Speaking of Thanksgiving, may your holiday be blessed with joy, turkey, and football for 12 hours that day.
1. Peyton Manning has proven once again he can't play in cold weather. Sunday night's game was a textbook example of a tale of two halves, with the Broncos dominating the first half and the Patriots taking over in the second half and overtime. However, death, taxes, and Peyton Manning's struggles in cold weather once again held true. Manning threw two touchdown passes, but only a total of 150 yards on the game. Patriots coach Bill Belichick knew enough about Manning's skill sets that once the game went into overtime, he was better off letting Manning have the ball first and have him throw into the wind. Manning hasn't thrown well in cold and windy conditions during his entire career, which has to raise the question of how vulnerable the Broncos will be again come January.
2. Once again, an entire division went winless on Sunday, only this time it included a head-to-head match up. The NFC North looked absolutely awful on Sunday, with the Bears getting blown out in St. Louis and the Lions losing a shocker at home against Tampa. The booby prize though goes to the Green Bay/Minnesota game, since Scott Tolzien had started the game at quarterback for Green Bay, but was eventually pulled for recently-signed Matt Flynn. The Packers had to roar back to send the game into overtime, where the two teams traded field goals to end the game in a tie. The big embarrassment though came after the game, where apparently there are players who still haven't learned from Donovan McNabb.
3. The Goat of the Week Award goes to Matthew Stafford. Stafford threw 4 interceptions on the day, including a pick-6 and two others thrown in the red zone. The Lions could have put a stranglehold on the NFC North in Week 11 and Week 12, but they dropped both games instead. Losing to a two-win team at home is bad enough, but if the Lions miss the postseason because they had stubbed their toes during this stretch they will only look back on themselves with disappointment. Next up for the Lions: a Thanksgiving Day home game against Green Bay, who may or may not have Aaron Rodgers finally back.
4. How 'bout dem Cardinals! Anyone who said at the beginning of the season the Cardinals would possess a playoff spot by Week 12, please raise your hand so the rest of us can bop you on the head for lying to our faces. Larry Fitzgerald cleared 11,000 receiving yards for his career during the game, making him the youngest receiver in NFL history to do so. The Cardinals' defense is also one of the best in the NFL, which if they do reach the postseason, could make them a tough out depending on their first-round match up.
5. The Jaguars are actually doing themselves a disservice by winning football games now. Two weeks ago, the Jaguars and Bucs won their first games of the season. Since then, the Bucs are riding a three-game winning streak, and the Jaguars have won two of three. Why did either team choose now all of a sudden to actually win a couple football games? The Texans are now in line for the #1 overall pick in April, and while no head coach in football in his right mind would ever tank a season to get a high draft pick, the Jaguars in particular are doing themselves no favors by winning now. They may be faced with the prospect of having to trade up to take Teddy Bridgewater in April so no one else can block them. Even by winning, they lose.
6. If Tamba Hali and/or Justin Houston miss significant time, the Chiefs' defense suddenly becomes quite average. The Chiefs lost both Hali and Houston to injury on Sunday, and the tandem leads the NFL in sacks by teammates. With their pass rush taking a major hit (pun intended), the Chiefs may have to rely on their offense to put 30 or more points on the board in the meantime to compensate. They were obviously able to do that on Sunday, but whether they can do that consistently is another question entirely. They're still one of the best teams in the AFC, but their chances of making any playoff run depend on having their two best pass rushers on the field.
7. The Ravens are playing the kind of football they had played in 2000. The offense has to play relatively mistake-free football and put just enough points on the board so the defense can hold the other team at bay. The big difference is that in 2000 the Ravens had a strong running game built around Jamal Lewis, and now their running game is virtually non-existent. They have the tools necessary to make another playoff run, but their margin for error between now and their Week 17 game in Cincinnati is as close to zero as mathematically possible. They have a much better chance at getting the second Wild Card spot, and if they win Thanksgiving night against Pittsburgh they'll be able to build some separation there.
8. Tony Romo proves once again he is impossible to figure out. One week, Tony Romo has the game of his life, like against Denver back in Week 5. He'll be super clutch like he was on Sunday. Others, he will do something really stupid like throw an interception to end a game, like he did against the Giants in the 2007 playoffs, or lay a stinker like he did in the final game of the 2008 regular season against the Eagles, or this infamous play:
So who is he? He has a quality group of receivers led by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. On Sunday, he led the Cowboys down the field to kick a game-winning field goal on the road against a divisional opponent. For every good game he has, he has costly errors that blemish his career. When you think he will lay an egg, he'll come through, but when you expect him to have a good game, he'll find a way to shoot himself in the foot.
9. The NFL needs to do something to build consistency in refs calling personal fouls. I don't know what the answer to the problem is, but in the last two weeks there have been multiple personal foul calls that are anything but consistent. Last week, Ahmad Brooks wrapped his arm around Drew Brees' neck in tackling him, and the refs rightfully called that roughing the passer. However, on Sunday, the Steelers' William Gay gave Browns QB Jason Campbell a blow to the helmet, sending Campbell to the locker room. No personal foul was called. Meanwhile, Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers was flagged for roughing Bears QB Josh McCown on what was clearly a legal sack and forced a fumble. Then last night, 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith flat out kicked Robert Griffin III in the groin, but the refs somehow missed it. Smith will likely be fined by the league for his action, but he should never have been able to get away with a dirty move like that in the first place. Like I said, there is no easy answer to the problem, unless maybe there was an eye in the sky watching the field from up above who buzzed the refs on occasion to alert them to things like Smith kicking RGIII in the groin.