NFL Week 11 takeaways: Mahomes brings Chiefs back, Cowboys make a statement, Eagles survive Indy scare
Welcome to Week 11 of the 2022 NFL season, a week that saw an electrifying finish to a New England Patriots-New York Jets game that had been less than electric for more than 59 minutes.
Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to a thrilling comeback victory over Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers to give Kansas City firm control of the AFC West on Sunday night.
On Monday night, the San Francisco 49ers thrashed the Arizona Cardinals at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
The Patriots beat the Jets for a 14th consecutive time with a last-minute punt return, while New York’s other team, the Giants, was toppled by the suddenly hot Detroit Lions. The Philadelphia Eagles barely avoided the upset bug against the Indianapolis Colts, while the Buffalo Bills ousted the Cleveland Browns in a home game … in Detroit.
The afternoon session saw the Dallas Cowboys make a statement in blowing out the Minnesota Vikings, the Las Vegas Raiders finally getting a one-score win by beating the Denver Broncos in walk-off fashion and the Cincinnati Bengals getting a key division win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Tennessee Titans kicked off Week 11 by defeating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.
The Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars are on a bye this week and will return to action in Week 12.
Our NFL Nation reporters react with the biggest takeaways and lingering questions off this week’s matchups and look ahead to what’s next. Games are Sunday unless noted. Let’s get to it.
Jump to a matchup:
TEN-GB | CHI-ATL | CLE-BUF
PHI-IND | NYJ-NE | LAR-NO
DET-NYG | CAR-BAL | WSH-HOU
LV-DEN | DAL-MIN | CIN-PIT | KC-LAC | SF-AZ
What to know: The 49ers have been dancing around contender status for most of the season but they finally seem to be rounding into the form many have expected from them all year. Monday night’s dominant win against the Cardinals was their third in a row, and San Francisco is now 4-0 in the NFC West division with five of its final seven games at home. Everything the Niners want to accomplish sits in front of them and if they can find a way to stay relatively healthy, there are plenty of reasons to believe this team is poised for another deep postseason run.
How fast can the 49ers bounce back next week against the Saints? The Niners are rolling but they just spent a long week in Colorado and Mexico City. They have traditionally struggled following long trips under Kyle Shanahan but can’t afford a slip-up on a short week at home against a beatable opponent. — Nick Wagoner
Next game: vs. Saints (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Cardinals’ offense isn’t good regardless of who’s at quarterback, but Kyler Murray gives them the best chance to win. When his hamstring is healthy, it’s a no-brainer to reinsert him at quarterback immediately.
Can the Cardinals salvage the season? In short, no. Wins will come in the final six games, but with how the offense has struggled week in and week out against tough competition, it’s difficult to believe Arizona can salvage the season — especially after going 1-2 in the last three games, all against the NFC West. — Josh Weinfuss
Next game: vs. Chargers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Chiefs effectively clinched a seventh straight AFC West title by beating the Chargers and can now focus on getting the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed. At 8-2, Kansas City leads its closest AFC West pursuers, the 5-5 Chargers, by three games. The Chiefs would also have the tiebreaker after sweeping the season series against L.A. The Chiefs also have the best record in the AFC, a game ahead of the Dolphins, Bills, Ravens and Titans.
Should Isiah Pacheco continue to be the Chiefs’ featured back? He’s running the ball effectively enough that he should get the bulk of the carries. Pacheco has given an occasionally sluggish ground game a shot of energy the past couple of weeks. But he’s been a liability in the passing game. He was beaten cleanly on a blitz by Derwin James to allow a sack of Patrick Mahomes. — Adam Teicher
Next game: vs. Rams (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Chargers dropped back-to-back games on Sunday Night Football and essentially dropped themselves out of the race to win the AFC West, with the Chiefs now holding a three-game lead in the division. With the loss, the Bolts have also put themselves in difficult position for a wild-card berth. They had a 48% chance to make the playoffs entering Sunday. Their chances would have improved to 69% with a win, but instead fall to 42% with a loss, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
How long will receiver Mike Williams be sidelined? The Chargers returning to health? Not so fast. Williams, in his first game back after suffering a right high ankle sprain in Week 7, caught one pass for 15 yards in the first quarter, and on that play, injured what appeared to be the same ankle. — Lindsey Thiry
Next game: at Cardinals (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: For the second straight year, the Bengals were 5-4 coming out of their bye week and looking to gain some momentum with a road win. On Sunday against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati got what it wanted. The Bengals couldn’t afford to lose their fourth AFC North game and, more importantly, cede more ground in the playoff race. Solid second-half defense and a four-touchdown performance from quarterback Joe Burrow sealed the win.
What happens if RB Joe Mixon’s injury is a long-term issue? Mixon left Sunday’s game with a concussion. But the other running backs stepped up in his absence. Samaje Perine scored a career-high three touchdowns and Trayveon Williams also had some contributions on the ground and on special teams. If Mixon is out next week against the Titans, Perine, Williams and Chris Evans are proven, dependable running back options to keep Cincinnati’s offense clicking. — Ben Baby
Next game: at Titans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Even though the Steelers’ defense tormented Burrow, he led the Bengals to a 37-30 win with 355 yards and four TDs. With T.J. Watt playing in his second game since returning from IR, the defense kept Burrow uncomfortable. But Burrow did what he couldn’t in the first meeting and still found ways through the Pittsburgh defense. As good as the Steelers played up front, they still allowed completions of 33, 32, 29, 27, 24 and 21 yards. Watt’s return is undoubtedly a boost, but losses like this prove he doesn’t solve everything.
Can the offense find consistency? Before Sunday, the Steelers’ offense had yet to score a touchdown of more than 8 yards. By halftime, they had a 19-yard touchdown run by Najee Harris and a 24-yard touchdown reception by George Pickens. In the first half, the offense showed longer glimpses of sustained success with four straight scoring drives. But after halftime, the Steelers sputtered and didn’t record a first down until early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Kenny Pickett had several bad misses, errors compounded by questionable playcalls like a failed flea-flicker after a 33-yard completion to Pickens. — Brooke Pryor
Next game: at Colts (Monday, Nov. 28, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: After the disappointment of their overtime loss to the Packers a week ago, the Cowboys needed a showing like Sunday’s to establish that they are a true contender in the NFC. They dominated the previously once-beaten Vikings in every manner. Micah Parsons had two more sacks as the defense posted a season-high seven from five different players. Tony Pollard became the first Cowboys running back with at least 100 receiving yards and 50 rushing yards in the same game since Emmitt Smith in 1993. Dak Prescott had a season high in completion percentage, with two touchdown passes to Pollard. Brett Maher kicked a 60-yard field goal (twice really) to end the first half. Now they have to show they can land another punch against another NFC threat, the 7-3 Giants, on Thursday.
Can the Cowboys keep Parsons at defensive end? Last week, Parsons was needed at linebacker against the Packers and had just one pressure. Even with Anthony Barr missing his second game with a hamstring strain, the Cowboys opted to go with rookie Damone Clark at linebacker next to Leighton Vander Esch vs. Minnesota. In the first half, playing mostly defensive end, Parsons had five pressures and two sacks. In the second quarter, the Cowboys lined him up at middle linebacker and had him blitz to pressure Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Parsons’ 10 sacks this season have come via five two-sack games. He has eight multisack games in his two seasons, the second most since 1982 to Aldon Smith, who had nine in 2011-12. — Todd Archer
Next game: vs. Giants (Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
What to know: It was reasonable to think the Vikings might lose Sunday. They closed as 2-point underdogs. But they didn’t just lose to the Cowboys. They absorbed a near-historic beatdown that will reverse almost any assessment that they are among the NFL’s top teams. Dominated on both sides of the ball, they became the fourth one-loss team after Week 10 to lose by at least 30 points — home or away — in the Super Bowl era. Although they are still 8-2 and in fine position for the playoffs, the Vikings now have an ominous negative point differential (minus-2).
How will the Vikings protect quarterback Kirk Cousins moving forward? The Cowboys have a particularly good pass rush, but all seven of their sacks Sunday came on standard four-man rushes. Cousins faced the highest pressure rate of his career (63%), and both left tackle Christian Darrisaw (concussion) and left guard Ezra Cleveland (undisclosed) left with injuries. It’s hard to imagine Darrisaw will be cleared to play Thursday night against the Patriots, and after two concussions in as many weeks, it’s fair to be concerned about his availability beyond that. Without much practice time this week, the Vikings will need to get creative in their protection schemes. — Kevin Seifert
Next game: vs. Patriots (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: Reports of Davante Adams’ demise as an elite receiver have been greatly exaggerated. His one-catch-for-3-yards outing in New Orleans three weeks ago caused much consternation in Raider Nation, but Adams has responded with aplomb. After catching seven passes for 141 yards and two TDs in Sunday’s overtime defeat of Denver, including the 35-yard walk-off, Adams has totaled 26 catches, 313 yards and five TDs the past three weeks combined. He joined Hall of Famer Cliff Branch as the only Raiders with three straight games of at least 100 yards receiving and a receiving TD.
Is Maxx Crosby the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year? Low-key? Yes. Crosby can take over games for a bad defense. Against the Broncos, he closed out the first half by forcing a fumble and then blocking a field goal attempt on consecutive snaps. Then he ended Denver’s first drive of the second half with a sack, becoming the first Raiders player to get those three things in a game since Russell Maryland did it in 1997. Crosby sacked Russell Wilson twice, giving him nine on the season (no other Raider has more than one), jumping into the NFL’s top five in that category. — Paul Gutierrez
Next game: at Seahawks (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: Consider Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett’s decision to surrender playcalling duties to quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak a bit of a success. When you have the lowest-scoring offense in the league, any progress is big progress. Russell Wilson was quicker to get the ball out, and the Broncos flashed far more two- and three-tight end looks. It didn’t cure the penalty problem, the dropped passes, the continued struggles in the third quarter or the lack of one more fourth-quarter first down when they really needed one. The Broncos took another loss with just 16 points scored.
Can the Broncos have even an ornamental run game at this point? Chase Edmonds suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and did not return to the lineup. And with his exit went any potential explosiveness in the Broncos’ run game on a day when Raiders running back Josh Jacobs had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season against the Broncos. Melvin Gordon III, for the second time this season, fumbled at the opponents’ 1-yard line. So that left 32-year-old Latavius Murray to grind it out for much of the second half. Until the Broncos find a little more success in the run game, defenses are going to continue to swarm Wilson as the Broncos have to dig out from second-and-long and third-and-long. — Jeff Legwold
Next game: at Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Saints decided to stick with Andy Dalton at quarterback this week after considering going back to Jameis Winston. Dalton responded with a three-touchdown game, so he’ll keep the starting job — for now. He was helped by rookie Chris Olave, who had more than 100 receiving yards, including a 53-yard bomb from Dalton. Dalton wasn’t perfect and took too many sacks behind a patchwork offensive line but had a career-high passer rating of 149.6. It was certainly a rebound performance from where the Saints have been the past few weeks. The Saints will likely continue to evaluate their quarterback each week.
Do the Saints continue their usage of Taysom Hill? The Saints brought in Hill as a quarterback more than they have all season, at times rotating Dalton and Hill back and forth by the play in a version of a two-quarterback system. The Saints’ usage of Hill has been erratic this season, as at times they’ve relied on him heavily and at others have barely used him. (He had four rushing attempts for 7 yards the past two games.) Hill attempted three passes and ran the ball nine times for 52 yards against the Rams. He has had at least 50 rushing yards in a game four times this season — and the Saints have won all four of those games. — Katherine Terrell
Next game: at 49ers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Rams’ season is all but over. In the week leading up to this game against the Saints, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris made it clear that the Rams were running out of time to turn this season around. The loss to the Saints dropped Los Angeles to 3-7. It might not have eliminated the Rams from playoff contention mathematically, but it would take an incredible comeback for this team to make the postseason. And that’s not even taking into account quarterback Matthew Stafford’s availability. Stafford, who just cleared the concussion protocol Friday, was taken to the locker room in the second half and evaluated again for a concussion.
Can the Rams’ running game sustain their Week 11 success? The Rams have struggled to move the ball consistently on the ground, but the running game became even more important Sunday without wide receiver Cooper Kupp, especially after Stafford left the game. The Rams, who entered the game averaging 68.1 rushing yards per game, compiled 148 rushing yards on 30 carries. They were led by Cam Akers, with 14 carries for 61 yards, and if he can continue to move the ball well on the ground, that will give the passing game some much-needed help. — Sarah Barshop
Next game: at Chiefs (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The loss of tight end Dallas Goedert might be even bigger than we thought. With the exception of a late game-saving surge, Jalen Hurts and the offense struggled to get much going without Goedert, who sustained a shoulder injury against the Commanders and will miss at least the next three games. The two tight ends who played the majority of the snaps in his place — Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra — each had a drive-stalling penalty and combined for one catch for 7 yards. The run blocking took a hit in his absence, too. Hurts found a way to get it done, rushing for the go-ahead TD late, but there’s no doubt his job got tougher without Goedert.
Has the rush defense found some answers? It didn’t look good early, with Jonathan Taylor rumbling for 49 yards and a touchdown on the opening possession, but the defense settled in from there, holding Taylor to just 35 yards the rest of the way. Newly signed defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph played significant snaps. Joseph, in particular, appeared to make an impact on the ground and even combined with Suh for a sack. It was a decent bounce-back effort overall after being gashed by the run each of the past two weeks. — Tim McManus
Next game: vs. Packers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Colts’ defense continues to be underrated. The Colts limited the Eagles to 315 yards, well below their season average of 376.9. The Eagles also struggled to convert 40% of their third downs, an area where they rank fourth in the league. The Colts have ranked in the top 10 in defensive expected points added for much of the season, entering Week 11 at 10th (13.21). The problem on Sunday, as it has been all season, is an offense that cannot produce enough points for the defense’s efforts to matter.
Is the offense making tangible progress? Some. We’re seeing better production in the running game and the Colts have certainly cut back on the turnovers. But the Colts are still struggling where it matters most: Indianapolis entered the game averaging 15.7 points per game and finished this one right on average despite having so many prime opportunities to score. The Colts settled for field goals throughout this game because of many of the same mistakes they’ve made all season. Negative plays and ill-timed penalties were killers, and the Colts aren’t good enough offensively to overcome them. — Stephen Holder
Next game: vs. Steelers (Monday, Nov. 28, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Ravens’ defense suddenly looks more championship-caliber than QB Lamar Jackson and the offense. After a shaky start to the season, the Baltimore defense is starting to hit its stride. The Ravens shut down QB Baker Mayfield and didn’t allow an offensive touchdown for the first time since the 2020 regular-season finale. In fact, Baltimore has given up only one offensive touchdown in the past two games. The Ravens’ defense put the game away in the fourth quarter, forcing the first of three turnovers when cornerback Marcus Peters caused a fumble deep in Carolina territory to set up the Ravens’ only touchdown. It marked the 12th straight game in which Baltimore has produced a takeaway, the longest active streak in the league.
How much time will left tackle Ronnie Stanley miss with an ankle injury? Stanley is one of the few Ravens players not named Lamar Jackson whom they cannot afford to lose for a significant period. The former first-team All-Pro limped off the field with four minutes left in the third quarter after a sacked Jackson rolled into the back of Stanley’s left ankle. This is the same ankle that Stanley broke in 2020 and needed two years to recover from. Patrick Mekari, who started two games at left tackle earlier this year, will replace Stanley, but he isn’t the same caliber of blocker. Jackson and the Baltimore offense is at its best when the offensive line is dominating up front. This could be a tough blow if Stanley’s injury is serious. — Jamison Hensley
Next game: at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Forget the final score. Interim coach Steve Wilks should be the front-runner for the full-time job unless owner David Tepper is set on hiring an offensive specialist. The job his defense did on quarterback Lamar Jackson and a Ravens team favored by 12.5 points shows the influence of Wilks, a defensive specialist. The upset was in play until wide receiver Shi Smith fumbled at the Carolina 31 midway through the fourth quarter to set up Baltimore’s only touchdown. Give Wilks time to build offensively around a franchise quarterback and there is a chance for a quick turnaround. The two times Carolina reached the Super Bowl (2003, 2015) came a few years after ownership hired defensive-minded coaches in John Fox (2002) and Ron Rivera (2011).
Did Baker Mayfield do enough to earn another start next week? Not really. Mayfield didn’t make any big mistakes until a late interception, which was challenge No. 1 for the day. He also didn’t do anything special (21-of-33 passing, 196 yards, two interceptions) to suggest, with a 3-8 record, the Panthers shouldn’t look at Sam Darnold next week against Denver. Carolina wants to see what Darnold can do in case it decides he could help bring along a rookie quarterback in 2023. Facing a Denver team that has struggled offensively would be the perfect time to do this and give the staff time to evaluate after their bye the following week. There’s no other way to put this, but the gamble on Mayfield has been a failure for him and the organization. — David Newton
Next game: vs. Broncos (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: After a 1-6 start, the Lions have won three games in a row, moving into second place in the NFC North and on the fringe of the playoff hunt. Yeah, you read that right. It’s their first three-game win streak since Weeks 9-11 in 2017. The Lions have also scored at least 24 points in seven of their 10 games this season, and they did it with a strong rushing attack against the Giants.
How does the emergence of running back Jamaal Williams affect D’Andre Swift going forward? After reaching the end zone three times against the Giants, Williams has officially taken over the NFL’s top spot for the most total rushing touchdowns with 12. Although Swift is the most exciting offensive threat — when healthy — Williams has proved to be the most dependable. So don’t expect the touches to increase for Williams or dip for Swift, who also scored a touchdown against the Giants. The situation will remain the same, with Williams being featured as the lead back as Swift continues to push through his nagging shoulder and ankle injuries. — Eric Woodyard
Next game: vs. Bills (Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET)
What to know: This game featured all the sloppy play the Giants — and quarterback Daniel Jones — had avoided in their first nine games. They played poorly, turned it over and couldn’t run the ball, after running back Saquon Barkley had been able to produce earlier this season despite the roster’s overall lack of talent/depth. Jones had gone 153 pass attempts and six-plus games without an interception. He threw two in a blowout loss at home in a winnable game against a losing team. The Giants’ banged-up defense also couldn’t keep Jamaal Williams (three rushing TDs) and Detroit out of the end zone.
How big of a blow is this to their playoff dream? This was a disappointing loss, especially considering the way the Giants played and the injuries they sustained. CBs Adoree’ Jackson (knee) and Fabian Moreau (ribs), WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), C Jon Feliciano (neck), RT Tyre Phillips (neck) and S Jason Pinnock (jaw) all left the game early. Now they have to turn around and play in four days on Thanksgiving in Dallas. Still, they’re 7-3. That is not bad, considering preseason expectations. The schedule gets tougher, but New York still has winnable games remaining. The Giants really need only two or three more wins to make the postseason. That’s still attainable. — Jordan Raanan
Next game: at Cowboys (Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
What to know: After weeks of coach Sean McDermott acknowledging the offense should be better balanced, the offense actually was balanced Sunday (32 running plays to 27 passing attempts), allowing the Bills to put away the Browns — something they hadn’t done in their past two games, both losses. While Cleveland’s run defense has struggled this season, rookie James Cook finished with a career-high 86 yards on 11 carries and Devin Singletary has three rushing touchdowns in the past two games. The success on the ground went a long way in the win, with more than 100 rushing yards coming in the second half.
Are Josh Allen’s first-half accuracy issues a concern? Yes, there’s no way around it. Allen played better late in the game, beginning with a 11-play touchdown drive at the end of the first half. But he looked out of sync and inaccurate when he started the game with some of his worst football of the season, going 4-of-10 for 27 yards. Receiver Stefon Diggs didn’t have a target until his touchdown catch at the end of the first half despite being wide-open on multiple plays. The Bills and Allen have said his right elbow injury is not affecting his play. Either way, the offense must find a way to get in sync more quickly and consistently. — Alaina Getzenberg
Next game: at Lions (Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Browns mostly dominated the first half. At one point, they had almost as many first downs (10) as Buffalo had total yards (12). In the end, it didn’t matter. The Bills clawed back to lead at the half, then cruised through the second half. The Browns couldn’t stop the run yet again (Buffalo rushed for 169 yards), while their special teams remain a fiasco. The fading Browns have just one win since Sept. 22.
What has happened to Nick Chubb and Cleveland’s vaunted ground game? Save for a meaningless late 33-yard TD last weekend in Miami, Chubb has just 49 yards on 24 carries in his past two games. He is consistently facing a loaded box. Meanwhile, the Browns have been unable to consistently capitalize through the air. The result has been convincing back-to-back losses. — Jake Trotter
Next game: vs. Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Washington’s defensive line has become what the team hoped: one of the NFL’s best. It’s a big reason why the Commanders have won five of their past six games. Washington’s front applied consistent pressure on quarterback Davis Mills, sacking him five times. It also helped hold running back Dameon Pierce to 8 yards on 10 carries, by far his worst showing of the season. The front has worked far more in unison this season than in 2021, making a difference on stunts. Defensive tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen have formed one of the best inside tandems in the league. The Commanders have depth — and still don’t have end Chase Young on the field.
Just how good are the Commanders? After looking bad in the first five games, they’ve become a legitimate playoff threat. The Commanders have now won five of their past six games, playing much smarter and more disciplined football with a focus on the run game and defense. In this stretch, Washington is plus-seven in turnover margin. And after committing a combined 39 penalties in one four-game stretch, it has committed a combined 18 in the past four. In a conference full of parity, that’s all it takes. Washington could get to 7-5 by beating Atlanta at home this week, setting up two consecutive games against the New York Giants, separated by a bye week. December could be fun for the Commanders. — John Keim
Next game: vs. Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Texans’ offense is broken. The unit hasn’t shown to have other options when rookie running back Dameon Pierce isn’t producing. Pierce finished with only 8 rushing yards, and the Texans struggled. They couldn’t lean on their passing attack, as quarterback Davis Mills finished with 169 yards. Mills’ second pass of the game was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by cornerback Kendall Fuller, and those offensive woes carried through the rest of the first half as the Texans had only one first down and zero points with a total of 21 yards — a season low. The end of the game wasn’t much better, as they finished with 10 points and a total of 148 yards.
Is it time to bench Mills? Sunday’s loss against the Commanders was Mills’ worst game of the year, as he registered a passer rating of 46.2, his lowest of the season. The former third-round pick was sacked five times, but a couple were because Mills held the ball too long. The average time to sack was 4.85 seconds, according to Next Gen Stats. He also threw two interceptions on the day. The Texans might have to reconsider their starting quarterback moving forward. — DJ Bien-Aime
Next game: at Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: After two games when the Falcons couldn’t get much going on offense, quarterback Marcus Mariota managed the offense with ease and moved the ball well, gaining 28 yards with a rushing touchdown and 131 passing yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to receiver Drake London. After a week when Mariota and the offense faced a lot of questions, it was a performance Atlanta needed to both find some rhythm and keep pace in the NFC South. It was an efficient day for the Falcons, who averaged 5.7 yards per play and had 30 rushes and 20 passes before kneel-downs.
How do the Falcons replace Kyle Pitts if he’s out for any length of time? We don’t know much yet about Pitts’ right knee injury after he left in the third quarter following a hit from Eddie Jackson just above the knee. While Pitts hasn’t had the most productive year, the attention paid to him has been critical for Atlanta. Replacing him would likely be a combination of Parker Hesse, Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt to start. Perhaps Feleipe Franks might see more time if he returns from a calf injury. But if Pitts is out for any period of time, it’ll be a blow to a Falcons offense that relies on the attention he draws and the blocking he provides as a dual-purpose tight end. — Michael Rothstein
Next game: at Commanders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Bears’ offense fell back to earth. Chicago had a prime opportunity to flip the script on its inability to win close games, trailing 27-24 with 1:47 left and the ball at its own 25. But quarterback Justin Fields was intercepted on a pass thrown too high to running back David Montgomery, who tipped the ball into the grip of safety Jaylinn Hawkins, sealing the game. There were back-to-back quarterback runs before the pick when Fields was clearly feeling discomfort and gained just 5 yards. Despite scoring at least 24 points in their past four games, the outcome for the Bears has been the same each time.
Is all the running taking a toll on Fields? There were moments in the second half when Fields was seen stretching out a hamstring and looked like he was playing through pain. This came after he ran 14 times in the first half, the most rushes by a quarterback in a first half since at least 2000. He finished with a team-high 18 carries for 85 yards and a TD. He was also sacked four times. The Bears need to find ways to preserve Fields, whose left shoulder was being examined after the game. — Courtney Cronin
Next game: at Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The defense and special teams led the way, which is the way it will have to be for the Patriots to have any hope in a crowded AFC. Marcus Jones’ electrifying 84-yard punt return for a touchdown with five seconds remaining in regulation was the difference in a defensive slugfest. This is one of the reasons the Patriots selected Jones in the third round of the draft out of the University of Houston; he’s an electrifying punt returner. On a windy day when consistent offense was hard to come by, it was the play of the day.
With such a struggle for the passing offense, is there any hope for a turnaround? Quarterback Mac Jones played turnover-free football, which was one of the most notable positives of the day for the team. Also, RBs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson were effective. But everything in the passing game seems so hard for the Patriots, which remains a concern coming off their bye. And now they have a quick turnaround with a Thanksgiving night game at the Vikings. — Mike Reiss
Next game: at Vikings (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Jets may never beat the Patriots. No, seriously. They played a near-flawless defensive game but choked it away by allowing an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown by Marcus Jones with five seconds left — the first punt-return TD this season in the NFL. It was the Jets’ 14th straight loss to the Patriots, and it cost them a shot at first place in the AFC East. Now they’re in last place. This may have been the most gut-wrenching of all their losses to the Patriots, who always find a way to one-up the Jets. If they miss the playoffs, this will be the play that haunts them for years.
What happened to Zach Wilson? Wilson, coming off his best game of the season (a win over the Bills), was completely outplayed by Mac Jones. Rattled by the Patriots’ strong defense and perhaps the windy conditions, Wilson missed too many open receivers and took four sacks. He completed only 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards. You can’t win in the NFL with six first downs and 103 total yards. Wilson, who poked critics last week by saying no one outside the Jets’ building knows what they’re talking about, has to raise his play, or else the Jets will fade away despite an elite defense. — Rich Cimini
Next game: vs. Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Titans have found balance on offense. Running back Dontrell Hilliard continues to be a matchup nightmare and now has four receiving touchdowns this season. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill finished the day with 333 passing yards and two touchdown passes, posting his best performance of the year. Rookie Treylon Burks had a career day, and his 51-yard catch put away the game. Teams will continue to focus on stopping running back Derrick Henry, but the Titans showed that devoting most of the resources to stop the rushing attack will come at a cost.
Can the pass game continue to have an impact on the offense? After going the first eight games without having a 100-yard receiving performance, the Titans have now posted two in a row. This week it was Burks, who was targeted eight times and caught seven passes for 111 yards. Robert Woods’ timing with Tannehill resulted in six receptions for 69 yards — with three of them resulting in a first down. Tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo’s 31-yard reception boosted his 20.1 yards per catch average, and fellow tight end Austin Hooper had two touchdown receptions. If Tennessee can continue this momentum, it’ll be a tough team to stop. — Turron Davenport
Next game: vs. Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Now we know: Last week’s win over the Cowboys was the exception. An outlier. If it was anything other, the Packers would not have bombed out against the Titans. Had they lost in competitive fashion, it would be possible to say otherwise. But Packers receiver Randall Cobb put this season into perspective when he said, “You lose another one, and you might as well say we’re probably out [of the playoffs].” That might not mathematically eliminate them, but it could break whatever spirit they had left.
When will it be time to play backup QB Jordan Love? It’s not now, according to coach Matt LaFleur. “You guys know how my mindset is,” he said. “It’s every day, and it’s one game and that’s the mentality. I have a hard time just processing that any other way.” Of course, LaFleur has never been in this position. In his first three seasons, his toughest call late in the season was whether to rest starters for the playoffs, not to find out what young players can do. But at some point, if the Packers are eliminated from postseason contention before the regular-season finale, it’s something he’ll have to consider. — Rob Demovsky
Next game: at Eagles (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)