Neil Reynolds' Week 12 Wrap Up

There were a couple of wild finishes around the NFL on Sunday as head coaches usurped the game-tying conversion kick in order to win the game with a two-point play. Those wild wins for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Los Angeles Chargers encapsulated the crazy season we have enjoyed to date.

The numbers don't lie when talking about the roller-coaster ride that has become the 2022 NFL season.

79 games have been decided by a touchdown (6 points) or less and that is the most in NFL history through 12 weeks.

136 games have been within one score (8 points) at some point in the fourth quarter – that is tied with 2016 for the most such contests in NFL history through 12 weeks.

44 games have been decided by a winning score in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime. That is the second-most in NFL history through 12 weeks, only trailing the 2003 season (45 games).

83.3% of the regular season weeks played so far (10 of 12) have featured at least one game that went to overtime. There were two on Sunday as the Cleveland Browns beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Las Vegas Raiders shocked the Seattle Seahawks. This marks the fourth season where at least 10 of the first 12 weeks have featured an overtime game, the others being 2003, 2010 and 2021.

Those numbers back up what players and coaches say all the time. You cannot let your guard down for a second in the NFL because if you do, you will be on the wrong end of a surprising scoreline.

That was certainly the case for the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens on Sunday as they took on a Jacksonville Jaguars team playing for pride and building for the future. The Jags had played very well but the Ravens needed this one more and it felt like they were going to take it home when Lamar Jackson threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Josh Oliver with 2:02 remaining.

But Trevor Lawrence is a growing force. He played well in beating the Las Vegas Raiders and in losing to Kansas City in his previous two games and he showed his pedigree with a late touchdown drive in which he spread the ball all over the park.

His touchdown pass to Marvin Jones with 14 seconds remaining was a thing of beauty – on both ends of the play. But what followed was even more noteworthy. Jacksonville's offensive players stayed on the field pleading with head coach Doug Pederson to let them go for two points and the win.

Pederson, who famously agreed to let Nick Foles run The Philly Special on fourth down during a Super Bowl win over New England, nodded his approval and Lawrence delivered the game-winning strike with an inch-perfect pass to Zay Jones.

Lawrence was fantastic as he completed 29 of 37 attempts for 321 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. This was a corner-turning, confidence-booster of a game for him. But not just because of the numbers. Those were nice, of course. But of much greater importance was the confidence Pederson showed in his young quarterback.

Who's Hot…

Cincinnati's run defense… We went into our first game on Sky Sports NFL last night talking about the strength of the Tennessee Titans defense and how they ranked second in the league against the run. But it was the Bengals who showed up in the run-stuffing department and that is not an easy thing to do against a Derrick Henry-led Titans team. Cincinnati are usually so explosive – and they still had their offensive moments in a key 20-16 win – but the performance of the defense stood out. They held Henry to just 38 rushing yards on 17 carries with a long of just nine yards. The Bengals are now tied with the Ravens at the top of the AFC North and the two teams meet in Cincinnati in Week 18.

Philadelphia's rushing attack… The Eagles went into Sunday Night Football boasting one of the league's most physical and explosive running games. And they faced a Green Bay Packers team that ranked 24th in the NFL in stopping the run. So, the game plan was clear from the beginning of what proved to be a hard-fought 40-33 win. It all starts with dynamic quarterback Jalen Hurts, who carried 17 times for 157 yards. But it was a real group effort. Miles Sanders rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns and Kenneth Gainwell also found the end zone. But this ground attack is also about the big guys up front. The offensive line get such a push at times that the running backs get seven or eight yards downfield before a defender lays a glove on them.

San Francisco's defense… The 49ers went into Sunday's game against the New Orleans ranked as the best defense in the NFL and they certainly lived up to that billing. On a day when Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense got bogged down, the rampaging defense proved to be the driving force in a 13-0 victory. They only recorded one sack, giving Nick Bosa 11 ½ on the season now, but they made so many big plays to keep New Orleans out of the end zone. Their effort was highlighted on one goal-line, touchdown-saving play where Dre Greenlaw ripped the ball away and Talanoa Hufanga recovered in mid-air. San Francisco get bodies around the ball and they get their rewards. They have now not allowed a point in their last six quarters of play.

Who's Not…

Russell Wilson… The supposed superstar quarterback continues to play badly and his Denver Broncos teammates have had enough of it. Wilson threw his 300th career touchdown pass during Sunday's 23-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers but that was the only highlight. Denver were so bad that defensive lineman Mike Purcell got in Wilson's face during the game and screamed at his quarterback. Wilson has lost the locker room… if he ever had it. He threw for just 142 yards on Sunday and the Broncos went four of 14 on third downs. What do they do now, though? He is tied to the AFC West club through the 2028 season and I don't know what get-outs the team have in place. I do know this, though. Wilson will get head coach Nathaniel Hackett fired because Denver will try a new coach before they move on to a new quarterback, especially given the financial investment in the struggling Wilson.

The New York Giants… After a stunning start to the 2022 season, the New York Giants have fallen back down to earth with three losses from their last four games. You could argue that they have found a more realistic level. They are still a good story and a nice surprise under Brian Daboll, but they're not the rampaging force that their 6-1 start suggested they might be. They remain wafer thin at receiver and Daniel Jones did not handle pressure very well against Dallas on Thanksgiving. But the most worrying stat for me is that Saquon Barkley was held to 22 rushing yards in a Week 11 loss to Detroit and to just 39 yards in Thursday's loss to the Cowboys. The Giants are not out of the NFC playoff race, by any means, they've just lost a little bit of their early-season shine.

The Fast Five…

  1. The Los Angeles Chargers are never out of games with Justin Herbert at the helm and it was notable, to me, how he went to key players on the match-winning drive against Arizona; connecting with Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. I liked the decision to go for two points and the win. It's the time when aggressive moves need to be made.
  2. The New York Jets made an aggressive move in the days leading up to Sunday's 31-10 thrashing of the Chicago Bears, benching the out-of-form and unapologetic Zach Wilson for Mike White. And the replacement delivered the goods as he threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Robert Saleh said the move was about getting Wilson back on the field before the end of the season. That road back is much harder for the former QB1 to travel now.
  3. The Miami Dolphins rolled to a 30-0 halftime lead against the Houston Texans and were chilling on the bench the rest of the way as the visitors made the final score 30-15 with a couple of weirdly-celebrated touchdowns in the second half. Miami are now 8-0 in games where Tua Tagovailoa has started and finished in 2022. Next up for their prolific attack is a Week 13 battle with the San Francisco 49ers and their number one-ranked defense. Tasty.
  4. Josh Jacobs was incredible in the Las Vegas Raiders' 40-34 overtime win over the Seattle. He totalled 303 scrimmage yards and scored the game-winning touchdown on an 86-yard run in the extra period. Jacobs was stiff-arming 300-pound defensive linemen and running away from cornerbacks on his way to 229 rushing yards and two scores, while adding 74 receiving yards. He makes the Raiders a dangerous opponent down the stretch.
  5. Let's go back to Thanksgiving and pay homage, one more time in Week 12, to Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. He put his team on his back and led them to a 28-25 victory over the feisty and impressive Detroit Lions. Allen's throw to Stefon Diggs to set up Tyler Bass' game-winning field goal with two seconds remaining was worth the price of admission alone.

Fact of the Week

Jalen Hurts became the first NFL quarterback since at least 1950 to rush for more than 150 yards, throw for more than 150 yards and toss two touchdown passes in a game. He rushed for 157, threw for 153 and two as the Eagles became the first NFL team to 10 wins in this 2022 season.

Final Thought…

As the games were being played out on Thursday and Sunday, they felt just that little bit bigger because division and playoff permutations have now been added to the mix. They're only going to get bigger and bigger as the calendar flips over to December. And the playoff-chasing teams have tricky paths to navigate as we found out on Sunday. Those already out of the postseason hunt or on the fringes – teams like the Raiders, Jaguars and Lions – are going to be dangerous opponents. They have nothing to lose. They're going to go for it on fourth down, call fake punts, ignore conversions for two-point attempts and generally leave it all out on the field. Those teams who can upset the apple cart are just going to add to the drama as we head into the final six weeks of the regular season. Bring it on!