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Week 13 NFL Report Card Grades for Every Team

Russell S. BaxterContributor ISeptember 17, 2016

Week 13 NFL Report Card Grades for Every Team

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    Those who figured a long time ago that the No. 13 is unlucky obviously did not have this week of the 2012 NFL season in mind (how could they?).

    The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons all won division titles, and the Houston Texans clinched a playoff berth.

    The Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers won huge road games, both by scoring on the final play of regulation.

    The Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams won in overtime, knocking off the first-place Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, respectively.

    The Baltimore Ravens saw their 16-game home winning streak (including playoffs) come to an end, as did the Cleveland Browns' 12-game road losing streak.

    And the NFC East got really interesting as both the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys are just one game behind the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

    Again, we return with this week’s game grades for all 32 teams. So many factors go into these marks, which are representative of their performances this week and not the entire season. And also bear in mind that these are not based solely on wins and losses, margin of victory and total yards. Many elements are involved, including the all-important eye test.

    So let’s take a look at this week’s model students, as well as class clowns.

Arizona Cardinals: D

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    Perhaps the less said, the better when it comes to the Arizona Cardinals' 7-6 loss to the New York Jets.

    Ken Whisenhunt’s team was limited to 137 total yards, was 0-for-15 on third down and had the ball for only 21:52. Arizona rushed for only 81 yards, and 40 came on a fake punt and run by Rashad Johnson.

    Unfortunately, the team’s offensive woes spoiled a pretty decent day by the defense, which held New York to 289 total yards and forced four turnovers. Former Jets safety Kerry Rhodes had quite the afternoon, totaling six tackles, two interceptions and forcing a fumble.

    So make it eight straight losses after the Cardinals' 4-0 start with no apparent end in sight.

Atlanta Falcons: A-

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    Despite the criticism and skepticism, the Atlanta Falcons are still co-owners of the best record in the NFL.

    They are also now in possession of the NFC South crown.

    Thanks to their 23-13 Thursday-night win over the visiting Saints and an assist from the Denver Broncos on Sunday (defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Mike Smith’s team became division champions for the second time in three seasons.

    The way the victory unfolded had to be satisfying. Not only did Mike Nolan’s defense pick off Saints quarterback and Falcons nemesis Drew Brees five times, but it put an end to Brees’ NFL-record streak of 54 games with a touchdown pass.

    Limited to 46 yards rushing in the loss at New Orleans three weeks earlier, the Falcons rolled up 71 yards on the ground on their first series and finished with 124 yards on the evening. And while Brees did throw for 341 yards, there were those five picks.

    A satisfying win for the Falcons, to say the least.

Baltimore Ravens: B

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    The last time the Baltimore Ravens had lost a game at home was Week 13 of 2010, a Sunday-night 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Now make that Week 13, 2012.

    With a chance to put the hammer down on their bitter divisional rivals, John Harbaugh’s team couldn’t close the deal and watched quarterback Charlie Batch drive his team to the game-winning score, a 42-yard field goal at the gun in Pittsburgh’s 23-20 victory.

    Baltimore’s offense was limited to just 288 total yards, and 191 of those came in the first half. The Ravens owned a 13-3 second-quarter lead, but couldn’t make the necessary plays to put the game away. Ray Rice ran for 78 yards on 12 carries, 34 of those on a third-quarter touchdown scamper.

    However, quarterback Joe Flacco completed less than 50 percent of his passes (16-of-34) and committed both of the Ravens’ turnovers.

    Baltimore still owns a two-game lead over the Steelers and Bengals in the AFC North. But this loss has to sting just a bit.

Buffalo Bills: A

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    Chan Gailey’s team did just about everything right on Sunday afternoon against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The Buffalo Bills overcame a 10-7 second-quarter deficit thanks to 27 straight points and cruised to a 34-18 win.

    Running backs Fred Jackson (109) and C.J. Spiller (77) combined for 186 of the team’s 232 yards on the ground, the latter running for a 44-yard score. Ryan Fitzpatrick added 112 yards and a pair of scores through the air. And while the team committed two turnovers, it was somewhat understandable considering the conditions.

    Meanwhile, the Buffalo pass rush added four sacks of Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, one of those by rejuvenated and now healthy defensive end Mario Williams.

    Gailey’s club has played much better as of late, and at 5-7, still has eyes on a winning season. It will be interesting to see how it closes a 2012 season where much more was expected.

Carolina Panthers: B

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    Coming off a Monday-night win at Philadelphia, the Carolina Panthers headed to Arrowhead Stadium, and while Ron Rivera’s team played well, it fell a bit short to the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-21.

    It was another big performance by quarterback Cam Newton, who led the team with 78 yards rushing and also threw for 232 yards and three scores as the Panthers played turnover-free football.

    And that was also the case for the Chiefs, who got 127 yards rushing from Jamaal Charles and 201 yards passing from Brady Quinn, who threw for two touchdowns and completed 19-of-23 passes.

    But it turned out to be one more frustrating setback for the Panthers, who’ve lost nine games this season, seven by six points or less.

Chicago Bears: C-

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    The Chicago Bears appeared on the verge of wrapping up a tough win over the Seattle Seahawks.

    But when overtime dust settled, Lovie Smith’s club was on the short end of a 23-17 battle, and with three losses in four games, could some doubt be creeping in with this club?

    Chicago’s usually steady defense allowed Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and company to drive 97 yards in 12 plays in the final four minutes to take a 17-14 lead. And while Chicago did manage to send the game into the extra session, Smith’s club allowed another 12-play drive, this one for 80 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass to Sidney Rice.

    Although Jay Cutler and the offense played turnover-free football on the day, they couldn’t offset a Seattle attack that rolled up 459 yards in four-plus quarters.

    And with that, it’s all even once again at the top of the NFC North between the Bears and the 8-4 Packers.

Cincinnati Bengals: B+

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    After winning three straight games by 18, 22 and 24 points, respectively, the Cincinnati Bengals were pressed to the limit by the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

    The bottom line is that not only did Marvin Lewis’ team hang on for a 20-13 win, but its ever-improving defensive unit did not allow a touchdown in the road victory.

    Which is also one of the reasons for the ho-hum grade. Cincinnati held the Bolts to 297 total yards and forced quarterback Philip Rivers into a pair of turnovers. But the Bengals were pretty sloppy themselves, as Andy Dalton threw a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a score, and tight end Jermaine Gresham lost one of the team’s three fumbles.

    With the game on the line, Mike Zimmer’s unit managed to hold off the Chargers in the final moments after Rivers had driven his team into the red zone, with safety Reggie Nelson's end-zone interception sealing the deal.

    The Bengals appear very determined to get back to the playoffs in what should be a fascinating finish in a conference where only three playoff spots remain.

Cleveland Browns: B

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    Hey, this winning thing is pretty darn good.

    For the second straight week, the Cleveland Browns came away with a victory. Not bad considering Pat Shurmur’s club had won just twice in its first 10 contests this season.

    The 20-17 win over the Oakland Raiders also snapped a 12-game road losing streak by the Browns, who allowed Carson Palmer to throw for 351 yards and a pair of touchdowns (one interception), but also held the depleted Oakland ground game to only 85 yards.

    Meanwhile, rookie Brandon Weeden threw for 364 yards and a touchdown to fellow rookie Josh Gordon, offsetting a pair of interceptions. And Trent Richardson was busy once again, totaling 72 yards rushing and a score on 20 carries while catching three passes for another 23 yards.

    With a young team, Shurmur and company can only hope that this winning feeling carries over the rest of the season and into next year.

Dallas Cowboys: B-

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    Yes, it wasn’t easy. Of course, nothing ever is for these Dallas Cowboys.

    For the fifth straight time at home, Jason Garrett’s club trailed at halftime. However, the Pokes also scored 21 fourth-quarter points against this Philadelphia Eagles team for the second time in four weeks and then hung on big-time for a 38-33 win.

    It was a turnover-free and very efficient night for quarterback Tony Romo, who was certainly glad to see second-year running back DeMarco Murray back in the lineup. The Dallas signal-caller completed 22-of-27 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns, and more importantly, the team totaled 33 running plays, while Garrett’s club did not commit a turnover.

    Meanwhile, the injury-riddled Dallas defense did surrender 423 total yards, as rookie Bryce Brown ran for 169 yards and a pair of scores and quarterback Nick Foles threw for 251 yards and a score. But another rookie, Dallas' Morris Claiborne, picked up a fumble by Brown in the fourth quarter and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown to cap off the Cowboys’ scoring.

    The Eagles returned a punt for a touchdown with 31 seconds to play to make things interesting. Of course, the Cowboys wouldn’t have it any other way.

Denver Broncos: A-

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    A season ago, the Denver Broncos lost their final three games and wound up capturing the AFC West with an 8-8 record.

    Once again, John Fox’s club is division champions. But instead of going into the postseason on a skid, Peyton and Manning and company have now won seven straight games, the latest a 31-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Manning threw for 242 yards and three more scores, setting a new Broncos franchise record with 29 touchdown passes with four games to play. And while the veteran quarterback did throw an interception, he was not sacked for the fifth time in the last nine games.

    On the other side of the ball, linebacker Von Miller continued his hot play via six tackles (tied for first on the team), one sack, one forced fumble and a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown.

    This is one team that is firing on all cylinders.

Detroit Lions: C-

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    Ten days after losing a Thanksgiving Day overtime stomach-turner to the Houston Texans, the Detroit Lions got another dose of heartburn on Sunday against the improving Indianapolis Colts.

    Leading, 33-21, midway through the fourth quarter, Jim Schwartz’s defense let him down once again as Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:39 to stun the Men from the Motor City, 35-33.

    Matthew Stafford threw for 313 yards and a pair of touchdowns (one interception), with 13 of his 27 completions to Calvin Johnson, who totaled 171 yards and one of Stafford’s scores.

    The Detroit defense seemingly did its job, sacking Luck twice and intercepting him three times. But the Lions couldn’t stop the rookie quarterback when they had to, and his 14-yard touchdown toss to Donnie Avery came on fourth down, as well as the final play of the game.

    Losers of four straight after getting back to the .500 mark, the Lions appear destined for last place in the NFC North.

Green Bay Packers: B+

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    While rebounding is a very big part of the game of basketball, it’s just as important in the National Football League.

    That’s why it was a big game for the Green Bay Packers, who bounced back smartly from a 38-10 loss to the New York Giants with a 23-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings. But it was far from easy, as the league’s rushing leader had one of his finest days against the Packers' defense.

    Adrian Peterson ripped off an 82-yard-touchdown run and finished the afternoon with 210 yards rushing. But Mike McCarthy’s club was able to offset that impressive performance with 152 yards rushing via its backfield by committee.

    And while quarterback Aaron Rodgers only threw for one score and was picked off once, he completed passes to nine different players and totaled 286 yards through the air.

    More significantly, the Packers find themselves once again tied atop the NFC North with the Bears.

    It should be an interesting final four weeks.

Houston Texans: B+

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    This getting-to-the-playoffs thing may be starting to become habit-forming for the Houston Texans.

    With their 24-10 win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Gary Kubiak’s club wrapped up a second straight postseason berth and, in the process, has 11 regular-season wins (and counting) for the first time in the franchise’s brief history.

    Quarterback Matt Schaub threw a pair of touchdown passes and running back Arian Foster added another score, as the Texans opened up a 21-3 halftime lead and were never really challenged for the majority of the contest.

    Meanwhile, Wade Phillips’ defensive unit made amends for a pair of subpar performances against the Jaguars and Lions (although Houston did win those games). The Texans sacked the Titans' quarterback five times and forced him into five turnovers.

    There’s still that matter of winning the AFC South for Kubiak and company, as well as trying to secure home-field advantage in the conference.

    But it’s safe to say the Texans are right on course.

Indianapolis Colts: A-

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    You can call it what you want, but it’s becoming pretty obvious that what’s going on with the Indianapolis Colts is not just luck.

    Yes, the team’s rookie quarterback has been sensational at times and shows the kind of poise that makes him nearly unflappable.

    Despite throwing three interceptions at Ford Field on Sunday, Andrew Luck finished with 391 yards and four touchdown passes, and his 14-yard flip to wideout Donnie Avery on the final play of the game completed the Colts' rally from a 33-21 deficit on the way to a 35-33 win over the stunned Detroit Lions.

    With eight wins this season, the Colts will not finish with a losing record, this after winning only two games in 2011.

    And if this squad can continue its heady play, we may be seeing Luck and company playing an extra game or two in January.

Jacksonville Jaguars: C-

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    Could the Jacksonville Jaguars actually make it two straight wins after losing their previous seven games?

    Nope.

    The team’s disappointing defense gave up 232 yards rushing, while Chad Henne was off target most of the day in a 34-18 loss to the Buffalo Bills at rainy Orchard Park.

    The Jaguars' quarterback completed just 18-of-41 passes for 208 yards with a touchdown and an interception and was sacked four times.

    Mike Mularkey’s club actually owned a 10-7 lead in the second quarter, but Buffalo would run off the next 27 points of the afternoon, and by game’s end, Jacksonville had amassed only 236 total yards.

    A rough day indeed during what has been a forgettable season for the Jaguars.

Kansas City Chiefs: A+

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    Win or lose, the Kansas City Chiefs deserved a high grade for taking the field against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

    As it turns out, Romeo Crennel’s team snapped an eight-game losing streak and won at home for the first time all season courtesy of a 27-21 victory.

    After being limited to 16 points or less in each of its previous seven games, Crennel’s team owned a 17-14 lead at the half. The 27 points tied a season high for the club, while the three touchdowns put on the board were certainly encouraging considering the Chiefs had scored only four touchdowns in their previous seven contests.

    It was a much-needed victory for Crennel and company, who own just two wins in 2012, both over NFC South residents in the Saints and Panthers.

Miami Dolphins: B-

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    Entering Sunday’s game, the New England Patriots had scored 219 points in their last five contests.

    The Miami Dolphins had scored 211 points in 11 games in 2012.

    Despite a solid defensive effort and a pass rush that sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady four times, Joe Philbin’s team could manage only one touchdown and three field goals in a 23-16 home loss to their AFC East rivals.

    The loss dropped the Dolphins’ record to 5-7, putting them into a three-way tie for second or fourth (depending on your perspective) in the AFC East.

    It was not the best of days for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed just 13-of-29 passes for 186 yards and was sacked three times. Tannehill also lost a fumble in the game, Miami’s lone turnover, but the Dolphins did put the ball on the turf four additional times.

    Strides are definitely being made in South Florida. Just a little more patience needs to be exercised.

Minnesota Vikings: B-

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    It proved to be a big day for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

    Unfortunately, it proved to be a bigger afternoon for the Green Bay Packers.

    Despite Peterson's 210 yards rushing, which included an 82-yard-touchdown run, as well as owning a 14-10 halftime lead at Lambeau Field, Minnesota was shut out in the second half and watched the Pack dominate after intermission in the 23-14 loss at Green Bay.

    It was the usual story as of late in this series, which has gone the Packers’ way now five straight times. Aaron Rodgers throws for plenty of yards (286), while Jared Allen gets his sacks.

    The latter totaled 1.5 of Minnesota’s two sacks on the day, giving him an astounding 14.0 sacks on Rodgers in nine head-to-head meetings.

    But while that number is indeed impressive, Leslie Frazier’s club found out that 14 wasn’t going to be nearly enough at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

New England Patriots: A-

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    It wasn’t pretty and far from textbook. But who said it had to be?

    When it was all said and done, Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots wrapped up a 23-16 win over the Miami Dolphins and, in the process, captured the AFC East for the fourth straight season and the 10th time in 12 years, dating back to 2001.

    Quarterback Tom Brady and company opened up a 17-3 second-quarter advantage, and while the Pats never lost the lead, they had problems putting Miami away, as Brady was sacked four times and threw his first interception since Week 6.

    But on the very-plus side, New England’s defense limited Miami to only 277 total yards and just one touchdown. Veteran Trevor Scott had two of the team’s three sacks, while Ryan Tannehill threw for only 186 yards.

    After scoring 219 points in their previous five games, it was a quiet day at the office for the Pats. But Belichick’s team still got the job done.

New Orleans Saints: C

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    The streak continues.

    With the 23-13 loss Thursday-night loss to the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, the New Orleans Saints’ reign as NFC South champions ended after just one season.

    That’s hardly a surprise. Since the division was formed in 2002, no team has ever won consecutive NFC South titles.

    What had to make the prime-time loss even more frustrating was the fact that the New Orleans defense allowed a season-low 283 total yards.

    Of course, veteran quarterback Drew Brees served up a career-high five interceptions and failed to throw a touchdown pass, ending his NFL-record streak at 54 straight games.

    And perhaps also ending any realistic playoff hopes for the Cajuns in 2012.

New York Giants: B

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    When it was all said and done, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins wound up splitting their two-game set in 2012 with the home team prevailing in each instance.

    So why does it feel as if Mike Shanahan’s team pulled off a sweep of Big Blue for the second straight season?

    The Giants’ 17-16 Monday night loss at FedEx Field was a pretty even game in a lot of ways. Tom Coughlin’s club (390) outgained their hosts (370) by just 20 total yards, the Giants had 21 first downs to the Redskins 20 and Washington rookie running back Alfred Morris committed the lone turnover of the game.

    But speaking of Morris, he and fellow rookie Robert Griffin III helped the Redskins roll up 207 yards rushing, the second time this season the Redskins put a double c-note on the ground on Coughlin’s club. Meanwhile, the Giants have allowed just over 100 yards rushing in their other 10 games this season.

    All told, New York played well on Monday night but simply struggled to get the ball in the end zone. And that was just enough to ensure a third loss in four games for the defending Super Bowl champions.

New York Jets: D+

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    After receiving an "F-" for their Thanksgiving-night debacle against the New England Patriots, at least the New York Jets scratched out a 7-6 win over the offensively challenged Arizona Cardinals.

    A win is a win, but it certainly didn’t feel that way at the Meadowlands on Sunday. The Jets held the Cards to 137 yards of total offense and out of the end zone.

    New York’s lone score of the day came on a one-yard touchdown reception by tight end Jeff Cumberland via third-string quarterback Greg McElroy, who replaced an ineffective Mark Sanchez. The Jets' starter was picked off on his first attempt of the afternoon and threw two more interceptions by day’s end, hence the end of his day.

    Unfortunately for Sanchez and Rex Ryan, it could be just the beginning of something else.

Oakland Raiders: C

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    For the first time in five games, the Oakland Raiders gave up less than 34 points.

    Unfortunately, that moral victory of sorts couldn’t prevent a fifth consecutive loss.

    Still, Oakland’s 20-17 setback against the improving Cleveland Browns saw Dennis Allen’s team continue to have issues on the defensive side of the football. The Silver and Black surrendered a whopping 475 total yards. And if it weren’t for a pair of interceptions off rookie Brandon Weeden (who threw for 364 yards and a score) and a blocked field goal, perhaps the Browns would have gotten to the 30-point mark.

    It was another productive afternoon for quarterback Carson Palmer, who continues to put up big numbers, completing 34-of-54 passes for 351 yards and two scores with one interception. But the Raiders' ground attack produced just 85 yards on only 17 carries.

    For the first time in weeks, it was close for the Raiders. Unfortunately, there’s still no cigar for Palmer and company.

Philadelphia Eagles: C+

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    For the fourth straight game and the fifth time in six weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles allowed at least 30 points.

    For the eighth time in as many games, Andy Reid’s team fell short on the scoreboard.

    Once again, these baffling Birds took a lead into the fourth quarter and left the game without a "W."

    Rookie running back Bryce Brown had another sensational night, running for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But the rookie performer also fumbled again, and this time, the miscue was returned 50 yards for a score.

    Rookie quarterback Nick Foles looked sharp, completing 22-of-34 throws for 251 yards and a score, and was sacked just once. And Brown’s fumble was the team’s only turnover of the evening.

    Still, that giving-up-30-points-on-a-weekly-basis thing just isn’t going to work.

    Then again, not much has for the disappointing Eagles in 2012.

Pittsburgh Steelers: A-

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    Burying any team based on one horrible performance is usually ill-advised in any sport.

    Writing off the Pittsburgh Steelers following a horrible afternoon in Cleveland was obviously not the correct call.

    More specifically, it was veteran quarterback Charlie Batch who took the lion’s share (pun intended) of the criticism for the team’s eight turnovers (including three interceptions by Batch) in the 20-14 loss to the Browns.

    But the veteran signal-caller overcame one interception by throwing for 276 yards and a score to tight end Heath Miller in the fourth quarter. And later, Batch drove his team 61 yards on 12 plays so that Shaun Suisham could hit the game-winning 42-yard field goal on the final play of the game in Pittsburgh’s 23-20 victory.

    The victory snapped the Ravens' 16-game home winning streak (including playoffs) and kept the Steelers very much in the playoff hunt.

    Let’s give credit to the Pittsburgh defense, which lost cornerback Ike Taylor in the game, but did sack Joe Flacco three times and forced him into a pair of turnovers, including a fumble caused by James Harrison that set up Miller’s game-tying touchdown grab.

    It’s pretty safe to say that head coach Mike Tomlin continues to push all the right buttons in the Steel City.

St. Louis Rams: A

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    One of the first things any NFL head coach will tell you is that one of the big priorities is learning how to beat the teams in your division.

    So far, so good for veteran sideline-leader Jeff Fisher, who got just his fifth win of the season, but the fourth versus his NFC West brethren, by way of their suddenly traditional overtime tilt with the San Francisco 49ers.

    The St. Louis Rams' 16-13 victory over the visiting Niners not only saw Fisher’s team shut out in the first half, but his offense held without a touchdown. Most of the team’s points came via San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who gave up a safety and was guilty of a fumble (on a botched play) that was returned two yards for a score by rookie Janoris Jenkins (his third touchdown in two games).

    Meanwhile, long distance kicker Greg Zuerlein attempted three field goals of 50-plus yards and hit two of them, a 53-yarder at the gun and a 54-yard boot to win it in the extra session.

    And while the Rams gained only 293 yards, they didn’t commit a turnover.

    That was enough for Fisher’s team to win another NFC West slugfest.

San Diego Chargers: B-

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    It continues to be the same sad old story for the struggling San Diego Chargers.

    The latest losing streak for the Bolts has now reached four in a row thanks to a 20-13 setback to the Cincinnati Bengals in which the San Diego offense failed to score a touchdown.

    Meanwhile, coughing up the football continued to be an issue for veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, who lost a fumble and served up an end-zone interception in the closing minute. Norv Turner’s team has now committed 52 turnovers since the start of last season, 45 for which Rivers is directly responsible (35 interceptions and 10 lost fumbles).

    It wasn’t as if the Bengals didn’t present the Chargers with some opportunities, as Cincinnati gave up the ball three times on its own, one resulting in San Diego’s only touchdown of the game via a 31-yard interception return by linebacker Demorrio Williams.

    But the Chargers' running game managed only 46 yards and Rivers was sacked four times. And that Cincinnati defense proved to be far too much for a team that is finding ways to fall short.

San Francisco 49ers: C+

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    Let the second-guessing begin, be it right or wrong.

    Would veteran quarterback Alex Smith have made the same kind of mistakes that second-year-pro Colin Kaepernick made in the San Francisco 49ers' 16-13 overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams.

    We’ll never know, but what we do know is that Jeff Fisher’s team was a thorn in the side of the Niners this season, forcing the defending NFC West champions into overtime for the second time in four weeks.

    An intentional-grounding call in the end zone on Kaepernick in the third quarter gave the Rams their first points of the afternoon. Later, a flubbed pitch to wideout Ted Ginn Jr. was returned two yards for a touchdown by the St. Louis defense.

    For his part, Kaepernick did throw for 208 yards and ran for 84 more. The San Francisco defense did limit the Rams to 293 total yards, and David Akers’ missed 51-yard field goal in overtime was certainly not a gimme.

    However, the loss keeps the improving Seattle Seahawks within reach of unseating the Niners in the NFC West.

    Stay tuned.

Seattle Seahawks: A

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    You can continue to use the numbers to support your argument.

    For instance, there’s Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who entered Sunday’s game at Chicago having thrown 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in five home games, compared to a very pedestrian six scores and eight picks in six road contests.

    But a much closer look shows that the third-round draft choice has thrown at least two touchdown passes in five straight games and hasn’t thrown an interception in his last four contests. And that includes a pair of scores in Seattle’s surprising 23-17 overtime victory over the Bears at Soldier Field.

    Wilson led touchdown drives of 94, 97 and 80 yards, and his club rolled up 459 total yards en route to the team’s second road win of 2012, one that proved to be huge, as it keeps Pete Carroll’s team in the hunt for the NFC West title.

    With three of their last four games at home, things are about to get extremely interesting in the Pacific Northwest.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B-

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    For the second consecutive week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers put 23 points on the board against a first-place team.

    Unfortunately, the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos are in first place for a reason.

    The Buccaneers' 31-23 loss in the Mile High City dropped the team’s record to 6-6 and reduced its chance of reaching the playoffs in the crowded NFC.

    Greg Schiano’s team took a 10-7 lead into intermission, but it came apart in the third quarter thanks to a pair of touchdown passes by Peyton Manning and Josh Freeman’s lone interception of the day that linebacker Von Miller returned 26 yards for a score.

    Freeman threw for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns, along with the aforementioned interception, but the Tampa running game was held to just 71 yards. And Schiano’s club didn’t do itself many favors with 11 penalties.

    Now the Bucs may need a few favors if they want to reach the postseason party.

Tennessee Titans: C

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    Simply put, it was one of those days for Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker…an incredibly long day.

    The second-year signal-caller was under siege all afternoon courtesy of a Houston Texans defense looking to make amends after giving up almost 1,000 total yards and 68 points the previous two weeks (albeit in overtime wins over the Jaguars and Lions).

    In the Titans’ 24-10 loss on Sunday in Nashville, Locker threw for 309 yards and a touchdown, but completed less than half of his passes (21-of-45), was sacked five times, threw three interceptions and lost a pair of fumbles.

    Meanwhile, the Tennessee defense put its team in a hole it could never get out of. Mike Munchak’s team trailed, 21-3, at the half and gave up 222 total yards in the game’s first 30 minutes alone.

    And that was enough to ensure an eighth loss in 12 games this season, one more than in all of 2011.

Washington Redskins: A

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    After an up and down first half of the season, the Washington Redskins are alive and very well in the NFC East.

    Mike Shanahan’s squad not only won its third straight game on Monday night courtesy of a 17-16 victory over the New York Giants, it was the team’s third consecutive victory over one of their NFC East rivals.

    At 6-6 and already with one more win than the team totaled all of last season, Washington is suddenly tied for the second in the division with the Dallas Cowboys, both teams just one game behind the defending champion Giants.

    How impressive has the Redskins recent run been. Shanahan and company are suddenly 3-1 in the division, quite a turnaround for a club that was 4-14 vs. their NFC East neighbors from 2009-11.

    For the second time this season, the Washington ground game rolled up over 200 yards on the Giants’ defense. Rookie running back Alfred Morris rushed for 124 yards, his fifth 100-yard outing of the season, while quarterback Robert Griffin added 72 yards rushing on five attempts.

    Of course, Griffin also threw for 163 yards and his fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon proved to be the difference in the game.

    And while the Redskins’ defense did give up 390 total yards by the end of the night, only 117 yards came in the second half when they limited the Giants to only a field goal.

    It’s going to be a fascinating final four weeks in the NFC East and these days, the ‘Skins look like the division’s most consistent team.

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