Home » NFL Week 14 takeaways – What we learned, big questions for every game and future team outlooks

NFL Week 14 takeaways – What we learned, big questions for every game and future team outlooks

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Week 14 of the 2021 NFL season featured some huge blowouts within the early window, together with a 48-9 victory for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs over the Raiders. The Seahawks’ offense acquired a spark from operating again Rashaad Penny and dropped 33 factors on the Texans, whereas the Titans acquired an essential victory of their bid for the AFC’s high seed, shutting out the Jaguars at residence. The Saints additionally beat the Jets by three touchdowns on the highway.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson suffered an ankle harm, as Baltimore misplaced to Cleveland regardless of a late push. Dallas’ protection made large performs to assist it narrowly beat Washington and produce a division title just a little nearer, and the Falcons beat the Panthers, who used each Cam Newton and P.J. Walker at quarterback.

And on Thursday night time, a sport that when appeared like a blowout turned quite a bit nearer late within the fourth quarter — however the Vikings in the end held on to beat the Steelers and preserve their playoff hopes alive.

Within the late video games, the Chargers dealt with the Giants to arrange a Thursday night time showdown with the Chiefs. The Broncos, emotional after the loss of life of former huge receiver Demaryius Thomas, beat the Lions. Each the 49ers and Buccaneers gained in additional time to remain within the thick of the playoff race.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the takeaways and lingering questions. Plus, they every have a look at the larger image with their present workforce confidence ranking — a 0-10 grade of how they really feel a couple of workforce’s outlook popping out of the week. Let’s get to it.

Leap to a matchup:


What to know: The Packers have an issue with the particular groups. It did not price them on Sunday towards Chicago, but when they do not get it fastened, it’d find yourself being the downfall of their season. By itself, Jakeem Grant’s 97-yard punt return for a Bears landing was dangerous sufficient. Earlier than that, Grant had a 42-yard punt return and Khalil Herbert a 41-yard kickoff return. Additionally throw in a Packers kickoff by Mason Crosby that went out of bounds in addition to Inexperienced Bay kickoff returner Malik Taylor touching a ball earlier than it went out on the 5-yard line. All of that occurred within the first half, and it would not included a muffed punt return by Packers rookie Amari Rodgers that acquired worn out by a Bears penalty and a botched onside kick late within the fourth. If the warmth wasn’t on first-year particular groups coordinator Mo Drayton earlier than, it certainly is now. — Rob Demovsky

Can the Packers survive any extra offensive line accidents? It is exhausting to think about they will. After they misplaced proper deal with Billy Turner to a left knee harm within the second quarter on Sunday, it left them with solely one among their most well-liked starters. And that starter, rookie proper guard Royce Newman, has been the weak hyperlink of their line. There’s nonetheless hope that left deal with David Bakhtiari will play this season, however he hasn’t seen sport motion since his tearing his ACL on Dec. 31. There’s related hope for middle Josh Myers. However with Elgton Jenkins out of the season due to an ACL harm, it is getting skinny. — Demovsky

Demovsky’s confidence ranking (0-10): 8, no change from 8. The Packers can win in so some ways. So long as their particular groups would not price them and the accidents do not change into an excessive amount of to beat, they have a legit likelihood to win all of it.

Subsequent sport: at Ravens (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


What to know: In his first sport again from an harm to his ribs, Justin Fields put collectively a robust first half wherein he went toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers. The rookie quarterback helped Chicago bounce out to a 10-0 begin and confirmed development after throwing a pick-six, connecting with Damiere Byrd for a 54-yard landing move on Chicago’s subsequent sequence. Fields threw for 123 yards and two touchdowns within the second quarter then tapered off within the third quarter (1-of-4 for five yards), earlier than rallying once more within the fourth. Regardless of the loss, Chicago’s offense seemed the most effective it has shortly towards one of many NFC’s high defenses, and Fields has lots to construct on over the ultimate 4 video games. — Courtney Cronin

Can Fields and the offense preserve this momentum going? Chicago’s offense seemed much less anemic than traditional, scoring a season-high 30 factors. The O-line solely allowed Fields to be sacked twice, and though rookie Teven Jenkins had a tough outing — incomes 4 penalties rather than injured left deal with Jason Peters — the expertise he gained is a plus for the longer term. Jakeem Grant has carved out an essential position for himself on particular groups, the place he recorded the NFL’s first punt return for a rating this season (as a slot receiver additionally) on Sunday, and the Bears ought to proceed to get him concerned usually once they face the league’s second-worst scoring protection (Minnesota) subsequent week. — Cronin

Dickerson’s confidence ranking (0-10): 4, up from 3.5. Chicago confirmed it could dangle robust with among the finest groups within the NFC for a half. The Bears will likely be in motion once more subsequent Monday, once they host a Minnesota workforce that hasn’t gained all that always at Soldier Discipline.

Subsequent sport: vs. Vikings (Dec. 20, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What to know: Regardless of a lackluster second half wherein they allowed the Payments to erase a 21-point halftime lead, the Bucs managed to carry on in additional time towards the NFL’s top-ranked protection to enhance to 10-3. Broad receiver Breshad Perriman took a brief move 58 yards for a landing, giving Tampa Bay back-to-back 10-win seasons for the second time in franchise historical past. The Bucs’ protection — unable to get off the sector in a number of video games this season, restricted the Payments to 2-for-13 on third down, whereas their move rush sacked quarterback Josh Allen thrice and their secondary confused him. However they surrendered 100 yards to Allen on the bottom and gave up three touchdowns and a discipline aim within the second half, whereas the offense mustered three factors within the second half of regulation, with too many missed connections. — Jenna Laine

How does at the moment’s sport affect the Bucs’ playoff image? The Bucs had been unable to clinch the NFC South title Sunday as they wanted each the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers to lose or tie (the Saints defeated the Jets 30-9). A win towards the Saints subsequent week would clinch the division. So far as playoff seeding, due to the Packers’ late kickoff towards the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals’ Monday night time sport towards the Rams, the Bucs will not know in the event that they’ve moved into the second seed till later, however they took care of their very own enterprise. — Laine

Laine’s confidence ranking (0-10): 8.5, no change from 8.5. The Bucs have had points this yr with taking their foot off the fuel. This was one other instance of it, however towards , playoff-caliber workforce.

Subsequent sport: vs. Saints (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


What to know: Regardless of quarterback Josh Allen’s second-half heroics, Buffalo was unable to come back away with a win in additional time due to a inconsistent defensive effort and poor line play early within the sport. The Payments staged a powerful comeback, holding Tampa to 3 factors and scoring 24 within the final two quarters, however the protection was unable to hold on in additional time. Allen completed with greater than 100 dashing yards for the third time in his profession and have become the primary participant in Payments historical past with at the very least 250 passing yards and 100 dashing yards in a single sport, per ESPN Stats & Data. Buffalo’s lack of dimension on the line of defense confirmed towards the Bucs, particularly with defensive deal with Star Lotulelei not taking part in due to a toe harm. On the opposite facet of the ball, Allen had little time to throw early and was usually pressured to make dangerous choices due to the stress. — Alaina Getzenberg

After shedding two straight for the primary time this season, the place do the Payments go from right here? Fortunately for the Payments, the remaining slate options one opponent with a successful file — the AFC East-leading New England Patriots. The remainder of the schedule consists of the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets — all winnable video games at residence. A murky AFC playoff image retains the Payments nicely inside the postseason race even with the shut loss, however there’s little room for error. — Getzenberg

Getzenberg’s confidence ranking (0-10): 7.2, down from 7.5. The Payments got here up simply quick after a 24-point comeback to drive additional time, displaying a late aggressive effort that this workforce has been lacking as of late, however it was not sufficient to get a win towards a high workforce.

Subsequent sport: vs. Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The 49ers ought to qualify for the NFC playoffs, and something wanting that may qualify as a disappointment. Sunday’s win in Cincinnati wasn’t notably spectacular aside from San Francisco’s means to step out of the best way and let the Bengals make myriad errors — and never return the favor whereas tight finish George Kittle dominated. However type factors by no means matter, particularly in December. At 7-6, the 49ers sit within the sixth spot within the NFC playoffs with a winnable residence sport subsequent week towards Atlanta. Positive, there is a large cluster of groups lurking behind them, however the Niners have tiebreakers towards the likes of Minnesota and Philadelphia. Given the dearth of nice groups within the backside of the NFC playoff chase, 10 wins figures to be greater than sufficient to get in, and 9 must also do the trick. — Nick Wagoner

How vital is the harm to linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair? Al-Shaair has been one of many Niners’ most improved gamers and emerged as an emotional chief for a protection that has gotten higher because the season has gone alongside. However he departed late in Sunday’s sport due to an elbow harm and didn’t return. On the time he left, Al-Shaair had 11 tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss. On condition that fellow weakside linebacker Dre Greenlaw is battling a core muscle harm, the Niners may once more discover themselves short-handed at linebacker down the house stretch if Al-Shaair misses vital time. — Wagoner

Wagoner’s confidence ranking (0-10): 6.5, up from 6. The Niners discovered a method to win ugly on the highway, they usually’re well-positioned to make the postseason. However there are nonetheless many flaws right here that make it exhausting to consider they will obtain way more than that.

Subsequent sport: vs. Falcons (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


What to know: The stress is again on the Bengals and third-year coach Zac Taylor. With back-to-back losses, Cincinnati put extra stress on itself to make the playoffs. Sunday’s loss to the 49ers featured expensive turnovers, poor offense and a few defensive errors. Cincinnati has little to no room for error in its last 4 video games if it desires to make the playoffs. — Ben Child

What’s holding this workforce again? Greater than something, it is the offense. The Bengals have had their moments all through the season. However Sunday’s sport highlighted Cincinnati’s offensive inconsistency that has plagued the workforce the complete season. Given all of the sources invested on that facet of the ball, the problems are puzzling. — Child

Child’s confidence ranking (0-10): 5, down from 6.2. One other lackluster efficiency definitely hints that the Bengals will not have the endurance to snag a playoff berth.

Subsequent sport: at Broncos (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


What to know: After Friday’s apply, Broncos coach Vic Fangio mentioned the workforce can be “able to pay tribute” to former huge receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was discovered useless in his Georgia residence this week. Ten gamers on the Broncos’ roster and greater than 40 within the group had been with the workforce throughout Thomas’ profession. The Broncos opened the sport by sending simply 10 gamers onto the sector for his or her first play as a method of acknowledging Thomas, and his No. 88 was painted on the sector. Regardless of the emotional day, the Broncos stored their composure with a stable front-to-back effort on either side of the ball. Now at 7-6, they continue to be within the AFC’s playoff race with a pivotal residence sport towards the Cincinnati Bengals subsequent. — Jeff Legwold

Will the Broncos’ coaches preserve Sunday in thoughts shifting ahead? The numbers proceed to inform the story this season: When the Broncos play with persistence within the run sport and use play-action within the passing sport, they’re a much more troublesome offense to take care of. The Broncos are 6-1 once they get at the very least 28 carries for operating backs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III. And once they do this, they’ve additionally been efficient within the passing sport with extra room to throw down the sector. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater handed for 179 yards and two touchdowns towards the Lions. — Legwold

Legwold’s confidence ranking (0-10): 6, up from 5. They present some playoff worthiness once they follow what they do greatest, however till they present a willingness to stick with it, judgement must be reserved.

Subsequent sport: vs. Bengals (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


What to know: Even earlier than kickoff, the Detroit Lions had been going through an uphill battle with key playmakers T.J. Hockenson (hand) and D’Andre Swift (shoulder) each dominated out along with six different gamers positioned on the reserve/COVID-19 listing this previous week. Coming off its first win of the season, Detroit could not recreate that very same magic throughout its loss to the Broncos with quarterback Jared Goff throwing for one yard within the first quarter. — Eric Woodyard

Ought to the Lions take into account shutting down operating again D’Andre Swift for the rest of the season? The Lions had been formally eradicated from playoff rivalry Sunday and proceed to strengthen their possibilities of deciding on first within the 2022 NFL draft. Though Lions coach Dan Campbell says they “nonetheless have hope in Swift” and have not thought of shutting him down for the remainder of the season, it could be good to let their greatest offensive participant heal. One of many brilliant spots in Swift’s absence towards Denver was Craig Reynolds, who rushed for 83 yards on 11 carries — together with a 35-yard rush within the second quarter. — Woodyard

Woodyard’s confidence ranking (0-10): 2, down from 3. As accidents and sickness proceed to rise inside the workforce, the manufacturing continues to dip.

Subsequent sport: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Regardless of not having star receiver Keenan Allen, the Chargers picked up a second consecutive win for the primary time since early October. Backup receiver Joshua Palmer and second-string operating again Justin Jackson each stepped up when wanted, receiver Mike Williams performed nicely once more and receiver Jalen Guyton caught a giant landing move from Justin Herbert on the finish of the primary half. All of it added as much as an essential win to maintain tempo with the Chiefs within the AFC West earlier than the groups play Thursday night time sport at SoFi Stadium. — Shelley Smith

Can the Chargers get wholesome in time to face the Chiefs? Allen and security Derwin James Jr. missed Sunday’s sport, and operating again Austin Ekeler went out within the third quarter with an harm to his left ankle. The Chargers consider of their strategies and method, however having gamers similar to Allen, James and Ekeler lively would make their job simpler towards the Chiefs. — Smith

Smith’s confidence ranking (0-10): 7, no change from final week. Jackson and Joshua Kelley look able to share the highlight at operating again and may have to if Ekeler’s ankle retains him out of Thursday’s sport.

Subsequent sport: vs. Chiefs (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Giants (4-9) could not cease Justin Herbert and the Chargers. Los Angeles had 289 whole yards and 18 first downs … within the first half alone. Herbert sat within the pocket many of the afternoon and was hardly threatened. It solely magnified the Giants’ want for an edge rusher and extra pass-rushing assist in basic. After they’ve performed a number of the league’s greatest quarterbacks (Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Herbert), they’ve barely been in a position to present any resistance. These 5 QBs mixed to finish 68% of their passes for a median of 282 yards with 13 landing passes and 4 interceptions. And 5 wins towards the Giants. — Jordan Raanan

Is coach Joe Choose’s job in jeopardy? It is all however a lock that basic supervisor Dave Gettleman will likely be gone (or pressured into retirement) after this season. Choose’s future is not fairly as sure. He is anticipated to maintain his job, barring a late-season meltdown. Clearly video games like Sunday’s demolition will not assist. Will it solely worsen subsequent week at residence vs. the Dallas Cowboys? It could’t, for Choose’s sake. The Giants desperately need to preserve their coach. They like the best way he has commanded the locker room and a number of the modifications which have been made. They do not need to preserve altering coaches after two seasons. However sooner or later, there need to be outcomes on the sector. The Giants have to indicate one thing these last few weeks. — Raanan

Raanan’s confidence ranking (0-10): 2.8, down from 3.4. This was a nasty workforce with Daniel Jones. They’re actually dangerous with out him.

Subsequent sport: vs. Cowboys (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Properly, coach Mike McCarthy was proper — the Cowboys beat the Washington Soccer Group. He most likely did not envision the best way it performed out. The Cowboys went from dominating — main 24-0 at halftime and 27-8 coming into the fourth quarter — to holding on for expensive life in a 27-20 victory. A stagnant offense practically let down a dominating protection. Quarterback Dak Prescott was intercepted twice, together with one which was returned for a landing to chop the sport to 1 rating. The Cowboys had been with out left deal with Tyron Smith due to an ankle harm and proper deal with La’el Collins due to an ejection. The protection needed to carry the day. Defensive finish Randy Gregory’s sack and compelled fumble of WFT quarterback Kyle Allen with 2:24 to play was as wanted as Gregory’s first-quarter interception of Taylor Heinicke that became a Cowboys’ landing. Linebacker Micah Parsons’ sack/fumble of Heinicke led to Dorance Armstrong’s 37-yard return for a landing. The Cowboys had two different takeaways, giving them 27 on the season, which ranks second within the NFL. Maybe not as convincing as they would favor, however the 9-4 Cowboys are 3-0 within the NFC East and in prime place to say the division title with 4 video games to play. — Todd Archer

Can the Cowboys be a contender with this offense? The straightforward reply isn’t any. The operating sport was higher however not explosive, particularly with the absence of Tony Pollard. Prescott had two interceptions and a case may very well be made three different passes may have been picked. There is no rhythm to the offense happening greater than a month now. They scored one landing on six pink zone journeys vs. Washington, and that was one a part of the offense that remained serviceable throughout this lull. The Cowboys have 4 video games to discover a answer. In the event that they need to be taken severely, it had higher occur shortly. — Archer

Archer’s confidence ranking (0-10): 8.7, up from 8.4. It may need bumped as much as 9.0 if the offense was in a position to have only a respectable day. Even with the protection taking part in at the next stage than anyone may have anticipated, this workforce wants the offense to operate at a excessive stage. The Cowboys are ok to win the division, however extra is predicted.

Subsequent sport: at Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Washington’s protection did what it may to make the sport fascinating late. However Washington’s offensive flaws had been uncovered. The unit lacks the firepower to win another method than with a robust dashing assault. No person felt that greater than quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who performed his worst sport and ultimately left within the fourth quarter due to a knee harm. He was off course on a number of throws. When Washington ponders its QB scenario this offseason, it should keep in mind this sport. Heinicke performed nicely in the course of the four-game win streak and Sunday wasn’t all on him. Heinicke has performed significantly better, however to maximise him, Washington wants a robust run sport so it would not relaxation on Heinicke’s arm. — John Keim

Is Washington too banged up? The workforce has been banged up for some time, however it’s gotten worse and now it is price questioning what it has left for the ultimate 4 video games. Broad receiver Terry McLaurin left Sunday’s sport due to a concussion. Operating again J.D. McKissic missed the final two video games with a concussion. The workforce is already with out tight finish Logan Thomas and its high three facilities. And its high three wholesome defensive ends missed Sunday’s sport due to COVID-19. It is doable it’s going to have two — James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill — again subsequent week. Washington’s resiliency has been a giant key to it getting again into playoff rivalry. It nonetheless holds a playoff spot. However to hold on to it, it will need some gamers again — and it could’t afford to lose anymore. — Keim

Keim’s confidence ranking (0-10): 6.3, down from 6.6. It is not about something aside from well being with Washington, and it retains shedding key gamers. In some unspecified time in the future, the attrition makes too large a distinction.

Subsequent sport: at Eagles (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Rashaad Penny made a robust case to be the Seahawks’ lead operating again for the remainder of the season, offered he can keep wholesome. In the most effective efficiency of his profession, Penny ripped off landing runs of 32 and 47 yards en path to 137 dashing yards. He began, regardless that Alex Collins was again from his one-game absence, and led Seattle’s operating backs with 17 touches. Selecting Penny twenty seventh general over Nick Chubb in 2018 was and can stay one of the crucial regrettable personnel choices the Seahawks have made beneath coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider, with Penny struggling one harm after one other. Penny had a pleasant displaying final week with 62 yards on 11 touches. He is the Seahawks’ most explosive again and is beginning to seem like their greatest — if he can keep wholesome. — Brady Henderson

Is quarterback Russell Wilson all the best way again? Wilson’s beginning to seem like himself versus the model who struggled with accuracy and made a couple of dangerous choices in his return from finger surgical procedure. He missed a few extra throws Sunday, together with one which was behind DK Metcalf on a fast slant close to the aim line. But it surely was nothing just like the head-scratching misfires that marred his first three video games again. Wilson (17-of-28, 260 yards) related with Tyler Lockett on some classic performs, together with a 55-yard moon ball for the primary of his two landing passes and some different well-placed balls to Lockett on the sideline. His decision-making was additionally good, usually taking what was there versus forcing deep throws. If Wilson is really again, that may be the most effective purpose to assume the Seahawks could make one thing of their last 4 video games, regardless that their playoff chances are high nonetheless slim. ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index has them at 3% after the win. — Henderson

Henderson’s confidence ranking (0-10): 3.4, up from 3. Beating up on a two-win workforce would not inform us a lot, however one other stable efficiency from Wilson and Penny’s emergence are price one thing.

Subsequent sport: at Rams (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)



Rashaad Penny finds daylight and activates the jets to succeed in the top zone for his second landing of the sport.


What to know: Quarterback Davis Mills could be an enchancment over Tyrod Taylor, however the Texans’ offense nonetheless is not ok. Mills accomplished his first 14 move makes an attempt towards the Seahawks, probably the most consecutive passes accomplished to begin a sport by a rookie since at the very least 1991 and probably the most by any participant in Texans historical past. However after his sturdy begin, Mills accomplished 19 of his subsequent 35 passes and the Texans didn’t rating within the second half. The brightest spot within the loss was kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn, who set a franchise file with a 61-yard discipline aim to finish the primary half. His earlier lengthy was 55 yards. — Sarah Barshop

After accidents and one other poor dashing efficiency, what does this imply for Texans’ choices at RB? The Texans’ operating sport took one other hit on Sunday after Rex Burkhead left the sport due to a groin harm. After David Johnson was added to the COVID-19 listing on Sunday morning, Royce Freeman was Houston’s solely wholesome operating again. Freeman, claimed by the Texans final month, ran for 15 yards on 11 carries and the workforce averaged 2.5 yards per rush. If Burkhead’s harm is severe sufficient to maintain him out for Sunday in Jacksonville, the Texans should discover an alternative choice so as to add to the group that ranks final this season in Soccer Outsiders’ DVOA. — Barshop

Barshop’s confidence ranking (0-10): 0.4, down from 0.6. Even towards a Seahawks workforce that got here into the sport with 4 wins, the Texans misplaced by 20 factors.

Subsequent sport: at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The up-and-down Browns jumped again into the AFC North race with a ragged victory over the division-leading Ravens. After dominating the primary three quarters, the Browns practically blew a 21-point lead. However Cleveland’s protection got here by way of with a last fourth-down cease to place the Ravens away. Cleveland is now one sport behind the Ravens, with its playoff hopes very a lot alive. — Jake Trotter

Will the Browns’ offense ever flip the nook? Courting again to Oct. 10, Cleveland has surpassed 17 factors as soon as. Subtract Myles Garrett’s defensive landing Sunday and — as soon as once more — the Browns didn’t high 17 factors, a giant purpose Baltimore was in a position to dangle round with out Lamar Jackson. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was sharper coming off per week of relaxation, and the Browns did have their moments offensively. However until this offense can attain one other stage, Cleveland’s playoff push appears primed to in the end fall quick. — Trotter

Trotter’s confidence ranking (0-10): 6.1, up from 4.9. The struggle of attrition within the AFC North is starting to favor the Browns.

Subsequent sport: vs. Raiders (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)


What to know: Quarterback Tyler Huntley is not Lamar Jackson, however he would not flinch. It could’ve been straightforward for the Ravens to fold when Jackson left early within the second quarter with a proper ankle harm. However Huntley practically pulled off a exceptional comeback, throwing for 270 yards and operating for 45 yards. This was the primary time since Nov. 7 that Baltimore scored over 20 factors. — Jamison Hensley

Is the Ravens’ season in jeopardy? The severity of Jackson’s ankle harm was unknown by the top of the sport, and Baltimore nonetheless has a 46% likelihood of successful the AFC North, in accordance with ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index. But when Jackson is sidelined for a time period, and even lower than full energy, the Ravens may have a troublesome time successful video games. Baltimore faces one of many hardest end-of-season schedules with video games at residence towards the Inexperienced Bay Packers, on the Cincinnati Bengals and residential towards the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens have been overachievers all season regardless of 23 gamers being on injured reserve sooner or later this season. Two weeks in the past, the Ravens had the No. 1 seed within the AFC. But it surely’s troublesome to see Baltimore making a run to the playoffs with out Jackson. — Hensley

Hensley’s confidence ranking (0-10): 6, down from 7.5. The Ravens most likely want at the very least two extra victories to safe a playoff spot. With an injured Jackson, Baltimore could be favored in solely one among its remaining 4 video games.

Subsequent sport: vs. Packers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


What to know: Thank goodness for Alvin Kamara. The Saints operating again returned from a four-game absence to supply some desperately wanted juice with 145 yards from scrimmage and a landing. The passing offense was nonetheless fairly lackluster, however the protection was nice, as New Orleans stopped a five-game shedding streak to maintain faint playoff hopes alive. The Saints (6-7) will face an infinite problem subsequent Sunday night time on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers however may very well be favored of their last three video games after that. — Mike Triplett

How tight is Taysom Hill’s grip on the beginning QB job? It most likely did not get any tighter or looser Sunday — regardless that he did put a pleasant exclamation level on the victory together with his 44-yard landing run within the last minutes and completed with 73 dashing yards and two dashing TDs. Hill, who’s taking part in by way of a mallet finger harm on his proper throwing hand, was ok as a passer on this matchup, finishing 15 of 21 passes for 175 yards with zero turnovers. But it surely was a reasonably uninspiring efficiency towards the NFL’s worst-ranked protection. The Saints will want extra of a spark in that space down the stretch. — Triplett

Triplett’s confidence ranking (0-10): 4.5, up from 4.1. The passing offense stays a priority, however the Saints are getting more healthy. In addition they ought to have their full beginning 11 again on their protection by subsequent week. Do not sleep on how good that unit may be.

Subsequent sport: at Buccaneers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)



Taysom Hill caps off the day vs. the Jets with a 44-yard landing run because the Saints win 30-9 to finish a five-game shedding streak.


What to know: Quarterback Zach Wilson’s up-and-down rookie season (principally down) went within the fallacious path in Sunday’s 30-9 loss to the Saints. He was dangerous. His accuracy was terrible, as he accomplished solely 19 of 42 passes for 202 yards. A few of that was concession yardage; he had solely 86 yards after three quarters. The massive irony? It was his first full sport with out an interception. The Jets needed to see the No. 2 general choose construct on final week’s encouraging efficiency, however he was out of sync from begin to end. He did not full a move to a beginning outdoors huge receiver for the primary 55 minutes. One among them, Denzel Mims, acquired benched due to two dumb penalties. Due to accidents, Wilson was surrounded by backups at each talent place. The Jets’ main receivers, Elijah Moore and Corey Davis, had been out. This sport may’ve been referred to as “The Replacements.” One among them, operating again Ty Johnson, dropped three passes within the first quarter alone. So, no, Wilson did not get a lot assist. Transcendent gamers can rise above that. Clearly, Wilson is not near being that sort of participant. — Wealthy Cimini

Are the Jets nearer to being a playoff workforce than final yr? Technically, sure. (Sarcastic pause.) The Jets had been formally eradicated with the loss. A yr in the past, they had been eradicated on Nov. 20, the primary workforce in 2020 to fulfill that destiny. In order that’s progress, proper? OK, sufficient wisecracks. Here is the grim actuality: The Jets’ playoff drought (longest lively stoop within the league) is now 11 seasons, tied for the longest in franchise historical past. They beforehand missed the playoffs of their post-Tremendous Bowl years, from 1970 to 1980. In some methods, that is worse as a result of that is the period of parity, with free company and fast fixes. For the Jets, there are not any fast fixes. — Cimini

Cimini’s confidence ranking (0-10): 2, down from 2.5. The Jets had been mathematically eradicated, extending the league’s longest lively playoff drought to 11 years. Of us, it is as dangerous because it has ever been.

Subsequent sport: at Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Chiefs had the proper lead-up to their greatest sport of the season by blowing out the Raiders. That they had a comparatively stress-free sport heading into Thursday night time’s showdown with the Chargers, who beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in September. The Chiefs had been in a position to get lots of their key gamers out of the sport nicely earlier than its finish. That ought to enable them to be as rested as doable in the course of the quick week. The Chiefs may even go in with loads of momentum, because the win over the Raiders was their sixth straight. — Adam Teicher

Can the Chiefs win out and get the AFC’s high playoff seed? In the event that they play like they did towards the Raiders, they are going to. Patrick Mahomes and the offense got here to life whereas the Chiefs’ protection continued to regulate the sport. The larger thriller is whether or not ending 13-4 would earn them the No. 1 seed. The Chiefs would wish at the very least one loss by the Titans and Patriots for that situation to occur. — Teicher

Teicher’s confidence ranking (0-10): 9.1, up from 8. A blowout win does nothing to drop the boldness stage, even when it was towards the Raiders.

Subsequent sport: at Chargers (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


What to know: That is a wrap. Positive, the Raiders are nonetheless mathematically alive in terms of the playoff race, however let’s be actual: Las Vegas has not been the identical since its bye week. The Raiders, who began 5-2, at the moment are 6-7 after falling 48-9 in a sport they trailed 35-0 … within the first half. The Raiders turned the primary workforce to lose 4 fumbles in a sport this season, together with one by Josh Jacobs that was returned for a TD on the primary snap of the sport. All that is left for the Raiders to play for is satisfaction, and based mostly on how little of it they confirmed towards the Chiefs, not even that may be a certain factor. — Paul Gutierrez

Did anybody on the Raiders’ roster present up? Sure, Hunter Renfrow. With tight finish Darren Waller lacking his second straight sport since struggling again and knee accidents on Thanksgiving, probably the most unassuming Raider had the most important day. Renfrow had a career-best 13 catches for 117 yards and a TD. — Gutierrez

Gutierrez’s confidence ranking (0-10): 3.5, down from 5.5. A whole overhaul, with everybody from GM Mike Mayock to interim coach Wealthy Bisaccia to quarterback Derek Carr on discover, is within the offing after the Raiders’ worst loss to Kansas Metropolis within the 62-year rivalry (edging their 42-7 loss to the Chiefs in 1964).

Subsequent sport: at Browns (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)


What to know: Coach Arthur Smith has been saying for weeks the Falcons needed to be taking part in significant soccer in December — and right here in Charlotte, in the midst of the month, was an opportunity to do precisely that. Win, and Atlanta would stay within the dialog for a postseason bid. The Falcons did what they’ve carried out greatest this season: Win on the highway; and ensured they’re going to preserve taking part in video games that give them a shot on the postseason. It would not get simpler, because the Falcons head to San Francisco subsequent week. — Michael Rothstein

Is the Falcons’ run sport professional? At this level, you’ll be able to say sure. For the primary time since 2018, Atlanta has topped 100 yards dashing in three straight video games (129 yards Sunday) — as soon as once more led by 58 yards from maybe the NFL’s most improved participant, Cordarrelle Patterson. The distinction this week was the stability the Falcons confirmed within the run sport. The previous two weeks, Mike Davis has seemed extra just like the again the workforce signed him to be, together with 86 yards from scrimmage Sunday. Qadree Ollison, lastly signed to the 53-man roster Saturday, additionally discovered a task with restricted carries. Mixed, it looks like the three have change into what Smith has been searching for all through his first season: a multifaceted dashing assault that may trigger opponents stress. — Rothstein

Rothstein’s confidence ranking (0-10): 4, up from 3.6. Avenge a loss from earlier this season, proceed to win on the highway, and Atlanta, by some means, stays a risk for the playoffs.

Subsequent sport: at 49ers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)



Taysom Hill caps off the day vs. the Jets with a 44-yard landing run because the Saints win 30-9 to finish a five-game shedding streak.


What to know: Carolina is not a playoff workforce, and Cam Newton is not the quarterback for the longer term. The Panthers have been within the playoff dialogue as a result of the NFC is a multitude, however the expertise is not there. Newton was an incredible feel-good story for per week, however he is 0-3 because the starter and has misplaced 11 straight with the Panthers. To be truthful, the expertise round him is not good. And at 32, Newton cannot carry a workforce anymore. — David Newton

Is coach Matt Rhule formally on the recent seat? Three straight losses (5 straight at residence) and two wins previously 10 is not good for job safety, notably with a troublesome remaining schedule. Rhule changed offensive coordinator Joe Brady, attempting to repair one drawback, however the Panthers continued to battle. Whereas it appears Rhule is protected till 2022, if the Panthers lose out and end 5-12 after a 3-0 begin, he could be on a really quick leash with proprietor David Tepper. This workforce wanted to indicate enchancment, and hasn’t. — Newton

Newton’s confidence ranking (0-10): 3.8, down from 4.4. The schedule (at Buffalo, vs. Tampa Bay, at New Orleans and at Tampa Bay) is not conducive to successful for a workforce that has gained solely twice in 10 video games.

Subsequent sport: at Payments (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Titans acquired again to the optimistic facet within the turnover column, and it was no coincidence they gained the sport. The protection intercepted Trevor Lawrence 4 occasions, probably the most he has been picked off in a sport to this point. Though they acquired solely three factors off the takeaways, Tennessee managed to maintain possession. That is one thing they weren’t in a position to do of their two-game shedding streak, once they had a complete of 9 turnovers. — Turron Davenport

Can a wholesome Julio Jones ultimately emerge as a risk within the passing sport? Jones performed 32 snaps (50%) for the Titans. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill discovered Jones on 4 out of six targets for 33 yards. They did try and get Jones the soccer on a deep publish off play-action. However the move rush knocked Tannehill off his spot, inflicting him to come back off his learn to Jones. Jones reached 18.9 mph on the play, which was his quickest velocity of the sport. At this level, it appears uncertain that Jones will emerge because the dominant risk that he as soon as was with the Falcons. — Davenport

Davenport’s confidence ranking (0-10): 8, up from 7.5. The Titans did what they had been alleged to do by disposing of a dull Jaguars workforce. The move rush reemerged and helped create two of Tennessee’s 4 interceptions. The offense managed to maneuver the ball fairly nicely however nonetheless lacks a dominant playmaker. The eventual return of huge receiver A.J. Brown and gradual enchancment of Jones’ well being ought to assist down the stretch.

Subsequent sport: at Steelers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Jaguars’ offense has been abysmal over the previous six video games — and by some means it was worse Sunday. The offensive line struggled in move safety (DT Jeffery Simmons abused the inside) and dedicated 5 penalties (three on Andrew Norwell), the receivers had two drops (one among which bounced off Laviska Shenault’s fingers and was intercepted) and the Jaguars managed simply 8 yards dashing with two minutes to play. No. 1 choose Trevor Lawrence threw a career-high 4 interceptions. Oh, and at one level, Shenault and Laquon Treadwell bumped into one another whereas operating routes. The top consequence: the fourth shutout loss in franchise historical past and the primary since a 41-0 beating in Seattle in Week 5 of 2009. — Mike DiRocco

Would Lawrence profit from sitting? There is no doubt Lawrence’s improvement has stalled, and he has regressed in some areas. He is additionally taking a beating each week, holding on to the ball too lengthy at occasions, and forcing throws, although a part of that’s as a result of he is attempting to get one thing happening offense. However first-year coach City Meyer may lose the workforce (if he hasn’t already) if he places Lawrence on the bench, and he stays the Jaguars’ greatest likelihood to win. — DiRocco

DiRocco’s confidence ranking (0-10): 0.5, no change from final week. The offense appears to worsen each week, there’s Meyer controversy seemingly each week and there is not any fixes in sight for both.

Subsequent sport: vs. Texans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Vikings narrowly escaped after practically blowing a 29-0 third-quarter lead. Minnesota did what it at all times does by placing collectively one actually good half of soccer, solely to throw it away with penalties (11) and poor execution (Kirk Cousins threw two second-half interceptions and the Vikings’ protection gave up 20 unanswered factors). Had Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods not damaged up a terrific tight-window throw by Ben Roethlisberger to Pat Freiermuth on the ultimate play of the sport, we may very well be speaking in regards to the embarrassment of Minnesota permitting the most important regular-season comeback in NFL historical past, and presumably the start of a training search. — Courtney Cronin

Are the playoffs nonetheless attainable? They’re in accordance with ESPN’s FPI, which supplies Minnesota a 32.3% likelihood to make the postseason. The Vikings play the 4-8 Bears twice of their last 4 video games, so that ought to assist, though the Lions proved no opponent ought to be taken without any consideration. The Vikings’ incapacity to shut out video games may doom them towards the great groups they’ve left (the Rams and Packers). The Vikings most likely have to win three of their subsequent 4 to get into the playoffs with a 9-8 file. They’re at present a half-game behind San Francisco for the No. 7 seed, and the 49ers personal the tiebreaker. — Cronin

Cronin’s confidence ranking (0-10): 5, up from 4. Soldier Discipline is a home of horrors for Minnesota. The Vikings have gained three video games there since Zimmer took over in 2014 and have one other prime-time sport in Week 15 on Monday Night time Soccer.

Subsequent sport: at Bears (Monday, Dec. 20, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Steelers misplaced the battle up entrance on either side of the ball, and it had main penalties. Dalvin Prepare dinner ran amok, racking up 205 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings completed with 5.1 yards per rush earlier than contact, marking solely the fourth time previously 10 seasons the Steelers have allowed that many yards earlier than contact. After Thursday’s sport, the Steelers have the worst dashing protection within the league, and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward mentioned it felt like Groundhog Day. — Brooke Pryor

Can the Steelers make the playoffs? Their probabilities to make the playoffs dropped from 19% to 10% after the loss, in accordance with ESPN’s FPI. The Steelers’ season has been dominated by their Jekyll-and-Hyde tendencies. The offense comes alive solely as soon as it finds itself at a major deficit and goes into its no-huddle look, and it usually hurts itself with unforced errors and penalties (see: Chase Claypool’s Thursday night time curler coaster). In the meantime, the protection hasn’t been bodily sufficient to cease anybody persistently. Enjoying nicely within the third and fourth quarters is not sufficient. The Steelers cannot make the playoffs if they cannot play 4 quarters of good, environment friendly soccer. Proper now, they have not proven they will do this. — Pryor

Pryor’s confidence ranking (0-10): 2.3, down from 3.5. Regardless of one other fourth-quarter rally, the momentum from their win towards the Baltimore Ravens was erased Thursday night time, and the outlook for the ultimate 4 video games is bleak.

Subsequent sport: vs. Titans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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