The 32 things we learned from Week 13 of the 2019 NFL season:
1. Congratulations to the Saints, who became the first team to clinch a playoff berth by beating Atlanta on Thanksgiving night to sew up the NFC South for the third consecutive year.
2. Condolences to the Dolphins, Lions, Cardinals, Falcons and Giants, who all joined the Bengals as teams officially eliminated from postseason consideration.
3. However … hearty congratulations to those Bengals and rookie coach Zac Taylor after they finally broke into the win column after a franchise-worst 0-11 start while enduring a club record 13-game losing streak.
3a. And congrats to reinstalled Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton, who threw his 198th career TD pass Sunday, allowing him to break a tie with Ken Anderson for the franchise’s all-time mark.
4. Pay homage to the epic 2011 draft class before it’s gone. Cam Newton, Von Miller, Julio Jones, J.J. Watt and A.J. Green are all currently sidelined with injuries.
5. With Lions rookie David Blough and Broncos rookie Drew Lock making their NFL debuts, the league has now seen 53 starting quarterbacks in 2019. If early returns are accurate, Lock and Blough both look like they might stick around for a while.
6. The AFC playoff picture began to crystallize — it would seem anyway — with the Browns, Colts and Raiders all losing. It (currently) appears the Texans, Titans and Steelers will be battling for the conference’s final two slots.
6a. Meanwhile, the NFC field looked increasingly settled entering Week 13. But the Rams showed signs of a resurrection Sunday by shellacking Arizona and will now be rooting for the rival Seahawks on Monday night. A Seattle win would pull L.A. within a game of Minnesota for the conference’s second wild card.
7. The Titans never beat an Andrew Luck-led Colts team and last defeated a Peyton Manning-led Colts team in 2008. Good thing Jacoby Brissett was Indianapolis’ starter Sunday given he’s now lost to Tennessee three times in four starts.
8. Meanwhile, the Browns haven’t beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh since 2003 nor swept them since 1988 … and that remains the case. After getting embarrassed in Cleveland two weeks ago, the Steelers served up sweet revenge and seemed to cripple the Browns’ belated playoff push.
8a. The Browns haven’t won four consecutive games in a decade.
9. QB Devlin “Duck” Hodges definitely isn’t “killing” the Steelers, having now won both of his starts — the first undrafted rookie to do so since Ed Rubbert, a scab starter for the 1987 Redskins, and only the second since the 1970 merger.
10. New England South > New England.
10a. Tom Brady’s consternation is clearly growing as are concerns surrounding the suddenly vulnerable Patriots, beaten Sunday night by the Texans for only the second time. The reigning champs have now lost control of the AFC’s top seed, and a defense that once looked historically good may now be struggling to cover for a middling-at-best offense … and that could be bad news with Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City next on docket.
11. If Sunday’s 49ers-Ravens game was a Super Bowl LIV preview — we’ll reach for some leftovers, please. San Francisco showed it has the defense and aggressive coaching from Kyle Shanahan to potentially counter Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson-led offense. The Ravens reminded us they have the best kicker in the business and enough defense to supplement Jackson on days he’s not filling up the box score.
11a. Justin Tucker’s 49-yard FG at the gun gave Baltimore a 20-17 verdict in sub-optimal weather. The three-time all-pro has made 38 consecutive fourth-quarter field goals.
11b. Jackson ran for 101 yards, the first time a quarterback has posted four 100-yard rushing games in a single season. Jackson now has 977 yards with his legs and needs just 63 more to break Michael Vick’s single-season record for the position.
11c. But the 49ers didn’t make it easy, forcing the first Ravens punt when Jackson was in the game since Week 9, a span of 21 consecutive drives.
11d. San Francisco also became the first team this season to score on its opening drive against Baltimore … and did so with gusto, Jimmy Garoppolo’s 33-yard TD to rookie Deebo Samuel on fourth-and-2 quite the beauty.
11e. The Ravens’ 49 touchdowns are already their most in a single season … with four games left to play.
12. If the Seahawks win Monday, they will move into position as the NFC’s second seed, elevating the Saints into the top spot while dropping the 49ers to fifth.
13. Beware Thanksgiving guests. All three home teams lost on Turkey Day.
14. Props to the Dolphins, who have won three of five after an unsightly 0-7 start. Their upset of the Eagles on Sunday included perhaps the special teams play of the year, P Matt Haack throwing K Jason Sanders a nifty 1-yard TD pass on one of the better fake field goals you’ll ever see.
14a. Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown in 42 years.
15. Miami QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has faced the Eagles seven times, each in a different uniform. He’s the now the first player in the NFL’s 100 seasons to throw a touchdown pass against the same opponent in seven games while playing for a different team in each.
15a. Fitzpatrick’s record against Philadelphia improved to 3-3-1.
16. The magic of television. Fox’s field “overlay” amid the snowy conditions at MetLife Stadium made the viewing experience of Packers-Giants far superior given the hash marks and yard lines were otherwise invisible for large stretches of the game.
17. Maybe a little defensive player of the year love for New Orleans DE Cam Jordan, whose four sacks on Thanksgiving give him a career-best 13½ while anchoring one of the league’s more underappreciated units?
17a. Maybe a little Swiss Army knife of the year love for Saints third-string “QB” Taysom Hill, the first quarterback to rush for a TD and catch a TD pass in the same game in 36 years? Hill, who also deflected a punt against Atlanta, has scored five touchdowns this season but has yet to toss his first NFL TD pass.
18. Based on their coaching and on-field performance on Thanksgiving, you could tell the Cowboys are a tightly wound and desperate team. Fortunately for them, the Eagles are a battered and disintegrating one, so Dallas remains atop the NFC East standings … and will do so through the conclusion of Week 14 as well.
18a. But assuming the Cowboys want to be relevant in January if they wind up backing into the division crown, maybe they should de-emphasize their top-ranked passing attack and feed Ezekiel Elliott more. Zeke has now failed to crack the century mark on the ground in four consecutive games, the first time that’s happened since he was at Ohio State.
18b. Elliott has more than 25 touches in just two games this year.
18c. The Cowboys’ next win against a team with a winning record will be its first this season.
19. But let’s give Buffalo (overdue) credit. Have they played the toughest schedule? No. Do they have a signature win? If you’re not impressed by a win at JerryWorld against the spiraling Cowboys, then no. But nine wins are still nine wins, second-year QB Josh Allen continues to trend in the right direction, and this is clearly a club that could find itself playing in the AFC’s divisional weekend against the Patriots or Ravens, assuming those clubs maintain their current courses.
19a. The last time Buffalo started 9-3 was 1996, Jim Kelly’s final season.
19b. The Bills also feature one of the league’s most underrated receivers in John “Smokey” Brown, who’s got an excellent chance to be Buffalo’s first to surpass 1,200 yards since Lee Evans in 2006; became the first wideout in franchise history to throw a TD pass after connecting with Devin Singletary; and threw the block that put Allen into the end zone against Dallas. Please, let’s put Smokey into the Pro Bowl.
19c. And the Bills also have vastly underrated head coach Sean McDermott, who’s not only galvanized this locker room in his two-plus seasons but is also emerging as one of the NFL’s top game managers.
20. The Lions have held a lead in every game this season.
20a. The Lions are 3-8-1.
21. The Chargers haven’t lost a game by more than seven points this season.
21a. The Chargers have lost eight games (including one at Detroit).
21b. Our preseason Super Bowl pick, we forgot the “Chargers gonna Charger” … right, Casey Hayward? Even Al Riveron couldn’t screw this call up …
22. Credit to the Dolphins and DeVante Parker. The wideout had never lived up to his 2015 first-round billing, but he and the team agreed to an incentive-laden, two-year deal before the season in lieu of the $9.4 million he would have made on his fifth-year option — money he hadn’t earned. But now Parker seems to be reaching his potential, presently on track for his first 1,000-yard campaign after a 159-yard, two-TD effort in Sunday’s win. It was the first multi-TD game of Parker’s career.
23. Stop the presses. Saints WR Michael Thomas dropped a pass, ending a streak of 198 receptions without a drop, per ESPN Stats & Info.
24. So much for Oakland being legit. The Raiders have dropped to 6-6, losing their last two games by a collective 74-12 score.
25. The Rams’ 549 yards in Arizona were 7 shy of their most gained during the Sean McVay era.
26. No Buccaneer has ever led the league in sacks. Shaquil Barrett currently owns an NFL-best 14½, one more than Jordan.
27. If you need a successfully executed onside kick, Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo may be your guy after he miraculously pulled off three Thursday (two that actually counted).
27a. If you need a deadeye kicker … the jury is still out on Koo, who also missed a field goal and PAT in the Falcons’ loss.
28. Shoutout to Redskins rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who successfully executed his first game-ending kneeldown in the NFL.
28a. Much bigger shoutout to a Washington ground game, spearheaded by Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson, that racked up 248 yards and three TDs — including the first two rushing scores of Guice’s career. The ‘Skins last ran for that many yards in 2012, when rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris led the charge.
29. Giants rookie QB Daniel Jones has now committed 21 turnovers in 11 games. But, uh, don’t worry, Big Blue fans … Eli Manning exceeded 21 giveaways in four separate seasons.
29a. Also, Jones’ 2,374 passing yards represent a new record among Giants rookies.
30. The Jets had 10 more penalties — which is to say 10 — than red-zone trips Sunday while becoming the first team to lose to Cincinnati in 2019.
30a. The Jets were also the first time to lose to Miami in 2019.
30b. Gang Green is apparently much better against fringe playoff teams like Dallas and Oakland, so maybe they’ll get to enjoy another (alleged) post-game party in Week 16 against Pittsburgh.
31. Hey, @BortlesFacts, the Rams are undefeated when Blake Bortles completes a pass for them. (He connected for his first of 2019 Sunday against Arizona.)
32. Dearest mother — Oh, the Humanity! Word arrives that the enemy once again broke through the lines, foiling our trusted sniper, Command Sergeant Major Vinatieri, repeatedly. I fear he is fading. I fear the weary men are fading amid rumors that onslaughts by the Texians and Titanic Men of Tennessee have become nearly insurmountable. The siren song of battle has never beckoned me so. — Andrew
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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