January 26, 2021, 7:20

NFL Grades Week 12: Chargers emerge from the AFC West as Chiefs and Broncos free fall

NFL Grades Week 12: Chargers emerge from the AFC West as Chiefs and Broncos free fall

Top marks in Week 12 were reserved for – (who else?) – the New England Patriots, after wining a seventh straight game.

Also top of class are the two teams in Los Angeles, with both the Chargers impressing on Thanksgiving and the Rams picking up a vital win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

The Chargers now look the force of the AFC West, compared to the free-falling Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, who earn a fail along with the team L.A. blew out on Turkey Day, the Dallas Cowboys.

Which other teams stood out and which flopped? Here’s a look at our weekly team grades…

AFC EAST

New England Patriots (W 35-17 v Miami)

The Tom Brady train in New England keeps trucking along at 40! And, even more impressively (and concerning for the other 31 NFL teams), it seems to be gathering pace too… Just the four touchdowns for him this week, making it 26 on the season. There was an interception in there too, but we will choose to ignore that. Grade A+

A look back to how the world reacted to the more interesting moments from Week 12 of the NFL

Buffalo Bills (W 16-10 @ Kansas City)

Buffalo are back! Well, maybe not just yet… It will take more than an edgy win over the sinking Chiefs to convince that their three-game skid prior to it – and the Nathan Peterman debacle – is truly behind them. But, their defense was much-improved, Tyrod Taylor back in at QB did not turn the ball over, and they are still very much in the AFC playoff hunt. Grade B-

New York Jets (L 27-35 v Carolina)

The Jets could not have played much better, yet somehow they still lost. Cam Newton was limited to less than 50 per cent passing, for only 168 yards and no passing TDs. In comparison, Jets QB Josh McCown almost doubled that (307 yards, three TDs) – two of his scores came on brilliant deep connections with the continually impressive Robby Anderson. Grade C+

We hear from the Around the NFL podcast team and get their take on Week 12 in the NFL

Miami Dolphins (L 17-35 @ New England)

Another Miami meltdown against New England. The scoreline, in actual fact, could have been even uglier were it not for their defense, who again helped their sputtering offense by contributing seven of their points. Grade E

AFC NORTH

Pittsburgh Steelers (W 31-28 v Green Bay)

The Steelers were given a far bigger scare by the depleted Packers on Sunday night than anyone would have anticipated, even the most ardent of Green Bay followers. While it was far from perfect, the main thing was they found a way to win to keep them in prime position for home-field advantage in the AFC. And, when you have the holy triumvirate of Ben Roethlisberger (351 yards passing, four TDs), Le’Veon Bell (183 scrimmage yards) and Antonio Brown (169 yards receiving, two TDs), you are feeling pretty good in Pittsburgh right now. Grade A-

Antonio Brown caught this incredible toe-tap catch to help setup Chris Boswell's game-winning 53-yard field goal

Baltimore Ravens (W 23-16 v Houston)

Baltimore just about stay alive in the AFC wild card race, but it was not a vintage display from them on Monday Night Football. It did not need to be… Their defense stepped up – as it so often does – and with the merest hint of some offense, they were able to clinch back-to-back wins for only the second time this season after starting the year 2-0. Grade B

Cincinnati Bengals (W 30-16 v Cleveland)

Rookie runner Joe Mixon had one of his best days, rushing for 114 yards off 23 attempts, with the icing on the cake being an 11-yard score in the fourth quarter to kill the game. Grade B

Cleveland Browns (L 16-30 @ Cincinnati)

For once, the Browns did not beat themselves. They did not turn the ball over at all against the Bengals, but they still strive for that elusive first win of the season. They are running out of chances too! This was a game, against fellow divisional strugglers Cincinnati, that they would have identified beforehand as an opportunity. Opportunity missed. Grade D-

AFC SOUTH

Tennessee Titans (W 20-16 @ Indianapolis)

Not their best, but a big win for the Titans, particularly with their rivals for the South, the Jaguars, dropping the ball in Arizona. Held scoreless following two first-quarter field goals, Tennessee finally awoke from their slumber with touchdowns either side of the third and fourth to take the W. Grade B

Indianapolis Colts (L 16-20 v Houston)

Oh dear. Not again! Indianapolis let another fourth-quarter lead slip, this time to the Titans. Cue head coach Chuck Pagano talking Sonny & Cher, Bill Murray and hurricanes… Grade C

Colts coach Chuck Pagano had a bizarre response to questions about his side's poor form

Jacksonville Jaguars (L 24-27 @ Arizona)

Jacksonville just being Jacksonville. As soon as you start believing in this Jaguars team, they slip up it seems. This time it was in Arizona to Cardinals third-stringer Blaine Gabbert, who enjoyed a spot of sweet revenge against the team that drafted him way back when. Grade C-

Houston Texans (L 16-23 @ Baltimore)

Houston’s season has been meandering to a (less than) mediocre finish ever since star rookie QB Deshaun Watson went down for the year. Tom Savage is no adequate replacement – two costly interceptions in this Monday night outing serving as evidence. Grade D

Highlights of the clash between the Texans and the Ravens in Week 12 of the NFL AFC WEST

Los Angeles Chargers (W 28-6 @ Dallas)

A real statement win from the Chargers! With the world watching, on prime time, Thanksgiving, and in Dallas! Specifically, how about the exceptional play of Philip Rivers at quarterback? 434 yards passing, with three TDs! The Chargers started the season 0-4 but a stunning reversal in fortunes sees them now sitting only one game back from the Chiefs (who were 5-0!) in the West. The team to beat in this division now appears to be coming out of Los Angeles. Grade A+

Philip Rivers talks after throwing for 434 yards and three touchdowns during the Chargers' 28-6 victory over the Cowboys

Oakland Raiders (W 21-14 v Denver)

Oakland too stay alive in the West and only one game back from Kansas City after this divisional win over Denver. The Raiders are still to truly rediscover their stunning form of 2016, but they did at least pick up a first interception of the season, in Week 12! No surprise really that it took a meeting with the hapless Broncos for it to arrive. Grade B

Kansas City Chiefs (L 10-16 v Buffalo)

Crisis mode in Kansas City. An alarming defeat to the New York Giants last week was followed up with an equally concerning slip-up at home to the Bills, equalling a fifth defeat in six and a failing grade. Could a change in QB provide a much-needed spark on offense? Alex Smith will be ever-increasingly looking over his shoulder at big-armed rookie Patrick Mahomes. Grade F

Sports Illustrated's Peter King reflects on the main talking points from Week 12 in the NFL

Denver Broncos (L 14-21 @ Oakland)

F for freefall! That’s what Denver are doing right now. This reverse to the Raiders is a seventh-straight, the first time the Broncos have managed that in a season since 1967. The constant turnover at quarterback has not helped – as soon as earning a first start for the season, poor old Paxton Lynch again makes his way onto the injured list. Grade F

NFC EAST

Philadelphia Eagles (W 31-3 v Chicago)

Why not top marks for the NFL-best 10-1 Eagles? Well, in truth, they could (and should) have beaten Chicago by more, such was their dominance! But, a couple of miscues on offense – specifically, three lost fumbles – lowers their grade ever-so-slightly. When you win 31-3 in the NFL and there is still room for improvement, you are not doing too badly… Grade A-

Washington Redskins (W 20-10 v New York Giants)

Highlights of the Thanksgiving day clash between the Giants and the Redskins in week 12 of the NFL.

Washington wrapped up Thanksgiving with a somewhat uninspiring success against the 2017 nightmare that is the New York Giants. Amazingly, the scoreline was tied at 10-10 going into the fourth quarter when the Redskins finally pulled away. Grade C+

New York Giants (L 10-20 @ Washington)

It says something when you manage only 170 yards on offense and yet you are still not the worst performing outfit in your division – we will get to you shortly, Dallas! The only reason the Giants won last week and pushed Washington close in this one is the improved play of their defense. Grade D-

Dallas Cowboys (L 6-28 v Los Angeles Chargers)

Highlights of the Chargers' Thanksgiving clash with the Cowboys in Week 12 of the NFL

Dallas and, more specifically their quarterback, Dak Prescott (179 yards, two interceptions) have been embarrassed two weeks running, at home, and on prime time. They have a chance to rectify things with another evening slate on Thursday night, when they host Washington, but you’d imagine Jerry Jones will be on the war path if he and his Cowboys are left red-faced again. Grade F

NFC NORTH

Minnesota Vikings (W 30-23 @ Detroit)

Highlights of the Vikings' Thanksgiving clash with the Lions in Week 12 of the NFL

A massive Thanksgiving win for Minnesota that helps them move ever closer to clinching the division. Two touchdown receptions from Sky Sports weekly columnist Kyle Rudolph helped them stretch out an early lead, and while Detroit counter-punched well, this Vikings outfit are built of stern stuff and gutsed it out. Grade A

Green Bay Packers (L 28-31 @ Pittsburgh)

Taking of guts, Green Bay showed plenty of it, albeit in defeat, in Pittsburgh. Brett Hundley undoubtedly had his best game at QB, throwing for 245 yards, though his biggest problem? He is not Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers might not have improved much on those stats, but he might just have had the know-how to eke out the win. Grade B-

Highlights of the clash between the Packers and the Steelers in Week 12 of the NFL

Detroit Lions (L 23-30 v Minnesota)

Detroit have had a few games like this in 2017. While Matthew Stafford has built a career on being a fourth-quarter comeback specialist, the Lions have been edged out of too many games late on this year. It could ultimately end up costing them a playoff spot in the uber-competitive NFC. Grade C-

Chicago Bears (L 3-31 @ Philadelphia)

A tough outing for the Bears, particularly rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky, who was hit and harried all game. He managed only 147 yards passing and two picks… but, if he is looking for any encouragement, he only need glance at his opposite number on the field and consider the remarkable rise of Carson Wentz from year one to two. Grade E

Highlights of the clash between the Eagles and the Bears in Week 12 of the NFL NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons (W 34-20 v Tampa Bay)

The Falcons are firing! Their Super Bowl hangover appears well and truly over on the evidence of this confident and comfortable display against the Bucs. Matt Ryan had a 317-yard day, Mohamed Sanu threw for a TD, Tevin Coleman rushed for two scores… oh, and there was also the small matter of Julio Jones’ two TDs to go with 253 yards receiving!! Grade A

Watch as Atlanta wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Julio Jones team up for a brilliant touchdown

Carolina Panthers (W 35-27 @ New York Jets)

Not pretty, but Carolina got the job done. Devin Funchess continues to be a favourite, and reliable, target for Cam Newton – though he failed to get into the endzone in this one, he reeled off 108 yards off his seven catches. Grade B

New Orleans Saints (L 20-26 @ Los Angeles Rams)

Tough to be too critical of the Saints. This was, after all, always going to be a tricky test against the upstart Rams in Los Angeles, particularly with their secondary depleted by injury, but the loss has opened the door for the Falcons and the Panthers in the division. Key how they now react from here… Side note: rookie runner Alvin Kamara is a beast! 188 yards from scrimmage, including a 74-yard TD run and a 15-yard reception for a score. Grade C

We've picked out five of the best plays from week 12, so head on over to the NFL section to vote for your favourite now!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (L 20-34 @ Atlanta)

The Bucs played like a team that knows it’s done for the year. Well, certainly their secondary seemed to be on holiday already, as Jones alone torched them for 250 yards. Grade D-

NFC WEST

Los Angeles Rams (W 26-20 v New Orleans)

A big win for the Rams! Similar to how their defeated opponents, the Saints, must now respond in the right way to this loss, the Rams were reeling from their own reverse to NFC rivals Minnesota the previous week. But, far from setting the team back, they came out with renewed vigour to down New Orleans – Jared Goff, in particular, who threw for 354 yards and two TDs. Grade A+

Highlights of the clash between the Saints and the Rams in week 12 of the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals (W 27-24 v Jacksonville)

Arizona worked hard for this victory. Their season, like that of a multitude of their starters, may well be lost, but they are not playing like it. Then again, you would expect nothing less from a Bruce Arians coached team. Grade A

Seattle Seahawks (W 24-12 @ San Francisco)

Seattle stay alive in the packed NFC playoff hunt with a reasonably routine win over San Francisco. Russell Wilson threw an early pick, but then recovered to throw for 228 yards and two touchdowns, as well as running in himself for another score. Grade A

San Francisco 49ers (L 12-24 v Seattle)

Another loss for San Francisco to Seattle! But, at 1-10 on the season, all you 49ers fans can do is look for the positives, and there is one blatantly obvious one here – a certain Jimmy Garoppolo notching his first touchdown with only his second passing attempt in San Francisco, after coming in for the injured C.J. Beathard. Is a first start for the former Patriots back-up QB beckoning? Grade D+

Source: skysports.com

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