NFL Week 12. As the temperature continues to dip and the hits get harder, many teams' play-calling is shifting toward a more run-heavy approach, and few teams benefited more from that in Week 12 than the Tennessee Titans, writes Matthew Carolan.
Plus, Detroit and Jacksonville said goodbye to their general managers to make it an unforgettable Thanksgiving for Dave Caldwell and Bob Quinn.
Jaguars and Lions fire their general managers
There comes a point in time where teams have to look at themselves in the mirror and say, “enough is enough”. For Jacksonville and Detroit, having big cats for mascots was not the only thing they had in common in Week 12, as both teams relieved their general managers of their duties, and Detroit compounded their pivot in direction by releasing Matt Patricia as their head coach too.
Jacksonville are currently 1-10 and although the former general manager, Dave Caldwell, can point to the team’s moderate success in 2017 when they went 10-6 and made it to the AFC Championship, responsibility also lies with him for the plethora of failed seasons that surround it. He picked Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in the draft after all.
Doug Marrone remains in charge as head coach for now, but it would be no surprise to see him depart at the end of the season.
In Detroit, Matt Patricia rarely inspired as a play-caller, and Bob Quinn’s tenure as the general manager was equally, if not more, concerning. Since 2016, Detroit have had winning records just twice, and it has trended in the wrong direction with Patricia on board too. While they have some decent players, this feels like a team that needed a change.
This now means four NFL teams have removed their general managers this season - Atlanta and Houston completing the list - and it may not be the end of the list before next season begins.
Las Vegas loses this bet
Some teams are harder to gauge than others, and when it comes to the AFC, it feels like there are a number of hard-to-predict outfits. Vegas may be the trickiest of all to predict, though. This is the only team to beat Kansas City in 2020. When things are right, they are an efficient, well-oiled team who can be as strong running the ball as they are passing it.
They are a respectable, if not good, in most statistical categories, ranking as a top half DVOA team. And yet, they got blown out 43-6 by Atlanta.
To lose by such a gargantuan margin at this time of the year is concerning for Vegas, because for all intents and purposes, this is the business end of the season. The AFC playoff race is tight, and although there are seven spots up for grabs, every win counts. Plus, this is Atlanta. They are not a good team.
At 6-5, the Raiders are now ranked ninth in the AFC, and although they are only a game back from sixth place, their competition also have easier schedules remaining. The next five weeks should be a lot of fun, but do not expect smooth sailing for these Raiders.
Derrick Henry Season
It is a wonderful time of year. A time when Christmas trees are popping up in homes, advent calendars are flying off the shelves, Kris Kindle draws are happening and of course, Derrick Henry is reminding the NFL that he is a remarkable specimen who thrives in winter.
In 2019, it was in November when Henry started showcasing the best version of himself, and against Indianapolis on Sunday, he reminded us all that he is capable of going on a run like the one in 2019 again. He posted 178 rushing yards on 27 attempts for three touchdowns as the Titans looked dominant. That is 6.6 yards per carry on average.
His average on the season is 4.9 yards per carry, and if he can shift that closer to 6.6, like he did against the Colts, then Tennessee will, once again, be a terrifying prospect for opponents this winter. That is not to say that Tennessee are not capable of winning through the air, but Derrick Henry at his best in cold weather will feel like tackling a train for defenses.
The Chiefs demonstrated just how good they are
Do not let the three-point margin fool you, the Chiefs beat the Buccaneers with ease on Sunday night. Mahomes completed 37 of 49 passes for 462 yards and three touchdowns, with Tyreek Hill reaping the rewards more than most, as he amassed a ridiculous 269 receiving yards from 13 catches and had three touchdowns himself. When they are in form, that axis is unrivalled.
The most impressive aspect of the Chiefs’ win may have been Mahomes’ calmness and sheer comfort throughout. The Bucs’ defence is not bad. It ranks high in the league in terms of quarterback pressure and hits and yet, although they managed to get to Mahomes, they never got to Mahomes. He was always in control, aware of free plays and what was coming from the peripheral. It has become quite normal to see such poise from him, but that does not mean we should not celebrate it.
In truth, there were times when it felt like the Chiefs were just experimenting. As impressive as their stat line was, it could have been much better. Mahomes failed to connect with Hardman late in the game when he had an empty backfield, and that would have added another 60-70 yards to his tally, as well as another touchdown.
Even at the end with just minutes remaining, all the Chiefs needed to do was run the ball and run down the clock. As Romo said in commentary, let Brady try to move the ball 60 yards in 30 seconds with no timeouts. The odds would favour the Chiefs in that scenario. But they did not do that. Instead, Mahomes found Hill on a pass and ran from the pocket on a designed run himself. They tried different things because, a) they are good enough to do so; but also, b) because they may well play Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl, and this was a way to test them.
We know the Steelers are unbeaten and should probably, barring any large upsets, remain so. But everyone knows it - the Chiefs are the best team in the NFL.
Written by Matthew Carolan.
Read Matthew's last 'Shocked, Not Shocked' here.