Trust is tough to find and tougher to hold in this crazy, unpredictable world, but with the Seattle Seahawks, I really thought we were good.
Coming off three straight wins -- one of which was in Foxborough -- with Russell Wilson looking healthy, Thomas Rawls back and the offensive line showing signs of coming together, the Seahawks looked like the rare NFL team we could trust. Fire 'em up in Tampa: Start all of your Seahawks in fantasy, feel good about it. They lost 14-5.
It's like going away and leaving your teenager to watch the house. You've done it before for a night here or there, because he's a good kid and you feel sure he's ready for the responsibility. Then you come home and there are beer cans everywhere, the garage has a chunk out of it at the exact height of the car's rear bumper, and somehow, someone managed to put a whole toilet on the roof.
I'm not mad, Seahawks. I'm just ... disappointed.
Are the Seahawks one of the best teams in the league? I think so. Will they be better when Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett are back? Of course. Though I fail to see how that excuses the offense's performance Sunday against a bottom-10 defense. Does the win against the New England Patriots in Foxborough prove they can beat anybody, anywhere? Absolutely. But this is the third time in six road games this year that they've failed to score a touchdown.
The Seahawks get the benefit of the doubt because of what they've done in past years. They could end up winning it all. But the fact is, they've put as much hot garbage on tape this year as any other contender. And when it comes to the issue of trust, that puts the 2016 Seahawks in the wrong bucket.
Here's what else we did and didn't learn in Week 12 -- on the question of trust:
We can trust the Cowboys' offense.
The latest knock on the Dallas Cowboys, if Twitter is my guide, is that they haven't beaten anybody good. This is unsupported by facts. Dallas' past three wins have come against teams that have winning records. Two of those teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, and the other was a popular preseason Super Bowl favorite.
Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington all looked like tough matchups for the Cowboys for different reasons. Could they come back if the Steelers got ahead of them? Could they figure things out if Baltimore made it tough for them to run? Could they outscore Kirk Cousins and Washington's quick-strike pass offense? Check, check and check.
Dallas may have question marks on defense, but its offense is identically efficient each week, devouring the clock and opponents' souls with a relentless parade of first downs. That offensive line travels, and so by extension does that running game. Dallas might not win it all, but its offense is the most trustworthy unit in the whole league.
We cannot trust Brock Osweiler.
Which is trouble for the Houston Texans, who shelled out big bucks for Osweiler after Brian Hoyer betrayed their trust by choking away a playoff game with five turnovers. Osweiler was supposed to solidify things for Houston at the most important position, but he has played worse, statistically, than the gaggle of quarterbacks they dragged through the 2015 season. After throwing three interceptions in Sunday's loss to San Diego, Osweiler is tied with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Blake Bortles for the league lead in INTs. Only six teams in the NFL have more turnovers this year than the Texans' 19, and those teams have a combined record of 15-52. The state of the AFC South gives Bill O'Brien time to turn Osweiler around, but if he doesn't, can we still trust O'Brien's reputation as a quarterback whisperer?
Can we trust the Giants are as good as their 8-3 record?
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the New York Giants' victory in Cleveland was the first time in the past three seasons a team punted at least nine times in a game and still won by 14. The Giants have won six in a row, and they own the second-best record in the NFC.? But Sunday was the first time this year they won by more than a touchdown, and their offensive players admitted after the game that they need to be better. Already ensured of their best season since 2012, the Giants have Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington to finish the season, and three of those games are on the road. It's easy to like what the Giants have done this year, but we may need a few more weeks before "like" can graduate to "trust."
The Patriots can't trust Rob Gronkowski's availability moving forward.
It was very weird for the New England Patriots to put Gronk in Sunday's game against the Jets after they were so concerned all week about exposing him to contact, and he didn't last long. He went into the game with what they said was a chest injury, left it with what they said was a back injury, and after a clear setback in a game he probably would have done well to miss, you have to think the Patriots play it safe this week and sit Gronk out until he's healthier. What that means going forward, as New England works to fight off the Raiders and the rest of the AFC West for the conference's top seed, is anyone's guess. But Gronk does matter. Since Gronkowski entered the league in 2010, Tom Brady's touchdown-to-interception rate is 5.1 when Gronk plays, 2.6 when he doesn't. Brady's Total QBR drops from 80 to 65 when Gronk does not play.
The Buffalo Bills are easier to trust when Sammy Watkins plays.
Tyrod Taylor's 114.6 passer rating and 82.2 Total QBR on Sunday were both season-high marks, and it's no coincidence. Watkins was back in the lineup for the first time since Week 2. His presence frees things up for the rest of the offense, as LeSean McCoy's huge game showed, and this is the first time Anthony Lynn has had Watkins available to him since becoming offensive coordinator in Week 3. Buffalo may have too rocky of a road ahead to reach the playoffs, but they're going to be a tough team to play the rest of the way if -- and yes, that's a big IF -- Watkins can stay healthy.
No team trusts any player more than Arizona trusts David Johnson.
If the Arizona Cardinals were a playoff contender, their second-year running back would be a leading MVP candidate. Johnson has scored 13 of the Cardinals' 28 offensive touchdowns and has accounted for a league-high 37.8 percent of his team's total yards from scrimmage. ( Ezekiel Elliott has accounted for "only"?33.5 percent of Dallas' total yardage.) Johnson has at least 100 total yards in every Cardinals game this year. No one has ever had 16 such games in a season. Marcus Allen (1985), Edgerrin James (2000) and Barry Sanders (1997) are the only ones who've had 15. The Cardinals may be going nowhere, but it's not for lack of Johnson's effort. He has been everything they imagined he'd be and more.