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NFL Week 12: 5 biggest overreactions

The Philadelphia Eagles are flirting with disaster and the five overreactions to NFL Week 12 include a hasty firing in Carolina.

The Philadelphia Eagles continue to dance with danger and survive. Their win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night in NFL Week 12 marked their record-setting fourth consecutive come-from-behind victory. The Eagles own the best record in the NFL at 10-1, but one might overreact by saying their blueprint is at least a bit reminiscent of the 2022 Minnesota Vikings.

With that said, there is much to overreact to from NFL Week 12, so let’s get to it.

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5. Coaches come and go more quickly these days

The Carolina Panthers fired coach Frank Reich on Monday just 11 games into his first season. Reich is the sixth head coach since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that failed to complete his first season on the job.

But three of those six occurred in the last three seasons. The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer 13 games into the 2021 season and the Denver Broncos let go of Nathaniel Hackett after just 15 games last season.

Reich’s Panthers won just once in 11 games and owner David Tepper added the former Indianapolis Colts coach’s name to a growing list of first-year flameouts.

Before Meyer, Bobby Petrino resigned 13 games into the 2007 season with the Atlanta Falcons. He bailed to take the vacant head coaching position at the University of Arkansas. He was the first coach to fail to complete one season since the San Francisco 49ers fired Pete McCulley nine games into the 1978 campaign.

The first post-merger coach not to finish a season was Lou Holtz with the New York Jets in 1976. After coming from a successful tenure at North Carolina State, Holtz resigned with one game remaining and a 3-10 record. Coincidentally, he took the same path as Petrino, moving on to Arkansas.

Carolina continues to spin its wheels. Reich became the third coach in Tepper’s time owning the team to be fired during a season. Ron Rivera got the axe in December 2019 and Matt Rhule was pink-slipped five games into last season.

Continuity is king in football. It appears, however, that Tepper is taking a page from the George Steinbrenner school of rapid-fire field leadership changes.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers become an offensive juggernaut with Matt Canada gone

Maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base was right: Matt Canada was the problem. In their first game since firing their offensive coordinator, the Steelers gained a season-high 421 yards in a 16-10 road win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Pittsburgh normally shows remarkable patience with coaches. Consider that Mike Tomlin is just the third Steelers head coach since the aforementioned merger. Chuck Noll led the team from 1969-91, Bill Cowher coached from 1992-2006 and Tomlin’s been the guy since 2007.

In fact, Canada’s firing marked the first time the Steelers fired a head coach or a coordinator during a season since 1941. Despite snapping a 58-game streak of games gaining less than 400 yards, not all of Pittsburgh’s problems went away. Even with all the yardage, the Steelers found the end zone just once.

Stlll, Kenny Pickett threw for a season-high 278 yards while Najee Harris picked up 99 yards and a touchdown on the ground on just 15 carries.

If the punchless Steelers develop some offensive firepower, they could be a problem down the stretch. They’re already 7-4 in spite of a featherweight offense, after all.

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3. The race for the bye in the AFC is tight … and deep

The four division leaders in the AFC are separated by a half-game in the quest to earn the No. 1 seed and the accompanying bye to the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Baltimore Ravens (9-3) lead the pack by virtue of playing one more game. That disappears this week as Baltimore takes it bye week.

Behind them, in order, stand the Kansas City Chiefs (8-3), the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3) and the Miami Dolphins (8-3). Kansas City owns a head-to-head win over the Jaguars, who have a higher strength-of-victory rating than Miami.

All hold solid leads in their divisions. The Ravens are a game and a half up on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kansas City leads the Denver Broncos (yes, the Denver Broncos) by two games. Jacksonville’s advantage over the Indianapolis Colts is also two games, while the Dolphins are two-and-a-half games clear of the Buffalo Bills.

Baltimore visits the Jags in Week 15 and hosts Miami in Week 17 and also has a road game against the San Francisco 49ers (Week 16) and hosts the Steelers in the regular-season finale.

On the other hand, of the Chiefs’ six remaining games, none involve teams with winning records. Besides hosting the Ravens, Jacksonville visits the Cleveland Browns (7-4) in Week 14. Miami closes with a three-game stretch that includes hosting the Dallas Cowboys, going to Baltimore and entertaining the Bills.

On paper, Kansas City appears at an advantage. But as Kenny Mayne used to point out on ESPN SportsCenter, games are not played on paper. They’re played inside television sets.

2. The stampeding Denver Broncos riding into playoff country

Written off for dead after a 1-5 start, the Denver Broncos have emerged as playoff contenders with five consecutive wins. They have beaten the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns (along with the Green Bay Packers) at home along with a road win over the Buffalo Bills.

The next three weeks will determine if Denver’s status as a contender is real or not. The Broncos start a three-game road swing at the Houston Texans on Sunday, followed by games at the Los Angeles Chargers and Detroit Lions.

An opportunistic defense leads the charge in Denver, as the Broncos have piled up 15 takeaways in the last four weeks. They took advantage of backup quarterbacks the last two weeks, getting three takeaways each against the Vikings and Browns.

But the defense also took the ball away from Patrick Mahomes (two interceptions and a fumble) and Josh Allen (two interceptions and a fumble) three times each.

Russell Wilson has been quietly efficient with 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions along with four fourth-quarter comebacks and four game-winning drives. The key to that, however, is “quietly.” There have been a few cringe-worthy takes coming from the Super Bowl champion quarterback this season.

Coach Sean Payton began his tenure by trashing his predecessor, Nathaniel Hackett, violating many unwritten rules of the coaching fraternity in the process. But he’s backing up the bravado with victories over the last six weeks.

Denver is third among three teams tied at 6-5, with the Indianapolis Colts holding the final wild-card spot in the AFC based on conference win percentage, the same advantage the Texans hold over the Broncos. A head-to-head win at Houston on Sunday fixes the second problem. Continuing to win likely addresses the first.

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1. The preposterously precarious position of the Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles might just be the best team in the NFL. Their record indicates that; at 10-1, the Eagles are No. 1 in the league. But good fortune plays a role in their success, as well. Philadelphia has come from behind for its last four wins, setting an NFL record, including erasing 17-7 halftime deficits each of the last two weeks.

Seven of Philadelphia’s 10 wins are by one possession and their largest margin of victory is 14 points, 25-11 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3 and 31-17 over the Miami Dolphins in Week 7.

The Eagles’ fourth-down success rate is a ridiculous 13-for-17, 76.5%; not surprisingly the best in the NFL.

Jalen Hurts has accounted for 29 of Philadelphia’s 36 touchdowns, throwing 18 touchdown passes and scoring 11 of his own on the ground. However, he’s also put the Eagles into some of those precarious situations. He’s turned the ball over 14 times in 11 games (10 interceptions and four lost fumbles).

There’s something to be said for finding a way to win. But teams that tap dance on the tip of the sword run a serious risk of impaling themselves on it.

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