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Week 12 NFL recap: Bill Belichick loses again, Frank Reich gets a vacation

We take a look at some of the comings and goings in the NFL for Week 12.

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts during the first half of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 29, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL season is moving along at break-neck speed, with Week 12 all but over as we wait for the Vikings to take on the Bears on Monday Night Football. We have six more weeks to go and no teams have been knocked out of playoff contention just yet. Of course, in reality, there are a few that have no shot at the playoffs, like the Panthers, Patriots and Cardinals. And we can probably throw the Tim Boyle led Jets into that mix as well, no matter what Aaron Rodgers and his Achilles are up to.

That leaves us with a whole mess of teams vying for the playoffs this season. As of today, there are 13 teams on the bubble with 4-7 to 6-5 records. And, other than the 10-1 Eagles, no other team has fewer than three losses. The AFC is going to be a fight for the No. 1 seed, as the Top 4 teams all have three losses and the next two have four. Even the NFC could get interesting if the 49ers can knock off the Eagles in Week 13, which would make the 49ers 9-3 and the Eagles 10-2, with the 49ers holding the head-to-head tie breaker.

This is all to say, the 2023 NFL season might not have the greatest football we’ve ever seen, but if you’re a fan of a team, you have a good chance to stay invested these next few weeks.

Is Bill Belichick done?

It’s alway tough to read Bill Belichick, as he is a curmudgeon extraordinaire, but his four minute post-game press conference was especially depressing after their especially depressing loss to the Tommy DeVito led New York Giants. The game ended on Belichick’s fourth-round rookie kicker missing a 35-yard field goal that would have tied up the game and ushered in an overtime of more futility.

Mac Jones has regressed yet again this season, which you can find plenty of blame to go around, but after a decent rookie campaign to what we see out there now, Belichick is right in the line of fire. Jones has been mercifully benched in each of the last two games and probably shouldn’t have been out there at all.

The Patriots need to be 2-9 and set up to take a quarterback with a Top 3 pick if they want to turn things around, but will Belichick be the one starting anew or will Robert Kraft take the option away from him? At this point, it is difficult to point to anything that Belichick has done right since Tom Brady’s departure, but his overall history of greatness could still give him the option to stick around. Right now, he doesn’t look like someone who wants to stick around.

Frank Reich gets good news

It’s never fun to be fired, but if I were Frank Reich, I would be relieved to be let go by David Tepper. Reich and the majority of his coaches have been tossed aside after losing to the Titans to go 1-10 on the season. The abomination of a job Urban Meyer did in Jacksonville lasted longer than Reich did this season. I’m not sure what Tepper thought was going to happen when he traded away Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore and spent that draft capital on Bryce Young, but a winning season was not in the cards.

Tepper has now had six coaches (including interim) since he bought the team in 2018. He will add another for the 2024 season and will need to pay that person a whole lot of money to take on a team with a QB that has underwhelmed, a team that has little to no offensive star players, and doesn’t have a 2024 first round pick. Why Tepper didn’t wait on the 2024 QB class is beyond me.

The Steelers top 400 yards

Mike Tomlin is a great coach. He can help eek out wins that his team should never get, but there is no doubt that he stuck with OC Matt Canada for way too long. Their Week 12 win over the Bengals shows this as starkly as possible:

Yes, the game before Canada was hired, the team topped 400 yards and then the game after he was fired, they finally returned to that 400 yard mark. Of course, Kenny Pickett once again didn’t throw a touchdown pass and the team had just one touchdown despite the 400+ yards, but the numbers don’t really lie in this case. Canada was bad at his job.

Pickett is also pretty bad at his job as well, but with an easy schedule and good defense, the 7-4 Steelers are currently in the playoffs and they could stay there until they eventually lose to a good team. The Steelers cannot use a playoff berth this year, if it happens, to justify rolling with Pickett as their starter moving forward. At the very least, they need to bring in real competition for the job.

The Eagles keep winning

The Eagles overtime win against the Bills on Sunday Night Football once again showed the resilience of Jalen Hurts and the Eagles. The Bills looked like the superior team early on, as they stymied the Eagles in the rain, but lo and behold, the Eagles willed their way to yet another close win over a strong opponent. They’ve now beaten the Dolphins, Cowboys, Chiefs, and Bills over their last five games. How did this team lose to the Zach Wilson led Jets you ask. I have no idea, but that might be a fun bar trivia question to keep in your back pocket.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Eagles with the 49ers at home and then Dallas on the road over the next two weeks. Those two games will be the key to holding onto the No. 1 seed.

Are the Chargers actually cursed?

No matter what you think of Justin Herbert, he’s probably better than that and the Chargers keep losing because they are actually cursed. Or, because Brandon Staley isn’t good at his job. Or, because his receivers can’t stay healthy. Or, because they took Quentin Johnston over Zay Flowers. Or, because Austin Ekeler has lost a step. Sure, Herbert isn’t perfect. He misses throws. He is hurt more often than anybody would like. But when you step back, all QBs have similar problems, but very few of them have his ability.

The Chargers continue to lose close game as usual and some people will put that on Herbert when it should firmly be on the coaching staff’s shoulders. They lost a close game to the Ravens in Week 12, which makes sense, as the Ravens are the better overall team, but they had a chance because of Herbert. Staley isn’t getting the job done.

Tankenstein’s Monsters

The Bears are sitting pretty with their own, and the Panther’s, 2024 first round picks, giving them the No. 1 and No. 4 pick at the moment. They are going to make a decision on Justin Fields over these last six games. He will need to play lights out as a passer in these mathups to give the Bears pause before sending in their pick for Caleb Williams.

The Cardinals have lost two in a row with Kyler Murray at QB and currently have the No. 2 pick along with the No. 17 pick. Murray has been fine for fantasy, as he keeps getting into the end zone with his legs, but hasn’t shown much as a passer since returning. He seems to have a great rapport with new head coach Jonathan Gannon, but that can only go so far. If they keep losing and have a Top 3 pick, the Cardinals could be in the same boat as the Bears and they should trade their QB and start rebuilding with a new one.

The Giants won a useless game against the Patriots and now have the No. 6 pick. They are not tanking as well as they should be with Tommy DeVito in at QB. Daniel Jones isn’t the answer and no matter how fun the story, DeVito isn’t the answer. Stop winning games!

Washington knows what’s up. They’ve lost three in a row and now have the No. 5 pick. It could be tough to crack the Top 3, but they could pass Chicago if Fields can help them win a couple games over this final stretch. For all the Sam Howell talk, he is not the answer. Sure, he leads the league in passing yards, but his team is 4-8 and he is on a record pace for sacks. That lack of pocket awareness isn’t going to get you far in this league.

Fantasy notes

Keaton Mitchell took over the lead back roll in the three-headed committee the Ravens haphazardly run out there. His upside is crazy high, but he’s still sharing too much work with Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and Lamar Jackson. Maybe out of the bye he’ll truly get a majority of the looks, but until he does, he remains boom or bust.

Josh Allen continues to lead all quarterbacks in fantasy points, which is pretty crazy when considering how automatic Jalen Hurts is at the goal line. You can debate how good Allen is as a real-life quarterback (very good), but you can’t debate his fantasy relevance.

C.J. Stroud had another MVP caliber game, but a missed field goal kept his team from going into OT with the Jaguars. Just think how the narrative about Jalen Hurts would have changed if Jake Elliott hadn’t hit that 59-yarder to go into OT. For fantasy, Stroud continues to be a top player and is in a virtual tie for third in fantasy points per game behind Allen and Hurts. And he’s upped his fantasy numbers of late with three rushing touchdowns over his last five games.

Rashee Rice did not see an uptick in work coming out of the bye last week and the Chiefs’ wide receivers were drop machines against the Eagles on MNF. It should have happened coming out of the bye, but they finally got things right and gave Rice a bigger piece of the pie in Week 12 and it paid off big time:

Jonathan Taylor had a two touchdown game in Week 12, but didn’t see nearly the number of snaps and touches he had in the previous week when Zack Moss was barely an afterthought. Week 12 had Taylor with 15 touches to Moss’ 11. We can expect Taylor to get the goal line work, but we can’t rely on the huge usage we saw in Week 11.