By Steve Silverman
The New York Giants weren’t supposed to beat the Chicago Bears. But an Odell Beckham TD pass and a pick six, not to mention another strong showing from Saquon Barkley, helped them fend off the Bears in regulation, before pulling out the win in overtime. Fans may lament their worsening draft position, but, believe it or not, the Giants still technically have a shot in the NFC East.
Cowboys 13, Saints 10
Dallas Cowboys: A-. The one thing that long-time Cowboys observers have noticed over the last 15+ years is that when the most important games were played in the second half of the season, the Cowboys would make too many key mistakes and find ways to lose. That may no longer be the case. The combination of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott looks sensational at this point in the season.
New Orleans Saints: C. The Saints had been the most consistent and dangerous team in the NFL, but nothing goes on forever. Drew Brees and the Saints could not get it done in Week 13 in Dallas. After sleeping in the first half, the Saints played better in the final 30 minutes and made it close. Now they must show they can get back on track.
Ravens 26, Falcons 16
Baltimore Ravens: B+. The Ravens didn’t play their best game, but they still won a crucial late-season game on the road by 10 points. Lamar Jackson started again, but he did not finish after getting kicked in the head. The Baltimore defense shut down Atlanta’s still-dangerous offense.
Atlanta Falcons: D. The Falcons are just a shell of the team they were two years ago, and the biggest problem was that this double-digit home loss was not a surprise. There was no reason to expect anything more out of this disappointing team.
Broncos 24, Bengals 10
Denver Broncos: A-. The Broncos are the most overachieving team in the league. They continue to win games, and going on the road does not bother head coach Vance Joseph’s team. Quarterback Case Keenum is a solid field general, and undrafted rookie running back Phillip Lindsay is becoming a star, as he ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Cincinnati Bengals: C-. The Bengals show no signs of getting out of their swoon. They showed some fight in the first half, but their run defense failed them. And once they fell behind, the combination of backup quarterback, Jeff Driskel, and head coach, Marvin Lewis, was not about to inspire a comeback effort.
Rams 30, Lions 16
Los Angeles Rams: B+. It took a while for the Rams to find their stride, but they ended up where they were supposed to be, with a double-digit road victory over a confused opponent. Todd Gurley put his stamp on this game, with 132 yards and two rushing TDs, and Jared Goff was solid.
Detroit Lions: C-. The Lions came out playing hard, and they did a good job of bottling up the Rams in the first part of the game. However, Matt Patricia knows that’s not good enough, and this team can’t sustain a 60-minute effort on either side of the ball.
Cardinals 20, Packers 17
Arizona Cardinals: B+. This has been a lost season for the Cardinals, who have been in contention with the Oakland Raiders as one of the two worst teams in the NFL. The idea that they would go to Green Bay in December and compete for 60 minutes is hard to believe, and the idea that they would win is inconceivable. Yet that is just what happened, as Zane Gonzalez kicked the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Green Bay Packers: F. The Packers have fallen, and they can’t get up, and head coach Mike McCarthy’s immediate reaction was to say he didn’t know what he could do to turn the team around. Well, one thing he doesn’t have to do is coach the Packers any longer, because he was fired after his team’s pitiful performance. Green Bay would have needed a near-miracle to make the playoffs, and this was the easiest game on their schedule. Just an awful showing that has resulted in a dramatic change.
Texans 29, Browns 13
Houston Texans: B+. This is clearly the best stretch of head coach Bill O’Brien’s career, and he has to thank quarterback, Deshaun Watson, for getting the Texans on a roll and keeping them there. Watson sees the field well and knows how to take what the defense gives him. It helps when he has a running back like Lamar Miller and a receiver with the superb hands of DeAndre Hopkins.
Cleveland Browns: C-. The Browns have been playing with a sense of swagger, and that’s good for a team that couldn’t smell a win in recent seasons. However, it’s a whole different story when playing against a surging team like the Texans. Cleveland was outclassed in the first half, and the Texans dominated the game. Rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield, was intercepted on three straight possessions.
Jaguars 6, Colts 0
Jacksonville Jaguars: B+. Finally, one of the two most disappointing teams in the league — along with the Packers — won a game. The defense came to play for the first time in weeks, and the Jaguars were tough and physical. The offense still has major issues.
Indianapolis Colts: C-. The Colts saw their five-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt, as they went to Jacksonville and got shut out. This comes three weeks after scoring 29 points against the Jaguars in a victory in Indianapolis. This was obviously a clunker of a game, but the frustrated Jacksonville defense finally played up to the ability that is on the roster. Frank Reich needs to make sure this doesn’t happen again with a tough week of practice.
Dolphins 21, Bills 17
Miami Dolphins: B. The Dolphins did not play a brilliant game, but they did enough to win at home against an ordinary opponent. That certainly beats the alternative, but the Dolphins will have to be much better if they are going to beat the New England Patriots at home next week.
Buffalo Bills: C. The Bills have been playing much more competitively, and they could have been victorious in this road game against a divisional opponent. Rookie quarterback, Josh Allen, had a chance to throw a game-winning TD on the final play, but his pass was just a little off target and short. Allen rushed for 135 yards on nine carries.
Giants 30, Bears 27
New York Giants: B+. The Giants won a game against an opponent with a winning record, and that’s notable. They came out with enthusiasm and scored a defensive touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. While they gave up the lead in the late going, they attacked in overtime on both sides of the ball and came out with a rare victory.
Chicago Bears: C-. The Bears have developed a reputation for getting everything out of their players and coaches, but that did not happen this week. The Bears fell behind early, and while they made a comeback that was nearly miraculous in the final 80 seconds — field goal, successful onside kick, game-tying touchdown — they could not beat a team that regularly prepares gifts for its opponents.
Buccaneers 24, Panthers 17
Tampa Bay Bucs: B+. The Bucs have suddenly won two games in a row after their stroll through the NFL desert for basically a half season. We are not saying they are going to make the playoffs, but this team is playing much better football and now they must show they can continue to play hard against the Saints next week.
Carolina Panthers: D. It happens every year. A team that looks like it is surging at mid-season hits a bump and loses all momentum. Head coach, Ron Rivera, has a big problem on his hands, because the Panthers could not handle the lowly Bucs and have now lost four in a row after 6-2 start. Cam Newton is not performing well, and it appears his shoulder is an issue.
Chiefs 40, Raiders 33
Kansas City Chiefs: B. The Chiefs returned from their bye week, and their offense remained on fire, while their defense was once again unimpressive. Patrick Mahomes threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns, but the defense allowed the Raiders to make the final score respectable, even though the Chiefs are a far superior team.
Oakland Raiders: B-. Head coach, Jon Gruden, was able to play the rivalry card against the Chiefs to get his team to compete for a full 60 minutes. The Raiders were not going to win this game, but they scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, and that’s something for the Raiders to feel good about in this lost season.
Titans 26, Jets 22
Tennessee Titans: B+. The Titans are one of the most up-and-down teams in the league. This is a team that beat the Cowboys on the road and hammered the Patriots, but also found themselves trailing the lowly Jets by double digits. The comeback was impressive, but head coach, Mike Vrabel, needs this team to play for 60 minutes on an every-week basis.
New York Jets: C-. The Jets played well on the road in the first part of the game and built a 16-0 lead late in the first half, but they could not hold onto it. Head coach, Todd Bowles, has been under the gun throughout the season, and this game makes matters worse.
Patriots 24, Vikings 10
New England Patriots: A-. If it’s December and the Patriots are playing at home, that means they are winning the game. While they did not dictate throughout, they came through with the game on the line. The combination of Tom Brady to Josh Gordon may turn out to be a huge factor in the postseason.
Minnesota Vikings: C. The Vikings showed the ability to stay with the Patriots on the road into the second half, but when it came to winning time, they just didn’t have enough spit and vinegar. The Vikings became cooperative guests and allowed Tom Brady & Co. to dominate on their home turf.
Seahawks 43, 49ers 16
Seattle Seahawks: B+. The Seahawks continue to build a strong season after very little was expected from them. Russell Wilson continues to produce and make the most out of his opportunities, as he threw four TD passes. The Seahawks built a 20-3 halftime lead and were never seriously threatened.
San Francisco 49ers: C-. The 49ers are not going to be able to stay with winning teams, and that’s the position they found themselves in Week 13 against the overachieving Seahawks. Nick Mullens threw for 414 yards and two touchdowns, but the Niners could not make any inroads in this game.
Chargers 33, Steelers 30
Los Angeles Chargers: B+. The Chargers were outplayed badly in the first half, but they rallied impressively in the second. While they received a number of breaks –including a Philip Rivers TD pass to Travis Benjamin that featured an illegal procedure penalty that was not called — the Chargers kept pressing forward and beat a very good team on its home turf.
Pittsburgh Steelers: C+. The Steelers were coming off a loss to the Broncos, and they came out playing hard and took a 23-7 lead into the third quarter. They were unable to hold off a Los Angeles rally, but the Steelers did not play a bad game, despite the disappointing 33-30 defeat.
Eagles 28, Redskins 13
Philadelphia Eagles: B+. The Eagles did not play especially well, but they did enough to beat the Redskins. Carson Wentz threw two touchdown passes, and the Eagles put the short-handed Redskins away in the second half. The Eagles are now 6-6, tied with the Redskins and a game behind the Dallas Cowboys.
Washington Redskins: C-. First the Redskins lost Alex Smith, and now they lose backup Colt McCoy. As a result, the Redskins have to turn to Mark Sanchez, and that does not appear to be a good alternative. It certainly wasn’t in the Monday night loss to the Eagles, as the lone highlight was Adrian Peterson’s 90-yard touchdown run that gave the Redskins a brief lead.