Things are officially getting serious in the NFL. By now, every team has had their bye and both conferences have a crowded playoff race. Let’s take a look at everything important that happened in Week 12 with an eye toward Week 13.
Credit to the Bills and Jaguars for making a game between a couple 3-7 teams interesting, even if it was for all the wrong reasons. Buffalo’s Shaq Lawson and Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette were both ejected from Sunday’s game for throwing punches during a scuffle. After the two were tossed from the game, they had to be kept apart by multiple people as both headed toward the tunnel at the same time. The NFL has also suspended Fournette for one game, although Lawson has not received any additional punishment.
Exit Stage Left
Sunday’s loss to the Bills was Jacksonville’s seventh in a row. It was also the end of the line for Jags offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired on Monday. The Jaguars are averaging just under 18 points per game this season, so it makes sense for Hackett to be the fall guy. However, it couldn’t have been an easy move for head coach Doug Marrone to make. Hackett and Marrone have coached together every year since 2010 when Hackett joined Marrone’s staff at Syracuse. To think, less than a year ago Hackett was considered a head-coaching candidate after the Jags reached the AFC Championship Game.
One More Change
Soon after firing Hackett, the Jaguars announced that starting quarterback Blake Bortles will be benched this week in favor of backup Cody Kessler. Obviously, Bortles has not gotten the job done for a team that’s now 3-8 and all but out of the playoff picture. The move casts further doubt on his future in Jacksonville. However, Bortles does have $6.5 million in guaranteed money for next season, so his days with the Jags may not be over just yet.
As always, there were some notable injuries over the weekend. Here are a few to know about:
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton suffered a sprained thumb during his team’s loss to the Browns. On Monday, the Bengals placed Dalton on IR, effectively ending his season, while also signing Tom Savage to back up Jeff Driskel.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee on Sunday. He is set to miss at least a few weeks, although the team is hopeful that he’ll return before the end of the regular season.
The Colts have lost tight end Jack Doyle for the rest of the season. Doyle suffered damage to his kidney after taking a hit during Sunday’s win over the Dolphins. He underwent surgery and head coach Frank Reich said that the prognosis for him is positive.
Not Gonna Say
Ravens coach John Harbaugh is keeping his mouth closed as to who will be the team’s starting quarterback next week. Baltimore has won the last two weeks with Lamar Jackson starting in place of the injured Joe Flacco. It’s unclear if Flacco will be healthy enough to play next week against the Falcons. Flacco reportedly saw a doctor on Monday hoping to be cleared but there’s been no indication from the Ravens how that visit went. Even if Flacco is available, Harbaugh isn’t going to let Atlanta know ahead of time if it’ll be the veteran or the rookie getting the start.
Give Him the Boot
The 49ers had a bad trip to Tampa this weekend, losing to the Bucs 27-9. They also parted ways with linebacker Reuben Foster, who was released Sunday morning after being arrested Saturday night at the team’s hotel and charged with domestic violence. The incident was just the latest in a long line of off-field legal problems. Given his rap sheet, it’s hard to imagine too many teams lining up to give him another chance.
Refuse To Lose
It’s not just the Saints who are refusing to lose these days. There are now four teams with active winning streaks of five games or more. The Bears have won five in a row after their Thanksgiving Day win to climb to the top of the NFC North. The Colts have also won five in a row to put them above .500 for the first time this year. Of course, they remain two games behind the Texans, who have won eight straight, putting them just a game behind the Chiefs for the best record in the AFC.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Sadly, we’ll close with the passing of Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who died Friday at the age of 81. The team didn’t release the cause of death. McNair was the driving force in making the Texans the NFL’s 32nd franchise and bringing pro football back to Houston. J.J. Watt said he dedicated Monday’s win over the Titans to McNair.