Given that this was a battle between teams with a combined record of 10-20, it was only logical to conclude that there were be countless mistakes. That’s exactly how this game unfolded, as both teams repeatedly shot themselves in the foot.
The Texans were first to commit a blunder when Deshaun Watson missed an open Keke Coutee on a deep shot. The Lions then took the reigns with several mistakes. Matthew Stafford threw a pick-six right to J.J. Watt on a failed screen, followed by a Jonathan Williams lost fumble. The Texans converted with a touchdown, but the kicker whiffed on an extra point. Kerryon Johnson then fumbled in field goal range, only to have the Texans cough up the ball on the very next play, when C.J. Prosise lost the ball, resulting in a Detroit touchdown.
All of that occurred in the first half, and there were even more blunders prior to halftime. Will Fuller caught a touchdown, but saw that negated by a hold. Jordan Akins then dropped a touchdown, the first of two he would commit in this contest. The first drop would’ve been a tough catch, but the second hit him right in the hands. With an Akins touchdown, the Texans would’ve extended their lead to 30-17 in the third quarter, rather than 26-17.
That did not end up mattering because the Lions continued to crush themselves with mistakes. Stafford tossed a near-interception on a deep shot, and then T.J. Hockenson dropped a pass and was flagged for offensive pass interference to negate a 21-yard reception. The Lions then failed on a fourth down in which they decided to run with their fullback for some reason. The game effectively ended on the next drive when Watson fired a touchdown to Will Fuller on a fake-run flea-flicker trick play.
Watson rebounded from his early miss to Coutee with a monstrous performance. Watson finished 17-of-25 for 318 yards and four touchdowns. He also scrambled five times for 27 rushing yards. As mentioned, he had a fifth score negated by a hold, as well as sixth and seven potential touchdowns ruined by Akins’ drops. Watson had no difficulty throwing into a secondary missing its top two cornerbacks. Jeff Okudah was already sidelined, while Desmond Trufant was knocked out with an injury.
Despite the nullified touchdown, Fuller still found a way to score twice. The Lions had no answer for him, as Fuller caught six passes for 171 yards and the two touchdowns. He also drew an interference flag. Brandin Cooks also had a nice yardage game – five catches, 85 yards – but failed to reach the end zone.
Duke Johnson has struggled to fill in for David Johnson as a runner, and that continued to be the case in this contest, as he rushed for only 37 yards on nine carries. However, he was able to catch three passes for 43 receiving yards and a touchdown to help his fantasy owners.
Detroit’s running game was better than Houston’s, but the Lions weren’t able to stick with it because they trailed throughout the second half. D’Andre Swift was sidelined, so Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson split the workload. Peterson rumbled for 55 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, while Johnson (11-46) did some good work as a receiver out of the backfield with four catches for 52 receiving yards.
Stafford played better than expected, considering his injured thumb. However, being down Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola proved to be too much, as Stafford didn’t have too many viable targets at his disposal. Stafford made a number of mistakes as a result, as detailed earlier.
Stafford finished 28-of-42 for 295 yards, one touchdown and an interception, which was the Watt pick-six. Stafford should have been picked off on a second occasion. He’ll improve when Golladay returns from injury, and some extended time off will allow his thumb to heal.
Despite Hockenson’s two aforementioned blunders, the talented tight end still led the team in receiving with five catches for 89 yards. Marvin Jones made six grabs, but for only 48 yards. He dropped a pass at the end of regulation. Mohamed Sanu (4-32) caught a garbage-time touchdown.
Redskins 41, Cowboys 16
The Cowboys just emerged with a victory over the Vikings, so there was plenty of optimism about their chances of claiming the division. That came crushing down in yet another embarrassing Thanksgiving loss. In their latest Turkey Day debacle, Dallas’ defeat was a byproduct of a crucial injury and three key mistakes.
The crucial injury was to Zack Martin, who suffered a calf ailment in the opening quarter. Dallas moving Martin to right tackle was a key component in their victory over the Vikings, as their blocking and communication improved greatly. When Martin went down, I tweeted that this would change the game completely, and it did. The Cowboys had far more problems blocking without Martin.
The huge blunders occurred to give the Redskins quick scores on very short fields. The first occasion was a fourth-and-inches pass that fell incomplete, when an easy sneak would have moved the sticks. Thanks to Dalton Schultz’s personal-foul penalty, the Redskins took over on the Dallas 20-yard line and quickly scored a touchdown. Then, to begin the third quarter, the Cowboys had possession in a 17-13 deficit. Ezekiel Elliott ran the ball and fumbled for the sixth time this year, granting the Redskins another easy score, which was a field goal this time.
Thanks to these two instances, the Cowboys were down by a touchdown rather than being up 13-10. With the blocking problems stemming from Martin’s absence, the Cowboys simply didn’t have a good chance to get back into the game, especially when the third mistake, an epically horrific fake punt of theirs, failed. Down just 20-16, Dallas tried a trick-play fake punt where a player had a run-pass option, but was tackled for no gain. Antonio Gibson scored on the very next play to expand the lead to 11. The Redskins, who turned Dallas’ three blunders into 17 points, never looked back.
Gibson had a huge performance, as the Cowboys showed a complete inability to stop the run. Gibson gained 115 yards and three touchdowns on 20 attempts, showing some great power and burst. He was also a big part of the passing attack, as he hauled in five passes for 21 receiving yards.
Alex Smith continued his Comeback Player of the Year campaign by managing this game well. He went 19-of-26 for 149 yards, one touchdown and an interception in which he panicked under pressure and threw the ball right to Jaylon Smith. The Dallas linebacker nearly ran the turnover the distance, which would have tied the game, but Terry McLaurin chased him down with a fantastic effort play. Leighton Vander Esch could have prevented this by blocking McLaurin, but he coasted on the play.
Speaking of McLaurin, the Cowboys sold out to stop him, but he still ended up catching seven passes for 92 yards. Logan Thomas (4-20) caught a touchdown.
McLaurin was second in receiving in this game, finishing behind Amari Cooper, who caught six passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. He drew an interference flag as well. CeeDee Lamb (5-21) also should have scored, but he dropped an easy catch in the end zone.
Elliott, as mentioned, also committed a blunder. He had a miserable Thanksgiving, as he was limited to just 32 yards on 10 carries to go along with his lost fumble. Elliott had a 20-yard rush negated by a hold.
Dalton struggled with the lack of protection, going 25-of-35 for 215 yards, one touchdown and a garbage-time interception, where he panicked under pressure and threw the ball right to Montez Sweat. Unlike Jaylon Smith, Sweat was able to run into the end zone.
Bills 27, Chargers 17
When Anthony Lynn is ultimately fired as head coach of the Chargers, he can publish a book about how to mismanage the clock in the NFL. The announcers in this game constantly berated Lynn for failing to manage the clock correctly, and it ultimately cost the Chargers a chance to win the game at the very end.
Lynn took some conspicuous timeouts early in the game, but his biggest blunders occurred late. Down 10, the Chargers inexplicably hit a Hail Mary bomb on a fourth-and-27 to give them a chance to bring the margin to a one-score deficit, either with a touchdown pass or a quick field goal. Regardless, the Chargers, with no timeouts, had to spike the ball to stop the clock. Instead, they decided to run the ball. With no timeouts left. Yes, this is something they did, and then they did it again two plays later on what would end up being the final snap of the afternoon!
Lynn is a terrible head coach because he simply cannot manage games correctly. He’s also been guilty of blowing late leads, though the Bills tried their hardest to do that in this contest. Buffalo was up 24-6 at one point, but was guilty of three turnovers to give the Chargers a chance. Devin Singletary and Josh Allen both fumbled, and then Allen heaved an interception off his back foot. Had this not happened, the Bills would have won easily, though that wouldn’t have given us a chance to laugh at Lynn and his horrible game-management skills.
Allen, despite battling a Charger defense missing some key players – namely Melvin Ingram and Casey Hayward – didn’t have his best performance in this game. He moved the chains well at times, but made a number of mistakes. In addition to the two turnovers detailed earlier, Allen had a lost fumble turned into an incomplete pass following replay review, and he saw a potential interception dropped by the Chargers. The catalyst for these struggles was Joey Bosa, who made Allen’s life a living nightmare with his relentless pressure.
Allen finished 18-of-24 for 157 yards, one touchdown and two turnovers. He also scrambled nine times for 32 rushing yards and a second score. Allen had to leave the game just prior to halftime when he had his leg twisted awkwardly, but he missed just one play. This ruined a drive, however, as Matt Barkley took a sack from Bosa on his lone snap. This was just one of Bosa’s three sacks. Bosa also made a huge tackle for loss on Allen on a third-down scramble.
Save for Gabriel Davis, the Buffalo receivers disappointed despite a positive matchup. Davis led the way with three catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Neither Stefon Diggs (7-39) nor Cole Beasley (2-25) did much as fantasy receivers, though Beasley threw a touchdown to Davis on a trick play. Diggs, meanwhile, drew a 47-yard pass interference flag in the opening quarter to set up an Allen touchdown to Dawson Knox.
The Bills ran well, with Singletary gaining 82 yards on 11 carries, edging out Zack Moss (9-59).
Going back to the Chargers, Justin Herbert really struggled with his accuracy in this game, which wasn’t a surprise, given that he happened to be a rookie quarterback going up a great, defensive-minded coach. This was apparent when Herbert missed Keenan Allen for a potential touchdown early in this contest. It was that sort of an afternoon for Herbert.
Herbert finished with a decent stat line – 31-of-52, 316 yards, one touchdown and an interception – but most of that came after the Bills established a 24-6 lead. A Herbert had just 125 yards in the opening half, and a big chunk of his final number came on the aforementioned Hail Mary.
The Bills were able to limit Keenan Allen well, holding the elite receiver to four catches for 40 yards, though he was able to score a touchdown. Mike Williams (3-26) also disappointed, while Hunter Henry (7-67) performed well.
Part of the reason for Allen’s diminished stat line was Austin Ekeler’s presence. Returning from injury, Ekeler led the team in receiving, hauling in 11 of his 16 targets for 85 receiving yards. He also rushed for 44 yards on 14 carries. He was vultured by Joshua Kelley (7-35) at the goal line.
Giants 19, Bengals 17
The Giants had a chance to move into first place in the NFC East with a win over the Bengals. They were given a pair of gifts, as the Redskins’ win over the Cowboys was huge because of New York’s season sweep of the team. Meanwhile, the Bengals would be without Joe Burrow, so this would surely be an easy victory for the Giants.
That, however, was not the case, as the Giants committed numerous blunders, especially in the early going. They surrendered a kickoff return touchdown, and they missed out on points when Darius Slayton dropped a deep pass and Evan Engram lost a fumble in the red zone. All of this occurred in the opening half, so this was just a 10-10 affair at intermission even though the Giants outgained the Bengals, 223-66, prior to intermission.
The Giants seemed to take control of the game in the second half when they stopped making mistakes, but disaster struck when Daniel Jones suffered a leg injury on a scramble. He tried to stay on the field on a couple of occasions, but had to leave immediately each time. Colt McCoy stepped in and preserved the win, but was very shaky. Thus, depending on the severity of Jones’ leg malady, this could end up being a Pyrrhic victory for the Giants.
Jones was 16-of-27 for 213 yards to go along with six scrambles for 19 rushing yards. McCoy, meanwhile, was 6-of-10 for only 31 yards. While Jones has been a turnover machine earlier this season, it’s clear that there’s a huge disparity between the two quarterbacks. The Giants likely won’t win another game as long as McCoy is forced into starting.
Despite Engram’s lost fumble, he still managed to lead the Giants in receiving. Engram caught six passes for 129 yards, doing most of his damage in the opening half. Sterling Shepard (7-64) was next, while Slayton didn’t catch a single pass, thanks to the horrible drop and McCoy’s ineptitude.
Wayne Gallman did some nice work versus Cincinnati’s poor defense, rushing for 94 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
Cincinnati also had a backup running back making the start, though Giovani Bernard didn’t fare as well as Gallman did. Bernard was limited to 32 yards on eight carries.
Speaking of backups, Brandon Allen struggled in his first start for Joe Burrow, going 17-of-29 for 136 yards, one garbage-time touchdown and an interception forced into tight coverage. Despite these poor numbers, most of Allen’s stats came on a late drive when the Giants were up 19-10, resulting in a back-door cover. Allen had just 53 yards in the opening half, and he nearly had a second pick when he forced a horrible pass into triple coverage.
Tee Higgins (5-44) caught Allen’s garbage-time touchdown, and he also led the team in receiving. The only other Bengal with more than 20 receiving yards was Drew Sample (4-40). Neither Tyler Boyd (3-15) nor A.J. Green (0 catches) could do anything because of Allen’s poor passing ability.
Titans 45, Colts 26
Tennessee supporters may not like me saying this, but it’s difficult to take this result seriously. The Colts were extremely short-handed in this contest after an exhausting win over the Packers last week. The Colts were missing their Pro Bowl center, Ryan Kelly, elite defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and several other players in the front seven.
The Buckner absence was huge, as it severely worsened the Indianapolis run defense. This was apparent on the opening drive of the game when Derrick Henry pounded through Indianapolis’ defensive front with ease. Henry ultimately scored, the first of three times he did so in the first half. Henry ended up rushing for 140 yards and three scores on 17 carries. Those weren’t his final numbers. That’s what he did prior to intermission!
Henry didn’t do much after the break – he finished with 178 yards on 27 attempts – but only because the Titans began using D’Onta Foreman and Jeremy McNichols as the result of this game being such a blowout. The final result, 45-26, isn’t even indicative of how lopsided this was because of some garbage touchdowns by Indianapolis at the end of regulation.
Henry nearly had a fourth touchdown, but was “vultured” by Ryan Tannehill on a read-option run at the goal line. Tannehill did well as a passer as well, going 13-of-22 for 221 yards and a score. Tannehill didn’t have to throw very much in the second half; otherwise, he would have eclipsed the 300-yard barrier.
A big chunk of Tannehill’s passing yardage, 69 yards, resulted on one play when A.J. Brown ran away from the Indianapolis defenders on the long score. Brown bulldozed through the opposition last week, and this time, he sprinted away from them. This was part of Brown’s huge day in which he caught four passes for 98 yards and the touchdown. Corey Davis (3-70) drew a key interference flag on a third down in the second quarter, which ultimately led to one of Henry’s three touchdowns. Two drives later, Davis made an incredible sliding catch to set up Tannehill’s touchdown run just prior to intermission.
T.Y. Hilton played well, too, so if there’s a silver lining for the Colts in this game, it’s that their No. 1 receiver was actually productive for a change. Hilton, who drew an interference flag early in the contest, led the way with four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Granted, most of this occurred late, so it’s not much of a silver lining.
Elsewhere in the Indianapolis’ receiving corps, Trey Burton made a few tough, contested catches to finish with three grabs for 42 yards and a touchdown. Michael Pittman (2-28) saw nine targets, but didn’t do much with them.
Philip Rivers struggled with pressure in this contest, which hasn’t been a common occurrence for him with the Colts. Kelly’s absence, however, had a hand in that. Rivers finished 24-of-42 for 295 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on a desperation heave. Rivers was lucky he wasn’t intercepted twice, as the Titans dropped a potential pick-six just prior to halftime.
With Jonathan Taylor also sidelined, Nyheim Hines led the team with 10 carries, but generated only 29 rushing yards. Hines was much more productive as a receiver out of the backfield with eight catches for 66 receiving yards. Hines nearly scored on one play, but was vultured by Jacoby Brissett on a sneak.
Vikings 28, Panthers 27
In one of the most bizarre turn of events you’ll ever see in a football game, the Panthers scored a touchdown to the game at seven at the end of the second quarter. The next time the offense touched the ball, Carolina was leading 21-10!
This is what happens when the opponent is guilty of two consecutive turnovers turned into touchdowns. The Vikings, up 10-7 following a field goal to close out the opening half, were responsible for this, as Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook were guilty of coughing up the ball on those two plays. Both turnovers were returned by rookie Jeremy Chinn.
The two turnovers put the Vikings in a huge hole, and it didn’t help when they saw that their comeback was thwarted with another give-away, a muffed punt by Chad Beebe. This gave the Panthers possession in the red zone with two minutes remaining, up 24-21. However, the Panthers mustered only a field goal, which still granted the Vikings a chance with a 27-21 deficit. Cousins put together a great drive, capped off with a touchdown to Beebe, who redeemed himself.
The Panthers, however, had one more chance, and a Teddy Bridgewater bomb to Curtis Samuel moved the Panthers into field goal range. Joey Slye had a chance for the win with six seconds remaining, but hooked a field goal from 54 to allow the Vikings to hold on to an improbable victory.
Cousins rebounded well from an ugly start in which he had just 84 first-half yards and the lost fumble returned for a touchdown. He had no issues throwing against a Donte Jackson-less Carolina secondary in the second half, despite missing Adam Thielen. Cousins finished 34-of-45 for 307 yards and three touchdowns. He was on fire in the fourth quarter, completing 11 consecutive passes for a stretch.
Justin Jefferson came up big in the wake of Thielen’s absence, which was not a surprise, given how dominant he’s been as a rookie. Jefferson caught seven passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns, trailing only Olabisi Johnson (7-74) on the stat sheet. Jefferson has a great chance to win Offensive Rookie of the Year if Herbert has a mediocre December.
Elsewhere in the Minnesota receiving corps, Beebe had a nice stat line – seven catches, 68 yards, one touchdown – to make up for his muffed punt. Kyle Rudolph (7-68) also did well.
Cook had to leave the game on his lost fumble returned for a touchdown because of an injury, but he was able to return after missing about 13 minutes of game action. That would explain why he was limited to just 61 yards on 18 carries. Cook also caught four passes for 21 receiving yards.
Speaking of injured skill-position players, D.J. Moore suffered a non-contact injury on Carolina’s penultimate possession. It ruined a day that would have been much better for him had Bridgewater not missed him despite being open in the end zone during a second-quarter throw. Bridgewater then failed to connect with Moore on what would’ve been a touchdown in the second half. Moore caught four passes for 61 yards, finishing behind Robby Anderson (4-94) and Samuel (5-72). Anderson scored on the same drive in which Bridgewater missed Moore on what happened to be a great play-action fake. However, he dropped a pass in the fourth quarter that would’ve given Carolina a first-and-10 in the red zone.
Bridgewater had a slow start to this game, completing just two of his first nine passes. Included in that was a horrible interception in a tight window that occurred in the red zone and two blatant misses in Moore’s direction. Bridgewater eventually improved to finish 19-of-36 for 267 yards, one touchdown and a pick, but he got hurt on his final throw of the game. It’s unclear how severe that injury is.
Mike Davis made Bridgewater’s play-action opportunities possible, as he and the other Carolina backs had some nice runs early in the contest. Davis finished with 55 yards on 15 carries, with Minnesota clamping down on the rush in the second half.
Patriots 20, Cardinals 17
Bill Belichick has a long history of defeating rookie quarterbacks, especially at home. Kyler Murray is in his second season, but hadn’t seen a Belichick scheme prior to this contest. Thus, it was no surprise that Murray struggled this week, especially when considering that he entered this game with an injured shoulder.
Murray didn’t play poorly, but he made mistakes and looked hesitant to throw at times, almost as if he was confused by what he was seeing. One such hesitation occurred in the second frame when Murray was lucky that a potential pick was dropped after he released the ball too late. Another happened during Murray’s turnover in the third quarter, where he waited to pass too long and had the ball batted at the line of scrimmage. A New England player secured the interception, and the Patriots ended up scoring via a James White run on the ensuing possession to get the Patriots their first lead of the game, 17-10.
The Cardinals ultimately battled back to tie the game, but the veteran of the two quarterbacks came through in the clutch after performing poorly earlier in the afternoon. Newton scrambled for a 14-yard run on a third-and-13, and also picked up 15 extra yards on a helmet hit as he was falling out of bounds. This moved the Patriots into field goal range, allowing Nick Folk to hit a 50-yard try to win the game.
Murray finished 23-of-34 for only 170 yards and the aforementioned interception. Murray missed out on a touchdown when Christian Kirk dropped a ball in the end zone, but this was a poor showing for him. Luckily for Murray, he has to battle Bill Belichick only once every four years.
Murray wasn’t the only Cardinal who struggled, as DeAndre Hopkins was limited to five catches for 55 yards. Hopkins has a poor history against Belichick, so his pedestrian numbers can’t be a surprise. Nevertheless, he led the Cardinals in receiving, finishing ahead of Andy Isabella (4-33), who saw more action because of Larry Fitzgerald’s minor illness. Kirk (3-19) hurt himself with the aforementioned drop.
Arizona’s touchdown production came from Kenyan Drake, who tallied 78 yards and two scores on 22 carries. Drake had a chance at a third touchdown, but was stuffed at the goal line on fourth down on the final play of the opening half. This was a very deflating play, as the Cardinals failed to score on a drive that lasted the final seven minutes of the second quarter. The possession featured Kirk’s touchdown drop and another potential score – a KeeSean Johnson catch – that was overturned because it was ruled shy of the goal line.
New England’s touchdowns came from a running back as well. Damien Harris led the team with 47 yards on 14 carries, but James White (5-18) was the one who scored twice. Surprisingly, White caught only one pass.
Newton, despite the heroic run on the final drive, had an ugly game. He completed just half of his passes, going 9-of-18 for 84 yards and two interceptions, though he ran for 46 yards on nine scrambles. One pick occurred early when his arm was hit upon release, setting up Drake’s first touchdown. Newton’s second pick, which should have been negated by illegal contact, also led to a scoring opportunity, but Lil’Zane Gonzalez missed a 45-yard field goal. Newton was so bad that he apologized to Josh McDaniels when the offensive coordinator congratulated him for the win.
Thanks to Newton’s passing struggles, only two Patriots caught passes besides White: Jakobi Meyers (5-52) and Damiere Byrd (3-33).
Dolphins 20, Jets 3
Adam Gase had a plan. He was going to start Sam Darnold for the first time in weeks and also call plays this game after relinquishing those duties earlier in the season. Of course, more Gase and more Darnold means more losses for the Jets, which is all part of the plan to obtain Trevor Lawrence, as seen in the 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
Darnold’s quarterbacking and Gase’s play-calling were both predictably awful. Darnold committed two interceptions, with one being n a third-and-long when he threw very late across his body. Darnold went 16-of-27 for 192 yards otherwise. He looks lost under Gase, but it won’t be impossible for him to play better under a different coach on another team next year.
Conversely, Ryan Fitzpatrick played well while starting in favor of Miami’s young quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. Fitzpatrick moved the chains well, going 24-of-39 for 257 yards and two touchdowns. He would’ve led the Dolphins to more points, but they made some sloppy mistakes. There were some unforced penalties that ruined an early drive, and then both Matt Breida and Patrick Laird lost fumbles in the second half. Laird’s fumble occurred in field goal range, ruining a potential scoring drive.
With Fitzpatrick under center, both DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki became viable fantasy options again. Parker had a monster game against the Jets’ banged-up cornerbacks, catching eight passes for 119 yards. Gesicki, meanwhile, caught two balls for 35 yards and a touchdown. No other Dolphin player logged more than 20 receiving yards, as Fitzpatrick spread the ball around otherwise.
With Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin sidelined, DeAndre Washington – not the fumble-prone Breida and Laird – led the Dolphins in rushing with 49 yards on 13 carries. Breida (8-36) also contributed, but was guilty of the aforementioned blunder.
Frank Gore led the game in rushing yardage, picking up 74 yards on 18 carries. One would think the Jets would try out a younger running back, but Gase’s wet dream is to pound Gore for 3-yard gains all afternoon.
Darnold played his first game with a fully intact receiving corps all year, but it didn’t end up mattering. Breshad Perriman (4-79) led the Jets in receiving, followed by Denzel Mims (4-67), who was guilty of an offensive pass interference to disrupt a nice drive in the second half. Jamison Crowder (3-31) was a disappointment.
Browns 27, Jaguars 25
The Browns entered this game as touchdown road favorites, but had trouble putting the Jaguars away, due to their own incompetence. They made a number of mistakes, including some by Baker Mayfield, who missed a number of easy passes. For instance, Mayfield had a wide-open Rashard Higgins for a touchdown, but whiffed in his direction because he threw off his back foot for no reason. Mayfield later missed Kareem Hunt in the flat for what would’ve been a big gain as well in the fourth quarter, which could have iced the game.
Mayfield’s targets also made some blunders. Harrison Bryant lost a fumble to give the Jaguars possession Cleveland territory and later dropped a touchdown. All of these missed scoring opportunities gave the Jaguars a final chance with six minutes to go. Mike Glennon put together a nice drive, but was stopped just outside of the end zone. However, another Cleveland mistake, a roughing-the-passer penalty on Olivier Vernon, gave the Jaguars a fresh set of downs in the red zone. The Jaguars capitalized with a James Robinson touchdown, as he moved the pile into the end zone. The Jaguars needed a two-point conversion to tie, but Glennon had no one available when he rolled left, and his pass fell incomplete to end the game.
Mayfield finished 19-of-29 for 258 yards and two touchdowns. The stat line looks good, and Mayfield played well at times, but he missed some very easy throws that would have cost him in a tougher matchup.
Jarvis Landry had a monstrous performance, which wasn’t a surprise, given Jacksonville’s injuries at cornerback. Landry caught eight passes for 143 yards and a touchdown, getting open easily against a team missing its top three corners.
Excluding Landry, only two Cleveland players logged more than 15 receiving yards: Nick Chubb (3-32) and Kha’Darel Hodge (3-31). Austin Hooper caught two passes for only 13 yards, but scored a touchdown.
Speaking of Chubb, he was expected to have a big performance and was able to live up to it. He rumbled for 144 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries to go along with his receiving work. Hunt (10-62) didn’t do nearly as much.
James Robinson also put together a nice rushing performance, gaining 128 yards and the aforementioned touchdown on 22 attempts. He continued to be a big part of the passing attack, as he caught five passes for 31 receiving yards.
Glennon did a fine job managing the game, as he was able to go 20-of-35 for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Although he missed Keenan Cole for what would’ve been a deep touchdown, Glennon proved that he’s a capable backup in the NFL, unlike the anemic Jake Luton.
Glennon’s best throw was a 46-yard touchdown bomb to Collin Johnson, who led the Jaguars in receiving with four grabs for 96 yards. Cole (3-44) and Laviska Shenault (3-31) also contributed.
EDITOR’S NOTE: So much for Derek Carr being the second coming of Joe Montana. Thanks for showing up, Raiders!
Las Vegas’ playoff hopes were dealt a serious blow with an ugly road loss to the 4-7 Falcons. The Raiders were flat out of the gate, and Derek Carr was a turnover machine from start to finish.
The Raiders were horribly sloppy in the first half, with two Carr fumbles, drive-killing penalties, infractions that led to negating Falcons turnovers, and a special teams penalty that turned a missed field goal into an Atlanta touchdown. If the Raiders fall short of the playoffs in the crowded AFC wild-card race, this loss will be one of the death blows that left them watching the playoffs.
Atlanta, meanwhile, continues to play well and hard for interim head coach Raheem Morris. He should receive head-coaching consideration from the Falcons and other teams, as Atlanta is 4-2 under him and if Todd Gurley had ran out the clock against Detroit, the team would be 5-1.
Early in the game, the Raiders went for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield, but the slow-developing play went for a loss and gave the Falcons great field position. A 15-yard pass to Calvin Ridley moved Atlanta to the 20, but the drive stalled and the Falcons settled for a field goal. On the ensuing drive, Carr was strip-sacked by Foye Oluokun, and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner recovered the fumble to give the Falcons the ball at the Raiders’ 23, but once again, they settled for a field goal.
Atlanta got another drive going, but Isiah Johnson deflected a pass and Jonathan Abram caught the tipped ball to jump start the Raiders. Hunter Renfrow (7-73) had an excellent run after the catch for 16 yards, and on a fourth-and-3, Carr laid out a deep ball for Henry Ruggs (3-56) for a 36-yard completion inside the 5-yard line. Two Raiders penalties moved them back, and they settled for a field goal.
The Raiders’ mistakes continued, as a facemask on Nevin Lawson canceled out an interception by Nick Kwiatkoski and a roughing-the-kicker penalty negated a missed Falcons field goal. A few plays later on a fourth-and-3 at the 4-yard line, Ryan found Ridley wide open for a touchdown to put Atlanta up 13-3. Las Vegas moved into Atlanta territory, but Tuioti-Mariner strip-sacked Carr and recovered the fumble. The Falcons tacked on a field goal to take a 16-3 lead into the half.
In the third quarter, Derek Carrier got a partial block of a Falcons punt to set up the Las Vegas offense at the Atlanta 36-yard line. But Carr continued to struggle, tossing a terrible pass off the mark that Deion Jones picked off and returned 64 yards for a touchdown. The Raiders produced a field goal drive, but Atlanta was gifted first downs from an Isaiah Johnson pass interference and a Maxx Crosby roughing-the-passer penalty. Trayvon Mullen dropped an interception in the end zone, and on the next play, Matt Ryan found Brandon Powell for a score to expand the lead to 30-6.
The ugly game got even worse when star running back Josh Jacobs fumbled the ball away and was injured on the play to gift Atlanta another field goal. Carr suffered another strip-sack, and Ito Smith added an 8-yard touchdown run.
Ryan was 22-of-39 for 185 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
With Todd Gurley inactive, Ito Smith led the Falcons with 65 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown.
Julio Jones was also out, and Ridley led Atlanta with six receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown, but Ridley suffered an injury in the second half.
Carr was 22-of-34 for 215 yards with an interception.
Jacobs ran for 27 yards on seven carries with a fumble.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I swear, I can’t ever get this Rams team right. Whenever I trash Jared Goff, he completes every pass, and when I pick him to cover, he craps the bed. I know he’s in his mid-20s, but his retirement day can’t come soon enough.
The Rams are in a tough divisional and wild-card race, so losing to the a 49ers squad that is now 5-7 is a tough pill to swallow. Aaron Donald was awesome, and the Los Angeles defense played well overall, but Jared Goff blew this game with three turnovers. The Rams look good enough to make the postseason this year, but probably will get dropped before the Super Bowl because Goff will wilt under the pressure.
Early in the first quarter, Malcolm Brown fumbled the ball away and San Francisco recovered near midfield. The 49ers gave the ball back quickly when Donald batted a pass in the air and Jordan Fuller picked it off to kill the drive. A completion from Goff to Robert Woods set up a 48-yard field goal to give the Rams the first points in the game. The 49ers responded with two passes to Deebo Samuel for 59 yards to set up a short touchdown run by Raheem Mostert.
On the ensuing possession, Goff had a bad overthrow float to Richard Sherman for an interception. The turnovers continued to hurt Los Angeles. Late in the first half when the Rams were driving into 49ers territory, Goff was stripped by Jimmie Ward. Kerry Hyder recovered the loose ball for San Francisco to protect the 7-3 halftime lead.
Just seconds into the third quarter while under pressure, Goff threw an errant pass that was intercepted by rookie tackle Javon Kinlaw, who returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to give San Francisco a 14-3 lead. Nick Mullens then used Samuel to set up another field goal. Cooper Kupp (2-41) got the Rams moving with a short reception that he broke downfield for a gain of 33 yards, which set up a field goal. Promptly after the three-pointer, Mostert was stripped of the football by Aaron Donald, and Troy Hill scooped the ball up before darting into the end zone to cut the 49ers’ lead to 17-13. On the final play of the third quarter, Cam Akers took off on a 61-yard run. He dived into the end zone a few plays later to give the Rams a 20-17 lead.
The 49ers put together a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter and quickly got the ball back with under two minutes remaining. A completion to Samuel moved the ball past midfield. With around 30 seconds remaining, fullback Kyle Juszczyk converted a fourth-and-1. A few more plays moved the ball into position, helped by Jalen Ramsey jumping offsides, to set up Robbie Gould to hit a 42-yard field goal on the final play of the game.
Mullens was 24-of-35 for 252 yards with an interception.
Mostert ran for 43 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown.
Samuel had 11 receptions for 133 yards.
Goff was 19-of-31 for 198 yards and two interceptions. He also fumbled the ball away.
Akers ran the ball nine times for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Woods led the Rams with 80 yards on seven receptions.
Saints 31, Broncos 3
This was not a real NFL game because the Broncos didn’t have any of their four quarterbacks available to them, thanks to ridiculous and unnecessary regulations. Denver was forced into starting someone named Kendall Hinton at quarterback, despite the fact that Hinton wasn’t even good enough to hold the quarterbacking job at Wake Forest. Hinton didn’t have a prayer in his first NFL action.
The result was predictable. Hinton finished with more interceptions (2) than completions (1), and the first time Denver crossed midfield was off a New Orleans turnover in the third quarter. The Broncos produced only six first downs and compiled only 112 net yards of offense, most of which came in garbage time. Despite a nice effort from Denver’s defense, this result was as lopsided as it gets.
Hinton finished 1-of-9 for 13 yards and two interceptions. It was a sad state of affairs, as Hinton would’ve had four picks if the Saints defenders hadn’t dropped a pair of potential picks. Hinton also forgot to take his mouth guard off his helmet for two consecutive drives. He was not prepared to play.
Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay were bottled up in the backfield because the Saints didn’t have to respect the pass. Gordon was limited to 31 yards on 12 carries, while Lindsay (9-20) did even worse. Lindsay was charged with a fumble, but only because there was a botched snap. Lindsay was knocked out with a knee injury, but he was walking around on the sideline at the end of the afternoon.
The only Bronco who caught a pass was Noah Fant, who made a 13-yard reception. Jerry Jeudy had just one target!
The Saints didn’t pass the ball all that well either, as the excellent Denver cornerbacks did a terrific job of limiting Taysom Hill aerially. Hill went 9-of-16 for 78 yards and an interception, which occurred when A.J. Bouye made a great break on the ball to cause a tip.
Hill, however, wasn’t a lost cause, as he was able to pick up significant yardage on the ground. He rushed for 44 yards on 10 scrambles, and he found the end zone twice.
Speaking of two-touchdown scorers, Latavius Murray found the end zone twice, thanks to a great cut on one of his scores. He trampled the Broncos by gaining 124 yards on 19 carries. Alvin Kamara (11-54) didn’t do as well, and he caught only one pass.
There was only one Saint who caught multiple passes. That was Michael Thomas, who snatched four of his six targets for 50 yards. Emmanuel Sanders (1-4) did nothing against his former team.
Chiefs 27, Buccaneers 24
Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill were on pace for 800 yards each after the first quarter. That’s how unstoppable they were to begin the game, as Mahomes completed deep bomb after deep bomb to Hill, who embarrassed cornerback Carlton Davis so much that Davis’ unborn grandchildren will feel shame for this performance.
However, the Buccaneers somehow survived the onslaught and were able to slow down the Chiefs in the second half. Mahomes, who generated 359 passing yards in the opening half, had just 103 yards following the break. Some of this was the result of being less aggressive, but the Chiefs also put some great pressure on Mahomes, forcing some punts and field goals. Mahomes also appeared to throw an interception, but was bailed out by a hit to the helmet.
The Buccaneers eventually drew to within three when Tom Brady found Mike Evans in the end zone with about four minutes remaining. All they needed was one more stop, but they couldn’t get it, as the game ended like it began, with a Mahomes pass to Hill to seal the deal.
Mahomes went 37-of-49 for 462 yards and three touchdowns. Mahomes was great, save for his overturned interception and lost fumble in the red zone in the second quarter. As crazy as it sounds, Mahomes was a bit of a disappointment, only because he was on pace for a record-setting performance. Mahomes had 359 yards by halftime, so he could have gone for 718 yards in this contest, which would have shattered the NFL’s single-game passing yards record.
Hill also had a chance to break records. He logged 203 receiving yards in the first quarter, so 812 would have more than doubled up the single-game mark. Hill, however, ended up with “only” 269 yards and three touchdowns on 13 catches. What a disappointment!
Elsewhere among Mahomes’ weapons, Travis Kelce had a nice performance with eight grabs for 82 yards. Sammy Watkins, in his return from injury, caught four balls for 38 yards.
The Chiefs didn’t run very well against Tampa’s elite ground defense. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was limited to just 37 yards on 11 carries. Le’Veon Bell (5-22) didn’t do much either.
As for the Buccaneers, Brady had a great fourth quarter, but was guilty of two interceptions early in the second half when he had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage and heaved an underthrown deep shot while under pressure. Despite this, CBS color analyst Tony Romo defended Brady’s arm strength, and we were able to see some strikes at times.
Brady finished 27-of-41 for 345 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Brady missed out on some yardage early when he saw Evans drop a deep pass in the opening half.
Speaking of Evans, he found the end zone twice while catching three balls for 50 yards. He finished behind Rob Gronkowski (6-106) and Chris Godwin (8-97) on the stat sheet. Antonio Brown caught just two passes for 11 yards.
It’s unclear which Tampa running back will handle the workload each week. It was Ronald Jones’ turn this time, as he rushed for 66 yards on nine carries to go along with a receiving touchdown. Leonard Fournette (3-10) didn’t do much until he caught a trio of passes late in regulation.
Packers 41, Bears 25
With Deshaun Watson thriving on Thanksgiving and Patrick Mahomes coming close to setting single-game passing records, the pressure was on Mitchell Trubisky to perform well Sunday night in order to save the Bears from going under .500 for the first time all year.
Trubisky never had a chance when competing with Aaron Rodgers, however. He was responsible for three killer turnovers that gave the Packers free points and allowed them to run away with this victory. Trubisky was intercepted in the opening half when he threw a horrible pass into double coverage and then lost a fumble on a strip-sack that was returned for a touchdown. Trubisky wasn’t done screwing up in the second half, heaving an interception into triple coverage. He fumbled again after that, but was able to recover at least.
Trubisky was able to pad his stats with a couple of garbage-time drives, starting when the Bears were down 41-10, so don’t be fooled by his final stat line, which was 26-of-46 for 242 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Trubisky was far worse than those numbers indicate, so the Bears will be thinking about which of the 2021 NFL Draft Quarterback Prospects they will choose as a replacement this coming April.
Rodgers, conversely, was unstoppable. He torched the Packer secondary mercilessly, going 21-of-29 for 211 yards and four touchdowns. He endured a couple of drops, so his final stat line could have been even better.
Two of Rodgers’ touchdowns went to his leaders in receiving, Robert Tonyan (5-67) and Davante Adams (6-60). Adams was guilty of a rare drop. Rodgers’ other scores were thrown to Allen Lazard (4-23) and Marcedes Lewis (2-16). Lazard took a nasty, albeit legal hit in the second half, but appeared to be OK later in the evening.
The Packers were also able to run effectively against a Chicago defensive line missing the best player in the group by far, Akiem Hicks. That would explain why Aaron Jones (17-90) and Jamaal Williams (17-73) both steamrolled Chicago’s defense. Williams scored a touchdown.
The Bears had success running as well, but weren’t able to stick with the rush because of a constant deficit. David Montgomery hit a 57-yard run in the first quarter and scored a receiving touchdown late in the game, as he had a monstrous performance. He finished with 103 yards on just 11 carries to go along with five catches for 40 receiving yards. Green Bay’s run defense continues to be an issue.
Allen Robinson also found the end zone, doing so twice while catching eight of his 13 targets for 74 yards. Darnell “Mad Eye” Mooney (3-34) and Anthony Miller (3-28) weren’t as successful.
The dark cloud over this victory for the Packers was a knee injury suffered by center Corey Linsley. It’s unclear how severe it is.
Seahawks 23, Eagles 17
Much was made of the Eagles’ quarterbacking situation by the ESPN Monday night analysts, as they cited that Carson Wentz hasn’t had much of an opportunity for success because of the lack of talent around him. While it’s true that the Eagles have endured numerous injuries this year, Wentz has played poorly when given the chance to succeed. He failed to recognize open receivers at times, leading to him holding the ball too long in the pocket. This played a part in Wentz taking six sacks.
Wentz’s accuracy hasn’t been very good either. He missed numerous receivers for big gains and/or touchdowns in this contest. One of the ESPN announcers claimed that no one can question Wentz’s heart and passion for the game, but I believe I can. Wentz is someone who once watched film while on a date. He was able to easily diagnose defenses back then, but that’s no longer the case. He seems to have fallen out of love with the game, or he’s at least distracted by something.
The Eagles discussed the possibility of using second-round rookie Jalen Hurts in place of Wentz in this game. They did, but only for two plays. This ended up being a big mistake, as all Wentz did was loft inaccurate deep balls and take sacks.
Wentz finished 25-of-45 for 215 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, which was the result of a miscommunication. However, those figures are misleading, as 33 yards and a touchdown came on a Hail Mary at the very end to serve as a bad beat for those who bet Seattle -6.5. To give you an idea of how much Wentz struggled, he was 7-of-17 for 30 yards at halftime. The Eagles need to strongly consider replacing Wentz with Hurts, at least for the short term.
Conversely, Russell Wilson did a good job of leading his team to its eighth victory, though the Seahawks should have won by much more than six points, even without considering the Hail Mary. The Seahawks failed on a fourth-and-goal on the opening offensive drive because they ran a stupid sweep to David Moore. Seattle screwed up the next fourth down as well, with Wilson being sacked by Derek Barnett, who also blew up the Moore play. Wilson also missed out on a touchdown when he threw a beautiful ball to D.K. Metcalf, who dropped the pass in the end zone.
Wilson finished 22-of-31 for 230 yards and a touchdown, but his stats would’ve looked much better had he not endured the Metcalf drop. He saw heavy pressure from Philadelphia’s front, but was able to move around the pocket to find the appropriate throwing lanes, as usual.
Despite the dropped touchdown, Metcalf still had a monstrous night, catching 10 passes for 177 yards. He had Darius Slay so frustrated that the corner shoved him and was issued a personal foul penalty. No other Seattle receiver had 23 receiving yards, as Tyler Lockett (3-23) was a disappointment despite drawing an interference flag on one occasion.
The Seahawks struggled to run the ball, though Chris Carson scored a 16-yard touchdown on a surprise inside trap. Carson ran for 41 yards on eight carries otherwise, while Carlos Hyde (15-22) was atrocious. The Seahawks wasted a down whenever they let Hyde touch the ball. What happened to letting Russ cook?
The Eagles also failed to move the chains on the ground, with Wentz leading the team in rushing with 42 yards on five scrambles. Miles Sanders (6-15) found no holes and dropped two passes for good measure.
Dallas Goedert paced the Eagles in receiving with seven grabs for 75 yards and a touchdown. Alshon Jeffery (2-15) missed out on a touchdown when Wentz overshot him, while Jalen Reagor (3-11) struggled to separate. The Eagles sorely regret drafting Reagor over Justin Jefferson, a move that made no sense at the time.
Steelers 19, Ravens 14
The Steelers prevailed to improve 11-0, but it was a disappointing outcome for them. They were up 19-7 prior to a late, back-door touchdown by Marquise Brown in which Pittsburgh defenders went out of their way not to tackle him. However, the Steelers should have led by at least three touchdowns prior to that event, but left way too many points on the field. The usually dominant receivers dropped a whopping three passes inside the Baltimore 5-yard line, two of which would have been sure scores. Pittsburgh dropped six passes overall, several of which were on third down. Furthermore, the Steelers gave the Ravens a free touchdown because of a muffed punt.
The Ravens needed the free touchdown to stay close to the Steelers, as they got nothing out of an offense that was missing Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, two running backs and three blockers. Baltimore’s offense was so inept that it didn’t even have a first down via a pass until four minutes remaining in regulation! Thus, you can see how utterly painful the Brown back-door touchdown was, as the Ravens had done nothing offensively otherwise, save for a few Robert Griffin runs.
Much like Pittsburgh bettors, Ben Roethlisberger has to feel cheated. Roethlisberger went 36-of-51 for 266 yards, one touchdown and an interception where he panicked in the red zone and didn’t see an open target for a score. Roethlisberger, however, should have thrown three touchdowns, but his usually dominant receivers betrayed him and those who wagered on them because of those six drops.
Chase Claypool was the first Steeler to drop a touchdown. Because of that gaffe, his final stat line – six catches, 52 yards – was a big disappointment. Diontae Johnson then dropped a potential score on the very next play and later suffered another drop. As with Claypool, Johnson’s final numbers – eight receptions, 46 yards – were lackluster outside of PPR formats.
Eric Ebron, like Johnson, was guilty of a pair of drops. He managed to lead the team in receiving with seven catches for 54 yards, but those who played him in fantasy have to feel salty that one of his drops could have been a score. In fact, the only people who are happy were JuJu Smith-Schuster’s owners, as the eldest of the wideouts caught a touchdown to go along with his eight grabs for 37 yards. However, he was guilty of a drop as well.
With James Conner sidelined, Benny Snell drew the start. Snell nearly scored on one play, but had a disappointing outcome overall, rushing for 59 yards on 15 carries.
The Ravens did most of their damage on the ground, with Griffin leading the team in rushing with seven scrambles for 68 yards. Gus Edwards, starting because Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins had not been cleared from their minor illnesses, mustered only 10 yards on nine carries, but scored a touchdown to save his owners. Justice Hill (9-35) was more impressive.
Griffin didn’t last the entire game, as he suffered a leg injury in the fourth quarter. He was abysmal as a passer, going 7-of-12 for 33 yards and an interception in which he didn’t see Joe Haden. The Steeler corner took it back the other way for a touchdown.
Thanks to the garbage-time touchdown from Trace McSorley, Brown led the Ravens in receiving with four grabs for 85 yards and a touchdown. He and Devin Duvernay (3-20) were the only Ravens with more than five receiving yards!
Adding injury to insult, two Baltimore defensive backs, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith, got hurt during the course of this game.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.