Week 12 featured several interesting matchups, but the Los Angeles Rams hosting the New Orleans Saints topped everyone’s must-watch list, while the Dallas Cowboys getting crushed by the Los Angeles Chargers produced the highest ratings.
The battle of the first-place Rams and Saints didn’t quite live up to the billing. However, it showed that L.A. can play with the best in the NFL.
Here is a look at the Rams’ victory, as well as the rest of the NFL’s high and lows in Week 12:
3. Los Angeles Rams prove resilience
The Saints entered their road game at the Rams as the favorites. New Orleans won eight straight games prior to their visit, thanks in part to their dominant, balanced offense. Their defense also came together with the addition of former Ohio State standout Marshon Lattimore in the 2017 NFL Draft. He gave the Saints a shutdown corner, who freed the front seven to go after opposing quarterbacks.
Unfortunately, both Lattimore and fellow starter Ken Crawley missed the game. Los Angeles responded by doing what good football teams should do: go for the kill. The Rams went after the Saints secondary early and often, and their efforts yielded outstanding results. Meanwhile, the L.A. defense shut down anyone not named Alvin Kamara. The unit pressured future Hall of Famer Drew Brees throughout the game, resulting in multiple poor throws.
In the end, the Rams won 26-20, but the game was never that close. The NFC West frontrunners never trailed and controlled the Saints for most of the game. This team fought back from a tough loss at Minnesota and established some real credibility. Oh, and they earned their eighth win for the first time since 2006.
2. Brett Hundley shows a little something
Former UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley found himself in a good situation as the Green Bay Packers’ backup entering 2017. He could learn behind one of the best quarterbacks in the game, Aaron Rodgers, and hopefully develop into a starter himself one day. An injury to Rodgers destroyed that plan, thrusting Hundley into the spotlight.
It wasn’t pretty early, but Hundley finally showed why some experts believed he could become an NFL starter one day. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers’ last second 31-28 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday night. He still has a ways to go, especially in terms of pocket presence, but Hundley served notice that he can play in the NFL.
1. Arizona Cardinals still alive
The Arizona Cardinals are lingering on the outside of the playoff picture. However, they are proving dangerous with seven-year journeyman Blaine Gabbert under center. The former Jacksonville Jaguars first round pick led the Cardinals to a 27-24 victory over the then AFC South leaders.
While Gabbert rescued the offense, the defense played with fire in holding the NFL’s leading running team to only 91 rushing yards. The Cardinals also sacked Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles three times and limited him to 160 passing yards.
The Cardinals believe they can make the playoffs, but they first must stop the team that crushed them 33-0 earlier this season. If they can beat the Rams at home on Sunday, the Cardinals will be a team to watch out for in the NFC West as 2017 winds down.
3. Alex Smith struggles
The Kansas City Chiefs appeared ready to take the mantle of the AFC’s top dog from the New England Patriots early in the season. They won their first five games of the season, including some big victories over two Super Bowl contenders.
However, a team is often only as good as its quarterback, and Chiefs signal caller Alex Smith continues to struggle. He completed 121 of 158 passes for 1,391 yards, 11 touchdowns, and no interceptions in the Chiefs’ first five games. Since then, Smith’s numbers have dropped. In the following six games, Smith completed 133 of 211 attempts for 1,482 yards, eight touchdowns, and four interceptions.
The numbers from those last six games are decent, but they include three games with than 250 yards passing and a completion percentage drop from 77% to 63%. The Chiefs offense doesn’t have many playmakers, so the numbers, while decent, represent a significant drop in overall production. If Smith fails to return to form, the Chiefs will lose the division title.
2. Dallas collapse continues
The Dallas Cowboys miss running back Ezekiel Elliot. That much is clear. Yet, the problems in Dallas run much deeper than that. The once-vaunted Dallas defense gave up 434 yards and three touchdowns to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. One week earlier, the offense fell apart in a 37-9 drubbing to the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys are a trainwreck across the board. There is no one fix for this team. Dak Prescott’s development stalled at the end of 2016. The defense remains inconsistent. Work must be done in Dallas for 2018.
1. The fight
Do we even need to go there with the fight in the Oakland Raiders – Denver Broncos game? Let me say this: football should sell itself. The NFL, despite its problems, remains the country’s most popular sport. Things like the Michael Crabtree-Aqib Talib fight take away from a great team sport. The NFL has always held itself to a higher standard than the NHL and MLB in terms of fights. That’s why they were suspended, and the suspensions were deserved.