NFL Week 12 game-by-game analysis, grades

The Browns showed signs of life. Frank Gore passed Barry and the Bengals all-but-clinched the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 12 whip-around.  1 of 18

HOUSTON 20, INDIANAPOLIS 17

Deshaun Watson continues to play at an MVP level. Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

COLTS (6-5): The Colts are still very much alive, but once again, their inability to get the details just right, something that propelled them to a 5-2 start, did them in against Houston. This time head coach Frank Reich was at fault, as he burned a timeout to set up a pivotal fourth-down play with just under three minutes left and his team trailing by three. Instead of having a decisive call ready, Indianapolis decided to talk things over despite the clock already being stopped. That ended up costing the Colts dearly, as the Texans, who otherwise would have had to give Indy the ball back with at least some time to spare, instead were able to run out the clock. The Colts know they have little margin for error; all but one of their games this season has been decided by seven points or fewer. That makes Reich’s blunder all the more unforgivable. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT:  vs. Titans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


TEXANS (7-4): Deshaun Watson restored some semblance of order to the AFC South proceedings. A month after Jacoby Brissett outdueled him in Indianapolis, Watson got a major measure of revenge, thoroughly outplaying his counterpart and rallying the Texans to a win. The game was a case study in what Houston is all about. The Colts got a more balanced effort, and did enough to win, but spectacular star-level production from Watson and DeAndre Hopkins carried the day. Star power won in this instance, but the Texans have proved fallible enough that even though they have the best quarterback and best wide receiver in the division, success is not guaranteed. If they want to have a better chance at putting a stranglehold on things, they could start by fixing a run defense that has given up 431 yards in the last two games. The Patriots have a terrible rushing attack, so stifling them next week would be a good step in that direction. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Patriots (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 2 of 18

BUFFALO 20, DENVER 3

BRONCOS (3-8) : Denver’s near-four-year offensive lull has sunk the franchise to its lowest place in the NFL hierarchy since the early 1970s. Sunday in Buffalo represented the post-Peyton Manning basement. The Broncos completed 10 passes and gave Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman a combined 15 carries, ending with 134 total yards. That is the third-lowest NFL figure this season – behind only two Sam Darnold-less Jets outings – and the 12th-lowest Denver output in the Broncos’ 60-year history. This was the Broncos’ worst yardage day in 27 years. Considering Brandon Allen’s inexperience, his 10-for-25, 82-yard showing should not be too surprising. Still, this game illuminated better than any other one during the franchise’s post-2015 tailspin just how lost the Broncos are. It is time to bring Drew Lock off IR. Even if circumstances are not favorable for the rookie, Vic Fangio is wrong. It is vital the second-round pick debuts this year, because the Broncos need to know if they have to consider a 2020 first-round quarterback. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Chargers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BILLS (8-3): Although Frank Gore surpassing Barry Sanders for third on the all-time rushing list was Sunday’s statistical takeaway from Buffalo, the outing doubled as one this NFL season’s best defensive performances. Buffalo held Denver to 134 total yards; and Tre’Davious White continued his Pro Bowl push in the process. Courtland Sutton has produced despite Denver’s myriad offensive issues this season, authoring a quiet breakout while working with an on-his-way-out-of-the-league Joe Flacco and first-time starter Brandon Allen. White led the way in shutting down the Broncos’ top weapon Sunday. Sutton finished with one catch for a season-low 27 yards, and White’s interception on a miscommunication between Allen and the 6-foot-4 wideout stopped a prime Broncos scoring chance. White also matched his season high with four passes defensed. The third-year defender represents the Bills’ best defensive chess piece for when this top-end pass defense encounters better offenses, and he will become the Bills’ first Pro Bowl corner since Nate Clements in 2004. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Cowboys (Thurs.)

— Sam Robinson 3 of 18

TAMPA BAY 35, ATLANTA 22

BUCS (4-7): Tampa Bay’s run defense, which entered Week 12 ranked No. 1 in DVOA, continues to be dominant . In Atlanta, the Buccaneers held the Falcons to just 57 rushing yards on 19 carries, an average of 3.0 yards per attempt. The Falcons’ running backs combined for only 34 yards on 17 totes (2.0 per attempt). The impact of new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has been strongly felt in run defense. He can be a positive presence as the season progresses, and Tampa Bay should look to keep him around. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


FALCONS (3-8): On their own field against the Buccaneers’ 30th-ranked pass defense (according to DVOA), the Falcons simply could not get anything going in the passing game . Matt Ryan tossed 55 passes but managed just 271 yards and took six sacks. Ryan finished the game averaging 4.3 net yards per attempt, and his 59.3 passer rating was his worst at home since Week 14 of 2017. At 3-8, the Falcons should consider shutting down Ryan and keeping him fresh for 2020.  GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Saints (Thurs.)

— Michael Nania

4 of 18

CLEVELAND 41, MIAMI 24

DOLPHINS (2-9) : Considering the Bengals have surprisingly outflanked the Dolphins to the No. 1 overall pick position, and with Tua Tagovailoa having suffered a stock-altering injury, it would behoove Miami to try Josh Rosen again. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick keeping him benched throughout Sunday’s loss in Cleveland points is telling. It points to a scenario in which the Dolphins ditch Rosen and keep Fitzpatrick next year. Despite being nearly 37 and playing behind a horrid offensive line, Fitzpatrick has made Miami’s passing attack look competent – a better developmental situation. The Dolphins could use their 2020 draft haul to load up on best-available talent to strengthen their roster for a possible Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields pick in 2021. However, too much improvement would hinder those plans. Miami’s best chance to land a quarterback without sacrificing a lot in draft-night trades would be selecting one next year, and Fitz would make a strong mentor-caretaker starter in the event the team goes quarterback next year. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BROWNS (5-6): Maybe it is too late, maybe not, but the Browns at 5-6 are really starting to turn it on in November. Baker Mayfield looks better every week, and it looks as though he is finally developing chemistry and timing with Odell Beckham. Kareem Hunt has been a very welcome addition without eating into Nick Chubb’s output. But this day was about former Dolphin Jarvis Landry, who is easy to overlook amongst all of Cleveland’s offensive star power. A sharp and powerful route runner, Landry proved again to be Mayfield’s most trusted target and found the end zone twice while catching 10 passes for 148 yards as the Browns scored 41 points. Landry plays the game with passion and aggression and didn’t hide that this was a “Revenge Game” against Miami. That passion and great play rubbed off on his young teammates, and now they head to Pittsburgh in a game that will not be short on emotion. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Steelers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 5 of 18

CHICAGO 19, NY GIANTS 14

GIANTS (2-9): Big Blue’s young offensive centerpieces had a rough day at the office in Chicago . Saquon Barkley continued his poor stretch, rushing for just 59 yards on 17 carries (3.5 per attempt). Daniel Jones was flustered on the road against Chicago’s tough defense, averaging a paltry 3.6 net yards per attempt (league average: 6.3). The road ahead doesn’t get any easier, as the Packers and Eagles await next. New York needs its young stars to step up against the tougher competition.  GAME GRADE: C- | NEXT: vs. Packers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


BEARS (5-6) : Hey, Mitch Trubisky certainly wasn’t great in this win, but can we at least concede that he is playing better than he was early in the season? Last year, he was very inconsistent. He missed too many easy throws but made up for it to some degree with a handful of big throws per game and some dynamic runs. Chicago’s defense was better in 2018 than it is now, but Trubisky is getting back to the formula he showed last year of late rather than the inability to complete passes that we saw to begin the year. Trubisky made several highly impressive throws downfield against the Giants and quickly realized that New York had no one who could cover Allen Robinson. Trubisky also showed toughness and athletic ability as a runner. Today, we saw the 2018 version of Trubisky, which is good enough and without question, he was the best quarterback on that field on Sunday. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Lions (Thurs.)

— Matt Williamson 6 of 18

WASHINGTON 19, DETROIT 16

LIONS (3-7-1) : The Lions are 3-7-1, without their starting quarterback and just lost to the Redskins. Matthew Stafford’s replacement, Jeff Driskel, is a good athlete, but he was under a ton of pressure in this contest. Driskel was sacked six times (it could have been more) and threw three interceptions as a result of the pressure more often than not. While it is often overlooked, Washington does have a very good defensive front. But this constant pressure was alarming when considering how much Detroit has invested in its offensive line. The Lions have shown to have a very good downfield passing game, but they simply couldn’t protect long enough on the road to go downfield with any regularity. Also, the revolving door at the running back position has clearly been problematic in protection, not only with execution of blocks but also with communication and knowing which pass-rushers to even block. GAME GRADE: D+ | NEXT: vs. Bears (Thurs.)

— Matt Williamson


REDSKINS (2-9): Dwayne Haskins picked up his first win, but the Redskins still need to see more from him down the stretch . Haskins missed numerous throws and was helped out by some monster catches from Terry McLaurin. Haskins finished with only 4.5 net yards per pass attempt and a 47.5 passer rating at home against Detroit’s 26th-ranked DVOA defense. The Redskins can do a better job helping him out, but Haskins needs to start showing signs of potential more frequently.  GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Panthers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

7 of 18

NEW ORLEANS 34, CAROLINA 31

PANTHERS (5-6): Despite the loss, Carolina has to be thrilled with the performances of its young offensive stars on the road against New Orleans’ 5th-ranked DVOA defense . After four games with a sub-90 passer rating, Kyle Allen tossed three touchdown passes and no picks as he earned a 112.7 rating, his best since Week 1. D.J. Moore went for 126 receiving yards, his fourth straight game with 95-plus yards. Christian McCaffrey caught for 69 yards and ran for 64, scoring once in each phase. The present is bleak, but more wins should come for Carolina if its offensive stars continue to play like this. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


SAINTS (9-2): Michael Thomas, who entered Week 12 with an 83.2 percent catch rate, continues to be incredibly reliable. Against the Panthers, Thomas caught 10 of 11 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown. That extended his streak of 100-yard games to five straight, his career-best. Until somebody proves they can stop Thomas, the Saints offense looks like it cannot be halted. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Falcons (Thurs.)

— Michael Nania 8 of 18

NY JETS 34, OAKLAND 3

RAIDERS (6-5): Considering what the Raiders’ offense had accomplished this month, and the personnel they faced in New Jersey, Sunday’s letdown has the potential to be season-altering. Oakland’s offensive line possessed a clear trench advantage, and its pass catchers were facing a Jets cornerback corps that’s among the league’s worst. The result: key drops, zero red zone appearances and a third-quarter Derek Carr benching a week away from the biggest game of the Raiders’ second Jon Gruden era to date. No Raider wide receiver eclipsed 31 yards. Against a makeshift Jets boundary cornerback contingent, Raiders outside receivers combined for four receptions for 23 yards. Arrowhead Stadium is far more imposing than MetLife’s Raider-friendlier atmosphere, and the Chiefs possess a significant talent edge on the Jets. Gruden’s bunch looking like this ventures beyond the trap-game parameters. With Andy Reid posing as a Bill Walsh-Paul Brown hybrid after bye weeks, the Raiders’ playoff hopes took a major hit Sunday. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


JETS (4-7): Entering Sunday with the NFL’s three worst yardage performances this season, the Jets have now scored 34 points in three straight games – doing so for the first time since the Brett Favre-piloted 2008 season. After preying on the Giants’ and Redskins’ low-end defenses, the Jets shredded a Raiders unit that had played well recently. Adam Gase’s game plan was on point. Five Jets – Robby Anderson, Braxton Berrios, Le’Veon Bell, Vyncint Smith and Demaryius Thomas – posted at least one 20-yard reception, and Sam Darnold’s fourth career 300-plus-yard day included completions to nine targets. Gase’s play-calling on the second half’s first possession besieged the Raiders. A slick bunch-formation route concept allowed Berrios to break loose on a 69-yard gain, and Gase’s delayed tight end screen to Ryan Griffin for a 1-yard touchdown was one of the better goal-line play designs executed this season. With the Bengals and Dolphins on tap, this bounce-back run could get weird quickly. GAME GRADE: A+ | NEXT: at Bengals (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 9 of 18

SEATTLE 17, PHILADELPHIA 9

SEAHAWKS (9-2) : A major storyline of the Seahawks’ season is that they’ve not been particularly good on defense, but Russell Wilson has bailed them out at almost every turn. That tendency had some doubting their staying power in the NFC, but Seattle’s complementary pieces had their day in a sloppy, hard-fought win over the Eagles. Rashaad Penny and a defense that was without Jadeveon Clowney carried the day for Seattle, overcoming a mediocre performance by Wilson in conditions that were worse than any they’ll likely face in the playoffs, unless the road to the NFC Championship Game runs through Seattle. The Seahawks will still go as far as Wilson takes them, but winning a game without him at his best is a major confidence boost moving forward. More than confidence-boosting, Penny’s emergence gives Seattle another potential offensive weapon to utilize in the postseason. GAME GRADE: A- | NEXT: vs. Vikings (Mon.)

— Chris Mueller


EAGLES (5-6): Philadelphia’s offense, averaging 9.5 points per game since the bye week, has gone ice cold . With numerous injuries to the offensive line and wide receiver corps, Carson Wentz struggled at home against Seattle’s 21st-ranked DVOA defense, averaging 5.0 net yards per pass attempt and posting a 75.8 passer rating (league average: 91.5). With the Dolphins, Redskins and Giants next, there is no excuse for Wentz to continue his stretch of mediocrity.  GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Dolphins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

10 of 18

PITTSBURGH 16, CINCINNATI 10

STEELERS (6-5): Mike Tomlin had no choice but to pull Mason Rudolph from this game in favor of Devlin Hodges. The Steelers offense was going nowhere against possibly the league’s worst defense with Rudolph at quarterback. Rudolph was also coming off his worst game as a pro in Cleveland’s last game. His accuracy was poor in Cincinnati, as was his timing. But what was probably most concerning was Rudolph’s pocket presence. He looked like a very unconfident player in the pocket. Not that Hodges was great, but confidence isn’t an issue with this young man. Hodges is playing with house money and he knows it. He provided a least a small spark to Pittsburgh’s ailing offense. But who to start next week at home in the rematch against the Browns? That is a more difficult decision. GAME GRADE: C- | NEXT: vs. Browns (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


BENGALS (0-11) : If Cincinnati would have played Andy Dalton rather than Ryan Finley in this game, they would have won. Sure, the Bengals are playing for tomorrow and want to see what they have in their rookie quarterback, but this is a little ridiculous. After going 7-of-10 in the first half, Finley completed just five more passes. His lack of arm strength is alarming, and he really has a tough time getting the ball in tight spaces. As the weather continues to worsen, this will be exposed more and more. The Bengals are not a good football team, but aside from quarterback, they are showing signs of life. Against constantly stacked boxes, Joe Mixon was very impressive in this game, and with a little more of a passing threat, he could have really lit up the scoreboard with the way he was running. Tyler Boyd had a crucial late fumble, but he also made a couple outstanding plays that bailed out Finley. Cincinnati’s pass rush features quite a few above-average players and showed up big against the Steelers. Finley wasn’t the only reason the Bengals couldn’t get their first win, but a professional signal caller such as Dalton would have been enough to win this ugly football game.  GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Jets (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 11 of 18

TENNESSEE 42, JACKSONVILLE 20

JAGUARS (4-7) : Jacksonville’s rush defense let the Jaguars down, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise, considering they entered the game last in the NFL in yards per carry allowed, at 5.3. What was somewhat surprising about their failure was how suddenly it happened. Derrick Henry gouged Jacksonville for 159 yards and two touchdowns, nearly one year after scorching them for 238 yards and four scores. The problem for the Jaguars was a familiar one; they couldn’t tackle at all, and it did them in. Multiple Jacksonville defenders had a chance to tackle Henry on his 74-yard touchdown run, but none was able to do so. That sort of sloppiness and lack of attention to detail have kept the Jaguars’ defense from greatness all season, and it likely snuffed out any faint hopes Jacksonville  had of contending for a playoff spot. The Gardner Minshew story was fun, but 2019 looks as if it will be another lost season for Jacksonville. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Bucs (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


TITANS (6-5) : The Titans still have an uphill climb for a playoff spot, but they’ve undergone a metamorphosis since Ryan Tannehill took over. Tennessee is 4-1 in Tannehill’s five starts, and even though they have not asked him to throw the ball often – just 27 attempts in his starts, on average – he has made the most of his chances, throwing for 10 touchdowns and posting a 120.4 passer rating. It isn’t just that Tannehill’s play in and of itself has transformed the Titans, it’s that his mere presence has opened up other avenues for their offense. Tennessee has scored 29.4 points per game in Tannehill’s starts, compared to 16.3 in games started by Marcus Mariota. If the Titans can keep creating big plays, they’ll become that much more dangerous, and with four division games left, including two with Houston, they can still dream big. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Colts (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 12 of 18

NEW ENGLAND 13, DALLAS 9

COWBOYS (6-5): Dallas continues to fall short against the elite competition, dropping to 0-4 in games against teams that currently have a winning record . The turnover margin has been a huge issue for the Cowboys in those games, as across those four contests, they have turned the ball over eight times while taking the ball away just once. The Cowboys have a good opportunity to break this streak on Thanksgiving, as they take on a tough, but beatable Buffalo Bills team at home. Dallas may still have a great shot at making the playoffs, but they have a long way to go until they can be considered anything near a Super Bowl contender.  GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Bills (Thurs.)

— Michael Nania

PATRIOTS (10-1): The path to another AFC team taking home-field advantage is narrowing, with ESPN’s FPI giving the Pats a 78% chance to earn that slot for the sixth time this decade. Bill Belichick’s defenses care little for yards yielded. Of the eight top-10 scoring defenses the Pats have deployed this decade, only two of them ranked top 10 in total defense. Belichick’s latest bend-but-don’t-break charges smothered the Cowboys repeatedly, forcing Brett Maher to attempt five field goals. The Pats held the No. 1-ranked Cowboys’ offense to nine points and did it without sacking Dak Prescott, limiting Dallas to 2-for-13 on third downs. This masked the Patriots’ 3-for-14 third-down showing. The Pats’ offense is well off its MVP-level Tom Brady (feat. Rob Gronkowski) days, but it will improve to some degree, per its late-season usual. And with an even stronger defensive safety net backing Brady’s crew, derailing the Patriots in Foxborough will require a near-perfect effort. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Texans (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson

13 of 18

SAN FRANCISCO 37, GREEN BAY 8

PACKERS (8-3): This game was a glaring example of where the Packers and 49ers, teams constructed from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree, are respectively in their overall development. San Francisco has had this system instituted for longer and wow, does it show. The Packers may have one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game and some great individual players, but the 49ers have a great team that feeds off and complements each side of the ball about as well as any team in the NFL right now. The Packers have pieces. The 49ers are whole. The scheme in San Francisco is very much in place on offense and defense and everyone is bought in. Not so much yet in Green Bay. Who is to say if LaFleur will ever have a complete team or not in Green Bay, but clearly the process is further along with the 49ers. In some ways, that should be encouraging. In other ways, it shows that this team has a lot more holes and problems than their counterpart tonight and who is to say if Green Bay will ever reach such heights in team building. GAME GRADE: C- | NEXT: at Giants (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

49ERS (10-1): San Francisco’s defense turned in another stunning performance, laying waste to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ passing attack in a showdown of two NFC powers. Rodgers threw for just 104 yards, the second-lowest total in a game this season for a quarterback with at least 30 attempts. The 49ers sacked Rodgers five times, but it wasn’t just their pass rush that was dynamic; their secondary also made plenty of plays on the football when Rodgers did have time to throw. Green Bay looked disjointed and had no answers for Robert Saleh’s defense, and the truth of the matter is, unless teams can run the ball right at San Francisco and have consistent success, they won’t do much offensively. If the Niners can slightly improve their current pace, they’ll challenge the single-season record for fewest passing yards allowed in a 16-game season. Make no mistake: the 49ers delivered a major statement with this win. GAME GRADE: A+ | NEXT: at Ravens (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 14 of 18

MONDAY: BALTIMORE AT LA RAMS

RAVENS (8-2): Week 12 concludes with the Ravens heading to Los Angeles to take on the Rams. This will be a real test for Baltimore’s outstanding and unique offense. Expect Jalen Ramsey to follow Marquise Brown and get very physical with him at the line of scrimmage in press man coverage much of the time. That will allow Wade Philips to bracket Mark Andrews with a steady combination of safeties and linebackers. The Rams are an excellent run defense and while they haven’t seen the likes of Lamar Jackson, Baltimore hasn’t had to deal with a disruptive force like Aaron Donald. The Ravens running game is diverse, but Donald can destroy it like no one else in the league. Jackson had better be careful at the mesh point of Baltimore’s read-option game or he could get a face full of Donald. NEXT: vs. 49ers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


RAMS (6-4): It looks like Los Angeles will have Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods back for their showdown with Baltimore, and perhaps their presence will be enough to jump start an offense that has averaged under 20 points per game over its last five contests. Los Angeles’ passing offense struggled mightily against Pittsburgh and Chicago, and Jared Goff was terrible against Pittsburgh, and only marginally better against Chicago. The Rams still have the Cardinals twice, as well as a revenge game at home against the Seahawks. They likely need to go 4-2 and possibly 5-1 over their last six games to have a realistic chance at a playoff spot. That would make a win over the Ravens a necessity, as they still have road trips to Dallas and San Francisco remaining. With his stable of skill talent full again, the pressure is squarely on Goff to deliver results, regardless of who Los Angeles is facing. NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 15 of 18

BYE: ARIZONA

CARDINALS (3-7-1): Does David Johnson still have a role with the Cardinals? Kliff Kingsbury insists that he does, despite Johnson not getting a single touch and only being on the field for nine snaps against San Francisco. Johnson is owed over $13 million next season, and carries a dead cap hit of $16.2 million. He’s not going anywhere unless Arizona finds a trade partner, which seems unlikely. Bruce Arians was at the helm for the Cards when Johnson had a monster 2016, but it’s highly unlikely that a reunion in Tampa will be arranged. So what will Arizona do? Kingsbury has an extra week to either tinker with ways to get Johnson more involved, or further bury him on the depth chart. It stands to reason that Johnson, if healthy, would be a big boon to Kyler Murray’s development and Arizona’s offensive production moving forward. If he’s completely phased out, the Cardinals will be paying a lot of money for nothing.  NEXT: vs. Rams (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

16 of 18

BYE: KANSAS CITY

CHIEFS (7-4): Two years ago, Kareem Hunt won the rushing title in 15 games and one play. The 2017 third-round pick was better last year, averaging 109.2 scrimmage yards per game. The Chiefs have not replaced him effectively and lack ground-attack consistency. Damien Williams’ plug-and-play production of last season has not carried over; his 91-yard touchdown run against the Vikings represents nearly a third of his season-long rushing total (309 yards; 3.7 per carry). As a once-undrafted former Dolphins third-stringer, Williams should not have been expected to replace Hunt. LeSean McCoy has shown flashes of his old self, but his three fumbles (one shy of his single-season high) make him an unstable asset. The Chiefs rank 22nd in rushing (94.4 YPG), and Williams is now nursing a rib injury. The Chiefs must hope their renewed offensive line health can stabilize a suddenly shaky patchwork backfield, because with the slim margin for error their defense allows, they cannot afford to be vulnerable anywhere on offense. NEXT: vs. Raiders (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 17 of 18

BYE: LA CHARGERS

CHARGERS (4-7): Last week, Philip Rivers undercut his 353-yard performance with four more nationally televised interceptions, drawing attention to his 2019 regression. But the player who accounted for nearly a third of those aerial yards remains on a historic pace. Austin Ekeler has been one of the Chargers’ few bright spots, and his work in Los Angeles’ final five games will be a key reason to follow the NFL’s least-followed team. Ekeler’s 108-yard receiving performance against the Chiefs lifted him to 667, leaving him on pace for 970 for the season. Ekeler’s two goal-line fumbles notwithstanding, he has outplayed Melvin Gordon this season. Letting Gordon walk for a higher-end compensatory pick and attempting to extend their undrafted success story next year would be a prudent strategy for the Bolts. NEXT: at Broncos

— Sam Robinson 18 of 18

BYE: MINNESOTA

VIKINGS (8-3): The Vikings should be in a real good position coming out of their bye week. Over the past two months, Kirk Cousins is playing as well as just about any quarterback in this league. And that was mostly without Adam Thielen, who is set to return after the week off. With Thielen out, tight ends Irv Smith and Kyle Rudolph really stepped up while Stefon Diggs remained a dominant player even with more coverage attention during that stretch. Smith has a very bright future in this league. Dalvin Cook is a huge force in the passing game and with the punishment he has sustained this year, the week off comes at a great time for Cook. The Vikings offense has a chance to one of the very best in football to finish the regular season and presumably beyond. NEXT: at Seahawks (Mon.)

— Matt Williamson

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_12_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30633026#slide_18

By: Yardbarker Staff

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