The Philadelphia Eagles are now in the driver’s seat to win their first Super Bowl since 2005, holding a commanding lead over the New England Patriots with two games remaining.
The “eagles week 17 2020” is a take on the NFL Week 14. The Philadelphia Eagles won their first game of the season against the New York Giants.
4:35 p.m. Eastern
- ESPN’s NFL Nation
In the early frame of Week 14 of the 2021 NFL season, there were several tremendous blowouts, including a 48-9 victory for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs against the Raiders. The Seahawks’ offense was sparked by running back Rashaad Penny, who led the team to a 33-point win against the Texans, while the Titans clinched the AFC’s top spot by shutting out the Jaguars at home. On the road, the Saints also defeated the Jets by three touchdowns.
Despite a late surge, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson sustained an ankle injury, and Baltimore fell to Cleveland. The Falcons upset the Panthers, who utilized both Cam Newton and P.J. Walker at quarterback, while Dallas’ defense produced key plays to help the Cowboys overcome Washington and move closer to a division championship.
And on Thursday night, a game that seemed to be a blowout at one point got much tighter late in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings hung on to defeat the Steelers and keep their playoff chances alive.
The Chargers defeated the Giants in late games to set up a Thursday night battle with the Chiefs. After the death of former wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos defeated the Lions. Both the 49ers and Buccaneers triumphed in overtime to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Takeaways and unanswered questions are discussed by our NFL Nation correspondents. They also consider the broader picture with their current team confidence rating, which is a 0-10 evaluation of how they feel about a club’s prospects at the end of the week. Let’s get started.
ATL-CAR | NO-NYJ SEA-HOU | PIT-MIN | BUF-TB SF-CIN | DET-DEN | NYG-LAC | CHI-GB | BAL-CLE | DAL-WSH | LV-KC JAX-TEN | ATL-CAR | NO-NYJ SEA-HOU | PIT-MIN | BUF-TB SF-CIN | DET-DEN | NYG-LAC
What you should know: The Packers have a special teams concern. It didn’t cost them against Chicago on Sunday, but if they don’t correct it, it may be the end of their season. Jakeem Grant’s 97-yard punt return for a Bears score was awful enough in and of itself. Grant had a 42-yard punt return and Khalil Herbert had a 41-yard kickoff return before that. Add in a Mason Crosby Packers kickoff that went out of bounds and Green Bay kickoff returner Malik Taylor touched the ball before it went out at the 5-yard line. All of this occurred in the first half, and it excludes a muffed punt return by Packers rookie Amari Rodgers, which was negated by a Bears penalty, as well as a failed onside kick late in the fourth quarter. If the spotlight wasn’t already on first-year special teams coordinator Mo Drayton, it is now. Demovsky, Rob
Will the Packers’ offensive line be able to withstand any more injuries? It’s difficult to believe they can. They only had one of their preferred starters when right tackle Billy Turner went down with a left knee injury in the second quarter on Sunday. And their starting right guard, youngster Royce Newman, has been their line’s weak link. Although there is still a chance that left tackle David Bakhtiari may play this season, he hasn’t played since tearing his ACL on Dec. 31. Josh Myers, the center, has a similar chance. It’s becoming thin now that Elgton Jenkins is gone for the season due to an ACL injury. Demovsky’s words
Confidence rating of Demovsky (0-10): 8, same from 8. The Packers have a lot of ways to win. They have a legitimate chance to win it all if their special teams don’t cost them anything and their injuries don’t become too much to overcome.
The Ravens are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Justin Fields put up a great first half in his first game back from a rib injury, going toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers. After tossing a pick-six, the rookie quarterback showed signs of improvement by connecting with Damiere Byrd for a 54-yard touchdown pass on Chicago’s following possession. In the second quarter, Fields passed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, but slowed down in the third quarter (1-of-4 for 5 yards) before rebounding in the fourth. Despite the setback, Chicago’s offense looked better than it has in a long time against one of the NFC’s finest defenses, and Fields has a lot to work with in the next four games. Courtney Cronin (Courtney Cronin)
Can Fields and the offense maintain their winning streak? With a season-high 30 points, Chicago’s offense looked less anemic than usual. The offensive line only allowed Fields to be sacked twice, and although rookie Teven Jenkins had a poor day in place of injured left tackle Jason Peters, receiving four penalties, the experience he acquired will help him in the future. On special teams, Jakeem Grant has carved out a significant role for himself, scoring the NFL’s first punt return for a touchdown this season (also as a slot receiver) on Sunday, and the Bears should continue to use him frequently when they face the league’s second-worst scoring defense (Minnesota) next week. Cronin’s
Dickerson’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 4, up from 3.5. For a half, Chicago proved it can hang with one of the better teams in the NFC. The Bears return to play next Monday at Soldier Field against a Minnesota squad that hasn’t won in a long time.
The Vikings are the team’s next opponent (Dec. 20, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Despite a disappointing second half in which they allowed the Bills to erase a 21-point halftime lead, the Bucs held on in overtime to move to 10-3 versus the NFL’s top-ranked defense. For the second time in team history, wide receiver Breshad Perriman took a short throw 58 yards for a touchdown, giving Tampa Bay back-to-back 10-win seasons. The Bucs’ defense, which has struggled to get off the field in multiple games this season, held the Bills to 2-for-13 on third down, sacking quarterback Josh Allen three times and confusing him with their secondary. However, they gave up 100 yards on the ground to Allen in the second half, as well as three touchdowns and a field goal, while the offense only managed three points in the second half of regulation due to too many missed passes. Jenna Laine is a writer who lives in New York City.
What influence does today’s game have on the Buccaneers’ playoff chances? The Buccaneers were unable to secure the NFC South championship on Sunday, as they need the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers to lose or draw in order to do it (the Saints defeated the Jets 30-9). Next week’s game versus the Saints would clinch the division. The Bucs won’t know whether they’ve moved into the second slot until later because of the Packers’ late start against the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals’ Monday night game against the Rams, but they took care of their own business. Laine –
Laine’s confidence rating (0-10) is 8.5, same from the previous level of 8.5. This season, the Buccaneers have struggled to let off of the gas pedal. This was again another example, but this time against a strong, playoff-caliber opponent.
The Saints are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: Despite quarterback Josh Allen’s heroics in the second half, Buffalo was unable to win in overtime due to an uneven defensive effort and early-game line play. The Bills produced a remarkable comeback, restricting Tampa Bay to three points and scoring 24 points in the last two quarters, but the defense couldn’t hold on in OT. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Allen rushed for more than 100 yards for the third time in his career, becoming the only person in Bills history to have at least 250 passing yards and 100 running yards in a single game. The Bucs exploited Buffalo’s defensive line’s lack of size, particularly with defensive tackle Star Lotulelei out due to a toe injury. Allen, on the other hand, had limited time to throw early and was often forced to make poor selections because to the pressure. Alaina Getzenberg is a writer who lives in New York City.
Where do the Bills go from here after dropping two consecutive games for the first time this season? Fortunately for the Bills, one of their remaining opponents has a winning record: the AFC East-leading New England Patriots. The remaining games on the schedule are against the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, and New York Jets, all of whom are winnable at home. Even with the tight defeat, the Bills are still in the playoff hunt because to a hazy AFC playoff picture, but there is minimal room for mistake. Getzenberg’s words
Getzenberg’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 7.2, down from 7.5. After a 24-point rally to force OT, the Bills came up just short, demonstrating a late competitive effort that this club has been lacking of late, but it was not enough to earn a victory against a strong team.
The Panthers are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: The 49ers should make the NFC playoffs, and anything less would be a letdown. Other than San Francisco’s ability to move out of the way and allow the Bengals make a slew of errors — and not return the favor while tight end George Kittle dominated — Sunday’s triumph in Cincinnati wasn’t very noteworthy. But, particularly in December, style points are irrelevant. With a winnable home game against Atlanta next week, the 49ers are in sixth place in the NFC playoffs at 7-6. While there is a large group of teams in front of them, the Niners have tiebreakers against clubs like Minnesota and Philadelphia. Given the paucity of quality teams at the bottom of the NFC playoff race, ten victories should be enough to get in, and nine should enough as well. Nick Wagoner is a writer.
What is the severity of linebacker Azeez Al-injury? Shaair’s Al-Shaair has been one of the Niners’ most improved players this season, emerging as an emotional leader for a defense that has improved throughout the season. However, due to an elbow injury, he left late in Sunday’s game and did not return. Al-Shaair had 11 tackles, a sack, and three tackles for loss before he departed. Given that Dre Greenlaw, another weakside linebacker, is dealing with a core muscle issue, the Niners may find themselves short-handed at linebacker down the stretch if Al-Shaair misses considerable time. Wagoner —
Wagoner’s confidence rating (0-10) has increased to 6.5 from 6. The Niners have found a way to win ugly on the road and are in good shape to reach the playoffs. However, there are several faults in this document that make it difficult to assume they can do much more.
The Falcons are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Bengals and third-year coach Zac Taylor are under renewed scrutiny. Cincinnati has increased the burden on itself to reach the playoffs after two defeats in a row. The 49ers’ defeat on Sunday was marred by expensive turnovers, a lackluster offense, and a few defensive gaffes. If Cincinnati wants to reach the playoffs, it can’t afford to make any mistakes in its last four games. – Ben Little
What is preventing this team from succeeding? It’s the offense, above everything else. Throughout the season, the Bengals have had their ups and downs. However, the game on Sunday emphasized Cincinnati’s offensive inconsistency, which has plagued the club all season. Given the amount of money spent on that side of the ball, the problems are perplexing. — Little one
The baby’s confidence level (0-10) is now at 5, down from 6.2. Another dismal performance suggests that the Bengals will not have the stamina to reach the playoffs.
The Broncos will be the opponent in the next game (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Broncos coach Vic Fangio said after Friday’s practice that the club will be “ready to pay respect” to former wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was discovered dead at his Georgia home this week. During Thomas’ tenure, the Broncos had ten players on the roster and over 40 in the organization. As a gesture of honoring Thomas, the Broncos sent just 10 players onto the field for their opening play. Thomas’ No. 88 was also painted on the field. Despite the emotional nature of the day, the Broncos maintained their composure by putting out a strong front-to-back effort on both sides of the ball. With a crucial home game against the Cincinnati Bengals coming up next, they stay in the AFC playoff chase at 7-6. Legwold, Jeff
Will the Broncos’ coaches remember Sunday in the future? The data continue to show that the Broncos are a significantly more difficult offensive to handle with when they play patiently in the run game and employ play-action in the passing game. When running backs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III receive at least 28 carries, the Broncos are 6-1. When they do that, they’re more successful in the passing game because they have more space to throw down the field. Against the Lions, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Legwold’s
Legwold’s confidence rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) is now at 6, up from 5. When they stick to what they do best, they demonstrate playoff quality, but until they show a determination to keep it up, judgment must be deferred.
The Bengals are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What you should know: The Detroit Lions were already up against it before kickoff, with key playmakers T.J. Hockenson (hand) and D’Andre Swift (shoulder) declared out, as well as six more players put on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week. With quarterback Jared Goff passing for minus-7 yards in the first quarter after his first victory of the season, the Lions were unable to replicate that magic in their defeat to the Broncos. Eric Woodyard’s remark
Is it possible that the Lions may bench running back D’Andre Swift for the rest of the season? The Lions were formally eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday, increasing their prospects of winning the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Although Lions coach Dan Campbell says the team “still has optimism in Swift” and hasn’t contemplated shutting him down for the remainder of the season, it may be prudent to give their finest offensive player time to recuperate. Craig Reynolds, who carried for 83 yards on 11 tries, including a 35-yard run in the second quarter, was one of the bright spots in Swift’s absence versus Denver. — In the woods
Woodyard’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 2, down from three. As the number of injuries and illnesses within the squad grows, so does the team’s output.
The Cardinals are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Chargers won their second straight game for the first time since early October, despite the absence of top receiver Keenan Allen. When it was required, backup receiver Joshua Palmer and second-string running back Justin Jackson stepped up, receiver Mike Williams performed well once again, and receiver Jalen Guyton scored a massive touchdown throw from Justin Herbert at the conclusion of the first half. All of this adds up to a crucial victory to stay pace with the Chiefs in the AFC West ahead of their Thursday night matchup at SoFi Stadium. Shelley Smith says:
Will the Chargers be able to reclaim their health in time to play the Chiefs? Allen and safety Derwin James Jr. were also out for Sunday’s game, while running back Austin Ekeler departed the game in the third quarter with a left ankle injury. The Chargers are confident in their techniques and approach, but having guys like Allen, James, and Ekeler on the field would help them beat the Chiefs. ‘Smith’
Smith’s confidence level (0-10) is at 7, unchanged from the previous week. If Ekeler’s injury holds him out of Thursday’s game, Jackson and Joshua Kelley seem set to share the limelight at running back.
The Chiefs are the team’s next opponent (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Giants (4-9) were unable to stop the Chargers’ Justin Herbert. In the first half, Los Angeles had 289 total yards and 18 first downs. Herbert sat in the pocket for the most of the afternoon, seemingly unconcerned. The Giants’ need for an edge rusher, as well as additional pass-rushing assistance in general, has only grown. They’ve barely been able to hold off some of the league’s greatest quarterbacks (Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Herbert) when they’ve faced them. Those five quarterbacks combined to complete 68% of their throws for 282 yards on average, with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. And five victories against the Giants. Jordan Raanan is a writer.
Is head coach Joe Judge’s job on the line? Dave Gettleman, the team’s general manager, is almost certain to be fired (or driven into retirement) after this season. The future of Judge is less assured. Unless he has a late-season breakdown, he is projected to maintain his job. Clearly, games like Sunday’s thrashing aren’t going to help. Is it going to be much worse against the Dallas Cowboys at home next week? For Judge’s sake, it can’t. The Giants are anxious to retain their head coach. They like his leadership of the locker room and some of the adjustments he has implemented. After two seasons, they don’t want to keep changing coaches. However, there must be outcomes on the field at some point. The Giants must put on a show in the closing weeks. Raanan’s words
Raanan’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 2.8, down from 3.4. With Daniel Jones on the team, it was a horrible combination. They’re in serious shape without him.
The Cowboys are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Coach Mike McCarthy was correct: the Cowboys defeated the Washington Redskins. He probably had no idea how things would turn out. The Cowboys went from dominating to clinging on for dear life in a 27-20 triumph. They led 24-0 at halftime and 27-8 entering the fourth quarter. A stale offense came dangerously close to letting down a dominant defense. Dak Prescott, the quarterback, was intercepted twice, one of which was recovered for a touchdown to trim the game to one score. Due to an ankle injury and an expulsion, the Cowboys were missing left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle La’el Collins. It was up to the defense to win the case. With 2:24 remaining, defensive end Randy Gregory’s sack and forced fumble of WFT quarterback Kyle Allen was just as important as Gregory’s first-quarter interception of Taylor Heinicke, which resulted in a Cowboys score. Micah Parsons’ sack/fumble of Heinicke resulted in Dorance Armstrong’s 37-yard touchdown return. The Cowboys added two more takeaways to their season total of 27, which ranks second in the NFL. The 9-4 Cowboys are 3-0 in the NFC East and in good position to win the division with four games remaining, but not as convincingly as they would want. Todd Archer is a writer.
With this offensive, can the Cowboys be a contender? No, is the simple response. Despite the loss of Tony Pollard, the running game was improved but not explosive. Prescott had two interceptions, and there’s a case to be made that he could have intercepted three more passes. The offensive has been without a rhythm for more than a month. Against Washington, they scored one touchdown on six red zone visits, and that was one aspect of the offense that held up despite the slump. There are four games left for the Cowboys to find a solution. They had best act swiftly if they want to be taken seriously. (Archer)
The confidence rating of Archer (0-10) is now 8.7, up from 8.4. It could have gone up to 9.0 if the offensive had even had a respectable day. Even with the defense doing better than anybody could have predicted, this club relies on the offense to perform well. The Cowboys are capable of winning their division, but more is expected of them.
The next game will be against the Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Washington’s defense did all it could late in the game to keep the game intriguing. The offensive deficiencies of Washington, on the other hand, were revealed. Other than a powerful rushing assault, the unit lacks the firepower to prevail in any other method. Nobody felt it more than quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who had his worst game of the season and was forced to leave in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Several of his pitches were off target. This game will be remembered by Washington as it considers its quarterback position this summer. Heinicke was solid throughout the team’s four-game winning run, but it wasn’t all on him on Sunday. Heinicke has improved dramatically, but in order to fully use him, Washington needs a solid ground game that isn’t reliant on Heinicke’s arm. ‘John Keim’
Is Washington overburdened? The squad has been injured for some time, but it has become worse, and it’s worth asking what it has left for the remaining four games. Terry McLaurin, a wide receiver, was forced to leave Sunday’s game due to a concussion. With a concussion, running back J.D. McKissic has missed the previous two games. Logan Thomas, the team’s tight end, and its top three centers are already gone. COVID-19 forced the team’s top three healthy defensive ends to miss Sunday’s game. It’s probable that two of them, James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill, may return the following week. Washington’s tenacity has been crucial in its return to postseason contention. It is still in contention for a playoff berth. But it’ll need some players back to keep it, and it can’t afford to lose any more. Keim’s words
Keim’s confidence level (0-10) has dropped to 6.3 from 6.6. With Washington, it’s all about health, and it’s constantly losing vital guys. At some point, attrition becomes too significant.
The Eagles are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Rashaad Penny made a solid argument to be the Seahawks’ starting running back for the remainder of the season, assuming he stays healthy. Penny ripped off touchdown runs of 32 and 47 yards on way to 137 running yards in his greatest performance of his career. Despite Alex Collins’ return after a one-game absence, he began and led Seattle’s running backs with 17 touches. With Penny suffering injury after injury, the Seahawks’ choice to draft him 27th overall over Nick Chubb in 2018 was and will continue to be one of the most disappointing personnel mistakes made by coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. Penny had a strong performance last week, gaining 62 yards on 11 touches. He’s the Seahawks’ most explosive running back, and he’s on his way to being their best if he can remain healthy. Brady Henderson’s quote
Is Russell Wilson, the Seahawks’ quarterback, fully recovered? Wilson is beginning to resemble himself, rather than the version who battled with accuracy and made a few poor mistakes after his finger surgery. On Sunday, he missed a handful of additional attempts, including one on a sharp slant near the goal line that he threw behind DK Metcalf. But it wasn’t the same as his head-scratching misses in his first three games back. Wilson (17-of-28, 260 yards) connected with Tyler Lockett on a few classic plays, including a 55-yard moon ball for the first of his two touchdown throws and a couple of additional well-placed tosses to Lockett on the sideline. His decision-making was also solid, with him opting for what was available rather than pushing deep attempts. Even if the Seahawks’ playoff hopes are still limited, if Wilson is actually back, that would be the strongest reason to believe they can make something of their remaining four games. After the victory, ESPN’s Football Power Index had them at 3%. Henderson’s words
Henderson’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 3.4, up from 3. Beating a two-win club doesn’t tell us much, but Wilson’s continued excellence and Penny’s rise are worth noting.
The next game will be against the Rams (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Quarterback Davis Mills is a step forward over Tyrod Taylor, but the Texans’ offense is still a work in progress. Mills completed 14 of his first 14 throw attempts against the Seahawks, the most by a rookie since at least 1991 and the most by any Texans player in franchise history. Mills completed 19 of his next 35 passes following his good start, and the Texans did not score in the second half. Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn, who established a club record with a 61-yard field goal to close the first half, was the bright point in the defeat. His previous longest run had been 55 yards. Sarah Barshop is a writer.
What does this imply for the Texans’ RB choices after injuries and another bad running performance? After Rex Burkhead departed the game with a groin injury on Sunday, the Texans’ running offense suffered another punch. Royce Freeman was Houston’s lone healthy running back after David Johnson was put to the COVID-19 list on Sunday morning. Freeman, who was claimed by the Texans last month, rushed for 15 yards on 11 tries, averaging 2.5 yards per carry for the club. If Burkhead’s injury is bad enough to keep him out of Sunday’s game against the Jaguars, the Texans will have to find another way to improve a team that ranks lowest in Football Outsiders’ DVOA this season. — Bar & Grill
The confidence rating of Barshop (0-10) is 0.4, down from 0.6. The Texans fell by 20 points against a Seahawks club that had four victories coming into the game.
Jaguars’ next game is on the road (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: With a bruising win against the division-leading Ravens, the Browns re-entered the AFC North competition. The Browns almost wasted a 21-point lead after dominating the first three quarters. Cleveland’s defense, on the other hand, came up with a fourth-down stop to put the Ravens away. Cleveland is currently one game behind the Ravens and still has a chance to make the playoffs. Jake Trotter’s remark
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Will the Browns’ offense ever get back on track? Since Oct. 10, Cleveland has just once exceeded 17 points. After subtracting Myles Garrett’s defensive touchdown on Sunday, the Browns failed to score more than 17 points for the second straight week, which is one of the reasons Baltimore was able to stay in the game without Lamar Jackson. Following a week of recuperation, quarterback Baker Mayfield looked sharper, and the Browns had their offensive moments. Cleveland’s postseason campaign, though, seems to be doomed unless this offense can step up a notch. ‘Trotter’
Trotter’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 6.1, up from 4.9. The Browns are starting to gain an advantage in the AFC North’s battle of attrition.
The Raiders are the team’s next opponent (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
What to know: Quarterback Tyler Huntley isn’t Lamar Jackson, but he’s not afraid to throw the ball. When Jackson departed the game early in the second quarter with a right ankle injury, it would have been simple for the Ravens to give up. Huntley, on the other hand, came close to pulling off a miraculous comeback, passing for 270 yards and 45 yards on the ground. Baltimore scored more than 20 points for the first game since November 7. Jamison Hensley (Jamison Hensley)
Is the season of the Ravens in jeopardy? By the conclusion of the game, the seriousness of Jackson’s ankle injury remained uncertain, but ESPN’s Football Power Index still gives Baltimore a 46 percent probability of winning the AFC North. The Ravens will struggle to win games if Jackson is absent for an extended amount of time, or even if he isn’t at full health. Baltimore has one of the hardest final-season schedules in the league, with games against the Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, and Pittsburgh Steelers all at home. Despite having 23 players on injured reserve at any point this season, the Ravens have been overachievers all season. The Ravens were the AFC’s top seed two weeks ago. However, it’s impossible to see Baltimore making a postseason run without Jackson. Hensley’s words
Hensley’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 6, down from 7.5. The Ravens will almost certainly need at least two more wins to earn a postseason berth. With Jackson out, Baltimore may only be favored in one of its last four games.
The next game will be against the Packers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Alvin Kamara is a godsend. With 145 yards from scrimmage and a score, the Saints running back returned from a four-game layoff to give some much-needed spark. The passing offense was still abysmal, but the defense was outstanding as the Saints snapped a five-game losing run and kept their slim playoff chances alive. The Saints (6-7) will have a huge test against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, but they may be favorites in their next three games. Triplett, Mike
What is Taysom Hill’s hold on the starting quarterback job? Even though he put a beautiful exclamation point on the win with a 44-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes and ended with 73 running yards and two rushing touchdowns, it probably didn’t get much tighter or looser Sunday. Hill, who is dealing with a mallet finger injury on his right throwing hand, was effective as a passer in this game, completing 15 of 21 throws for 175 yards and no interceptions. However, it was a lackluster effort against the NFL’s weakest defense. Down the stretch, the Saints will need more of a spark in that area. Triplett’s
The confidence rating of Triplett (0-10) is now 4.5, up from 4.1. The Saints’ passing offense is still a worry, but they’re getting healthier. By next week, they should have their whole starting lineup back on defense. Don’t underestimate how effective that unit can be.
Buccaneers’ next game is on the road (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What you should know: In Sunday’s 30-9 defeat to the Saints, quarterback Zach Wilson’s up-and-down rookie season (mainly down) took a turn for the worse. He was a jerk. He had terrible accuracy, completing just 19 of 42 throws for 202 yards. Some of it was concession yardage; after three quarters, he only had 86 yards. What’s the huge irony? It was his first game in which he didn’t throw an interception. The Jets expected the No. 2 overall pick to improve on his impressive performance last week, but he struggled from start to end. For the first 55 minutes, he didn’t throw a ball to a starting outside wide receiver. Denzel Mims, one of them, was benched after two inexcusable penalties. Wilson was surrounded by backups at every skill position due to injury. Elijah Moore and Corey Davis, the Jets’ top receivers, were also out. The title of this game may have been “The Replacements.” Running back Ty Johnson, for example, dropped three passes in the first quarter alone. Wilson, however, did not get much assistance. Transcendent players have the ability to soar beyond this. Wilson isn’t even close to becoming that kind of player. Cimini, Rich
Are the Jets any closer to making the playoffs this season than they were last year? Yes, technically. (There’s a sarcastic pause.) With the defeat, the Jets were officially eliminated. They were eliminated a year ago on Nov. 20, the first club in 2020 to do so. So that’s a step forward, right? Enough with the witticisms. Here’s the sad truth: The Jets’ postseason drought (the league’s longest current slump) has now lasted 11 seasons, tying for the longest in team history. From 1970 through 1980, they missed the playoffs in their post-Super Bowl years. In some respects, this is exacerbated by the fact that we are living in an era of parity, with free agency and swift remedies. There are no fast cures for the Jets. Cimini’s
Cimini’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 2, down from 2.5. The Jets were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, extending their 11-year postseason absence. It’s as horrible as it’s ever been, folks.
The Dolphins are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Chiefs blew away the Raiders in a great prelude to their biggest game of the season. They enjoyed a relatively stress-free game before facing the Chargers on Thursday night, who defeated the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in September. Many of the Chiefs’ top players were allowed to exit the game before the final whistle. This should ensure that they get the most rest possible over the short week. The Chiefs will also be riding high after winning their sixth consecutive game over the Raiders. Adam Teicher’s remark
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Is it possible for the Chiefs to win out and get the top seed in the AFC playoffs? They’ll win if they play like they did against the Raiders. While the Chiefs’ defense continued to dominate the game, Patrick Mahomes and the offense came to life. The greater question is whether they’ll get the No. 1 seed if they finish 13-4. For that scenario to occur, the Chiefs would need at least one defeat by the Titans and Patriots. Teicher’s words
Teicher’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 9.1, up from 8. Even if it was against the Raiders, a rout does nothing to dent the team’s confidence.
Chargers’ next game is on the road (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What you should know: That’s all there is to it. Sure, the Raiders are still technically in the postseason hunt, but let’s be honest: Vegas hasn’t been the same since its bye week. After dropping 48-9 in a game they trailed 35-0… in the first half, the Raiders, who began 5-2, are now 6-7. The Raiders were the first team this season to lose four fumbles in a game, including one by Josh Jacobs on the opening play of the game, which was recovered for a touchdown. All the Raiders have left is dignity to play for, and based on how little they showed against the Chiefs, even that isn’t a sure thing. Gutierrez, Paul
Is there anybody from the Raiders’ roster there? Hunter Renfrow, yes. The most inconspicuous Raider had the biggest day, with tight end Darren Waller missing his second straight game after suffering back and knee problems on Thanksgiving. Renfrow set a new career high with 13 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown. Gutierrez’s words
Gutierrez’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 3.5, down from 5.5. After the Raiders’ worst defeat to Kansas City in the 62-year rivalry, a total change is in the works, with everyone from general manager Mike Mayock to interim coach Rich Bisaccia to quarterback Derek Carr on notice (edging their 42-7 loss to the Chiefs in 1964).
The Browns are the team’s next opponent (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Coach Arthur Smith had been preaching for weeks that the Falcons wanted to play important football in December, and here in Charlotte, in the midst of the month, they got their opportunity. If Atlanta wins, it will stay in contention for a playoff berth. The Falcons did what they’ve done best this season: they won on the road, ensuring that they’ll continue to play games that offer them a chance to make the playoffs. It’s not going to get any easier for the Falcons, as they travel to San Francisco next week. Michael Rothstein is a writer and producer.
Is the Falcons’ rushing attack legit? You have the option to answer yes at this moment. For the first time since 2018, Atlanta has rushed for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games (129 yards Sunday), led once again by 58 yards from Cordarrelle Patterson, the NFL’s most improved player. The Falcons’ balance in the run game was the difference this week. Mike Davis has looked more like the back the club signed him to be over the last two weeks, including 86 yards from scrimmage on Sunday. Qadree Ollison, who was eventually added to the 53-man roster on Saturday, has a limited role as well. Together, the three seem to have become exactly what Smith has been searching for in his debut season: a versatile rushing assault that can put opponents on edge. — According to Rothstein
Rothstein’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 4, up from 3.6. Revenge a defeat from earlier this season, keep winning on the road, and Atlanta still has a chance to make the playoffs.
The 49ers are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
Carolina isn’t a playoff club, and Cam Newton isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback. Because the NFC is a disaster, the Panthers have been included in the postseason conversation, but the talent isn’t there. For a week, Newton was a nice feel-good story, but he’s now 0-3 as a starter and has lost his last 11 games with the Panthers. To be honest, the skill pool surrounding him isn’t very strong. Newton, at 32, is no longer capable of leading a squad. David Newton is an author.
Is head coach Matt Rhule on the hot seat? Three consecutive defeats (five in a row at home) and two victories in the last ten games isn’t ideal for job security, especially with a difficult schedule ahead of them. Rhule changed offensive coordinator Joe Brady in an attempt to address one issue, but the Panthers’ struggles persisted. While it seems like Rhule is safe until 2022, if the Panthers lose and end 5-12 after a 3-0 start, owner David Tepper may put him on a short leash. This squad needed to improve, but they haven’t. Newton’s words
Newton’s confidence level (0-10) is 3.8, down from 4.4 before. For a club that has only won twice in ten games, the schedule (at Buffalo, vs. Tampa Bay, at New Orleans, and at Tampa Bay) isn’t favorable to victory.
The Bills’ next game is on the road (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Titans went back on track in terms of turnovers, and it wasn’t by chance that they won the game. Trevor Lawrence was intercepted four times by the defense, the most he’s been picked off in a game thus far. Tennessee managed to preserve possession despite only scoring three points on turnovers. That’s something they couldn’t accomplish during their two-game losing run, during which they committed nine turnovers. Turron Davenport (Turron Davenport)
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Is it possible for a healthy Julio Jones to become a passing threat? Jones played 32 snaps for the Titans (50 percent). Ryan Tannehill connected with Jones on four of his six targets for a total of 33 yards. They did try to throw the ball to Jones on a long post off play-action. Tannehill was thrown off his feet by the pass rush, forcing him to abandon his read to Jones. Jones clocked in at 18.9 mph on the play, his quickest of the game. Jones’ ability to emerge as the dominating menace he was with the Falcons seems to be fading at this moment. Davenport, Iowa
Davenport’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 8, up from 7.5. By disposing of a lifeless Jaguars club, the Titans accomplished exactly what they were expected to do. Tennessee’s pass rush resurfaced, resulting in two of the team’s four interceptions. The offense did a good job of moving the ball, but it still lacks a dynamic playmaker. The eventual return of wide receiver A.J. Brown and Jones’ health gradually improving could assist down the stretch.
The Steelers are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Jaguars’ offense has been terrible for the previous six games, and it got much worse on Sunday. With two minutes to play, the offensive line struggled in pass protection (DT Jeffery Simmons abused the interior) and committed five penalties (three on Andrew Norwell), the receivers had two drops (one of which bounced off Laviska Shenault’s hands and was intercepted), and the Jaguars had only 8 yards rushing. Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 choice, threw a career-high four interceptions. Oh, and Shenault and Laquon Treadwell collided while running routes at one point. The eventual result was the franchise’s fourth shutout defeat, and the first since a 41-0 thrashing in Seattle in Week 5 of 2009. — Mike DiRocco is an actor who has been in many films.
Is it possible that Lawrence might benefit by sitting? Lawrence’s growth has slowed and he has deteriorated in several areas, without a doubt. He’s also taking a battering every week, hanging on to the ball for too long at times and forcing passes, though some of that is due to his inability to get anything going offensively. However, if Lawrence is benched, first-year coach Urban Meyer risks losing the squad (if he hasn’t already). Lawrence is still the Jaguars’ best shot to win. DiRocco’s words
DiRocco’s confidence level (0-10) is 0.5, same from the previous week. Every week, the offense seems to deteriorate, Meyer is embroiled in scandal, and there appear to be no solutions in sight for either.
The Texans are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Vikings barely avoided squandering a 29-0 advantage in the third quarter. Minnesota did what it often does: put up a strong first half, only to squander it with 11 penalties and sloppy execution (Kirk Cousins threw two second-half interceptions, and the Vikings’ defense surrendered 20 unanswered points). We could be talking about Minnesota’s embarrassment of allowing the largest regular-season comeback in NFL history, and possibly the start of a coaching search, if Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods hadn’t broken up a fantastic tight-window throw by Ben Roethlisberger to Pat Freiermuth on the game’s final play. Courtney Cronin (Courtney Cronin)
Is it still possible to make the playoffs? According to ESPN’s FPI, Minnesota has a 32.3 percent probability of making the playoffs this season. The Vikings face the Bears twice in their next four games, which should help, however the Lions have shown that no opponent can be taken for granted. The Vikings’ failure to finish games might be their undoing against the remaining strong teams (the Rams and Packers). With a 9-8 record, the Vikings will most likely need to win three of their next four games to make the playoffs. They presently trail San Francisco by a half-game for the No. 7 spot, with the 49ers holding the tiebreaker. Cronin’s
Cronin’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now a five, up from four. For Minnesota, Soldier Field is a haunted house. Since Zimmer took over in 2014, the Vikings have won three games there, and they have another prime-time matchup in Week 15 on Monday Night Football.
The next game will be against the Bears (Monday, Dec. 20, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What you should know: The Steelers lost the fight in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and it cost them a lot of games. Dalvin Cook had a field day, accumulating 205 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings averaged 5.1 yards per carry before contact, which is just the fourth time the Steelers have allowed as many yards before contact in the last ten seasons. The Steelers now have the league’s worst rushing defense after Thursday’s game, and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said it felt like Groundhog Day. Brooke Pryor is an actress who plays Brooke Pryor.
Will the Steelers be able to reach the playoffs? According to ESPN’s FPI, their odds of making the playoffs plummeted from 19 percent to 10% following the defeat. The Steelers’ Jekyll-and-Hyde characteristics have dominated the season. The offense comes alive only when it is facing a substantial disadvantage and switches to a no-huddle approach, and it is prone to unforced mistakes and penalties (see Chase Claypool’s Thursday night roller coaster). Meanwhile, the defense hasn’t been able to consistently stop anybody. It’s not enough to play well in the third and fourth quarters. If the Steelers can’t play four quarters of smart, efficient football, they won’t be able to reach the playoffs. They haven’t yet shown that they are capable of doing so. Pryor’s words
Pryor’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 2.3, down from 3.5. Despite another fourth-quarter comeback, the Steelers’ momentum from their victory against the Baltimore Ravens was wiped away Thursday night, and the prognosis for the next four games is gloomy.
The Titans are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
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The “nfl picks week 3” is a blog post that gives the author’s take on the NFL Week 14 games.
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