Originally posted on Helmet2Helmet  |  Last updated 11/28/12
Each week, various members of the Helmet2Helmet forum community — known as Team Ugly (which includes yours truly) — will analyze, criticize, praise, and mock all of the happenings from the prior week of NFL action in their own unique way. Previously: Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 Week 12 started out with a boom. On Thanksgiving, Detroit and Houston took almost five full quarters to settle the issue. Then came the Cowboys-Redskins battle in Big D. RGIII shredded the Cowboys defense for almost the entire first half, and then did so when necessary to preserve a win. Finally, the Patriots all but locked up the division by demolishing the Jets, who looked like they were in a food coma by game time. Unfortunately, Sunday did not fully follow up on the Thursday events. There were some compelling matchups, but there were more shoulder shrugging results. Perhaps the most intriguing results were the way the Giants overpowered the Packers and the Niners outpacing the Saints. The big upset happened in Cleveland, where the Browns persistence finally paid off against the Steelers. The week ended with a battle for the bottom of the NFC, with Carolina winning the game and Philly taking the crown. When the dust settled, the AFC divisions are pretty much decided. New England, Baltimore, Houston and Denver all have three game or better leads with five to play. That leaves the wild car race, where Indy leads the pack, Pittsburgh and Cincy are tied for the #6 seed, and five other teams are within two games of the final spot. On the NFC side, Atlanta has all but locked up the South, with San Fran holding a 2.5 game lead in the West. The Giants reclaimed a two game lead in the East, and Chicago edged ahead of the Packers by a game. Green Bay has a one game lead in the wild card race, with Seattle, Tampa, and Minnesota tied for the #6 spot. Six others are within two games of the last playoff spot. Week 13 is almost upon us. Several aspiring playoff teams have their chances on the line. Some will call it lucky 13, others will curse the number. It starts Thursday night with New Orleans visiting Atlanta. A loss could push the Saints two games out of the playoffs with only four remaining. Elsewhere, Seattle visits Chicago, New England travels to Miami, Indy plays at Detroit, the Vikes invade Green Bay, San Fran head to St. Louis, Tampa heads to Denver, he Steelers and Ravens square off in Baltimore, Cincy is at San Diego, Philly tries to end its skid at Dallas, and the Giant head down I95 to Washington. A handful of games pair also-rans. By this time next week, there should be fewer contenders and the playoff picture should take some shape…..or not. But, like a buzzard circling carcass, Team Ugly offers one last look at Week 12. Good Cincinnati Bengals – It is hard for us to get too excited about someone drubbing the Raiders, particularly at home. After all, right now Oakland is playing about as bad as anyone. But the Bengals did something uncharacteristic: they buried the Raiders early and kept them interred for the duration, outgaining the visitors by almost a 2-1 margin. This was the type of victory that teams with higher aspirations earn, but too often the Bengals have not. Combined with a Steeler loss, the Bengals are making serious noise about another playoff berth. Playoffs? Playoffs? Yes, even mentioning that two years in a row is a Good for Cincy. New England Patriots – While hardly a “must win” for the Pats, Thanksgiving presented a chance to virtually put a lock on the AFC East and all but push the Jets out of the playoff picture. After an initial 15 minutes that looked like a battle, New England exploded to 35 straight points in the second quarter, salting this turkey away. The Pats scored on offense, on defense, and on special teams. They rang up nearly 500 yards of offense. Do not let the stat sheet confuse you: this was nowhere near as close as the numbers indicate. Considering the Pats scored twice with the offense standing on the sidelines and twice more had relatively short fields resulting in TD drives, the numbers could be far worse. Brady was Brady. The running game was effective, to say the least. When a team as good as New England completely dominates all three facets of the game, the outcome is going to look a lot like this. New York Giants – After almost a month absence (including a bye week), the “good Giants” showed up again … and how. After some early sparring with the Packers, the G-Men went on a 24-3 run by halftime to pretty much put the game away. The defense looked like the version we are accustomed to seeing in the playoffs. They sacked Rodgers five times and pressured him many more. After the initial two Packers, Big Blue did not allow the Green Bay offense to get in anything resembling a grove. They also ended the Pack’s third possession one play with an interception, handing the offense a quick chance at a field goal to extend the lead to ten and starting the roll. Equally important, the G-men protected the football, suffering no turnovers. When they ran, they ran well, and showed enough downfield passing to keep Green Bay on its heels. The result was an important home win to extend their divisional lead to two games with five to play, and an overall record of 7-4. Good performance, gentlemen. San Francisco 49ers – These were not the Saints of Super Bowl fame, but they are not the toothless Saints who look like they may not win five games all year, either. Late in the first half, it looked like the Saints were on their way to putting another credential on their playoff resume, leading 14-7 with the ball near midfield and about :30 left. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks provided the game’s first turning point by stepping in front of a Brees pass and returning the pick 50 yards for the tying touchdown. Donte Whitner also provided a pick-six in the third to extend the Niner lead to 28-14. On the day, the defense held the Saints to under 300 yards. The San Francisco offense chipped in 375 yards of its own, with Kaepernick running and passing for a TD, completing several big throws downfield, including 5 to a guy named Manningham. The result was a quality win at home against a surging team, and a spot here. Washington Redskins – With the Eagles all but mathematically eliminated from the race and Cowboys seemingly out of the picture, Washington has emerged as a surprising front-runner for the postseason. Of course, their emphatic Thanksgiving victory over Dallas can largely be attributed to one play: Robert Griffin III. You can read on for more about the rookie QB, but he rose his play to a superstar level on a primetime stage. Between him and rookie rusher Alfred Morris, Mike Shanahan has a fantastic young nucleus in place. In Week 13, the Redskins will do battle with the Giants in a game that may shape how the NFC East is won. Another victory and we might have to start taking the Skins seriously. Bad Arizona Cardinals – Things are getting rough in the desert. The Cardinals basically handed this game to the Rams in front of the home crowd thanks to four interceptions, two of which were pick sixes. But wait, there’s more. Arizona failed to run the football and failed to stop the Rams rushing attack. That meant that rookie QB Ryan Lindley threw the ball 52 times (not including another two dropbacks that wound up as sacks). That is a lot of weight to put on a rookie QB’s shoulders. The end result is Arizona blew a 17-14 lead and lost an infinitely winnable game for their seventh straight loss, after an unlikely 4-0 start. The offense is horrid. It takes a special degree of Bad to lose games like this, at home, to opponents like the Rams. Baltimore Ravens – Can anybody remember a less convincing 9-2 team in the NFL? On a day when the offense went absolutely nowhere for quarters at a time they were saved only by the lethargy of the Chargers and a miracle 4th down conversion (although, to be fair, one probably contributed to the other). Another hideous win, and yet another week of the charmed football life in Charm City. See what we did there? Dallas Cowboys – The good news is that the Cowboys finally put together a good 4th quarter and Tony Romo rose to the occasion in crunch time. Not that it really mattered, as a disaster of a second quarter and a game-long stupor on defense ensured all their good work was strictly cosmetic. It probably did save them from the Ugly, but not much else. Remember when Rob Ryan was heralded as a defensive sensei? Or when Jason Garrett was the next big thing in coaching? Or when this team was anything other than fantastically mediocre yet insistently overhyped? Yeah, us either. Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings did their best to prove their detractors correct in Chicago on Sunday. It was not simply that they lost, it was that they were run off the field in the first half. They went to the locker room down 25-3, and their lone FG, the first points of the game, came directly off a Bear fumble on Chicago’s first offensive play. They were even kind enough to jump start the Bear offense after grabbing the 3-0 lead with a fumble of their own that got converted into a touchdown. The Vikings had no first downs in the first quarter and only three in the first half. As to the charge that the Minnesota offense will go as far as Adrian Peterson can take them: Guilty. Peterson had 108 yards rushing and 30 receiving, accounting for more than half of the Vikes total offense. In fact, all 10 of Minnesota’s points came from short fields after two Bear turnovers. The fact that the Viking defense managed to set those up, combined with limited expectations, keep this from slipping to Ugly, but it certainly tests the limits of Bad. Ugly Green Bay Packers — It’s extremely rare to see the Packers in the Ugly column — this is likely a first and last occasion — but their lackluster effort against the Giants earned them the dubious honor. From the outset of the Sunday Night contest, the Pack were challenged on both sides of the ball. The defense, minus Clay Matthews, did little to disrupt a well-rested Eli Manning, who tossed three touchdowns and led a 38-point outburst. On offense, Aaron Rodgers was under duress for nearly the entire game, as Big Blue’s stout defensive front registered five sacks and countless pressures. Every team experiences the occasional hiccup, and Green Bay is no different. There’s little cause for concern, but they’ll need to step up their game in Week 13 versus the rival Vikings. New York Jets – After their Thanksgiving night implosion, the Jets have surpassed circus and delved straight into rock bottom. It’s a comically steep fall from grace, in particular for Rex Ryan, who was once hailed as a New York legend. It speaks volumes when a team completely and utterly disappoints with their season on the line, in front of their home crowd, and against their bitter rival for the entire world to witness. The Jets took it to a new level, however. The Sanchez “Butt Fumble” will go down in infamy and is one of those plays you’ll be seeing on Football Follies for years to come. With the postseason out of the question, Ryan will be coaching to save jobs: both his and GM Mike Tannenbaum’s. Not even Tebow himself can rescue this sinking ship. Pittsburgh Steelers – It’s unlikely that Steelers fans had envisioned anything this ugly even in their most horrid, turkey-fueled nightmares in the run-up to this game. The bar is set low for third-string quarterbacks, but three picks is considered a bad day for them too. Throw in the fumbleitis that was sweeping through the dressing room this week, and you get an offensive performance that was Ugly in every sense of the word. Even a game effort by the defense couldn’t keep them out of this category or the loss column. Honors Bryce Brown — There aren’t many positives left on a completely hapless Eagles team, but the rookie running back, starting in place of LeSean McCoy, was one of them. Brown opened eyes with his 178-yard, two TD outing on Monday night. Philly appears to have a very formidable (and young) one-two punch going forward. Jay Cutler — Though he didn’t light up the box score, Cutler’s presence alone completely aided the Bears in their eighth win of the season. This comes one week after a Cutler-less Chicago squad was thoroughly embarrassed by the Niners. If the Bears are to make a push deep into the postseason, Cutler will be the key catalyst. RGIII – The reigning Heisman Trophy winner continues to come into his own as the face of the Redskins’ franchise. Throwing four TDs against a Rob Ryan-coached defense is no easy task, and more than deserving of earning a spot in Honors this week. Judging by his play of late, though, it won’t be the last time we’ll see RG3 here. Dishonors Charlie Batch — Granted, the grizzled veteran is perhaps too old to be thrust into a starting position. However, tossing three interceptions and a slew of underthrown balls in a loss to the lowly Chiefs is utterly reprehensible. Ben Roethlisberger can’t return fast enough. San Diego Defense – It is bad enough to give up 30 yards on a dump off pass on 4th and 29 in the final two minutes while trying to protect a 3-point lead, it is even worse to then complain about how the final two or three feet was spotted. Maybe, just maybe, if you had tackled the man, oh, we don’t know, 3, 5, 10, or 20 yards earlier, the spot would have made no difference and you wouldn’t look like buffoons. Ndamukong Suh — From his Thanksgiving incident in 2011 to his repeat offense this past Turkey Day, Suh’s act is disturbingly alarming. A classic example of million dollar talent and 10 cent head, Suh was lucky to escape without suspension by the NFL, but the Lions need to get him under control. There’s no place for his level of dirtiness — accidental or not. Awards Ciron Black (Best of the Good) – They returned from a bye, hoping the week off broke a streak of less than stellar performances. Unfortunately, the opponent was the Green Bay Packers who have been on a roll since October. To say the New York Giants were up to the task is an understatement. The defense led the charge to the bar, where a bottle of the prime stuff awaits. Aunt Esther (Ugliest of the Ugly) – It is hard to believe a team that shares a stadium with the Ciron Black winning Giants could be this Ugly. It is hard to believe that any team, anywhere, in any stadium, NFL, college, high school, or Pop Warner, could be this Ugly. But that is the plight of the New York Jets. Even Esther looks good compared to this performance. Lone Ranger (Who Was That Masked Man?) – Mr. Robert Griffin III rained on the Dallas Thanksgiving parade with 311 yards passing, completing 20 of 28 with 4 TD’s, and added another 29 yards rushing. Amber Alert (Greatest Disappearance) – While his game numbers are not bad, they hide the fact that Mark Sanchez was invisible during the few competitive minutes of this game. His interception ended a sustained Jets drive and early scoring chance. Later, after the onslaught began, he ran into the back end of OL Brandon Moore on a broken play, fumbling, and putting the game into runaway mode. Our guess is Sanchez wanted to disappear after that one, a play that will live on in NFL blooper films for decades. (Photo via Giants.com)
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