NFL Week 12 Grades and Highlights

These aren’t your father’s Ravens, and it’s starting to look like they might not be Joe Flacco’s Ravens either.

For the second straight week, Lamar Jackson was Baltimore’s starting quarterback. For the second straight week, the Ravens offense steamrolled its way to a win.

With Jackson under center, the Ravens don’t really try to hide their game plan: They’re going to run the ball down your throat, and that’s exactly what they did to the Raiders during their 34-17 win on Sunday.

Although Jackson struggled in the passing department against Oakland — he threw two interceptions — he more than made up for it with a rushing performance that included 71 yards and a touchdown. Jackson gives the Ravens offense a rushing threat that’s non-existent when Flacco’s on the field. Against the Raiders, Jackson had as many rushing touchdowns (one) as Flacco has had since the beginning of the 2017 season.

We can probably all agree that Flacco doesn’t score with his legs there. Sure Flacco has a better arm, but when he was quarterback, the Ravens were in the middle of a three-game losing streak that almost dropped them out of the playoff race.

With Jackson, the entire offense seems to be clicking. The mere threat of Jackson running the ball has opened things up for other runners like Gus Edwards, who most people had never even heard of until last week. Edwards went off for the second consecutive game with 118 yards on 23 carries against the Raiders, and it’s not a coincidence that he’s emerged in the same two weeks that Jackson has been starting (Edwards had 115 yards in Baltimore’s Week 11 win over the Bengals).

When the Ravens are rolling on the ground, they never lose. The Ravens offense totaled 242 yards rushing, and Baltimore is now 14-0 in franchise history when rushing for more than 225 yards. The game against Oakland marked the second week in a row that Baltimore has gone for more than 240 yards, and to put that in perspective, the last time the Ravens did that came in 2000 when they won the Super Bowl.

Despite Jackson’s success over the past two weeks, John Harbaugh isn’t willing to divulge whether or not he plans to move forward with Jackson.

“I’m not going to get into any of that, for a lot of reasons,” Harbaugh said after the win, via ESPN.com. “Whether the decision has been made or not, it’s not important for anybody to know but us. If I decide to do it one way or another, I don’t want our opponent to know.”

Maybe this 39-yard run will help convince him.

The argument for starting Jackson is pretty simple: The Ravens are winning, and he’s only going to get better. Jackson’s ability to pass might be his one weakness right now, but he’s already improving. Against the Raiders, Jackson came up with multiple big plays, including a 74-yard pass to Mark Andrews and an eight-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.

The Ravens need to stop looking toward the future, because the future is now in Baltimore. With Jackson on the field, the Ravens feel like a team that could sneak into the playoffs and potentially make some noise.

Baltimore 34-17 over Oakland

Raiders: C

After looking somewhat impressive in the first half, the second half was a total disaster for Oakland. The Raiders only totaled 94 yards in the half, which is even uglier when you consider that 44 of those yards came on one play (Derek Carr to Seth Roberts pass in the third quarter). The Raiders also gave up a defensive touchdown and a special teams touchdown, which are two mistakes you absolutely can’t make when you’re playing as bad as the Raiders have been this season.

Ravens: A-

The win over the Raiders basically turned into a track meet for Baltimore. Not only did the Ravens get huge runs from Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards, but they also got some big scoring runs from two unexpected sources: Cyrus Jones returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown while Terrell Suggs returned a fumble 43-yards for a score. This was an impressive all-around win for a Ravens team that seems to be peaking at the right time.

Tampa Bay 27-9 over San Francisco

49ers: C-

For the 49ers, the wheels seemed to fall off the wagon in this game after they failed to score a touchdown on three straight plays from the 1-yard line in the third quarter. After Tampa’s goal line stand, the 49ers offense seemed to be shell-shocked and they finished the second half with four ugly possessions (punt, punt, interception, interception). The 49ers were also horrible on third down, converting just 1 of 8 in the game. One bright spot for the 49ers was Matt Brieda, who carried the ball 14 times for 106 yards.

Buccaneers: B+

For once, the Buccaneers didn’t have to bench their starting quarterback in a game, and that’s because Jameis Winston actually played well. In his first start since Week 8, Winston threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly though, Winston didn’t turn the ball over, which was big for a quarterback who threw four interceptions in his last start. Winston got some serious help from a Buccaneers defense that picked off two passes and sacked Nick Mullens four times.

New England 27-13 over New York Jets

Patriots: B

The Patriots are basically unbeatable when they’re able to run wild on the ground, and they ran wild on the ground in New Jersey. Sony Michel carried the ball 21 times for a career-high 133 yards as the Patriots pounded their way to 215 yards on the ground. The total marked the first time since 2014 that the Patriots ran for over 200 yards in a game. The Patriots have never lost a game under Bill Belichick when they rush for 200 or more yards (13-0). Of course, the Patriots also did some damage through the air. Tom Brady took advantage of having Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup in a game where Gronk caught three passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.

Jets: C

With Josh McCown starting at quarterback, the Jets were going to need to play a perfect game to beat the Patriots and they definitely didn’t do that Sunday. The Jets defense got rolled for 498 yards, which is the most the team has given up in a home game since 2002. As for McCown, it seemed clear the Patriots were determined to let him throw the ball as often as possible, and that’s what the Jets did. Of their 62 plays in the game, 47 of them were passes (75.8 percent), and you’re just not going to win with a 39-year-old McCown throwing it that many times.

Philadelphia 25-22 over New York Giants

Giants: D

This Giants are getting a low grade here due to their inexplicable offensive play-calling in the second half.  Over the game’s final two quarters, it’s almost like Pat Shumur forgot he had Saquon Barkley on his team, which is kind of surprising considering what the rookie running back did in the first half. Over the game’s first two quarters, Barkley carried the ball nine times for 94 yards and a touchdown, while also adding 33 receiving yards and another touchdown. In the second half, Barkley rushed for just seven yards and only touched the ball five times.

Eagles: B-

The Eagles had an ugly first half, but they more than made up for it with an impressive second half where they outscored the Giants 14-3. For once, the Eagles were actually able to get things going on the ground, with Josh Adams (84) and Corey Clement (45) combining for 129 yards, which is notable because the Eagles only totaled 129 yards rushing in their past two games combined. Zach Ertz also came up big with seven catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Although the Eagles defense struggled at times, Malcolm Jenkins did come up with a huge play late in the second quarter when he picked off Eli Manning. The Giants were at the Eagles’ 27-yard line, so the pick likely saved at least a field goal.

Buffalo 24-21 over Jacksonville

Jaguars: C

The Jaguars might not want to admit it, but it’s really starting to feel like Blake Bortles might be holding the team back. The Jags ground game totaled 226 yards against the Bills but got no help from Bortles, who completed just 12 of 23 passes for 123 yards while also throwing two interceptions. Kicker Josh Lambo also let the team down with a missed 42-yard field goal late in the third quarter. The missed kick came after a wild sequence that where the Jags appeared to score a touchdown, but the TD got overturned.

Bills: B

The Bills have had one of the best defenses in the NFL this year, and they showed the Jaguars why in this game. The Bills picked off two passes and sacked Blake Bortles three times. Although Leonard Fournette had a big game, the Bills didn’t have to worry about him in the fourth quarter because he got ejected after being involved in a brawl. This game also featured the return of Josh Allen, who did just enough on offense to carry Buffalo. Allen accounted for two touchdowns with a 75-yard scoring pass to Robert Foster in the first quarter and a 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Allen actually finished with 99 rushing yards and was the game’s leading rusher.

Seattle 30-27 over Carolina

Seahawks: A

The Seahawks did something in this game that no team had been able to do all season: They beat the Panthers in Carolina, and it happened thanks to a clutch performance from Russell Wilson. The biggest play from Wilson came in the fourth quarter when he hit David Moore for a 35-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-3. The touchdown tied that game at 27 and set Wilson up for some late game heroics that ended with him driving the Seahawks into Carolina territory to set up Sebastian Janikowski‘s game-winning field goal from 31 yards. Wilson threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

Panthers: B

No one will be blaming this loss on Christian McCaffrey, and that’s because he almost carried the Panthers to a win. McCaffrey totaled a franchise-record 237 yards, including 112 yards receiving and 125 yards on the ground along with two touchdowns. The Panthers didn’t make many mistakes in this game, but the ones they did make were both big. Although Cam Newton finished 25 of 30 after starting 14 of 14, he threw a costly interception in the third quarter that led to a Seahawks touchdown. Graham Gano also missed a 52-yard field goal that would have given the Panthers the lead with 1:45 left to play.

Cleveland 35-20 over Cincinnati

Browns: A

The Browns might have exorcised every demon they have during this big win over the Bengals. For one, this game marked their first road win since 2015 and ended a streak of 25 straight losses on the road. Also, the Browns got some sweet revenge on former coach Hue Jackson, who is now an assistant with the Bengals. Oh, and the Browns beat the Bengals after losing seven straight games to them. None of this would have been possible without the play of the Browns’ rookie duo of Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was on fire in this game, throwing for 258 yards and four touchdowns. Chubb also did some serious damage with 128 scrimmage yards (84 rushing, 44 receiving) and two touchdowns. Of course, the most amazing thing about this game was probably the fact that Damarious Randall gave a football to Jackson after picking off Andy Dalton in the first half.

Bengals: D

Bringing in Hue Jackson definitely didn’t do anything to help the Bengals. As a matter of fact, it might have actually made things worse. In a loss that can only be described as humiliating, the Bengals fell behind 28-0 before they finally showed some life. The Bengals season appears to be circling the drain and it’s not going to help things that Andy Dalton had to leave the game — and never returned — after suffering a thumb injury.

Los Angeles Chargers 45-10 over Arizona

Cardinals: F

For the first 10 minutes of this game, it actually looked like the Cardinals were going to be the ones the went home with a blowout win. Arizona jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but things quickly fell apart after that. During their 10-point spurt in the first quarter, the Cards totaled 108 yards, which we’re only noting to let you know how badly the rest of the game went. After those initial two possessions, the Cards only totaled 41 yards of offense over their final eight possessions.

Chargers: A+

The Chargers offense lit up the scoreboard in this game and that’s mainly because Philip Rivers had one of the most impressive performances of any quarterback in NFL history. The Chargers quarterback tied an NFL record by completing 25 consecutive passes. Rivers threw for 224 yards before he finally threw an incomplete pass midway through the third quarter. Rivers finished 28 of 29 for 259 yards and three touchdowns. The most impressive part might have been that Rivers did all this despite the fact that the Cardinals put some pressure on him and sacked him four times.

Indianapolis 27-24 over Miami

Dolphins: B

The Dolphins made a lot of big plays in this game, but they couldn’t make any when it mattered. With the game hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins have two chances to put things away, but they came up empty both times. On their final two possessions, the Dolphins actually totaled NEGATIVE-ONE YARD as they went three-and-out both times. One encouraging thing for the Dolphins is that they got a solid performance from Ryan Tannehill (17 of 25, 204 yards, two touchdowns), who was playing in his first game since Week 5.

Colts: B+

Andrew Luck decided to add a little bit of drama to this game with two interceptions, but otherwise, he was nearly perfect. With the Colts trailing 24-17 in the fourth quarter, Luck took over, going 11 of 12 for 133 yards and a touchdown on three straight possessions that all ended with the Colts scoring points (Two field goals and a touchdown). Overall, Luck threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns. The Dolphins had no answer for T.Y. Hilton, who ran up and down the field on them with seven catches for 125 yards.

Denver 24-17 over Pittsburgh

Steelers: C

It’s going to be a long flight home for the Steelers and it could be painful since they shot themselves in the foot multiple times against the Broncos. The ugliest mistake of the game came from Ben Roethlisberger, who threw an interception from the Broncos’ 2-yard line with 1:03 left to play and Pittsburgh trailing by a touchdown. Somehow, that was one of TWO turnovers that Steelers had inside of Denver’s 2-yard line in this game. Xavier Grimble also lost a fumble at the one that went out of the end zone, which gave the Broncos a touchback. It’s the start of the holiday season, which is fitting, because the Steelers probably feel like they gifted the Broncos a win.

Broncos: A-

If you’re ever wondering what a “bend, but don’t break defense” looks like, just watch film from this game. Although the Broncos defense got shredded by the Steelers, no one will remember that because they came up with big plays when they had to. The Broncos forced four turnovers, which led to a total of 14 points for Denver. Two of those turnovers also came with Pittsburgh inside of the Broncos’ two-yard line, which kept the Steelers from scoring points. Those turnovers were big, because the Steelers were on a roll for most of the game, racking up 527 yards of offense. This game actually marked the first time in franchise history that the Broncos won after surrendering 525 or more yards of total offense. Going into Sunday, they were 0-8 in that situation. Offensively, Phillip Lindsay did a good job of carrying the load with 14 carries 110 yards. Although Case Keenum struggled with his accuracy (15 of 28) he did come up big with two touchdown passes.

Minnesota 24-17 over Green Bay

Packers: C-

At 4-6-1, it might be time for the Packers to blow up their offensive playbook and start over from scratch, because whatever they’re doing isn’t working. The Packers offensive line had some serious trouble protecting Aaron Rodgers, but even when he was protected, he uncharacteristically overthrew several receivers, including a wide open Davante Adams, who had his man beat in the end zone late in the game. The Packers also struggled in clutch moments, going just 2 of 10 on third down and 0 of 1 on fourth down. Even the Packers special teams struggled as Tramon Williams lost a muffed punt to the Vikings with just six minutes left in the game. Basically, it was an ugly night all-around for Green Bay.

Vikings: A-

The Vikings needed a big game from Kirk Cousins and that’s exactly what they got. Cousins threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns and played arguably his best game of the season. Cousins picked apart the Packers defense with the help of Adam Thielen (eight catches, 125 yards, one TD) and Stefon Diggs (eight catches, 77 yards, 1 TD), who both made multiple big plays in the game. Of course, Cousins also got some help from a Vikings defense that kept Aaron Rodgers in check. Sheldon Richardson tallied two of Minnesota’s four sacks in a game where the Vikings defense had Rodgers flustered for most of the night.

SOURCE: CBS, by John Breech