Adam Gase, Corey Ballentine
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

What did we learn in Week 12 and what’s worth keeping an eye on down the road? Here’s a little insight, review, and preview.

Russell Baxter

It was the final week in which teams had some time off. Now comes the real stretch run as all 32 clubs will be in action the remainder of the season. And last week’s Sunday night and Monday night showdowns in San Francisco and Los Angeles both resulted in lopsided contests as the 49ers humbled the Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Ravens pushed around the Rams.

Here are some more observations and a few numbers as well when it comes to Week 12 (and beyond) in regards to the NFL’s 100th season.

5. The NFC East’s lost (offensive) weekend

On Sunday afternoon, the Cleveland Browns came away with a 41-24 home win over the Miami Dolphins. Later that day, the San Francisco 49ers humbled the Green Bay Packers, 37-8. And what can be said about the red-hot Baltimore Ravens, who stymied the Los Angeles Rams, 45-6? Those are all impressive scoring totals.

Now consider that no team in the NFC East managed to reach the 20-point mark on Sunday and only Washington won in Week 12. The Cowboys (9), Eagles (9), Giants (14) and Redskins (19) combined for just 51 points. Ouch!

4. Winston plays good (and bad) as a quarterback should?

One thing about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: You get your money’s worth in terms of thrills and spills. In his fifth season in the league, quarterback Jameis Winston is among the NFL leaders when it comes to throwing the football, ranking second in yards (3,391), and third in touchdown tosses (22).

But he’s also served up a league-high 20 interceptions (six more than Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers, who’s second with 14 picks). And the Bucs have also turned over the ball an NFL-worst 27 times, 24 of those by Winston. If you like the game of hot potato, well…

3. A model of consistency

It’s a team that got off to a shaky start due in large part to the fact that Adam Gase’s team wound up playing three different quarterbacks in their first two games. Now, the revitalized New York Jets have won three-straight games and are suddenly as consistent a football team as there is in football. What exactly does that mean?

They put up 34 points in a seven-point victory over the New York Giants, outlasted the Washington Redskins, 34-16, and on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, New York embarrassed a hot Oakland Raiders’ club, 34-3. That’s obviously a total of 102 points in the team’s last three games, quite a turnaround for a club that managed only 96 points during a forgettable 1-7 start.

2. The Pittsburgh Stealers

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ remarkable turnaround in several facets has seen the team go from 0-3 to 6-5 and are very much a playoff contender in the very wide-open AFC. Yes, Mike Tomlin’s team will be hard-pressed to catch the blistering Baltimore Ravens. But the Black and Gold is tied with Tennessee, Oakland, and Indianapolis in terms of the win-loss record.

The other big turnaround when it comes to this club has been their ability to come up with takeaways. Only the New England Patriots (29) have forced more turnovers than these Steelers (28). And the early-season addition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick via trade from the Miami Dolphins has been enormous.

Consider that Pittsburgh managed to force only 15 turnovers in 16 contests a season ago. In 2019, Fitzpatrick has picked off a team-best five passes and recovered two fumbles, meaning he has exactly one-fourth of the club’s 28 takeaways. So will the 2019 Steelers become the seventh club to reach the playoffs after losing their first three games? It’s in the hands of Tomlin’s ball-hawkers.

1. The relentless 49ers’ defense

Entering the 2018 season, there were high hopes for Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers. A midseason trade one year earlier brought quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from New England.

He would lead the club to five straight wins to close the season, hence the expectations in 2018. But the club struggled early and the talented signal-caller went down in Week 3 with a knee injury. The Niners would go through three different starters behind center and it resulted in a 4-12 finish that netted San Francisco the second overall pick in the draft.

This offseason, the team dealt for pass-rusher Dee Ford and used that aforementioned selection in April on Ohio State’s Nick Bosa. And the turnaround on defense has been stunning. A year ago, the Niners set two dubious NFL records with only two interceptions and seven total takeaways. That latter total has more than tripled so far this season (23) as the 49ers have picked off 11 passes and recovered a dozen opponent’s fumbles.

San Francisco leads the NFL with 44 sacks, seven more than all of 2018. And a team that allowed 435 points and 48 offensive touchdowns have given up only 163 points and just 16 offensive TDs in 11 outings. But it’s safe to say Shanahan’s team will be challenged in a big way by the streaking Baltimore Ravens this Sunday.

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