Bengals, 49ers riding high; Brady, Bucs offense out of sorts: 3 up, 3 down

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As we do every week, it’s time to look at which teams have seen their stock improve or collapse after Week 12 of the NFL season.


Cincinnati Bengals

The most impressive win on Sunday was the Bengals going on the road to beat a tough, physical Titans team. The Bengals were able to win at the line of scrimmage, an encouraging sign heading into the later stretch of the season. The run defense has to stand out first, only allowing Derrick Henry to rush for 38 yards on 17 carries, good for 2.2 yards per attempt. When the Titans don’t run the ball, they can’t score even if Ryan Tannehill throws for a lot of yards like he did in this one.

The Bengals offense took a while to get into a groove and when it did, the Titans’ excellent defense couldn’t stop it. The Bengals’ last three games went like this: 14 plays and 60 yards for a field goal. 6 plays for 75 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, then 12 plays for 68 yards to close out the game. Now, the Bengals should have Ja’Marr Chase back in time for next weekend’s home game against the mighty Chiefs. The battle for the AFC’s No. 1 seed is on.

San Francisco 49ers

After four straight wins, the 49ers now sit alone atop the NFC West standings. The 49ers are +76 point differential, and since Week 2, when Jimmy Garoppolo took over the offense, the Niners are sixth in offensive efficiency. Their defense ranks around fifth during that time while dealing with a slew of injuries, which remain a concern for the 49ers, who saw more starters depart Sunday against the Saints.

If there is a concern, it remains Jimmy G, who is about average in the NFL at best. It does what is asked of it, but mostly no more. The Niners’ offense will continue to run through the back (Christian McCaffrey, etc.) and get the ball quickly into the hands of their skill position players.

Jimmy Garoppolo led 49ers to 13-0 win over Saints in hard-fought victory

Jimmy Garoppolo led 49ers to 13-0 win over Saints in hard-fought victory

Jimmy Garoppolo led the San Francisco 49ers offense with 222 passing yards and a touchdown in the win over the New Orleans Saints. Brandon Aiyuk also had five receptions for 65 yards.

On the other hand, there is the Niners defense, which is playing and will continue to play well as it recovers. The defense hasn’t given up a point in 94 straight minutes and hasn’t given up a point in the second half in four straight games. San Francisco enjoyed four straight sweeps of teams not currently in the playoffs and now gets the Dolphins, Buccaneers, Seahawks and Commanders in their next four games. It’s a tough one-month stretch that could make or break their Super Bowl chances.

Commanders of Washington

It’s not pretty at times, but the Commanders keep winning with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback. They have won 6 of 7 overall, with the first of those wins coming with Carson Wentz at quarterback. Since Heinicke took over, the entire team has played with more fire and passion, and with better results on the field. The defense is better and the attack has gradually improved.

‘Both sides of the ball doing tremendous things’ – Mark Schlereth and Adam Amin discuss Commanders win

Mark Schlereth and Adam Amin discuss the Washington Commanders ability to dominate the Atlanta Falcons on both sides of the ball.

This team isn’t great, but they have a recent win against the Eagles. The Commanders now have back-to-back games against the Giants, followed by the 49ers, Browns and Cowboys. If they can beat the Giants twice and get a win in their last three games, they are a 10-win team and very likely to make the playoffs as a wild card. That’s impressive for a team dead just six weeks ago.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs are a poorly coached team. When Bruce Arians stepped down as Tampa Bay’s head coach in mid-March, the collective football world was rooting for new head coach Todd Bowles. He was right another chance as a head coach after his four-season stint with the Jets. Along with Bowles’ promotion to head coach, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich was given the full keys to the offense with Arians no longer in the building. It hasn’t worked out as planned, and while it’s not all about the coaches, injuries, bad plays and slumps can be blamed, I have to go back to coaching as the main culprit for the Bucs’ rocky season.

His game management is poor. The Bucs coaching staff does not use timeouts properly and is very conservative. Game plans on both sides of the ball are often muddled and don’t seem to align with their personnel, the opponent and the situation. Since my experience is offensive, I’ll stick with the issues there.

Kenny Albert and Jonathan Vilma discuss Nick Chubb’s big day in Browns win over Buccaneers

Kenny Albert and Jonathan Vilma discuss Nick Chubb's big day in Browns win over Buccaneers

Kenny Albert and Jonathan Vilma discuss Nick Chubb’s big day in the Cleveland Browns’ 23-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It’s baffling how the Bucs seem to do zero self-scanning, which is a process of analyzing which plays are working and which aren’t. While there is a purpose to being multiple on offense, you should also tailor your game to what you do best. Yet somehow the Bucs keep doing the same nonsense. Run the ball with a low-efficiency run (duo) on first down, run it again on second down, then wait for Tom Brady to bail them out. You hardly ever use play action passes even though Brady has killed in his career with that action. And what makes Sunday’s performance even worse in their loss against the Browns is that they had made improvements in the game against the Seahawks two weeks ago. After the bye week, they went right back to the predictable game sequencing.

I know the Bucs defense allowed a tie game and a game win in overtime, but I don’t really blame them. They allowed just 17 points in regulation and had a defensive slide to allow a big gain in overtime. The defense has done everything possible this season to keep this team in contention. The Bucs, while they could win their division, don’t look like a threat to make another Super Bowl.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are an average football team. They are an unreliable bunch week-to-week and drive-to-drive. In some parts of the games they look unstoppable and then later on they look like a dumpster fire. Maybe all those years of not surrounding Lamar Jackson with gap markers at wide receiver or injuries to the offensive line or Greg Roman’s limited passing attack have caught up to them.

It’s hard to square his efficiency numbers (5th in offensive DVOA) with what I see with my own eyes and his scoring production. The offense is prone to long periods of no progress and premature turnovers. Jackson will play like an MVP and then not. The defense can’t hold the lead as it collapsed again against the Jaguars on Sunday. The defense, once one of the best units in the NFL, is now below average. Now, this is negative, and I understand that, but all is not lost. The Ravens are still 7-4 and can win the division. But they need more consistent play from their team.

The Wilsons

Zach Wilson and Russell Wilson both had bad Sundays, and only one of them played in a game. Let’s start with this Wilson. The Broncos offense led by Russell Wilson scored 10 whole points against the Panthers, one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Wilson was 19-of-35 for 142 yards and added eight total yards. He got so bad that one of his teammates yelled at him before he got to the field. I think it’s fair to say we’ve never seen a Hall of Fame career derailed on the field like Wilson’s in his first season in Denver. it’s bad If it was anyone else, I’d be in the bank by now.

Mike White leads the Jets to a 31-10 victory over the Bears

Mike White leads the Jets to a 31-10 victory over the Bears

Mike White, starting over Zach Wilson, threw for 315 yards and 3 TDs in the New York Jets’ big 31-10 win over the Chicago Bears.

Not only did the Jets bench Zach Wilson this week, they made him inactive for the game, meaning he didn’t even get a jersey. In his place was Mike White, who was fabulous against the Bears. Now, the Bears defense absolutely stinks. It’s horrible. BUT, the Jets offense had a spark. It had some life. It looked juicy. Everyone was happy. I need to see the offense against a better defense, but it’s clear the offense responded well to benching Wilson.

Read More Week 12 Coverage:

Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his freshman year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.

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