It's been a hotly-contested fortnight of NFLWikimedia Commons

We’re deep into the regular season now, and with only four more games to play until the play-offs, every game in the NFL counts. As is the case across the world of sport, injuries and corona-related absences have wreaked havoc on the majority of the 32 franchises, but, nevertheless, the NFL ploughs on headfirst towards the post-season and the race for the play-offs gets tighter with every week. So, here’s what happened in Weeks 12 and 13 of the NFL season.

Week 12: Thanksgiving, High-Scoring Defences and a Quarterback-less Broncos

Thanksgiving in America is synonymous with tradition, and the Lions playing at home in Detroit (and, recently, getting beat) is something that is firmly fixed on the calendar. For the fourth year in a row, the Lions lost on Thanksgiving Day, this time to the Houston Texans, who were one of eight teams to score on defensive plays. Week 12 was a particularly impressive week for the defences of the NFL, who, capitalising on fumbles or interceptions, took the ball the other way for a touchdown a total of nine times. A special mention must be accorded to Panthers’ line-backer Jeremy Chinn, who recovered two fumbles on back-to-back snaps, both for defensive touchdowns. The 14 points he scored were more than the entire Carolina offense could manage (13).

But perhaps the most interesting news of the week was the Bronco’s quarterback quandary, following the loss of all three of the QBs on their roster to COVID-19 tracing rules. Having failed to convince the league to allow them to start one of the assistant coaches at QB, the Broncos were forced to turn to their practice-squad roster and pick out Kendall Hinton, who had played a few games at QB at college in 2018 before converting to a Wide Receiver. Hinton had, in fact, only been snapped up into the practice-squad a month ago, having taken up a sales job after he was left undrafted in April of this year. Predictably enough, Hinton had a tough game, throwing more interceptions (2) than completed passes (1) and allowing the Running Back, Phillip Lindsay, to take a number of the snaps directly. The Broncos were, therefore, soundly beaten by the Saints (31-3), who continued their impressive run of form.

Week 12 Highlights - Tightest Games:

There were five games in Week 12 decided by 3 points or less, two of which featured impressive, last-minute comebacks. Panthers 27-28 Vikings was probably the pick of the bunch, with the Vikings scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter and the Panthers missing a long field goal attempt at the death to try to hang on to the victory. The 49ers staged an equally impressive comeback, scoring 2 field goals in 3 minutes to beat their divisional rivals, the LA Rams, 23-20. The particularly tight affair between the Brady-less Patriots and the up-and-coming Cardinals was decided by a last-second Patriots field goal from 50 yards to take the win, with the game ending 20-17. Finally, the Jaguars failed to take their game with the Browns to overtime, when QB Glennon’s hopeful pass failed to connect with his receiver Johnson on their late 2-point conversion, which would have tied the game at 27-27. As a result, the Jaguars were beaten 27-25 and the Browns continued their unprecedented (in the last two decades) run of good form.

Play of the Week:

There might well have been two contenders for the best play of Week 12, had Tight End Travis Kelce completed his pass to QB Pat Mahomes in the end zone, but, since this went incomplete, the play of the week has to go to the Bills’ equally unorthodox trick play against the Chargers. Before the snap, the Wide Receiver Cole Beasley was set in motion from right to left, then turning to loop back round QB Josh Allen and place himself 5 yards to his right. As the centre snapped the ball to Allen, he turned to his right to pass to Beasley, appearing to have set up some poorly-constructed WR screen play, when, all of a sudden, with the Chargers defence bearing down on the receiver behind the line of scrimmage, Beasley sends it 28 yards up the field to his fellow receiver Gabriel Davis, who had been entirely neglected by the unexpecting Chargers corner-backs. This beautifully constructed and perfectly executed double-pass play was all over with Davis catching the ball for a touchdown within 5 seconds.

Run of the Week:

Everyone loves a special teams kick return, and the Bengals gave us the second longest of the year this week, in the form of a 103-yard TD return, with Brandon Wilson finding a gap between the Giants kicking team, having caught the kick-off within his own end zone. Other impressive runs came from the Ravens’ Robert Griffin III, standing in for the equally athletic QB Lamar Jackson; and the Buccaneers’ Ronald Jones, who perfectly hurdled safety Daniel Sorensen’s tackle on the side-line to remain in bounds for a touchdown.

Catch of the Week:

There were many impressive catches this week, including Tyreek Hill’s athletic catch from Mahomes’ 20-yard pass over his shoulder, while diving backwards to adjust his body. However, the best catch of the week might well have been from the Eagles Tight End Richard Rogers, who caught a consolation touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks. With QB Wentz firing off a 33-yard Hail Mary, the end zone was crowded with both receivers and defensive backs. The ball landed first in the hands of Eagles receiver Travis Fulgham, but was forced out by a Seahawks defender and, as it fell to the ground, Rogers scooped it in one hand for the touchdown.

Week 13: 49ers Evicted and Jets Misery Continues

Due to new COVID restrictions in Santa Clara County, California, where the San Francisco 49ers stadium and training ground are located, the franchise were forced to temporarily move out to continue their pursuit of the play-offs. Divisional rivals Arizona offered their stadium as a new home and, for the first time, the 49ers played their ‘home’ game in a different state. Considering they play there every year, familiarity was apparently not a supporting factor and the 49ers lost 34-24 to the Buffalo Bills.

The New York Jets, in typical fashion this year, continued their winless run in the cruellest of defeats by the Las Vegas Raiders. Having lost every single game so far this season, it seems as though the Jets are on course to join the 2017 Browns and 2008 Lions in the 0-16 record club. Having led the Raiders for the majority of the game, the Jets were up 28-24 with 13 seconds left on the clock and the Raiders 46 yards away from the end zone. Then Raiders QB, Derek Carr, stepped up in the pocket and unleashed a 45-yard vertical pass to his receiver Ruggs, who had beaten his opposing number to find himself in space and walked it in for a game-winning touchdown.

Tightest Games:

Having both missed field goals in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars-Vikings game was tied at 24-24, which meant overtime was required to separate the two teams. Following the Vikings’ interception of Glennon’s pass intended for Chark, Minnesota were able to finish the game off with a field goal over 8 minutes into the allotted 10.

While the Raiders succeeded with their last-minute touchdown, the Falcons were not so fortunate. With 10 seconds on the clock, Matt Ryan launched a huge, hopeful 45-yard pass into the end zone, which was met by a crowd of both receivers and defenders. Unlike the Eagles last week, the Falcons were unable to haul it in for a touchdown, and the game ended Saints 21-16 Falcons.

Two teams from the NFC East (famously the worst division this year) were also able to stage major upsets against two teams destined for the play-offs. Despite being 14-0 down against the unbeaten Steelers, Washington pulled off an emphatic comeback to win 23-17. Equally, the recovering Giants held the Seahawks to a single touchdown, containing the dangerous Russel Wilson effectively, and ultimately winning 17-12.

Play of the Week:

This week’s play of the week goes to the Browns, who had an incredible first half against the Titans, going into half time 38-7 up. On third and short, the Browns faked a run, with Mayfield handing the ball off to RB D’Ernest Johnson, who, instead of aiming to make the two yards required for the first down, handed it off to receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry then threw the ball, left-handed and slightly too heavily, back to QB Mayfield, who had progressed upfield unnoticed and then leaped to grab the ball over his shoulder and tap his toes in bounds to complete the pass for a first down.

Catch of the Week:

While Mayfield’s catch may have been a contender, there were two one-handed catches this week that were particularly impressive. Picking between Washington’s Sims and the Dolphins’ Gesicki was quite a task, but Miami probably just sneak this award this week. Running across the field from right to left along the 10-yard line, Gesicki found himself in between two Bengal DBs when his rookie QB Tagovailoa launched a rocket from 25 yards, which looked to be way out of reach. Mid-stride, the Dolphins Tight-End leapt up and extended his right arm across his body to snatch the ball out of mid-air, seemingly stopping it with a magnetic force from within his glove. Within a second of hauling it in, both Bengals defenders clattered into him as Gesicki hung on to complete the catch of the week.

Run of the Week:

This was equally difficult to choose, since there were a few strong candidates for best run, including Lamar Jackson (who contributed to the Ravens huge 294 rushing yards, having returned from the COIVD list), an Eagles punt return and the Giants’ Wayne Gallman. The winner this week would, however, have to be the Bears’ David Montgomery, who covered 72 yards on the day for two touchdowns, the first of which was a masterclass in how to run the football. Setting off from the 14-yard line, Montgomery followed the blocks of his offensive linemen to get up to the 10-yard line, where, faced with a Lions’ cornerback, he cut out to the left and raced towards the end zone, holding off the last Lions’ defender with a strong stiff arm for the full 6 yards.

Play-Off Picture:

So, how do the last two weeks of games affect the play-off spots? Most importantly, two of the dominant teams this year, the Saints and the Chiefs, have guaranteed themselves a play-off place, having mathematically won their respective divisions. The Steelers, beaten for the first time in Week 13, missed out on the same achievement, with the Browns and the Ravens still chasing the AFC North, having both won in Week 13. This particularly impressive run of form for the Browns should be exciting to the people of Cleveland, since the prospect of a first participation in the play-offs since 2002 is looking more and more realistic. The somewhat comical battle between the Giants and Washington for the NFC East title continues, with both teams adding a precious win to their disproportionately poor season records. The Patriots two wins set them back on track towards a possible play-off place, but a lot is still required of them if they are to avoid missing out on the post-season for the first time in 12 years. It seems that even the addition of an extra wildcard spot this year might not save the Patriots from the damage of Brady’s departure.


Division Leaders


In the Hunt

Steelers (11-1)

Browns (9-3)

Raiders (7-5)

Bills (9-3)

Dolphins (8-4)

Ravens (7-5)

Titans (8-4)

Colts (8-4)

Patriots (6-6)

Chiefs (11-1)


Broncos (4-8)




Division Leaders


In the Hunt

Packers (9-3)

Seahawks (8-4)

Washington (5-7)

Giants (5-7)

Buccaneers (7-5)

Cardinals (6-6)

Saints (10-2)

Vikings (6-6)

Bears (5-7)

Rams (8-4)


Lions (5-7)