10 things to know about NFL Week 12
Luke Kuechly broke our grading scale, Matt Stafford feasted on TDs, and more of what you need to know from NFL Week 12.
10 things to know about NFL Week 12
Didn’t catch every moment of NFL Week 12? PFF has you covered with the top 10 things you need to know based on our grades and data.
1. Matthew Stafford had a touchdown feast on Thanksgiving.
In the first game of the week, Matthew Stafford posted his best grade of the season—the second best single-game grade of his career, in fact.
Throwing for 337 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions, Stafford demonstrated that he is still capable of sparking Detroit’s offense through the air, taking full advantage of the quality targets around him. He connected with Calvin Johnson eight times for 93 yards and three touchdowns, helping Megatron to tie his best single-game grade of the season, as well.
The 4-7 Lions have now racked up three wins in a row, pulling them within reach of the NFC Wild Card hunt.
2. Brock Osweiler and company dealt the Patriots their first loss.
The Broncos handed Tom Brady and the Patriots their first loss of the season on Sunday Night Football, with the Denver backup moving to 2-0 in his professional starts.
Last week, we detailed why quarterback Brock Osweiler can lead the Broncos to the postseason in Peyton Manning’s absence, but in Week 12, he did more than just manage the game.
In fact, Osweiler recorded the 10th best QB grade of the week, posting 270 passing yards, one touchdown, and surrendering one interception. He would have had an even bigger day statistically, had his receivers not dropped six passes (three by Demaryius Thomas).
Osweiler was certainly helped by a huge rushing performance from C.J. Anderson (highest overall RB grade of Week 12), but his play shows great promise for the Broncos, especially considering it came against the leagues’ No. 2 ranked pass coverage unit.
3. Adrian Peterson is carrying the Vikings’ offense once again.
At 30 years old, Adrian Peterson is still having to do what’s been asked of him most of his professional career—carry Minnesota’s offense on his back.
While Teddy Bridgewater is performing at a level above what Peterson has been coupled with in the past, the receiving corps and offensive line around him aren’t allowing the passing game to become a serious threat.
So, Peterson has done what he’s always done best—post numbers that seem to bend reality. Colleague Sam Monson broke down Peterson’s season in greater detail on Monday.
Against the Falcons, Peterson notched a league-high 158 yards on the ground, and added 29 through the air. He rushed for two touchdowns, but more impressively, forced nine defenders to miss tackles.
Despite leading the league in yardage, however, it’s worth noting that Peterson is only PFF’s 17th-ranked running back this season. His seemingly low rank stems from his league-high five fumbles (tied with Melvin Gordon), as well as his extremely low passing and pass blocking grades (51.2 and 44.1, respectively, on scales of 1–100).
There’s simply no denying that Peterson is producing yet another special season on the ground, but certain facets of his game reveal that other units on the Vikings’ offense will have to pick up some slack if Minnesota is to make noise in the postseason.
4. Matt Hasselbeck owns four starts—and four wins—in 2015.
As Peterson seems to be defying his age, so too has Indianapolis quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. In what has been an injury-prone, up-and-down year for Andrew Luck, the veteran Hasselbeck has excelled in his backup role.
In the Colts’ win over the Buccaneers, Hasselbeck earned the fifth-best grade among all NFL QBs in play in Week 12. Even more impressive was his accuracy percentage of 80.6, tied with Matt Ryan for fourth-best this past week. Hasselbeck has been accurate overall this season, owning the leagues’ ninth best accuracty percentage for the year—that’s ahead of QBs such as Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, and yes, Andrew Luck.
As we’ve said after each start, Colts’ fans can be confident that they have a quality QB under center as Luck heals—one who could potentially lead them to an AFC South title.
5. Which is good, because Indy’s RB situation just became bleaker.
While Hasselbeck is excelling under center, he hasn’t received much help from the backfield. Unfortunately, he may have to continue without much support from that offensive facet, as the Colts suffered another injury blow in Week 12.
Ahmad Bradshaw, picked up by the Colts on Oct. 14, suffered a season-ending wrist injury against Tampa Bay. This is the third season in a row that Bradshaw has suffered a season-ending injury with Indianapolis.
While Bradshaw certainly wasn’t the first-string back for Indianapolis, he brought a charge of three touchdowns in his six 2015 games.
What’s troubling about Bradshaw’s absence is the fact that the Colts must again rely heavily on Frank Gore—the lowest-graded RB in the league in Week 12.
Against the Buccaneers, Gore attempted 19 rushes for 24 total yards.
While Gore has shown glimmers of what Ryan Grigson hoped he’d invested in the offseason (Weeks 3, 6, and 9 were particular high points), the former 49er has yet to show the kind of consistency the Colts are longing for in the backfield. This season, he is the 58th ranked RB in the league—Bradshaw managed to climb to 50th in his six games.
Gore may have a chance to get things rolling Sunday night against the Steelers, as he faces Pittsburgh’s 24th-ranked run defense.
6. Jimmy Graham suffered a season-ending injury.
A higher-profile injury occurred in Seattle on Sunday, as tight end Jimmy Graham suffered a torn patellar tendon.
While Graham had a slow start with the Seahawks, and has posted an up-and-down season altogether in his new offense, Russell Wilson and company will certainly miss the tight end, ranked ninth in the NFL at the position this season.
Graham has been targeted by Wilson more than any other receiver this season (68)—Doug Baldwin is a close second, at 63.
Luke Willson, Seattle’s No. 2 TE—now No. 1—has only been targeted 18 times, in contrast. He does, however, have a touchdown reception to his name, coming in Week 8 against Dallas.
7. Alex Smith and the Chiefs proved they are a downfield threat.
When Jamaal Charles went down in Week 5, I must admit that I wrote off the then 1-4 Chiefs for the year.
Here we are entering Week 13, however, and Kansas City is riding a five-game win streak (that’s 5-1 without Charles).
How in the world have the Chiefs, so reliant on Charles in the past, turned things around in such a dramatic fashion?
Sam Monson attacked this question on Monday, giving one key reason the AFC should be nervous about this rising Kansas City team: Alex Smith is becoming a downfield threat.
As Monson explained, Smith has notoriously been an extremely conservative quarterback. In fact, entering Week 12, 61.6 percent of Alex Smith’s third down targets were short of the first down markers—no other NFL QB was within 10 percent of the Chiefs’ signal caller.
Against the Bills, however, we saw him attack down the field, producing an average depth of target of 9.7 yards. Compare that to his league-low 6.1 yards this season.
Not only was he aggressive down the field, but he was also efficient. On passes over 10 yards in the air, he completed 60 percent of his targets in Week 12; compare that to 53 percent for the season.
If Smith can continue to force defenses to respect the long ball, the Chiefs have a very realistic shot of holding onto their current No. 5 seed.
8. The Packers’ offense has serious issues.
While the Chiefs are a team on a midseason rise, the Green Bay Packers are trending in a different direction. After starting the year 6-0, the Packers have gone 1-4 since (0-2 at Lambeau Field, no less).
On Friday, colleague Nathan Jahnke detailed the issues ailing the Packers’ offense. Surprisingly, a key factor has been the drop in accuracy of Rodgers, typically a top-five QB in that regard.
As you can see below, Rodgers’ accuracy percentage has tanked in Weeks 6–12, compared to his typical high-level start to the season.
|Accuracy percentage||Rank among NFL QBs|
Jahnke also pointed out that there has been a noticeable decline in quality receiving for Green Bay. In Weeks 1 through 3, the Packers’ only dropped a single pass from Rodgers, best among any receiving corps in the NFL at the time. Since then, Rodgers’ targets have dropped 23 catchable passes, second-most only to the Dolphins’ receiving corps in that span.
The running game has also been an obvious issue, but one that has plagued Green Bay the entire season, not just in the past few weeks. (If anything, Lacy has been progressing in the past two weeks, with his first two 100-yard games of the year.)
The Packers certainly have time to right the ship, currently second in the division to the Vikings, whom they play again in Week 17.
9. Luke Kuechly literally broke our new 1–100 grading scale.
The Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly is on pace to record the highest-graded season for a linebacker that we’ve ever seen in the PFF era (since 2007). As you may have known, we recently introduced a new 1–100 grading scale that is more comprehensible and allows for more friendly player comparisons.
As Nathan Jahnke explained in his article on Friday, when PFF created this new scale, our analysts accounted for every great season recorded since 2007, and even made room for players to exceed those high marks.
Playing only eight games this season due to injury, Kuechly has already posted the best grade PFF has ever seen from an ILB or 4-3 OLB, according to Jahnke.
By logging into PFF’s 2015 Player Grades, you can see that Kuechly currently owns a 104.9 overall grade—on a scale that tops out at 100. He’s excelled beyond belief in run defense and pass coverage this season.
While it will take some time to account for the exceptional play of Kuechly in our grading system, it’s certainly worth noting that we are witnessing a truly special season by the Carolina linebacker.
10. The Redskins sit atop the NFC East.
A wrap-up of Week 12’s top stories wouldn’t be complete without mention of the NFC East’s newest front-runner, the Washington Redskins.
While Kirk Cousins and company still own a losing record (5-6), a 20-14 win over the New York Giants on Sunday moves them ahead of the G-Men via their head-to-head result.
The Redskins are not out of reach, however, as the Giants sit with the same record, and the Eagles are nearby at 4-7.
Washington’s brightest performance on Sunday came from OLB Ryan Kerrigan, who posted a season-high grade (in a really good overall season) to earn a spot on Khaled Elsayed’s Team of the Week. Kerrigan notched two sacks, one hit, and five total QB hurries against Eli Manning, and added three run stops for good measure.
Chase Howell | General Editor
Chase is a General Editor at PFF, focusing on the site’s NFL content strategy. His work has been featured in ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider, and The Cincinnati Enquirer.