The Week 12 Wrap

The most impressive performance on Sunday came right at the end of the Week 12 slate for that day as the San Francisco 49ers put a 37-8 hammering on the Green Bay Packers.

It was a statement victory for Kyle Shanahan's men who went into the first of three historically-tough games (home to Green Bay, at Baltimore and at New Orleans) with a quite-significant injury list that included pass-rusher Dee Ford, offensive tackle Joe Staley, running back Matt Breida and kicker Robbie Gould.

The Niners went into Sunday night knowing they were set to face three teams who had won 80 percent of their games - the highest winning percentage for opponents in a three-game stretch this late in the season in the Super Bowl era.

It is now a case of one down, two to go on that particular front. It was never a contest in San Francisco as the 49ers dominated proceedings from start to finish and swallowed Aaron Rodgers with some aggressive defensive play.

With a seemingly-endless rotation of pass rushers racing each other to number 12, the 49ers sacked Rodgers five times and held the Packers to 81 net passing yards. I was also very impressed with San Francisco's defensive depth and also their open-field tackling. This defense remains one of the deepest and best in the league.

Offensively, the Niners ran well enough when it was needed without being completely dominant. And it was welcome return to action for tight end George Kittle, who caught six passes for 129 yards and one touchdown.

I still think the way to beat this San Francisco team is to put it on Jimmy Garropolo and force him into mistakes. That may sound harsh on Jimmy G because he made some big throws against Green Bay as he racked up 253 passing yards and two touchdowns for a rating of 145.8.

But we know from previous games that he offers up chances for opposing defenses and an ill-timed pass here and there in the playoffs could yet prove deadly.

Raising any kind of question mark around Garoppolo feels incredibly picky right now because the 49ers are the strength of a wide-open NFC as we move towards Thanksgiving. They play with a special kind of energy and passion at the moment, particularly at home, and have done so well to overcome their injuries.

There is little room for error with the Seahawks breathing down their necks, but San Francisco have proven themselves to be genuine contenders.

Who's Hot...

Michael Thomas...It was another typical day at the office for the New Orleans Saints wide receiver as he caught 10 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown in a 34-31 victory over the Carolina Panthers. It is clear that Thomas and Alvin Kamara are the guys Drew Brees trusts's not even Thanksgiving! For those who are counting, that is also now three straight years for Thomas of 100 catches and 1,200 yards.

Stephon Gilmore...Few defenders are playing as well as New England's cornerback in 2019. And we should remember that Gilmore is tasked with covering the opponent's best receiver every week and, more often than not, in man coverage. Gilmore was at his brilliant but sometimes-anonymous best on Sunday while holding Dallas' top-ranked offense to just three field goals. He recorded one interception, dived to brilliantly knock away a would-be touchdown and held Amari Cooper without a catch. The Defensive Player of the Year award seems to annually be about sacks, but Gilmore is certainly deserving of this prize.

Ryan Tannehill...There has been a great deal of talk in recent weeks about Ryan Tannehill earning himself an opportunity somewhere as an every-week starter in 2020. Never mind somewhere else, why would he need to leave Nashville? The Tennessee Titans should hold onto this guy based on how he has played over the past five games. Tannehill is 4-1 as the starter and has guided the Titans to 29.4 points per game, a number not even close to being approached by Marcus Mariota in 2019 (16.3 points per game). No quarterback can help himself more over the final five weeks of the regular season than Tannehill, who is getting it done with his arm and his legs.

Who's Not...

Carson Wentz...Early in Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Carson Wentz missed a wide-open Miles Sanders that would have resulted in a touchdown. It was a poor play and a poor start, but it would be fair to say that things went from bad to worse for Philadelphia's struggling quarterback. The Eagles committed five turnovers and their only touchdown came with 20 seconds remaining. The boo birds were out in force as Wentz once again showed himself to be indecisive and inaccurate far too often. He also holds onto the ball for too long as he waits for his sub-par receivers to get open. On current form, I cannot see these Eagles making playoff noise if they get there and there will be no Nick Foles riding to the rescue this time around.

Cincinnati Bengals...The Bengals dropped to 0-11 on the year on Sunday with a 16-10 loss at home to Cincinnati and here is what I don't like about this struggling team. They are not even trying to win games at this point in proceedings. Ryan Finley at quarterback does not offer up Cincinnati's best chance of securing a victory - this team should very much still be led by Andy Dalton. I don't get the point in turning to Finley at this point in the year given how he has played to date. This team has come close to winning a couple of games that could very well have been victories with Dalton at the helm.

Oakland Raiders...I felt that Sunday's trip east to face the New York Jets was a potential trap game for the Silver and Black and it proved to be the case in disappointing style. The Raiders fell to a 34-3 defeat that puts a serious dent in their playoff hopes. There is not even one area I can point to in this loss - it was a total team failure that reminded me that the Raiders are relevant once more, but not there just yet.

The Fast Five...

I was not impressed with Jason Garrett's failure to go for it on fourth down from the New England 11 with just over six minutes remaining. The Cowboys trailed 13-6 at the time and Garrett chose to kick the field goal. Not surprisingly, team owner Jerry Jones was not happy with the coaching when he met with reporters after the game.

When Cleveland Browns fans signed up for their season tickets in 2019, this was the kind of day they dreamed about and pictured in their heads. The stars came out to play in a 41-24 win over Miami as Baker Mayfield threw three touchdowns strikes, OBJ scored for the first time since Week 2, Jarvis Landry had a monster day against his old team (10-148-2) and both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt scored.

Tom Brady was right when he spoke to the media after last week's defeat of Philadelphia. He said New England's offense needed to lean on defense and special teams and take full advantage when offered up chances in the red zone. All came to pass in Sunday's win over Dallas. The defense was outstanding throughout and New England's only touchdown came on a drive that started at the Dallas 12 following a blocked punt.

Derrick Henry owns the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a Week 14 clash last year, the powerhouse rusher carried 17 times for 238 yards and four scores on Thursday Night Football. In Sunday's 42-20 defeat of Jacksonville, Henry carried 19 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Jacksonville's run defense is truly and utterly broken.

Dwayne Haskins was heading towards his first win as a starting NFL quarterback on Sunday following Fabian Moreau's late interception against Detroit. All that remained was for Washington's rookie to add the finishing touch with a kneel-down in the victory formation. But, incredibly, Haskins was up close to the stands taking a selfie with a fan while Case Keenum sorted out the final play of the game. Haskins did not take the incident that seriously after the game. He should because it was embarrassing and is a black mark on his young career to date, which is already off to a rocky start.

Fact of the Week

New England have now recorded an NFL-record 17 consecutive 10-win seasons.

Finish That Sentence

Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go...

From Alex Bartlett (@alex_bartlett12)...Carson Wentz is ... struggling due to his lack of receiving talent around him and due to a banged-up offensive line in front of him. But neither should give him a complete pass - he is playing very poorly right now and his failure to take care of the football is shocking and becoming an every-week problem. He looks nothing like the pre-injury Carson Wentz of 2017 and has a long way to go if he is going to win over the fans in Philly.

From Matt King (@MKingy25)... Next season, the Arizona Cardinals moving towards respectability. I don't mean that to sound defeatist but it is going to take some time to build up this roster. Let's say they end 2019 with five wins, then I could see them getting to 7-9 or 8-8 in 2020 and then building on that in 2021. I think the arrow is going to point up with this team for the next few years because they have their answer at quarterback in Kyler Murray and are now planning on putting the pieces around him.

From Paul Holland (@Paulholland66) In 2020, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys will be...Sean Payton, following one of the biggest offseason trades in recent NFL history. Payton will bring the swashbuckling, creative and brave style of coaching to Dallas that Jerry Jones so covets. It would be a night and day contrast to Jason Garrett and the Dallas connections are there as well. Payton was the Cowboys' assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach from 2003 to 2005 and has that toughness learned from Bill Parcells that would put him in total control of the franchise. There would be little meddling from the office on high with Payton in charge. And I wonder what he could do with an offense featuring Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper? It would cost at least a couple of first round draft choices and possibly more, but why not? It could be just the move to push the Cowboys over the top.

Final Thought...

Not really a thought to end, but how about a promo? The games are coming thick and fast now as we approach the business end of the season and we have seven live contests for you on Sky Sports this week, beginning with our Thanksgiving Day triple-header on Thursday. I'm not American, but I'm quite partial to a turkey dinner and lots of hours in front of the TV watching the NFL... so count me in. Make sure you join us when we go on air at 5pm on Thursday!

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