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Ezekiel Elliott gets 2 TDs and a win as Ohio State alumni celebrate Thanksgiving in the NFL

At this point, there really is no question that Zeke is one of the best rookies ever.

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The 2016 NFL regular season is winding down, and the postseason is starting to take shape. Along with several Buckeyes likely making their way to the division playoffs, others are looking at individual awards. In Week 12, a handful of former Ohio State stars faced off on Thanksgiving, while others made an impact on Sunday. This week also included several players using their free Saturday to visit Columbus for the biggest game of the year.

Thanksgiving tradition

One of the time-honored traditions in the NFL is playing in one of the Thanksgiving Day games. Not all teams participate and others are annual regulars, but this year there were several Buckeyes in on the holiday festivities.

  • Minnesota Vikings (Alex Boone) vs Detroit Lions (Taylor Decker)

The Lions came away with a 16-13 win on Thursday, with Decker playing in his inaugural Thanksgiving game. Decker has been having an up and down rookie year, but has definitely shown he was worth the first round pick. The Vikings are trying to reclaim their early-season win streak, but have seen so many losses, Boone even tried a new hair cut last week — it didn’t work.

  • Washington vs Dallas Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott, Darryl Baldwin, Rod Smith)

Another game, another incredible performance out of Ezekiel Elliott. The rookie running back helped his team come away with a 10-1 record on the season — the best in the NFL — and a 31-26 win over a division rival. Elliott had his second 97-yard rushing game in a row, but added two touchdowns this week against Washington.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (Ryan Shazier) vs Indianapolis Colts (Jack Mewhort)

The Steelers whooped on the Colts Thursday, winning 28-7. With Cam Heyward out for the remainder of the season, Shazier is the sole Buckeye for Pittsburgh. The linebacker finished Thanksgiving with six total tackles — three solo. Mewhort is just happy to be back on the field, and is extra motivated thanks to his new longterm contract with Indianapolis.

Coming home

One advantage of playing on Thanksgiving is the open weekend that follows. Several NFL players who played on Thursday, and others who won’t play til Monday, made their way back to Columbus for some time on the sideline during The Game. Some of the alumni representing the Scarlet and Grey included Taylor Decker, A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis, and Jack Mewhort.

San Diego must be happy

The Chargers drafted two of the best defensive talents out of Ohio State during the 2016 NFL Draft: Joey Bosa (No. 3 overall) and Joshua Perry (fourth round).

Despite an offseason filled with contract disputes, Bosa has been able to get the organization and fanbase back on his side with a rookie season that rivals most. He continued his insane first year in the league with seven tackles (two for loss), .5 sacks and two quarterback hits on Sunday against the Texans.

Perry is making his value known on special teams, even forcing a fumble after a huge hit on a punt return Sunday. He doesn’t quite have the type of Year 1 stats that Bosa does, but he has 14 total tackles (11 solo) on the season.

A legend falls

The end of Mike Nugent’s career is coming more and more into focus as the Bengals have endured a rocky season with the usually reliable kicker. Things didn’t look great in the preseason, but Nugent bounced back early in the regular season before completely crumbling toward the end. Overall on the season he’s missed five field goal attempts and four point afters. In the past two games, he’s missed all but one point after -- something kickers across the league are struggling with. As the rules change and Nugent ages, the likelihood he’s still playing in 2017 diminishes each week.

Plays of the week

Ted Ginn Jr.

Just a week after his first touchdown of the season, the Buckeye made an incredible catch in stride which usually results in him turning on the boosters — and it did. Ginn has stepped up when it mattered the past two games and kept the Panthers in the game with this third quarter 88-yard touchdown catch.

Michael Thomas

The rookie had his second 100-plus yard receiving game and second game with two touchdowns in Week 12. Thomas finished the day with nine receptions for 108 yards and two trips to the endzone — including this impressive snag in double coverage.

Terrelle Pryor

The former quarterback is without a doubt having more success in the NFL as a receiver. He’s transformed into the kind of deep threat that teams long for, and his size often gives him an advantage over his opponents. Pryor is closing in on an 1,000-yard receiving season — currently at 855 yards — and hauled in his longest reception of the season at 54 yards.

The Buckeye also honored the latest Ohio State win over Michigan with an O-H-I-O as he exited the tunnel in Cleveland.

Other notes

  • This week’s ‘Monday Night Football’ matchup will feature two teams struggling for a win the past several games when the Philadelphia Eagles (Malcolm Jenkins) host the Green Bay Packers (Corey Linsley).
  • John Simon (Texans) was inactive Sunday due to a chest injury he sustained during ‘Monday Night Football’ in Week 11. Nick Mangold (Jets) missed his fourth straight game due to injury and despite being healthy, teammate Devin Smith was inactive Sunday.
  • Eli Apple (Giants) went out Sunday with a cramp and missed a good portion of this week’s game. However, teammate and fellow Buckeye Johnathan Hankins was a big contributor against the Browns, forcing an errant throw by Josh McCown leading to a Giants Pick-6.
  • Rookie Jalin Marshall (Jets) has officially been demoted from special teams punt returner after recurring issues with drops — something Buckeye fans know all about. Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles admitted, according to 247Sports. “I thought Jalin struggled a little bit catching the ball...It got to the point where he’s helping out more on offense, and we’re trying to take something off of his plate.”
  • Just one week after his first NFL career touchdown, rookie Braxton Miller (Texans) only had one reception on three targets for 12 yards Sunday. He’s been a minimal contributor so far this season, only seeing more targets as other receivers are injured. But at least he saw the endzone once: