Thanksgiving weekend in the NFL saw the team with the league’s best record get back on track after two shaky showings.
The Philadelphia Eagles fended off the Green Bay Packers behind an offensive line that pressed Green Bay’s defensive front back to the tune of 363 rushing yards. But Week 12 wasn’t so kind on the ground to another NFC power, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were again outrushed and upset by the Cleveland Browns, leaving their hold on the NFC South lead tenuous.
In the AFC, a pair of quarterbacks on the opposite ends of their career trajectories — Zach Wilson of the New York Jets and Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos — may be facing rough roads ahead. In particular, Mike White’s breakout for New York means it may be a while before Wilson takes another snap for the Jets.
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Here are the winners and losers for Sunday's Week 12 action.
Behind their O-line, Eagles back on track
In the first eight games of the season, the Eagles had committed three turnovers. In their following two, they gave it away six times. But in beating the Packers, the Eagles (10-1) demonstrated how dominant they can be when they protect the ball and bulldoze defensive lines.
Philadelphia committed just one turnover Sunday, an A.J. Brown fumble, but it put forth a masterclass on offensive line dominance. Of course, it helps when you have a dual-threat quarterback like Jalen Hurts who can rip off huge chunks on the ground, but the Eagles exposed the Packers' defensive front, opening creases all game long. Hurts became the first player since at least 1950 to run and throw for 150 or more yards and tally multiple passing scores. Philly’s 363 rushing yards are the most since the Ravens dropped 404 on the Bengals in the 2020 season finale. And rushing the ball like that is a recipe for success in the playoffs.
Niners defense makes them elite, but tough test looms
The 49ers, even with the limitations quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo may have, are ascending and are legitimate threats in the NFC behind an oppressive defense. San Francisco (7-4) shut out New Orleans, marking 94 consecutive game minutes of shutout defense. That also means the Niners have held opponents in their last four games off the scoreboard in the second halves of those games.
Now, a quick caveat. The four teams the 49ers have played during their winning streak — the Rams, Chargers, Cardinals and Saints — have all been inconsistent and are not top-tier offenses. Still, it’s notable that San Francisco snapped New Orleans’ NFL record of 332 games without a shutout. Behind their physicality, speed, sound tackling, pass rush and ability to force turnovers, the Niners are capable against just about any offense. Which, with the Dolphins looming with coach Mike McDaniel, who is San Francisco’s former offensive coordinator, the outcome in Week 13 will be revealing.
The case for Mike White the rest of the way
With Mike White making his first start this year, the Jets (7-4) dominated on offense and posted efficiency and balance not seen with Zach Wilson under center. There were so many stats that pointed to New York’s improvement with White that it was difficult to select just a few.
White completed passes to 10 different targets. For the first time this season, the Jets scored an opening-drive touchdown. All four of rookie first-round receiver Garrett Wilson’s touchdowns (including two on Sunday) have been thrown by passers not named Zach Wilson. In his last two starts, Zach Wilson has thrown for 231 yards with one score. Against the Bears, White threw for 315 with three. But these weren’t empty calories, either. White flashed anticipatory throws and a propensity to avoid mistakes. Frankly, there should be no doubt on this one: Zach Wilson, barring injury, should not play another down this season for the Jets.
The best trade the Dolphins made (right now) was for Jeff Wilson
The Dolphins made a splash before the trading deadline, bringing in star pass rusher Bradley Chubb. No disrespect to Chubb, who has been solid in Miami (8-3), generating 1.5 sacks in his three games there, but the bigger deal — at least in the short term — has been the trade for running back Jeff Wilson (which only cost a fifth-round pick).
In each of his three games with the Dolphins, Wilson has scored a touchdown. He has 267 yards from scrimmage on 45 touches, coming out to nearly six yards every time he gets the ball. He has become Miami’s leading back, carrying the ball 39 times; the next closest Dolphin in that span is Raheem Mostert, who was out against the Texans with a knee injury, with 17. Part of why this is working so well is that Wilson’s skill set — his shiftiness and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield — is exactly what Miami was missing.
The deeply-flawed Baltimore Ravens are — at best — average
The Ravens have a star quarterback and speed at the skill positions, a stout offensive line, and a superb defense on third downs and stopping the run. Yet, Baltimore (7-4) blew another lead and showed it's merely an average team that gets in its own way and will struggle to compete and finish games in the postseason.
The first four Baltimore scores were field goals, including three following trips inside the red zone. In the fourth quarter, the Ravens defense melted, allowing the Jaguars to score 18 points. In particular, the secondary lapsed and let Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence complete seven of nine passes on the final series for 91 yards with a touchdown and the game-winning two-point conversion. Baltimore's blown lead marked the third time this season that it has lost a game when holding a lead of at least nine points in the fourth quarter, tying them for most all-time in a single season.
Russell Wilson or Nathaniel Hackett, one has got to go
At this point, it looks like either Russell Wilson or Nathaniel Hackett must go in Denver. But the Broncos (3-8) are in a bind, because Wilson is contractually obligated in a way that makes his removal a near impossibility, at least not until the end of the 2026 season. Hackett, on the other hand, is an easier out.
The Walton family, which acquired the Broncos in June, were not the ownership group in charge when Denver hired Hackett in January. Therefore, the Waltons may be more willing to consider the buyout of Hackett’s contract aand look for an alternative coach that can maximize whatever Wilson, 33, has left. Because Wilson is far too inaccurate on throws he should make, misses open receivers in other spots, shuffles too long in the pocket and, as is, can’t lead a competent offense. A sideline dustup with defensive tackle Mike Purcell shows Wilson may already be losing the locker room.
The Buccaneers when they get outrushed
Let’s start with the good. The Buccaneers ran for a respectable 96 yards Sunday, bringing their combined total over the last two to 257. The bad: Tampa Bay (5-6) allowed 189 rushing yards against the Browns, proving it’s incapable of winning when it loses the battle on the ground.
In all six Buccaneers defeats this season, they have been outrushed. In those losses, Tampa Bay has been outrushed by an average(!) of 104.7 yards per game. In a pair of those losses, the margin was 186 (Week 4 against the Chiefs) and 187 (Week 8 against the Ravens). The Bucs have won three games this season when they were outrushed. But the second half and overtime, in which they gained just 36 rushing yards, proved why Tampa is so unreliable when they can’t rush with consistency. The offense was left with lengthy and unmanageable distances on third downs. Seven of their nine drives after halftime ended with punts. Four were three-and-outs.
The Bengals, Broncos, Texans, Seahawks and Raiders (we'll explain)
These are the teams up ahead on the schedule against the Chiefs. The Broncos play Kansas City (9-2) twice, actually. And in one of the more remarkable records that stunningly isn’t getting enough publicity, the Chiefs have now ripped off an NFL record 26 consecutive victories in the months of November and December, a stretch that goes back to Week 10 of the 2019 season.
At the center of it is quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is easily in the most valuable player race, and may be the favorite. Against the Rams, Mahomes completed passes to 10 different receivers. All 10 of them totaled at least 15 receiving yards. Remarkably, seven players had at least 25 yards. He will certainly lament an end zone interception in the fourth quarter and that Kansas City converted just one of six trips inside the red zone. But that alone shows just how dangerous this Chiefs team is, that it dominated the Rams despite a shaky performance.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL Week 12 winners, losers: Eagles run to glory; Ravens are flawed