NFL Week 12

NFL Week 12: Good, bad & ugly

The playoff picture is getting clearer in the NFL. However, the MVP race is now over. Week 12 in the NFL was another one all over the map. Here's some of my observations:

The Good

-Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson should be given the MVP award now. Against the Rams on Monday Night Football, he went 15/20 for 169 yards and five touchdown passes. He also added 95 rushing yards on eight carries. One of those runs should've been a touchdown had he not tripped. He's part of the reason my column this week is about putting to bed sports stereotypes.

-We all love when we see the big guys from defense on offense. Usually it's a run play and he's going to be a human plow either running the ball or clearing a path for a runner. Tampa lined up Vita Vea, it's 3457lb defensive tackle, at fullback. After a play action by Jameis Winston, he threw a one yard touchdown pass to the big fella who was wide open (pun intended). Name something more fun in football, outside the celebrations, than seeing a big fat guy catch a touchdown pass. You can't!

-I can't say enough about Frank Gore. The guy overcame a learning disability, two ACL injuries in college within an 18-month span, and often questioning whether or not he should keep playing, by himself and others. The Buffalo Bills running back is now the third all-time leading rusher in NFL history with 15,289 after passing Barry Sanders, and is fourth on the yards from scrimmage list with 19,154 after passing Marshall Faulk. The 15 year vet is a testament to hard work, never giving up, and believing in yourself. We're all privileged to have seen his story play out.

The Bad

-Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz threw one of the worst passes I've seen this year. On 3rd&9 from the Seahawk 10 yard line, running back Miles Sanders was wide open but Wentz threw the ball about five yards in front of him and way over his head. Wentz was closer to throwing a pick six to the Seahawk defensive back on that side of the field. They settled for a field goal on the next play and went on to lose at home 17-9.

-The Packers were thoroughly beaten in their 37-8 loss to the 49ers. Much has been made of the relationship between Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LeFleur. They managed to put a lot of it to bed with a 8-2 start. They're now 8-3 after this loss in which they averaged a putrid 2.8 yards per play. The only thing worse than that is the fact that they now have -11 punt return yards...ON THE ENTIRE SEASON!

-The Raiders' nice run was abruptly halted with a 34-3 drubbing at the hands of the hapless Jets. Thing got so bad, Jon Gruden pulled Derek Carr and inserted Mike Glennon. Glennon returned the favor by fumbling twice in his first three snaps! Backups are put in these situations to help save the starters from getting hurt in a game that's out of control. They aren't expected to lead a comeback, but they aren't expected to make things worse either.

The Ugly

-On a key 3rd&1 while down 13-9 to the Patriots, the Cowboys' offensive lineman Travis Frederick was called for a tripping penalty. They went from converting a crucial 3rd down, to a 3rd&11 that eventually turned into a turnover on downs when they couldn't convert. The call itself was absurd and was only outshadowed by the league coming out and saying the call shouldn't have been called. This literally could've cost a team a shot at the playoffs all things considered.

-Speaking of officiating, am I the only one who thinks CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore slurps the refs a bit too much instead of calling things the way he sees them? I almost hate watching games on CBS because he will defend the most egregious calls and/or explain why it's the "right" call. He has to realize he isn't a ref anymore so defending their stupidity isn't necessary. Call it straight jackass!

-Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks left the game due to an illness related to anxiety. People often like to make fun of others suffering from things they know nothing about. As someone who suffers from anxiety, it's no joke. While mine isn't nearly as bad as others, it still can cause issues. Kudos to him for being so forthcoming about his illness and why he left the game. Talking about it and being honest is the only way to get the word out and start to kill the stigmas associated with it.

Half of the 14 games played were decided by one score. In the AFC, the Patriots and Ravens are ahead of the pack, while only one gae seperates teams in the final wildcard spot from 10th place. In the NFC, there are five teams with three or less losses. The Cowboys (the current NFC East division leader) are the only team in the playoffs with more than three losses and Jerry Jones has already put the word out that he's disappointed in his coaching staff. The Buffalo Bills are 8-3 and firmly in control of their destiny as the lead wildcard team in the AFC. Who would've thought that would be possible outside Bills fans? The Steelers are in the final wildcard spot in the AFC after losing Ben Roethlisberger and trading their first round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick. These last few weeks will have some meaning because nobody is running away with homefield advantage in either conference and teams are fighting to either make the playoffs, or save their asses.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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