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Week 13 Reactions and Takeaways

Another memorable slate of games has come and gone. Week 13 has officially concluded, and TRO is here to break down key takeaways and award its weekly superlatives:

via Bill Kostroun / Associated Press

Another Week gone, another wild slate of games. TRO is launching its rapid reactions following the conclusion of the games from the Week prior. With Week 13 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.


via NBC Sports

TRO's MVP Rankings

Throughout 13 weeks, we have all seen the list of MVP candidates fluctuate, moving different candidates up and down the proverbial and unofficial rankings. After 13 weeks, our top MVP candidates, in order, are as follows:

  1. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

  3. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

  4. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

  5. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

  6. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

  7. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

  8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

  9. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

  10. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

Tom Brady has to be the clubhouse leader at this point. At 44 years old, he leads the League in passing yards and passing touchdowns. The Bucs have had some issues in the secondary, injuries and absences to offensive weapons, and Brady's play has kept them consistent. Aaron Rodgers is nipping at Brady's heels, as the Packers go as far as he carries them, and they appear to be the top team in the NFC. Rodgers, however, has gotten more help on the defensive side of the ball and from his run game than Brady has. What Jonathan Taylor has been doing has been absolutely phenomenal, but we all know this is typically a quarterback's award. A running back has not won MVP since Adrian Peterson in 2013. Taylor could break that cycle if the Colts continue to lean on his shoulder pads to a strong finish and playoff birth.

Kyler Murray was an early favorite, but the team seemed far too competent without him for him to be the clear cut favorite for this award. Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen absolutely carry their teams, but have had some down games that take them away from the performances of some of the other members of this list. Patrick Mahomes is also in that same category, but he had too slow of a start to the season, with too many turnovers, and now is benefitting greatly from his team's recent increased defensive competence. Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford have impressive numbers, but play on star-studded rosters, and while their teams have been good, they haven't been as good as the teams ran by the signal callers on the top of the list. Derek Carr has showcased his leadership this year while putting to bed question marks about his abilities; however, his team's up and down play leaves him susceptible to falling outside of the top 10 depending on if Vegas makes a playoff push or not. Otherwise, he will be replaced by someone from a team that does (i.e. Justin Herbert, Kirk Cousins, Joe Burrow, etc.).

TRO is fairly certain that this will be a 2-man competition between Brady and Rodgers, with Brady taking home the crown. Of course, with 5 weeks to play, anything can happen.

Minshew Mania

With Jalen Hurts nursing an ankle injury, Gardner Minshew got the nod as the Eagles traveled to Met Life Stadium to take on the Jets. On short notice, Minshew went 22/25 for 242 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no turnovers, as he ran the offense with relative ease and efficiency. He led the Eagles to touchdowns on their first 3 drives, and a field goal on their 4th. It was fun to have Minshew back in the limelight, as his pregame outfit and postgame interaction with his father did not disappoint. There's no quarterback controversy in Philadelpia, but Minshew's play might have earned him some extra attention from quarterback-needy teams in 2022.

What Year is it?

The New England Patriots won a football game over a division rival to claim first place in the AFC where they only attempted 3 passes, only completing 2 of them for 19 yards. Dealing with the ridiculous winds, sleet, and cold air in western New York, the Patriots piled on 222 rushing yards on 46 attempts to squeak out a road win in primetime over their biggest threat to the AFC East title. The 3 pass attempts by Mac Jones were the fewest in franchise history, and the fewest by any team since 1974. For reference, when the Broncos had to start wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback in 2020 due to a quarterback room COVID outbreak, they attempted as many as 9 passes. Bill Belichick keeps finding new ways to win, and some think he even tipped his hand pregame with a masterful bit of foreshadowing by donning a Navy mask - a team famous for playing games with single digit pass attempts.

Brady Gets the Boot

Approximately 20 minutes into the 1:00 slate on Sunday, the Panthers announced that they were parting ways with offensive coordinator Joe Brady. After evaluating the Panthers this season and last, it is clear that head coach Matt Rhule and Brady were not on the same page. Rhule repeteadly mentioned that he wanted the Panthers to be a power running team, attempting more than 30 designed rushes a game. The Panthers only did that in 2 games this year (Falcons and Cardinals), both of which were the only wins during the last 9 games (2-7).

Opposing defensive backs were quoted saying they could guess what routes the Panthers' receivers were going to run, and the Panthers' offense took a nose dive as the season progressed. Brady is not to blame for all of the team's issues - as they have one of the worst offensive lines in the League, Christian McCaffrey has hardly been available, and they've trotted out 4 different quarterbacks in 2 years. However, Brady's offense has seemingly failed to adapt to the personnel he has. Despite the offensive line struggles, and the impressive blocking capabilities of tight ends Tommy Tremble and Ian Thomas, Brady has failed to run any 2 tight end sets, or get them involved in the offense consistently. He wanted the players to fit his scheme, instead of scheming around his players.

Brady has a tremendous football mind, and is conceptually a very good coach, but he did not deliver situationally. His play calling lacked unpredictability and mid-game adjustments. He's still incredibly young, and will likely have a great football career ahead of him, but when the head coach's seat is starting to get warm, and the offense has been an issue, then the individual higher up on the totem pole will be the one to stay.

Stayin' Alive

The Playoff picture, as we addressed last week, is incredibly tight. There are teams trying to hold on to Wild Card spots, and there are far more teams on the outside clawing at the door to get back in. Who had a good Week 13 to stay alive in the race in the AFC?

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: improved to 6-5-1 with a huge win over the Baltimore Ravens, putting them just a half game behind the 3 Wild Card teams;

  • Los Angeles Chargers: formerly holding the 3rd Wild Card spot, shot up to the 1st after beating the Cincinnati Bengals (7-5), to improve to 7-5, and then they benefitted from the Bills falling to 7-5 on Monday;

  • Miami Dolphins: extended their win streak to 5, currently 2 games outside of the Wild Card;

  • Indianapolis Colts: dominated the Texans to improve to 7-6, a half game outside of the Wild Card;

  • Cleveland Browns: on their Bye Week (at 6-6), benefitted from losses from Las Vegas and Denver (also 6-6), and then all 3 Wild Card spots currently held by teams that are 7-5.

As far as the NFC goes:

  • Washington Football Team: road victory over Raiders to improve to 6-6, and a San Francisco loss to Seattle, pushed WFT to the 2nd Wild Card spot;

  • Philadelphia Eagles: pulled out a win without Jalen Hurts, improving to 5-7, 1 game outside of the Wild Card with 2 matchups against the WFT to go;

  • Carolina Panthers: benefitted from losses from the Vikings, Falcons, Saints, Giants, and Bears, to keep their hopes alive while they sat at home on a Bye Week

The 49ers and the Vikings are still in prime position to make the playoffs (Niners at 6-6 in the 3rd Wild Card spot and Vikings at 5-7 in the thick of the mix looking in), but suffered tough losses this Week.

2) GAME OF THE WEEK: San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

via Steph Chambers / Getty Images

This was the most exciting matchup of Week 13, a division showdown in Seattle where both teams needed a win. Seattle desperately needed to pull out a victory to prevent them from mathematically being removed from the Playoff conversation, and San Francisco was seeking to buy some security in their Playoff placement. This was a classic Niners / Seahawks showdown. It had all the big plays from the big names. George Kittle was phenomenal, springing big plays, and Russell Wilson kept his poise, leading his team to battle back while at home. The game ended on a 4 down goal line stand by the Seahawks' defense as they stonewalled the Niners' offense, squeaking out a 7 point victory.


via Ray Del Rio / Getty Images

They did it. They actually did it. The Lions picked up their first win this year, and their first win in the last 15 Weeks of regular season NFL football. They got out to an early lead on the Vikings at home, but Minnesota rallied back, taking the lead late in the 4th quarter. The Lions turned over the ball on downs on their own side of the field, seemingly to end the game once again. With the pressure and threat of finishing with the worst record in NFL history (0-17-1), Detroit rallied back, and with 1:50 to play and no time outs, Jared Goff led his team all the way down the field 80 yards with a walk-off touchdown pass as time expired. What an emotional and important victory this was for Dan Campbell and company.


PASSER OF THE WEEK: Tom Brady - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

via AP Photo

The GOAT, and MVP favorite, is back for a 3rd time this year (Weeks 2 and 7). Tom Brady completed 38 of his 51 passes for 368 yards and 4 touchdowns (and 1 interception) as he led his Buccaneers to a road victory over the division rival Falcons. It's December, and winter Tom Brady is here, putting the rest of the League on notice.

PASS CATCHER OF THE WEEK: Diontae Johnson - Pittsburgh Steelers

via the Athletic

In a late afternoon/early evening thriller, Diontae Johnson pulled in 8 catches for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns, 1 of which proved to be the game winner. Johnson's production produced all of the Steelers' points that did not come from field goals or extra points as they squeaked out a 1 point victory, upsetting the Ravens and keeping theirs season alive.

TAILBACK OF THE WEEK: Jonathan Taylor - Indianapolis Colts

via ColtsWire / USA Today

The League's leading rusher did top-back things once again. Jonathan Taylor stuck it to the Texans, carrying the ball 32 times for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is Taylor's third time on this list (Weeks 9 and 11), and won't be his last as the Colts continue to lean on their ground game as they try to climb into the Playoffs.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN OF THE WEEK: T.J. Watt - Pittsburgh Steelers

via SteelersWire / USA Today

Despite missing a couple of games here and there, T.J. Watt has pole-vaulted himself to the top of the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. He's back on our list for the third time (seems to be a theme so far), after he picked up 6 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Watt now leads the League in sacks at 16, with 5 games to play he is primed to take a shot at Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22.5 sacks.

LINEBACKER OF THE WEEK: Bobby Wagner - Seattle Seahawks

via Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times

One of the better linebackers in the League for the last decade or so, finally makes his first appearance on this list. This has largely been due to Seattle's inability to win games, and not his performance. Bobby Wagner was all over the field as Seattle took down San Francisco, totaling 9 tackles and picking up 1 interception.

DEFENSIVE BACK OF THE WEEK: Minkah Fitzpatrick - Pittsburgh Steelers

via CowboysWire / USA Today

Jayron Kearse picked up 9 tackles, and 1 interception as the Cowboys stonewalled the Saints in New Orleans. His interception came at a crucial point, late in the second quarter. The Saints were driving the ball into Cowboys' territory before halftime, and Kearse showcased his speed and athleticism to haul in a sideline pick on a tipped ball, giving Dallas back, and keeping the score where it was with Dallas set to get the ball back to start the second half. From there, Cowboys continued to pour it on, pulling away for the win.

SPECIAL TEAMER OF THE WEEK: Jake Elliott - Philadelphia Eagles

via Bill Koustron / AP Photo

The NFC Special Teams player of the month of November picked right up where he left off, starting December with TRO's Special Teamer performance of the week. Jake Elliott once again made all of his kicks, going 4/4 from field goals (long of 46) and 3/3 on extra points. His steady leg, helped the Eagles pull away from the Jets, keeping their Playoff dreams a reality.


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