Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, November 26, 2012 at 9:57 AM
Here's the deal when it came to NFL Week 12 action this past Thanksgiving Weekend:
If you entered Sunday's play leading your division, than you ended it leading your division as Baltimore and Denver copped wins for those respective AFC North and AFC West front-runners while the New York Giants (NFC East), Chicago (NFC North), Atlanta (NFC South) and San Francisco (NFC West) each snagged important conference wins and so little by little the playoff picture - already - is starting to crystallize with everyone there in NFC land (save for the Bears) holding at least a two-game lead in the standings.
No doubt the NFL Week "Play of the Day" happened in San Diego where Ravens do-it-all RB Ray Rice converted a 4th-and-29 play practically all by himself and should Baltimore ever win it all this year, you can be sure that's the play that will be highlighted ad infinitum while the Falcons' monstrous 24-23 win at Tampa Bay featured an 80-yard touchdown grab by WR Julio Jones who - according to the famed injury reports - was not even supposed to play.
We'll get into some of those game moments shortly in today's edition of Jim Sez but let's get things rollin' here with the Sunday Night Game from the New Jersey swamps:
NEW YORK GIANTS 38, GREEN BAY 10 - No real drama here unless you were one of those guys/gals that had "over" 51 points and didn't quite get there despite the fact the G-men led this game 31-10 at the halftime break. Gulp!
Much was made during NBC's broadcast of the fact the Giants wanted - make that needed - both WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks to get back into the swing of things after the team's mini-slump that included recent losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati prior to last week's much-needed bye.
Well, Cruz (three catches for 36 yards) and Nicks (5 receptions for 77 yards) each nabbed QB Eli Manning touchdown strikes but both still were out of sorts with Nicks unable at times to shake past Green Bay defensive backs and Cruz once again dropping a pass while wide open with plenty of room to run.
If there's one thing that truly delighted Giants brass it's the much-ballyhooed defensive line - missing in action for most of this 2012 season - finished with five sacks of under-siege Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers but it sure helped that the Packers' O-line was in tatters and really appeared overmatched from the proverbial get-go.
What this game really meant - although not sure play-by-play man Al Michaels or Chris Collinsworth ever brought it to light - is that now both the Giants and Packers are 7-4 and it's sure nice to have any/all tie-breakers you can have these days although memory seems to suggest the Giants have done quite well in post-season visits to Lambeau Field the past five years!
ATLANTA 24, TAMPA BAY 23 - The now 10-and-1 Falcons continue to be the least-celebrated "elite team" in recent NFL memory.
Is it us or does it seem that every TV talking head knocks Atlanta for this or for that (or gladly picks against 'em in those silly network pre-game shows) and yet all Mike Smith's club does is win.
In this key divisional duel at Raymond James Stadium, the Falcons overcame two more turnovers by QB Matt Ryan to take Round I against the Bucs (they'll meet at the Georgia Dome in Week 17) as the guy they call "Matty Ice" aired that splendid 80-yard scoring strike to Jones and RB Michael Turner slammed home the winning points on a barreling 3-yard scoring run with 7:55 remaining in the game.
The Falcons truly survived this game as both starting cornerbacks Asante Samuel (shoulder) and Dunta Robinson (head) left the game in the third quarter and never did return and so "hats off" to an Atlanta defense that allowed 10 fourth-quarter points without these CBs but got tough when it had to even if three different Buc pass-catchers registered 65-or-more receiving yards on the afternoon.
Still, the numero uno key to this game was the fact Atlanta's defense held star rookie RB Doug Martin to a mere 50 rushing yards on 21 carries - plus some of the tackles were ultra-physical stops that showed Atlanta's far from the "finesse" defense that it's portrayed to be by the so-called experts.
BALTIMORE 16, SAN DIEGO 13 (OT) - Okay, so the Rice play that's making all the highlight rounds was the single-biggest play in NFL Week 12 but maybe someone ought to ask why the Chargers had so many defenders so darn deep that it took 'em lots of time even before they could challenge Rice who snared the QB Joe Flacco pass and - following an ungodly long replay review - got the first down at San Diego's 34-yard line.
Baltimore's rookie kicker Justin Tucker - just six plays later - sent this rollicking game in overtime and later won it in the extra session on a 38-yard FG with just 1:07 left and that noise you're hearing right now is the Chargers' front office banging home the final couple of nails in head coach Norv Turner's coffin.
Hey, the Chargers (4-7) likely were not gonna make the playoff party anyway with a win here but consider that San Diego blew a double-digit (see 10-0) halftime lead and led 13-3 with 7:51 remaining in regulation and still blew it against a Ravens bunch that didn't have a whole lot of energy for three-plus quarters.
It's six losses in their last seven games for the Chargers but - more importantly for Ravens fans - it keeps Rice, Flacco and Company in that AFC second seed behind Houston and just stay the course and the Ravens can get a first-round bye ... and wouldn't that be a novelty for John Harbaugh's club?
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW
CAROLINA (2-8) at PHILADELPHIA (3-7) - 8:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
No real need to rant and rave about this so-what prime-time tilt that wraps up NFL Week 12 action as Eagles head coach continues to be "dead man walking" while his star quarterback Michael Vick sits this one out with concussion-like symptoms - maybe rookie QB Nick Foles will give the boo-birds reason to cheer here but keep in mind he's without RB LeSean McCoy who was dinged up late in that 31-6 blowout loss to Washington last weekend. What was the coach thinking there?
Carolina has lost six "one-score" games this year and by now everyone's tired of that Cam Newton look with the towel on his head while sitting on the sidelines:
Maybe Newton - who last year accounted for 35 touchdowns and this year has thrown for only nine and rushed for four more - will play with a bit more energy with the national spotlight on 'em but really, how many folks will be watching?
Spread Notes - Philadelphia is a putrid 1-8-1 versus the vig overall and that includes a current five-game spread losing skid while Carolina's 4-6 ATS this season but the Panthers have covered three of their four away games including spread wins in Atlanta and Chicago.
Final NFL Week 12 note: Betting Favorites enter the MNF game between Carolina at Philadelphia at 6-7-1 ATS (against the spread) with one pick 'em game this week and that runs the season-long figure to the following ... NFL Betting Favs are now 73-95-6 against the odds and that's a dismal .434 winning rate. Hey, maybe the dogs are gonna cash like this every week!
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL BCS UPDATE
Go ahead and raise your hand if you thought the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Ohio State Buckeyes were gonna be the country's only two unbeaten teams in 2012:
The difference - of course - is that #1 Notre Dame moves on to Miami for the BCS Championship Game against either #2 Alabama or #3 Georgia while Ohio State (which played without any pressure on 'em all year long!) goes home to read its press clippings after finishing off a 12-0 season with that 26-21 win against Michigan.
The 'Eyes are ineligible to play any more games this year but that didn't stop former head coach Jim Tressel from getting a rousing ovation from the "Horseshoe" fans following the first quarter of play the other day.
Talk about a rather bizarre moment ... no, we couldn't tell if current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was clapping!
Meanwhile, all eyes this weekend will be focused on the SEC Championship Game - that's Saturday at 4 p.m. ET - where 'Bama and Georgia will stage their own little battle to see who gets the right to play Notre Dame and safe to say the 7 ½-point favored Crimson Tide won't be veering off its principles of ball-control offense and sure-tackling defense but after watching quarterback AJ McCarron chuck four TDs in that brutal 49-0 win against Auburn this past weekend, you might tend to think ultra-conservative head coach Nick Saban will try and catch the Dawgs napping with some first-down bombs.
Conversely, the Georgia team that rode two TDs apiece by frosh RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall in the 42-10 win against Georgia Tech this past weekend needs to keep lengthy drives going - we all remember how Alabama's defense tired late against LSU a few weeks ago plus the Tide also often needs to get warmed up on "D" before settling in (see the Texas A&M game) and so maybe you shouldn't mark down Alabama just yet as the Irish opponent in South Beach.
One forecast here: If Georgia's star defenders Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree play their "A game" here, than this could be real tight inside the Georgia Dome. Just sayin'!
NOTE: Catch our Mid-Week Update in the next edition of Jim Sez as we get you the Thursday Night Previews plus lots more!