NFL Week 12 Takeaways
1. The Vikings look primed to host the Super Bowl. It has never happened before; a team has never played the Super Bowl in their home city, but it is certainly on the table for the Minnesota Vikings this season. After dismantling Matthew Stafford and the Lions on Thanksgiving, Mike Zimmer’s squad is now 9-2 and in the driver’s seat in the NFC North. Their competition to be the last NFC team standing in January will be fierce, but if they continue to get quality play from Case Keenum it is certainly possible that the Vikings will be playing for the Lombardi Trophy in their own stadium.
2. The Chargers do Charger things. It seems as though every year the Chargers get off to a slow start before turning it on late. After starting this season 0-4, Phillips Rivers and company have ripped off five wins in their last seven games to claw their way back into playoff contention in the rancid AFC. Their dominant pass rush in unison with their newfound offensive synergy between Keenan Allen and Phillip Rivers has first year head coach Anthony Lynn sniffing the postseason. I didn’t think there was any chance they’d make it a month ago, but now I think it is more likely than not that in their first year in Los Angeles that the Chargers and their fans will get to experience the postseason.
3. Julio Jones is superhuman. After a disappointing first half of the season, the Falcons wide out has bounced back in a major way. On Sunday, against a formidable Buccaneers secondary, Jones had 12 catches for 253 yards and a pair of scores. At 7-4, Atlanta’s seems to be finding their groove, and that is a frightening sight for NFC defenses.
4. The Chiefs have been the most perplexing team in the NFL this season. Through the first six weeks, Kansas City had the most potent offense in football. Ever since? They might have the worst. Andy Reid’s squad is still 6-5 and in first place in the AFC West, but with the Chargers surging and right on Kansas City’s heels it might be time to see what Patrick Mahomes has to offer. I wouldn’t normally advise handing the reigns over to a rookie quarterback mid-season with a team in the playoff hunt, but Alex Smith has looked like a deer in headlights since Halloween.
5. The Bengals are quietly positioning themselves for a playoff push. After falling to 0-3, many wrote off Andy Dalton and company. But now, through Week 12, Cincinnati is 5-6 and just a game out of a Wild-Card spot. If they can get to nine wins I think they will squeak into the postseason. That is a statement that I don’t think anybody would have thought possible at the end of September.
6. The Eagles and Patriots do what they’re supposed to do. Dominate. At this point in the season, I don’t think there is any argument: The two best teams in football reside in Philadelphia and New England. On Sunday, the Super Bowl favorites won by a combined 46 points. This week in and week out annihilation of the opposition is what is so impressive with these two goliaths. They never play down to their level of their competition as many teams in the NFL seem to do. They come out each and every week with, punch the team lining up across from them right in the mouth, and consequently blow their adversaries out of the water.
7. The transformation that Jared Goff has made from Year 1 to Year 2 deserves infinite praise. The Ram’s signal-caller was on the path to becoming the next Ryan Leaf, the next Jamarcus Russell, the next bust. But, with some mechanical tweaks as well as the help of his offensive savant of a head coach in Sean McVay, Goff has established himself as a legitimate franchise quarterback.
8. The Broncos need a quarterback. This is not breaking news, but after seeing Paxton Lynch behind center on Sunday it is rather obvious that John Elway has done his team a disservice evaluating the sport’s most vital position and because of that Denver finds themselves in the cellar of the AFC West. This iteration of the Broncos team is not all that different from the team that went to two Super Bowls, winning one. The difference? That unit had a competent quarterback and this one simply does not. While this season has been an utter disaster, Denver can spin it as a positive in that if they can snag a quarterback via free agency or the draft that they are not that far off from being relevant among the AFC elites.
9. Calais Campbell is the Defensive Player of the Year. There is no debate. The Jaguars defensive end has been a menace all season. In his first year with the team, Campbell has registered 11.5 sacks while being the anchor for the best defensive unit in football. Despite losing a heartbreaker on Sunday against the Cardinals, Jacksonville finds themselves in the postseason mix and for that Campbell deserves to be rewarded.
10. Tony Romo gets all the love, but Cris Collinsworth is the NFL’s best color commentator. This is not so much a knock on Romo as it is a pat on the back for Collinsworth. Despite being nearly thirty years removed from his playing days, Collinsworth’s insights are unparalleled. While he might not predict plays before they occur as Romo often does, I feel as though I learn more from Collinsworth than any other announcer in the sport.