February 26, 2024

NFL Stock Watch: Week 12

After 12 weeks of NFL action, the playoff picture is becoming clearer at the top of each conference. The Chiefs, Dolphins, Jaguars and Ravens will likely win their divisions, with the Eagles, Lions and 49ers firmly in the lead atop the NFC. After these teams, there are 13 squads between 6-5 and 5-7, setting up a wild ride for the final wild card spots in each conference.

Here is my stock up and down report for week 12.

STOCK OUT

Sean Payton

Maybe this guy knows how to coach… Sean Payton’s Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL after winning their fifth straight game by beating the Browns at home. The Broncos looked like a disaster after a 1-5 start, including a 70-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Russell Wilson looked slightly better, but was nothing like the player the Broncos thought they were trading for. The Broncos defense was poor, not forcing turnovers and allowing too many points. However, since a Week 6 loss to the Chiefs, the Broncos are a different team. They’ve beaten the Packers, Chiefs, Vikings, Bills and Browns in the last five weeks, with Wilson playing like his old self and a defense that looks energized.

Wilson is back playing with his legs. While he can’t rush the ball as well as he has in the past, he still has enough legs to keep a play alive and find someone down the field. Sunday against Cleveland, he was able to move the ball against an excellent Browns defense by finding wide receivers late on downs, and those plays are crushing opposing defenses. You think you’ve done your job and no, it’s a completion.

The Broncos defense has not allowed more than 22 points in this five-game winning streak and they have become a turnover forcing machine. The defense has allowed 16 goals during this streak, including three against a Browns offense that had a tendency to give the ball away.

The Broncos have a tough schedule the rest of the way, with the Texans, Chargers twice and Lions, so sneaking into a wild card spot could be tough. However, I think Broncos fans will be excited for 2024 after a strong finish to this season.

Jalen hurts‘MVP statement

Hurts continues to play at aN MVP level, and while he couldn’t win the award last season due to a season-ending injury, he is the clear leader in the clubhouse after 12 weeks this season. With the Eagles running their record at 10-1, Hurts is now 24-3 as a starter over the past two seasons, a remarkable streak that doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. Hurts was a modest 18 of 31 for 200 yards and three passing touchdowns in the rain against the Bills, but he also added 65 yards on the ground and two more touchdowns – including the game winner in overtime.

For the season, Hurts is completing 68 percent of his passes with 15 passing touchdowns and 11 rushing scores. Beyond the impressive numbers, Hurts is the heartbeat of a team that continues to find ways to win. On Sunday it was 37-34 after extra time. On a Monday night in Kansas City, the score was 21-17. Before the bye week, the Eagles defeated Dallas by five. This Eagles team knows Hurts will play for them in clutch moments, so they play without fear of mistakes. They play a confident brand of football. Hurts’ ability to use his legs is what makes the offense so versatile. He is also so calm in the more emotional moments of games. You never see it too high or too low. It’s the best quality you can have for a franchise quarterback.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars avenged their previous loss to the Texans by beating them in Houston on Sunday. Jacksonville’s offense came alive with explosive passing plays that they have missed too often this season. When the Jaguars offense can push the ball downfield, they are simply difficult to stop. Trevor Lawrence finished the day 23 of 38 with 364 yards and a touchdown. The Jaguars defense was able to slow down a hot Texans offense. CJ Stroud threw for over 300 yards but was sacked four times and put pressure on an entire group. It was a strong showing for their pass rush and something they need moving forward. The most important part of this win was that it gave them a two-game lead in the AFC South with a schedule that is manageable over time. They face the Bengals and Browns with backup quarterbacks, the Panthers, Titans and Bucs. There’s a chance the Jaguars will have 12 wins by the end of the regular season.

STOCK DOWN

New England Patriots

While their stock suggests they may end up going in the top two of the draft to secure a future franchise quarterback, the Patriots are embarrassing right now. The once-proud franchise lost 10-7 to the Giants on Sunday. Ten to seven against the Tommy DeVito-led Giants. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is on the hook for this team because he built it. He is the general manager and has to handle the lineup of quarterback Mac Jones. Jones is not a starting quarterback in the NFL and he was benched again in Sunday’s loss. The Patriots are getting closer to drafting college standout Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, but it’s looking increasingly likely that Belichick won’t be there to coach the new quarterback. I still believe Belichick can coach, but he has bad players because he isn’t a good general manager. If the Patriots and him part ways, I wonder if anyone will hire him with the understanding that someone else will pick the players.

Giants defense dominates in win over Patriots

Giants defense dominates in win over Patriots

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are in a battle to secure a wild card spot after Week 12. They lost in a heartbreaker to the Eagles and are now 6-6 on the season. The Bills are 10th in the current AFC standings, and after being the preseason favorites to win the AFC East, this is a position they did not expect. A combination of injuries on defense that has led to a collapse of that unit plus Josh Allen’s variance making the offense a roller coaster has led to the .500 season. The Bills have a bye and then play the Chiefs, Cowboys, Chargers, Patriots and Chargers. If 9-7, and that’s probably a bit generous, gets the seventh seed in the AFC, are the Bills sure to win three of their last five? It’s hard to trust them right now.

Detroit Lions

The Lions lost to the Packers on Thanksgiving after needing a late comeback against the Bears last week. Just a few weeks ago, there was discussion about them being a viable No. 1 seed in the NFC Conference. While the Lions are still having an excellent season, seven of their eight wins have come against teams with a losing record. The only team they’ve beaten with a winning record was the Chiefs in Week 1, when Kansas City wide receiver Patrick Mahomes failed. The Lions lost to the Seahawks at home and were eliminated by the Ravens in the two other games against teams with a winning record. It feels fair to lump them in with the Dolphins and Cowboys as above-average teams that I don’t trust in the playoffs against better competition. They beat the bad teams and lose to the good ones.

Jordan Love, Packers dominate vs. Jared Goff, Lions

Jordan Love, Packers dominate vs. Jared Goff, Lions

Geoff Schwartz is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He 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 senior year. Follow him on Twitter @Geoff Schwartz.


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