Three members of the Patriots offense celebrate their dominant performance on Thursday
Thanksgiving week allowed us a glimpse of an NFL playoff that is becoming clearer by the week.
As of now, the road to the NFC Championship game goes through Atlanta, and the road to the AFC Championship game will most likely be decided next Monday night in Foxborough, when the Jets and Patriots do battle with first place on the line.
But Week 12 was also defined by gutsy performances by people like Deion Branch, Jay Cutler and the San Francisco 49er running game.
It was also defined by a butterfingers receiver who cost his lowly team a huge upset, and an ugly fight in which there were no winners.
We'll begin by giving praise to two wide receivers that allowed the Patriots to escape Detroit with a victory.
5 Things that Impressed Me about Week 12
1. Deion Branch & Wes Welker
I'd be lying if I said that the thought of a letdown by the Patriots on Thursday didn't cross my mind.
After all, they did lose to Cleveland, and were on the brink of losing against Indianapolis.
So when the Patriots fell behind 17-10 at the half, I wondered who would step up.
As it turned out, the Patriots top two pass-catchers more than fit the bill.
With two touchdowns each, Branch and Welker carved up the porous Detroit secondary and helped turn the game into a blowout.
Not to be overlooked is the perfect passer rating turned in by Tom Brady, and the third-quarter interception by Devin McCourty that was the catalyst for swinging the momentum the Patriots' way.
It is unlikely that Branch and Welker will destroy Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie next week, but at least they can take pride in keeping their team atop its division.
2. Jay Cutler
Even though the Bears quarterback completed only 14 passes on Sunday, he made them count.
Four of the passes went for touchdowns, and he did not turn the ball over.
Although he was sacked four times, Cutler refused to let them get the best of him, and avoided the kinds of silly mistakes he's prone to make when frustrated.
Now, with the Green Bay's loss to Atlanta, The Bears have first place to themselves in the NFC North.
Somewhere, the Superfans are smiling.
3. The Chargers Defense
It boggles my mind that Ron Rivera has been interviewed six times for an NFL head coaching job and has not yet found one.
After Sunday night, someone may just call him after the season.
Rivera's defense stymied the Colts, intercepting Peyton Manning four times, and returning two of them four scores.
The first interception was a thing of beauty, because San Diego linebacker Kevin Burnett confused Manning by showing blitz, and then falling back into coverage.
The result was a pick-six, and the tone of the game was set from there.
4. Dwayne Bowe
The Chiefs' elite deep threat caught three more touchdown passes on Sunday, giving him 14 for the year.
While it is a stretch to suggest that he'll be able to break Randy Moss's all-time record of 23 touchdown catches in a season with only five games remaining, I wouldn't be surprised if he comes close to it.
5. The 49ers' running game
Before last night, Bryant Westbrook had only had 10 carries the entire season.
Last night, he had 23 for 136 yards and a score.
But kudos are also in order for rookie Anthony Dixon, who rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown of his own.
But most importantly, both of these guys were able to pick up the slack when Frank Gore tragically broke his hip after rushing for 52 yards in the first quarter.
While you can make the argument that the Arizona front four was pathetic last night, that still doesn't diminish the fact that the 49ers were able to keep the pressure on when their workhorse went down.
5 Things That Depressed Me About Week 12
1. Stevie Johnson
Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn't have thrown the ball any better.
And yet, had Steve Johnson caught the ball he would not only have led the Bills to a major upset of the Steelers, but he probably would got scores of thanks from Ravens fans as well.
Instead, the pass went through his hands, and Pittsburgh was able to escape with the win.
But here's what gets me: Johnson later took to Twitter and blamed not himself but God for making him drop the pass.
He talked about praising the almighty all day, everyday, and then expressed his anger by asking the Lord, "AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!!"
While I'll resist the temptation to make the obvious joke based on the connotation in the quote, I will suggest to Mr. Johnson that if he really thinks that God is responsible for his failures, he should find another God.
Hey, it's a free country.
2. Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson
Or as I'd like to refer to them, dumb and dumber.
Finnegan has a reputation as a dirty player in the NFL, and likely shoved Johnson's face mask into him to provoke him.
However, Johnson should have ignored him, the outcome was at hand, the Texans were winning, and Finnegan was likely going to get penalized anyway.
Instead, Johnson snapped and landed two right-handed punches to Finnegan's cranium after both men had ripped each others heads off.
And all that transpired was a fine?
In a league that wants to curb unnecessary violence like fighting and hits that cause concussions, a simple fine does not send the message because most star players are millionaires.
It also doesn't send a stern message when Gary Kubiak gave Johnson the game ball for exhibiting toughness.
Fighting was a huge problem in the NBA in the 1970s, and they cracked down on it by threatening suspensions.
I think the NFL should do the same.
3. Josh McDaniels
Remember when Josh McDaniels was the whiz kid coach who started his career 6-0?
Those days are gone.
It is disappointing that McDaniel's didn't seem to learn anything from his days with the Patriots regarding videotaping other teams.
While this instance was only a one-shot deal, unlike the Patriots, he shouldn't have allowed any of his assistants to engage in such practices.
What's more is that the Broncos have only won five out of their last 21 games.
Although owner Pat Bowlen says McDaniels's job is safe for now, I tend to think that he'll re-evaluate the state of his team at the end of the season.
If McDaniels is fired, it will culminate in a total fall from grace compared to where he was just three years ago.
4. Alphonso Smith
After getting burned twice by Deion Branch leading to long touchdown passes, I hope the Lions cornerback's Thanksgiving dinner wasn't served cold.
It's pretty sad that he was benched because of his play too.
5. Matt Wilhelm
Nothing kills momentum like a facemask penalty.
Just ask this Packer special teams player, whose ill-timed penalty helped cost the Packers both a key win in Atlanta and first place in their division.
1. I don't know why they call it Black Friday. It should be called Red Friday, because most people are probably in debt with all the purchases they make.
2. I have nothing against Nevada, but I really wanted to see Boise State get a chance against the big boys.
3. Say what you want about Cam Newton, the guy sure knows how to make a game exciting.
4. I've heard through the grapevine that New York is slowly turning against Derek Jeter.
5. After watching Bob Costas' interview with him Saturday night, I envy the city of Milwaukee for having Bob Uecker as it's baseball voice. The man is a national treasure.
6. Chris Ballard's article on University of California rower Jill Costello in this week's Sports Illustrated broke my heart.
7. RIP Leslie Nielsen, surely you were a great comedic actor.
8. Speaking of Leslie Nielsen, there was a great email read on the "Toucher and Rich" show on Boston's WBZ-FM yesterday.
You took the wrong member of the Naked Gun cast.
9. This is my 100th article for this website. I must really love doing this or I have no life. Thanks for your support and here's to 100 more.