TheSTN – NFL: 25 Teams Within 2 Games Of Playoff Spot

Entering Week 12, there are 25 teams within two games of a playoff spot. And with six weeks to play, nothing has been settled.

“Stacking wins together is what good teams do this time of year,” says Dallas Cowboys quarterback TONY ROMO, who is 21-3 (.875) in his career as a starter in November. “You need to put yourself in position for the stretch run. It’s going to keep on getting bigger every game.”

Week 12 begins on Thursday with a Thanksgiving tripleheader for the seventh consecutive year. Traditional competitors Detroit and Dallas will host games during the day followed by a primetime nightcap on NBC featuring AFC East rivals.

Five of the six teams that will play on Thanksgiving won in Week 11. A quick look at the three Thanksgiving games:

(CBS, 12:30 PM ET):

The Texans improved to 9-1 with a 43-37 overtime win over Jacksonville. Quarterback MATT SCHAUB passed for 527 yards – tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer WARREN MOON for the second-most in a game in NFL history – and wide receiver ANDRE JOHNSON had 14 catches for 273 yards, including a game-winning 48-yard TD reception. The Lions, who will play their 73rd Thanksgiving Day game, dropped a 24-20 decision to Green Bay. Wide receiver CALVIN JOHNSON leads the NFL with 1,117 receiving yards and has scored a touchdown in four of the past five Thanksgiving games.

(FOX, 4:15 PM ET):

Rookie quarterback ROBERT GRIFFIN III threw a career-high four touchdown passes in the Redskins’ 31-6 win over Philadelphia. Griffin completed 14 of 15 passes and his 93.3 completion percentage is the highest for a player with at least four TD passes since Pro Football Hall of Famer STEVE YOUNG on October 16, 1994. The Cowboys, who trail the New York Giants by one game in the NFC East, rallied from a 13-0 deficit to defeat Cleveland 23-20 in overtime. Dallas wide receiver DEZ BRYANT had a career-high 145 receiving yards on 12 catches with one touchdown.

(NBC, 8:20 PM ET):

Quarterback TOM BRADY and the Patriots knocked off Indianapolis 59-24. The game marked the fifth time that New England scored at least 50 points in a game started by Brady, the second-most 50-point games by a starting QB in NFL history (Pro Football Hall of Famer LEN DAWSON, six). The Jets return home after a 27-13 road win in St. Louis. Running back BILAL POWELL rushed for the first two touchdowns of his career and quarterback MARK SANCHEZ posted a 118.3 passer rating.

Also in Week 12 are rematches of both of last year’s NFC Divisional Playoffs: San Francisco vs. New Orleans and the New York Giants vs. Green Bay. The last time this happened was Week 8, 2009 (Arizona vs. Carolina and Philadelphia vs. the New York Giants).

Some of the other key games in Week 12:

(Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)

Things are heating up in the NFC South. The Falcons own the NFC’s best record at 9-1 but the surging Buccaneers have won four in a row to improve to 6-4.

Atlanta’s defense held Arizona to 178 total net yards last week, including 41 net passing yards, in Atlanta’s 23-19 win. The Falcons also registered a score on defense when defensive end JOHN ABRAHAM recorded a sack and forced a fumble which was returned 15 yards by defensive tackle JONATHAN BABINEAUX for a touchdown.

“It doesn’t matter how close the games are as long as we leave with a win,” says Babineaux. “This is the NFL. Teams know what type of team we are and we know we’re going to get their best shot.”

Tampa Bay rallied from an 11-point deficit to win 27-21 in overtime at Carolina last week. Quarterback JOSH FREEMAN threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver VINCENT JACKSON with 0:12 remaining in the fourth quarter and the duo connected on the ensuing two-point conversion to send the game to overtime. In the extra session, Tampa Bay marched down the field on its opening possession and scored the game-winning points on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Freeman to tight end DALLAS CLARK.

“With all the work we put in, these are the ones that really just show you if you believe and buy in, you’ll get the results that you want,” says Jackson.

Buccaneers rookie running back DOUG MARTIN, who leads the NFL with 1,319 scrimmage yards, rushed for 138 yards and added 23 receiving yards. He joined Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (1983) and EDGERRIN JAMES
(1999) as the only rookies in NFL history to gain at least 1,000 scrimmage yards in a six-game span (1,019).

(Sunday, FOX, 4:25 PM ET)

The 49ers and Saints will meet for the first time since last season’s Divisional Playoff, won by San Francisco 36-32. This season, New Orleans is tied for the highest-scoring offense in the NFC (28.7 points per game) while San Francisco leads the league in defense allowing an NFL-low 13.4 points per game.

On Monday night, the 49ers defeated Chicago 32-7. San Francisco’s defense limited the Bears to 143 total net yards and 58 net passing yards. Linebacker ALDON SMITH recorded a career-high 5.5 sacks and forced two fumbles. Smith has 29 sacks in his career, the most by a player in his first 26 NFL games since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

“I was hoping to go out there and make some plays,” says Smith. “I wanted to go out there and make some plays.”

New Orleans has won five of its past six games to get back to .500 after an 0-4 start. The Saints are the sixth team in NFL history to start 0-4 and get to 5-5 or better after 10 games.

Last week, New Orleans won 38-17 in Oakland behind three touchdown passes from quarterback DREW BREES, who became the first player in NFL history with a 20+ yard pass in 100 consecutive games.

“This season has been a long grind, especially starting 0-4, but we never pointed fingers,” says Saints safety ROMAN HARPER, who had a team-best 11 tackles and an interception. “We stuck together as a team and we know that we can achieve great things if we stick together and continue this grind. We are right back to .500 and we’ve got to continue to
grind to be in the playoff race.”

(Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)

The Packers have won five in a row – tied with Denver for the longest current winning streak in the NFL – and will look to avenge last season’s Divisional loss to the Giants.
In Week 11, Green Bay rallied and scored the winning points with 1:55 remaining on a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback AARON RODGERS to wide receiver RANDALL COBB in the team’s 24-20 victory at Detroit. In his past seven games, Rodgers has 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions for a 117 passer rating. Cobb has six touchdown
receptions in the team’s past four games and he aims for his fifth in a row with a TD.

“Randall’s a big-time player for us,” says Rodgers. “He’s going to be a guy for us for a long time and is going to be a big part of our offense. He made an incredible catch.”

The Giants had a bye in Week 11 and will look to end a two-game losing streak. At 6-4, New York leads the NFC East and the team knows it will need a strong finish to the season.
“It’s a six-game schedule now,” says Giants head coach TOM COUGHLIN. “We’re excited about it. We’re excited to be back on the field. Hopefully they’re well-rested and ready to go.”

In last year’s Divisional Playoff, quarterback ELI MANNING passed for 330 yards with three touchdowns and wide receiver HAKEEM NICKS had seven catches for 165 yards with two touchdowns. The Giants know that they’ll need to play well again this Sunday night against one of the league’s hottest teams.

“They’re 7-3 and playing good football,” says Coughlin. “They’re playing well right now. They have a good football team.”

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