The Top NFL Storylines of Week 12: Jake Elliot, David Tepper and Aaron Rodgers

Plus, get ready for the NFL making bad games a new Thanksgiving tradition

November 28, 2023 5:43 am
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 26: Jake Elliott #4 of the Philadelphia Eagles lines up before a field goal during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field on November 26, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 26: Jake Elliott #4 of the Philadelphia Eagles lines up before a field goal during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field on November 26, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
Kevin Sabitus/Getty

With the NFL season’s 12th installment of Monday Night Football in the books and another slate of games over and done, Week 12 is complete and more than two-thirds of the season is in the rearview. While we can’t get to everything — like Tom Brady bemoaning the level of “mediocrity” in pro football today — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from the NFL’s 12th week. (Here’s a look back at Week 11.)

If the Eagles win the Super Bowl, remember Jake Elliott

Trailing by three points with 34 seconds left on the clock, Houston kicker Matt Ammendola lined up for a 58-yard field goal attempt that could have sent the battle for first place in the AFC South between the Jaguars and Texans into overtime. Ammendola’s kick was right down Main Street and looked it would make it through the uprights, but it clanged off the crossbar and allowed Jacksonville to celebrate a 24-21 victory on Sunday.

“I thought the kick was going in,” Ammendola, 26, said. “I was a little bit shocked because I never come up short. You have to hit that reset button and get back to work. It happens but you’ve just got to stay positive throughout it and just got to execute.”

When Philly kicker Jake Elliot got the opportunity to execute hours later against the Bills, he killed it for the Eagles.

With the wind swirling and precipitation falling from the sky, Elliott lined up for a 59-yard field goal with the Eagles trailing by three points with 20 seconds remaining on the clock in front of a raucous Philadelphia crowd. Elliot, who is now 4-for-4 on kicks from 58+ yards in his career and is 8-for-8 with under two minutes on the clock or in overtime to tie the game or give Philly a lead, nailed it.

The Eagles didn’t need Elliot to win the game in overtime as Jalen Hurts was able to lead a scoring drive and cap it off with his fifth touchdown of the day after the Bills took a three-point lead to open the extra frame. As he has been for much of the year, Hurts was great, but he never would have gotten the chance to shine in overtime had it not been for Elliot’s big boot in the fourth quarter.

“Given the conditions, that was probably the toughest one I have had to hit,” Elliott said. “Those are situations I have always thrived in, going back to high school and through college. I feel like I have been put in those situations quite a bit. I feel an extra boost of confidence.”

If the Eagles are able to make it back to the Super Bowl and win it this time around, remember that confidence. The type of kick that Elliot made on Sunday to push the Eagles to a league-best 10-1 on the season is the kind of play that leaves a mark — in a good way. It’s the sort of play a team that has that special “it” factor is able to make and the sort of moment that makes it into the highlight reel for a Super Bowl winner’s season after they’ve hoisted the Lombardi.

Haason Reddick and the Eagles Are Ready to Run It Back
Reddick led Philadelphia’s top-ranked defense with 16 sacks last season

David Tepper is giving off serious Daniel Snyder vibes

Following reports that he loudly used a profanity while storming out of the locker room following Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper announced the firing of Frank Reich on Monday morning just 11 games into his tenure with the franchise. Reich, who was fired in the middle of the season last year by the Indianapolis Colts and was off to an NFL-worst 1-10 start in Carolina, was quickly followed out the door by assistant head coach Duce Staley and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown as Carolina interim head coach Chris Tabor begun adjusting his staff heading into Week 13.

“I met with coach Reich this morning and informed him that he will not continue as head coach of the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said in a statement. “I want to thank Frank for his dedication and service and we wish him well. Effective immediately, special teams coordinator Chris Tabor will serve as our interim head coach. Senior assistant Jim Caldwell will be a special advisor to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, who will take over play calling duties.”

Tabor will almost certainly not retain his position next season regardless of how the Panthers fare down the stretch, which means the person who Tepper brings in to coach Carolina next season will be the seventh full-time or interim head coach to serve under him since he bought the team from Jerry Richardson in 2018 for $2.275 billion.

With Tepper in charge, the Panthers have never made the playoffs or even had a winning season, and it’s starting to feel like the 66-year-old billionaire hedge fund manager has assumed the role former Washington owner Daniel Snyder just vacated as the worst owner in the NFL and potentially even all of American sports.

One of the reasons Reich, a former NFL quarterback who actually threw the first touchdown pass in Carolina history, was hired was to help aid the development of Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick the team traded four draft picks (including their first-rounder this season) and top wide receiver D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears to acquire this past offseason. It was a questionable move that looks worse by the day given Carolina’s putrid record and how well No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud has performed for the Texans, but it was also a decision Tepper had to have signed off on given the amount of assets that were involved.

Instead of letting the season play out and hoping Young can finish out his rookie campaign on a high note, Tepper has shaken up his team, again, and ensured that his franchise quarterback will play for, at minimum, three head coaches in his first two seasons in the NFL. Given Tepper’s affinity for in-season firings, it might be more than that.

The NFL is fine with bad Thanksgiving games as a tradition

Thursday proved to be a day filled with turkeys and touchdowns as the six teams that played on Thanksgiving combined to score 150 points combined during their trio of games. None of the games were decided by fewer than seven points — the closest was Green Bay’s 29-22 upset of the Detroit Lions — and the Cowboys had the largest margin of victory on the day with their 45-10 dismantling of the Washington Commanders.

Even for Dallas fans, that non-competitive slog of a game should have been tough to watch, but it obviously wasn’t as the Cowboys were able to sell every seat in AT&T Stadium as well as standing-room-only tickets that fans rushed in to buy on Thursday morning as if it was already Black Friday.

And it wasn’t just Dallas fans who were ready, willing and able to ingest a full heaping of bad football on Thanksgiving as Commanders-Cowboys was able to attract more than 41.4 million viewers on CBS, making a matchup that was decided by five touchdowns the third-most-watched regular-season game in NFL history and the the most-watched telecast of any kind since Super Bowl LVII in February.

Some of the viewers of the telecast, which trailed only last Thanksgiving’s 28-20 win by Dallas over the New York Giants (42 million viewers) and a Giants-San Francisco 49ers matchup that drew 41.6 million viewers in 1990, may have tuned in to see Dolly Parton perform at halftime and some may have just left it on as they slept off a tryptophan hangover, but it appears there is also an insatiable appetite for NFL football even it is largely unwatchable.

That being the case, don’t expect the NFL to attempt to do anything to improve the product or make sure that its Thanksgiving games are competitive or entertaining. For the NFL, the combination of family, food and football adds up to a field of dreams for the league: if you air it, America will watch.

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t owe the Jets his return

In his weekly column, Peter King reported Aaron Rodgers, who is about to turn 40, will almost certainly return to the field to play this season if he is medically cleared to do so even if the Jets, who have lost four in a row to fall to 4-7 and are currently only ahead of the Patriots (2-9) in the AFC, are eliminated from playoff contention.

King cites multiple reasons why he believes Rodgers will return to play meaningless games, with one of them being that the one-time Super Bowl champs has “pangs about how much the Jets bent their organization, team and locker room to his desires when the Packers traded him to New York.” Though King doesn’t get into specifics, the Jets ostensibly gave into Rodgers by hiring ex-Packers coach Nathaniel Hackett as New York’s offensive coordinator and then brought in former Green Bay players Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Tim Boyle. With Rodgers out and Zach Wilson benched, Boyle is now starting at quarterback for the Jets out of necessity, so he’s at least filling a role, but Lazard and Cobb have been largely useless in New York.

“He believes in the ethos of the locker room and knows other players play with pain and sometimes risk further injury by playing,” King wrote of Rodgers. “If he can be sure he is reasonably recovered, without a significant risk of re-tearing the Achilles, I think he’d strongly consider playing, whatever the Jets’ record is. I think he may feel a personal need to come back to a team that remade itself for him and is struggling incredibly with terrible quarterback play since he was lost in the first game of the season.”

While it is certainly somewhat admirable Rodgers feels indebted to the Jets and wants to play for the team no matter the team’s playoff odds, he doesn’t owe the team a thing. If New York was in better position to make the playoffs, that might not be the case, but the fact is the Jets have themselves, not Rodgers, to blame for the way this season has gone as the organization’s insistence on playing Wilson despite his lack of ability to play quarterback is why the team is 4-7.

Obviously, the injury to Rodgers is a huge reason why the Jets have struggled this season, but they would almost certainly be better than 4-7 if they had moved away from Wilson in Week 4 or 5 instead of waiting until the middle of Week 11 when the season was already slipping away. Had the Jets made the change sooner, Rodgers may have been able ride in like a white knight and help New York squeak into the postseason for the first time in more than a decade. But after Rodgers got hurt, the team compounded the injury by insisting on sticking with Wilson and hurting themselves while killing their playoff chances. It’s not on Rodgers to attempt to bring them back to life if they’re already dead.

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