AROUND THE NFL

The Saints don’t have the best record in the NFC, but they are the first team to clinch a postseason berth and a home playoff game.  And, after Thanksgiving, the Bills are almost certain to be the five seed going on the road in the first playoff week to visit the worst AFC Champion.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The New Orleans Saints are the champions of the NFC South after their Thanksgiving victory over the Falcons. Eleven more playoff spots await.

 

The Bills’ victory over the Cowboys makes 9-3 Buffalo a near-lock to earn an AFC wild card berth. The Bills have almost no chance of catching 10-1 New England in the AFC East, but the other AFC wild card contenders — the Steelers, Raiders, Colts, Titans and Browns — all have almost no chance of catching the Bills. And remember, two of those teams would have to pass the Bills in the standings to knock Buffalo out of the playoffs.

 

With the 6-6 Cowboys losing, they and the 5-6 Eagles are locked in a close NFC East race. They meet in December in Philadelphia in a very big game.

 

The AFC South remains a close race, with the winner of Sunday’s game between the 6-5 Titans and 6-5 Colts likely to battle the 7-4 Texans down to the wire.

 

In the AFC West, the 6-5 Raiders likely need to upset the 7-4 Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday. If the Chiefs win that game they’ll have a two-game lead in the division and the tiebreaker advantage.

 

The 9-2 Ravens have the AFC North basically locked up and are hoping to win out and catch the Patriots for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. On Sunday Baltimore hosts the 10-1 49ers, who currently sit atop the NFC but are only a game ahead of the 9-2 Seahawks, who are the leaders in the wild card race. Whoever doesn’t win the NFC West between the 49ers and Seahawks will be a very good wild card team and likely a road favorite over the Cowboys or Eagles in the first round of the playoffs.

 

The 8-3 Packers currently own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the 8-3 Vikings in the NFC North, but those teams meet again in Minnesota in Week 16.

 

The long shots in the NFC are the 6-5 Rams and 6-6 Bears, whose Thanksgiving win was probably too little, too late to get into a crowded playoff field.

 

Hey, Bills, Texans and Vikings fans – we just realized that the last three major North American team sport champions each won the first title in franchise history.  That would be the Nationals, Blues and Raptors.

 

Who in the NFL could be tracking in that regard?  Certainly not the Patriots and not the Saints, Seahawks, Niners, Packers, NFC East contenders, Ravens, Raiders and Chiefs.

 

That would leave the three teams mentioned above (if you don’t count the AFL) – as well as the Titans.  Remember the Titans, too.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY was actually pretty good against the Lions.

 

Even with the pressure mounting against him with each passing week, Mitch Trubisky showed everyone on Turkey Day that he hasn’t allowed the criticism to ruffle his feathers.

 

Against one of the Chicago Bears’ oldest rivals, Trubisky put together his best performance of the season, going 29 of 38 for 338 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in a road win over the Detroit Lions. Some had been heavily questioning the quarterback’s ability under center, given how often he’s been off this season. With his team in need of a crucial win, he was exceptional.

 

“A lot of players made a lot of plays but today was Mitch’s day. It was his day. He did a lot of things today, in regard to making special throws at special times,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said.

 

Indeed, the day Trubisky had is unlike any we’ve seen from the 25-year-old this season. Following a 57-yard punt return by receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to start the game, Trubisky led the way on a Bears TD drive, completing all four of his pass attempts, one of which went to wideout Allen Robinson from 10 yards out.

 

The next four Chicago drives only produced a 30-yard Eddy Pineiro field goal that closed the second quarter; still, Trubisky was a promising 17 of 24 for 100 yards and the TD with the Bears down 17-10. To begin the second half, a late Trubisky throw to Robinson on a crossing route at the line of scrimmage was picked off by Lions corner Darius Slay, a sequence that likely brought a collective sigh from the Chicago faithful.

 

The play and subsequent sideline conversation between Trubisky and Nagy evoked flashbacks of several poignant interactions the two have had, most notably in Week 11 when a hip injury forced Nagy to replace his QB1 with Chase Daniel late against the Rams. The two have demonstrated a high level of trust in one another, and Nagy’s decision to stick with his starter resulted in a clutch victory.

 

“When teams play man, you need your players to make plays and that’s really what happened today,” Nagy said. “We had a quarterback that stepped up and made throws and gave our guys chances and then when the chance was there to make a play, they made plays. … We finally had one of those games where everything felt good for the majority of it.”

 

A Lions three-and-out following the pick gave the Bears a shot at redemption and they got it with a TD drive capped by a tough Trubisky throw to tight end Jesper Horsted. A Lions FG extended the lead to three in the fourth, putting the pressure back on Trubisky to deliver with 6:40 to go. And he would, finding running back David Montgomery on a three-yard pass that effectively put the win on ice.

 

“Very impressive. He showed a lot of poise. Mitch is a guy who studies a lot, he works very hard, so it doesn’t surprise me when he accomplishes this,” Montgomery said.

 

A date against the Cowboys at home could prove major for both teams, depending on Dallas’ outcome against the Bills. At 6-6, the Bears are still third in the NFC North; it’ll take a performance like the one Trubisky had Thursday to keep the Bears’ postseason dreams alive.

 

“We put ourselves in a good position to have another good game next week, so we just have to continue to stick together, just keep grinding, stick together, keep grinding, stay humble, work hard,” Trubisky said. “Just proud of the guys. It’s been a lot of fun, even the ups and downs this season. We’ve just got to enjoy this. Move on and keep getting better from here.”

 

 

DETROIT

The Lions were not winners on Thanksgiving, but rookie QB DAVID BLOUGH looked okay.  Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:

 

Blough was far from perfect, connecting on 22 of 38 passes with some wild incompletions. But for an undrafted rookie making his NFL debut, he played better than anyone would have expected.

 

Blough threw touchdown passes on his first two drives and set a modern NFL record for first-quarter passing yards (136) in his debut game. The Lions will search high and low for a backup quarterback this offseason, but Blough proved he’s worth keeping around.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

In light of recent history, the Cowboys have the rest of the NFL right where they want it.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Washington Nationals started 19-31 and won the World Series. The St. Louis Blues had the league’s worst record at 15-18-4 and 34 points in January before winning the Stanley Cup.

 

The Cowboys don’t have the NFL’s worst record, but at 6-6 nobody is picking them to win the Super Bowl. Except Jerry Jones.

 

He said he “likes our bet” in explaining why he’s keeping Jason Garrett for the rest of the season.

 

“I’m just not going to make a coaching change,” Jones said in a 26-minute postgame interview. “. . .The real world is it’s not impossible that we could step out here and play a game that we improve from and we’ve got a caliber of team that has a chance to do more than just not show up in the playoffs.”

 

The owner insisted again and again and again that Garrett gives the Cowboys the best chance to do what they set out to do when the season began despite an 0-5 record against teams with winning records.

 

The Cowboys will remain in first place at the end of Week 13 regardless how the Eagles (5-6) do against the Dolphins. They are 6-6 and have a head-to-head victory over Philadelphia. The Eagles and Cowboys play again Dec. 22.

 

“I’m going to do the same thing I’ve always done when I get a setback or get my butt kicked,” Jones said. “I’m going to get up in the morning, and I’m going to look for ways [to help], and I’m not going to panic. I’m going to look for ways to improve the situation. I’m still glad that when I get up in the morning, I can look for ways to help our team. One of them is not a coaching change. One of them is not reworking the offense or the defense. Those aren’t alternatives for us to be ready to play over the next month and give us a chance to be what we want to be. But if we stay healthy and other contenders might not, and all of a sudden we start jelling, and we start getting some turnovers, then those games will turn out differently. I like our bet there. I do, even though we haven’t played well the last three games. I like our bet.

 

“As I said, nobody is satisfied with how we played even when we played Detroit. That’s not taking away from anything, but we can play better, and if we can play better, we’ve still got the base health of this team and we’ve got the personnel that we can put out there and we’ve got some coaches, generally coaches here, that I believe in. It’s not working the way they’d thought it’d work, or I’d thought it’d work, but I believe in these coaches to be here to begin with.”

 

An interim coach has never led a team to the postseason, something Jones surely had in mind when he made his decision to keep Garrett.

 

“I wouldn’t make a change and give us a chance to do what I want to dream about doing. I wouldn’t do that for love nor money,” Jones said. “It would give us zero chance if we didn’t have [Garrett].”

 

Garrett, though, has never led the Cowboys beyond the divisional round, something he likely has to do to get a contract extension. All Jones gave him Thursday was a vote of confidence until the end of the season.

 

Garrett almost certainly will have to write Jones’ fairytale ending to return in 2020.

 

“It was a fairytale when I got to buy the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said. “It’s been a fairytale life to me, so I have always dreamed out there on the edge. I really have. I’ve been confused many times between my dreams and reality. But have surprised my own ass by finding out there was some real reality in what a lot of people thought I was dreaming about.”

 

Heck, the Toronto Raptors lost the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals last year before winning their first championship.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

RB SAQUON BARKLEY won’t use his ankle injury as an excuse for his lack of production.  Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News:

 

Saquon Barkley’s in-and-out juke on Buster Skrine last Sunday in Chicago was vintage Barkley, leaving the Bears’ corner in the dust on an impressive 22-yard fourth quarter run.

 

Barkley has slumped as a playmaker recently, so he is constantly asked whether his right ankle is preventing him from playing to his full potential.

 

But it has been more than two months since Barkley’s high ankle sprain, and on Wednesday, the Giants’ frustrated running back set the record straight once and for all.

 

“Did I look hurt?” Barkley said, interrupting a question about Sunday’s amazing cut. “I know that’s where you’re going towards (with this question). So did I look hurt? No. So let’s stop making an excuse that I’m hurt. I’m not hurt. Let’s stop making an excuse that I’m not 100%. No one’s 100%.”

 

Barkley typically talks on Thursdays, but the media isn’t in the facility on Thanksgiving Day. So he stepped to his locker on Wednesday, with his hood up a second straight week like Odell Beckham Jr. used to do as a Giant, and continued to exude restlessness with this season.

 

“I could pull up multiple clips where you can look back and you could see I’m doing the same things I did in college or I did in my first year,” Barkley continued, discussing his physical capabilities. “This season’s not going the way I would like it. I’m not gonna put the blame on anyone else. You’ve got to point the finger at yourself first. You’ve got to be better. I’ve got to be better. And I’m gonna keep working.”

 

Barkley probably is sick of the injury questions because what he’s really being asked for is a reason why he’s not producing. And that’s a reminder of the frustrating reality he is already well aware of himself.

 

The ankle sidelined him Weeks 4 through 6, and in the five games since he returned, Barkley is averaging 2.7 yards per carry (81 rushes, 224 yards), he is averaging 21 total touches for just 81.8 yards per game, and he has not scored a touchdown in three weeks.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

“Bigger fish to fry” is a maxim we haven’t heard in a while.  Mike Triplett of ESPN.com

 

One down, 11 to go.

 

The New Orleans Saints became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff spot, winning the NFC South on Thanksgiving night and serving up some revenge on the rival Atlanta Falcons for good measure.

 

The Saints (10-2) sacked Matt Ryan nine times while beating Atlanta 26-18 just 18 days after their stunning 26-9 loss in the Superdome to these same Falcons (3-9).

 

The New England Patriots (10-1) and San Francisco 49ers (10-1) could also clinch playoff berths this weekend.

 

Week 13 NFL playoff picture: Saints’ win clinches NFC South on Thanksgiving night

“This was objective No. 1, obviously: win the division,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “But I think you know our mindset and the group of guys we have in there and just kind of how we’ve progressed each and every year. We’ve got bigger fish to fry, so to speak.”

 

Indeed, the championship T-shirts worn throughout the celebratory locker room read: “The South Is Not Enough.”

 

As of now, the Saints are the 15th team to clinch a division title in Week 13 or earlier since the NFL went to eight divisions in 2002, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Only one of those teams went on to win a Super Bowl, and that team was the 2009 New Orleans Saints.

 

New Orleans will have a chance to improve its playoff seeding next weekend, with a crucial home date against the 49ers.

 

“We made it a little bit more difficult than it should’ve been,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, who called it “embarrassing” that the Falcons recovered two onside kicks late in the game. “And yet our guys battled and hung in there. Defensively, I thought we played outstanding.

 

“Look, it doesn’t happen much before Thanksgiving. This is our sixth [division title] now, third in a row. It’s one of the goals, and for it to happen this early, it’s the first step. It’s hard to win in this league. It’s hard to win on the road. I’m proud of our guys. I’m proud of Mrs. B [owner Gayle Benson], ownership. You know, a lot of work goes into putting the right team together. And it’s a challenging business. It’s all worth it when you win and you have a chance and you’re playing for something.”

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

NFL.com’s “analytics expert” Cynthia Frelund likes QB KYLER MURRAY and Arizona’s offense on Sunday:

 

WEEK 13 SLEEPER TEAM

ARIZONA CARDINALS: Hosting the Los Angeles Rams.

 

The Cardinals’ offensive line ranks among the bottom five in terms of win share, which is how my metrics measure a player and/or unit’s impact on the offense earning first downs and touchdowns — and consequently, wins. Positive or negative values can be assigned on each snap, then the sums are compared. But I digress. Point is, Arizona’s O-line leaves much to be desired. Yet Kyler Murray has only been under pressure on 12.6 percent of dropbacks this season, per Next Gen Stats, which is the lowest rate in the NFL. Murray is overcoming his porous front and escaping from pressure at the highest rate in the NFL; per NGS, the rookie evades pressure on 28.6 percent of dropbacks when hurried.

 

The Rams’ defense has pressured opposing quarterbacks at the highest rate in the NFL this season: 32.7 percent of dropbacks, per Next Gen Stats. However, when opposing offenses have successfully prevented L.A. from applying pressure, the Rams have allowed a 100.6 passer rating — which ranks 21st in the NFL — and 16 touchdowns against only four interceptions.

 

Murray’s elusiveness is one of the key factors that drives my model’s projection of the Cardinals surprising the Rams in a close upset on Sunday.

 

The Cardinals have scored 25 or more points in six of their last seven games, including twice against the mighty 49ers, who have only allowed 25-plus points in three games total. Over his past three games, Murray has thrown seven touchdown passes against only one interception, driving a 106.7 passer rating over that time. A key to Murray’s recent surge has been his development on passes of 10-plus air yards. In Weeks 1 through 8, he posted a passer rating of just 81.3 in this area, with a 2:3 TD-to-INT ratio. But over his past three games, Murray has significantly boosted those figures: 128.4 passer rating, 5:0 TD-to-INT ratio.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Is QB DEREK CARR a gentle flower who wilts in the cold?  His former coach Jack Del Rio seems to think so.  Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and some interesting back and forth:

 

The relationship between Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and former coach Jack Del Rio may be a bit frosty.

 

Del Rio, who coached the Raiders from 2015-17, weighed in on his former signal-caller’s struggles in cold weather games in response to a social media post citing his 0-4 record, 51 percent completion percentage and 152 yards per game average when the temperature is below 40 degrees.

 

“Last week was inexcusable…… moving on,” Del Rio wrote on Twitter. “The Raiders will need to pound the rock offensively vs the Chiefs and on defense not allow Mahomes to throw it over the top. (Carr) just hasn’t played well in cold weather games and that will have to change for Oakland to have a chance.”

 

Carr was asked about the comment Wednesday.

 

“Jack was there with me a couple of those times,” he said with a smile. “I used to think this was a team game but yes, it’s all my fault and I take full responsibility.”

 

It didn’t take long for Del Rio to respond.

 

“It is definitely a team game and I’m hoping DC comes thru, plays well and helps his team earn a piece of 1st place in the AFC west!,” Del Rio posted minutes after Carr’s weekly news conference. “But the fact remains he hasn’t played well in cold weather.”

 

The temperature is expected to be in the 30s when Sunday’s game in Kansas City kicks off.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

WR T.Y. HILTON had a setback and won’t be playing against the Titans on Sunday.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Indianapolis Colts will once again be without T.Y. Hilton.

 

The star receiver suffered a setback in practice Wednesday and will be out for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans, general manager Chris Ballard said Thursday.

 

Hilton missed three games with a calf injury before returning in last Thursday’s loss to the Houston Texans. The Colts kept Hilton on a pitch count and consciously limited his deep routes to help protect his calf. The wideout still had his worst game of the season, earning three catches for just 18 yards, and missed several key opportunities to move the chains on third downs.

 

Hilton’s setback is another blow to an Indy offense that has been beset by injuries. Tight end Eric Ebron is out for the year, and running back Marlon Mack remains out. Sans the speedy Hilton at full-speed, the Colts offense lacks the field-stretching element to pressure defenses.

 

In a pivotal tilt versus the division rival Titans on Sunday, which could go a long way in determining the eventual AFC South winner, Jacoby Brissett will have to make plays without several of his top options.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

The Bills, making the most of their pieces, were a contrast to the gaudy Cowboys on Thursday.  WR COLE BEASLEY knows both sides of the equation and he’s glad to be in Buffalo:

 

Buffalo Bills receiver Cole Beasley swore his first game back in Dallas was not a “revenge game,” but he didn’t play like it.

 

The former Cowboys receiver turned in his best game of the season in the Bills’ 26-15 victory over Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, catching six passes for a game-high 110 yards and one touchdown in his first game against the team with which he spent his first seven NFL seasons.

 

Speaking from a locker room he’d never been inside of before Thursday’s game, Beasley said his joy stemmed from a happiness with his current team, rather than a disdain for his old one.

 

“I’m just glad I’m in a place coaches believe in me, teammates believe in me and they give me opportunities to do what I do,” he said. “I was telling everybody before the game, I’m just glad I’m on this side while we’re here.

 

“It’s been a great experience, and everybody else played their butts off and got win No. 9. That’s the most important thing, so I’m just glad to take another step forward.”

 

In his first season in Buffalo, Beasley is on pace for a career-high 847 receiving yards on 73 catches. His projected seven touchdowns and 108 targets would also set career highs.

 

The former SMU player also went to high school in the Dallas area, and signed a four-year, $29 million deal with the Bills this offseason. It hasn’t taken long for him to ingratiate himself with his new teammates.

 

Beasley was the last one into the Bills’ locker room after the game, and his teammates erupted in cheers as soon as he turned the corner.

 

“I’m just grateful, really, for [Cole] and his mindset, as well, because of what he comes from and what he stands for,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “He’s just one piece but there’s a lot of other stories in our locker room of guys like Cole — that maybe it didn’t work out in one place, but it works out in Buffalo.

 

“That’s the culture we’re trying to build, where guys come to Buffalo … and they can become the best version of themselves.”

 

Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson, one of four players left from the previous front-office regime, spoke to the obvious culture change throughout the organization.

 

“I told people we built different, man, this team too different,” Lawson said. “Not high-powered superstars, you know what I’m saying — we’re just built different.

 

“It feels great to be a part of this. Like I told these guys, I’ve seen a change since my rookie year — it was completely different. To see us winning, man, and see the city love us, it feels great. You get the right people and culture change — it’ll change quick. They’ve got the right people here to do it.”

 

Beasley swapped jerseys with Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and embraced several AT&T Stadium staff members before and after the game. From his perspective, it’s hard to be angry with the past when the present is going so well.

 

His time with the Bills is proof.

 

“Man, there’s a bond here that I don’t think can happen in many places, just with the way it’s kind of set up,” he said. “I can’t explain everything, but we’re always together. It’s a different kind of brotherhood here, and we’re always together. Our kids are together, the coaches, the players — everything.

 

“It’s really a unique and awesome thing that we have here in Buffalo, and I know my family has loved every bit of it. That’s part of why I said I’d play here until the wheels fall off.”

 

The Bills are 9-3 – and things are about to get interesting:

 

WEEK 14 – Baltimore Ravens

WEEK 15 – at Pittsburgh Steelers

WEEK 16 – at New England Patriots

WEEK 17 – New York Jets

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots will need a rented kicker for their visit Sunday to Houston.  Nick O’Malley of MassLive.com:

 

The New England Patriots got some bad news this Thanksgiving: They likely won’t have their starting kicker this weekend against the Houston Texans.

 

According to Mike Petraglia of CLNS, kicker Nick Folk had his appendix out, undergoing an appendectomy early Thursday, and will likely miss this Sunday’s game.

 

This leaves the Patriots in a dire situation, losing their kicker with only a few day’s notice before their next game. This continues a string of bad kicker luck in New England this season. The team already lost long-time kicker Stephen Gostkowski to a season-ending hip injury. They then turned to veteran Mike Nugent for a few games before parting ways.

 

The Patriots have little time for find a new placekicker by this weekend. After losing Gostkowski, the Patriots have worked out a wide array of kickers and therefore have a good grasp of the market.

 

One possible band-aid solution would be to bring back Nugent, who already has experience with New England’s special teams units. The Patriots previous had kicker Younghoe Koo on their practice squad. However, he’s no longer an option after being picked up by the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Folks started strong in New England on both field goals and PATs before struggling this past week against the Dallas Cowboys. Folk went 5-for-5 on field goal attempts in his first two games with the Patriots. However, it was clear that Folk had limited range and didn’t generate a ton of confidence on long-range kicks. That showed this past week when Folk missed two field goals from over 40 yards out in cold, wet and windy conditions at Gillette Stadium.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

COMMON SCORES

Here are the 10 most common scores in NFL history:

 

  1        20-17              265 games

  2        27-24              210 games      

  3        17-14              195 games      

  4        23-20              182 games      

  5        24-17              165 games      

  6        13-10              163 games      

  7        24-21              151 games      

  8t       16-13              138 games      

  8t       17-10              138 games      

10        24-14              137 games      

 

The Saints win over Atlanta was the 9th 26-18 game. 

 

The Bills’ win over the Cowboys was the 7th 26-15 game.

 

 

QUARTERBACK RATINGS

NFL.com on who is hot and who is not – 1 to 32 from Jackson to Hodges.

 

1 – Lamar Jackson

 

Bhanpuri: Lamar Jackson is the best player in the NFL. Not just because we ranked him No. 1 on this list (though, we are the top authority on the subject), but because every shred of evidence — the tape, the stats, his teammates, his opponents — has proven it to be true.

 

2 – Russell Wilson

 

Bhanpuri: Although Jackson has stripped Wilson of the belt this week, the margin separating the two passers is as narrow as a (space) needle. If you think there’s a gulf, not a gap, dividing these two superstars, then you’re clearly not watching the games.

 

3 – Patrick Mahomes

 

Bhanpuri: This year’s MVP race feels a lot like the college football season in that one poor game, particularly late in the season, can eliminate a contender. Mahomes’ sub-par showing against the Chargers in Week 11 feels like the death knell signaling the end of his repeat effort.

 

4 – Deshaun

 

Bhanpuri: Big-shot Wat(son) is back! (That nickname definitely has staying power.) The Texans QB1 rebounded from one of the worst games of his pro career by throwing for 298 yards on 9.9 yards per attempt in a massive division win that put Houston atop the AFC South

 

5 – Dak Prescott

 

Bhanpuri: Nonstop rain, near-freezing temperatures, a hostile environment and one of the NFL’s best defenses … yep, the deck was stacked against Dak from the onset Sunday…Considering the horrid weather conditions, it seems irresponsible to dock Dak too severely for Sunday’s showing, especially coming off of three straight games with three TD passes.

 

POST-THURSDAY UPDATE: After a surgical opening drive gave the Cowboys an early lead, everything that could go wrong did for Prescott and Co.: two fumbles (1 lost), two missed field goals, an interception and a correctly overturned touchdown catch. Dak surely is not without fault for his multiple turnovers, but the Bills’ bend-but-don’t-break defense deserves credit for forcing the issue throughout the contest. Although Prescott produced his third 350-yard passing effort in his last four games, something tells me that won’t be the headline coming out of this one.

 

6 – Aaron Rodgers

 

Bhanpuri: The 49ers’ top-ranked pass defense is even better than advertised, and if you don’t believe me, just pop on the tape from Sunday night’s mauling of MVP hopeful Aaron Rodgers and watch unrelenting pressure coalesce with suffocating coverage to completely nullify one of the league’s best quarterbacks.

 

7 – Kirk Cousins

 

Bhanpuri: Cousins doesn’t receive nearly as much praise when he plays well as he does flack when he fails…The veteran signal-caller has a real shot of upending the narrative around him (and the top-half of this ranking) on Monday night when he faces off against Russell Wilson’s Seahawks. Cousins is legitimately one impressive prime-time performance away from vaulting into the top five — something I would’ve thought inconceivable nearly two months ago.

 

8 – Drew Brees

 

Bhanpuri: The further we’re removed from that embarrassing home loss to the Falcons in Week 10, the more that game looks like a blip than a true barometer of Brees’ current ability.

 

POST-THURSDAY UPDATE: While not a particularly sharp performance by the NFL’s all-time leading passer, it was good enough to help the Saints clinch the NFC South.

 

9 – Derek Carr

 

Blair: After spinning eight straight gems, Carr put up a big, fat dud against the Jets, finishing with the fourth-lowest yardage total (127) and passer rating (52.5) of his career.

 

10 – Kyler Murray

 

Blair: While the Final Word on every quarterback drafted in recent years changes drastically from week to week, Murray continues to develop in the background, making strides and stumbling as a rookie in the relative anonymity of the desert.

 

11 – Jimmy Garoppolo

 

Blair: Other than a handful of sacks, Jimmy G was crisp when called upon in a blowout win over the Packers, setting new highs in yards per attempt (12.7) and passer rating in a start (145.8). Appearing to have attained symbiosis with Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme, Garoppolo was decisive in getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers, including, of course, George Kittle, located on a wide-open 61-yard scoring bomb, and Deebo Samuel, who scored a 42-yard touchdown that included 29 yards blazed after the catch. …I have to point out that Jimmy G HAS PASSED TOM BRADY FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS SEASON. Adjust your understanding of the universe accordingly.

 

12 – Tom Brady

 

Blair: Is Bill Belichick’s greatest coaching test going to be strategizing around an aging Tom Brady? I doubt it. Brady is as seasoned as they come, and everyone involved should have an understanding of how to maximize New England’s chances

 

13 – Matt Ryan

 

Blair: If you take out the 53-yarder to Jaeden Graham to open the game and a 31-yard shot to Julio Jones later in the first quarter, Ryan’s yards-per-attempt mark from Sunday’s loss to the Bucs drops from 5.89 to a sickly 4.25.

 

POST-THURSDAY UPDATE: Ryan spent most of Thursday night running for his life, as Cam Jordan and the Saints’ pass rush hurried him constantly and sacked him often (9 times!).

 

14 – Ryan Tannehill

 

Blair: So, is Ryan Tannehill … good? Though aided significantly by yards after the catch, his yards-per-throw mark of 14.4 rates as the second best of any quarterback in any game this season, behind only Lamar Jackson’s majestic 16.2 yards per attempt in Week 1 against the Dolphins. Tannehill came out dealing, completing pass plays of 24, 19 and 20 yards (plus a scramble of 20 on his first offensive snap) in the first quarter, and while it took some time — and, yes, he started the second quarter by coughing up a fumble on a sack — Tannehill eventually broke down Jacksonville, picking up 45 yards (on a 24-yard pass to Corey Davis and a 21-yard scoring run capped with a pinwheeling leap into the end zone) on Tennessee’s first touchdown drive, midway through the second quarter. From there, neither he nor, crucially, the Jaguar-stomping Derrick Henry could be stopped. The former No. 8 overall pick’s grand plan appears to be falling into place.

 

15 – Baker Mayfield

 

Blair: Baker’s back, baby! The Browns’ offense tightened up a bit in the third quarter, but otherwise, Mayfield and Co. rode a balanced air-ground attack to a cathartic blowout win over the Dolphins.

 

T-16 – Jacoby Brissett

 

Blair: Brissett finished with zero touchdown passes and the lowest passing yards total (129) of the season (aside from the Week 9 game he left early with an injury). But I’m hesitant to dock him too many QBI points for the loss to Houston. In a run-heavy game plan, Brissett protected the football, chipped in a rushing score of his own and came 1 yard short on a fourth-and-7 scramble of setting up a legitimate chance to tie or potentially win the game.

 

 

T-16 – Carson Wentz

 

Filice: What do you get in the City of Brotherly Love when you combine an underperforming quarterback with a depleted offensive line and a ragtag receiving corps? Boo birds. Flocks and flocks of ’em. But to be fair to Philly fans, who have a bit of a reputation when it comes to expressing their displeasure, Wentz’s performance in Sunday’s 17-9 loss to Seattle essentially demanded ridicule from the denizens of Lincoln Financial Field.

 

18 – Philip Rivers

 

Filice: What a difference a year makes … At this point last season, through 11 games, the Chargers were sitting pretty at 8-3, having just blown out the Cardinals 45-10 in a game where Rivers set an NFL record by completing his first 25 passes and finished 28 of 29 for 259 yards and three touchdowns in just three quarters of work. Now? The Bolts are 4-7, coming off two straight losses to division foes in which Rivers tossed seven interceptions. In the span of 365 days, Rivers has gone from dark-horse MVP candidate to offeseason QB market fodder:

 

19 – Josh Allen

 

Filice: We’ve discussed this before, but Allen is a truly paradoxical passer. The second-year pro might be able to throw a football further than anyone currently walking Planet Earth, yet he’s one of the least potent deep-ball throwers in the game today.

 

POST-THURSDAY UPDATE: What a showing from the the Bills QB1 in his first Thanksgiving Day game! If Allen’s raw numbers at Dallas weren’t impressive enough — 19-of-24 passing, 231 pass yards, 42 rush yards, 2 total TDs — the second-year signal-caller posted a +11.8 completion percentage above expectation, per Next Gen Stats. He made numerous chain-moving plays, with both his arm and his legs, that deserve second and third looks on NFL Game Pass. Not sure the tough, gritty passer could’ve played much better Thursday. Will it be enough to push him into the top 16 of next week’s rankings for the first time?

 

20 – Sam Darnold

 

Filice: After averaging just 12 points per game during their 1-7 start to the season, the Jets have settled on a much more palatable number: 34. And only 34. That’s the exact points total Gang Green has produced each time out during the current three-game win streak: 34-27 over the Giants, 34-17 over the Redskins and 34-3 over the Raiders. 34! 34! 34!

 

21 – Kyle Allen

 

Filice: The last few months have been a whirlwind for this 23-year-old.

 

 

22 – Nick Foles

 

Filice: In his two-month adventure as Jacksonville’s starting quarterback, rookie Gardner Minshew displayed a preternatural ability to make off-schedule plays. This was the secret sauce of Minshew Mania: the mustachioed man’s ad-lib playmaking. But Foles is a quarterback who thrives in structure.

 

23 – Jameis Winston

 

Filice: Did Jameis just produce the most Jameis half of football that’s ever been Jameised? The QB Index deems that he did! Over the first two quarters of Tampa Bay’s 35-22 win over Atlanta, the boom-or-bust quarterback in a make-or-break season simultaneously built up and tore down his value. The white-knuckle, roller-coaster ride began with Winston’s first pass of the game, which he inexplicably threw right into Falcons CB Desmond Trufant’s gut. Bad Jameis! On the Bucs’ next possession, Winston delivered one of the best throws of Week 12, hitting Chris Godwin with an impossibly placed rope up the seam (and between two Falcons) to spring a 71-yard touchdown. Good Jameis! Possession No. 3? Yeah, that ended with a harebrained jump pass that missed his receiver and found another defender, marking the 20th pick of Winston’s season and 100th turnover of his 67-game career. Bad Jameis! On the penultimate possession of the half, Winston hit Godwin for a pair of chunk gains to set the Bucs up near the goal line. Then Godwin made an absurd one-handed catch through contact on a ball that was either partially tipped or horribly located. Lucky Jameis! And to top it all off, Winston guided the Bucs on an 11-play, 95-yard drive that ended, naturally, with a touchdown pass to 347-pound DT-turned-FB Vita Vea. WTF Jameis?!

 

24 – Jared Goff

 

Filice: Playing the Washington Generals to Lamar Jackson’s Harlem Globetrotters on Monday night, Goff posted his fourth multi-pick game of 2019. \

 

25 – Daniel Jones

 

Parr: The fumbleitis is real. Jones coughed the ball up again in a deflating loss at Soldier Field (although some of the blame rests with Nate Solder for getting beat by Khalil Mack). Yes, his O-line doesn’t do him many favors in pass protection, but still. Hang onto the ball, rook! He leads the league with 10 fumbles lost, the most by any player since 2004.

 

26 – Andy Dalton

 

Parr: The Red Rifle is back!

 

27 – Ryan Fitzpatrick

 

Parr: Fitzpatrick celebrated his 37th birthday on Sunday by giving a little something to everybody — his haters ( that fourth-quarter interception), his supporters ( beautiful TD pass to Mike Gesicki) and those of us who are entertained by the whole experience (in a very Fitzmagic moment, he became the oldest QB to score a rush TD on his birthday

 

28 – Mitchell Trubisky

 

Parr: There are telling stats, like Trubisky’s average of 5.8 yards per attempt (last in the NFL) and 80.5 passer rating (ranks 30th out of 34 qualifying QBs). But perhaps the most revealing metric in Trubisky’s regression this year is his declining performance when he’s not pressured.

 

POST-THURSDAY UPDATE: Trubisky started off the game in complete control, going 5 for 5 for 31 yards and a touchdown on the Bears’ opening possession to give them an early (but short-lived) lead. Although he threw several accurate, on-time throws — many of them, surprisingly, beyond the sticks — throughout the afternoon, the embattled signal-caller still had a handful of Oh no! passes and What are you doing?! decisions to keep Bears fans on edge. All in all, though, Trubisky came through when it mattered most, capping one of his best efforts of the season with a go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Hard to imagine he doesn’t get a bump in next week’s rankings.

 

29 – Jeff Driskel

 

Parr: A hamstring injury suffered in a gut-wrenching loss to Washington has Driskel’s status in question for a Thanksgiving date with the Bears.

 

POST-THURSDAY UPDATE: You’d never know David Blough, starting in place of Detroit’s QB2 Jeff Driskel, was an undrafted rookie making his NFL debut by the way he commanded the Lions’ offense against the Bears on Thanksgiving. The former Purdue product threw touchdown passes on the Lions’ first two drives, including a 75-yard bomb on his first ever pass as a pro. Despite coming back down to earth (relatively speaking) in the second half, and coming up just short on a potential game-winning drive, Blough did enough well on Sunday (pocket movement, ball placement, decision-making) to create a legitimate backup QB controversy in Detroit.

 

30 – Dwayne Haskins

 

Parr: He was gifted very favorable field position by a Jeff Driskel interception, but let’s give Haskins credit for moving the Redskins into position for the game-winning field goal in the final minute of his first career victory as a starter.

 

31 – Brandon

 

Parr: The natives are restless

 

32 – Devlin Hodges

 

Parr: How low has the bar fallen for quarterback play in Pittsburgh? Well, when asked why he was turning to Hodges to start over Mason Rudolph this week, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s response was ” He (Hodges) has not killed us.”