As the football world catches its breath from Monday night’s electric 54-51 thriller between the Rams and Chiefs and is waking up after the Turkey Day trio of games, the rest of the league reconvenes Sunday.
The 7-3 Patriots face the Jets while looking to reassert their dominance in the AFC East and the 7-2-1 Steelers head to Denver with a chance put a choke-hold on the AFC North, and they didn’t even make Week 12’s High 5:
Awkward reunion to watch
When the Bengals and Browns play Sunday in Cincinnati, the Browns will see a familiar face on the other sideline: Hue Jackson.
Jackson was fired by the Browns on Oct. 29 after 2¹/₂ seasons and a 3-36-1 record. Last week, one day after the Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Jackson was hired by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis as a special assistant. Lewis and Jackson are close, with Jackson having worked for him in Cincinnati from 2004-06 and again from 2012-15 before he was hired by the Browns.
The question going into Sunday is what kind of impact Jackson might have on this game, since he knows the Browns so intimately.
“I can’t predict any of that stuff,’’ Browns interim coach Gregg Williams told reporters during the week. “There’s nothing private in our world anymore. Every single clip of film is out there for anybody to watch.’’
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Browns cornerback T.J. Carrie dismissed Jackson as giving the Bengals an edge.
“These divisional games, we play each other year in and year out, twice a year [and] we know what they’re gonna do, they know what we’re gonna do,” he told reporters.
Browns guard Kevin Zeitler, who played his first five seasons with the Bengals, disagreed.
“He’s a smart guy,” he said. “He knew what we were doing here. So you’ve got to assume they know everything.’’
As the week progressed, Lewis grew tired of reporters’ questions about Jackson, saying, “This game is about the Browns and not about Hue. I think I’ve answered enough Hue questions, OK? We’re done. Over. Let’s get to the Cleveland Browns.”
The teams will meet again in Week 16.
QB return to watch
The Dolphins will welcome back starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill when they play at Indianapolis.
Tannehill, who missed the past five games with a capsule injury in his right shoulder, told reporters he isn’t completely pain free, but that the pain is “at a tolerable rate” that he can deal with, and doesn’t affect any throws.
“I’m not quite 100 percent, but I feel confident and have made all the throws that I’m going to need to make over the course of the game,” he said. “I don’t feel like any aspect of my game has been taken away.”
Dolphins coach Adam Gase described Tannehill as “ready to go,’’ adding, “He’s been waiting for this week to come for a while. The whole thing was making sure he stayed patient and with the program we had on.”
The 5-5 Dolphins are 3-2 with Tannehill starting and 2-3 with backup Brock Osweiler. They haven’t scored an offensive touchdown since Oct. 25, having gone 1-1 in two games without reaching the end zone. The Dolphins are tied with five other teams for the second wild-card playoff spot in the AFC — one of those teams being the Colts.
“He knows how much we need him, he knows he’ll be in pain, but you can tell he wants to play. That’s a plus for us,’’ Dolphins veteran running back Frank Gore told reporters.
“It’s been a hard five weeks of sitting out, sitting back, itching and biting at the bit,” Tannehill said. “To finally be healthy enough to go and be with my guys, I’m really excited and looking forward to the opportunity.”
QB with struggling team to watch
How is it possible, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers are 4-5-1 entering their game Sunday night at Minnesota?
Rodgers’ numbers — 19 touchdown passes, only one interception and 3,073 passing yards and a passer rating of 102.2 through 10 games — are not indicative of a team that’s below .500 and in danger of falling from playoff contention.
That’s the most TDs thrown with one or fewer INTs of any quarterback with a losing record through 10 games during the Super Bowl era, according to ESPN. The closest to that came in 1991, when the Browns were 4-6 and Bernie Kosar had 11 touchdowns and one interception.
After last week’s 27-24 loss in Seattle, Rodgers insisted he and coach Mike McCarthy are on the same page — despite indications suggesting otherwise.
“I think there’s an agreement with what we’re doing,’’ Rodgers said. “We meet multiple times a week on what we’re trying to do. The frustration is in the execution. The execution hasn’t been great, especially in situational offense.’’
This is a rematch of a 29-29 tie in Week 2 at Lambeau Field.
“I definitely didn’t expect to be sitting where we’re sitting,” Rodgers told reporters. “But our record is what it is. Obviously Minnesota has a strong team, they’re probably surprised where they’re sitting as well. I don’t think either of us are out of the division race. We’re definitely still alive with six to go, and this is obviously an important game as far as tiebreaks and stuff, but there is a lot of season left.”
QB change to watch
Lamar Jackson will start his second consecutive game for the Ravens, against the Raiders, in place of incumbent Joe Flacco, who’s nursing a hip injury.
Jackson wasn’t perfect in the Ravens’ 24-21 win over the Bengals last week, failing to spread the ball around to his receivers and relying on his legs more than his arm. He threw 19 passes, completing 13, but ran 27 times for 117 yards.
This past week, Jackson defended himself as a passer.
“I know I can throw,” Jackson told reporters. “I ran 27 times. I didn’t try to. We did whatever it took to win. Hopefully, I’m going to start throwing the ball more.”
In his first NFL start, Jackson recorded the most rushing attempts (27) by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era, and his 117 rushing yards made him the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to record at least 100 rushing yards in his first career start.
“The kid can throw,’’ Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters. “He’s a quarterback. So, all this veiled stuff, ‘Is he really a thrower?’ I have news for you: He’s a thrower. I don’t appreciate the insinuation of the question [that Jackson can only run]. We will continue to say it: Lamar Jackson is a quarterback.”
Jackson said the Bengals defenders warned him, “We’re going to hurt you. This is the NFL.”
“Getting in my head and talking trash, that’s not going to work,” Jackson said. “I play football. It’s about winning games. It’s not about who can talk trash the most.”
Jackson vowed to get the ball to his receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown more often.
“I have to get those guys the ball because they’re helping me out,” Jackson said. “They’re not out there to block. Their job is to catch the ball and help us win games. That’s my job to get the ball to [them].’’
Playoff clinch to watch
The Rams are the first team in the league that can clinch a playoff berth … and they don’t even play this week. A loss by 5-5 Seattle at Carolina would clinch the NFC West for the 10-1 Rams.
“I wouldn’t be upset if the Panthers came away with a big win,” Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters during the week.
The result of the Seahawks-Panthers game will rely heavily on the play of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton — two of the most prolific running quarterbacks of this era.
Newton has 4,674 rushing yards and 58 TDs on 905 career attempts, and Wilson has 3,502 yards and 16 TDs on 616 rushes.
Either Newton or Russell have led quarterbacks in rushing in all but two of the past seven seasons. In 2012, Robert Griffin III led the league, and in 2016 it was Tyrod Taylor. This season, Newton is second to Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky, who leads 363 to 354.