Welcome back to the grind, friend! Hopefully you were able to enjoy an extended holiday break and appreciate the things you're thankful for. As for me, I'm thankful for the one reader who checked in to see if I was so devastatingly hungover that I wasn't able to send out a newsletter on Friday. (As it turns out, I was not hungover and instead just enjoying a day off. Sorry if I worried you.)
We had plenty of sports viewing options over the weekend -- from college football (RIP to my beloved Longhorns 😭) and basketball, to weird boxing and, of course, plenty of NFL. I can only hope you got to enjoy some of it, maybe with some leftovers to boot.
Of course, even if you missed it all, I'm here to bring you up to speed. Let's get to work, shall we?📰 What you need to know 1. Grading Week 12 NFL performances 🏈
We didn't exactly have the greatest Thanksgiving Day games this year, huh? It turned out to be a couple of sloppy blowouts that didn't make a compelling case to fight your post-turkey nap. Luckily, there was more action to be had yesterday. As always, we've got some Monday morning grades to hand out:
You can find the rest of yesterday's marks right here, including the Broncos getting a completely unsurprising F without any of their quarterbacks available to play. Denver completed one pass all game for a whopping 13 yards with Kendall Hinton -- a practice squad wide receiver -- filling in under center.
Somehow, an NFL game with the starting quarterback matchup of Taysom Hill vs. Kendall Hinton will not crack the Top 100 weirdest things to happen this year.2. A wild, weird weekend of boxing 🥊 Triller
Speaking of weird sports things to happen in 2020, we had that outrageous boxing PPV event headlined by Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday night. There's a lot that can go wrong when the combined age of your main event fighters is 105, and I was a bit worried that it would end up being a sad trainwreck, but it actually turned out to be a pretty successful and entertaining night.
From a competitive standpoint, there was no outright winner (Tyson and Jones Jr. fought to a split draw) but both legends looked impressive for their age. More importantly, they secured a pretty nice bag and didn't get badly hurt in the process. Oh, and you bet we are going to talk about YouTube star Jake Paul embarrassing former NBA star Nate Robinson in the undercard fight.
Let's get some takeaways from the night, courtesy of our Brian Campbell:
You can check out a few more takeaways from Campbell here.
It's pretty wild to think that a couple of boxers on the wrong side of 50 went toe-to-toe for eight rounds and still probably woke up feeling better than Robinson on Sunday morning. I think Nate's probably going to want to spend a little bit more time training. He may also want to try fighting someone more his size next time ... if there is a next time. (If not, I certainly can't blame him.) Also, I hope he didn't go on Twitter yesterday.3. The Giants are on track to win the NFC East 🏈 USATSI
As much as it pains me to say it, I think we should talk about the NFC East. I'd imagine that I'm not hurting anyone's feelings by saying this: the division is absolutely trash and it's borderline criminal that one of those teams is going to make the playoffs.
But that's the way things work in the NFL, and one of those crappy teams is going to win that crappy division. Right now, it's looking like the Giants are heading toward that honor. Our Jonathan Jones believes they'll be able to get to six wins, which should be enough.
None of what Jones says there is wrong, but the Giants winning the division certainly isn't a lock right now ... especially if the hamstring injury that Daniel Jones suffered in yesterday's win is as bad as some reports are indicating. And while they've won three straight games, they're also about to play four straight games against a team with a winning record. They haven't beaten a team with a winning record yet this season.
So, are you as convinced as our Jonathan Jones? Or do you think that another one of those teams is going to stumble backwards into the playoffs? And I guess this should probably be asked, too: Is it even worth caring about, considering the postseason demolition that awaits the lucky winner?4. Latest NFL firings: Lions begin to clean house, Jags let go of GM 🏈
We're another week deeper into this NFL season and the league's unemployment line is steadily growing in numbers. If you thought that the weird circumstances surrounding this season would afford some coaches and execs a little extra leash from the people signing their checks ... well, some of those leashes have still managed to reach their end.
We had a couple of big firings recently, so let's recap:
It's tough to say that any of these firings are totally surprising or unwarranted, though I'm confused about whether Jacksonville actually thought they'd be better at this point. Either way, it appears that hot seats still burns during a pandemic season.
It feels fair to wonder what it's gonna take to see the Bears add a few names to the unemployment list, especially after that embarrassing performance they put up last night.📝 Odds & Ends Getty Images 📺 What to watch today
🏈 Seahawks vs. Eagles, 8:15 p.m. | PHI +6.5 | TV: ESPN📝 Top scores from last night
🏈 Patriots 20, Cardinals 17
New England only put up 179 yards on offense (Cam Newton had just 84 passing yards) but Nick Folk kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired. 💵 Winning wagers: Patriots +100, Under (50.5)
🏈 Packers 41, Bears 25
Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns as he improved to 20-5 against the Bears in his career. 💵 Winning wagers: GB -7.5, Over (44.5)
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On the 12th Sunday of the 2020 NFL regular season, hype machines malfunctioned all over the country.
The Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams saw hot streaks come to an end, the Arizona Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders lost plenty of good vibes with duds of their own, and the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns received wake-up calls in unimpressive victories.
Here's a breakdown of six teams that were generating buzz by the gallon before suffering letdowns in Week 12.
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Prior to Sunday's startling and costly 45-26 home loss to the division rival Tennessee Titans, the Colts had been defeated just once since the middle of October. They won four of five games during that stretch, which was capped with an exciting overtime victory over the contending Green Bay Packers in Week 11.
But in their most important game thus far this season, the unreliable Colts laid an egg against Tennessee. The league's fifth-ranked defense in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average at Football Outsiders) surrendered 28 first downs, 6.6 yards per play and a season-worst 45 points in defeat.
That unit couldn't stop star Titans running back Derrick Henry, while the unbalanced offense failed to consistently sustain drives.
But this wasn't really on the Philip Rivers-led offense. Not having defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry was hugely problematic in a matchup with Henry. They need those guys back as soon as possible, and they have to pray left tackle Anthony Castonzo's knee injury isn't going to cost him too much time. But even if they get those key players back soon, it will be tough for Indy (7-4) to leap back ahead of Tennessee (8-3) in the AFC South.
The Colts still have two games against the feisty Houston Texans and a pair of road matchups with the contending Raiders and unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers, and they'll now need help from those who play Tennessee down the stretch.
2 of 6Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
Like the Colts, the formerly surging Rams also had just one L on their schedule since the middle of October before suffering a crushing upset loss to a division rival in Week 12. But at least Indy fell to a Super Bowl contender, whereas L.A.'s first defeat since Nov. 1 came at the hands of a severely depleted San Francisco 49ers team.
Without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle and defensive linemen Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford, the 49ers (5-6) found a way to beat the Rams 23-20 on the road Sunday. Rams quarterback Jared Goff struggled mightily with zero touchdown passes, two interceptions and a QBR of 10.1, and Los Angeles turned the ball over four times.
"We just have to take better care of the football," head coach Sean McVay said of a team that has now turned it over eight times in its last two losses. "It's as simple as that."
Goff was 1-of-6 with an interception on deep passing attempts as the Rams (7-4) lost all of the momentum they gained with back-to-back victories over the contending Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Weeks 10 and 11. Now they've at least temporarily fallen behind the Seattle Seahawks in the tight NFC West, which gives them no margin for error ahead of a Week 13 road meeting with the Cards.
The only easy out remaining on L.A.'s schedule comes in the form of a Week 15 home game with the winless New York Jets. It's possible they fell into a trap Sunday, and that loss could be a killer when it's all said and done.
3 of 6Elise Amendola/Associated Press
The silver lining for the Rams on Sunday was that the division rival Cardinals also delivered a dud performance in an upset road loss to the New England Patriots.
The 20-17 defeat dropped Arizona to 6-5, which has to be crushing considering how high the team was flying after a last-second Week 10 victory over the Bills. Since then, they acceptably dropped a road game on short rest in Seattle before less-acceptably falling short on extra rest in Foxborough.
The Patriots haven't been an easy out at Gillette Stadium since...ever, but the Pats are no longer an elite team on either side of the ball, and they looked just about toast in a Week 11 loss to the Houston Texans.
So what the hell happened on Sunday? Arizona blew a double-digit-point first-half lead and just couldn't produce on offense, wasting a strong defensive effort against Cam Newton (who completed just nine passes) and the New England offense (which averaged just 3.5 yards per play).
Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray compiled just 201 combined passing and rushing yards and completed only one deep pass all day. Throw in some awful penalties and a crucial missed field goal from Zane Gonzalez late in the fourth quarter, and it was a rough day at the office all around.
It was an extremely ugly season-saving win for the Pats and a loss that could doom the Cards if Seattle takes care of business in a Monday night matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cards were all the rage when they won three in a row in October and then beat Buffalo on the Hail Murray in November. But the remaining schedule is pretty tough, and Arizona will have to fight to extend its season deep into January.
4 of 6Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
The Raiders might have earned a moral victory with a strong performance in defeat last week against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, but that encouraging showing became a lot less meaningful when Las Vegas was absolutely hammered by a last-place Atlanta Falcons team on Sunday.
Like, annihilated. The 43-6 margin made it the most lopsided game of the 2020 NFL season to date.
It was actually the third one-sided loss of Las Vegas' season, but a three-game November winning streak followed by a second toe-to-toe matchup with the juggernaut Chiefs had a lot of folks talking playoffs with regard to a Raiders team that hasn't won a postseason game since 2002.
But now it's fair to ask if the Raiders can recover from such an embarrassing defeat. They were 6-4 entering this game, but that was also the case when they were spanked 34-3 by the Jets in Week 12 last season, and they won just a single game the rest of the year.
The good news is they get the Jets again in Week 13 and New York is winless, but the next three games beyond that are tougher, and nothing is guaranteed for a Vegas team that gained just 13 first downs and drew 141 yards worth of penalties in Atlanta.
The Raiders quite simply make too many mistakes. It wouldn't be surprising if they were to again miss the playoffs entirely.
5 of 6Adrian Kraus/Associated Press
Yes, the Buffalo Bills walked away with a 27-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, but against a half-competent opponent that easily could have been a loss. Buffalo ridiculously turned the ball over on three consecutive second-half possessions while trying to protect a shrinking lead, but the Bills were bailed out by the fact the Chargers are a terribly coached team that is also mistake-prone.
At the very least, that reality will hopefully serve as a wake-up call for a Buffalo team that was at home following a bye week that was preceded by a tough loss in Arizona. The Bills have lost just one game since the start of Week 7, but the mistakes are adding up, the Miami Dolphins aren't far behind in the AFC East and the Chiefs and Steelers are pulling away from the Bills in the race for the top seed in the conference.
"Yeah, we can be better, especially in the fourth quarter," Bills quarterback Josh Allen told reporters. "But I don't want to make a mountain of a molehill. Obviously, we've got a lot of work to do, but 8-3 is pretty good."
That's fair, but the Bills still have a limited margin for error with road games against the 49ers and Patriots and difficult home matchups with the Steelers and Dolphins on the remaining sked. It won't be easy for the team to align itself well for its first playoff win of the 21st century.
The Bills nearly gave this game away, but the Chargers wouldn't accept any gifts. The 49ers, Steelers, Patriots and Dolphins are unlikely to be as forgiving.
6 of 6Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press
Meanwhile, against an even worse opponent, the Browns (8-3) cut it even closer than the Bills on Sunday, defeating the 1-10 Jacksonville Jaguars by a slim 27-25 margin in Florida.
The Cleveland offense was clicking most of the day. But the Browns settled for a field goal or less on three drives in which they got inside the Jacksonville 25-yard line, and the short-handed defense made Mike Glennon look far too competent as the Jags often controlled the game on offense while sticking around for all four quarters.
A win is indeed a win, but that early-season hype surrounding Cleveland still hasn't fully returned, and a tight game against Jacksonville won't help much there. They will simply have to be better next week in Tennessee, the following week against Baltimore and in Week 17 against the first-place Steelers.
Otherwise, despite their first non-losing season since 2007, they could easily wind up outside of the playoffs yet again.
The Seattle Seahawks are locked in a battle with the Los Angeles Rams for supremacy in the NFC West and need a victory on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles to keep pace. The Eagles are also in a battle for the NFC East despite a 3-6-1 record. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has never lost to the Eagles, going 5-0 in his career, but should he be among your NFL DFS picks for Monday Night Football?
Which other players should you choose from Seahawks vs Eagles DFS player pool? Before locking down any Week 12 Monday Night Football DFS picks on sites like DraftKings and FanDuel, be sure to check out the NFL DFS strategy, advice and projections from SportsLine daily Fantasy expert Mike McClure, a DFS pro who has won almost $2 million.
McClure crushed his NFL DFS picks in 2019, finishing as high as the top 1 percent of tournaments on DraftKings and returning as much as 40x return in some higher-stakes tournaments. He then continued his roll in the postseason, cashing on every single lineup he posted for the divisional round. Anyone who followed him saw some huge returns.
In Week 11, McClure had Saints quarterback Taysom Hill in his player pool for both FanDuel and DraftKings: The result: Hill passed for 233 yards and rushed for 51 yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL start at QB, returning over 25 Fantasy points on both sites. Anybody who had him in their lineups was well on the way to a profitable day.
Now, McClure has turned his attention to Monday Night Football and locked in his top daily Fantasy football picks. You can only see them by heading to SportsLine.Top NFL DFS picks for Seahawks vs. Eagles
One of McClure's top NFL DFS picks for Monday Night Football in Week 12 is Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The North Dakota State product has passed for 2,326 yards and 14 touchdowns with 14 interceptions this season. Wentz threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns in last week's loss to the Browns.
Wentz faces the Seahawks on Monday Night Football, a defensive that gives up an league-worst 434.9 yards per game, is ranked dead-last in passing yards allowed (343.7) and is 28th in points allowed (28.7).
Part of McClure's optimal NFL DFS strategy also includes rostering Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Along with DK Metcalf, Lockett is a prime downfield target for Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Lockett enters Week 12 with 67 receptions for 748 yards and eight touchdowns.
Lockett is five games removed from his monster 15-catch, 200-yard, three-TD outburst against the Cardinals, but he found the end zone last week in a rematch against Arizona.
The 3-6-1 Eagles are next, a team that is sixth in the NFL against the pass in allowing just 209.3 air yards per game. But Lockett and the Seahawks boast the most potent pass offense in the game, making him one of the prime Monday Night Football DFS picks.How to set NFL DFS lineups for Seahawks vs. Eagles
McClure is also targeting a player who could go off for massive numbers on Monday night because of a dream matchup. This pick could be the difference between winning your tournaments and cash games or going home with nothing. You can only see who it is here.
So who is DFS pro Mike McClure putting in his optimal NFL DFS lineups for Monday Night Football? Visit SportsLine now to see optimal NFL DFS picks, rankings, advice, and stacks, all from a professional DFS player who has almost $2 million in career winnings, and find out.