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Week 12 NFL Report-Card Grades for Every Team

Russell S. BaxterContributor INovember 26, 2012

Week 12 NFL Report-Card Grades for Every Team

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    Talk about an eventful Week 12 in the National Football League.

    We saw all 32 teams in action for the first time since Week 3.

    There was a record amount of points scored on Thanksgiving Day as all six starting quarterbacks threw for at least 300 yards.

    Home-field advantage meant little on this final weekend of November as nine of the 16 visiting clubs posted wins.

    And we saw both defending conference champs, the New York Giants and New England Patriots, post resounding wins, both, ironically, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

    It just tells us that we still have a lot to learn when it comes to NFL 2012. And speaking of learning, we once again return with this week’s grades. Please remember that they are based on a number of factors and not just wins, losses and numbers. And while you may be inclined to think these marks are for the teams' overall play this season, they are based strictly on this week’s performance.

    Let’s see how many passing grades were handed out and how many clubs laid an egg on this Turkey Day weekend.

Arizona Cardinals: C-

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    The good news for the Arizona Cardinals is that they only gave up a pair of sacks vs. the St. Louis Rams.

    The really bad news is that while Ken Whisenhunt’s defensive unit only gave up a pair of touchdowns, so did his offense in a 31-17 loss, extending the team’s skid to seven games.

    Quarterback Ryan Lindley made his first start and completed 31 of 52 passes for 312 yards but also failed to throw a touchdown pass while serving up four interceptions, with two of those returned for scores.

    The Cards were happy to see running back Beanie Wells, who scored twice in the loss, back in the lineup. But Arizona was limited to just 74 yards on the ground, just under 100 less (173) than the visiting Rams.

    It’s anyone’s guess on whether it’s Lindley’s job for the rest of the season.

    All the Cardinals really know that it’s been far too long since they’ve won a game (not for a lack of trying).

Atlanta Falcons: A-

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    There’s little doubt that the Atlanta Falcons were ripe for the picking.

    But Mike Smith’s team proved that it is tied for the league’s best record for a reason.

    The team continued to do what it’s done best in 2012, and that’s having quarterback Matt Ryan and his talented receiving corps carry the load.

    The former first-rounder overcame a pair of turnovers by completing 26 of 32 passes for 353 yards and a score, and the Falcons held off the improving Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Atlanta’s defense held the Bucs and rookie running back Doug Martin to 50 yards rushing (although he did score a pair of touchdowns). Meanwhile, the Falcons’ balanced play calling was comprised of 24 running plays and 33 passing plays which rolled up 424 total yards.

    The Falcons not only cooled off a hot Buccaneers team that had won four in a row, but also showed that their much-maligned defense could step up to stop the run. Martin was averaging 100 rushing yards per game entering this contest and was held to half that total.

    And it also showed that the Falcons may still be the team to beat in the NFC. Stay tuned.

Baltimore Ravens: B+

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    In a season in which the Baltimore Ravens have won far more games than they’ve lost despite losing key players, there may be one moment in which head coach John Harbaugh looks back on with amazement.

    Fourth-and-29.

    Down 13-10 to the San Diego Chargers with less than two minutes to play and needing 29 yards to keep their drive alive, quarterback Joe Flacco got the ball into the hands of Ray Rice, who did the rest (with an assist on a great block from Anquan Boldin) on the way to a 30-yard gain.

    Eventually, Flacco would get this team into field-goal range twice, once in regulation and later in overtime as Harbaugh’s club pulled out a somewhat-miraculous 16-13 win.

    In some ways, it was another typical Ravens’ performance away from home, where they are now just 8-7 (including playoffs) dating back to the start of 2011. But there’s something to be said for scrappy wins as Flacco and company have put a combined 38 points on the board in trips to Kansas City (9), Pittsburgh (13) and San San Diego (16) and managed to come away with wins.

    Suddenly, that 43-13 loss at Houston seems like a long time ago.

Buffalo Bills: C

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    It took a while and there were several factors involved, but Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams finally looked like…Mario Williams.

    Unfortunately, the Buffalo special teams looked anything but special (in terms of kick coverage) for the second straight week.

    In Buffalo’s 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Bills gave up a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter and never led in the seven-point setback.

    Running back C.J. Spiller ran for 107 yards and Williams had three of the four sacks of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. But it still wasn’t enough to prevent another loss as the team’s record slipped to 4-7.

    However, it will be interesting to see how this team finishes as Chan Gailey’s squad plays four of its final five games at home, one of those a date with the Seahawks in Toronto.

    But for this week, another tough loss in what has become another tough season for the franchise.

Carolina Panthers: B+

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    Apparently, the Carolina Panthers were ready for some football.

    Quarterback Cam Newton threw for 306 yards and a pair of touchdowns plus ran for a team-high 52 yards and a pair of scores as Ron Rivera’s club won for the second time in four weeks.

    The Panthers’ 30-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles saw Newton and the offense play a very efficient game, showing balance with 35 running plays and 30 passing plays. And Rivera’s squad played turnover-free football as well.

    Defensively, Carolina made the Philadelphia ground game (minus LeSean McCoy) look much better than advertised as rookie runner Bryce Brown slashed his way through the Panthers for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns on only 19 carries. However, the seventh-round pick also put the ball on the turf a few times.

    And while Rivera’s pass rush produced just one sack, the defense kept Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and the passing game in check as Philadelphia’s longest completion on the evening was a mere 16 yards.

    Simply put, these looked like the Panthers we thought we would see in 2012. Now let’s see if this is the team we’ll see in the final five weeks of the season.

Chicago Bears: A-

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    Now that’s more like it.

    Fresh off a Monday night 32-7 pounding at San Francisco, the Chicago Bears got their quarterback back, as well as their defense per se, in a 28-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

    After not forcing a turnover for the first time all season in the loss to the 49ers, the Bears totaled three takeaways in the impressive win.

    Jay Cutler returned to throw for 188 yards and a score with one interception. He targeted Brandon Marshall 17 times and connected a dozen times for 92 yards. Matt Forte ran for only 42 yards before leaving with an injury, but Michael Bush totaled 60 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

    Despite 108 yards rushing by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the Chicago defense held Minnesota to 10 points and a single offensive touchdown. And thanks to the Giants, the Bears are back alone in first place in the NFC North.

    What a difference less than a week makes.

Cincinnati Bengals: A

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    Just when it appeared the season was getting away from the Cincinnati Bengals, the team is once again above the .500 mark and very much in the playoff picture.

    Marvin Lewis’ club made in three straight wins thanks to a convincing 34-10 drubbing of the Oakland Raiders. And despite a brief third-quarter spurt by the Silver and Black, the Bengals made it look more than easy.

    Cincinnati rolled up 415 total yards to Oakland’s 218 and the Bengals 221 rushing yards (129 by BenJarvus Green-Ellis) marked the second straight week that the team hit the high mark in that department for the season.

    Meanwhile, the defense made life miserable for one-time star quarterback Carson Palmer, who made his return to the Queen City for the first time since being dealt to Oakland last season. The former No. 1 overall pick threw for only 146 yards, committed a pair of turnovers and was sacked four times.

    Still three games behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North with five weeks to play, the Bengals are apparently conceding nothing in the division just yet.

Cleveland Browns: B+

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    Even if the Cleveland Browns win the remainder of their games this season, the team will fall short of a winning campaign…again.

    But there are those fans in Ohio who perhaps feel that any year that includes a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers is a good year.

    The Browns struggled to put their bitter rivals away until the very end, partly due to 10 penalties. But the Steelers were in a giving mode as Pat Shurmur’s physical defense played an enormous part in Pittsburgh’s eight turnovers and Cleveland’s 20-14 win.

    Rookie running back Trent Richardson earned his 85 yards rushing on 29 tough carries and his 15-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter proved to be the difference in the game.

    It was not a banner afternoon for quarterback Brandon Weeden, sacked four times while having an interception returned for a touchdown.

    However, it was a banner victory for the Browns. 

Dallas Cowboys: D+

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    Someone should remind the Dallas Cowboys that Thanksgiving Day is not Christmas.

    Or perhaps Jerry Jones can get a good deal on a new stadium.

    Humor aside, there’s nothing funny if you’re a Cowboys fan and you continue to watch your team struggle at home. Such was the case on Thanksgiving Day once again as the Pokes were down 28-3 at halftime to the Washington Redskins and rallied for a 38-31…loss.

    The Cowboys have trailed at the half in each of their last four home games and have lost three of them. Thanks to two more interceptions by Tony Romo, who managed to throw for 441 yards and three touchdowns as well, Dallas has committed 18 turnovers in five home games this season. And 15 of the 18 miscues belong to Romo.

    Now the Cowboys find themselves tied for second in the NFC East with these same Redskins. And it’s anyone’s guess on whether they’ll be ready for next week’s visit by the Eagles.

Denver Broncos: B

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    We’ve seen the Denver Broncos win big, rally from large deficits to pull out a victory and dig themselves some early holes that they couldn’t manage to get out of.

    Now you can add slugfest to the resume as John Fox’s club put just 17 points on the board in a hard-earned win at Arrowhead Stadium over the stubborn Kansas City Chiefs.

    Quarterback Peyton Manning would throw for 285 yards and a pair of scores but completed only 22-of-37 passes, was sacked twice and threw an interception. And the Chiefs’ running game, led by Jamaal Charles, gave the Denver defense 148 yards worth of fits.

    But those yards and others resulted in just three field goals for Kansas City. And while Broncos’ kicker Matt Prater missed on two of his three field-goal attempts, Manning’s touchdown passes were enough to save the day.

    It’s becoming an interesting year in the Mile High City for the Broncos, who have now reached last year’s win total with five games to play.

Detroit Lions: B-

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    It may be all over but the shouting for the Detroit Lions.

    And unfortunately, the team has plenty to scream about.

    Yes, the 34-31 overtime loss to the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving featured one of the most talked-about plays of this or any other season when head coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag on what proved to be an 81-yard touchdown run by Texans running back Justin Forsett.

    So a certain non-touchdown (Forsett’s knee was down early during the play) turned into a score and obviously had a big bearing in the outcome of the game…as did a few other factors.

    Yes, quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 441 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But in a game in which the Texans didn’t grab the lead until the very end, it’s hard to explain 64 pass plays compared to just 23 rushing attempts for the Lions.

    And also keep in mind that Detroit did commit a turnover and missed a field goal in overtime which also hindered its chances of winning. That being said, Schwartz’s club played a very entertaining game and probably deserved a better fate.

Green Bay Packers: D+

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    The Green Bay Packers have lost four games this season. And if you include the playoffs, they’re 28-6 in their last 34 games dating back to Week 16 of the 2010 campaign.

    But rarely over the last few seasons have the Packers, shorthanded or not, looked as bad as they did during Sunday night’s 38-10 loss to the Giants.

    Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 61-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson late in the first quarter tied the score at seven. But it was the last time Green Bay found the end zone on the evening. Rodgers was sacked five times and committed two turnovers as New York built a 31-10 halftime lead.

    Meanwhile, the battered Packers’ defense gave up 390 yards, totaled only one sack and failed to come up with a takeaway.

    Simply put, it’s hard to put a positive spin on a team that is suddenly a game out of first place in the NFC North once again.

Houston Texans: B-

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    Talk about resiliency.

    For the second time in five days, the Houston Texans won an overtime game, the latest a 34-31 victory over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

    For the second straight game, Gary Kubiak’s club gave up an incredible amount of points and yards. But fortunately, the Texans more than answered the call on the offensive side of the ball.

    Consider that in their last two games, Kubiak’s team has allowed 68 points and 983 yards of total offense. But Houston has responded by scoring 77 points and totaling an astounding 1,154 total yards in those contests.

    Arian Foster ran for basically half (102) of the Texans’ 205 yards and scored two touchdowns, while Matt Schaub threw for 315 yards and a score. And fortunately for Schaub, his interception in overtime didn’t prove to be costly. Yes, Houston got a break on Justin Forsett’s 81-yard touchdown scoot (see the Lions’ report card).

    But hanging in for another five quarters just four days after a first overtime contest speaks volumes for this club.

Indianapolis Colts: B

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    The magical year in Indianapolis continues thanks to another terrific performance by a rookie.

    While quarterback Andrew Luck did throw for 240 yards and a score, he was sacked four times and threw another interception.

    But that touchdown pass was to rookie wideout T.Y. Hilton, who also got the Colts on the board first via a 75-yard punt return as the third-round pick from Florida International was the catalyst of a 20-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

    The Colts’ defense gave up 107 yards rushing to Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller but hardly any passing (180 yards) to Ryan Fitzpatrick as Indianapolis ran its record to 7-4, already a minimum of five games better than last season’s 2-14 edition.

    With five games to play and three of those on the road, it will be interesting to see if this young and inspired club can close the deal when it comes to earning a postseason berth.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B+

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    Well, what do you know? The Jacksonville Jaguars have apparently found another quarterback.

    With second-year pro Blaine Gabbert out for the season, Chad Henne has seized the opportunity and is making the most of it.

    After throwing for 354 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 43-37 overtime loss to the Houston Texans, the former Dolphins’ signal-caller totaled 261 yards through the air and two more scores (one interception) in Jacksonville’s 24-19 win over the Tennessee Titans. And Henne’s play was made even more remarkable considering he was sacked seven times.

    The win not only snapped a seven-game losing streak by Mike Mularkey’s team but it showed that the Jaguars could indeed find the end zone multiple times for the second straight week. After scoring just 127 points in their first nine games this season, the Jaguars have put a combined 61 points on the board the last two Sundays.

    And if the Jacksonville defense can somehow get its act together, there could be a few more victories before the conclusion of the season.

Kansas City Chiefs: C-

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    Give credit where it’s due.

    Despite an eighth straight loss, this being a 17-9 setback to the Denver Broncos, the 1-10 Kansas City Chiefs continue to play hard.

    Unfortunately, with little payoff.

    Running back Jamaal Charles totaled 107 yards rushing, part of the Chiefs’ 148 yards on the ground, but that and 126 yards passing by quarterback Brady Quinn resulted in three Ryan Succop field goals.

    Meanwhile, Kansas City’s defense did hold the Broncos to 17 points. But that moral victory of sorts means nothing for a club many picked to win the AFC West this season.

    A long year for Romeo Crennel and company just continues to get longer.

Miami Dolphins: B

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    With a three-game losing streak and the 6-4 Seattle Seahawks making the long trip to South Florida, some felt it might be a long day for the 4-6 Miami Dolphins.

    However, Joe Philbin’s team saved its best for late in the game, rallying from a 21-14 fourth-quarter deficit with 10 points in the final 5:13 to steal a 24-21 victory.

    The Dolphins rolled up 435 total yards on Seattle’s vaunted defense as quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 253 yards and a score (one interception). More significantly, Miami’s ground attack churned out 189 yards thanks mainly to Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, each of whom scored touchdowns while combining for 147 yards on the ground.

    On the other hand, the Dolphins’ defense shackled running back Marshawn Lynch, holding him to 46 yards rushing and ending his four-game streak of 100-yard performances.

    With the New England Patriots coming to Miami next Sunday, it was a good week to build a little momentum that will hopefully carry over into that game.

    Perhaps by then, the team can figure out that little sprinkler issue.

Minnesota Vikings: C-

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    Apparently, the improved Minnesota Vikings still have a ways to go in their attempt to join the top dogs in the NFC North.

    After getting off to a good start at Soldier Field on Sunday, Leslie Frazier watched a 3-0 lead become a 22-point halftime deficit, as the Chicago Bears were a bit too much for the Purple Gang in their 28-10 loss.

    Running back Adrian Peterson ran for 108 yards, but also lost a fumble, and Christian Ponder’s third-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph was offset by a pair of turnovers. And those miscues were critical considering Frazier’s club had the ball for only 22:30.

    Adding insult to injury was the special-teams play, as Chicago scored a two-point conversion on a fake PAT and Vikings rookie placekicker Blair Walsh had a 30-yard field-goal attempt blocked.

    Next up for Minnesota is a visit to Lambeau Field followed by a rematch with the Bears at home.

    Good luck.

New England Patriots: A+

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    Perhaps the New England Patriots were feeling a little left out.

    Earlier on Thanksgiving Day, the Texans, Lions, Redskins and Cowboys all totaled at least 31 points. And that must have caught the eye of the league’s highest-scoring team after 11 weeks of play.

    After a scoreless first quarter on Thursday night vs. the New York Jets, the Patriots exploded for 35 points in the second quarter in New Jersey, including a three-touchdown outburst within a 53-second span, and Bill Belichick’s club quieted the Jets for the fourth straight time, 49-19.

    Quarterback Tom Brady continued his sharp play, completing 18-of-28 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns. But it was wideout Julian Edelman who was all over the field, plucking a Joe McKnight fumble out of midair on a kickoff return and taking it back 22 yards for a score, catching a 56-yard touchdown pass from Brady minutes later in the second quarter and taking a handoff for a brief gain on an end around before coughing up the ball.

    More importantly, the Pats' win came without the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski, left guard Logan Mankins and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. And the fact that Brady wasn’t sacked while all three were sidelined is impressive enough.

    With five games to go, this club looks more than primed for another Super Bowl run.

New Orleans Saints: C

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    For the first time all season, the New Orleans Saints' defense finally managed to hold an opponent in check.

    Unfortunately for Joe Vitt’s club, it wasn’t nearly enough to prevent a sixth loss in 2012.

    It was another productive day for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for 267 yards and three more touchdowns. It was also a destructive afternoon for the prolific passer, who had both of his interceptions returned for touchdowns in the disappointing 31-21 loss.

    Steve Spagnuolo’s defenders gave up “just” 375 total yards in the setback, the first time all season that the Saints had prevented an opponent from totaling at least 400 yards.

    Unfortunately, 144 of that total came on the ground, while the Cajuns only managed 59 yards on 21 carries. Even more worrisome for the New Orleans defense is the fact that it failed to record a sack on second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw for 231 yards and a score with only one interception. And it’s probably worth noting that this unit’s tackling still leaves a lot to be desired.

    Fortunately for the Saints, they got plenty of help around the NFC, as many of the other contenders lost as well. However, Brees and company were unable to capitalize on those clubs' misfortunes. And that will make the climb to a playoff berth a little more difficult, but certainly not impossible.

New York Giants: A+

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    What is it about the New York Giants that they always seem to save their best performances for the top competition?

    Following consecutive losses to the Steelers and Bengals and with two weeks to think about those setbacks, the defending Super Bowl champions cooled off the hot Green Bay Packers in a big way, via a 38-10 prime-time victory.

    Quarterback Eli Manning totaled 249 yards through the air and three touchdowns after failing to throw for a score in his three previous outings, while his defensive teammates corralled Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The reigning league MVP threw for one score, but committed two turnovers and was sacked five times, including a pair courtesy of Mathias Kiwanuka.

    The Giants’ defense gave up a 61-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson less than five minutes into the game, but Green Bay never found the end zone the rest of the evening.

    And speaking of never, that’s exactly the story when it comes to figuring out what version of the G-Men will show up on a weekly basis.

New York Jets: F-

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    We were tempted to just go with a D…as in Deplorable.

    After battling the visiting New England Patriots to a 0-0 stalemate following the first quarter on Thanksgiving night, it all went downhill in a hurry. Rex Ryan’s defense, offense and special teams were each victimized for scores in the next 15 minutes of play, and the Jets fell behind, 35-3, at halftime en route to a 49-19 embarrassment.

    While it would be incredibly easy to point the usual fingers at quarterback Mark Sanchez, who did throw an interception and lose a fumble for the fourth time in five games, he was only part of the problem for a team that committed five turnovers by night’s end.

    The most memorable moments of the game came in that second quarter, when the Patriots scored 21 points in less than a minute, with the second and third touchdowns coming on lost fumbles by Sanchez and kickoff-return artist Joe McKnight, whose bobble went right into the hands of Julian Edelman.

    By night’s end, the once-proud Jets defense had given up 475 total yards, 152 yards on the ground, and failed to sack quarterback Tom Brady.

    And for those rooters of the Green and White looking for a bright spot, we hope you enjoyed your turkey dinner that day.

Oakland Raiders: D+

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    It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the Oakland Raiders were on the verge of erasing a 1-4 start and perhaps getting ready to climb into the AFC playoff picture.

    However, a modest two-game winning streak in October has been followed by four straight losses in which Dennis Allen’s team has been giving up points at an alarming rate.

    The Silver and Black had to be a little red in the face after falling behind, 24-0, at halftime en route to a 34-10 road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Raiders were out-gained by nearly 200 yards (415-218), with more than half of that coming on the ground, as Marvin Lewis’ team rushed for 221 yards.

    And it was quite evident that the Bengals were happy to see former teammate Carson Palmer, so much so that the Cincinnati defense “hugged” their one-time quarterback four times, and he responded by throwing them one of his passes.

    The bottom line is that Allen’s club is now 3-8 and the franchise will not enjoy a winning campaign for the 10th consecutive season. And that’s a pretty gloomy thought for one of the league’s historic franchises.

Philadelphia Eagles: C

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    It’s another week and it added up to another loss for the incredibly disappointing Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Birds were grounded by the visiting Carolina Panthers, 30-22, their seventh consecutive loss following that all-but-forgotten 3-1 start that included wins over the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants. The Panthers entered Monday night’s game with only two wins.

    The loss marked the third straight game and fourth time in five weeks that Andy Reid’s team gave up at least 30 points and the lone exception over that stretch was a 28-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

    The news wasn’t all bad for the Eagles, who were playing without quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy. Rookie seventh-rounder Bryce Brown ran for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Reid’s club rolled up 204 yards on the ground.

    But Brown also fumbled twice and lost both, part of three Philadelphia turnovers on the night. And the Eagles’ problem-plagued defensive unit made it easy for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who threw for 306 yards and a pair of touchdowns, completing pass plays of 31, 55 and 43 yards, the latter on a scoring toss down the middle of the field to a very wide-open Brandon LaFell.

    With games remaining with the Cowboys, Buccaneers, Bengals, Redskins and Giants, it will be interesting to see if the Birds are up to the task of playing spoiler to any of those postseason hopefuls.

Pittsburgh Steelers: D-

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    How much do you think the Pittsburgh Steelers miss No. 7?

    Without him, the not-so-magical number was eight, as Mike Tomlin’s team fell in Cleveland to the Browns, 20-14.

    With their third starting quarterback in as many games, the Black and Gold had to be a bit perturbed, as veteran Charlie Batch threw for only 199 yards and three interceptions.

    Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh ground game used four different running backs to roll up a paltry 49 yards, with Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Rainey, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer combining for six fumbles and each back losing one.

    Yes, the Steelers’ offensive line was again in shambles due to injuries, but there’s little excuse for such poor ball security.

    Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh defense did harass Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden throughout the game, totaling four sacks and returning an interception 53 yards for a score via linebacker Lawrence Timmons. But this unit would give up 108 yards rushing on 34 carries, with 29 attempts, 85 yards and a score belonging to rookie Trent Richardson.

    After committing just nine turnovers during their 6-3 start, the Steelers coughed up the ball 11 times in the losses to the Ravens and Browns.

    Enough said.

St. Louis Rams: A

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    It seems that the only team that the St. Louis Rams can beat these days is the Arizona Cardinals.

    Still, head coach Jeff Fisher has no need to look a gift horse in the mouth following his team’s 31-17 victory in the desert.

    Running back Steven Jackson turned back the clock and ran for 139 yards. Sam Bradford added 205 yards through the air and a pair of touchdowns (one interception), and the St. Louis defense intercepted Cardinals rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley four times, with fellow rookie Janoris Jenkins taking two of those back for scores.

    The victory was the first since beating the Cardinals, 17-3, back on a Thursday night in Week 5, and it was a complete win, as each component of the team chimed in.

    Up next are the 49ers, and it’s safe to say that neither they nor the Rams will be happy settling for another tie in this very important rematch.

San Diego Chargers: D+

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    The misery continues for the San Diego Chargers, who pulled defeat from the jaws of victory with their 16-13 overtime loss to the visiting Baltimore Ravens.

    Norv Turner’s team played turnover-free football, sacked Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco five times and owned a 13-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter. But quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked six times and the team’s offense found the end zone just once all day.

    The crucial moment of the contest came in the final two minutes, when the Bolts were protecting a three-point lead, but let the Ravens converted on a 4th-and-29. That led to the eventual game-tying field goal, and the rest may have made these Chargers history when it comes to reaching the playoffs in 2012.

    Since opening the season at 2-0, Turner’s team is only 2-7 and both wins came at the expense of the now 1-10 Kansas City Chiefs.

    It’s safe to say it could be a long final five weeks for this perplexing franchise.

San Francisco 49ers: A+

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    There were those who were anxiously awaiting what San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was going to do for an encore.

    Bravo.

    The second-year signal-caller looked pretty comfortable in the team’s 31-21 win over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. Kaepernick threw for 231 yards and a score (with one interception), ran six times for 27 yards and a touchdown and was not sacked by the Saints’ defense.

    But before you think this victory was a one-man show, a huge amount of credit belongs to the relentless San Francisco defense. The Niners limited New Orleans to 59 yards rushing, sacked quarterback Drew Brees five times and returned two interceptions for scores via linebacker Ahmad Brooks and safety Donte Whitner.

    Yes, Jim Harbaugh’s team committed 10 penalties and veteran placekicker David Akers didn’t have the best of afternoons. But cooling off one of the hottest teams in the league less than a week after beating the Chicago Bears warrants the high grade.

Seattle Seahawks: C+

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    Unfortunately for the Seattle Seahawks, there’s no room on the team plane for the "12th man."

    Despite their 6-5 record and obvious contention in terms of a playoff berth, Pete Carroll’s club is a perfect 5-0 at home, but now a less-than-scintillating 1-5 on the road following a heartbreaking 24-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins in South Florida.

    The Seahawks appeared somewhat in control in the fourth quarter, as Leon Washington broke a 14-all tie courtesy of a 98-yard kickoff return for a score (tying the NFL record with his eighth career kickoff return for a touchdown). But the Dolphins immediately followed Seattle's sudden score with a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that would tie the game with 5:13 to play. And moments later, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was positioning his team for the game-winning kick.

    It was a productive afternoon for quarterback Russell Wilson, who missed on only six of his 27 attempts, throwing for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    But when it was all said and done, Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks' ground game was held in check to the tune of 96 yards. And Miami’s ability to run the ball (189 yards) made life easier for Tannehill and company.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C

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    It was theirs for the taking and the improving Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell just a little short.

    Riding a four-game winning streak with the 9-1, but suddenly-struggling Atlanta Falcons coming to town, Greg Schiano’s club was looking to make up a little ground in the NFC South.

    Instead, the Buccaneers’ biggest weakness came back to haunt them once again, as Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan burned them for 353 yards through the air. And despite forcing the Atlanta signal-caller into a pair of miscues while playing turnover-free football themselves, the Bucs came up short in Tampa by a single point, 24-23.

    Quarterback Josh Freeman threw for 256 yards, but the passing game wasn’t particularly potent, as the Tampa signal-caller failed to throw a touchdown pass.

    And if you’re looking for one key factor in Tampa’s loss, the Buccaneer pass rush produced only one sack, while the Falcons were 8-of-13 on third-down conversions.

    So instead of moving within two games of the Falcons in the division, Schiano and company find themselves well behind with December to play. But don’t be surprised if they’re around come playoff time.

Tennessee Titans: C

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    When we last saw the Tennessee Titans, they were coming off a stunning 37-3 win over the Miami Dolphins in which they gave up a season-low three points.

    Try as it may, the Titans' defense couldn’t completely get a grasp on Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, who threw for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns (one interception) despite being sacked seven times in Tennessee’s 24-19 loss.

    Like Henne, Titans quarterback Jake Locker also threw for 261 yards and was sacked just once by the Jacksonville defense. But he also threw just one touchdown pass compared to two interceptions, with both of those picks coming in the fourth quarter.

    At 4-7, the Titans would have to run the table to equal last season’s mark. And given the way the Tennessee defense has played for the majority of 2012, that doesn’t appear to be feasible.

Washington Redskins: A

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    Call him RG8.

    For the second time in five days, the Washington Redskins beat a divisional opponent. And in each contest, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III responded with a four-touchdown-pass performance.

    Washington’s latest victory came via a 38-31 Thanksgiving Day shootout against the Dallas Cowboys. The second overall pick in April’s draft did throw an interception, but passed for 311 yards and the aforementioned four scores.

    All told, Mike Shanahan’s club rolled up 437 yards, and while the defense did give up 28 second-half points, the Redskins had already built a 28-3 lead at intermission.

    Griffin also shook off four sacks by rushing for 29 yards, teaming with fellow rookie Alfred Morris to gash the Dallas defense for 142 yards on the ground. And you can’t get much more balanced than Shanahan’s club was on Turkey Day, as the ‘Skins ran 30 times while Griffin dropped back 32 times.

    So the Redskins have 11 days to prepare for next Monday’s visit from the New York Giants. And a 5-6 Washington team may now be on the verge of making a move in the always-interesting NFC East.

    Maybe…

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