With the Kansas City Chiefs and L.A. Rams off this week after their incredible meeting last Monday night, it allowed some other teams to take the spotlight in the NFL in Week 12. Two such teams were the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had contrasting fortunes on a day that could prove pivotal in the race for a playoff bye. The Patriots were taking on their little brother New York Jets, who once again went into half time tied with them, but ultimately the Jets came up short, losing by a clear 27-13. The Pats held them to no points in the second half on a day where Sony Michel carried the ball 21 times for 133 yards and Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns. The win put the pressure on the Steelers, who were in Denver playing the Broncos, to win and remain close in the race for the top two playoff seeds. However, it was not meant to the be on the day as the underdog home team improved its own record to 5-6 after intercepting Big Ben in the end zone with just over a minute remaining in the game. It was his second interception of the game, and it handed the Broncos a win that was crucial in their faint playoff hopes. Elsewhere, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers lost again, to the Minnesota Vikings 24-17, and now have a tough uphill climb to make the playoffs from a 4-6-1 record. Rodgers has once again targeted a perfect finish to the season. Can he lead them to one again, as he did in 2016, or is the magic out?
It’s early days still for Jimmy Butler in Philadelphia, but so far the 76ers are looking like geniuses for bringing in the former Timberwolves star. Just eight days after hitting a game-winning three for the Sixers, Butler was back up to the same trick on Saturday as time elapsed against the Brooklyn Nets. The shot, which went in with 2.3 seconds to spare, gave them a 127-125 lead that they would not give up, though Butler says anyone could have hit the winning shot thanks to the way the coach drew it up. Maybe things will work out after all!
MLS Playoff action resumed on Sunday with the Conference Final first legs, and the battle between the top two teams in the entire league took place in Atlanta between the home United and the New York Red Bulls. And it was Atlanta that grabbed the initiative, scoring three times via Josef Martinez, Franco Escobar, and Hector Villalba in the dying embers of the match. The 3-0 advantage means Atlanta go to New York on Thursday knowing they can afford to lose by two and still make it to the MLS Cup Final. In the Western Conference Final first leg, it was a dull affair between Portland and Sporting Kansas City, ending in a 0-0 draw. They also will contest the second leg, in KC, on Thursday night.