The 32 things we learned from Week 12 of the 2019 NFL season:
1. The NFL flex-scheduled the Packers-49ers contest into the Sunday night slot, a sensible decision to showcase the NFC’s top-seeded teams entering the weekend. But in the process, Seahawks-Eagles — this matchup was the originally scheduled SNF game — was relegated to a 1 p.m. ET start. Didn’t love it for Seattle, which won but had to deal with another early kickoff on the East Coast, and hated it for afternoon viewing purposes. Cowboys-Patriots on Fox was a sexy matchup, but a weather-impaired game wasn’t much fun to watch … though better than the CBS offering of Jaguars-Titans. Please, Commissioner Goodell, can we try to build in (or flex in) a little more variety in the late Sunday afternoon viewing window — especially when games are potentially stripped out of it?
1a. But at least the NFL’s scantily devised midday lineup allowed for more attention to be paid to the 107th Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League’s Super Bowl. More on that later …
2. Bravo to the Patriots, who added yet another feather to their dynastic headdress. With Sunday’s win over the Cowboys, New England became the first team in NFL history to win at least 10 games in 17 consecutive seasons. The Pats had shared the mark with the 49ers (1983-98).
3. The NFL’s No. 1 defense > the NFL’s No. 1 offense. The victorious Patriots held Dallas to a season-low nine points.
3a. However that might not have been the case had conservative Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, his team trailing 13-6, gone for it on fourth-and-7 from the Patriots’ 11-yard line with 6:04 to go. He settled for a field goal, and Dallas went on to lose 13-9.
3b. A petition to fire Garrett was started on change.org Sunday evening. Despite the coach’s first-ever 3-0 start, the Cowboys are now 6-5 and remain just a game ahead of the Eagles in the NFC East standings.
4. Tom Brady misfired on 20 of 37 passes amid those poor weather conditions in Foxborough. However his passer rating over the past three weeks is just 73.9, which will continue to fuel concerns about the viability of the Patriots offense.
4a. Brady has “rushed” 17 times for minus-1 yards this season.
4b. However TB12 threw his first TD pass to rookie N’Keal Harry, who became the record 75th player to be on the receiving end of a scoring strike from Brady.
5. WR Amari Cooper was held without a catch for the first time since he joined the Cowboys midway through the 2018 season.
6. Who wants the AFC’s final playoff berth? The Colts surrendered it to the Raiders on Thursday night, then Oakland turned it over to the Steelers on Sunday afternoon. All three teams are 6-5, but none are playing as well as Cleveland or Tennessee right now.
7. For whatever it’s worth, the Saints are 5-0 this year under backup QB Teddy Bridgewater with a point differential averaging 6.6 points. With Drew Brees starting under center, New Orleans is 4-2 with an average point differential of 1.5 points.
8. Not sure how the league could fail to designate Giants-Bears as its #NFL100 game of the week given the franchises’ shared history, which includes 17 league championships dating back to the pre-Super Bowl era.
8a. Though given Zak DeOssie’s snap was a microcosm of this game, maybe just as well the league didn’t promote it. Chin up, Zak … wasn’t as bad as Junkin’s.
8b. However nice to see the old white “C” logo on Chicago’s helmets.
8c. In case you were wondering, Raiders-Jets was the #NFL100 GOTW even though their most memorable showdowns, including the “Heidi Game,” occurred when these clubs were members of the American Football League.
9. Seattle keeps winning, which is all the Seahawks and their players care about, but QB Russell Wilson (2 TDs, 2 INTs) is starting to lose serious momentum to Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in the MVP debate.
9a. You think Wilson is bothered? With his ninth victory of 2019, he becomes the first quarterback with a winning record in each of his first eight seasons.
10. Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield has started 24 consecutive games, the longest active streak among quarterbacks in the AFC North — for so long a division known for stability under center.
10a. Suspended Browns DE Myles Garrett has played his final game of the 2019 season. It’s now fair to wonder if Garrett’s archenemy, Steelers QB Mason Rudolph, has also played his last game of the year after a dreadful showing Sunday in Cincinnati that led to Rudolph being benched in favor of Devlin “Duck” Hodges.
10b. Of course, maybe better for everyone if Rudolph isn’t in the Browns’ crosshairs in next week’s rematch in Pittsburgh.
11. Despite Garrett’s absence, the Browns have returned to relevance, winning their third game in a row and climbing back into the AFC wild-card chase.
11a. Backup Cleveland RB Kareem Hunt scored his first touchdown since being released by the Chiefs last year and serving an eight-game suspension to start this season.
11b. Browns WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry scored TDs in the same game for the first time since 2013 … when they were LSU teammates.
11c. LB Joe Schobert has a pair of interceptions in each of Cleveland’s last two games. He’s only the fourth linebacker during the Super Bowl era to manage multiple picks in consecutive games.
12. Did you know the Grey Cup blows out halftime, too? Keith Urban performed at intermission Sunday in what appeared to be a better performance than many Super Bowl attendees are treated to.
13. Congratulations to Bills RB Frank Gore (15,289 yards), who overtook Barry Sanders on Sunday to become the No. 3 all-time rusher in league history behind Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. Gore, now in his 15th season, has a lot of work to do to catch Payton, needing 1,438 more yards to surpass “Sweetness.”
13a. One measure of Gore’s consistent production? He’s managed at least 600 yards from scrimmage in each of his NFL campaigns.
14. The Jets have suddenly caught fire, winning three straight while scoring 34 points in every one of those victories. The last time the Jets scored 34-plus points in three consecutive weeks was 2008 … when Brett Favre was their quarterback.
15. Jets S Jamal Adams has at least a half-sack in each of his past four games, totaling 6½ in that stretch. He had 5½ sacks in his first 39 NFL games.
16. The turtleneck was nice (and titillating), but please, Gronk, we want you back on the field. You’re off to a Witten-esque start with this TV gig.
17. Saints WR Michael Thomas became the second player with three consecutive seasons of at least 100 catches, joining Antonio Brown, who did it six years in a row.
17a. With a league-best 104 grabs, Thomas remains on track to become the first player to ever snatch 150 balls in one season.
18. Good thing the trade deadline has passed. Can you imagine the number of Philadelphians who’d be demanding the Eagles reacquire Nick Foles? Carson Wentz, fumbled twice and was picked off twice Sunday — while operating a decimated offense and getting hurt himself — for a team that will probably have to win the NFC East if it’s going to crack a loaded playoff field.
19. Is there a more quietly consistent — perhaps even underrated — group than the Texans? Perhaps it’s because Bill O’Brien and Co. have yet to make much hay in January, but it’s worth noting Houston is now in position to win the AFC South for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
20. It’s not unusual for a rookie quarterback to lack self-awareness. But Washington’s Dwayne Haskins is surely the first without selfie-awareness.
20a. But kudos to Haskins, giving those fans who coughed up $5 per ticket their money’s worth.
20b. The Redskins are the first team in five years to score at least 19 points and win without the benefit of an offensive or defensive touchdown.
21. The Lions have held a lead in every game this season.
21a. The Lions are 3-7-1.
22. The Bengals have fielded scads of horrendous teams. But this is the first Cincinnati squad to start a season 0-11.
22a. The worst season in Bengals history was 2002, when Cincinnati finished 2-14 and picked Carson Palmer atop the subsequent draft.
23. The Buccaneers have a pair of 1,000-yard receivers for just the second time in team history, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both eclipsing the mark Sunday in Atlanta.
23a. But might Evans and Godwin become the first duo of Bucs with 1,500 yards in a single year? They’re already the first teammates ever to each have three 150-yard games in one season.
23b. Evans joined Randy Moss as the only players in league history to start their careers with six consecutive 1,000-yard receiving campaigns.
24. However let’s not forget Tampa Bay’s big men. Defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea both scored touchdowns in the team’s 35-22 win at Atlanta, Suh returning his second fumble recovery of the season to pay dirt.
24a. Meanwhile, Vea caught a 1-yard TD pass, making the 347-pounder the heaviest player in the NFL’s 100 seasons to score a touchdown on offense.
25. Josh Allen > Brandon Allen.
25a. Brandon Allen’s Broncos finished with 134 total yards (and 49 net yards passing) in Sunday’s loss at Buffalo, a level of offensive futility not seen in Denver this century … which, of course, included Tebow Time.
26. Win or lose, during the season or not, Falcons coach Dan Quinn consistently supports the military and integrates service members into the team’s operations. He even wore Army Airborne paratrooper wings on his sideline shirt Sunday. We salute you, Coach Q.
27. Titans RB Derrick Henry scored two touchdowns in a 16-second span Sunday. Ten of Henry’s 35 career TDs have come against Jacksonville.
28. Ryan Tannehill ran for two TDs and passed for two more in Tennessee’s win — making him the first Titans quarterback to do that in a game since Steve McNair in 2001.
29. Did you know the Falcons refer to QB Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan’s kids as the “Ice Cubes”? The Ryans completed passes at a 50% clip Sunday, Matt going 23-for-46 in Atlanta’s loss to Tampa Bay, and one of his sons appearing to finish 1-for-2 in pregame warm-ups.
30. Panthers rookie K Joey Slye missed two extra points and a 28-yard field goal in Carolina’s 34-31 loss in New Orleans. Slye may be opening the door for injured veteran Graham Gano to get his job back in 2020.
30a. Per the NFL’s “Next Gen Stats,” Slye’s misfire had the highest probability for success (93.5%) among any missed FG of the 2019 season.
31. Bye bye bye. Week 12 exhausted the remaining byes for the league’s 32 teams, the Chiefs, Vikings, Cardinals and Chargers all getting their down time.
31a. “Bye Bye Bye” is also near the top of the musical power rankings of my (usually) esteemed colleague, Jori Epstein, who adores NSYNC but has never heard of U2, Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin or Metallica. Bless your heart, Epstein. Let’s find a professional bye week to take you to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and re-calibrate your musical taste. “Taste.”
32. Dearest mother — I’m in a state of great dismay to hear the Maplemen are competing for a “Grey Cup.” Why not a “Blue Cup”? What has happened in the trenches? And what, pray tell, is a Blue Bomber? Surely an insidious weapon if I am to believe reports from the remotest of fronts. Even though Nicole and I are now with child, I cannot stop thinking of the men following their ambush in Texas. — Andrew
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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