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Post Turkey Break Takeaways and Superlatives

TRO is back following a holiday break, very briefly catching up on Week 11 superlatives, and then breaking down key Week 12 takeaways, the playoff picture, and awarding Week 12's superlatives:

via Tyler Kaufman / AP Photo

Another [coupe of] Week[s] gone, another wild bunch of games. TRO is launching its rapid reactions following the conclusion of the games from the Week[s] prior. With Weeks 11 and 12 in the books, it's time to fire off TRO's immediate reactions following all of the action. We're here, again, to elaborate on the biggest headlines that stuck with us and to hand out weekly superlatives. Look for TRO to award the Game of the Week to the most exciting matchup, and the Surprise Performance of the Week to the most deserving team that exceeded our expectations, in addition to individual player superlatives. Players whose team won their game will be eligible to be selected in the following categories: Passer of the Week, Pass Catcher of the Week, Tailback of the Week, Defensive Lineman of the Week, Linebacker of the Week, Defensive Back of the Week, and Special Teamer of the Week.


With the brief break we took to prepare for the holiday, we did not release a full Week 11 Takeaways and Superlatives article. However, we did still track all of the action, and want to recognize those who earned our weekly superlatives for Week 11:

Passer of the Week: Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

  • 24/35 Pass Attempts for 341 Yards and 3 TDs

Pass Catcher of the Week: Justin Jefferson - Minnesota Vikings

  • 8 Catches for 169 Yards and 2 TDs

Tailback of the Week: Jonathan Taylor - Indianapolis Colts

  • 32 Carries for 185 Yards and 4 TDs; 3 Receptions for 19 Yards and 1 TD

Defensive Linemen of the Week: Chris Jones - Kansas City Chiefs

  • 5 Tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 1 Fumble Recovery

Linebacker of the Week: Kyle Van Noy - New England Patriots

  • 8 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 1 Interception

Defensive Back of the Week: Desmond King - Houston Texans

  • 8 Tackles, 2 Interceptions

Special Teamer of the Week: Jake Elliott - Philadelphia Eagles

  • 4/4 Field Goals (50 long) and 4/4 Extra Points


via NFL

Turkey Day Recap

You can't have Thanksgiving without football, and this year the League provided us with Bears - Lions, Raiders - Cowboys, and Bills - Saints.

The Bears - Lions game (seemingly rightfully so) started out with a coin toss where both teams attempted to defer. The course of the game went along carrying the same theme, as the Bears edged out a 16-14 victory in a low scoring affair without many highlights. Chicago had Andy Dalton under center this game for an injured Justin Fields, and he had just a steady enough hand to keep the Lions winless. This game didn't change the outlook on either of these teams going forward.

The Raiders - Cowboys game was as tightly contested as expected. We'll get into more details below, but Dallas has now dropped 3 of their last 4 while the Raiders still leave people wondering what their ceiling can be.

Bills - Saints featured 2 teams trending in 2 different directions. The Bills came into this game looking to right their wrongs after getting run all over by Jonathan Taylor and the Indianapolis Colts, and the Saints were trying to avoid dropping 4 straight games. As expected, Buffalo came to town and laid the hammer down. The Saints are reportedly moving forward with Taysom Hill at quarterback, leaving their quarterback concerns swirling following the injury to Jameis Winston.

Questionable Quarterback Play

Something must have been in the water for many of the quarterbacks, or they all ate too much food on Thanksgiving, or partied too hard on Thanksgiving Eve, because there were abysmal performances all over the place. 30 quarterbacks attempted passes in Week 12, and only 10 of them didn't throw any interceptions.

Ryan Tannehill only managed to throw for 93 yards on 21 pass attempts against New England, including 1 touchdown and 1 interception, despite trailing most all of the game. New England's defense continues to climb the ranks as this team looks more and more like legitimate contenders with each passing week.

Zach Wilson (in a victory), threw for 145 yards and completed what will forever be known as the Back Interception, as the rookie growing pains continue.

Cam Newton went 5/21 for 92 yards and 2 interceptions until he was pulled for P.J. Walker, who went 5/10 for 87 yards and 1 interception. Despite Cam's excellent Week 11 performance, Week 12 showcased how hard it is for a quarterback to insert himself into a new scheme with no offseason, under 2 weeks of practice, and most importantly no offensive line. The Panthers' offensive line put up the lowest PFF grades individually and as a unit, since PFF began tracking statistics and using metrics. Cam's timing was clearly off, but the issues remained for Walker when he entered the game.

Jalen Hurts completed 14/31 passes for 129 yards and threw 3 interceptions as his team was stonewalled by the Giants, while New York delivered a crushing blow to Philadelphia's recently increased confidence.

Ben Roethlisberger could not get anything going against Cincinnati, completing 24/41 passes for 263 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. The yardage is a bit misleading, as only 125 of those yards were in the first 3 quarters, and the touchdown came well after the game was out of reach. The Steelers finally moved the ball some at the end of the game, when the Bengals were almost in full prevent, soft coverage defense.

Lamar Jackson somehow willed his team

to a victory despite throwing for only 165

yards on 32 pass attempts, and notching a career-high 4 interceptions.

As the playoff race starts to heat up (both in real life and in fantasy), fans are hoping their quarterbacks can pick up the pace.

What to Make of the Playoff Picture (NFC)

This one is a mess, which means it is going to be chaotic and an absolute blast to track. The Division leaders seem to be in pretty good shape - Arizona (9-2), Green Bay (9-3), Tampa Bay (8-3), Dallas (7-4), and the Rams seem to have a grasp on one of the three Wild Card spots (7-4).

The two remaining Wild Card spots are currently held by San Francisco (6-5) and Washington (5-6), but the Vikings, Falcons, and Saints are all also (5-6), and the Eagles and Panthers are (5-7). You can't fully rule out the Giants and Bears either at (4-7). Absolutely anything is possible with 6 more weeks to play. Most of these remaining games will be division matchups, which will only muddy the waters more.

TRO believes that the Rams and the 49ers will lock up two of the three Wild Card spots leaving the remaining teams battling it out for that last spot. The Rams have a comfortable (enough) lead and have far too talented of a roster and coaching staff. The Niners are starting to click, playing like the Niners team that went to the Super Bowl in 2019-2020. They are physical, flying around on defense, and can scheme any ball carrier into open field - whether it's 6th round draft pick Elijah Mitchell or wide receiver-hybrid Debo Samuel.

We honestly have no true prediction for that remaining Wild Card spot. What do we have are levels of probability, broken down by Tiers. In Tier 1 (highest probability): The Vikings are the best situated team in terms of talent and veteran leadership, but they seem to collapse and can't get out of their own way late in games and on third down. Washington has the leadership at the head coach position, Taylor Heinicke has proven to be scrappy and not fold in big moments, and they can run the football. But they might have too many injuries on defense and are not well-equipped to play from behind.

In Tier 2, we have the Panthers and the Saints. The Panthers still have a very talented defense, capable of keeping them into games, and if Cam Newton can use this Bye Week to further familiarize himself with the system and get on the same page as his receivers, they could make a push. The problem is they have a tough remaining schedule, they will be without Christian McCaffrey and Donte Jackson, and the Vikings, the Football Team, and the Eagles hold head-to-head tie-breakers over them. The Saints have Sean Payton's leadership and experience, some defensive veterans, but have a growing question mark at quarterback and at wideout positions. Additionally, Alvin Kamara has been in and out of the lineup due to injury, and their defense has steadily declined since their Week 1 performance against the Packers.

Tier 3 is left with the Eagles, the Falcons, the Giants, and the Bears. These teams are still in the mix mathematically, but just don't seem to have the players to push forward over the hump.

What to Make of the Playoff Picture (AFC)

The AFC is far less top-heavy, and everything remains up for grabs. The top team, the Baltimore Ravens (8-3), is only 2 games ahead of the lowest Wild Card team, and a couple of teams that are on the outside looking in, the Chargers, Raiders, Broncos (all 6-5) and the Colts (6-6).

The Ravens, Patriots, Titans, Chiefs, Bengals, and Bills should have no problem making the playoffs, leaving one remaining Wild Card spot. Of course with 6 weeks left, even that could prove to not be true. The Steelers, Browns, and Dolphins are hoping that is the case as they try to make a late season push.

In the NFC Column above, we did Tiers just for the Wild Card race (because the Division leaders seem to be set in stone). For the AFC, we will assign 3 Tiers to all of the playoff eligible teams: Tier 1 (division leader candidates), Tier 2 (wild card probables), and Tier 3 (just on the outside looking in).

In Tier 1, we have the Ravens, Patriots, Titans, Chiefs, Bengals, and Bills. The Ravens and Bengals have a huge Week 16 showdown which could be the deciding factor as to who finishes on top of the AFC North. The Patriots and Bills square off in Week 13, and again in Week 16, for what will undoubtedly determine who wears the AFC East crown. We believe that the Titans and Chiefs will lock up their Division titles.

Tier 2 is left with teams that won't compete for the Division title, but are capable of earning a Wild Card spot: the Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, and Denver Broncos. With all of the Tier 1 teams above, only one of these teams will make it out of this group. We believe that the Raiders have the best chance at doing so. Derek Carr has been playing great football this year, this team has already overcome a lot of noise, they appear to be re-establishing the run game, and they've proven they can get it done in close games. The Chargers and Broncos just don't quite seem to be there yet, but certainly could if they get it all clicking.

That leaves us with Tier 3: held by the Steelers, Browns, Colts and Dolphins. The Steelers frankly have too many personnel issues, and at times look incompetent on both sides of the ball. The Browns are far too beat up, and Baker Mayfield is under a mountain of scrutiny (on top of dealing with every injury known to man). Lastly, the Dolphins are just a case of too little too late.

3) GAME OF THE WEEK: Las Vegas Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys

via RaidersWire / USA Today

The most viewed regular-season football game in 28 years. 37.8 million viewers tuned into what was a competitive affair that had everything. Big pass plays, a 100 yard kick return touchdown, player ejections, lots of offense, and overtime. Unfortunately, the referees had their fingerprints all over this game as well as both teams racked up 14 penalties for over 100 yards EACH. The tight officiating was frustrating, but can't fully take away from the fact that this was a competitive game, slated in the best Thanksgiving window (the late-afternoon spot), that came down to the wire, making it the Week's most entertaining affair.


via DolphinsWire / USA Today

Don't look now, but the Dolphins have won 4 straight games, seeming to improve each week. In upsetting the Panthers, the Dolphins got it done on all 3 phases. They blocked a punt for a touchdown, Tua Tagovailoa was able to utilize Jaylen Waddle as the Miami offense moved the ball on the number 2 pass defense in the NFL, and most notably, the Dolphins' defensive line lived in the Panthers' backfield. They harassed both Cam Newton and PJ Walker, forcing turnovers, earning sacks, and causing the Panthers offensive line to have the worst day potentially of all time. Brian Flores reminded everyone why he is held in such a high regard around the League, as he threw his weight around, out-coaching Matt Rhule. The Dolphins are seeming to follow their late blooming trend of last year, getting hot in November.


PASSER OF THE WEEK: Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers

via Benny Sieu / USA Today Sports

The 2020 League MVP makes his way onto this list for the first time. He completed 28 of his 45 pass attempts for 307 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Rams' stout secondary. He also ran a score in despite having a broken toe. Rodgers reminded everyone that the Packers are THE team to beat in the NFC.

PASS CATCHER OF THE WEEK: Jaylen Waddle - Miami Dolphins

via Yahoo Sports

Jaylen Waddle had his way against the second ranked pass defense in the NFL. He caught 9 balls for 137 yards and 1 touchdown. Every time the Panthers had a glimmer of hope, Waddle would move the chains, keeping the game in control for Miami. Pay attention to him next time he scores, as his waddling touchdown celebration is the next big thing.

TAILBACK OF THE WEEK: Leonard Fournette - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

via the Athletic

Leonard FOURnette managed to find the end zone 4 times, as he outshined the League's top ranked rusher in Jonathan Taylor. Fournette carried the ball 17 times for 100 yards (5.9 average per carry), and had 3 touchdowns on the ground and 1 through the air. One of Big Play Lenny's scores was the game winner, as Indianapolis was not left with enough clock to respond.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN OF THE WEEK: John Franklin-Myers - New York Jets

via AP Photo

John Franklin-Myers had a career day as the Jets toppled the Texans. Franklin-Myers notched 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and tipped to himself his first career interception in what was a heck of a display of athleticism. He returned that interception 32 yards, taking the ball out of Jets' territory, and giving it to Zach Wilson and the offense on Houston's side of the field.

LINEBACKER OF THE WEEK: Azeez Al-Shaair - San Francisco 49ers

via Jayne Kamin Oncea / USA Today Sports

Azeez Al-Shaair helped will the Niners to a victory over the Vikings in what was a chaotic game. Al-Shaair piled on 8 tackles, picked up an interception, and recovered a key fumble. In a game tightly contested as this one, his presence and ability to give his offense 2 more possessions was certainly one of the biggest deciding factors in the outcome.


via Justin Edmonds / Getty Images

Patrick Surtain, II had a career day against the Chargers, and was a huge reason why the Broncos were able to pull out a key, division win. The rookie picked up 5 tackles and 2 interceptions, 1 of which he returned for a touchdown. This was his first game with an interception since Week 2. Surtain picked up his first career pick-six in the same exact stadium that his father picked up the last one of his career. How cool is that passing of the torch moment?

SPECIAL TEAMER OF THE WEEK: Daniel Carlson - Las Vegas Raiders

via Tim Heitman / USA Today Sports

Daniel Carlson is back for the second time (Week 2), as he continues his tremendous season. On Thanksgiving Day, he hit all 5 of his field goals, including a long from 56 yards, and the overtime game-winner. He also hit all 3 of his extra points. It's difficult enough for a kicker to hit 8/8 of his kicks in practice, yet alone on the road in a hostile environment. Props to Carlson for scoring 18 of his team's points, and walking them off with a key victory.


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