Records were broken and the race for the Lombardi Trophy continued in Week 13 of the 2020-21 NFL season.
Due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Baltimore Ravens organization, their Thanksgiving game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was moved all the way to Wednesday, Dec. 2. As a result, both teams’ following games had to be pushed back. Pittsburgh’s matchup against Washington was moved to Monday evening, while the Ravens’ Thursday Night Football game against the Cowboys was moved to Tuesday night.
Starting off Sunday afternoon was a battle between NFC South rivals, New Orleans and Atlanta. Without Drew Brees, backup QB Taysom Hill threw his first NFL touchdown to wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith. Hill tossed another touchdown to Jared Cook as New Orleans clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight year after defeating Atlanta 21-16.
In a game between divisional rivals, a back-and-forth affair between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears ended in a 34-30 win for Detroit. Darrell Bevel won his first game as interim coach as Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for over 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. Adrian Peterson added two scores on the ground. Although leading by 10 points with under two minutes and thirty seconds in the fourth quarter, Chicago could not finish the job and have now lost six straight games.
A battle between two playoff-caliber teams ended with the Cleveland Browns defeating the Tennessee Titans 41-35. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw 4 touchdowns in the first half, becoming the first Browns quarterback to do so since the legendary Otto Graham in 1951. Although the Titans outscored the Browns 28-3 in the second half, it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. With a huge statement win under their belts, Cleveland looks to continue their run to the postseason.
A matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Miami Dolphins made more headlines for brawls than it did with the actual play on the field. Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd and Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard were both ejected after a fight. Not only that, three more were ejected after a late hit against Miami punt returner Jakeem Grant by the Bengals’ Mike Thomas. Cincinnati’s Shawn Williams and Miami’s DeVante Parker and Mack Hollins were ejected after the scuffle following the late hit. Nonetheless, Miami won a defensive battle 19-7 and stayed alive in the playoff hunt. The Dolphins have now won seven of their last eight games.
The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-24 on Sunday in an inter-conference matchup. Jacksonville played hard, as they were looking for their first win since Week 1. A 43-yard pick-six by linebacker Joe Schobert put the Jaguars up 16-6 early in the second. However, the Vikings stormed back and took the game to overtime where Dan Bailey kicked the 23-yard game-winner. Minnesota’s rookie phenom wide receiver, Justin Jefferson, had one of his best games as a pro. Jefferson caught 9 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
What could’ve been a disaster ended up as a close call for the Las Vegas Raiders. They edged the winless New York Jets 31-28 after it looked as if the Jets were in prime position to win. Ty Johnson’s fourth quarter touchdown put New York up 28-24. However, on the final drive of the game, Vegas quarterback Derek Carr evaded pressure and threw a 43-yard game-winning touchdown to rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III. Raiders tight end Darren Waller went off for 13 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
After the game, many would question New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ call on the final play, a cover zero blitz. Williams brought seven rushers while putting the defensive backs into single coverage, leading to the eventual touchdown. This costly mistake ultimately culminated in his firing.
In a divisional matchup, the Indianapolis Colts edged the Houston Texans 26-20 on the road. Indianapolis, as they have done all year, capitalized another win off of turnovers. In the fourth quarter, Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson fumbled the ball in the red zone and Indianapolis was able to recover and hold out for the win. Houston falls to 4-8 as the Colts are now tied with the Titans for first place in the AFC South.
Another divisional matchup pitted the Los Angeles Rams against the Arizona Cardinals. The game had both division and playoff implications on the line. The Rams came out firing on all ends and secured the win after cornerback Troy Hill picked off Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray and returned it for a game-sealing pick-six. Los Angeles won the game 38-28.
A huge upset brewed at Lumen Field as the New York Giants, without their starting quarterback, upset the highly favored Seattle Seahawks 17-12. The Giants defense was phenomenal in stopping Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense, allowing only one offensive touchdown. Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams recorded two and a half sacks and five pressures as he earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
History was made at Lambeau as the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers became the fastest quarterback to reach 400 career passing touchdowns. He threw three touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles, and his partner-in-crime Davante Adams caught 10 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. As the Packers move up in the playoffs, the Eagles continue to slide farther down the standings with their fourth straight loss.
After a dreadful 2-5 start, the New England Patriots have now won four of their last five, which included a 45-0 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers this week. The Patriots scored two special teams touchdowns: a 70-yard punt return by Gunner Olszewski and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by Devin McCourty. New England is now back in the postseason race while the Chargers have been eliminated from the playoffs.
And for the final game on Sunday, two divisional foes in the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs dueled on Sunday Night Football. Although the Broncos kept it close for most of the game, Kansas City eventually pulled away with a win to clinch yet another playoff berth. Travis Kelce caught 8 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first tight end in NFL history with five 1,000-yard seasons.
The first Monday night game of two took place in Pittsburgh as the Steelers took on Washington. In a shocking turn of events, the Football Team ended Pittsburgh’s undefeated season with a 23-17 win. Washington tight end Logan Thomas caught 9 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. Kicker Dustin Hopkins hit three field goals and the defense helped lead Washington to their biggest win this year.
The second Monday Night football game was another inter-conference battle, this time between Buffalo and San Francisco. The Bills won 34-24 behind a monster performance from quarterback Josh Allen. Allen passed for 375 yards and four touchdowns, completing 80 percent of his passes. His efforts earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
The final game of the week came down to the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens. Before the game, however, Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant, a former Cowboy, was taken to the locker room to be tested for COVID-19. Unfortunately for Bryant, he tested positive and was very distraught at the results. After news broke, Dez would say on Twitter, “Yea I’m going to go ahead and call it a quit for the rest of the season… I can’t deal with this.”
After the news had somewhat fizzled out, the game went on as planned. After being placed on the reserve/COVID list last week, reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson returned with a vengeance. Jackson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, leading Baltimore to a big win 34-17.
As for the playoffs itself, the AFC division leaders round out with Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Buffalo, and Tennessee. The Titans hold first place of the division over the Colts based on best win percentage in divisional games. As for seeding, the Steelers hold the number one seed over the Chiefs off of winning percentage in conference games.
The wild card teams are Cleveland, Miami, and Indianapolis. Right behind them are Las Vegas, Baltimore, and New England. Miami holds the seeding tiebreaker over Indianapolis due to a better winning percentage in conference games.
In the NFC, the number one seed is held by the New Orleans Saints from the NFC South. Right behind the Saints are the Packers, Rams, and Giants. The L.A. Rams hold the top spot in the NFC West based on head-to-head win percentage. Head-to-head winning percentage also applies to New York, who sits atop the NFC East ahead of Washington.
The NFC wild card teams consist of Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota. Right behind them are Arizona, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, and San Francisco. Although most of those teams may be long shots to make the playoffs, the race for the last wild card spot looks to come down to Minnesota and Arizona. After losing three straight games, the Cardinals are looking on the outside in as the eighth seed. The Vikings currently hold the seventh seed based off the best winning percentage in common games.
Week 14 starts tonight as the New England Patriots return to SoFi Stadium to take on the Chargers’ Los Angeles counterpart in the Rams. Sunday ends in a battle between two of the top teams in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills. Barring any COVID situations, Week 14 will end on Monday night with a huge divisional matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.