NFL Week 12 takeaways: What we learned, big questions for every game and future team outlooks

Week 12 of the 2021 NFL season began on Thursday with theBears and embattled coach Matt Nagy winning on the final play of the game over the winlessLions, the Raiders breaking a three-game losing streak with an overtime win over the Cowboys and theBills getting back on the winning track in the Thanksgiving nightcap with a dominating win over theSaints.

Sunday's early slate featured a handful of big-time games, including a Buccaneers-Colts matchup that went down to the wire. Running back Leonard Fournette won it for Tampa Bay in the final minute with his fourth TD of the day. The Colts' main competition for the AFC South crown, the Titans, fell to the Patriots -- who continue to impress with rookie QB Mac Jones. The Bengals poured on the offense against the Steelers, hanging 41 points on them. The Dolphins won their fourth straight to get to 5-7, while the Giants upset the Eagles. Atlanta's offense finally got into the end zone, and the Jets knocked off the Texans.


In the late games, the Packers handed the Rams their third straight loss,the Broncos topped the Chargers in an AFC West matchup and the 49ers beat the Vikings. The Ravens overcame four Lamar Jackson interceptions in the night game, as the defense stifled Baker Mayfield and the Browns.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with their takeaways and lingering questions. Plus, they each look at the bigger picture with their current team confidence rating -- a 0-10 grade of how they feel about each team's outlook coming out of the week. Let's get to it.

Jump to a matchup:

TB-IND | TEN-NE | PIT-CIN

CAR-MIA | PHI-NYG | ATL-JAX

NYJ-HOU | CHI-DET | LV-DAL

BUF-NO | LAC-DEN | LAR-GB

MIN-SF | CLE-BAL| SEA-WAS




Washington 17, Seattle 15




Washington


What to know: Washington has built its three-game winning streak on defense and the run game. With the defense, a lot of the credit must go to safeties Kam Curl and Landon Collins. The latter plays more of a big nickel role, so he'll mix in linebacker responsibilities. But their ability to disguise coverages is better with their three-safety alignment -- both Curl and Collins blitz well and can handle multiple responsibilities. Early in the year the coverage in general was inconsistent and at times porous. Lately, they are more locked onto their guys and that in turn buys the line more time to get home. That was evident Monday as they sacked Russell Wilson twice and pressured him a number of times. -- John Keim

Can they sustain a ball-control attack? It's hard to win games week after week by using a heavy ball-control attack, but it's how Washington operates best. Still, going on extended drives is difficult. But a good sign occurred Monday with quarterback Taylor Heinicke. Seattle challenged him to be patient by taking away the deep routes. Heinicke didn't flinch and consistently threw underneath and to his backs. That showed growth in terms of managing the game. But what will help quite a bit is getting Curtis Samuel more integrated into the offense; he was limited by his snap count Monday. But he gives Washington another player who can make bigger chunk plays, something the team will need over the final six games. -- Keim

Keim's confidence rating (0-10): 6.3, up from 5.9. They continue to overcome one obstacle after another -- usually injuries, but sometimes just a bad play -- to win. It's their mindset as much as anything that has elevated their play; they don't get bothered by in-game setbacks.

Next game: at Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)



Seahawks


What to know: The Seahawks already-slim chances of making the playoffs for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons are down to 1%, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. And with their offense struggling as badly as it has been of late -- scoring a combined 26 points (plus 2 on defense) in the three games since quarterback Russell Wilson returned from finger surgery -- there's no telling how ugly things could get over the final six. Third down continued to do them in Monday night (4-of-12) as did Wilson being uncharacteristically off. The defense did its part despite being on the field for nearly 42 minutes with the offense unable to sustain drives, at one point going three-and-out on five straight possessions. That's a bright spot, as much as those can exist in a lost season like this one. -- Brady Henderson

What's wrong with Wilson and the offense? Really, the biggest question of all now that the Seahawks' playoff chances are all but dead pertains to Wilson's uncertain future in Seattle, which figures to be the leading storyline once this season ends. In the meantime, they've got to play six more games with an offense that is inexplicably underperforming despite an elite quarterback and plenty of weapons, including two star receivers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Wilson continues to say his finger is fine and that he's not rusty from his month-long absence. He also defended first-year coordinator Shane Waldron this past week, calling him a "great playcaller." Wilson made some throws Monday night that suggested he may be back but he continued to miss too many other throws that he usually doesn't miss, so it's clear that he isn't. It's just not clear why. -- Trotter

Henderson's confidence rating (0-10): 2, down from 3.1. The Seahawks in all likelihood aren't making the playoffs, but the fact that they've been in almost every one of their losses suggests they're going to be on the right side of a close game eventually.

Next game: vs. 49ers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)



Baltimore 16, Cleveland 10




Ravens


What to know: The Ravens control their own destiny for the AFC's No. 1 seed. In what has been a revolving door atop the conference, Baltimore now takes over the top spot with six games remaining, although this team has been more resilient than dominating. Last week, the Ravens won without quarterbackLamar Jackson, who was sidelined by illness. On Sunday night, Baltimore won in spite of Jackson. The Ravens found a way to overcome Jackson's career-worst four intersections, becoming the first team in the past seven seasons to win when their starting quarterback was picked off four or more times. (Teams had been 0-37 since 2015.) This game was won by the Ravens' defense, which shut down the NFL's top rushing attack and forced two turnovers. -- Jamison Hensley

What's going on with this Ravens offense? The Ravens have gone from being electric to plodding. Baltimore has only scored two offensive touchdowns in Jackson's past two games. This was a team that had led the NFL in scoring the past two seasons, with 31.2 points per game. But the Ravens are struggling to get into the red zone these days because of Jackson's turnovers and the lack of consistent production from their running backs. Jackson threw three interceptions on his final five passes of the first half Sunday night, and he has tossed 12 interceptions this season, which are three more than any of his previous three campaigns. Outside of Jackson's 13-yard fadeaway touchdown, this was another forgettable performance for the offense. -- Hensley

Hensley's confidence rating (0-10): 8, up from 7.6. Jackson and the Ravens strengthened their grip on what would be their third AFC North title in four seasons. Baltimore's chances to capture the division are now at 72%, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.

Next game: at Steelers (Sunday , 4:25 p.m. ET)



Browns


What to know: This Browns offense officially stinks. Despite a valiant effort defensively against the Ravens, Cleveland couldn't overcome yet another inept performance offensively. Even with one final opportunity late in the fourth quarter, Baker Mayfield& Co. summarily went four-and-out, making Baltimore the first team since 2013 to win even after its quarterback tossed four interceptions. Since Oct. 10, the Browns have posted more than 17 points just once. As a result, their once-promising playoff hopes are fading fast. -- Jake Trotter

Can the Browns still make the playoffs? Mathematically, sure. But the Browns will probably have to win four of their final five games to have a chance. And every game left on Cleveland's schedule is against another playoff hopeful. At this point in the season, the Browns are who they are. And with this dilapidated offense, they're not a serious playoff contender anymore. -- Trotter

Trotter's confidence rating (0-10): 4.9, down from 6. The Browns have offered no indication they're on the cusp of making any offensive turnaround -- and the upcoming bye is unlikely to change anything.

Next game: vs. Ravens (Sunday, Dec. 12, 1 p.m. ET)



Green Bay 36, L.A. Rams 28




Packers


What to know: The Rams can try all they want to build an all-star team, but unless they get quarterbackAaron Rodgers -- which they reportedly tried to do this offseason -- it might not make a difference. They settled for Matthew Stafford, and the difference between him and Rodgers can be illustrated by one play in the third quarter: When Rasul Douglas returned an interception for a touchdown with 1:52 left, it was Stafford's third pick-six in as many games; Rodgers has thrown three pick-sixes in his entire career. The Rams tried everything they could to build a Super Bowl team -- beginning with the addition of Stafford in the offseason then the in-season acquisitions of Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr.-- and the Packers ran it back with mostly with the same group that beat the Rams 32-18 last season in a divisional-round of the playoffs. Green Bay now looks like it's in prime position for another run. The Packers are 9-3, and while they're a game behind Arizona in the loss column, they have their bye week to rest for the stretch run. -- Rob Demovsky

Is the bye week enough for the Packers to get healthy? Losing wide receiver Randall Cobb, who was in the midst of his best game of the season with four catches for 95 yards and a touchdown, won't help. A groin injury ended his day at halftime. But All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari might finally be in position to return from last season's ACL tear. There's also the possibility they could get back two of their top players on defense in cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder) and outside linebackerZa'Darius Smith(back). Both have been on injured reserve since early in the season, but one or both could return in December. -- Demovsky

Demovsky's confidence rating (0-10): 8, up from 7. The Packers have two road games remaining this season and one of them is at winless Detroit. They return from the bye with a home game against the Bears before perhaps their toughest remaining matchup, at Baltimore on Dec. 18. The hardest part of their schedule is over.

Next game: vs. Bears (Sunday, Dec. 12, 8:20 p.m. ET)



Rams


What to know: The Rams have gone all in to win a Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium, their home field, in February. But after three consecutive losses, the Rams appear destined for an early playoff exit, despite adding quarterback Matthew Stafford, outside linebacker Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to an already strong roster. With six games remaining, the offense is sputtering, as Stafford threw his third pick-six in as many games, while committing his fifth and sixth turnovers in that same span. The defense had few answers to slow quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wideoutsDavante Adams and Randall Cobb, while the special teams unit continued its costly, mistake-riddled season. -- Lindsey Thiry

How can the offense reestablish itself? Coming out of a bye and after suffering two consecutive losses that included four passes interceptions and two pick-sixes, Stafford said winning the turnover battle would prove key to winning down the stretch. But Stafford found himself in more turnover trouble on Sunday after losing a fumble and throwing another pick-six. He rebounded with a 79-yard touchdown pass to Van Jefferson and a 54-yard touchdown pass to Beckham, but the 13-year veteran must make better decisions as the offense works to establish an identity without sure-handed playmaker Robert Woods. -- Thiry

Thiry's confidence rating (0-10): 7, down from 7.6. This team was built for a Super Bowl run but hasn't put together an entirely cohesive performance since a Week 3 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. The Rams have one victory over a team with a winning record, and they face an uphill battle to make a deep playoff run after three straight losses. The last team to win or reach a Super Bowl after losing three straight games was the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, who defeated the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.

Next game: vs. Jaguars (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)



San Francisco 34, Minnesota 26




49ers


What to know: It's time to take the 49ers seriously as a playoff contender in the NFC and, given the overall parity in the league, as a team capable of making some noise should it reach the postseason. The Niners' playoff chances have gone from 22% before their current three-game win streak to 70% currently, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. At 6-5 with wins in four of their past five contests, the Niners have rediscovered the dynamic run game and opportunistic defense that made them such a tough out in 2019. To be clear, this team isn't as dominant as that group, but these 49ers are playing as well as anyone in the NFC. And with so many teams at the bottom of the NFC struggling, the Niners have a real shot at the No. 6 seed and could even climb as high as No. 5. -- Nick Wagoner

How serious are the injuries to wide receiver Deebo Samuel and linebacker Fred Warner? Samuel and Warner departed in the second half with groin and hamstring injuries, respectively. Neither returned, as the Niners still managed to put it away. But it's hard not to wonder how much time that duo will miss. Samuel and Warner are two of the team's most important players, and as the calendar flips to December, the Niners need them both at full strength to make their run. Both were seen moving on the sideline, but soft-tissue injuries can be finicky, so time will tell whether either has to miss games. -- Wagoner

Wagoner's confidence rating (0-10): 6.5, up from 5.8. Left for dead just a few weeks ago, the Niners are rounding into form at the right time. So long as the injuries to Samuel and Warner aren't long term, this team is poised to make a run over the season's final six weeks.

Next game: at Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)



Vikings


What to know: The reason the Vikings play in so many close games is because their defense and clock-management decisions give away momentum. Minnesota's offense was hot and cold in the loss to San Francisco, and in the first half, it either scored on long touchdown drives or went three-and-out. The defense unraveled at the end of the first half by letting the 49ers march down the field 85 yards for a touchdown and take 8:20 off the clock, then it allowed San Francisco to score twice early in the third quarter to make it a two-possession game. The offense fought back but couldn't overcome costly mistakes and penalties despite getting creative when it needed to with a double pass from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson to Dalvin Cook that set up a third-quarter touchdown. The 49ers were a terrible matchup for this defense from the start with a plan to pound the ball with their power running game (208 yards rushing) against a D-line missing all four of its starters, but the same story plays out for this unit every week and doesn't shine a positive light on this team's playoff hopes. -- Courtney Cronin

How will the Vikings' overcome running back Dalvin Cook's injury? Minnesota's postseason chances are fading after losing at San Francisco. ESPN's FPI gives the Vikings a 40% chance to make the playoffs, and although their remaining schedule is less than formidable (they face the Bears twice and the Lions on the road, and they have the Steelers -- who got demolished Sunday -- at home), they might be without Cook, who sustained a shoulder injury late in the third quarter and had to be carted off. The injury looked serious, and it's not the only loss the Vikings' will have to overcome. Minnesota's defensive line is missing Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Michael Pierce. Rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw also got injured against San Francisco and had to be replaced byRashod Hill. -- Cronin

Cronin's confidence rating (0-10): 6, down from 7. Minnesota faces the winless Lions on the road in Week 13, a team it took a last-second field goal from Greg Joseph to beat earlier this season. That's not as concerning as the prospect of the Vikings having to fare without Cook as they try to stay in the playoff hunt over their final six games.

Next game: at Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Denver 28, L.A. Chargers 13




Broncos


What to know: Given injuries, it's becoming increasingly clear the Broncos' rookie class might have to do the heavy lifting to keep Denver in the playoff race. Whether it's rookie linebacker Baron Browning rushing the passer, rookie guard Quinn Meinerz blocking in the run game, rookie safety Caden Sterns breaking up a pass, rookie running back Javonte Williams powering for a key first down or rookie cornerback Pat Surtain II snagging not one, but two, interceptions -- one of which was a pick-six to seal the win. The Broncos' rookies are in position to have a lot to say about what happens over the final six games of the regular season. Each has shown he is ready for the challenge, and the Broncos are going to need them. -- Jeff Legwold

Where will the Broncos find some more points? Injuries have been a problem. In the second half on Sunday, center Lloyd Cushenberry III was the only regular starter playing on the offensive line as the Broncos were down to their third left tackle. Also, running back Melvin Gordon III's hip injury -- he left the game in the first quarter and returned but was clearly limping -- will bear watching in the coming days. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was playing through a lower right leg injury in the second half. The Broncos have to lean on the running game and be willing to do so, especially until things settle down on the offensive line. -- Legwold

Legwold's confidence rating (0-10): 5.5, up from 4.5. After a gutty effort, especially on defense against quarterbackJustin Herbertand the Chargers, to move to 6-5, the Broncos still have some playoff life, but their injury report is becoming more and more difficult to overcome.

Next game: at Chiefs (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)




Chargers


What to know: How can a quarterback be nearly perfect one week and horrible the next? Against the Broncos and their defensive-minded coach, Vic Fangio, it clearly wasn't Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert's day. Herbert was sacked three times, threw two interceptions and showed little of the poise or patience Chargers fans have become accustomed to. Even though the second interception was running backAustin Ekeler's fault (it bounced off his hands), Herbert was clearly outfoxed by the Denver defense and Fangio's expertise.-- Shelley Smith

Can the Chargers fix Sunday's problems in time? Up next is fellow playoff contender Cincinnati, before a showdown against Kansas City that will no doubt help determine the AFC West. The Chargers' defense has got to heal and get better, but so does the offensive line and Herbert. -- Smith

Smith's confidence rating (0-10): 5.5, down from 6.2. They're still very talented and can bounce back.

Next game: at Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Tampa Bay 38, Indianapolis 31




Buccaneers


What to know: Bucs running back Leonard Fournette gashed the Colts' defense on a 28-yard run with 20 seconds to go to seal the win in Indianapolis, overcoming a slow road start that has plagued them all season. Fournette had 131 yards on 24 touches with four touchdowns on a day when quarterback Tom Bradystruggled to find their rhythm and turned the ball over twice, trailing 24-14 at the half. In the second half, the defense turned it on. Outside linebackerShaq Barretthad a strip-sack against Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. picked off Wentz on a jump ball intended for Michael Pittman Jr., wide receiver Scotty Miller recovered a fumbled punt return by Nyheim Hinesand cornerback Pierre Desir sealed the victory with an interception in the end zone as time expired. -- Jenna Laine

Where are the Bucs in the current playoff picture? The Saints lost to the Bills 31-6 to drop to 5-6 and into a tie with the Panthers, so the Bucs have breathing room in the NFC South. In terms of seeding, because the Cowboys lost to the Raiders 36-33 this week to drop to 7-4 and lost to the Bucs head-to-head in Week 1, the Bucs would remain the third seed, and the Rams would still be the fifth seed because the Cardinals (9-2 with a bye this week) are on pace to win the NFC West. But the Bucs need to grab at least the second seed to secure home-field advantage for two rounds in the playoffs (assuming they win the wild card). The No. 3 seed is guaranteed one home game during the playoffs. -- Laine

Laine's confidence rating (0-10): 8, up from 7. The Bucs' road woes are what they are, and so are their injuries, but winners finish, and they found a way to overcome a terrible start.

Next game: at Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Colts


What to know: The Colts had the Buccaneers and the rest of the NFL right where they wanted them. Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champions were down 10 points in the third quarter with the Colts knocking on the door to add to their lead when they stopped running the ball and protecting it. The Colts dropped back to pass 27 straight times and, thanks in part to two interceptions and five turnovers overall, they were quickly down by seven and with their playoff aspirations taking a substantial hit. The Buccaneers entered Sunday with the NFL's stingiest run defense (78.4 yards per game), but the Colts possessed the league's leading rusher in Jonathan Taylor and one of the best offensive lines. Coach Frank Reich's stubbornness to have Carson Wentz drop back 27 straight times between late in the first half and early in the fourth quarter went against his coaching style of leaning on the running game to carry them, and it cost the Colts. -- Mike Wells

Can the Colts make the playoffs relying more on Wentz's arm than Taylor's legs? No. They proved it Sunday when they abandoned the run for most of the second half and they went from being up 24-14 to trailing 31-24. Indianapolis' best chance to make the playoffs rests on Taylor. -- Wells

Wells' confidence rating (0-10): 3.7, down from 5. Same story for the Colts. Get up double digits and then fail to close out the game. They did it against Baltimore, Tennessee and now the Buccaneers. Playoff teams know how to close out games.

Next game: at Texans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Cincinnati 41, Pittsburgh 10




Bengals


What to know: The Bengals gained the inside track to ending their six-year playoff drought by beating the Steelers in a blowout victory at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati led 31-3 at halftime, which properly indicates the competitiveness of Sunday's game. Even though Cincinnati was in a playoff spot entering the weekend, the victory over the Steelers creates a bit of separation and a win that could be invaluable as the schedule gets tougher in December. -- Ben Baby

Is Joe Mixon currently the team's top offensive weapon? Yes. After all the talk about the team's passing game and rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase's hot start to the season, the running game has been the key to the Bengals' two straight wins after the bye week. Cincinnati leaned on Mixon early in Sunday's win, and he responded with his most effective half of the season. Mixon had a career-high 117 rushing yards in the first half and finished the game with 165 total on 28 carries. Mixon should have a reliable usage rate the rest of the season as the Bengals continue their playoff push. -- Baby

Baby's confidence rating (0-10): 6.7, up from 5.8. The Bengals had one of their most dominant performances in recent memory and looked like a team that could win the AFC North.

Next game: vs. Chargers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Steelers


What to know: The Steelers were complete and utter failures in every single phase of Sunday's blowout loss, which tied second-largest margin of victory by the Bengals in series history and was the Steelers' largest margin of defeat since 2016. The defense, supposed to be bolstered by the returns of Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt, got bullied by Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who set a career high in rushing yards in three quarters and finished with 165 yards and two scores. The Steelers managed just 10 points, with Ben Roethlisberger throwing two picks -- including a pick-six to former Steelers teammate Mike Hilton. It was a historically dismal showing. -- Brooke Pryor

Can the season be salvaged? Mathematically, sure. The Steelers are 5-5-1 with six games left, including three against AFC North opponents. But realistically, the path to the playoffs is quickly veering off road. The Steelers have been trending in the wrong direction since nearly allowing the Bears to come back in a two-point Monday night win. After that, the Steelers tied the winless Lions and lost a comeback bid against the Chargers. But with so many players out with illness and injury in the past two weeks, it's been difficult to gauge the team's direction. Against the Bengals, though, the Steelers were closer to full strength than they've been in weeks. And yet, their decline accelerated. With games against the Ravens, Vikings, Titans and Chiefs on deck, the Steelers are running out of time to stop the skid. -- Pryor

Pryor's confidence rating (0-10): 2.5, down from 4.5. Every single phase of the Steelers' game failed against the Bengals, and the team showed no signs of plugging the gaping holes that have only widened each week.

Next game: vs. Ravens (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)



Miami 33, Carolina 10




Dolphins


What to know: This is the Dolphins team we expected to see entering the 2021 season. We knew their offense would be a work in progress, but the idea was that a dominant defense would put it in position to succeed until it started clicking. That's exactly what happened Sunday; Miami sputtered early on offense, but its defense and special teams came away with three turnovers in the first half -- two which directly led to touchdowns. With a comfortable lead in place for most of the game, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa settled in, completing 27 of his 31 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown. They weren't world-beating numbers, but again, that side of the ball was never supposed to be this team's strength. Miami ... might be a good team? -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

How far can the Dolphins reasonably go? Miami is rolling with a four-game winning streak and games against the Giants (4-7) and Jets (3-8) sandwiched around its Week 14 bye. This team could realistically be 7-7 by the time it plays the New Orleans Saints in Week 16. But because of its horrid start to the season, there doesn't appear to be a scenario in which the Dolphins control their own destiny; they will need some help to make their first playoff appearance under coach Brian Flores. -- Louis-Jacques

Louis-Jacques' confidence rating (0-10): 8, up from 6.5. This is as confident as I've been all season, and with the way this defense is playing, I have no doubt the Dolphins' win streak will hit five games next week.

Next game: vs. Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Panthers


What to know: Cam Newton asked everyone to "hold on'' and "trust'' him after last week's loss to Washington. There wasn't much to trust Sunday. If anything, Newton showed he might not be the Panthers' long-term solution. The 32-year-old quarterback looked more like the player that lost his final eight starts with Carolina the first time around. He was indecisive, inaccurate and lackadaisical. He completed 5 of 21 pass attempts for 92 yards with two interceptions for a passer rating of 5.8. -- David Newton

What changes should the Panthers make during their bye week? They don't have a lot of options player-wise, although a Christian McCaffrey ankle injury could force something at running back. And one could argue P.J. Walker is the better option at quarterback after Newton's disastrous day. Perhaps it's time to look at the staff. Carolina (5-7) looked unprepared in its second straight loss, which might have ended any hopes for the playoffs. Players continued to make untimely mistakes and penalties, and that falls on coaching. -- Newton

Newton's confidence rating (0-10): 4.4, down from 4.9. The energy and high hopes the Panthers had after winning at Arizona to even their record at 5-5 has disappeared after consecutive losses to teams with losing records.

Next game: vs. Falcons (Sunday, Dec. 12, 1 p.m. ET)



Atlanta 21, Jacksonville 14




Falcons


What to know: Cordarrelle Patterson returned after missing last week's game, and it became clear what Patterson has meant to Atlanta. Patterson had his first 100-yard rushing game Sunday (108 yards), scored two of Atlanta's three touchdowns and caught three passes for 27 yards. He became the team's top tailback, all but officially taking that role from Mike Davis. But the difference for the Falcons with Patterson and without is stark enough that as they build their roster for the future, they recognize they must continue to keep him around. -- Michael Rothstein

What's going on with the Falcons at center? Last week, after the Falcons were shut out and didn't score a touchdown for the second consecutive game, head coach Arthur Smith said they'd look at all options, including potential personnel changes on the offensive line. Atlanta didn't get all the way there Sunday against Jacksonville but did institute what appeared to be a rotation of sorts at center. Matt Hennessy started the game but was replaced by rookie Drew Dalman on the third drive. Hennessy then returned for the two-minute drive at the end of the first half and the first drive of the second half before being replaced by Dalman again. This isn't the first time Atlanta has tried positional rotation as it also rotated safeties earlier this season. It's possible Atlanta is trying that again here -- but it's more dangerous on the offensive line, where cohesiveness is critical. -- Rothstein

Rothstein's confidence rating (0-10): 3.6, up from 3.4. Atlanta's offense looked more like a real offense with Patterson's return, but this team isn't talented enough to have any sort of real consistency.

Next game: vs. Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Jaguars


What to know:Coach Urban Meyer said last week he wanted to see more creativity in the offense, and he got only a little no-huddle and some QB runs. Other than that, it was the same issues: Receivers can't separate and win one-on-ones, they have no speed or playmakers, and the line is too inconsistent. Meyer said he hired OC Darrell Bevell to design an offense to help QB Trevor Lawrence develop, but so far it hasn't worked. There has been sporadic success but nothing sustained (though injuries to WRs DJ Chark Jr. and Jamal Agnew are a factor). Don't be surprised to see significant staff changes after the season. -- Mike DiRocco

What do the Jaguars do at tight end with Dan Arnold injured? Arnold entered Sunday leading the Jaguars in targets, receptions and receiving yardage since the team traded for him before Week 4. He went down with a knee injury early in the second quarter and did not return. He was angry after the injury, too, slamming his helmet on the ground on the sideline. James O'Shaughnessy was activated off IR on Saturday, so he'll likely step into Arnold's role as a pass-catching tight end if Arnold is out for a significant amount of time. -- DiRocco

DiRocco's confidence rating (0-10): 1.5, no change from 1.5. The Jaguars didn't quit down 21-3 but have now clinched their 12th losing season in the past 14 years.

Next game: at Rams (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)



N.Y. Giants 13, Philadelphia 7




Giants


What to know: The Giants' offense looked different without offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, trying desperately to get the ball to their playmakers in space even if the results weren't all that different. But it was enough to squeeze out an ugly victory thanks to a defense that forced four turnovers. When the Giants needed it most on offense, playcaller Freddie Kitchens went to prized free-agent acquisition Kenny Golladay for a pair of key 18-yard gains that helped produce a field goal and some breathing room. Didn't see much of that under Garrett. Expect it now every week. -- Jordan Raanan

Does this mean the Giants can make a run? Let's not get carried away. How much can New York rely on their offense? The Giants (4-7) would likely have to go 5-1 down the stretch to make the playoffs. Nothing Sunday says that is going to happen. Miami is up next and playing much better. The Los Angeles Chargers are after that, followed by games against Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago. It's just too much to ask for this team, which continues to struggle to score points. But this was a nice win. -- Raanan

Raanan's confidence rating (0-10): 4, up from 2.3. This might be the highest it has been since Week 4, when they beat New Orleans. The Giants have won three of their past five games with their two losses coming on the road in Monday night games against Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

Next game: at Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Eagles


What to know: Jalen Hurts' rough day at the office was costly for the Eagles' playoff pursuit. A win against the lowly Giants would have increased Philadelphia's chances of making the postseason to 56%, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. Instead, those odds have dropped dramatically to 26%. Hurts was once again effective in the run game (eight carries, 77 yards) but struggled big-time as a passer, tossing three interceptions for the first time in his career. It was a sharp fall for Hurts, who was tops in the league in QBR over the past five weeks, and served as a reminder he has a lot of growing to do. -- Tim McManus

Can the Eagles rebound and make a playoff push? The good news for the Eagles is they have the easiest closing schedule in the NFL, giving them ample opportunity to play catchup. They play the Jets next week, face Washington twice and have a rematch against the Giants at home. A path to the postseason remains. -- McManus


McManus' confidence rating (0-10): 4.1, down from 5.9. Philadelphia got banged up in this one. Center Jason Kelce (knee) left the game for a spell, running back Miles Sanders (ankle) couldn't finish, offensive tackle Jack Driscoll (ankle) was carted off and Hurts limped off the field at one point in the second half and had his ankle wrapped. If the Eagles are going to make a push, they'll need to be healthy.

Next game: at Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



New England 36, Tennessee 13




Patriots


What to know: The Patriots won on a day their defense didn't play its best (giving up 200-plus rushing yards), living off timely turnovers and leaning on a Mac Jones-led offense that overcame early red zone struggles before pulling away in the second half. The Patriots have won six in a row, and they've done it in different ways. The ability to lean more on Jones and the offense against the Titans was significant, as the Patriots had been a team sparked more by its defense up to this point. But when nine of your first 10 drives result in either a FG or TD, that's a good day. Jones continues to show veteran-type poise, avoiding critical mistakes and attacked more downfield. -- Mike Reiss

How do they match up against the Bills? The Patriots (8-4) visit the Bills (7-4) on ESPN's Monday Night Football on Dec. 6 in what promises to be an electric environment as they vie for AFC East supremacy. One new concern for the Patriots is run defense, which had been solid leading into Sunday's game against the Titans. Fortunately for them, however, the Bills don't have a hard-charging running attack. The Patriots have played complementary football over their six-game winning streak, with the offense, defense and special teams picking each other up at various times. That's a good formula and it will be put to the test against one of the best teams in the NFL. -- Reiss

Reiss' confidence rating (0-10): 6.6, up from 6.5. Part of becoming a contending team is winning when you don't bring your A game, which the Patriots did against a short-handed-but-worthy foe.

Next game: at Bills (Monday, Dec. 6, 8:15 p.m. ET)



Titans


What to know: The turnover issues continue to plague the Titans. Tennessee had at least four turnovers in back-to-back games for the first time since 2015. The Titans' nine turnovers over the past two weeks paired with zero takeaways over that same stretch have made it virtually impossible to win. Three of the turnovers were fumbles by running backs Dontrell Hilliard and D'Onta Foreman. That's one more than Derrick Henry had over 597 carries dating back to the start of last season. -- Turron Davenport

Is the rushing attack (200-plus yards) a positive sign for the offense going forward? The Titans pride themselves on running the football. They managed to gain 270 yards against New England's ninth-ranked run defense that was giving up 101.7 yards per game. The one positive is if they can continue to run the ball this way, it won't place all of the burden on Ryan Tannehill. The question is: Can Tannehill do enough to guide this offense with a lack of playmakers? -- Davenport

Davenport's confidence rating (0-10): 7.5, down from 8.5. The bottom line is the Titans are running out of playmakers. The Titans have now rostered 85 players this season, which is a new record. The bye week is needed in the worst way. But even after next week, wide receiverA.J. Brown is on injured reserve, running back Derrick Henry isn't walking through that door and receiverJulio Jones is still on the mend.

Next game: vs. Jaguars (Sunday, Dec. 12, 1 p.m. ET)



N.Y. Jets 21, Houston 14




Jets


What to know: The Jets won in spite of quarterback Zach Wilson, who struggled after missing four games because of a sprained right knee. He threw an ugly interception on an ill-advised flip pass while scrambling, took four sacks, fumbled out of bounds and misfired on too many gimme throws. Basically, the post-injury Wilson (14-for-24, 145 yards) looked a lot like the pre-injury Wilson. The coaches said he'd be different, that he benefited from the chance to watch from the sideline. That wasn't evident. To his credit, he stayed in the game after aggravating his knee injury in the fourth quarter and hit a couple of passes to help the team win, but the No. 2 overall pick still has a long way to go. Going forward, his sprained PCL needs to be monitored. Clearly, his mobility was limited after returning to the game. He tweaked his knee while trying to escape pursuit on an eventual sack -- another questionable decision. -- Rich Cimini

Is the Jets' maligned defense actually getting better? Well, it couldn't get worse. The Jets were historically bad during a four-game stretch, allowing 175 points, but they have taken some baby steps the last two weeks. They held the Texans and Dolphins to a combined 38 points -- two bad offenses, to be sure, but progress is progress. Facing the Texans' woeful offensive line, the Jets' pass rush -- dormant for weeks -- came alive. The Jets recorded five sacks, including two by John Franklin-Myers, who also had his first career interception. They're still not close to being a respectable defense, but they're young and developing. -- Cimini

Cimini's confidence rating (0-10): 4, up from 3.5. A win over the dreadful Texans is hardly cause for celebration, but at least coach Robert Saleh (three wins) can say he won more games than Adam Gase (two) last season.

Next game: vs. Eagles (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Texans


What to know: With a 2-9 record, defensive end Jonathan Greenard is one of the few bright spots for the Texans and a player Houston can build around on defense. After sacking Jets quarterback Zach Wilson on Sunday, Greenard has eight sacks in eight games. The Texans' defense has shown improvement and Greenard is a big reason why after being inactive for the first two games. With so many players on this defense on one- or two-year deals, finding a young building block is so important for general manager Nick Caserio. -- Sarah Barshop

What does this loss mean for the Texans' draft position? This game may end up being important in determining where both the Texans and Jets draft in April, as this was the worst game all season, according to ESPN's FPI pregame matchup quality. Houston went from a 6% chance to 12% at the No. 1 pick with the loss.The Texans' victory in Nashville in Week 11 was a blow to Houston's chances at the top pick, but at 2-9, the Texans are in line for a pick in the top 5. The Texans play the 2-9 Jaguars in Jacksonville in Week 15 in another important matchup for draft position. -- Barshop

Barshop's confidence rating (0-10): 0.8, down from 1. This rating went up after a surprising victory in Nashville, but it's back down after losing to the struggling Jets.

Next game: vs. Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Buffalo 31, New Orleans 6




Bills


What to know: The Bills had another dominating victory without playing their best football. Quarterback Josh Allen threw two interceptions, including the first of his career in the red zone, but finished the game with a career-high 82.1% completion rate. In a way, it is representative of a Bills' season that has featured inconsistent play but, at 7-4, still has them primed for an AFC East fight with the New England Patriots down the stretch. A large part of that success has come courtesy of the Bills defense that has now limited five opponents to 12 points or less. All three phases had success, with coach Sean McDermott giving special recognition to the kickoff coverage after the game. When the Bills are rolling like this, they are hard to beat. Doing so consistently is the key. -- Alaina Getzenberg

What is the impact on this defense if cornerback Tre'Davious White misses significant time? White left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return. McDermott said they would know more about the injury in the coming days. Backup Dane Jackson filled in for White and played well overall, but there is no one on the roster that can sub for the All-Pro corner, who is among the top five coverage corners in the league this season, per Next Gen stats. "[White's] such a great teammate," Allen said. "He talks to everybody the right way. He just does the little things well that not many people see, but that's why he's so good." If he is out for multiple weeks or even the season, the Bills' mighty defense -- which has allowed eight passing touchdowns this season (fewest in the league) -- will take a hit, but should be able to adapt to an extent under coordinator Leslie Frazier. -- Getzenberg

Getzenberg's confidence rating (0-10): 7.9, up from 7.2. The roller-coaster continues, but the Bills put together an all-around dominant win -- even though it was against a banged-up team -- on a short week and showed an ability to continue to bounce back from tough losses, although stacking wins will be required to stretch this rating.

Next game: vs. Patriots (Monday, Dec. 6, 8:15 p.m. ET)



Saints


What to know: It's getting uglier by the week for the Saints and their depleted offense -- now 0-4 since Trevor Siemian replaced injured Jameis Winston at quarterback. They were also without running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II and right tackleRyan Ramczyk on Thanksgiving night, and the replacements weren't nearly good enough. They could all be back by next Thursday against Dallas -- and the Saints could consider a QB change to Taysom Hill. But at 5-6, they're dangerously close to "too little, too late." -- Mike Triplett

New week, same question: Will they consider a switch to Hill at QB? Siemian's performance has regressed each week after a promising start. And even though coach Sean Payton made it clear he was one of many problems on a night when the Saints also couldn't run, pass protect or return kicks, Payton acknowledged, "We'll look at everything right now. Obviously we have to." But Hill has been limited by a foot injury since Week 10 (which is why he has been relegated to the emergency backup role the past two weeks). But he practiced fully this week, so his role must expand ASAP in one form or another. -- Triplett

Triplett's confidence rating (0-10): 4.5, down from 5.5. A full point drop for the second straight week. We know a better version of this team exists after its 5-2 start. But even a Week 8 win over the Buccaneers, when Winston left in the second quarter, feels like a distant memory.

Next game: vs. Cowboys (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)



Las Vegas 36, Dallas 33




Raiders


What to know: The Raiders are not done. Not yet, anyway. As receiver Hunter Renfrow said, "I felt like we showed the heart of the team today." Indeed, it was as close to a must-win situation as one could get, and in ending a three-game post-bye losing streak, the Raiders improved to 6-5. "But I think we felt it a little bit [because] 5-6 is a whole lot worse than 6-5," Renfrow added. "And, to beat a good Cowboys team, on Thanksgiving, in prime time, it gives us a lot of confidence going forward ... we have a long road ahead of us, but we took a step in the right direction today." -- Paul Gutierrez

Is DeSean Jackson truly a part of the offense now? He better be. Not only did he take the top off the defense with three catches for 102 yards, including a vintage 56-yard catch-and-run TD down the left sideline, Jackson's mere presence opened things up underneath for the likes of Renfrow, who had eight catches for a game-high 134 yards. And with another 10 days before Las Vegas' next game, Jackson, who turns 35 next week, has that much more time to marinate in the Raiders' system. "It sure is fun to throw him the ball," quarterback Derek Carrsaid. -- Gutierrez

Gutierrez's confidence rating (0-10): 7.5, up from 5.5. A full two-point jump from last week's nadir? Sure, when you take into account how much the NFL truly is a week-to-week season. Beating the heavily-favored Cowboys on the road and in prime time should be a huge confidence boost. The Raiders also getting their running game going to the tune of 143 yards is a good omen as well, especially Josh Jacobs going for 87 yards on 22 carries. Stay tuned, though, for an update on Pro Bowl tight endDarren Waller's injured left knee.

Next game: vs. Washington (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)



Cowboys


What to know: The Cowboys have lost three of four and two straight following their overtime loss to the Raiders. The offense could not get going until the fourth quarter. The defense allowed too many big plays. Complaining about the officials is pointless. Simply, the Cowboys need to play better. Ezekiel Elliott was asked if this team has lost its swagger. "No," he said, adding, "Just gotta focus. We gotta go get better, we gotta go fix what happened today and become a better team by next week." -- Todd Archer

How can the Cowboys limit the penalties? The best hope is to not have Shawn Hochuli's crew again the rest of the way, but penalties have been an issue all season. They have been flagged at least seven times in eight games this season, including 14 for 166 yards against the Raiders. Micah Parsons said he doesn't want to see the defense change its style of play. There is a fine line between being aggressive and careless. Bill Parcells used to say he doesn't coach penalties. No coach does, but this is an issue that needs to be rectified. "We've got to self-reflect and keep the officials out of the game," Dak Prescott said. "One way or another, we've got to be better." -- Archer

Archer's confidence rating (0-10): 7.9, down from 8.4. They can talk aboutAmari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregoryreturning all they want, but there is something off with the team at the moment. The offense can't get the run game going. The defense can't stop allowing big plays. The Cowboys have to turn this around quickly.

Next game: at Saints (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)



Chicago 16, Detroit 14




Bears


What to know: Andy Dalton played well in relief of Justin Fields. The 34-year-old became the first Bears quarterback to pass for 300-plus yards (317 vs. the Lions) since Nick Foles in Week 9 of last year. Dalton led Chicago on an 18-play drive to set up Cairo Santos' game-winning 28-yard field goal. Dalton played with poise and confidence -- exactly what you'd expect from a player with that level of experience. Fields is expected to reclaim the starting job when his ribs heal, but Dalton proved on Thanksgiving that he can still get the job done. -- Jeff Dickerson

Are the Bears going to fire coach Matt Nagy? No. Or, rather, not yet. The Bears have never fired a head coach during a season in the history of the franchise. The Bears let Marc Trestman finish out his final season. Same with John Fox. Nagy was named coach of the year three years ago. He's led the Bears to the playoffs in two of his three seasons. Nagy deserves better. Ultimately, he may get fired after the season, but there's still a lot of football left to play. Hopefully, Thursday's win over Detroit allows Nagy and the Bears to regroup before a tough game versus Arizona on Dec. 5. -- Dickerson

Dickerson's confidence rating (0-10): 3.5, up from 2. A win is a win, but the Lions are 0-10-1.

Next game: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



Lions


What to know: The Lionssuffered yet another heartbreaking loss, falling for the third time this season on a walk-off field goal. It happened in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens, then again Week 5 vs. the Minnesota Vikings and now on Thanksgiving against the Bears.-- Eric Woodyard

Should the Lions be worried about coach Dan Campbell's playcalling? Certainly. The Lions got off to a hot start Thursday with quarterback Jared Goff finding an early groove, completing his first five passes, but the conservative trend of short passes and short gains since Campbell took over playcalling from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn in Week 10 continued in front of the national audience, with some fans even booing inside Ford Field. Campbell may want to consider letting Lynn take back playcalling responsibilities if the team wants to win a game. -- Woodyard

Woodyard's confidence rating (0-10): 2, down from 2.3. As always, the Lions play hard but penalties and mistakes are too much to overcome since they don't have enough skill players to bail them out.

Next game: vs. Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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