Another week of NFL action is almost in the books. And Week 12 certainly brought its fair share of drama. The Packers stunned the Lions to spoil Detroit's Thanksgiving. Then during Sunday's slate, the Patriots changed quarterbacks yet again, the Falcons took the NFC South lead and the Giants won their second straight with rookie Tommy DeVito under center.
Which coaches, players and teams deserve the most praise (or criticism) after the weekend? Here are big winners and losers:
Winner: Sean Payton
The Broncos were once 1-5, and Payton inexplicably appeared on track to outdo even Nathaniel Hackett as leader of a hapless Denver program. Now they're 6-5, squarely in the AFC playoff race, after cruising past the Browns on Sunday. Payton's now overseen three straight games of clutch fourth-quarter TDs from Russell Wilson, and his resurgent defense held Cleveland to 12 points. The team may or may not have the magic to make a difference in January, but the turnaround is commendable nonetheless.
Loser: Sean McDermott
For a while on Sunday, his Bills looked poised to put the Eagles down handily, which would've been a huge accomplishment for a team looking to fully restore its playoff stride. But then McDermott's defense allowed Jalen Hurts to revert to MVP form in the second half, and his decision to "ice" Eagles kicker Jake Elliott, then forfeit a potential 20-second offensive drive, at the end of regulation backfired. In overtime, his "D" once again crumbled, permitting Philly to log another close, clutch victory.
Winner: Matthew Stafford
For weeks, Stafford has been fighting just to survive behind the Rams' shuffling O-line. On Sunday, he got Kyren Williams back in the lineup, and Los Angeles' ground game exploded all the way back. He slung it pretty well himself, too, tossing four scores and spreading the ball all over Jonathan Gannon's defense to lead a rout of the Cardinals. Just like that, Sean McVay's scrappy contender can't be counted out as a legit factor in the NFC playoff picture.
Loser: Kevin Stefanski
Beating the resurgent Broncos wasn't going to be a cakewalk with Dorian Thompson-Robinson, making just his third career start at QB, but Stefanski didn't help his own cause with some curious play-calling late against Denver. Even worse, the fill-in QB was forced to exit late with a head injury, meaning Cleveland's short- and long-term playoff prospects could hinge on an eventual practice squad call-up of Joe Flacco, who just joined the team. That is unless Stefanski rides with P.J. Walker yet again.
Winner: Najee Harris
After a year and a half of slogging along, the Steelers at least moved the ball better in their first game since axing embattled coordinator Matt Canada. But no one benefitted from the new offense more than Harris, who approached 100 yards and scored on the ground the same day his typically superior counterpart, Jaylen Warren, lost a fumble, which No. 1 wideout Diontae Johnson may or may not have tried to scoop up. Pittsburgh's still a suspect "contender," but their big back should be happier today.
Loser: Mac Jones (again)
Bill Belichick refused to name him the starter all week, then trotted him out anyway. The saddest part is anyone could've predicted what would come next: Even with a bad Giants defense in front of him, Jones tossed two ugly picks to warrant yet another benching, this time at halftime. It's felt, for a while now, like the former first-rounder is already out the door in New England, but losing his gig to Bailey Zappe for a fourth (!) time this season, against Tommy DeVito and New York of all teams, should do it.
Winner: Shane Steichen
It wasn't a quiet week in Indianapolis, where Colts owner Jim Irsay made headlines for speaking out about a previous arrest and former star linebacker Shaquille Leonard lamented his abrupt release. But Steichen still got another respectable showing from Gardner Minshew and their makeshift offense when it came time to play football, overcoming an early Buccaneers lead (and then a late comeback effort) to put the team above .500. If the Colts can keep Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss going on the ground, this is a wild card contender!
Loser: Dennis Allen
You had one job: beat the offensively challenged Falcons to secure control of the weak NFC South. Instead, Allen's Saints came out of the bye week without much life and, after Chris Olave's exit due to injury, failed to match Atlanta's playmaking in every phase of the game. It was more of the same from Derek Carr and Co. -- lots of short, safe, but uninspiring strategy that somehow made Desmond Ridder and Bijan Robinson look like one of the game's most electrifying duos when it counted.
Winner: Jaguars (barely)
It wasn't pretty, and if not for Matt Ammendola's last-minute 58-yard field-goal try bouncing off the crossbar of the goal post, Jacksonville might've gone to overtime with the rival Texans. But the Jags defense stepped up late to contain star rookie C.J. Stroud, with Josh Allen leading the charge off the edge, and both Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk showed up with big plays to keep Doug Pederson's club atop the AFC South. This win will go a long way toward their playoff race, even if it was close.