Welcome to Week 15 of the 2022 NFL season, the place the playoff image is starting to take form.
On Thursday, rookie quarterback Brock Purdy helped the San Francisco 49ers clinch the NFC West by beating the division-rival Seattle Seahawks.
Saturday’s three-game slate began with the Minnesota Vikings internet hosting the Indianapolis Colts, who constructed a 33-0 halftime lead earlier than Kirk Cousins and the Vikings pulled off the largest comeback in NFL historical past — clinching the NFC North within the course of. Within the afternoon contest, the Cleveland Browns rode a stingy protection and uncharacteristic Justin Tucker misses to beat the Baltimore Ravens in Cleveland. And within the night time sport, Josh Allen threw 4 TD passes because the Buffalo Payments clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Miami Dolphins.
On Sunday, the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs clinched the AFC West with an additional time win towards the Houston Texans. The Dallas Cowboys didn’t clinch a spot within the playoffs after shedding to the Jacksonville Jaguars in additional time. And the Detroit Lions saved their playoff hopes alive with a victory on the New York Jets,
Within the late-afternoon window, the Las Vegas Raiders obtained one of the crucial inconceivable walk-off wins in NFL historical past versus the New England Patriots, the Los Angeles Chargers hit a late subject purpose to down the Tennessee Titans and the Cincinnati Bengals ambushed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers within the second half to take sole possession of the AFC North lead.
On Sunday night time, the New York Giants held off the Washington Commanders to realize a key edge within the NFC playoff race.
The Los Angeles Rams took the second-quickest exit of any defending Tremendous Bowl champ once they fell to the Inexperienced Bay Packers on Monday night time.
Our NFL Nation reporters react with the largest takeaways and lingering questions off this week’s matchups and look forward to what’s subsequent. Let’s get to it.
Leap to a matchup:
SF-SEA | IND-MIN | BAL-CLE | MIA-BUF
DAL-JAX | DET-NYJ | PHI-CHI | ATL-NO
KC-HOU | PIT-CAR | ARI-DEN | CIN-TB
NE-LV | TEN-LAC | NYG-WSH | LAR-GB
What to know: Sure, the Packers had a convincing win over the Rams that adopted their come-from-behind win over the Bears, however these two groups aren’t near playoff caliber. They’ve a mixed report of 7-21. The Packers’ three remaining opponents — the Dolphins, Vikings and Lions — are a mixed 26-16 and none of them have a shedding report. Whatever the opponent, Monday night time’s win over the Rams was one of the crucial full performances of the season: A stable passing sport with rookie receivers Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson, manufacturing within the run sport with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, a mighty move rush led by Preston Smith’s two sacks and a potent kickoff returner in Keisean Nixon.
Can the Packers’ protection repeat this towards a greater offense? Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill and Raheem Mostert are going to current a a lot more durable problem than something the Rams supplied. Miami’s prime two receivers are speedsters, and pace receivers have given the Packers hassle all 12 months. And do not forget Mostert is the again who ran for 220 yards and 4 touchdowns towards the Packers within the 2019 NFC Championship Sport whereas with the 49ers. Whereas the Packers’ five-sack sport on the best way to holding the Rams to simply 12 factors was stable, it didn’t come towards a high-powered offense. — Rob Demovsky
Subsequent sport: at Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: There are fairly just a few causes the Rams have struggled to maneuver the ball constantly down the sector, however the move safety hasn’t helped. Los Angeles has allowed 51 sacks this season, tied with the Broncos for probably the most within the NFL. Based on ESPN Stats & Info analysis, it is also the fourth-most sacks the Rams have allowed in a season for the reason that 1970 merger. It did not get any simpler Monday towards the Packers, as Los Angeles misplaced middle Brian Allen on the primary drive to a calf damage. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked 5 occasions and took 9 quarterback hits.
What is going to operating again Cam Akers’ position be in 2023? Akers was one of many few vivid spots for the Rams in Inexperienced Bay, operating for 65 yards on 12 carries, his highest dashing yardage of the season. He was additionally Los Angeles’ main receiver with three catches for 35 yards. Akers missed two video games earlier this season because the Rams tried to commerce him earlier than the deadline in an effort to provide him a contemporary begin, in response to head coach Sean McVay. The Rams even have rookie operating again Kyren Williams, who has impressed the teaching workers in his first season. Akers has one season left on his rookie contract and stated after the sport that he desires to be in Los Angeles subsequent season. — Sarah Barshop
Subsequent sport: vs. Broncos (Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
What to know: Simply an enormous, wild win for the Giants, capped by a final-minute goal-line stand. Their probabilities of making the playoffs ballooned near 90%. They’re now in prime place to finish a six-year playoff drought. Of their largest sport in years, quarterback Daniel Jones constantly made performs, operating again Saquon Barkley put the sport away and rookie exterior linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux (11 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 1 sack-fumble for a TD) was dominant.
What do the Giants want now to make the playoffs? It is completely potential — given they personal the tiebreaker over Washington and Seattle has been in a free fall — that yet one more win will do it. New York performs at Minnesota, versus Indianapolis and at Philadelphia the ultimate three weeks. So long as Jones continues to play at a excessive degree and would not flip the ball over (three in his previous seven video games), it’s a must to just like the Giants’ possibilities. — Jordan Raanan
Subsequent sport: at Vikings (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Washington can blame itself for one more disappointing loss that may hang-out it if it misses the playoffs. When the Commanders received six of seven video games, they saved successful the turnover battle and restricted damaging performs. They turned it over twice Sunday — one resulted in a Giants landing, the opposite price the Commanders a brief subject purpose. And a late landing was nullified due to an unlawful formation. In the meantime, Washington’s protection hardly ever bothered quarterback Daniel Jones and compelled no turnovers.
How does this affect Washington’s playoff possibilities? The Commanders are nonetheless the seventh seed, so they continue to be in command of their future. But it surely will not be straightforward. Washington virtually assuredly has to win two of its closing three video games. Seattle and Detroit are a half-game behind Washington, however Detroit has the best schedule (at Carolina, Chicago, at Inexperienced Bay). whereas Seattle (at Kansas Metropolis, New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams) and Washington (at San Francisco, Cleveland, Dallas) have it more durable. — John Keim
Subsequent sport: at 49ers (Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: A quick begin that resulted in an opening-drive landing gave solution to a protracted, sluggish afternoon for the Chargers’ offense, which punted on 5 of the following seven drives and noticed quarterback Justin Herbert throw two interceptions. Nevertheless, Herbert got here on robust within the fourth quarter: He fueled a landing drive to place the Bolts forward then moved the ball 52 yards with 44 seconds remaining, permitting Cameron Dicker to kick a game-winning 43-yard subject purpose to maintain alive the Bolts’ pursuit of their first playoff look since 2018.
The protection is trending constructive; can it proceed? The Chargers’ protection is showing to hit its stride over the previous two outings, and the unit may develop stronger with the return of Derwin James Jr. Nevertheless, it is unsure when the All-Professional security will likely be out there after sitting out the previous two weeks due to a quadriceps damage. Coach Brandon Staley has described James’ standing as “day-to-day.” — Lindsey Thiry
Subsequent sport: at Colts (Monday, Dec. 26, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Titans’ offensive line gave up 4 sacks towards the Chargers. Probably the most important was when left deal with Dennis Daley gave up one to Chris Rumph II for a 9-yard loss that pushed Randy Bullock’s subject purpose try to 51 yards, which the kicker missed. Los Angeles then drove down the sector to take the lead. The Titans tried to go to Dillon Radunz rather than Daley, however that was short-lived, as Radunz was injured after 13 snaps. Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill was underneath fixed duress, and the offense sputtered. Now, the surging Jaguars are just one sport behind the Titans within the AFC South standings.
Are the Titans actually in peril of shedding the division after a four-game skid? Completely. Tennessee is now caught in a four-game shedding streak for the primary time in 5 seasons underneath coach Mike Vrabel. One of many 4 defeats got here to the Jaguars, who’ve received two in a row to chop into the Titans’ division lead. The Titans’ patchwork roster has now employed 80 gamers this season with three video games left. Tennessee can solely hope for assistance on the best way with the potential returns of defensive lineman Denico Autry and broad receiver Treylon Burks. However the offensive line stays a severe legal responsibility. — Turron Davenport
Subsequent sport: vs. Texans (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: So that you’re saying there’s an opportunity? Look, the Raiders haven’t any wiggle room the remainder of the best way, however stranger issues have occurred on this already weird season, together with Chandler Jones’ walk-off 48-yard fumble return for a landing off an errant lateral on Sunday. And we noticed Las Vegas do the unthinkable by forcing its manner into the postseason with a four-game successful streak to shut out final season. So go forward, cue up “Dumb and Dumber” and examine again subsequent week, after the Christmas Eve sport in Pittsburgh.
Is a run to the playoffs truly possible? After holding on for pricey life towards the Patriots, the Raiders, who improved to 6-8, seemingly need to run the desk towards the Steelers, 49ers and Chiefs. Yikes. Las Vegas is just one sport out of the seventh and closing postseason spot, however there are six different groups with both six or seven wins. — Paul Gutierrez
Subsequent sport: at Steelers (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: An absolute gut-wrenching solution to lose the sport. This wasn’t a efficiency worthy of a playoff contender. The Patriots performed a primary half that was presumably the crew’s worst of the season — with a crimson zone meltdown and a blocked punt that was become an offensive landing — digging themselves a 17-3 gap. After they had an opportunity to shut out the sport within the fourth quarter (after taking a 24-17 lead), they could not provide you with the defensive cease. Then they made a catastrophic mistake on the final play, turning the ball over and letting the Raiders rating a TD to price themselves the sport. Dropping to 7-7, the Pats nonetheless have an opportunity to qualify for the postseason, however with video games remaining towards the Bengals, Dolphins and Payments, it is a lengthy shot.
Is there any hope for the passing offense — this season and past? Mac Jones completed 13-of-31 for 112 yards. Throughout one stretch within the sport, starting within the second quarter, Jones was 5-of-16 for 18 yards, whereas averaging minus-1.8 air yards per completion. It is exhausting to think about the Patriots having the ability to compete with such outcomes this season, sparking main questions on what coach Invoice Belichick may do to repair it. — Mike Reiss
Subsequent sport: vs. Bengals (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Cincinnati capitalized on an opportunity to realize some separation within the AFC North with a win over Tampa Bay. Cincinnati overcame a 17-0 deficit to beat the Bucs and achieve a one-game lead over the Ravens within the division standings. Baltimore misplaced to Cleveland on Saturday, permitting the Bengals to realize some cushion. Granted, the division title may nonetheless come right down to the Week 18 showdown between the groups, however the Bengals are actually in significantly better place after Sunday’s victory.
Can Cincinnati overcome its defensive accidents down the stretch? Sure, the Bengals appeared good within the second half, however it is going to be robust for Cincinnati to prime Buffalo and Baltimore with out key starters. Cincinnati was already with out DE Trey Hendrickson (wrist) and CB Mike Hilton (knee) earlier than it misplaced DE Sam Hubbard (calf) on Sunday. Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt additionally left the sport, with a left shoulder damage. The Bengals’ depth will likely be examined if these gamers are out for an prolonged period of time. — Ben Child
Subsequent sport: at Patriots (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: After leaping out to a 17-0 lead, the Buccaneers turned the ball over on three straight drives within the third quarter, with the Bengals scoring 21 factors off these miscues and paving the best way for the biggest blown lead by a Tom Brady-led crew at residence — ever. It was an entire breakdown within the second half — and a disgrace as a result of that first half was the very best the Bucs had appeared in all phases this season. Because of a loss by the Panthers — and the Falcons additionally fell, to the Saints — the Bucs are nonetheless in first place within the NFC South at 6-8.
Why did issues unravel? The Bengals pressured 4 turnovers within the second half. They capitalized on a botched pretend punt try by the Bucs to open the third quarter — it appeared upback Giovani Bernard did not get the decision — with the Bengals recovering it on the Tampa Bay 16. On the following drive, Brady was intercepted by Tre Flowers on the Tampa Bay 31-yard line on a low throw meant for Cameron Brate. There have been two misplaced fumbles too: a pressured fumble of Brady on a sack by defensive deal with DJ Reader that Joseph Ossai recovered on the Tampa Bay 13 then a botched handoff with Leonard Fournette on the Tampa Bay 39. After barely pressuring Brady within the first half, the Bengals obtained to him a number of occasions within the second. Additionally, the Bucs obtained away from throwing on first down after success with it within the first half. — Jenna Laine
Subsequent sport: at Cardinals (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: Choices nonetheless should be made about coach Nathaniel Hackett’s future, however he a minimum of prevented a crushing December residence loss some earlier Broncos coaches on the new seat had not. Vance Joseph misplaced an unsightly season finale in 2018, Vic Fangio watched his offense fail him in a house loss to the Bengals in his final season and even Mike Shanahan had an unpleasant loss to the Payments in his final residence sport as Broncos coach in 2008. Broncos co-owner and CEO Greg Penner has stated effort will matter when the possession makes the decision, and with Sunday’s win and the trouble towards the Chiefs final week, the undermanned Broncos are nonetheless giving Hackett an opportunity.
How can the Broncos overcome the newest spherical of accidents to the offensive line? The Broncos haven’t had an offensive lineman begin each sport this season. They at present have two former starters on injured reserve — left deal with Garett Bolles and middle Lloyd Cushenberry III. They usually had three linemen go away Sunday’s sport. Guard Dalton Risner (elbow) ultimately went again in, however guard Quinn Meinerz suffered a watch damage on the primary drive and didn’t return. The participant in to exchange Meinerz, Tom Compton, later left with a again damage and didn’t return. The Broncos surrendered six sacks within the first half and 7 for the sport, so it’d power them run the ball extra (they averaged over 6 yards per carry towards Arizona), particularly in play-action, to guard all concerned. — Jeff Legwold
Subsequent sport: at Rams (Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Cardinals are one step nearer to a top-five draft choose, their first since 2019, once they chosen quarterback Kyler Murray No. 1 general. Sunday’s loss to the Broncos was all however a blueprint highlighting the areas Arizona wants to deal with.
Based mostly on Sunday’s loss, what are Arizona’s largest wants within the 2023 NFL draft? There are a handful of positions that Arizona may improve with the draft, however most notably, the Cardinals need assistance on the offensive line, at cornerback and with a playmaker, most probably a large receiver. — Josh Weinfuss
Subsequent sport: vs. Buccaneers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: When all else fails, the Eagles can financial institution on their move rush. Philadelphia registered six-plus sacks for the fifth time this season. That is probably the most by an Eagles crew since crew sacks have been first tracked in 1963, and is one sport shy of tying probably the most by any crew in a season. The cash they gave Haason Reddick in free company this offseason (three years, $45 million) has been effectively price it. He led the best way with two sacks and a fumble restoration towards Chicago and now has 12 sacks on the season for the Eagles, who entered Week 15 with a league-best 49 takedowns.
What is the concern degree over the passing sport? Low. Jalen Hurts threw a number of interceptions in a sport for the primary time this season and was beneath his regular effectivity as a passer. There was some wind and chilly to cope with in addition to some entice sport vibes to this one, seeing that it was sandwiched between a pair of division video games: final week towards the Giants and their largest sport of the season developing Saturday towards the Cowboys. The offense was clunky for lengthy stretches. Nonetheless, Hurts scored thrice on the bottom — he now has 13 dashing TDs on the 12 months, one shy of Cam Newton’s report — and made performs by the air when it mattered. This group will likely be tremendous. — Tim McManus
Subsequent sport: at Cowboys (Saturday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Bears have been robust towards the highest crew within the NFC. Justin Fields threw two touchdowns and ran for 95 yards, becoming a member of Lamar Jackson and Michael Vick as the one quarterbacks in NFL historical past to hurry for 1,000 yards in a season. Chicago’s secondary had arguably its greatest efficiency of the season by holding MVP candidate Jalen Hurts to his third-lowest completion proportion of the season (59.5%) whereas forcing him to throw two interceptions. This season is all about discovering foundational items the Bears can construct round in 2023. On protection, Jaylon Johnson continues to show he is a kind of gamers by recording three passes defended, all of which got here towards Eagles receiver A.J. Brown.
How will the Bears overcome one other onslaught of accidents? Chicago entered Week 15 with out wideouts Chase Claypool (knee) and N’Keal Harry (again). The receiving crew took one other hit when Equanimeous St. Brown left the primary quarter with a concussion. One play after St. Brown’s damage, proper guard Teven Jenkins sustained a neck damage and was taken off the sector on a stretcher. Linebacker Jack Sanborn injured an ankle within the third quarter and by no means returned, whereas Johnson was sidelined late with a rib damage. The Bears are in survival mode with three video games to play amid a seven-game shedding streak and hope the rash of accidents would not get any worse. — Courtney Cronin
Subsequent sport: vs. Payments (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Jaguars’ protection has been criticized all season for giving up huge performs and having a weak move rush, but it surely has delivered the previous two weeks, together with in one of the crucial inconceivable victories of the season. Nickelback Tre Herndon had a tough time coping with CeeDee Lamb all day, however he obtained his hand on a move meant for Noah Brown, and security Rayshawn Jenkins grabbed it and went 52 yards for the successful rating in additional time. The Jags picked off Prescott twice and turned each into touchdowns. The Jaguars pressured 4 turnovers of their rout of Tennessee the week prior regardless of giving up 121 dashing yards to Derrick Henry. The large performs the previous two weeks have saved the Jaguars within the AFC South race.
What do the Jaguars do at offensive deal with? Each starters — Cam Robinson (knee) and Jawaan Taylor (hamstring) — left the sport with accidents on Sunday, and that is crucial with a brief week to arrange for the New York Jets on Thursday night time. Walker Little went in for Taylor at proper deal with earlier within the second half after which moved to left deal with after Robinson’s damage. Taylor gutted it out for the Jaguars’ closing drive, but when he is unable to play, they are going to seemingly deliver up a substitute from the observe squad with the brief week (presumably Coy Cronk). — Mike DiRocco
Subsequent sport: at Jets (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: Dak Prescott has promised he would repair his downside with interceptions. It did not occur Sunday. Prescott was bumped as he was throwing to Dalton Schultz on one pickoff within the third quarter, and the Cowboys misplaced in additional time when his third-down move to Noah Brown was intercepted and returned for a landing. Prescott now has 9 interceptions in his previous six video games and 11 in his 9 video games performed this season. He had 10 interceptions final 12 months on 596 passes. The Cowboys blew a 27-10 lead, marking the primary lack of Prescott’s profession when having a 17-point lead (30-1). Prescott has been picked off in 4 straight video games, tying the longest streak of his profession.
Are the Cowboys prepared for Philadelphia? They are not taking part in their greatest getting into an enormous NFC matchup. They wanted a 98-yard drive to beat the one-win Houston Texans. They blew a 17-point third-quarter lead towards the Jaguars. They led the Colts by simply two factors getting into the fourth quarter earlier than a 33-point explosion. Possibly they have been simply taking part in right down to their AFC South foes, however they won’t have the identical margin for error towards the Eagles. They may have revenge on their thoughts, having misplaced 26-17 at Philadelphia in October. Prescott didn’t play that sport due to a damaged thumb. — Todd Archer
Subsequent sport: vs. Eagles (Saturday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Turnovers can simply deliver the Chiefs down within the playoffs. After committing a few turnovers towards the Texans, the Chiefs are minus-seven in that class for the season. That is the area of shedding groups. The Chiefs have survived the previous couple of weeks regardless of a flurry of turnovers however towards inferior opponents. They’re urgent their luck if this continues, notably towards higher opponents within the playoffs.
Will the Chiefs get the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed in the event that they win out? In that case, the one different crew that would get the highest seed is Buffalo. The Payments on this state of affairs would wish to win out themselves to get the highest seed, and so they have a Week 17 sport towards a tricky Bengals crew. The higher query is whether or not the Chiefs can win their closing three video games towards Seattle, Denver and Las Vegas. That is not an intimidating schedule, however the best way they’ve performed just lately would not encourage confidence. — Adam Teicher
Subsequent sport: vs. Seahawks (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Texans’ loss to the Chiefs was one other instance of failing to complete in a misplaced season for the membership. The Texans led the Chiefs 21-16 going into the fourth quarter, the seventh time this season they have been both tied or had a result in begin the ultimate quarter. However they’ve managed to win solely a kind of video games, which is why they’re heading towards the No. 1 choose within the 2023 NFL draft. It was a good effort contemplating they have been with out their main rusher in Dameon Pierce and their two prime receivers, Nico Collins and Brandin Cooks. Nonetheless, not having the ability to end video games has plagued the Texans all season.
Is the two-QB system tapering off? The Texans had a plethora of success utilizing two quarterbacks with Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel towards the Cowboys. They produced 23 factors, their second highest of the season, and the bundle netted 4.34 yards per play. However towards the Chiefs, it produced only one.24 yards per play. Driskel went 2-for-4 with 16 complete yards, half of these on the bottom. Mills threw for 2 touchdowns and ran for one more one, however he had a expensive turnover in additional time that led to the game-winning landing by Chiefs operating again Jerick McKinnon. — DJ Bien-Aime
Subsequent sport: at Titans (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Lions’ offense did not seem like as sharp because it has appeared over the previous six weeks, with simply 20 complete factors — their fourth-lowest mark of the season — however they confirmed resilience when it mattered to enhance to 7-7. Quarterback Jared Goff’s 51-yard landing move to Brock Wright was the second-longest go-ahead landing scored within the closing two minutes of regulation in a sport prior to now 20 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Info.
What are the Lions’ probabilities of making the playoffs? Coach Dan Campbell knew his crew needed to win out to even place itself for a possible playoff spot getting into Sunday’s sport. With a win, the Lions have now boosted their playoff possibilities to twenty-eight %, in response to ESPN analytics. Detroit has now received six of seven video games for the primary time for the reason that 2016 season, once they final made the playoffs. — Eric Woodyard
Subsequent sport: at Panthers (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Jets misplaced their third straight sport — all by one rating — with their vaunted protection collapsing within the closing minute on Brock Wright’s 51-yard landing reception on fourth-and-inches. They obtained fooled huge time, and it could have price them a playoff spot. The Jets are a younger crew, nonetheless studying the way to win, particularly in huge video games. Clearly, they don’t seem to be prepared for these stakes. In crunch time, they have been undermined by their greatest unit: the protection.
Do the Jets have a quarterback controversy? Zach Wilson or Mike White? Wilson, coming back from his three-game benching, was far and wide — some good, some ugly and a few almost-spectacular moments within the fourth quarter. A few of the points that obtained him benched — poor selections, off-target throws — cropped up once more. Chances are high, he’ll begin Thursday night time towards the Jacksonville Jaguars, as White (fractured ribs) might have extra time. When he is prepared, coach Robert Saleh can have a choice to make. — Wealthy Cimini
Subsequent sport: vs. Jaguars (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Saints lastly obtained the important thing takeaway they have been lacking all 12 months when Justin Evans and Bradley Roby mixed for a pressured fumble and restoration to assist seal the sport. But it surely was the Saints’ rookie broad receivers who impressed probably the most: Rashid Shaheed had a 69-yard landing catch and Chris Olave crept nearer to a 1,000-yard season with three catches for 53 yards, taking his season complete to 940 yards.
Do the Saints nonetheless have an opportunity on the playoffs? It appears virtually unbelievable, however the Saints’ win retains them within the playoff hunt at 5-9 after sweeping the Falcons. The Saints need to win out with two street video games towards the Browns and the Eagles earlier than a house divisional matchup towards the Panthers (5-9). The Saints entered the day two video games behind the division-leading Buccaneers, who swept them this season, but it surely’s not not possible to make it to the postseason. Nonetheless, it feels prefer it’s too little, too late. — Katherine Terrell
Subsequent sport: at Browns (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: It was not the prettiest or most effective debut, however anticipating that from Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder might need been a bit a lot. However after a tough begin with 4 straight incompletions, Ridder calmed down. Whereas the numbers will not wow anybody (13-of-26 for 97 yards, six rushes for 38 yards) there have been issues to construct on. As he will get extra expertise, he’ll seemingly belief himself and his selections extra, one thing that appeared like he wasn’t doing a lot of within the first half. Let’s be clear: The efficiency wasn’t good. But it surely wasn’t a catastrophe, both.
Popping out of the bye, what did we be taught in regards to the Falcons’ rookies? Whereas we knew Ridder would play his first snaps, how Atlanta deployed the remainder of its rookies for its closing four-game stretch instructed us slightly bit extra. Linebacker Troy Andersen, who had been displaying regular progress previous to the bye, obtained the beginning and had seven tackles. Working again Tyler Allgeier had a career-high 139 dashing yards and one landing. He’s trying extra like a possible again of the long run after averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Receiver Drake London was Ridder’s prime goal, with 11 targets, seven catches and 70 yards. Edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie additionally pressured a fumble. — Michael Rothstein
Subsequent sport: at Ravens (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Steelers topped the Panthers to keep away from mathematical playoff elimination, however the closing quarter was nearer than it ought to’ve been due to self-inflicted wounds. The Steelers have been cruising after opening the third quarter with a dominant 21-play drive that ate up 11 minutes, 43 seconds — the Steelers’ longest drive in 45 years — adopted by what seemed to be a defensive cease. After which an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Marcus Allen previous to Carolina’s punt flipped the sport. The flag gave the Panthers a contemporary set of downs, and so they went on to kick a subject purpose. Because of a stout Steelers crimson zone protection, Carolina settled for one more subject purpose on its subsequent drive (aided by an offsides name on T.J. Watt). However the Steelers’ offense survived a third-down false begin name on George Pickens on the following drive and went on to grind out a game-sealing, 13-play possession that took up greater than 5 minutes and ended with a subject purpose .
Does the late-season offensive enchancment give Matt Canada job safety? A preferred scapegoat for the Steelers’ early offensive struggles, Canada has quietly overseen a stable enchancment from his unit for the reason that bye week. Towards the Panthers, the Steelers’ historic 21-play drive ate up practically the whole third quarter and gave the Steelers a two-score lead. And after a quiet week towards the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers’ run sport put up 157 yards and the offense totaled 326 yards. Najee Harris completed with 86 yards on 24 carries and a landing. The largest gap within the sport plan stays George Pickens’ inconsistent involvement, however general, the offense has discovered a rhythm after a sluggish begin — and maybe that would hold Canada because the Steelers’ OC for a 3rd season. — Brooke Pryor
Subsequent sport: vs. Raiders (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: This was an enormous missed alternative, The Panthers (5-9) now haven’t any margin for error in the event that they hope to win the weak NFC South after being overwhelmed at their very own sport: a stable operating assault and protection. They virtually assuredly should win out, with their closing two video games towards division-leading Tampa Bay (6-7 earlier than Sunday’s sport towards Cincinnati) and New Orleans (5-9), which helped Carolina’s trigger by beating Atlanta (5-9).
Has Sam Darnold proven sufficient to be Carolina’s quarterback within the closing three video games? He isn’t anyone the Panthers can depend on when down by two scores, one more reason the Panthers nonetheless have to focus their 2023 first-round choose on a quarterback. Darnold is simply nearly as good as his operating sport, and that was virtually nonexistent towards Pittsburgh. He made some good throws to maintain Carolina shut, however he is not sufficient of a playmaker to beat a crew together with his arm or legs. The extra cell PJ Walker may be the higher choice subsequent week towards a high-scoring Detroit crew. — David Newton
Subsequent sport: vs. Lions (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Payments rebounded from a sluggish third quarter and performed at a excessive degree when it mattered most, getting back from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to win. It marked the Payments’ largest fourth-quarter comeback win since Week 1 of the 2019 season vs. the Jets (trailed by 13). There is not any doubt that Buffalo has issues to wash up, however for all three phases to step up when it mattered most was important for this crew’s bigger aspirations. The Payments additionally prolonged their successful streak to 5 video games and clinched a playoff berth within the course of.
Can the tight ends and operating backs be concerned within the passing assault constantly? All 4 of the Payments’ receiving touchdowns went to a operating again or a good finish, which marked a profession excessive for Josh Allen. Tight finish Dawson Knox was concerned within the passing sport in a manner he hasn’t been all season, ending because the crew’s main receiver with 98 yards. Getting Knox — together with operating backs Nyheim Hines and James Cook dinner — concerned within the passing sport ought to open the door to extra alternatives for these gamers and profit the offense shifting ahead. As Allen stated, “That’s what makes an offense scary and dangerous, when you know at any point any of these guys can catch the ball and make a play.” — Alaina Getzenberg
Subsequent sport: at Bears (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: All isn’t misplaced for the Dolphins. Sure, the NFL is a results-driven enterprise, and Miami has now misplaced three straight video games in probably the most crucial month of the season. However Saturday’s loss did not really feel as hopeless because the Dolphins’ earlier two. Their offense got here again to life with 405 complete yards, they ran for greater than 100 yards for the primary time since Week 10 and made into the crimson zone on 4 events after failing to take action over the previous two weeks. If this loss to the top-seeded Payments represents a return to type for Miami, this crew should not have an issue successful a minimum of two of its subsequent three video games.
Can the Dolphins grasp on to their playoff place? Of the 5 different groups jockeying for the three wild-card spots within the AFC, the Dolphins maintain a tiebreaker over three of them. In addition they play the New England Patriots and New York Jets over the following three weeks; beating each will get the Dolphins into the playoffs. In the event that they’ve really damaged out of their offensive rut from Weeks 13 and 14, the playoff drought in South Florida ought to be over quickly. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Subsequent sport: vs. Packers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Vikings clinched the NFC North title in probably the most dramatic manner possible, launching the biggest comeback in NFL historical past — common season or within the playoffs — to beat a 33-point deficit to the Colts. Cornerback Patrick Peterson instructed gamers within the halftime locker room that that they might win if they might rating 5 touchdowns thereafter, a whopping quantity that not everybody thought was practical. However they did precisely that, and now have received 11 of the primary 14 video games of coach Kevin O’Connell’s tenure.
Which Vikings crew will we see within the playoffs? Is it the one which fell behind 33-0 at halftime, having allowed a blocked punt to be returned for one landing and an interception returned for one more? Or is it the one which outscored the Colts 39-3 the remainder of the best way? Nobody was prepared to say afterward the Vikings had solved all their deficiencies, however quarterback Kirk Cousins stated that Saturday’s efficiency was “something that doesn’t happen to average people.” — Kevin Seifert
Subsequent sport: vs. Giants (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Colts’ second-half breakdown had many contributing components. Chief amongst them have been the offense’s incapacity to generate first downs and the protection’s failure to forestall huge performs. On offense, the Colts produced simply 132 yards within the closing 40 minutes — the second half and additional time. That gave the Vikings quite a few possibilities on offense, leaving the Indianapolis protection struggling to get stops. The large performs have been particularly damaging, with Minnesota ripping positive aspects of 64, 63, 35 and 21 yards on performs within the second half. It takes a complete collapse for a comeback of this magnitude to occur.
Is playcalling an enormous a part of the Colts’ offensive points? There have been some curious playcalling selections by the Colts on this sport. When Indianapolis misplaced All-Professional operating again Jonathan Taylor on the opening collection, you’d suppose it’d affect their play choice. However the Colts nonetheless referred to as 37 mixed runs for backups Deon Jackson and Zack Moss. It made sense when the Colts have been up huge, main 33-0 at one level. However their lack of manufacturing within the operating sport mixed with the Vikings’ horrible move protection begs the query of whether or not the Colts obtained too conservative. Jackson and Moss averaged a mixed 3.7 yards per carry. — Stephen Holder
Subsequent sport: vs. Chargers (Monday, Dec. 26, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Browns fully shut down Baltimore’s offense — which was with out quarterback Lamar Jackson — as they held an opponent out of the tip zone for the primary time all season. Cleveland’s protection has quietly been taking part in higher of late — although it can seemingly be too little, too late for the 2022 season.
Can the 6-8 Browns nonetheless make the playoffs? Even after Saturday’s win, that also stays a protracted shot. The Browns will likely be formally eradicated from the AFC North race with only one extra Cincinnati or Baltimore victory. And just about each wild-card longing for the final two playoff spots — together with the Dolphins, Patriots, Chargers and Jets — have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Cleveland, to not point out the higher general data. — Jake Trotter
Subsequent sport: vs. Saints (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Ravens’ offense is in shambles. Saturday marked the primary time Baltimore was held to a few or fewer factors in a regular-season sport since 2008. It has been a tricky stretch for the Ravens, who’ve been held to 16 or fewer factors in three consecutive video games — the crew’s worst such rut since 2000. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley could not push the ball downfield (138 yards passing), however Baltimore’s issues will not be completely solved even when Jackson (knee) returns for the following sport. Over his previous 9 outings, Jackson has thrown seven landing passes and 5 interceptions.
Can the Ravens nonetheless win the AFC North? This loss put a dent in Baltimore’s hopes to seize the division and opened the door for the Bengals to take management. Baltimore’s possibilities to win the AFC North dropped to 52% with the loss, in response to ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index. The Ravens confirmed no indicators of panic after the deflating defeat in Cleveland, although, and so they know they will take the division in the event that they win out. Baltimore’s closing three video games are residence towards the Falcons and Steelers earlier than ending the common season on the Bengals. — Jamison Hensley
Subsequent sport: vs. Falcons (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Niners rookie quarterback Brock Purdy continues to move each key check thrown his manner, together with combating by a painful rib damage to assist beat the Seahawks and win the NFC West division. It is too early to say the place that is going with Purdy, however the Niners nonetheless have designs on successful the Tremendous Bowl. It is an enormous ask of Purdy contemplating no rookie quarterback has ever began a Tremendous Bowl, not to mention received it. However the Niners have received seven in a row, and Purdy has been unfazed by the highlight thus far.
Now that they’ve clinched the division, how will the Niners deal with their closing three video games? The 49ers cannot drop beneath the No. 3 seed within the NFC, however they will nonetheless realistically rise to No. 2. So long as that two spot is in play, do not count on the Niners to take their foot off the gasoline, partly as a result of they should get Purdy as many snaps as potential earlier than the postseason. — Nick Wagoner
Subsequent sport: vs. Commanders (Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Seahawks have a protracted solution to go earlier than they will compete with San Francisco for NFC West supremacy. That was evident of their 20-point loss in Santa Clara in Week 2 and during the last month, because the 49ers blew out opponents whereas the Seahawks struggled towards under-.500 groups. It was once more apparent Thursday night time as San Francisco managed the sport from begin to end with a third-string quarterback in Brock Purdy and no Deebo Samuel. It illustrated how huge the hole has all of the sudden develop into between the 49ers and a Seattle crew that used to personal them not way back.
Can the Seahawks nonetheless make the playoffs? That is nonetheless very a lot in play. Whereas they will now not win the NFC West, ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index had their probabilities of claiming one of many NFC’s two wild-card spots at 37% as of Friday. That is as a result of the Giants and Commanders additionally entered the weekend with seven wins, and Seattle has a head-to-head victory over New York. But it surely will not be straightforward. Their protection has been reeling and so they’ll be with out star receiver Tyler Lockett for a minimum of one sport as he recovers from hand surgical procedure. — Brady Henderson
Subsequent sport: at Chiefs (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)