NFL Week 12 observations: The good, bad and ugly

NFL Week 12 observations: The good, bad and ugly
Phil Dawson had a huge kick for Arizona. Arizona Cardinals

Week twelve in the NFL brought us some interesting matchups. While it’s still as fuzzy as our judgment after a few too many drinks, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. This week is akin to you waking up and trying to get your bearings, but you can’t find your keys just yet.

The Good

-In a battle of the former and current sorry excuse for a Jacksonville Jaguar quarterback, the Arizona Cardinals’ Blaine Gabbert was able to “outduel” Blake Bortles thanks to Phil Dawson’s career long 57-yard field goal with one second left on the clock. Kudos to Dawson. He’s a 19 year vet who’s been written off more than once and still getting it done.

-Props to Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. After being unceremoniously benched for rookie backup Nathan Peterman to start last week’s game, he came back to lead the Bills over the Kansas City Chiefs 16-10. He was understandably upset about the benching last week (which he attributed to being judged more harshly because he’s a black quarterback). This week, he led the most Tyrod Taylor-esque win while going 19/29 for 183 yards and a touchdown, along with 9 rushes for 27 yards. This win keeps the Bills in the playoff picture at the six seed.

-The Minnesota Vikings are still rolling along at 9-2 after outlasting the Detroit Lions 30-23 on Thanksgiving. Case Keenum has come in and continued the Vikings dominance. Credit Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur for working with whomever he’s been given at quarterback and making them successful since his hire there in January of 2016.

The Bad

-The Dallas Cowboys lost at home to the Los Angeles Chargers (it feels just as weird typing as it does saying) on Thanksgiving 28-6. The most troubling thing to me wasn’t Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott’s play, but the offensive line’s play against the Chargers’ front seven. The Chargers made them look fairly average. Sure they’re missing their star running back, but an offensive line widely recognized as one of the league’s best shouldn’t get dominated the way they did at home on Thanksgiving.

-The Washington Redskins (maybe quarterback Kirk Cousins specifically) almost shot themselves in the foot during a 4th quarter sequence. On a 4th and 1, they called a timeout, decided to go for it, called another timeout to prevent a delay of game penalty, and got a delay of game penalty anyway for calling consecutive timeouts. Even though they won 20-10, that could’ve cost them big time.

-The Green Bay Packers tied the Pittsburgh Steelers at 28 with about two minutes left in the game. After forcing a Steelers punt, the Packers punted the ball back to the Steelers with about 30 seconds left. They proceeded to give up the game winning field goal after a drive that saw them play terrible coverage. Granted, they’re missing some depth in the defensive backfield, but playing too far off Antonio Brown was utterly ridiculous. Cover 2 with outside corners playing back, or quarters/cover 4 would’ve been better in that situation knowing all they needed was a field goal to win.

The Ugly

-Oakland Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree and Denver Broncos corner Aqib Talib have had quite the beef since Talib ripped off Crabtree’s chain in a game late last year. Not even a full 5 minutes into the game, Talib and Crabtree ignited a brawl when Talib snatched Crabtree’s chain off his neck Debo style for the second time. It’s time for this beef to stop before it gets to a level in which all actions are regrettable.

-Speaking of Raiders/Broncos…Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper suffered concussion on an accidental helmet to helmet hit. Not only was Cooper out cold, but his eyes were closed and hands fixated in a catching position as he lie motionless on the turf.

-The Cleveland Browns are now 0-11 after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 30-16. Before the loss, the 0-10 Browns needed 47 different things to go right for them to make the playoffs. Following the loss, they’ve been officially eliminated. Here’s to hoping they can finally draft a franchise quarterback and end the process of rebuilding they’ve been in since reincarnating in 1999.  

In a “clash of the unexpected titans”, the Los Angeles Rams bested the New Orleans Saints 26-20. Both teams are now 8-3, but the Rams hold the tie breaker when it comes to playoff implications. Tom Brady is 40 years old and looking like a serious MVP candidate as his Patriots are 9-2 following a 35-17 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins. The Philadelphia Eagles are the class of the league at 10-1. But perhaps one of the best moments from this past week came when Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was asked about Brandin Cooks’ touchdown celebration in which Gronk appeared to play the role of Trigger to Cooks’ Lone Ranger. Gronk has never been at a loss for words, but he was this time. Overall, I’d give week 12 of NFL action a perfect 10.

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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