NFL plunges into December with three games between first-place teams

MEXICO CITY.- With little or no time left on the clock in the fourth quarter, after a score that cuts your deficit to one point, do you kick to level the game and play for the win in overtime? Or do you go for two?

After JUSTIN HERBERT last week in Arizona threw a touchdown pass to AUSTIN EKELER with 15 seconds left, pulling the Chargers within 24-23, head coach BRANDON STALEY made the decision.

And the byproduct of Staley’s faith and trust in his players was his faith and trust in him.

“It just shows how much he really believes in us, the courage he has,” said tight end GERALD EVERETT, who caught Herbert’s pass to convert a two-point play to give the Chargers a 25-24 victory. “We have been waiting so long for that moment, to be aggressive. Tight games like this against good teams. What better way to end a tight match than to go for two and have that be the deciding factor?

He was also the deciding factor in Jacksonville. After TREVOR LAWRENCE orchestrated a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive to cut Baltimore’s lead to 27-26 with 14 seconds left, head coach DOUG PEDERSON made the same decision and ZAY JONES caught the pass Lawrence’s match-winner to edge out the Ravens 28-27.

Three times this year, the most in any season since the NFL introduced the two-point conversion in 1994, a head coach has “gone for two” to win a game and ended up winning. It happened twice last week on Sunday, the most of any day in league annals. In the first week, Giants coach BRIAN DABOLL called for a play to score the game-winning two points with just over a minute remaining in what was ultimately a 21-20 win at Tennessee.

Don’t call it a coincidence either. The catalyst for those three victories is the NFL’s abundance of comebacks and close games in 2022. This season, 57 games have been won or tied by teams trailing in the fourth quarter, and 79 have been decided by six points or fewer, both the most games respectively over the course of 12 weeks in any NFL season.

This week, the NEW YORK GIANTS (7-4) host the WASHINGTON COMMANDERS (7-5) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX). In games decided by six points or fewer, the Giants are 5-0 and the Commanders are 5-2. Another pair of teams that have stood out in those games – the NEW YORK JETS (7-4) and MINNESOTA VIKINGS (9-2) – meet at US Bank Stadium Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). The Vikings are 4-0 in games decided by six points or fewer while the Jets are 3-1.

Therefore, do not leave your seat, no matter the outcome. In the NFL, late-game drama is guaranteed; the question is when it happens.

The 11 starters reaching week 13…

1. THE CLASS OF 2020 HAS BEEN EXCEPTIONAL AFTER DECEMBER 1. Quarterbacks JUSTIN HERBERT and TUA TAGOVAILOA, products of the 2020 class of the quarterback draft, each have seven career wins in regular-season starts as of Dec. 1. JOE BURROW, the No. 1 overall pick of that class, earned three straight season-ending starts, while 2020 No. 53 overall pick JALEN HURTS also led his team to three straight wins after the schedule change to December

The last time four quarterbacks from the same draft class started in the playoffs was in 2005, when REX GROSSMAN, BYRON LEFTWICH, CARSON PALMER and CHRIS SIMMS, all drafted in 2003, led their teams to the postseason.

2. WEEK NUMBER – 3. The number of games on the week 13 schedule that pair teams in first place. Two of those three, TENNESSEE (7-4) at PHILADELFIA (10-1) on Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX) and MIAMI (8-3) at SAN FRANCISCO (7-4) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, FOX), are potential Super Bowl LVII candidates. The other – KANSAS CITY (9-2) at CINCINNATI (7-4) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS) – involves teams that participated in two of the most exciting games of the 2021 season, a heart-stopping matchup in week 17 and also the AFC Championship Game, both won by the Bengals. Cincinnati enters week 13 at the top, tied with Baltimore of the AFC North.

3. BOLTS, RAIDERS REACTIVATE 2021 FINALE MEMORIES. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (6-5) and LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (4-7) meet Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS) on Allegiant Stadium, site of the 2021 NFL regular season finale. In that classic, the Raiders earned the final playoff spot in the league with a 35-32 win, when DANIEL CARLSON connected on a 47-yard field goal as the time expired on the overtime clock.

Chargers quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT has 88 career touchdown passes and 12,354 passing yards. In NFL history, through a player’s first three seasons, only Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (98) had more touchdown passes and none other than ANDREW LUCK (12,957) had more passing yards.

Raiders running back JOSH JACOBS, who leads the NFL this season with 1,159 rushing yards, is bidding to become the first Raiders player to lead the league in rushing since Hall of Famer MARCUS ALLEN did in 1985. Last week Jacobs posted a franchise-record single-game 303 scrimmage yards (229 rushing, 74 receiving) along with two TD carries, including the game-winning 86-yard TD run in overtime.

4. UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT – ONE-ON-ONE SHOWDOWN. MINNESOTA (9-2) can clinch its first division crown since 2017 with a win and a Detroit loss this week. That’s not all that will enter the conversation on Sunday when the Vikings host the NEW YORK JETS (7-4) at US Bank Stadium (1:00 PM ET, CBS). Jets rookie cornerback SAUCE GARDNER leads the NFL with 14 passes defensed. Expect Gardner to line up for several plays against receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON, who last week had 4,248 career receiving yards from him, surpassing Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (4,163) and ODELL BECKHAM JR. (4,122) for the most in a player’s first three seasons in NFL history.

5. UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT – TEAMS MATCH. Former San Francisco offensive coordinator and Miami head coach MIKE MCDANIEL must cross the country with his Dolphins to take on the 49ers on Sunday (4:05 pm ET, FOX). McDaniel’s offense in Miami features the league’s leading passer, TUA TAGOVAILOA (115.7 rating), and TYREEK HILL, who leads the NFL in both receptions (87) and receiving yards (1,233). When the Dolphins have the ball, they will face perhaps their toughest test of the season. Led by coordinator DEMECO RYANS, San Francisco leads the NFL in both fewest points allowed (15.7 per game) and total defense (281.7 yards allowed per game). 49ers have shutout their opponents in the last six quarters played.

6. STREAMS THAT TALK. The NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (4-8) take on the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-6) in Monday Night Football (8:15 pm ET, ESPN). New Orleans has won four straight games at Raymond James Stadium. Through the team’s last nine quarters at that venue, the Saints have outscored the Buccaneers 54-3.

7. DID YOU KNOW? If the season ended today, all four NFC East teams would be in the postseason. In NFL history, an individual division has never qualified all of its teams for the postseason.

8. STORY UNDER THE RADAR. This week, the NFL kicks off “Unboxing Week,” when players across the league show off the custom #MyCauseMyCleats they’ll wear to recognize the various causes they support. One such cause will appear on the shoes of three players at Lincoln Financial Field when TENNESSEE (7-4) visits PHILADELPHIA (10-1) on Sunday (1:00 pm ET, FOX).

Titans defensive lineman LARRELL MURCHISON, as well as two members of the Eagles, linebacker SHAUN BRADLEY and kicker JAKE ELLIOTT, are three of the 10 players in the league who wear cleats to support Everytown, an organization that works to reduce violence. Army (

Philadelphia quarterback JALEN HURTS, who wears cleats to support both the OneMindSet Foundation and the Eagles Autism Foundation, played one of the most complete offensive games ever in last week’s win. Hurts became the first player in NFL history to reach 150 rushing yards, 150 passing yards and two touchdown passes in the same game. One of those touchdown passes was to wide receiver AJ BROWN, who is playing with his former team this week. Brown is supporting Open Door Abuse Awareness & Prevention (ODAAP).

9. TREND. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, linebacker MICAH PARSONS, and the DALLAS COWBOYS (8-3) host the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4-7-1) in Sunday Night Football ( 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). Parsons, who has 12 sacks this season, has nine career multi-sack games, tied with ALDON SMITH for the most games with two or more sacks in a player’s first two seasons since 1982, when individual sacks became became an official statistic. Parsons is also just the third player with 12 or more sacks in each of his first two NFL seasons since 1982, joining Smith and Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE.

10. THIS WEEK IN NFL HISTORY. December 7, 1997 (25 years ago) – KORDELL STEWART and the Steelers erase a two-run deficit in a 35-24 win over Denver at Three Rivers Stadium. Stewart throws for 303 yards and three touchdowns, and carries two other scores in the win. Three weeks later, Denver enters the playoffs as a wild card team and wins three straight games, including a 24-21 win over Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game, en route to a Super Bowl XXXII victory over Green Bay.

11. AND LAST, BUT NOT LESS. The GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-8) and CHICAGO BEARS (3-9) will battle for more than pride on Sunday at Soldier Field (1:00 pm ET, FOX). Each team has 786 regular-season franchise wins, tied for the most in NFL history. The last time the Bears franchise did not lead the NFL in all-time regular season wins was December 1921. …Packers head coach MATT LAFLEUR has wins in each of his first seven games against Chicago .



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NFL plunges into December with three games between first-place teams