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NFL Week 13: Forty-two takeaways from Sunday

The Sunday games of Week 13 have ended. Several teams are making their push for the playoffs. Here are some of our big takeaways from today:

»Jimmy Garoppolo looked every bit a franchise quarterback in his first start for the San Francisco 49ers.

» For the second straight week, running back Alvin Kamara was New Orleans' Mr. Do Everything.

» Try as they might, it will be hard for Giants fans and Big Blue legion of angry alumni to blame Sunday's loss on the failings of Geno Smith.

» This Baltimore defense is creeping toward becoming historically good, and Eric Weddle is the heart and soul of the secondary.

» The Dolphins won the game and their life-support playoff hopes are still alive, but the story in this one is just how in trouble Denver is at the quarterback position.

  1. Jimmy Garoppolo looked every bit a franchise quarterback in his first start for the San Francisco 49ers. Making his third career start, Tom Brady's former backup looked fantastic on a bevy of pinpoint bullets over the middle against the Bears soft zones. Jimmy G's accuracy was sublime, and his pocket presence veteran-level. There were no bombs, but the QB is anything but a check-down machine, consistently picking up chunk gains to move the chains. Just before the two-minute warning on 3rd-and-9, Garoppolo hit Trent Taylor in stride for a 33-yard catch and run to set up the game-winning field-goal.

Garoppolo finished with a career-high 293 yards on 26-of-37 passing, no touchdowns, and an INT. The stats don't begin to tell the story of how good the quarterback looked. Garoppolo made a gaggle of second- and third-string receivers look promising, consistently putting the ball on them. His first career interception was not Jimmy G's fault. Garoppolo drilled a ball between defenders on the money to Louis Murphy, who had it ripped away by corner Kyle Fuller. The red-zone offense needs work after the Niners failed to punch the ball in the end zone, but that will come with more reps. The 49ers' second victory of the season is a nice cherry-on-top. The win is also secondary. More importantly, Sunday showed San Francisco found a long-term solution under center.

  1. Robbie Gould Revenge! The ex-Bears kicker banged home five field goals, accounting for all 15 of the 49ers' points. In his 83rd game at Soldier Field, it was his first tilt in Chicago with five made field goals, per CBS. With all the struggles the Bears have had with kickers this season, it had to pain fans to watch Gould win the game with his foot for San Francisco.
  1. Facing one of the worst defenses in the NFL -- ranking 30th against the run and 26th versus the pass entering Sunday -- the Bears offense remained stuck in the mud. Chicago gained a pathetic 147 yards Sunday. Running just 36 plays to San Francisco's 73 played role, but much of that had to do with quick possessions by the Bears. If it weren't for a ridiculous 61-yard punt return touchdown from human joy-stick Tarik Cohen, this game wouldn't have been close. Chicago couldn't get anything going on the ground against a leaky 49ers defense, with Jordan Howard and Cohen combining for 43 yards on 15 carries. Mitchell Trubisky again looked like a work in progress. He flashed with a few beautiful strikes, including an early touchdown bullet to Dontrelle Inman. The rookie finished 12-of-15 for 102 yards and a TD. Seeing Trubisky and Garoppolo on the same field, it was obvious to see how far the first-round pick must go in his progression -- likely with a new coaching staff.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. The New York Jets have struggled to close out games in the fourth quarter all season. On Sunday against the Chiefs, they found a way -- and it could end up being a turning point in their season. Josh McCown scored on a QB sneak with 2:10 to play, and New York's beleaguered secondary managed to get a final stop to deal the Chiefs their sixth loss in seven games. As has been the case all season, Josh McCown served as the heartbeat for the Jets. He threw for 331 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, including two on the ground. McCown is Gang Green's unquestionable MVP -- a respected veteran who gives his team a chance to win every week. Who would have predicted that back in August?
  1. This was a good news, bad news type of deal for the Chiefs. The good news? Their offense finally came to life, attacking the Jets defense relentless with big plays throughout the afternoon. Where has that been the past six weeks? Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill each scored twice, summoning memories of better times for this team. Kansas City scored over 30 points despite having the ball for less than 18 minutes of game time. The bad news is obvious: The Chiefs fell to 6-6 after their 5-0 start and their defense laid a huge egg at a crucial juncture of the season. McCown and the Jets repeatedly punished the Chiefs on third down and the unit melted down on New York's go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. About that ...
  1. Come back to us, Marcus Peters. After the Chiefs were called for defensive holding on a Jets' 2-point conversion attempt with 2:10 to play, Peters picked up a penalty flag and fired it into the Meadowlands crowd, an embarrassing loss of composure. As officials sorted out Peters' mess, he disappeared into the Chiefs locker room even though he wasn't ejected from the game. On the Chiefs' ensuing drive, CBS cameras spotted Peters jogging back to the K.C. sideline with cleats on ... but no socks. It was a really bad look for both player and team and it neatly summed up the state of affairs for the once-swaggering Chiefs.

-- Dan Hanzus

  1. The Chargers saw their opening drive -- a 13-play, clock-chewing march -- end in ugly fashion as the newly signed Travis Coons botched a 38-yard field goal. Coons bounced back to nail four kicks, though, as Philip Rivers authored scoring drives of 12, 11, 10, 10 and seven plays. Los Angeles dominated time of possession, piled up 429 yards and once again leaned on Keenan Allen, the starry Chargers wideout who finished with 105 yards off 10 catches to give him 436 yards, 33 grabs and four touchdowns over the past three weeks. With another 149 yards from Hunter Henry and Travis Benjamin, the Bolts proved too much for a Browns defense that gave up too many plays through the air.
  1. Making his first appearance since 2014, Josh Gordon made the first catch of the game for nine yards and was targeted by DeShone Kizer on a second-quarter deep strike that saw the Browns passer badly overthrow the big-bodied wideout. Gordon still looks the part, finishing with 85 yards off four receptions and pulling down a pair of downfield shots from Kizer. As for the rookie passer, he tossed a powerful touchdown strike to rookie tight end David Njoku but also missed a wide-open Gordon down the sideline in the third quarter and sailed plenty of passes off the mark. He makes the occasional pretty lob and his mobility is a plus, but Kizer failed to see Joey Bosa zooming in from behind to register a game-altering, red-zone strip sack with 4:59 left in the game and the Browns trailing 19-10. His game-ending pick with 1:14 left came one play after Kizer held the ball too long on another killer sack. The waterfall of turnovers are inexcusable.
  1. Kansas City's soul-crushing loss to the Jets paved the way for the Chargers to forge a first-place tie with the Chiefs and Raiders atop the disappointing AFC West. The team's Week 15 tilt with Kansas City looms as a doozy, but Los Angeles must first battle Washington before facing the Jets and Raiders to close out the year. Wiping away their 0-4 start, the Bolts have the feel of a frisky, dangerous opponent down the stretch. For those old enough to remember, their run conjures images of the last NFL team to start 0-4 before battling back to make the playoffs: the 1992 Chargers. The Browns started 0-4, too, but the concept of January football remains nothing more than a myth in Cleveland.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. On a day in which Sean McVay's celebrated offense looked ordinary and Wade Phillips' run defense slipped, it's the ideal time to shine the light on John "Bones" Fassel's league-best special teams. Kicker Greg Zuerlein, the NFL's leader in points (143) drilled his 33rd, 34th, 35th and 36th field goals, the most by any player in NFL history through the season's first 12 games. Johnny Hekker, the premier punter of the past half-decade, uncorked a 70-yard boomer -- among four boots generating a 51.8 average -- to flip field position. Return ace Pharoh Cooper, the league leader in kickoff-return yards, pitched in with a 30-yard punt return. Not to be outdone, Michael Brockers blocked a Phil Dawson field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter. Second only to the Eagles in point differential (+139), the well-balanced Rams entered Week 13 as the only team to rank as a top-six outfit in each of Football Outsiders' offense, defense and special teams metrics. Week 14 will feature a clash of the NFC's titans, with (9-3) Los Angeles hosting (10-1) Philadelphia.
  1. On the strength of 10 catches for 98 yards, Larry Fitzgerald (15,267) passed Rams legend Isaac Bruce (15,208) for fourth place on the all-time receiving yards list. Next week, Fitzgerald will have his sights set on Randy Moss, who finished with 15,292 yards. Corralling a 15-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the NFC's leader in receptions (82) also became just the third player -- and the fastest in NFL history -- to reach the 1,200-catch mark for his career. Enjoying the Indian-summer phase of a Hall of Fame career, Fitzgerald is on pace for his third consecutive 100-reception season.
  1. The lone team to start the same offensive line every week, the Rams have been fortunate to avoid the injury bug for the majority of the season. That trend has started to change over the past few weeks, though, with top receiver Robert Woods and starting outside linebacker Connor Barwin sidelined. Sunday saw the loss of inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, who came through with an athletic interception that was returned for a touchdown in the first quarter. Ogletree ended up missing the final three quarters with an elbow injury, contributing to a resurrection for Arizona's previously pitiful ground attack.

-- Chris Wesseling

1a. You can't commit self-sabotaging mistakes against the Patriots. Buffalo's opening drive was a thing of beauty until disaster struck, with the Bills milking seven-plus minutes off the clock and mining their way to New England's 6-yard line before Tyrod Taylor lobbed a pass right into the hands of Patriots defensive end Eric Lee. The throw was ugly, but Taylor also failed to sense the rush as New England's Alan Branch pushed center Eric Wood into the quarterback as he unfurled the doomed toss. The Bills left additional points on the board when Joe Webb took the ball on a Wildcat snap and narrowly missed a wide-open, on-the-run Travaris Cadet on what would have been an easy score. By the time Taylor took a disastrous, drive-killing, 20-yard sack in the second half -- with Buffalo down 16-3 -- this affair felt entirely out of reach for a Bills team that has been outscored 65-6 over the team's past five third quarters.

1b. Adding insult to defeat, Taylor was carted off in the fourth quarter with a left knee injury, bringing rookie Nathan Peterman back into our lives. Taylor admirably played through the pain after appearing to suffer the injury on the team's first drive, but the pain became too great by the final period.

  1. Tom Brady was frustrated early by a Bills defense that tested New England's line and forced the star quarterback into an off-kilter, third-down completion that left the Patriots to settle for a field goal. Minutes later, CBS cameras caught Brady exploding on offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels along the sideline.

Brady crossed 65,000 career passing yards on Sunday, but threw for just 82 first-half yards against a Bills front that unleashed a bevy of three- and four-man blitz packages and took down the signal-caller three times as New England managed just nine points over the first 30 minutes. Brady came out of the break wisely aiming throws to his backs and tight ends, with Rob Gronkowski (9/147) taking over after the half with 50 yards off three catches on a 10-play touchdown drive that put the Patriots up 16-3. New England simply held on from there.

  1. "Trying to tackle LeSean [McCoy] is scary in and of itself," Patriots safety Duron Harmon said this week of Buffalo's workhorse runner. McCoy ran well Sunday, keeping the Patriots defense honest with a variety of quick-cutting, gashing runs. Shady plowed for 60 first-half yards at 6.0 yards per tote before finishing with 93 yards on the day, but was ultimately outshined by Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, the Patriots duo who combined for 170 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. When you turn on the game film, Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel emphasized to the FOX broadcast team, you would think you're playing against one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Case Keenum. Bolstered by a chain-moving ground attack and quality pass protection, the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Month orchestrated to near perfection a conservative game plan, connecting on all 12 of his second-half pass attempts on the road against a quality opponent. Keenum came through in the clutch, hitting afterthought receivers Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright for third-down conversions to set up Kyle Rudolph's 6-yard, go-ahead touchdown, capping off a decisive 15-play, 89-yard drive that stretched from the middle of the third quarter into the final frame. It's long past time to stop thinking of Keenum as a liability bound to be exposed down the stretch. The journeyman quarterback has exhibited masterful pocket movement while avoiding back-breaking mistakes, keeping Minnesota in the hunt for the NFC's top playoff seed.
  1. In a battle of the NFL's most effective third-down offense versus the top-ranked third-down defense, the result was lopsided (1 of 10) in favor of Mike Zimmer's troops. The Falcons shot themselves in the foot with penalties all afternoon, continually putting Matt Ryan in third-and-long situations against a hard-charging pass rush that forced quick throws. The Vikings took away Julio Jones and the deep ball, smothering an offense that had been humming to the tune of a 66 percent conversion rate on third downs over the past few weeks. To keep their hopes of returning to the Super Bowl alive, the Falcons will have to run roughshod over the rest of the NFC South, with three games yet to play against the front-running Saints and Panthers.
  1. After watching Atlanta's All-Pro receiver explode for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 12 receptions last week, Zimmer told FOX's broadcast crew, "We are aware of how great Julio Jones is, and I think we'll cover him a little bit differently than Tampa Bay did." Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes joked that he would shadow Jones to the point of aligning at linebacker if Jones were to moonlight in the backfield. With help from Minnesota's safeties, Rhodes limited Jones to a negligible 24 yards on two catches and six targets. Even if Jones had managed to corral two high passes that bounced off his finger tips, he would have been hard-pressed to reach 50 yards. Locking down No. 1 receivers all season, Rhodes is battling the Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey, the Chargers' Casey Hayward and hotshot Saints rookie Marshon Lattimore for a first-team All-Pro spot.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. As Russell Wilson goes, this Seahawks offense, and team, goes. And boy, was he moving on Sunday evening. Utilizing his trademark scrambling-in-the-round style of play to perfection, Wilson spent all night baiting and evading Philadelphia's fierce front seven and creating big plays out of sure-fire disasters. Wilson came into Sunday's prime-time clash amounting for 82.5 percent of Seattle's offense. While this time he benefited from a solid ground game, the Seahawks svengali still carried the offense on his back, legs, arm, etc., accounting for 83.2 percent of Seattle's production. Wilson threw three touchdowns, two of which came on second-half drives of 10-plus plays. With his game-sealing fourth-quarter score, Wilson tied Giantsstarting quarterback Eli Manning (2011) for the most TD passes in the fourth quarter in a single season with 15.

Seattle's offense is so reliant on Wilson to make plays, you'd think at some point the magic has to run out. You'd think. Wilson is enjoying a run of play that should guarantee him a seat at the MVP table, alongside Carson Wentz and Tom Brady. The renaissance QB has Seattle, without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, within striking distance of a playoff spot and even the NFC West crown.

  1. In an uncharacteristic showing, Philly lost their second game of the season Sunday night thanks to a rash of poor decision-making and missed opportunities on four consecutive mid-game drives. It started late in the first half when the Eagles botched their first trip inside the Seahawks' red zone with an Alshon Jeffery holding penalty and conservative play-calling; the drive resulted in three points. Philly mismanaged the clock on the next drive, the last of the half, punting on a fourth-and-1 in Seattle territory instead of trusting Wentz to make a play. On the first drive of the second half, the Eagles strode down the field in 11 plays, only to have Wentz fumble the ball out of the end zone one yard from pay dirt. One drive later, Philly, feeling the heat from Wentz's mistake, eschewed a makable field goal and instead turned the ball over on downs on Seattle's 25. Not to mention, the Eagles gifted Seattle four first downs via penalty -- Philadelphia committed seven for 64 yards on the night.

The worst gaffe of all, though, came on Seattle's final TD drive when Wilson apparently lateraled the pigskin to Mike Davis to convert a third-and-8. On replay, it was clear that the toss, though intended to go backward, was actually a forward pass by a full yard. But Doug Pederson, gun-shy about losing his final challenge, chose not to throw the red hankie. The result? Seattle scored a touchdown four plays later, and Philly's fate was sealed.

  1. This week on Seahawks Tailback Carousel: Mike Davis steals the show! Davis, a third-year back who had previously played in just one game for Seattle, became the fourth different Seahawks player in as many weeks to lead the team in rushing. When Wilson wasn't literally running circles around Philly's front, Davis (64 rushing yards) was running through them. On his third-quarter 22-yard dash, Davis made three Eagles defenders miss tackles, making a once stout Philadelphia second level look foolish. Sunday night was a reminder to 12s and fantasy owners alike: Seattle's running back room is an ever-evolving enigma, one no one, including opponents, understands.

--Jeremy Bergman

  1. The lead story of this game, and potentially of this day is Alvin Kamara. For the second straight week, the running back was New Orleans' Mr. Do Everything, taking nine handoffs for 60 yards and two touchdowns and catching five passes for an additional 66 yards. The output placed him in a very special club, joining Herschel Walker, Charley Taylor and Billy Sims in becoming just the fourth rookie running back in history to break 600 yards rushing and 600 yards receiving in the same season. Taylor is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Walker and Sims were both All-Pros at least once in their careers. New Orleans hit the jackpot when it selected Kamara in the third round of last spring's draft.

And while Kamara soaks up the spotlight, Mark Ingram was just as excellent, toting the ball 14 times for 85 yards and a touchdown. Sure, 72 of those yards came on one run, but games like today demonstrate why the Saints are so dangerous: They have a two-headed monster in the backfield, a future Hall of Fame quarterback and a stable of targets. Against one of the league's better defenses, they didn't slow down.

  1. What began as a heavyweight fight, with each side trading early blows, became the Panthers struggling to get up off the mat. The Saints knocked the opposition off its feet with a 72-yard Mark Ingram run right up the middle, then scored two plays later on a 3-yard Ingram touchdown run. The shift in momentum came in a flash, starting with Carolina punter Michael Palardy fumbling and attempting an ill-fated throw to cap a three-and-out, and Carolina scoring on a six-play drive on the ensuing possession. Just like that, the Saints held a 21-7 lead, and the Panthers never recovered.
  1. Chris Wesseling called the Rams' Week 12 win over New Orleans a yardstick game, but this one felt much more like a statement victory from the Saints, who delivered a crushing blow to the Panthers with that aforementioned exchange and rode it to an emphatic win over an equally upstart rival. New Orleans very well could have allowed last week's loss to Los Angeles to send it into a skid against another good opponent, but sensing the gravity of the situation, the Saints took advantage. It's even more impressive when considering New Orleans did it without standout corner Marshon Lattimore, tight end Coby Fleener and tackle Terron Armstead. Their next great test comes against Atlanta next week, with two games against the Falcons ahead in the next three weeks. New Orleans has an opportunity to build on what it accomplished Sunday by downing the Falcons and severely impacting their playoff hopes with two wins over them, while also locking up the division in the process. A crucial five-week stretch began with a big one on Sunday.

--Nick Shook

  1. Aaron Jones made sure his only carry of the game against the Buccaneers was a memorable one. The rookie running back, who was overcoming a knee injury that nearly kept him out of Sunday's game, scored on a 20-yard run in overtime on his first touch to lift the Packers to a comeback victory. Jones went into full Superman mode as he dove between defenders to cap off the win. It was a memorable and exciting finish to a game that was mostly a disappointment for the Packers. What should have been a very winnable game against a struggling Bucs team became a nail-biter and another reminder of just how much Jones means to the Aaron Rodgers-depleted Green Bay offense.
  1. The return of Jameis Winston wasn't without its pitfalls, but the third-year quarterback certainly has a way of jumpstarting a Buccaneers offense that constantly flickers in and out of life. Against the Packers, Winston's shoulder looked much better, but an ankle issue seemed to hamper his effectiveness slightly in the second half. He did just enough to help the Buccaneers claw back into the game. It wasn't perfect -- his desperation flip right into the arms of Packers defensive end Dean Lowry that culminated in a 62-yard TD return is a candidate for gaffe of the season. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Bucs force overtime. It wasn't the best performance, but it was a promising return.
  1. Rodgers' return can't come soon enough for the Packers -- if there's something left to play for in the team's quest to stay afloat in the razor-thin NFC wild-card race. Hundley struggled mightily against a struggling Buccaneers squad. Although he ended up on the winning side in this one, Hundley was limited to 84 yards on 13 of 22 passing. His development seems to have more or less peaked for the Packers, and it seems hard to fathom the Packers winning important games against the Panthers, Vikings and Lions to close out the regular season with Hundley still at the helm.

-- Austin Knoblauch

  1. No Amari Cooper. No Michael Crabtree. What were the pass-happy, shorthanded Raiders to do? Feed the Beast. Marshawn Lynch set the tone early, breaking off a 51-yard touchdown gallop on Oakland's first drive. Derek Carr spread the ball around to his short-handed receiving corps, totaling 287 passing yards after a slow start, but Lynch was the engine behind Oakland's offense all afternoon. Beast Mode broke the century mark on the ground for the first time since October of 2015, earning 101 rushing yards with his trademark physical running style. With the AFC West up for grabs, Lynch put the team, and a couple of Giants, on his back, carrying Oakland into a tie atop the division with the 6-6 Chiefs and Chargers. Days like Sunday illuminate why the Raiders sought out Lynch to carry them into the postseason, and why the running back returned to the game and the town he loves.
  1. Try as they might, it will be hard for Giants fans and Big Blue legion of angry alumni to blame Sunday's loss on the failings of Geno Smith. Starting for the benched legend, the Honorable Eli Manning, Smith essentially matched his teammate's average production, completing 61.7 percent of his passes for 212 passing yards and one beautiful touchdown toss to Evan Engram. The former Jet's turnover demons did come back to haunt him at inopportune times -- he lost two fumbles on sacks inside Oakland's 30 in the first half -- but both giveaways were forced by barely blocked edge rushers. (Chad Wheeler against Khalil Mack? Yeah, that's not a fair fight.)

What is Geno supposed to do with a banged-up offensive line, next to no running game and receivers who couldn't get meaningful separation even if they ordered a restraining order? If anything, New York's 10th loss of the season is an indictment of the front office and the coaching staff. It is impossible for this team to evaluate their options at quarterback, which they claim was their intention in sitting Manning, when the signal-callers on staff are let down by the surrounding talent, talent acquired by those in charge. 

  1. It can't be overstated how special and useful a weapon Cordarrelle Patterson has become this season and will be for Oakland coming down the stretch. Patterson's 59-yard catch-and-run on a fourth-quarter screen set up the Raiders' game-sealing score, the second time in two weeks that the Vikings castoff clinched an Oakland victory. On Sunday, Patterson tallied a season-high 97 receiving yards and caught at least three passes for the fourth time in five weeks. While he has barely attempted a run since mid-October, Patterson is becoming a dangerous factor in the passing game, able to break any game open at a given moment or to seal a dub in crunch time.

--Jeremy Bergman

  1. The Panthers have officially passed the torch carried by the most unconvincing contending team to the Titans. Tennessee sleepwalked through most of the first half but managed to take a 10-10 tie into halftime thanks to a hit of smelling salts via a 24-yard rumble by Derrick Henry and a missed field goal on the part of Houston's Kai'imi Fairbairn. A second touchdown followed another Fairbairn miss in the second half, as Marcus Mariota hooked up with Delanie Walker twice to find pay dirt.

For the first time in the last month-plus, Tennessee's running game was effective with both DeMarco Murray and Henry. The latter again served as the fourth-quarter closer, taking his league-best 6.6 yards per carry average in the final period into Sunday's determining quarter and padding his numbers with a 75-yard touchdown run to ice the game when all Tennessee really needed was a first down. The Titans finished with 198 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just 25 carries. Tennesse improved to 8-4 by utilizing the run and pass and relying on its defense late -- but none of it was pretty.

  1. Tom Savage should get his receivers some really nice Christmas gifts. Starting with DeAndre Hopkins (eight catches, 80 yards) and continuing all the way through tight end Stephen Anderson (five catches, 79 yards, one touchdown), Savage frequently attempted to fit a camel through the eye of a needle, forcing passes into double coverage and inexplicably coming away unscathed until his interception ended Houston's last-ditch attempt to take the lead in the fourth. Plenty of credit is due to Hopkins, who battled through defenders to rescue passes from the claws of interceptions. Anderson made an equally impressive catch on that late drive that ended in a turnover. The point remains: Houston succeeded with a good amount of toss-ups to Texans receivers, with the hopes that those in the navy helmets would come away with the ball. That's not a winning formula. 2018 and the resumption of the Deshaun Watson era can't get here fast enough.
  1. Until he left with an injury, Sunday was serving as Braxton Miller's breakout game. The quarterback-turned-wide receiver caught a huge pass from Savage that went for a 57-yard gain and put the Texans inside Tennessee's 3-yard line, from which the Texans eventually scored on a TD pass from Savage to Anderson. Miller finished with four catches for 71 yards while only participating in 39 percent of Houston's offensive snaps. For a team that has dealt with a handful of key offensive injuries, including at the receiver position, Miller has seen sporadic use at best until Sunday, which was his best day as a pro.

--Nick Shook

  1. Sunday's blowout was against the 3-9 Colts, but it's hard not to be impressed by the Jaguars nonetheless. If Blake Bortles is playing even at an above-average level, (like he did Sunday, throwing for 309 yards, two scores and no picks), there are no holes on their roster. The pass rush, led by Calais Campbell (who, with another sack on Jacoby Brissett, set Jacksonville's single-season franchise record with still a quarter of the season remaining), is swarming. The secondary is as lockdown as any in the NFL, with Jalen Ramsey recording yet another pick. And, offensively, weapons litter the skill positions, with Leonard Fournette (20 carries for 57 yards and a score) and Marqise Lee (seven catches for 86 yards and a score) posting big days. There's been a lot of chatter about who the third best team in the AFC is, but if Bortles is competent, it might just be the Jags.
  1. Frank Gore continued to make history Sunday, passing LaDainian Tomlinson for fifth all-time on the NFL rushing yards list. The tailback continued to fend off Marlon Mack for playing time, rushing for 61 yards on 13 carries. Only four Hall of Famers sit ahead of Gore on the all-time rushing list -- Curtis Martin, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith. Like it or not, Gore is probably going to Canton someday.
  1. The stats the Jaguars amassed on Jacoby Brissett in two games this season were hefty. In eight quarters of football, the Jaguars sacked Brissett 14 times and picked him off twice. Brissett has fought valiantly for the woeful Colts this season, especially considering he was acquired just days before the Week 1. But he holds on to the football for an eternity in the pocket, takes way too many sacks, and looks to take off with his legs far too often. Although, to Brissett's credit, even a healthy Andrew Luck likely couldn't have done much with this Colts team that has holes all over its roster.

-- Edward Lewis

  1. Detroit spent most of the first half making mistake after mistake while the Ravens took advantage of almost all of them. Matt Stafford fumbled a snap once and was strip sacked, and the combination of these events put Detroit in a 20-0 halftime hole. Even then, this was a game early in the fourth quarter, when the Lions were within six points. The wheels then promptly fell off, which summarizes a lot of what this Lions team is: Tantalizing in spots, frustrating and uninspiring in others.

Stafford left the game with a hand injury late in the fourth after he spent a good amount of the second half scrambling for his life. The increased pressure was a result of Detroit losing both right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner to injuries. Neither returned, a void that was glaring on Stafford's final interception.

  1. I've tooted the horn for Alex Collins on multiple occasions this season, and his fourth-quarter play sealed the deal for the Ravens. But in reality, this was Joe Flacco's best performance of the season (23-of-36 passing, 269 yards, two touchdowns) by a long shot. Baltimore was unafraid to take deep shots in the first half, which opened up the entire offense and put the Ravens on the doorstep twice, where they were twice able to utilize play-action passes to score. Flacco found Benjamin Watson for the first, and fullback Patrick Ricard for the second as Baltimore built its lead. The Ravens then rode Collins in the second half, with the hard-running back twice finding the end zone in the fourth quarter to make a close game into a blowout.
  1. What a day for Eric Weddle. The veteran safety was a foot in bounds shy of an acrobatic interception early, forced a turnover when he strip-sacked Stafford, and then capped his afternoon (and Baltimore's defensive clamp-down) with a 45-yard pick-six of Stafford replacement Jake Rudock. This Baltimore defense is creeping toward becoming historically good, and Weddle is the heart and soul of the secondary. While the onus will become slightly greater with the loss of Jimmy Smith to a torn Achilles, games like Sunday's show the veteran is still capable of handling the responsibility.

--Nick Shook

  1. The Dolphins won the game and their life-support playoff hopes are still alive, but the story in this one is just how in trouble Denver is at the quarterback position. Not just in this lost year, but also going forward. Trevor Siemian was about as bad as he's been at any point this season, completing just 20 of 42 passes, throwing three picks (one a pick-six) and pushing a high snap out of the back of the endzone for two points for the Dolphins. Coach Vance Joseph told the FOX broadcast team at half Siemian was "absolutely" his quarterback for the day, no matter the struggles. But John Elway has his work cut out for him to find the QB of the Broncos' future this offseason.
  1. In the early goings of the game, this one had the feel of whosever quarterback played the least poorly would pull out the win. But Jay Cutler recovered from two ugly interceptions (one returned for a score) to have a nice game. He was efficient, throwing for two scores and 235 yards on 18-of-31 passing. Cutler isn't perfect, but he's proven to be better than backup Matt Moore and is this team's best shot to somehow make a miracle run to the postseason.
  1. The Dolphins might have accidentally, or perhaps purposely, stumbled into finding their lead running back of the future. By trading Jay Ajayi, and seeing Damien Williams go down with a shoulder injury, Kenyan Drake became Miami's bell-cow back Sunday, and he delivered. He showed exceptional burst, an unwillingness to go down, and good hands. He logged 120 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, added 21 yards on three catches, and certainly showed he can be a future three-down back for this team, even when Williams comes back healthy.

-- Edward Lewis

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