Texans and Bears have turned things around and can already consider this season a success as long as they don’t self-combust over the last few weeks. The playoffs would just be icing on the cake for them. The Jets and the Bills want to make the playoffs just so they can start off their new coaching regimes with some promise for the future. The Falcons want to make the playoffs just so they don’t become one of the few teams in NFL history to start 5-0 and miss the playoffs. The Redskins just want to make their fans proud of them again and winning the division, and subsequently making the playoffs, would be the best way to do that. Finally, while you can never count out Eli Manning in the postseason, I’m pretty sure that Giants’ fans know that expecting more than a playoff berth would be asking for too much from this team.
Teams Trying To End The Season With Some Momentum: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6), Oakland Raiders (5-6), Detroit Lions (4-7), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7), San Diego Chargers (3-8).
While the Buccaneers, Raiders, and Lions all still have an outside shot of winning a wild card spot, I placed them in this category because they also still have a chance at a top-10 draft pick if they tank the rest of the season. Honestly, either direction would help the team in the long run but they need to decide now before they go 7-9 and miss out on both. The Jaguars and Chargers on the other hand would actually benefit from finishing 7-9 or 8-8 so they can gain momentum going into next season, where they would have a shot to take a step forward.
Want Nightmare Season Just To End: New Orleans Saints (4-7), Miami Dolphins (4-7), St. Louis Rams (4-7), Baltimore Ravens (4-7), Philadelphia Eagles (4-7), Dallas Cowboys (3-8).
While all of these teams theoretically still have a chance to make the playoffs, all are very unlikely to be in contention much longer due to the turmoil that is currently surrounding them. The Ravens and the Cowboys are actually decent teams that in a parallel world where they avoided injuries and bad luck would be in the thick of the playoff race. The Saints and the Rams are on the fence as to whether or not they should blow things up and start rebuilding. The Dolphins are doing their best not to have to rebuild by getting rid of coaches left and right. Then we have Philadelphia. The Eagles shouldn’t be in this category as they are only one game behind the Redskins and the Giants in the NFC East race. With neither of those teams likely to run the table, the Eagles still have plenty of chances to make up the deficit and win the division. That is, if they hadn’t imploded these past two weeks. I don’t see how they turn things around after just allowing 10 passing touchdowns to Jameis Winston and Matthew Stafford back-to-back. In fact, I’d be surprised if they win another game this season. Even if this team somehow wins the division, I doubt this season would still be considered anything else than a failure unless they won a playoff game.
Fighting For Draft Position: San Francisco 49ers (3-8), Tennessee Titans (2-9), Cleveland Browns (2-9).
The difference between these three teams (since technically they aren’t yet eliminated from playoff contention) and the ones above is that the expectations for these teams were considerably lower heading into the season, making these situations nowhere near as dire. I know some may argue that the 49ers are a proud organization and so this should be considered a nightmare season for San Francisco, but everyone else knew this team would stink this season. You could also make an argument for the Titans and Browns, stating they will probably have to start over after this season. However, neither was expected to do anything this season so a rebuild was always possible from the beginning. There’s a chance that some other team earns the first overall pick, but right now these three teams are the leaders.
How I Did With My Week 12 NFL Predictions:
- Arizona 19, San Francisco 13: This was maybe the worst officiated game I have ever seen. People have been talking about the terrible “roughing the passer “call on Quinton Dial’s sack of Carson Palmer and how the Cardinals weren’t penalized for snapping the ball after the play clock expired, but there were some equally horrendous call that went against Arizona. The referees called the 49ers’ “too many men on the field” penalty as a live ball foul and cost the Cardinals a down in the redzone and on another play an incomplete pass was ruled as “illegal touching” because they thought the receiver caught it with two feet in-bounds and you can’t review penalties. (1-0)
- Detroit 45, Philadelphia 14: I actually thought the Lions might obliterate the Eagles but I didn’t have the guts to make the prediction last week. Now that I know that the Eagles’ defense has checked out, I won’t be afraid to make this prediction in the future. (2-0)
- Carolina 33, Dallas 14: Maybe it’s for the best that Tony Romo got injured again so the Cowboys can tank the rest of the season and get a high draft pick instead of fighting for a useless playoff spot that will do nothing to help the franchise going forward. (3-0)
- Chicago 17, Green Bay 13: You are on national television, during Thanksgiving, where you are retiring Brett Favre’s number and have the great Bart Starr in attendance, and you play like that? Bears deserve a lot of credit for the win, but I just don’t understand how the Packers have fallen off so much. (3-1)
- Minnesota 20, Atlanta 10: I gave up on the Falcons last week so this didn’t come as a surprise. What did catch my eye was how the Vikings rebounded from the home loss to Green Bay. Also, I stand by what I said last week about Adrian Peterson deserving to be in the MVP conversation. (4-1)
- Kansas City 30, Buffalo 22: The Chiefs look like the hot playoff team at the moment but I’m not sure they can keep up this level of play for the rest of the season and during a playoff run. I mean, sooner or later Alex Smith will throw another interception. (5-1)
- Cincinnati 31, St. Louis 7: Bengals got back on track with a dominant win over a Rams team that is falling apart fast. Also, since the Texans are playing great ball and have a shot at either a division title or a wild card spot, the Bengals no longer have a bad loss on their resume. (6-1)
- Oakland 24, Tennessee 21: Entertaining game between two young teams. However, the fact it was this hard for the Raiders to win tells me this isn’t the same team from the beginning of the season and that even though they won they probably aren’t in the playoff race anymore. (7-1)
- Indianapolis 25, Tampa Bay 12: A humbling loss for the Buccaneers, who may have gotten caught up in all the media excitement of them possibly making the playoffs. Also, how well does Matt Hasselbeck have to play before we start talking about whether or not Andrew Luck gets his job back? (I’m talking strictly this season. It may be in the Colts’ best interest to sit him out the rest of this season and guarantee he’s healthy for next season.) (8-1)
- New York Jets 38, Miami 20: A season-saving win for the Jets, who have somehow found their swagger after looking rather bland the last few weeks. Then again, it may just be a product of facing the Dolphins. Their game against the Giants will be a better test to see if they can make a run. (9-1)
- Houston 24, New Orleans 6: As I already mentioned, the Texans have not only played their way into a tie for the division, but have also put themselves near the top of the wild card standings. Such a huge turnaround for a team that couldn’t decide on quarterback for the first several weeks. (10-1)
- Washington 20, New York Giants 14: If the Redskins win the division that means they will play a home game in the playoffs. That means the Redskins will have good Kirk Cousins (11TDs, 2INTs at home) in the playoffs and will give the NFC East a chance to actually win a playoff game. (10-2)
- San Diego 31, Jacksonville 25: What little hopes of the Jaguars somehow winning the AFC South probably ended this weekend when you combine this loss with how the Colts and Texans are playing right now. However, there’s still a lot going for this team if they finish strong. (10-3)
- Seattle 39, Pittsburgh 30: A huge win for the Seahawks that currently has them in the final wild card spot. However, in that game they also lost Jimmy Graham (who was starting to click with the offense) and confirmed that the Legion Of Boom is no longer an elite defense, just a good one. (10-4)
- Denver 30, New England 24: It should be made clear that the Broncos, not Brock Osweiler, beat the Patriots on Sunday night. That being said, with every win Osweiler gets, it becomes harder and harder to argue that Peyton Manning should get his job back. (10-5)
- Baltimore 33, Cleveland 27: Just read this. It’s a list of all 43 games the Browns have lost in the last minute since they returned in 1999. I thought as a Cardinals fan I had seen heartbreak. Aside from the Super Bowl loss, I can’t begin to comprehend the amount of heartbreak the Browns have endured. (10-6)
Week 11 Record: 10-6
Season Record: 110-66 (.625)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2