1) The Fighting Joe Judges bullied Seattle on the road, out-muscling the Seahawks and stifling Russell Wilson all afternoon, giving the G-Men a four-game winning streak and sole possession of first place in the NFC East. The Big Blue defense deserves the lion's share of the credit. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham dialed up a masterful plan, and the secondary blanketed Seahawks receivers all game, forcing Wilson to hold the ball and hold the ball and hold the ball and hold the ball and hold the ball. Leonard Williams feasted on the Seahawks beleaguered offensive line. Williams earned 2.5 sacks and a whopping five QB hits. A free agent at the end of the season, Williams picked a good time for a career year. As a team, the Giants discombobulated Wilson, taking down the QB for five sacks. Wilson completed just 62.8 percent of his passes for 263 yards, a TD and an INT. The Seahawks having to play their fourth-string right tackle didn't help, but credit the Giants for being the tougher team Sunday. Joe Judge has his club playing with confidence and ferocity as we approach Christmas.
2) In the year 2020, Colt McCoy and Alfred Morris helped New York win a road game in Seattle. Wild. McCoy steadied the offense most of the contest, milking the clock with a couple big completions late to move the chains. It wasn't a beautiful game from the veteran, who missed a few throws low and behind, and the score might not have been close if Daniel Jones played. Still, McCoy got the Giants in the right run checks and managed the offense. His one big mistake was a red zone INT in the first quarter. McCoy leaned on the ground game, which gashed Seattle's second level. Wayne Gallman averaged 8.4 yards per carry, taking 16 totes for 135 yards, shedding tackles. Morris played the closer with two TDs, including a receiving score. Despite earning just 290 total yards, unlike their counterparts, the Giants took advantage of their opportunities, going 2-of-3 in the red zone. It was a bully-ball game for Judge's squad with a backup QB.
3) The Giants (5-7) put themselves in position to swipe the NFC East with a big win over a potential playoff foe. Big Blue proved it has a defense that can slow any opponent. The improved play of Graham's unit as the season has worn on has been impressive. If they can make Wilson scatterbrained, the Giants can stick with most teams, particularly in the NFC. Big Blue's slate isn't easy down the stretch, but if Jones returns soon, the Giants would be the best bet to stick atop the division. On the flip side, it's a brutal loss for Seattle (8-4), which falls back behind the Rams for the division lead. Struggling against a four-win team doesn't portend a deep playoff run. As the defense has improved this season, Wilson and the offense have become far too inconsistent, epitomized by Sunday's struggles. The QB needs to put it together for the stretch run to take back the division, or Seattle will be facing a road game to open the postseason, possibly against the very Giants team they couldn't solve.
-- Kevin Patra
1) There should be concern of taking Patrick Mahomes and all his magnificence for granted. The spectacular nature of his performances and his statistical splendor have become so consistent that they have become expected. It's one of his greatest feats, but let us not lose perspective of a talent that we will all glowingly tell tales of decades from now to our grandchildren. On this Sunday, Mahomes became the first player in NFL history to put together three straight seasons with 3,500 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and a 105 passer rating, per NFL Research. Previously, only Mahomes, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning had done it in consecutive years. Consistently spectacular. Upon his decorated resume, Mahomes can add magician because he's tricked us into believing the outstanding is the norm. Admit it, upon seeing his final line of 25-for-40 for 318 yards, a touchdown and no picks, the reaction was like, "Meh." It's another 300-yard game -- his fifth in a row. Another season over 3,500 yards passing and he's got 31 touchdowns to just two interceptions this season. Mahomes the magnificent has tricked us all into believing only the grandest statistics and achievements need apply. But on this night, the Chiefs (11-1) became the first AFC team to clinch a playoff spot and are on the course they want to defend their Super Bowl title. And whether we give it its proper due, Mahomes had another excellent night to lead Kansas City to its 11th straight against the Broncos.
2) When you come at the kings, you best not miss. The Broncos (4-8) missed, but not by much. So what do you take away from a close loss to a great team in a season of struggles? This isn't a league in which silver linings are smiled upon, of course, but against the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Broncos brought the effort, the defense looked solid and Drew Lock had his moments. The future is very uncertain for Denver as it relates to Lock's status as a franchise QB and possibly even head coach Vic Fangio. In some ways, Sunday night was emblematic of where the Broncos are right now. Lock (two touchdowns and two interceptions) shows promise, but doubt remains. The defense looks stout, but still, Denver lost. Tim Patrick caught a pair of TDs and what about when Courtland Sutton returns? For these Broncos, promise remains as much as questions as they are rife with potential and low on results.
3) Speaking of consistently stellar: Travis Kelce. A few hours removed from division rival Darren Waller having a huge outing, Kelce posted his fifth 100-yard game of the season and crossed the 1,000-yard barrier for the fifth-straight season. Maybe that's why after the win over the Broncos he said, "Hats off to the Raiders" on NBC. More likely he was confused, but he was clearly a standout on Sunday. As pointed out by the great folks at NFL Research, no other tight end has five 1,000-yard seasons in their career, much less in a row. The Chiefs offense was stuck a bit on Sunday, relying on a quartet of Harrison Butker field goals for its initial offense. And then Mahomes, on a free play, scrambled and found Kelce, who bulled through a defender for a 20-yard go-ahead score. Reliable and sensational. Kelce's night ended with game-highs of eight catches and 136 yards as the best tight end in 2020 once again showed just why.
-- Grant Gordon
1) Taysom Hill played his best game as a passer. The starting QB was slinging the ball all over the field, firing lasers over the middle and making strong-armed tosses outside the numbers. No long bombs connected, but Hill proved he could get through his reads against a defense that got little pressure. The signal-caller tossed his first TD pass since his college days at BYU in the first quarter. Hill was stellar on third downs, at one point completing 10-straight on the pivotal down, including several on long down-and-distances. Hill went 10-of-12 passing on third downs, and 13 of the Saints' 23 first downs on the game came from Hill's arm. The dual-threat completed 27-of-37 passing (73%) for 232 yards and two scores. He added 14 rushes for 83 yards. Most of the rushing attempts came late, as Sean Payton got his QB to commit to getting through his progression in the first half. It was a promising game if Payton truly has eyes on Hill being the full-time heir for Drew Brees. The Saints gobbled up 424 total yards, but did leave points on the field. Hill's biggest issue is fumbling. One botch came as the Saints were in scoring to position to put the game out of reach that Atlanta recovered. Hill fumbled again late, but it went out of bounds, saving a potential game-changing error. Those sorts of errors could have been killer against better opponents.
2) The Falcons kept the game close despite another good game from the Saints' defense. ATL struggled to get going early, with two three-and-outs to open the contest. New Orleans then forced a trio of field goals in the first half. The inability of Matt Ryan and Co. to turn FGs into TDs was the difference Sunday. A fourth-quarter touchdown broke a streak of 42 straight drives without allowing a TD by the Saints defense. Ryan did a better job getting the ball out against New Orleans than the previous loss, only being sacked three times -- five fewer than Week 11. Julio Jones (6/94) made some ridiculous catches and Calvin Ridley (5/108) added explosion as the Falcons stayed in the game into the fourth quarter despite going 5-of-13 on third downs. There are no moral victories in the NFC South rivalry, so having a shot late to pull the upset won't bring smiles to Atlanta. The Falcons going 1-of-4 in the red zone was the difference in the contest. The red area has been Atlanta's bugaboo all year, and it was no different against a good Saints D Sunday.
3) The win, coupled with a Chicago loss, clinched a playoff spot for Sean Payton's club. Next on the to-do list is the division title. The victory was the Saints' ninth straight win and kept them in line for the No. 1 overall seed. More impressive, New Orleans (10-2) moved to 3-0 with Hill under center, including two victories over rival Atlanta (4-8). Over the past two seasons, Payton has guided his team to an 8-0 record without Brees under center. The future HOF QB could return next week if he's healthy enough after a brutal ribs injury and lung issue. The Saints haven't lost an inch since Brees went on IR. A fresh return for the stretch run for the 41-year-old could be on tap next week.
-- Kevin Patra
1) Two summers ago, before the pandemic and the failed Freddie Kitchens campaign, the Titans (8-4) spent weeks listening to everyone count them out in their season-opener against the offseason darling, then promptly destroyed the Browns in their house to emphatically start a memorable season. Fifteen months later, the Browns (9-3) returned the favor. Cleveland punched Tennessee in the mouth from the start, arriving in Nashville with an attitude that it would not be bullied by the big kid on the block. The Browns set the tone by forcing Derrick Henry's first fumble lost in 375 touches, then scored on their first six possessions, beginning with a field goal and following it with five straight touchdowns that left the Titans shocked and staring at the scoreboard from the sideline in complete disbelief. The most stunning development of the day, though, came from the arm of Baker Mayfield, who compiled a masterful performance, completing 25-of-33 passes for 334 yards, four touchdowns and his second-best single-game passer rating (147) of his young career. Though they entered Week 13 with an 8-3 record and the AFC's top wild card spot in their possession, plenty of folks doubted the Browns' legitimacy. They hadn't taken down a contending team all season, and when they faced such opponents, they were handled quite easily. Not on Sunday, though, as the Browns wrested control of their narrative from the hands of doubters and put the league on notice. Cleveland isn't a team that just feasts on woeful opponents -- it can handle the title fighters, too.
2) Cleveland's defense didn't provide much evidence that it would be able to contain Henry prior to Sunday, but the Browns used a total team effort to make Henry a virtual non-factor. The Browns ran out to a quick lead thanks to the aforementioned forced fumble, then poured it on with their streak of touchdown drives that dug the Titans a hole too deep to ride Henry out of and to a comeback. The usually powerful, rumbling, wrecking ball of a back appeared to be a lesser version of himself Sunday, too. Typically good for a long run or two per game, Henry's longest carry of the day was for just 10 yards. Credit is due to Browns defenders like B.J. Goodson and Karl Joseph (among others), who abandoned all fear when in pursuit of Henry and closed in on Henry like a heat-seeking missile, cutting down the back before he could get out into open space and stuffing him at the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt. A year ago, the Browns put on a similar performance against Lamar Jackson, boxing him in en route to a stunning early season win. Much later in the next year's season, Cleveland earned an even more emphatic and meaningful win by shutting down Tennessee's most important player. Considering their inexcusable penalty total (13 accepted for 92 penalty yards), this could have gone much differently, but instead, the Browns made a statement with their victory.
3) Perhaps the Titans were still enjoying their blowout win over the division-rival Colts last week when it came time to kick things off Sunday. Tennessee came out flat, turning the ball over on downs and then fumbling away their next possession before finally getting on the board to make it 17-7. The Titans' defense -- namely, Breon Borders -- was abysmal, with the Browns picking on Borders relentlessly and running out to a 38-7 halftime lead. The Titans displayed what can happen when they play coherent football in the second half, but the massive deficit at the break proved too much to overcome. A week after making its own statement with its domination of Indianapolis, Tennessee fumbled away its chance to prove Cleveland's doubters right, and created its own doubt in the process.
-- Nick Shook
1) Welcome to the 400 Club, Aaron Rodgers. The big, round numbers might not have the same ring to them in football as they do baseball. But the future Hall of Famer just reached a feat that only six others have before, none of whom had to wait until they were 24 to be a starter. That might keep Rodgers from owning the all-time record for passing touchdowns. But it doesn't diminish what he's doing now. The two-time MVP remained in contention for more trophies after tossing three more TDs without an interception. It was his eighth such game this season, the latest one coming a few days after turning 37. While this isn't Peak Rodgers, all that talk of him being past his prime has proven to be premature.
2) The Eagles officially have a QB controversy. Do they have a new QB? The external push for one probably won't be quiet. Jalen Hurts replaced Carson Wentz in the third quarter after Philly had fallen behind, 20-3. It worked, if only for awhile. The rookie leaned heavily on his legs in making a handful of plays for an offense that has been flying south for weeks. His final line (5-of-12, 109 yards, 1 TD, INT, three sacks) in the first extended action of his career won't convince anyone the brewing QB conundrum has been resolved. But it was better than Wentz's (6-of-15, 79 yards, four sacks).
3) How the tables have quickly turned for two proud franchises. It was only last September that the Eagles, still in the honeymoon period of their win in Super Bowl LII, handily beat a Green Bay team still in the incubation period with new coach Matt LaFleur following a 6-9-1 campaign. In January, Philly was a division champ and hosting a playoff game. Just two weeks ago, the Eagles were still leading the NFC East. At 3-8-1, they're not totally out of contention but will be in last place if the Cowboys win Tuesday. The bigger issue seems to be whether Doug Pederson has lost his team amid a four-game losing streak. On the heels of a report that he’s on the hot seat, Philly put forth an uninspired effort until the QB change. You wonder if holdovers from the title team glanced across the sideline and saw themselves from a few years ago in the 9-3 Packers and their hotshot, offensive-minded coach. The two teams are much further apart now than when they last met.
-- Adam Maya
1) The Rams (8-4) took a tough loss to a division rival beneath them in the standings last week, but wins like this have to make you feel good about them going forward. It wasn't just the fact that Los Angeles regained the lead in the NFC West, but how it did it. The Rams stifled Kyler Murray, forcing a key fumble and then picking him off and returning it for a score, and largely shut down Arizona's rushing attack to make for a well-rounded defensive performance. Sean McVay continued his undefeated streak in games in which his team leads at halftime, and his team reached full-strength Sunday when it closed out the win, scoring on a well-executed, 38-yard Darrell Henderson run and hammering the final nail in Arizona's Week 13 coffin with Troy Hill's pick six. There's winning, and there's going into your opponent's house and forcing your will to tell the rest of the division who is best. Right now, that's the Rams, who are 2-2 in the NFC West, with wins coming against Seattle and Arizona.
2) In case you haven't noticed, the Rams have an offense that sure looks like a contender. It's not Kansas City levels of explosive, but it's balanced and deep, and Jared Goff is playing at a high level while flying under the radar. Goff completed 37 of 47 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown, and scored another on a keeper at the goal line. He's spread the ball around well for most of the season, connecting with Robert Woods 10 times for 85 yards, with Cooper Kupp eight times for 73 yards and Gerald Everett six times for 44 yards, and completed attempts to nine pass-catchers Sunday. It works in part because of his familiarity with McVay, but also because of Los Angeles' unpredictability. The Rams don't quite have a defined feature back (though Cam Akers is making a case to be that), making personnel matching and predicting less reliable, yet their committee can hurt you when you least expect it. Henderson did that with an excellent cutback on his touchdown run, Akers carried the load otherwise, rushing 21 times for 72 yards and a touchdown. The rushing and passing games combined for 463 total yards and helped the Rams dominate time of possession for a complete victory. If they follow this playbook, the Rams will be a tough out.
3) Our own Marcas Grant said it best in a tweet: The Kyler Murray MVP campaign feels like a lifetime ago. Murray completed 21 of 39 passes, but fell below 200 yards with 173, and while he posted a 3-1 TD-INT ratio Sunday, his play wasn't consistent enough to help the Cardinals keep pace with the Rams. Arizona's offense as a whole seems to have hit a rut, converting just four of 12 third-down attempts and coming one yard shy of being doubled in total yardage by the Rams (463-232). Sustaining drives is paramount at this point of the NFL season, but the Cardinals just haven't been able to do it, and they've also been unable to avoid the small errors that produce significant outcomes, like Murray's poor ball security under pressure when he was hit and fumbled. The pick-six sealed things and put the Cardinals in an uphill battle for the NFC West. After running out to a promising start, Arizona has hit its midseason lull with three straight losses -- and it might be arriving too late to turn around in time to make the postseason.
-- Nick Shook
(Editor's note: The Jets have fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Monday morning, per sources.)
1) An elusive win dangled over the winless Jets (0-12) until Henry Ruggs III snatched it out of the air.. Down four points with 19 seconds left to play, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr found the rookie wideout on a 46-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to keep Las Vegas' wild card hopes alive and maintain the Jets' insufferable season. A Raiders win seemed improbable minutes earlier after the Jets defense forced a turnover on downs in the red zone, but a quick three-and-out gave the Raiders the ball back with 46 seconds left to play and no timeouts. After an overthrow to Nelson Agholor for a would-be TD, Carr got a second chance on the next play and exploited a Jets blitz that left Ruggs one-on-one up the sideline. Carr's lofty throw seemed to stay in the air for an eternity as Ruggs sped by his defender and freely tracked the deep ball. There was plenty to think about as it came down to earth; Ruggs' two-turnover afternoon that included a blatant drop, why there was virtually no presence of Jets defenders near the end zone, and how Trevor Lawrence would look in Gotham Green.
2) Darren Waller's career day helped end a two-game skid for the Raiders (7-5). Most of Waller's 13 receptions for 200 yards and two TDs on the day came in the first half. Per NFL Research, Waller joins Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe (Week 7, 2002 at Kansas City) as the only tight ends in the last 30 seasons with eight-plus receptions, 120-plus receiving yards and two-plus TD receptions in a single half of a game. As for Ruggs, his game-winning touchdown catch momentarily erased a woeful game that included a bad drop that resulted in an early Jets interception and a fourth-quarter fumble that allowed the Jets to gain a late lead. Carr's day (28-of-47, 381 yards, 3 TDs and one INT) was littered with several underthrows and overthrows, but the Raiders will take a sloppy win given their place in the AFC playoff race.
3) The Jets looked rather good offensively, rushing for a season-high 206 yards as a team despite losing Frank Gore (concussion) on the second play of the game. Ty Johnson (104 yards, TD) and Josh Adams (74 yards) held an in-house competition running the ball and the Jets passing game was given opportunities as a result. The consistency took some pressure off QB Sam Darnold, who had to forget a second quarter that saw turnovers on three consecutive drives. It seemed like the Jets had already blown their lead then, but, to their credit, Darnold and the Jets didn't drag their feet into the second half. There was winning football played today by the Jets, it was simply taken away from them in the final seconds.
-- Michael Baca
1) Flat. Out. Domination. That was the name of the game from jump street in the Patriots' best win of the year. Utilizing their ground-and-pound ways once again, the Pats strung together a 13-play, 75-yard, game-opening TD drive, capped by Cam Newton's 10th rushing score. The tone-setting series, which saw New England run 10 times, served as an omen for what was to come. The Pats notched their eighth game of the season with at least 100 yards rushing (165), led again by Damien Harris (16/80) and Newton (14/48/2). The margin of victory is even more eye-popping when you consider Newton logged just 69 passing yards. But, when a team is rolling in all three phases like New England, can you really be mad at that? Considering how comfortable they looked inside SoFi, the Pats better hope hints of this success carry over into their TNF clash with the 8-4 Rams.
2) Leave it to a Bill Belichick defense to slow down a hotshot rookie QB. Entering Week 13, Justin Herbert logged at least one TD and a passer rating above 75.0 in every game. Both of those streaks came to end in what will go down as the worst loss in Chargers franchise history. With Stephon Gilmore holding top target Keenan Allen to a meager five catches (11 targets) for 48 yards, Herbert struggled to move the ball. This was also Allen's first game without a score since Week 7. Austin Ekeler (8/36), in his second game back from injury, and the run game were non-existent, which only made Herbert's day tougher. He completed just 26 of a career-high 53 attempts for 209 yards. The rookie also threw two picks, one to J.C. Jackson for his seventh and the other to Chase Winovich for the first of his career. Add on three sacks and 11 QB hits and you have the perfect blend of everything that could've gone wrong for L.A.'s offense.
3) As if it wasn't already hard enough to say, the name Gunner Olszewski will be a hard one to forget moving forward. The second-year wideout showed out in the blowout, torching the Chargers for several big plays. The first came after L.A. punted following a three-and-out to begin the second quarter; Olszewski fielded the punt and returned it 70 yards to give N.E. a 14-0 lead. Two more of his punt returns -- one for 14 and another for 61 -- helped set up a Pats TD and FG. For his final act, Gunner caught a pass from Jarrett Stidham, who relieved Newton with 8:13 to go, and turned on the jets for a 38-yard catch-and-run TD and the game's final score. Special teams again stepped up as a whole (Devin McCourty chipped in a TD off a blocked FG just before intermission) but Olszewski shined bright in this one.
-- Jelani Scott
1) The Matt Patricia Era was characterized by blown lead after blown lead. In the first game of interim coach Darrell Bevell's tenure, the Lions stormed back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. With Bevell able to call his preferred game, Matthew Stafford unleashed a cavalcade of field-stretching passes that taxed the Bears defense. The Lions QB tossed for 402 yards, three TDs and one INT. It was Stafford's first game over 400 yards this season. A throwback game for the QB, Stafford divebombed the Bears defense, including a picture-perfect 49-yard TD to rookie Quintez Cephus. With Detroit down double-digits with less than five minutes remaining, Stafford quickly diced up Chicago, moving 96 yards in just 2:15, culminating with a Marvin Jones score to pull within three points. The impressive drive put pressure on a fragile Bears offense. When Chicago (5-7) crumbled, Detroit (5-7) took advantage. It was a reminder of the type of furious comebacks Stafford used to engineer in the pre-Patricia days.
2) If you wondered why Matt Nagy doesn't trust his quarterback, look no further than Mitchell Trubisky's fourth-quarter fumble that led directly to the loss. On third and four from his own 17-yard-line, the signal-caller dropped back, didn't feel the backside pressure, and was stripped by the Lions' Romeo Okwara. Detroit recovered the fumble, Adrian Peterson galloped in for his second rushing TD. A game the Bears were up comfortably most of the contest quickly became a defeat. The Bears scored on their first three possessions to jump out early. Trubisky completed 76.5% of his passes for 267 yards with a TD. And the ground game galloped for 140 yards. Chicago scored 30 points for the first time since Week 3. Inexplicably, Nagy's club still found a way to lose. The collapse was epitomized by David Montgomery after bowling over defenders all day, getting blown up on fourth and one with the game on the line. It was a complete collapse by all three phases in the fourth quarter.
3) Sunday marked the sixth-straight loss by the Bears. It all but wipes out Chicago's chances of competing for a playoff spot with four games left after a 5-1 start to the season. The latest loss by his club is likely to have Nagy in the hot seat in December. Few teams are as adrift as the Bears, who can't find solid QB play, and the defense has finally begun to crack. Nagy hasn't shown the ability to stop the slide. On the opposite end, the Lions battled for Bevell in the first game without Patricia. There were several times in the contest Detroit could have packed it in and headed home with a loss most expected. Instead, they fought back for a victory moving to 5-7, and a tie with the Bears in the division.
-- Kevin Patra
1) Tua Tagovailoa's first half reflected what was another week of limited practices. Save for Jakeem Grant's drop on a catchable 46-yard bomb, the rookie, whose left thumb and wrist were heavily taped, floated several passes that fell incomplete or were nearly picked off. Going into halftime, he compiled 111 yards (12-of-19) as Miami (8-4) trailed, 7-6. But then the second half began and the Dolphins, along with their young QB, kicked it up a notch. Looking more comfortable after switching to a no-huddle offense, Tagovailoa led a half-opening TD drive that saw him hook up with Myles Gaskin for a 35-yard completion, his longest of the day. From there, K Jason Sanders chipped in two more FGs, giving him a perfect four-of-four stat line, to bolster Miami's victory. Going 1-of-10 on third-down and 1-of-4 in the red zone is a bit concerning, but the Fins' invigorated play coming out of half was promising to watch. Tagovailoa finished the game 26-of-39 for a career-high 296 yards and extended his streak of games without an INT (six).
2) You hate to see penalties overshadow the actual play on the field, but the yellow flags ran rampant in this one. In the first half alone, a combined 11 infractions were called. Just before halftime, an end-of-play dust-up involving Xavien Howard and Tyler Boyd that didn't appear like much at first glance led to the ejection of both. Up to that point, there had been a few chippy interactions, but most looked to be just in the heat of the moment. That all changed early in the fourth. Bengals WR Mike Thomas was flagged for unnecessary roughness and kick catch interference for hits on Grant on consecutive punts, the second of which sparked a sideline-clearing brawl. Dolphins coach Brian Flores was among those on the field protesting Thomas' foolish actions; DeVante Parker was one of three players that were tossed. Once the dust settled, Miami's defense turned up the juice and squashed any chance of a Cincy comeback. On a much less egregious note, an illegal formation late in the second quarter robbed Dolphins P Matt Haack of a rushing TD and fans of a chance to see special teams succeed deploying its famous "Mountaineer Shot" trick play a la Week 13 of last season. Again, you hate to see it.
3) Unlike their opponent, the Bengals (2-9-1) offense turned in a second half that ultimately sunk any shot at an upset. Brandon Allen led a balanced attack -- 14 pass attempts, 13 rushes -- through the first two quarters. The journeyman completed nine passes for 137 yards, the bulk of which came on a career-best 72-yard catch-and-run TD for Boyd. Upon taking the field for its first series after halftime, Cincy spiraled out of control. Three straight three-and-outs, two of which came following sacks, stymied all attempts at building momentum; a fourth punt followed by a game-sealing INT made the bad much worse. Allen exited late after taking his fifth sack, bringing out Ryan Finley, who was sacked by Kyle Van Noy on his second snap. In all, Miami tallied two picks -- Howard, Nik Needham -- and a season-high six sacks while holding the Bengals to 196 total yards, the lowest by any opponent this season.
-- Jelani Scott
1) Deshaun Watson deserves better. A better receiving corps. A better front office. And better than a bad snap at his opponent's 2-yard-line with the game on the line. The Texans were primed to take the lead and perhaps win, only to have center Nick Martin's exchange go off Watson's fingertips -- it was low and away -- and bounce into the arms of a Colts defender with a minute and change to go. It's sadly par for Watson's 2020 course. Even the interception he threw Sunday -- his first in 238 attempts -- was initially caught by Brandin Cooks, but stripped away by Kenny Moore as Cooks was injured on the play. Don't let Houston's 4-8 mark cloud the fact that its Pro Bowl QB has become a more accurate, efficient and explosive passer, all while losing arguably the best wideout in the game and now playing without two of his top three targets. He'd be an MVP candidate if more of his supporting cast were merely doing their part.
2) Philip Rivers has always been ornery. Only now is he old and injured. But he can still sling it. Two days shy of his 39th birthday, he provided more hope to the Colts that he can get the job done for two more months. Despite dealing with a ruptured plantar plate that will require offseason surgery, Rivers continued his recent roll by completing just under 80% of his throws for nearly 300 yards and two TDs with no turnovers against the Texans. It took three months, but he finally seems to be on the same page with T.Y. Hilton (8 catches, 110 yards, 2 TDs). While the aging gunslinger was acquired in free agency with the expectation that he'd be an instant upgrade over Jacoby Brissett, it makes sense that the Colts offense needed time to jell given all its moving parts and a disconnected offseason. Besides, Rivers legacy in Indianapolis will be forged in December and beyond.
3) Coming off an embarrassing effort against the Titans, the Colts defense figured to be inspired, if not sure to rebound, against the shorthanded Texans. They were also made whole with the returns of DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry from the reserve/COVID-19 list. That prompted pressure that we haven't seen in some time from Indy, which constantly harassed and hurried Watson while tying a season-high with five sacks. Two came from Buckner and three from Justin Houston, including a safety -- the pair had one sack between them over the previous month. The 8-4 Colts have manufactured a middle-of-the-pack pass rush to go along with their all-world run defense. If they improve on the former, there would be another legitimate contender in the AFC.
-- Adam Maya
1) Talk about the ideal ingredients for Frustration Stew. Jacksonville's continued offensive struggles were multiplied Sunday by four turnovers, which was nearly five if not for replay review overturning a James Robinson fumble, and the Jaguars (1-11) again ran into a brick wall on third down, converting just four of 13 attempts in the game. Mike Glennon gives them their best chance of victory -- he led a game-tying touchdown drive in the final minutes of regulation -- but also steered their ship toward defeat with his two fumbles lost and an interception thrown in overtime that led to Minnesota's game-winning field goal. Frankly, this game shouldn't have even reached overtime, though, if Dan Bailey would've been able to make either of his first two point-after tries in regulation, or if he'd made his late-game field goal attempt with the score tied at 24. Fortunately for he and the Vikings, Minnesota bulled its way toward the doorstep of a touchdown, making for a chip shot of a game-winner. It wasn't pretty football on Sunday, but it was a win for the Vikings (6-6) -- and the Jaguars didn't hurt their draft position, either.
2) Sunday was another example of how important the running game is to the Vikings' chances of success. Minnesota reached halftime trailing 9-6 and had just 44 yards on the ground as a team, with Dalvin Cook accounting for 21 of those and a minuscule 2.6 yards per carry average. The Vikings were 1 for 5 on third down and were just barely over 100 yards of total offense at the break. Then, Minnesota turned back to what worked for Jacksonville's most recent opponent, Cleveland, and aimed for the naturally developing cutback lane to great success. Cook ran the ball 24 times in the third and fourth quarters and overtime, picking up 99 yards and jump-starting Minnesota's offense in what resulted in a furious third-quarter comeback. Kirk Cousins went from just 83 passing yards in the first half to 305 and a 3-1 TD-INT ratio by the time the game ended, while Justin Jefferson added to his Rookie of the Year case and Adam Thielen also found the end zone. If the Vikings don't run the ball effectively, most everything else falls apart for them eventually. They recognized this with their halftime adjustments and managed to pull out a victory.
3) The Jaguars haven't held an opponent under 21 points since Week 1 -- the only game Jacksonville has won this season -- yet Sunday was another case of the Jaguars' defense keeping them in the game, at least early. Jacksonville forced two turnovers, bottled up Cook and scored a defensive touchdown on Joe Schobert's pick-six to open the second half, giving the Jaguars a surprising 16-6 lead, but then promptly surrendered 13 unanswered points by giving up chunks of yards to Cook in the same fashion it did to Nick Chubb last week. Once on their heels, the Jaguars struggled to regain their balance, doing enough to get the game to overtime just to allow their offense to let them down one final time with Glennon's interception. They're getting little help from their offense, and when combined, it has the makings of a frustrating, losing team that does just enough to keep you coming back for more disappointment.
-- Nick Shook