Here are my key takeaways from Week 12 in the NFL:
1. Breezing without Brees
We’re underestimating New Orleans’ offense. Without Drew Brees, they had 19 first downs, 292 yards of offense and were 47% on third down against a Denver defense that was dominant a week earlier against Miami. While the headline of the game was Denver’s QB situation it was the Saints’ backup – Taysom Hill — who played really well on the road against an excellent defense.
2. Denver’s COVID conundrum
Speaking of Denver’s QB situation… A lot has been made of COVID protocols and while they’re not perfect, the league has made it through 75% of the season with some, all things considered, minor disruptions. The Broncos had all of their quarterbacks inactive this week due to COVID protocols and were forced to start practice squad WR Kendall Hinton under center. Denver has no one to blame but itself; the rules were laid out for everyone and I applaud Vic Fangio for the remarks during his press conference in which he said they owned their mistakes and didn’t try to deflect their actions to anyone else.
3. Tennessee’s balanced attack
Derrick Henry rushed for 178 yards and 3 TDs in the Titans’ 45-26 win over the Colts and he’s on paced to become the first player to win back-to-back NFL rushing titles since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006-07, but it’s important to note that the Titans can also make big plays in the passing game. A.J. Brown and Corey Davis both made big plays early in this game, including Brown’s 69-yard TD reception. The two combined for 168 receiving yards as Tennessee took sole possession of first place in the AFC South.
4. Key to Colts’ ‘D’
The Colts really missed DT DeForest Buckner in this game, and his absence underscores what a valuable addition he’s been for the Colts this season. Buckner’s impact is stunning: When he’s on the field, the Colts give up 3.0 yards per rush, 1.8 yards before contact. When he’s not on the field, the Colts give up 6.3 yards per rush, 4.5 yards before contact.
5. Mahomes masterful, Brady bland
While the marquee matchup between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady ended up being a close game, the Chiefs’ 27-24 win over Tampa Bay was really more of an indication that these quarterbacks are going in opposite directions. The Mahomes-Tyreek Hill combination was too much for Tampa Bay. Mahomes passed for 462 yards with Hill accounting for 269. They crush man coverage, and the Bucs’ defense couldn’t do anything to slow them down until the second half, when it was too late. Brady, meanwhile, continues to struggle throwing the ball down the field. He’s completing only 30.4% of his passes that travel more than 20 yards — 26th in the league.