2012 NFL Grades, Week 12: AFC North race is all but over
Will Brinson hands out weekly grades for every NFL team. These are the Thanksgiving (and the week after) grades.
The Steelers still control their destiny when it comes to the playoffs, with a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bengals in their pocket and a current grip on the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
One small problem: this team's not very good without Ben Roethlisberger and the different avenues to get in the postseason are quickly closing up. The AFC North is essentially done; Baltimore's three games up on both Pittsburgh and Cincy. The Ravens play the Steelers next week and a victory puts them four up with four to play. That's good night, Irene.
Which means, with the Colts holding tight at 7-4, the final playoff spot could end up being a battle between the Steelers and Bengals. Coincidentally, those two teams play on December 23!
It's quite possible Roethlisberger is back by then. If he's not, the Steelers are probably doomed anyway, so it might not matter. If he is, they have three games to tread water between now and then. Let's assume a loss to Baltimore in Week 13 and give the Steelers one of the Cowboys/Chargers games. So unless the Bengals, who are rolling right now, go 1-2 in their next three, it's possible that Roethlisberger's absence could cost the Steelers a playoff berth. It certainly cost them a win on Sunday.
|Houston Texans 34, Detroit Lions 31|
|B||It's hard not to be impressed with the Texans playing 10 quarters of football in five days and coming out 2-0. On the other hand, their defense looked pretty bad the last two games and they didn't have much of an answer against the Lions on Thursday. Their offense is starting to look even scarier than normal though as Andre Johnson continues to become a monster.|
|B-||Tough loss for the Lions at home on Thanksgiving, especially when Jim Schwartz gifted the Texans a touchdown by not understanding NFL rules on challenging plays. But their defense did an OK job and Matthew Stafford looked like the 2011 version of himself. Monster games from both Ryan Broyles and Calvin Johnson .|
|Redskins 38, Cowboys 31|
|A||Washington came out gangbusters and set the tone against Dallas, with Robert Griffin III heaving a trio of second-quarter touchdown passes. Dallas got back in this game because of some mistakes, but was it really out of hand early thanks to another monster game from RG3. The Skins are now tied with the Cowboys in the standings.|
|C-||Dallas nearly made this a game with Tony Romo 's impressive run down the stretch, but for the most part, they got dominated. A lot of that should fall on Rob Ryan's unit, that got torched badly at home on Thanksgiving. Dez Bryant 's absolutely killed it over the last few weeks, but the Cowboys can't get any sort of run game going without DeMarco Murray and that's a major problem.|
|Atlanta Falcons 24, Buccaneers 23|
|B-||The Falcons just refuse to stop winning close games, but it's hard to have a ton of faith in them coming up against a "hot" team in the playoffs. Julio Jones was incredibly impressive and they're starting to use Jacquizz Rodgers more, which is a smart thing. But the defense and some of Matt Ryan 's decisions left a bit to be desired.|
|C+||Tampa Bay Buccaneers very nearly solidified their stunning shot at the playoffs this year, but their porous pass defense continued to cost them. Josh Freeman can get very hot and very cold at times and late in the game was not a good time to get cold.|
|Bears 28, Minnesota Vikings 10|
|C-||Adrian Peterson had another strong day, but only got 18 carries because the Vikings were down early. Losing 25-3 at halftime isn't the recipe for being able to effectively run the ball. The bigger concern is their defense, which only generated a single sack on Jay Cutler ; with the weak Bears offensive line, they have to do better. Is Christian Ponder definitely the future here?|
|B+||Chicago Bears wasn't perfect offensively, but Michael Bush scored twice and Jay Cutler made some incredibly impressive throws. He really might have the best arm in the NFL. Chicago's defense generated some turnovers and, even though they gave up over 100 yards to Adrian Peterson, did a good job of smothering the Vikings.|
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