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Week 12's best statistics

Posted Nov 30, 2015

Week 12 is nearly in the books so Neil Reynolds rounds up the best statistics from Sunday's games.

Given that he is the ultimate competitor and wants to be the one leading his team from the front, I would have loved to have given a penny for Peyton Manning’s thoughts on Sunday night as his Denver Broncos gutted out a 30-24 overtime win over the New England Patriots.

On the one hand, I know Peyton would have been delighted to see Denver win against the leading team in the AFC. After all, he knows this is the ultimate team game and he would most certainly want his team-mates to succeed while he recovers from the foot injury that has cost him the last two starts for the Broncos.

But is just a tiny part of Manning wondering if he is going to get his starting job back in Denver?

Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak has previously insisted that Manning gets the starting job back when he is healthy. If that is the case, Denver fans might want to hope number 18 is more seriously injured than has first been announced because this is a better offense and a better team with Brock Osweiler under center – and I mean that quite literally because being under center was a thing of the past with Manning at the helm.

But Osweiler seems to run Kubiak’s offense better and is now 2-0 as a starter with wins over Chicago and New England.

Osweiler was firing fastballs all over the field on Sunday night as snow flurries swept in from the Rockies and produced the kind of bad-weather night which could have undone Manning if he had been in the line-up. It was a night in which Osweiler was able to display his physical skills and while he had some ups and downs through the evening, he once again avoided the kind of disastrous showing that has plagued Manning all too often this season.

I was especially impressed with Osweiler late in the game as he made big-time throws to Demaryious Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders while the Broncos trailed 21-17. And he moved his team in front with a timely touchdown strike to Andre Caldwell.

But after New England – as they always seem to do – dug deep to send the game into overtime, Osweiler did something that must have garnered a nod of approval from wherever Manning was watching the action unfold.

Denver called two plays in the huddle at the New England 48-yard line and then turned it over to Osweiler to get the team into the best possible play based on what he saw from the Patriots’ defense. That was a pretty big load to place on the shoulders of a young man making just his second start in the NFL.

But Osweiler proved his mental acumen by killing the original play, switching the side to which C.J. Anderson was going to run the football and also threw in one of Peyton’s trademark “Omaha” calls just before the snap.

It was just one play – albeit a hugely successful one - but it suggests that Osweiler has served his apprenticeship well behind Manning and while he will never master the line of scrimmage like his future Hall of Fame team-mate, he can survive and, at times, thrive in those pressure-cooker moments.

That coupled with his superior physical skills when compared to Manning at this stage of his career should keep Osweiler in the line-up in Denver. I don’t think it will become an issue for a few weeks yet as I think Manning is nursing a pretty serious injury, but there will come a time when the Broncos need to have a very difficult conversation.

And when Kubiak and John Elway sit down with Manning, they have to tell him they are going with the younger and physically stronger Osweiler. That is not going to be easy because no one wants to be the guy who sends a legend to the bench, but it has to be done in order to keep this Denver team on track given that they are very much alive in the race to Super Bowl 50.

Now onto this week’s numbers…

9 of 11… Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson turned 30 in the off-season but has shown no signs of slowing down in 2015. He remains the focal point of the attack for a Vikings team currently in pole position in the race for the NFC North crown and Minnesota are not shying away from giving him the football. There is no pitch count for the league’s leading rusher and Peterson has touched the football 20 times or more in nine of 11 games this season. And on three occasions, he has recorded 30 or more touches. That was the case on Sunday as Peterson carried 29 times for 158 yards and two scores and added two catches against the number one run defense in the league. There will be some who find it difficult to cheer for Peterson after his actions led to a year on the Commissioner’s exempt list and I am among them, but there is no denying he is a special talent who is certainly holding the advances of Father Time at bay. As a result, the upward-arrow Vikings are charting a course to the playoffs.

17, 28 and 19… At a time when the NFL is beginning to bunch up and the playoff picture looks crowded and confused, one team is starting to put daylight between themselves and their opponents in terms of their weekly results – and it should come as no surprise that the team in question is the last undefeated squad in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers are starting to exert their dominance and control over the rest of the NFL and look every inch a Super Bowl-chasing team. They have won their last three games by 17, 28 and 19 points. And they are getting different parts of their team to step up when needed. Against Washington in Week 11 it was Cam Newton and his five scoring receivers who got the job done and on Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys in Dallas in Week 12, it was a defensive effort led by Player of the Year candidate Luke Kuechly, who scored one of two pick sixes on the night. This is a complete team and one that has now not lost for more than a calendar year. That is a pretty incredible achievement and while the Panthers have a long road to travel before they can take their place in Super Bowl 50, they’re in excellent shape as the calendar flips over to December.

26-42-315-2-0… I’m not ready to go so far as to say that the Indianapolis Colts would be better off with Matt Hasselbeck under center instead of the injured Andrew Luck but there is no denying that the back-up is in the process of saving Indy’s season. Hasselbeck is the oldest quarterback in the NFL at 40 years of age and he schooled the youngest quarterback in the league on Sunday in the form of 21-year-old Jameis Winston. The Colts ran out 25-12 winners over the much-improved Bucs and Hasselbeck hit on 26 of 42 passes for 315 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Those numbers are impressive enough but I also had to admire Hasselbeck’s poise and leadership – he appears in total control at the line of scrimmage and is audibling a lot, proving the Colts trust him to get them into the right plays at the right time. With Luck nursing the kind of injuries reportedly associated with car crash victims and with Hasselbeck 4-0 in his stead, there is no reason for the Colts to rush their star passer back, even though his final appearance of the year was his best in defeating Denver. But that could all be a pointless argument anyway as I don’t see the banged-up Luck being passed fit any time soon.

Monday Musings…

  • How about that performance from Russell Wilson in Seattle’s 39-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers? It was a day to remember for Wilson as he threw a career-high 5 touchdown strikes, reminding us all that he remains a bright star, even if the shine has come off the Seahawks just a little bit this season.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. is just so special and spectacular – he is so good, in fact, that he deserves a whole new word to describe him… so he is speshtacular! What a diving touchdown grab he made against the Washington Redskins. OBJ is only just getting started but when he calls time on what I think will be a Hall of Fame career, we will look back on him having historically great hands.
  • For those of you who were wondering, I think Carson Palmer has just about completed his 7-yard touchdown run against the San Francisco 49ers. We can joke, but the efforts of the 35-year-old quarterback shows just how deep the Arizona Cardinals had to dig on Sunday evening to record a 19-13 win over San Francisco. Carson was so excited that he spiked the football, fell over and ended up with half of his chin strap up his nose. That was not a good look!
  • How eerily quiet did AT&T Stadium fall when it became clear that Tony Romo had suffered another serious injury for the Dallas Cowboys? All the old clichés about hearing a pin drop certainly rang true as Romo lay prone on the floor yet again. It has been a lost season for the Cowboys and I wonder what their lack of a viable quarterback option in Romo’s absence will tempt Jerry Jones into doing in the upcoming off-season. Could it be knee-jerk reaction time?
  • If you didn’t see the outstanding defensive play we showed on Sky Sports on Sunday, go and check out the fumble forced by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr during their defeat of the Atlanta Falcons. With Tevin Coleman ripping off a 46-yard gain, Barr never gave up on the play, sprinting 46 yard downfield to punch out a ball that was recovered by Minnesota. It was a great example of defensive hustle.
  • I have to admit that when I was stood on the sidelines at Wembley Stadium at the beginning of this month I had no inclination at all that the Detroit Lions would be capable of a three-game winning streak. But they are currently enjoying such a wonderful thing, Matthew Stafford has the offense clicking and Ziggy Ansah leads a suddenly dominant defense. An amazing turnaround for a franchise filled with a lot of good people.
  • After his Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Lions 45-14 on Thanksgiving Day it might be time for Chip Kelly to don the Teflon underpants. His hot seat in Philadelphia has to be positively volcanic after that inept display on national television.
  • I’ll say this for Mike Tomlin – he certainly keeps you guessing in terms of what plays he is going to call and when and when he is going to roll the dice or not. Sometimes he goes for it on fourth down, other times with a high-scoring game on the line he kicks a field goal and puts the contest on his defense – which proved to be a bad move. Tomlin admits to being fearless but that doesn’t always make him the smartest coach in the land – his call of a fake field goal pass to left tackle Alejandro Villanueva that was picked by Jeremy Lane and led to a Seattle touchdown was one of the dumber plays of this season, narrowly behind Chuck Pagano’s fake punt meltdown against New England.
  • So breaking news in the middle of this column states that Miami have fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. I didn’t even realise the Dolphins still had an offensive coordinator – they’re certainly not playing in such a coordinated fashion and went 1 of 21 on third down conversions against the Jets this season. And speaking of those mean, old Jets – they got Joe Philbin and Lazor fired with beat-downs of the Dolphins this season.
  • Hands up who wants to face the suddenly-hot Kansas City Chiefs if you make it to the playoffs? Anyone? No? Well, one AFC team is going to need to face Andy Reid’s men in the post-season if they maintain this current form because they have now won an impressive five in a row. What caught my eye during Sunday’s 30-22 win over Buffalo were the downfield strikes to the likes of Jeremy Maclin (9 for 160 and 1 touchdown) and Travis Kelce (4 for 69 and 1 touchdown). If the normally-conservative Chiefs are adding downfield firepower to a careful quarterback, a strong running game and a stout defense, the rest of the AFC needs to look out.

Final Thought

So we now know the three games to be played in London in 2016. Well, almost given that the St. Louis Rams will play a similarly-placed team to them in the NFC East. As you will know by now, Jacksonville host Indianapolis, St. Louis host an NFC East club and Cincinnati host Washington. I think it’s clear that quite a few of those teams are heading in the right direction and I’m particularly looking forward to what should be a high-scoring thriller between the Jags and Colts. Which now means I’ve given it the dreaded commentator’s curse and it will be a 9-6 field goal-fest. Fingers crossed that is not the case and here’s to what should be another very special 2016 in terms of NFL regular season games played on our shores.

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