Analysis

What We Learned: 33 Expert Takeaways From Week 12

On an NFL Sunday that saw two games decided by a two-point conversion in the final minute, two others decided in overtime, and another two decided by one possession, there were a number of surprising performances and interesting developments. The 33rd Team’s experts weighed in with 33 takeaways from the day’s games:

Carolina 23, Denver 10

1.) “In a game that was mostly about who had the higher pick in the coming draft, the Panthers found a way to win. The Broncos’ defense continues to look strong and be able to compete against virtually anyone. The Panthers’ offense putting up 23 points was somewhat of a surprise. Darnold must be wishing he hadn’t gotten injured and had a chance to play the past few weeks to demonstrate his ability to lead them in the future. That said, in my opinion, they should be looking to get one of the top QBs in the draft this spring.” — Joe Banner

2.) “I get it, I can see why this defense would be as frustrated as they are with the way they perform week in and week out, the way they recover and give the offense a chance very week, and you’ve go a quarterback who’s been given so much and the team gave up so much to get him, and nothing’s happening. And more so than that, you want to see progress. You can sometimes live without the wins if you know you’re moving forward and are in a better position to win the next week, and I don’t think they’re seeing that at all in Denver.” — Eric Mangini

3.) “Probably the most disappointing player in 2022 is Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson. Denver gave up two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick and three players for Wilson. Wilson does not look like the same player that he was in Seattle for all those years in the Pacific Northwest. Did Pete Carroll, John Schneider and the Seahawks know something that the rest of us didn’t?” — T.J. McCreight

4.) “Russell Wilson is going to be the quarterback. There’s too much money there, you can’t make a quarterback change, but you can make a coaching change, and when you have a new ownership group who wasn’t part of that decision, if anything they’re typically looking for a reason to make a change because they want to bring in their own guy they felt good about and they are invested with.” — Eric Mangini

Cleveland 23, Tampa Bay 17 (OT)

5.) “Professional poker players often allow their opponent to win the first few hands so they can read how they operate, what their skill level is and what their strategy is. It seems very similar to what defenses do when facing the Cleveland Browns. For the sixth time this season the Browns have scored a touchdown on their opening drive — and finally they won one of those games. Defensive coordinators seem to zone in on what the Browns are doing and how they are attacking the game. It is a chess game in the NFL, and after the initial drive the Browns seem to be playing checkers. The fact that this continues to happen to Cleveland is concerning.”  — T.J. McCreight

6.) “You can no longer just say ‘Tampa Bay has Tom Brady, they have a shot.’ That’s done with. They don’t have the protection up front health-wise with Wirfs being carted off today, and they don’t really have anyone that can stretch the field. They do a have a top-flight defense without a doubt, but you can only depend on that defense for so long. You saw today, they held up, held up, held up, but this is the NFL. At some point the other team will make the play if you keep them in it long enough. And they go from just thinking they have the game won to now you come out losing.” — Samari Rolle

7.) “I have been a Todd Bowles advocate, but he will receive significant and justifiable criticism for the way he coached the final few minutes of regulation. His extremely conservative play-calling near the end of the game, against a QB who struggled terribly with pressure, led to the loss. He chose to only rush four for most of the fourth quarter and exhausted his DL. In addition, the clock mismanagement was truly unprecedented. Before the Browns’ final TD to tie the game in the fourth quarter, he could have called a TO with 1:10 to go with Tom Brady as his QB. Instead he let the Browns run the clock down to :30, and regulation ended with TB holding the ball around midfield on a drive where a FG would’ve won the game.” — Joe Banner

8.) “The best thing in the Bucs’ favor is they’re in the worst division in football right now, without a doubt. They do close at the 49ers and they’ve got the Bengals. I don’t see them winning those two games. But they can win the rest of them, at 9-8, 10-7, the Bucs will probably be a first round exit, but they will get in the playoffs without a doubt.” — Samari Rolle

Jacksonville 28, Baltimore 27

9.) “Trevor Lawrence, there’s no doubt he deserved to be the number one pick last year. I think today he was able to show that he has it. He was able to go toe to toe with former MVP Lamar Jackson and run his team out, was able to hold on and get the win. But the biggest thing is we can’t say yeah today, this was the turning point, and then next week he comes back and plays terrible… Hopefully, this was the start of the foundation to show that he is what he was supposed to be.” — Samari Rolle

10.) “In a game that was overwhelmingly controlled by the Ravens, a few late mistakes, some excellent throws by Lawrence, and a late two-point conversation led to a defeat that the Ravens couldn’t afford, and did not really reflect how the game was played. You need to applaud the Jags for playing hard and Doug Pederson for having the courage to go for two when not making it meant they lost the game. His confidence paid off and the Jaguars got a much-needed win against a strong Ravens team. The Ravens abandoned blitzing in the later part of the game and made life much easier for Lawrence — potentially costing their team a victory that was much-needed.” — Joe Banner

11.) “The Ravens right now have the ultimate closer on their team in Justin Tucker. The problem is, sometimes they can’t get to Justin Tucker, and they can’t use their closer because they can’t close. Lamar Jackson and company, under John Harbaugh, have got to find a better way to close games. When you have someone down, bury them. Third time this year they’ve let a game slip away in the fourth quarter because their defense couldn’t contain the opposing offense.” — Trey Wingo

12.) “The Ravens’ offense is Lamar or the tight ends. It is what it is. You have to give them praise when they win and when it works. But when it doesn’t, that’s when the doubt comes in… it has to come to a point where you have to embrace who Lamar is and what he is, and in order for that style to really pay off, the defense has got to play much better week in and week out. They have too many lulls in games where they’re coasting and then they give up a big lead… When they lose it’s on Lamar and when they win it’s on Lamar. But that’s the easy way out, they have to help him.” — Samari Rolle

Miami 30, Houston 15

13.) “In spite being in the later half of the second year of the Texans’ new front office, there is no evidence (other than player effort) to cause one to believe that this team is on the right track to have any near-term success. They were behind 30-0 to a good, but not great, Dolphins team before we were even deeply into the game. On the other hand the Dolphins were dominant on both offense and defense and continue to improve each week. I still worry about the strength of their line to make a deep run, but the speed of their offense, the aggressiveness of their defense, and the play of Tua gives them at least some hope that they can stay alive for a while.” — Joe Banner

N.Y. Jets 31, Chicago 10

14.) “You make a decision as potentially controversial as it was, even though the whole world knew it was time to try something different, it’s still a big jump when you’ve invested as much as they have in Zach. And for it to pay off the way it did, that’s the good news. But when Mike White played last year, he exploded on the scene, got hurt the next game, and came back and had a terrible game. From what we’ve seen from a small sample of him playing is his ability to go boom or bust. Ideally, we’re going to get a lot of this Mike White, and not much of the Mike White we saw in his second full start.” — Eric Mangini

15.) “This feels to me a little bit like the Kurt Warner story… You look at Mike White’s performance with the Jets, and the numbers are just staggering how good he was, with the lack of sacks, and they were able to rush the ball extremely well. Overall, they just dominated on offense, even though it was only 31 points, it could have been more.” — Mike Martz

16.) “It’s an incredible start, and White’s got the benefit of what looks to be a pretty good running game, pretty good defense, and pretty good special teams. So hopefully, he doesn’t think I need to make every play, and take unnecessary chances, and take the plays that are there. That should be good enough for the Jets to be in every game, and probably more than they lose going forward.” — Eric Mangini

17.) “The Jets have won these games without basically a quarterback playing above average, Wilson’s been a below average performer up to this point. Now you get a guy who’s been bounced around a little bit, a little calloused, he comes in, he gets his opportunity, and he lights it up. The good news with that is he’s not coming in to replace someone that’s injured. It’s his job, and the players know that, and I think he energy level and enthusiasm just went through he roof as he started gaining confidence and making plays like he did in that game. He looked like an outstanding NFL quarterback in this game, and there’s no reason to think that this can’t continue like that.” — Mike Martz

18.) “I don’t think there’s a lot of people in that locker room and on that coaching staff that’s sitting back worried about the way Zach Wilson feels. I think they all feel that they’ve got a great opportunity to win the division, go to the playoffs, and they’re worried about that.” — Eric Mangini

19.) “The Jets are in the hunt for a playoff spot and perhaps for even the division title. Robert Saleh, at this point, should be in serious consideration for Coach of the Year. This team has a very bright future.” — T.J. McCreight

Cincinnati 20, Tennessee 16

20.) “The Bengals have adjusted to life without Chase. They’ve done such a great job of getting the ball to the tight end and Tee Higgins. They rushed the football better than the Titans did, and that’s saying something. The Titans control the line of scrimmage, that’s their thing, on both sides of the football. That’s where it all starts for them. And Cincinnati in essence of this game, they took control of both sides of the ball on the line of scrimmage. Tennessee did not rush the ball at all, and the Bengals absolutely pounded Tennessee running the ball at times.” — Mike Martz

21.) “They had to win this game because this is playoff-type opponent for them and a real physical team, and they basically took what the Titans do exceptionally well and matched it, and owned the line of scrimmage… I just think when Chase comes back, they’re just now starting a nice run in the end of the season. This is where you’d like to be as a football team.” — Mike Martz

22.) “A tough game between two good teams. The Bengals’ OL continues to struggle, especially against good teams, but Burrow’s extreme talent with a top-notch WR core, even without Chase, managed to score just enough points to win. The Titans continued to play good football on both sides. Although this is a tough loss, they continue to prove those who wrote them off before the season did so without good reason. They are a good, well-coached team.” — Joe Banner

23.) “The Bengals face a brutal finish to the season… This is going to be a gauntlet. And if Cincinnati can survive this gauntlet, they just might be the team that nobody in the AFC wants to see when the playoffs come around. They’re going to have to earn it by beating the majority of the teams on their schedule… But you always want to be a team that can beat you in a lot of ways. The Bengals can beat you through the air, and they have a two-handed monster in the running game. And that defense has playmakers up and down the field. If the Cincinnati Bengals get to the postseason, they might be the team that has more ways to beat everybody else in the AFC, but with that schedule, getting there might be the biggest part of the problem for Cincinnati.” — Trey Wingo

Washington 19, Atlanta 13

24.) “They’re playing complimentary football across the board, and that’s why they’ve been winning games. I give a lot of credit to Ron Rivera and how he’s leading that team, even though there’s so much controversy outside of the football world, everything that’s going around in that organization, he’s able to keep those guys focused. They seem to be playing for each other, and they may be a team to watch. I don’t know if they’re talented enough to go up against some of the top NFC teams, but they’re going to make some noise if they get in to the playoffs.” — Rick Spielman

25.) “The Commanders are playing a complete, team game. Taylor Heinicke is making enough plays at the quarterback position. I wouldn’t put him in a Patrick Mahomes category, but he can make plays with his feet, he can make throws, they’ve got a pretty solid run game. But really where the Commanders are playing extremely well is on that defensive front. Their run defense has been outstanding, and I can’t wait to see when Chase Young comes back and he’s added to the mix.” — Rick Spielman

L.A. Chargers 25, Arizona 24

26.) “In a must win game for the Chargers, Justin Herbert engineered a game-winning touchdown drive and converted on the two-point conversion to put the Cardinals away. Herbert completed passes to seven different receivers and was on the money all day long. The route that Gerald Everett ran on the two-point play was outstanding. A very subtle move allowed him enough separation for the completion. You could tell that they have practiced that play quite a bit in practice this fall.” — T.J. McCreight

Las Vegas 40, Seahawks 34 (OT)

27.) “The star today was definitely Josh Jacobs. Not only what he was able to do on the ground and the run he made to win the game in overtime, but also what he did as a receiver out of the backfield. They elected not to exercise his fifth-year option before the season, and if he keeps going the way he’s playing, he’s going to get a big payday.” — Rick Spielman

28.) “It was the most explosive that the Las Vegas Raiders looked offensively this season… You have to give credit to Josh McDaniels and how this offense is starting to come together. Derek Carr made some explosive plays down the field throwing the ball to Davante Adams, who showed why they gave up the draft capital and paid him the money they’re paying.” — Rick Spielman

Kansas City 26, L.A. Rams 10

29.) “The offense just didn’t seem to click when they got to the red zone, so they’re coming out of the game feeling frustrated to only have 26 points. And they played a Rams team that’s pretty depleted. They’re on their third-string quarterback, they got a few receivers down and it’s a team that has not met expectations to say the least. So the Chiefs kind of got by doing enough… It just didn’t feel like a clean game. But they still won by 16, and they come out of there happy with the victory but disappointed with the performance.” — Mitchell Schwartz

30.) “It seems like these Andy Reid-coached teams with Patrick Mahomes just keep getting stronger as the season goes on. There’s a couple things to it. Andy Reid is obviously an awesome coach, he’s a really smart guy, and he gets a better sense of his team as the season progresses. He understands what the team is good at. He also runs a pretty tough training camp, and I think you see the dividends once you get into November and December, when you have to rely on that base of physicality that you built up in training camp.” — Mitchell Schwartz

San Francisco 13, New Orleans 0

31.) “San Francisco has too many playmakers on the offensive side of the ball that they have playmakers falling out of trees right now. When you watched them play last week, it showed how explosive this offense can be. But when their offense does struggle, like it did somewhat against a very good New Orleans defense today, their defense can carry this football team. And they’re number one in almost every category in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball. That’s what makes them one of the most complete teams, and one of the teams who are peaking at the right time when you want to play your best football.” — Rick Spielman

Philadelphia 40, Green Bay 33

32.) “The Philadelphia Eagles are the best team in the NFC without a doubt, and tonight kind of secured that. Collectively that team played phenomenal from the very first snap all the way to the end, and the fact that you had your quarterback and your running back run for over 300 yards is very impressive, and we didn’t even have to clock in to using our star receivers. Although the score was 40-33, that does not do it justice. That was a complete butt-kicking.” — Golden Tate

33.) “This gives an opportunity for Jordan Love to come in there and get some reps. And it’s going to tell the organization everything it needs to know, is this Jordan Love kid ready to take over the reins from Aaron Rodgers, or isn’t he? With Rodgers being sidelined for potentially a few weeks, this could be an opportunity to see exactly what this kid has. And from the short time he was in there tonight, I was impressed. He made some really good plays and it seems slick he brought a spark to the offense.” — Golden Tate

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