With the final whistle sounded on the 12th evening of Monday Night Football, the NFL’s regular season has just six weeks left to go before the postseason kicks off. While we can’t get to everything — like Odell Beckham’s latest off-field incident — here are four of the top Week 12 NFL storylines and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em. (ICYMI, here’s what went down last week along with a clip of Brian Robinson of the Washington Commanders and his very big hat.)
Buy: It’s Mike White’s job to lose in New York
A fourth-year NFL player who hadn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game prior to last October when he replaced an injured Zach Wilson, Mike White was a revelation in his first start in a win over the Bengals when he set an NFL record with 37 completions in his debut.
It was all downhill from there for White as he only had seven completions before leaving his second start, a loss to the Colts, and then was relegated back to the bench after throwing four interceptions in a blowout loss to the Bills.
White remained with New York through the offseason but coach Robert Saleh turned to journeyman quarterback Joe Flacco earlier this season when he needed a replacement for a once-again injured Wilson. That was not the case on Sunday when Saleh opted to start White over both Flacco and a healthy but ineffective Wilson for a home game against the Chicago Bears. The move paid off as White threw three touchdowns and helped the Jets (7-4) record a season-high 466 yards on offense on a rainy afternoon in New Jersey.
The 27-year-old, who was 22-of-28 for 315 passing yards, joined Patrick Mahomes, Austin Davis, Kurt Warner and Mark Rypien as just the fifth player in NFL history to have multiple games with 300 yards passing and three TD passes in his first four career starts. While White is no Mahomes, he should absolutely keep the starting job in New York until further notice.
The rebuilding Jets are probably a year ahead of schedule under Saleh and have an extremely young roster with talent on both sides of the ball. One position New York thought was a source of strength entering this season, quarterback, had been a weakness prior to Sunday’s game against the Bears and the Jets likely lost at least one game, if not more, because of Wilson. White probably won’t have another game like Sunday’s again this season and his ceiling is likely lower than Wilson’s, but his floor is also much higher and he gives the Jets the best shot at winning ballgames moving forward and clinching the team a playoff spot for the first time since the 2010 postseason.
“He didn’t need to be anybody but Mike White,” Saleh said after the win over the Bears. “He didn’t need to turn it into ‘The Greatest Show on Turf…He made the easy look easy and I thought he did a really good job with that.”
And the Jets’ quarterback job should be White’s to lose moving forward.
Sell: Josh Jacobs will be a Raider next season
Unsure about playing on Sunday until about two hours before kickoff due to the left calf he tweaked in a non-contact drill during Friday’s practice, Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs finished a 40-34 overtime win against the Seattle Seahawks with Raider franchise single-game records for all-purpose yards (303) and rushing (229) to go along with a pair of touchdowns. One of those scores was a walk-off for the Raiders as Jacobs rumbled 86 yards for a game-winning TD in overtime.
Now leading the league in rushing yards (1,159), Jacobs is in prime position to cash in this offseason as the Raiders declined to pick up his fifth-year option prior to the season and he has responded with his best year as a pro in the NFL. A Pro Bowler in 2020, Jacobs now has his third season with at least 1,000 rushing yards and has been the driving force behind Las Vegas (4-7) winning two straight games in what has been somewhat of a lost season for the Raiders.
“He’s a football player,” Josh McDaniels said after the OT win. “I mean, that’s probably the greatest compliment I could give him, and he comes up big. It’s not just what he does on the field; it’s how he practices, what he does in preparation, how attentive he is in the meetings, what he’s like in the walk-throughs, how much he wants to win. He wants to win. He does everything he can to help us.”
And he’ll be gone next season.
Though the Raiders not picking up the fifth-year option on Jacobs doesn’t mean he can’t return to the team after the fourth year of his rookie contract is up after this season, McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler will likely want to move on from the former first-round pick out of Alabama because he was selected by the team’s old regime. It isn’t always logical, but new coaches and general managers often have a tendency to get rid of players, even talented ones, who they did not have a hand in bringing to the team. For that same reason, expect McDaniels and Ziegler to move on from Las Vegas QB Derek Carr following this season and bring in a fresh quarterback of their choosing.
Fortunately for Jacobs, he’s played well enough this season that someone is going to take a chance on him and offer him a good-sized chunk of cash to play football next season. It just won’t be McDaniels and Ziegler in Vegas.
Buy: Darrell Taylor needs a refresher on NFL rules
In a funny play that didn’t ultimately impact the outcome of Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Raiders thanks to Jacobs’s heroics, Seattle linebacker Darrell Taylor helped block for his teammate following an interception of Carr. The only problem was Taylor, No. 52, wasn’t in the game when safety Quandre Diggs picked Carr off and started to return the ball.
Though Taylor wasn’t called for a penalty and Seattle was not flagged for having too many men on the field, video clearly shows Taylor running onto the field from the sideline to block Raiders wide receiver Mack Hollins while Diggs is returning the football. In the clip, Taylor then continues to celebrate after Diggs runs out of bounds.
Since all turnovers are reviewed, officials should have spotted what happened and hit Seattle (6-5) with a flag. They didn’t and Taylor’s miscue went unchecked. Hopefully Seattle coach Peter Carroll find some time to sit down with Taylor during the week and teach him that the franchise’s 12th-man mentality is not supposed to be taken quite so literally.
Buy: The Broncos are the NFL’s biggest disappointment
Losers of three in a row and now 3-8 on the season, the Denver Broncos are not technically the worst team in the AFC as the Houston Texans (1-9-1) own the distinction of residing in the basement of the NFL’s superior conference. However, the Texans, who traded away franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson before the season, were supposed to be bad. The Broncos, who traded for franchise quarterback Russell Wilson before the season, were supposed to be good. Instead, Denver has been anything but in what has been the most disappointing performance of the season.
Things may have bottomed out for the Broncos on Sunday as Denver lost 23-10 to a Carolina Panthers team that was forced into using Sam Darnold, who hadn’t started a game since January, as its No. 1 quarterback. “Led” by Wilson (19-for-35 for 142 yards and a touchdown), the Broncos went 4-for-14 on third down and averaged 4.2 yards per play. It was another ugly performance by Wilson and the offense and Denver nose tackle Mike Purcell let his quarterback know about it on the sideline.
Wilson’s play has been bad enough this season that it is almost a given first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett will be fired during the offseason as Denver’s front office will need to hold someone accountable for what has gone on this season with the team. There is also no easy fix in place for the Broncos as they dealt away a package centered around two first-round picks for Wilson to Seattle. The Seahawks will be using the second one of those precious picks in April’s draft and, based on the current standings, there’s a great chance it could end up as a top-five selection.
“Owed $104 million through the 2023, 2024 and 2025 seasons, (most of which is guaranteed now or will be by the end of 2024), Wilson is about as untradeable as it gets and has given no indication that his poor play is part of a trend that can be reversed. Part of the reason the Seahawks were willing to part with Wilson, who tied Denver legend John Elway for the 13th-most passing scores in NFL history when he tossed his 300th TD in Sunday’s loss, was his poor play last season. The Broncos were betting that the 33-year-old’s poor play was a fluke, but it appears Wilson being a below-average quarterback is the new rule, not the exception.
“We’ve been inconsistent,” Wilson said Sunday. “We’ve been inconsistent. We’ve had some good runs. We’ve had some good passing plays. We’ve had some good moments. Some really good moments. Then we’ve had some bad ones too. Allowed us not to be successful. We got to get the losing out of our system. Winning is a habit. Losing can be too.”
At this point, it’s the only habit Wilson has developed in Denver during what has to be the most disappointing season in the NFL.
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