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2012 NFL Grades, Week 11: Falcons, Texans look like vulnerable contenders

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Each week we hand out team-by-team grades for every game in the NFL. This page will update throughout the week, so mark it here. You'll probably agree with every single grade, but if not, leave your thoughts/comments/vitriol below or direct them to @willbrinson on Twitter.

The Falcons and Texans entered Sunday with the best records in their respective conferences and sported double-digit spreads against inferior opponents. When good teams get into these situations, they blow those teams out.

Neither Atlanta nor Houston blew out Arizona or Jacksonville, respectively, and they didn't even look convincing in their wins. In fact, they looked desperate.

Houston needed a walk-off touchdown from Andre Johnson to win in overtime and Atlanta clung to a four-point lead that nearly evaporated late.

Wins are wins. Winning is good. But barely beating a bad team at home when you're supposed to win by double figures is a major concern. When Green Bay came into Houston and lit up the Texans defense it was kind of hard to complain, mainly because it was the Packers. A Chad Henne-led offense is a much, much different story.

The same goes for the John Skelton/Ryan Lindley combo; they shouldn't be competitive against a would-be Super Bowl team. It happens in the NFL and not crushing an inferior opponent isn't the end of the world.

The games were major red flags for both Atlanta and Houston. And it's precisely why they got a lower grade than their respective opponents despite coming away with a win.

Bills 19, Dolphins 14
D-Miami can't run the ball right now, and its pass protection is a mess, particularly at right tackle, where Jonathan Martin's a major liability. A previously stout defense was beat up and down the field -- though not often in the end zone -- by a Bills team that isn't that dangerous on offense. Miami's a sinking ship right now and has got the Seahawks, Patriots and 49ers up next. Fun ride while it lasted.
C+Buffalo could've blown out Miami if it converted in the red zone or actually, you know, let C.J. Spiller handle the rock. The defense had its first really good game of the season and Jairus Byrd might've saved the Bills' season with an outstanding game. An ugly win is still a win, and Buffalo gets to keep some slim playoff hopes alive.
Packers 24, Lions 20
C+Randall Cobb is emerging into a phenomenal weapon for the Packers. His week-to-week growth is borderline stunning and he showed as much with the game-winning touchdown catch. Not a perfect day for Aaron Rodgers but he made some huge throws. Probably safe to say Tramon Williams can give Richard Sherman his nickname back, right? Mason Crosby might be out of a job soon.
C-Guess we put to rest the Madden Cover Jinx huh? Calvin Johnson continues to have a huge season. But it was all for naught as Detroit failed to capitalize on Packers mistakes and turned the ball over too often. This might've but a nail in the coffin for the Lions' 2012 playoff hopes.
Cowboys 23, Browns 20 (OT)
BPart of me wants to praise the Browns for playing the Cowboys tough, but part of me also wants to wonder how they didn't close this out. Some of their decisions were questionable, but to go into Dallas and make this competitive was pretty impressive. Cleveland limited turnovers, Brandon Weeden had a nice day, Greg Little made some catches and Trent Richardson ran well. The Browns really aren't as far off as everyone would like to think.
CJason Garrett's pants might've burned off in this game, they got so hot. Dallas escapes with a win and another victory on Thanksgiving will make people forget how close the Cowboys were to disaster. They really can't run without DeMarco Murray, but Dez Bryant had a big old day without Joe Haden in. A win's a win, I guess.
Falcons 23, Cardinals 19
C+LaRod Stephens-Howling shredded the Falcons on the ground but Ryan Lindley and John Skelton combined to go 11/27 for 70 passing yards. That's ... repulsive. Greg Toler made one of the smartest plays you'll ever see, slapping a Jason Snelling fumble back in bounds. You can't play like that on defense and not offer anything from the other side though.
D+It's hard to fathom how Atlanta even managed to win this game. Matt Ryan was absolutely terrible, Michael Turner continues to be ineffective and Roddy White was just about the only bright spot. Atlanta moved to 9-1, but this game is precisely why people aren't confident Atlanta can make it to the Super Bowl.
Jets 27, Rams 13
BWhen they Jets win, they sure do look good, huh? Mark Sanchez was efficient and the Shonn Greene/Bilal Powell/Joe McKnight trio ran the ball quite well. The Jets defense came up huge and, well, proved us wrong again. Maybe they should create as much turmoil as humanly possible this week, too.
DReally odd to see Steven Jackson dominate and only get 13 carries, but turnovers put the Rams in a bad spot in this game. Considering how well this defense did against San Francisco last week, it's incredibly disappointing to see it cough up 27 to the Jets, even if it wasn't all it's fault.
Texans 43, Jaguars 37 (OT)
B+OK, sure, whatever. Of course Chad Henne's going to throw for four touchdowns against a good passing defense after Blaine Gabbert gets hurt. I mean, duh. The Jaguars, Paul Posluszny in particular, played with a lot of heart on defense but just couldn't close it out. Justin Blackmon had 236 receiving yards, which just seems like something that didn't happen. What a weird freaking game. HELLO JALEN PARMELE [furiously Googles "Jalen Parmele"].
DThe Texans became the first team to ever score two times in a single overtime and Andre Johnson went berserk, catching 14 passes for 273 yards and a walk-off touchdown, but if you're the Texans, you can't be happy about what happened here. You got shredded by Chad Henne!
Redskins 31, Eagles 6
FSooooooo, Andy Reid. Just gonna go out in a flaming blaze of glory are we? Nick Foles was (unsurprisingly) not good, the Eagles line continues not to block, Nnamdi Asomugha continues to be a liability in coverage and, well, yeah, the score kind of says it all. Great run for Reid in Philly but it's coming to an end quickly.
B+The Redskins sure ended that 0-8 streak against rookie quarterbacks handily didn't they? Robert Griffin III was magnificent again this week: 14/15 for 200 yards and four touchdowns. Oh, and he rushed for 84 yards. No big deal. The defense destroyed the Eagles.
Bengals 28, Chiefs 6
BIs A.J. Green the best wide receiver in the NFL? Because he really might be. This was a business-like beatdown by the Bengals, who got up 21-6 and before the half and never looked back. Mohamed Sanu is quietly coming on strong for Cincinnati. Kansas City couldn't do anything on offense all day.
FWhat a trainwreck this team is. Only 188 passing yards for both Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel combined and the Chiefs decided once Jamaal Charles got going they should go away from him. What a surprise! The defense didn't do anything to limit Cincinnati all day.
Buccaneers 27, Panthers 21 (OT)
BThis is the type of win that propels you into the wild-card race and maybe lands Greg Schiano a playoff berth. Vincent Jackson continues to be one of the best free-agent acquisitions of the offseason. Doug Martin had a quiet 138-yard game if that's possible. Josh Freeman made some mistakes but he's playing incredibly well right now.
C-Carolina lost yet another winnable game. Cam Newton doesn't deserve any of the blame for this one, after going 16 of 29 for 252 yards, rushing for 40 yards and hitting Brandon LaFell for a would-be game-sealing touchdown. The defense really let them down here and Ron Rivera is sitting in some seriously hot water.
TeamGradeAnalysis
Saints 38,Raiders 17
ADrew Brees was incredibly efficient on the road and Mark Ingram is -- gasp -- starting to emerge as a legitimate threat in the running game. But the biggest surprise of all was the Saints defense actually showing up: Marcel Reece had big numbers, but they only bent and took one of their two Carson Palmer interceptions back to the house for six.
DMarcel Reece is a nice revelation both in the running game and passing game but I can't understand why they didn't get Denarius Moore involved more frequently. The Raiders defense is a total trainwreck too, but that's almost by design, as Oakland tries to reboot.
Broncos 30, Chargers 23
C-The running game has disappeared and Philip Rivers' mysterious slide continued on Sunday. It's not hard to pin a lot of the problems on the offensive line. Danario Alexander's starting to look like a real find if he can stay healthy, if you're looking for bright spots. It was fitting that the game ended with Rivers fumbling after a sack.
BPeyton Manning passed Dan Marino for No. 2 all-time in passing touchdowns and basically wrapped up the AFC West with Sunday's victory over the Chargers. The Broncos are just a well-rounded team with multiple stars on each side of the ball, and they're quickly morphing into a major Super Bowl contender.
Patriots 59, Colts 24
D+For as good as Andrew Luck is, it's going to be tough for Indianapolis to win games without any semblance of defense. The Colts defense no-showed against New England and got eviscerated. T.Y. Hilton might quietly be the best rookie wide receiver in the 2012 draft class. They got shredded and couldn't stop the Pats from running up the score.
A-What a hammerjob by the Patriots. Tom Brady was 24 of 35 for 331 yards and three touchdowns ... and he lost possessions because the Pats scored on special teams and defense. That's terrifying. The Aqib Talib addition looks like a good thing, but let's see it against a dominant offensive team first. Statement game by a team sick of the Andrew Luck press.
TeamGradeAnalysis
Ravens 13, Steelers 10
C+The Ravens won on the road against Pittsburgh, which isn't easy to do, but they also beat a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers team, something they've been quite good at over the year. Baltimore wasn't good on offense and needed a Jacoby Jones kick return to win. Beating up on Byron Leftwich doesn't count for a whole lot.
CIt's tough to freak out about this game: when Ben Roethlisberger went down, it was kind of assumed they wouldn't win. Pittsburgh's still in the driver's seat when it comes to the wild-card race, and the defense is starting to play pretty well. If the D and the running game can go 1-1 over the next two weeks and get Ben back, they'll be OK.
TeamGradeAnalysis
49ers, Bears
FChicago was beaten in every facet of the game Monday night. They couldn't generate any offense, they couldn't block anyone and their defense was out-muscled by the 49ers. That it happened in primetime and against a backup quarterback. The worst part is I'm not sure how much better things would've been for Jay Cutler.
ADamn, that was a statement game from San Francisco. Colin Kaepernick was outstanding and you'll hear a LOT of talk about him replacing Alex Smith. (Don't buy into it actually happening though.) Aldon Smith annihilated the Bears offensive line and the 49ers defense came to play.

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