Highs and Lows is back, and the season of giving brought us another great week of NFL football. This week featured some heavyweight NFL matchups in both conferences, and the men were clearly separated from the boys on Sunday. From the shootouts to the slugfests, the league gave us plenty to discuss. I am simply here to narrow your focus a bit.
The Green Bay Packers followed their third loss of the season with a big time win against the Los Angeles Rams 36-23. The 9-3 Packers never trailed during the game and are now a perfect 5-0 at home. Green Bay has been winning at the line of scrimmage all season and as the season heads into December and the cold weather rears its ugly head, Lambeau Field is once again primed to be one of the best home field advantages in the league.
Aaron Rodgers, operated on a fractured toe, was his usual self against a star studded Rams defense. Rodgers went 28/45 for 302 yards for two touchdowns and no interceptions with a passer rating of 97.2. He spread the ball around Sunday, connecting with eight different pass catchers, with star wide receiver Davante Adams (eight catches for 104 yards) being his favorite target. Defensively the Packers turned the Rams over three times, held them to just 3.4 yards per carry, and limited Los Angeles to just 4/14 on third and fourth down. The Packers are among the NFL’s elite, and Lambeau Field will be a tough place to play as the season carries on.
Niners on the Rise
The San Francisco 49ers have a winning record for the first time since the third week of the season, and are firmly in the playoff picture. Their 34-26 victory against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday was their third straight win and they have won four of their last five following a four game losing streak earlier in the season. San Francisco has overcome early season injuries and has his team in a position to make some noise in the NFC.
The Niners run game, which has been among the NFL’s best since offensive guru Kyle Shanahan took over the head coaching position, was dominant on Sunday. San Fracisco rushed for 208 yards, with rookie running back Elijah Mitchell leading the way with 133 yards and a score. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel continued to show his versatility as he rushed for 66 yards and two scores as well. While quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had a relatively pedestrian day with 230 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, the Niners dominated the clock and held the Vikings rushing attack to just 67 yards. The 49ers are a physical football team and with the Rams reeling are making the NFC wild card race very interesting.
The Old Normal
Efficient quarterback play, elite defense, and smart football overall. The New England Patriots are officially back and Mac Jones is the perfect successor to Tom Brady. The Patriots won their sixth straight game against the Tennessee Titans in dominant fashion, winning at home against the AFC contenders 36-13. The Patriots now hold sole possession of the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and after a brief down season following the departure of Brady, Bill Belichek has his team back to form and surging as the season progresses.
The Patriots are currently the No. 1 scoring defense and No. 4 defense in yardage wise in the league. They haven’t allowed 14 points to be scored in 4 weeks. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones continues to impress and has gotten better as the season progresses. Jones had 310 yards, two touchdowns, and a passer rating of 123.2 against the Titans. The Patriots are a well coached team that is getting better as the season goes on, something we’ve been hearing our entire lives.
Philly (Not So) Special
After starting the season 1-3, the Philadelphia Eagles came into MetLife Stadium at 5-6, winners of three of their last four outings. They had fought their way back into the playoff race, and their game against the Giants was the first of five straight games against a team with a losing record, four of which being divisional games. With the Cowboys ailing, they were poised to storm into the division picture right alongside the Washington Football Team. Unfortunately, the 27th ranked New York Giants defense smothered the Eagles offense, and Philly was unable to convert on their final drive as they fell on the road 13-7.
Divisional games are never a given, especially in the NFC East, but the Eagles had no business losing that game on Sunday. Philadelphia turned the ball over four times, including three interceptions thrown by Jalen Hurts. Hurts had one of his worst games of the season, going 14/31 for 129 and no touchdowns. Two of his interceptions occurred in scoring territory, and those points cost the Eagles at the end of the game. The biggest blunders came from Jalen Reagor, however, as he dropped two touchdowns in the final minute of the game including the game sealer on fourth down. The Eagles late season push got off to a very shaky start on Sunday.
Superman Cam Newton was god awful in his 33-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. While this same Dolphins defense did play MVP candidate Lamar Jackson as well as anybody has in years two days ago, it does not excuse what the Carolina Panthers quarterback did on that field Sunday. While he had a solid performance in his first start last week, the honeymoon phase of Cam’s return has come to an abrupt halt.
Before being benched for backup P.J. Walker Newton completed just 5 of his 21 pass attempts for 92 yards and two touchdowns. He had a QBR of 5.4 and a passer rating of 5.8. Keep in mind if you spike the ball on every play you’d have a passer rating of 39.6. Newton’s sole score came on a one yard touchdown run, but he was unable to do anything all day and the Panthers were blown out as a result. At 5-7 Carolina is still very much in the playoff race, but they will have to do it without their star running back Christian McCaffery, who was injured during the game and is out for the season. Cam is going to have to bounce back in a major way to keep Caronlina’s playoff hopes alive.
Steel City Folding Like Paper
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in major trouble. The Steelers haven’t won in three games, tying one and losing the next two, and following their 41-10 beatdown against the division rival Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh now sits at the bottom of the AFC North at 5-5-1. Head Coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season with the Steelers, but with a daunting schedule ahead, this just might be his first.
Pittsburgh couldn’t get anything done on Sunday. What was alarming is knowing that every win is crucial as they play in a tightly contested division, the Steelers a week after going toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football couldn’t even put up a fight against the Bengals. Pittsburgh turned the ball over three times and were dominated in time of possession. They lost the second quarter alone 21-0 and were down 31-3 at half. Bengals running back Joe Mixon had a field day as he ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers play the Ravens twice, the Titans, the Chiefs, the Browns, and the Vikings in their last six games. They’re not going to beat any of them playing like they did this past week.
That’s it for a Thanksgiving edition of Highs and Lows. As Week 13 commences, the final third of the regular season will be underway. Some major wild card matchups will go down on Sunday, and the week will finish with two major divisional battles in the AFC.