The later the season gets, the more easily tempers flare.
Take Rob Gronkowski and Marcus Peters, for instance.
The irrepressible Gronk was having a solid second half, including making one stellar catch, when he angrily body-surfed on Tre’Davious White, who had stepped in to intercept a Tom Brady pass.
Here’s how referees sorted it out: Gronk and Danny Amendola were flagged for unnecessary roughness; so was Buffalo’s Micah Hyde and the Bills’ Jerry Hughes was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. So, somehow, the Bills were the ones losing yards on the play.
Gronkowski finished with nine receptions for 147 yards in the Patriots’ 23-3 victory.
The game also featured a dustup between Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels — it was just a small disagreement in the first half. NBD.
In the second half, Tyrod Taylor was carted to the locker room with a knee injury, with rookie Nathan Peterman, Taylor’s replacement for one disastrous, interception-filled week, coming into the game.
Meanwhile in the Meadowlands, the Chiefs were losing their fourth straight game, this one to the Jets. With penalties stacking up, Peters lost his cool, heaving a penalty flag into the stands. With that, he walked off the field … even though he hadn’t been ejected. He later made his way back to the Chiefs’ sideline, without his socks. Naturally.
In another game ripe with playoff implications, the Vikings were feeling their oats in a 14-9 victory over the Falcons. They were so cheeky that Jerrick McKinnon scored a touchdown and celebrated by doing the Dirty Bird.
The Falcons needed a victory to remain in the running for the second wild-card spot or make noise in the NFC South, given that the Saints and Panthers enter this week’s play at 8-3.
The Packers hung in there, moving to 6-6 with an overtime victory against Tampa Bay, a victory that stilled boos in Lambeau Field and left fans hoping that Aaron Rodgers will have a meaningful, healthy return later this month.
There also was a moment when Packers defensive end Dean Lowry scored on a Jameis Winston fumble recovery and did what Packers players do in Lambeau: he executed a Lambeau Leap. Did we mention that he’s a 300-pounder?
Top story lines
The demotion of Eli Manning and plight of the New York Giants dominated headlines last week.
Manning’s consecutive starts streak came to an end at 210 after the ham-handed handling of his benching by the New York Giants, a two-win team eager to evaluate its talent. General Manager Jerry Reese is on the hot seat, but Ben McAdoo may have the dubious distinction of becoming the first NFL coach to be fired this season, with ESPN reporting that a coaching change could come as early as Monday.
Geno Smith replaced Manning in their late afternoon game against the Raiders in Oakland … and he wasn’t a complete disaster. New York still lost, 24-17, but Smith went 21-of-34 passing with 212 yards and a touchdown. He also lost two fumbles before he threw that fourth-quarter score, although “lost” is a matter of opinion considering Klahil Mack ripped the ball from Smith’s hands.
In a big NFC South late afternoon game, New Orleans won the season series against division rival Carolina, 31-21. The Saints’ sensational rookie, Alvin Kamara, rushed for two touchdowns, Mark Ingram added another, and Drew Brees passed for 269 yards and the team’s fourth TD. The Panthers were sunk by two costly errors on special teams: a botched punt in the second quarter that led to a TD and a lost fumble during a punt return in the fourth quarter that resulted in FG.
Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles will take their NFL-best 10-1 record to Seattle, playing an injury-hampered 7-4 Seahawks team. The Seahawks trail the Los Angeles Rams, who play at Arizona, by a game in the NFC West.
If the Eagles wrap up the NFC East, it will mark the 14th time in the last 15 seasons that a team wins its division the season after finishing last or tied for last.
The Eagles can make a bit of history, too. A victory by 20 or more points would be their fifth in a row by that margin, tying the record last accomplished by the 1999 St. Louis Rams (who happened to win the Super Bowl). Four other teams have done the same thing (minus the Super Bowl, of course): the 1961 Packers, 1961 Oilers, the 1953 Eagles, and 1949 Eagles.
Philly took care of a bit of paperwork Saturday, reaching agreement with wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey on a four-year, $52 million contract extension.
In other news:
The president and the protests: President Trump took note last week of players who continue to take a knee or in some other way demonstrate to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality.
“At least 24 players kneeling this weekend at NFL stadiums that are now having a very hard time filling up,” he tweeted last Tuesday. “The American public is fed up with the disrespect the NFL is paying to our country, our flag and our national anthem. Weak and out of control!”
By the Associated Press’s count, roughly 23 players demonstrated last week and, this week, its count showed eight players demonstrating in some fashion in the early games. They included Eric Reid, Marquise Goodwin and Earl Mitchell of the 49ers; Julius Thomas, Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas of the Dolphins; Tyus Bowser of the Ravens; and Rishard Matthews of the Titans. Matthews was inactive and came onto the field after the anthem; three of his teammates, Brian Orakpo, Jurrell Casey and Wesley Woodyard, raised a fist overhead.
Late last week, the NFL and the Players Coalition reached an accord to provide $89 million over seven years to spur activism, but there’s no sign that the demonstrations, even though they have waned over the season, will end. (Read more.)
Cool, colorful cleats: This is the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” week, the one on which players can wear cleats that promote causes dear to them without fear of being fined. More than 500 players will be wearing something special on their feet.
The Silverdome is still standing: Watch as the implosion of the old place goes hilariously wrong. (Read more.)
Jimmy time: The 49ers are handing the keys to Jimmy Garoppolo. (Read more.)
Redskins mull moves: After a crushing loss to the Cowboys, the Redskins will determine whether to shut down Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. (Read more.)
Finding a home for Eli: If Eli Manning is finished with the Giants, where might he land in 2018? Reminder: he’s under contract through 2019 and has a no-trade clause in his contract. (Read more.)
Archie on Eli: A heartbroken Eli Manning never ‘envisioned, until now, playing for somebody else,’ his father says. (Read more.)
What Cam Newton needs: The Panthers desperately need old reliable Greg Olsen for a shot at a playoff run. (Read more.)
Vegas is not happy: NFL gambling favorites are covering the spread at an absurd rate and Vegas hates it. (Read more.)
Rodgers update: Aaron Rodgers marked his 34th birthday Saturday by practicing for the first time since breaking his right collarbone Oct. 15. Rodgers, who was placed on the injured reserve list (designated to return) the day after having two plates and a number of screws inserted on Oct. 19, may have elated Packers fans by showing off his arm before the game last week in Pittsburgh, but there still are a number of steps to be completed before he would be cleared by medical personnel. He would be eligible to return under IR rules two weeks after resuming practice, conceivably for the Week 15 game against Carolina.
Rodgers’s display last week, featuring passes of 30 and 50 or so yards was impressive and at a minimum showed that he is on schedule in his recovery. Because Saturday’s practice is closed to reporters, it is unclear how much or how well he did. Most of his work was expected to be limited to the scout team and individual drills.
One hurdle is a CT scan that will reveal whether the bone has healed. Because scans impede healing, those are used conservatively and he will not be scanned until sometime after the Dec. 10 game against the Browns.
“First of all, I want to be healthy; that’s the most important thing,” Rodgers said in early November. “But if we’re healthy in eight weeks [after the injury] and it would make sense to come back, then I’m going to come back.” He added that, as when he broke his left collarbone in 2013, “there won’t be a decision made until that bone is healed, so it’s not even a conversation if it’s not where it needs to be.”
And, of course, the Packers, who beat the Bucs in OT on Sunday and play the Browns on Week 14, need to be where they need to be — in a playoff push — to justify the risk to Rodgers in tough games against the Panthers, Vikings and Lions.
Taylor carted off: Tyrod Taylor was carted off the field with a knee injury, leaving the Bills with Nathan Peterman at the helm.
Stafford hurts hand: The Lions suffered two big blows Sunday, losing to the Ravens but also losing quarterback Matthew Stafford who left the game with an apparent hand injury.
Ravens lose Smith: Cornerback Jimmy Smith left the Ravens’ 44-20 victory over Detroit with an Achilles’ injury.
A new Chargers kicker: Nick Novak was placed on IR on Saturday and the Chargers promoted Travis Coons, their third full-time kicker this season, to the active roster.
Brown out? Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown did not practice for the second straight day Saturday because of a toe injury, putting him in jeopardy of missing the Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Over the last two games, Brown has caught 20 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns. Brown hasn’t missed a game in over four seasons and is officially listed as questionable, but Coach Mike Tomlin rarely uses players who miss practice two days before the game. If any player is an exception to Tomlin’s rule, though, Brown could be it.
Olsen sits: The Panthers will be without tight end Greg Olsen against the Saints. Olsen, who returned last week after recovering from a foot injury he suffered in Week 2, is fine, but the Panthers reportedly may choose to be cautious with him.
Key players who are among the inactives for 1 and 4 p.m. games:
Matt Slater (hamstring)
Tamba Hali (knee)
Rishard Matthews (hamstring)
Ameer Abdullah (neck)
Eli Apple (hip)
Adrian Peterson (back)
Greg Olsen (foot)
Marshon Lattimore (ankle)
David Amerson (foot)
Amari Cooper (concussion, ankle)
Malcolm Brown (knee)
Ryan Kalil (neck)
Malcolm Brown (knee)
Key players listed as questionable for the night game:
Joe Walker (neck)
Jimmy Graham (ankle)
Earl Thomas (heel)
Fantasy football advice
Week 13 Cheat Sheet: What to do as injuries take a toll late in the season. (Read more.)
Best/worst matchups: Philip Rivers and the Chargers have a good chance to put up big points. (Read more)
Five moves you must make for Week 13: This might be a good time to add Josh Gordon. (Read more)
Week 13 Start/Sit: It’s time to go all in on Marshawn Lynch this week. (Read more.)
The Fantasy Football Beat: Don’t be afraid to bench Kareem Hunt and other studs. (Listen)
The top trends and insights from Las Vegas. (Read more.)