JERMAINE EVERY'S OBSERVATIONS

The good, bad and ugly from Week 12 in the NFL

Phillip Rivers was unstoppable. Mike Nowak/Chargers team site

There’s never a dull moment in a week of NFL action. Week 12 proved to be pretty exciting. Teams we thought were the worst, turned out not so bad. Meanwhile, there are some teams free-falling faster than a mob snitch wearing concrete shoes while “going for a swim.” Here’s how I saw things:

The Good

-Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed 25 consecutive passes to start the game and went 28 of 29 overall in their 45-10 win over the lowly Cardinals. It’s high time he starts to get the respect he’s due. Oh, I forgot. Joey Bosa is back and that makes this team better.

-Bears backup quarterback Chase Daniel led his team to a 23-16 win over the Lions on Thanksgiving. He hasn’t thrown a pass in a few years, but went 27 of 37 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Safety Eddie Royal has quietly been their defense’s second best player. He had his fifth defensive touchdown since last season, which was his rookie year. Bears are scary.

-The Cowboys beat the Redskins 31-23 on Thanksgiving behind Ezekiel Elliot and Amari Cooper’s huge performances. But it was seeing rookie receiver Michael Gallup back with the team after learning of the suicide of his brother after the Falcons game last Sunday. The mental toughness it takes to perform on that level after a personal tragedy is something most of us won’t know.

The Bad

-There aren’t many times when a receiver getting eight targets is a bad thing. But when said receiver is Odell Beckham Jr, an exception to that statement is in order. In their 25-22 loss to the Eagles, OBJ said after the game that attacking the depleted Eagles secondary “wasn’t in the game plan.” Eli Manning threw 37 passes and only three of the 26 completions went for more than 20 yards. That’s unacceptable. That’s also how you end up 3-8.

-The Panthers were 6-4 and had an opportunity to stay within striking distance of the Saints in the NFC South. Up 27-20 with about seven minutes left against the Seahawks, they let it slip away. Seahawks rallied to win 30-27 after kicking a game-winning field goal after the Panthers missed one of their own. They are now four games back.

- Steelers running back James Conner has been a feel-good story. However, his fumble at the end of the third quarter while they were in scoring range led to the Broncos’ go-ahead touchdown drive that started the fourth quarter. The Steelers not only drop to 7-3-1 after the loss, but also lose some ground in playoff seeding.

The Ugly

-The Jags are the concrete shoes reference above. They are now 3-8 after losing their seventh in a row. To make matters worse, they lost to the Bills’ rookie quarterback Josh Allen, whom Jags’ corner Jalen Ramsey called “trash” in one of his rants. Jags running back Leonard Fournette was also ejected for fighting. Offseason in Duval County should be interesting.

-Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes went down with an apparent hamstring injury late in their win over the Packers. If he’s out for any significant amount of time, that’s trouble for a team that had hopes of advancing deep into the playoffs.

-Former Bears player and head coach Mike Ditka had a mild heart attack earlier this week and is recovering down in Florida. The 79 year old had a pacemaker inserted and is doing much better. 2018 has been tough enough. Let Ditka make it God. Please?

Playoff seeding tightened up in both conferences this week. The Steelers could’ve been the two seed in the AFC, but lost and fell to the four spot. The Panthers could’ve been the four seed in the NFC, but are now on the outside looking in the playoffs altogether. More division races have meaning down the home stretch. This is the part of the season that’s similar to the dark meat of the turkey: it’s juicy even though it’s almost gone.  

 

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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