NFL Winners and Losers: Week 12 gave us curses, gossip and everything in between

I know, I know, Lincoln Riley is coming to USC, Brian Kelly is going to LSU, Michigan beat Ohio State for the first time in forever and it feels like everything that happened in America’s biggest sport happened in the college landscape. But the NFL marched on for another week as well and delivered some stellar quarterback play along with some familial drama.

Loser: Manning Cast Curse 

Eli and Peyton Manning have new jobs. Instead of chucking footballs to wide receivers, they now commentate on Monday Night Football action on select nights on the “Manning Cast.” The Mannings also interview guests throughout the show, and that’s where things get interesting; every active player who has appeared on the show has lost the following week. It would be strange for any set of six players to go 0-6. The six players who’ve fallen victim to the curse are, with one injury-related exception, very good players on very good teams: Travis Kelce, Russell Wilson, Rob Gronkowski, Matthew Stafford, Josh Allen, and Tom Brady. The five teams represented by those players are a combined 32-23 for a 58 percent winning percentage, and that’s with the Seahawks 3-8 record included. And yet, the curse still wrecks havoc.

I don’t believe in curses. The purported Madden Curse has been debunked plenty of times. The Mannings know football better than anybody else. There’s got to be a scientific explanation for their effect on talented football players, something about the importance of Monday night that only the Mannings know. Less explicable, though, is the effect this column has on players and teams.

I wrote that Daniel Jones progressed as a good passer. Since then? He’s had a couple injuries and a lot of very bad play. I talked about Ja’Marr Chase, too. His historic production evaporated the next week and hasn’t returned; he only managed 39 yards this week. I predicted that the Raiders would benefit from their signature organizational dysfunction and, uh, yeah, that has not exactly happened. I can assure you I do not possess any unique football knowledge like the Mannings. So, maybe curses are real?

Winner: Mac Jones

One player truly defies the curse of this column. In week 4, I praised Jones’ poise and play relative to other rookie quarterbacks. All Jones has done since is prove that time is a flat circle and Pats coach/sith-lord Bill Belichick will rule the NFL forever. Jones’ Patriots are on a six-game winning streak, and it’s in part because of their rookie quarterback, not in spite of him.

Earlier in the year, the big criticism levied at Jones was that, although he completed passes, he was afraid to stretch the field and threaten defenses with a deep passing game. There’s a grain of truth to it; so far, Jones has 5.4 air yards per completed throw this year, which ranks 27th in the NFL. However, his mark betters Aaron Rodgers’ — who’s a pretty dang good quarterback himself — and is less indicative of Jones’ faults than his willingness to take advantage of short throws to beat defenses. Jones is improving as time passes, too. He’s averaged at least 8.0 yards per attempt in his last three games, demonstrating the increased depth of his passing. 

Jones currently has 2,850 passing yards, good for 10th in the NFL, and a 70.3 percent completion rate. Moreover, he has a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio with 16 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions. He’s taking care of the football and putting his team in position to win. And boy, are they winning. The Pats now have the best point differential in the NFL and stand at 8-4 after figuring things out following a 2-4 start. Luckily for Patriots fans, the Mannings won’t be able to stop Jones — he’ll be busy next Monday. The Patriots are slated to play the Bills in a match between two title contenders. And if the Mannings can’t derail Jones and the Patriots, I don’t think this column can either. I’m sorry, NFL fans. Belichick is back, again. Maybe he really is immortal. 

Loser: Helicopter Fathers

The Browns have daddy issues. A few weeks ago, the father of then-Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. posted an Instagram video criticizing quarterback Baker Mayfield. The ten-minute video showed plays where Mayfield threw to a receiver besides Beckham Jr. Beckham Sr. then addressed a comment that claimed Mayfield was “either hating on Odell or he just doesn’t want him shining” with three green checkmarks. The Browns ended up releasing Beckham Jr., who is now with the Rams, and trying to put paternal strife in the past.

After the Browns’ horrible 16-10 loss to the Ravens in a game where the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback since 2013 to throw four interceptions and still win the game, Browns star running back Kareem Hunt’s father took to Facebook to offer his own thoughts on Mayfield: “We see he’s limping he’s scared to throw the ball … go Browns hopefully.” Yikes. The Browns are in bad shape on the field — at 6-6, their playoff hopes are slipping away — and the internal issues among members of the team and their families probably won’t help. Hopefully the Browns can get their season in order before Father’s Day. 

Mac Dilatush is a freshman providing commentary on NFL happenings week to week. His column, “NFL Winners and Losers,” runs every other Thursday.