NFL Week 13 Winners and Losers: The Pack Is Back - Rolling Stone
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NFL Winners and Losers: The Pack Is Back

Green Bay knocks off New England, Denver dominates KC and Johnny Football scores a TD

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers shakes hands with Tom Brady after the Packers defeated the Patriots 26-21 on Sunday.

Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe/Getty

The Week 13 weekend came and went without a single stabbing, which is more than I can say for Thanksgiving at my place (sorry, Uncle Darryl).

But, as we all recovered from digesting a Terrance Knighton-sized turkey – and engaging in dinner-table discourse with that one relative who makes Daniel Snyder seem sensible – the NFL brought out the big guns, packing a slate of must-see games into its Sunday schedule. And unlike the trio of Turkey Day duds (is that Seahawks/Niners game over yet?) these ones actually lived up to the hype.

There was Brady vs. Rodgers, Broncos vs. Chiefs and the oh-so-desperate Saints vs. the Steelers. And since we’re officially in the Christmas season, it’s also fitting that we recognize the arrival of our savior, Johnny Manziel. All this and so much more – bring on Week 13’s Winners and Losers!

Winner: The Pack
Meet the NFL’s hottest team: the Green Bay Packers.

Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers squared off in a potential Super Bowl preview, not to mention a testament to ignoring the so-called “experts.” After all, both the Patriots and the Packers got off to slow starts this season, which had analysts everywhere questioning their legitimacy. While Rodgers pleaded with us to “Relax,” some crazy people were actually pleading for Brady to be benched.

Then both teams flipped a switch and went all elite-status on us.

Yesterday’s game came down to the wire, even though Rodgers outperformed Brady throwing for 368 and two TDs. The Pats spent the entire game trying to catch up to Green Bay and they damn-near almost succeeded. With two minutes left in the game, Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb for a first down that clinched the victory – and had Brady dropping f-bombs galore on the sideline.

The Packers won this round, but something tells me these guys might see each other again in a couple months.

Loser: The Panthers’ Not-So-Special Teams
How many blocked punts does it take to defeat the Panthers? That’s a trick question. The answer is zero, because even if you took away the 14 points Minnesota scored off blocks, the Vikings still would have defeated Carolina. Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen both returned blocks for scores – making them the first teammates to accomplish the feat in the same game in 24 years – and, in the process, somehow managed to make the Panthers look even worse. To say nothing about the dreadful NFC South, which might just be the worst division of all time.

Winner: C.J. Anderson
Well, the Broncos have discovered their running game. The rest of the NFL oughta take a shot of whiskey and call it a season. C.J. Anderson allowed Peyton Manning and the Broncos to control every aspect of Sunday Night’s game against Kansas City and walk out of Arrowhead with a 29-16 victory. This is Anderson’s second straight game with more than 160 rushing yards, which is terrifying for a team that already has Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker at their disposal. The Broncos are basically the Death Star of the NFL at this point, and, after Sunday night’s win, they maintained their division lead and kept the pressure on the Pats in the race for the AFC’s best record. Pray for the rest of the league.

Loser: The Entire AFC North (Except the Bengals)
With less than a minute left in the Bucs/Bengals game, Tampa QB Josh McCown completed a 21-yard toss to set his side up for a game-winning field goal. The only problem? The Bucs had 12 men on the field. Lucky for them, everyone missed it. The refs, the replay crew; everyone except for one man: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.

So Lewis tossed out a red challenge flag, even though he didn’t have any challenges left. Even so, with the flag on the field, this bought Lewis a little extra time for the replay crew to catch the blunder and penalize Tampa for having 12 men on the field, overturning the Buccaneers’ play and preserving a 14-13 Bengals victory.

More importantly, it put Cincinnati in first place, as the rest of the AFC North lost their respective Sunday games – because nobody wants to win this division.

Winner: Johnny Football!
Johnny Manziel is playing quarterback for an NFL team and all of our dreams are coming true.

After Brian Hoyer threw his second interception of the day against Buffalo (and fifth in two games), Browns coach Mike Pettine gave the keys to Manziel, forever changing the 2014 NFL season. Manziel wasn’t good enough to dig the Browns out of Hoyer’s hole, but that didn’t mean he didn’t win over our hearts with his shenanigans. On Manziel’s opening drive, he took the Browns 80 yards and capped it off with a 10-yard touchdown run and the Money Fingers.

Manziel is here to save the Browns, not in terms of win and losses, but by making them the most entertaining team in football. Thus ends the Brian Hoyer era.

Loser: J.J. Watt
What? Didn’t the Texans beat the Titans 45-21, giving them a puncher’s chance for the playoffs? Didn’t J.J. Watt catch his third touchdown pass of the year, giving him more TDs than Larry Fitzgerald and Wes Welker? What gives?

Watt is so good that I’m basically tuning into games expecting a touchdown from him. Simply scoring is old news. I’m now grading his success on his TD celebrations and this week’s was embarrassing. Watt totally tried to spike the ball but couldn’t handle it. For that reason, Watt is being named a loser. This is your fault, J.J. You’ve spoiled us.

Winner: St. Louis Rams
After a grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, members of the St. Louis Rams showed solidarity with protestors in Ferguson by entering the field in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose. It was a bold statement from a league not exactly known for making them, and then, the Rams went out and tore up the Oakland Raiders 52-0.

At 5-7, St. Louis continues to show the world they are a lot better than their record suggests. They might be the best average team in the NFL, boasting wins over the Niners, Broncos and Seahawks. Too bad they exist in the NFC West and not the division that must not be named.

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