Top Takeaways from Sunday’s Week 17 NFL action

What a crazy end to the NFL regular season on Sunday. It started with the New England Patriots shockingly losing to the Miami Dolphins to give away a first-round bye.

The Philadelphia Eagles earned the NFC East title with a win over the New York Giants later in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the  San Francisco 49ers  put up one heck of a performance in a dramatic win over the Seahawks in Seattle to earn the NFC West title and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 17 NFL action.

49ers win game of the decade 

We knew Sunday night’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks was among the biggest of the season. San Francisco would earn the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win. Seattle would claim the NFC West and host Minnesota during the wild-card round.

The game itself was absolutely amazing with Russell Wilson leading Seattle to multiple second-half scoring drives. But in the end, a goal-line stand from the 49ers’ defense ultimately gave Kyle Shanahan and Co. the win.

This has to be considered the game of the decade in what was the final regular-season matchup of the 2010s. And it’s going to have wide-ranging ramifications in the playoffs. Just craziness.

Titans take care of business, will face the Patriots

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It was a simple scenario for Tennessee on Sunday. If the Titans were able to come out on top against a Houston Texans squad that was resting its starters, they would earn the No. 6 seed. Earlier in the day, New England’s loss to Miami guaranteed that any potential wild-card game for the Titans would be against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Riding the brilliant performances of Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry, Tennessee came out on top by the score of 35-14. It finished the regular season having won seven of Tannehill’s 10 starts and has to be seen as an upset waiting to happen against the defending champs next weekend.

That’s it for Oakland Raiders football

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Gruden and the Raiders needed a whole lot to happen in order to sneak into the playoffs. That included them coming out on top over the Denver Broncos on Sunday. It also included a ton of other scenarios, including the Titans losing and Colts winning.

When it became apparent that neither scenario would play out, the end of Oakland Raiders football as we know it was in the cards. The Raiders lost to Denver by the score of 16-15 to finish their final season in Northern California at 7-9. It’s now on to Las Vegas for Gruden and the Raiders.

Jason Garrett’s tenure seemingly comes to an end

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys needed to take out Washington with the Giants winning against Philadelphia in Jersey Sunday afternoon to earn the NFC East title. Dallas did its job with an 47-16 blowout of the Skins. Unfortunately, Dallas saw Philadelphia take out the Giants at about the same time.

The end result is an 8-8 record and Dallas shockingly missing out on the playoffs. This should pretty much spell the end of Garrett’s tenure in Dallas. His contract has now officially expired with the Cowboys already being linked to multiple big-name candidates to replace Garrett.

Chiefs are hitting their stride

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Winners of five consecutive heading into Sunday’s season finale against the last-place Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs started out slowly at Arrowhead. That’s until Patrick Mahomes went full Patrick Mahomes and Damien Williams brought the house down with this touchdown run.

When all was said and done, Kansas City came out on top by the score of 31-21 for its sixth consecutive win heading into the playoffs. This win, coupled with New England’s shocking loss to the Dolphins, has the Chiefs as the No. 2 seed in the AFC and enjoying a first-round bye. Watch out Ravens, another team is aiming for you.

No fight in these Panthers

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The decision to fire head coach Ron Rivera after 12 games and nearly a decade in that role has backfired on the Panthers in a big way. They headed into Sunday’s meaningless game against the Saints losers of seven consecutive games. Most of those losses displayed a declawed Panthers squad that showed no fight.

That was once again the case at home against New Orleans. Carolina fell by the score of 42-10, embarrassing itself in the process. Regardless of what the future might hold at quarterback and head coach in Carolina, the ending of this season was an unmitigated disaster for the Panthers. Sunday’s blowout loss added another layer to this.

Patriots stumble into the playoffs

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Shocking. That has to be the best way to describe New England’s home loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. A win at Gillette Stadium would have given New England a first-round bye for the ninth consecutive season.

Instead, Tom Brady and Co. put up a dud of a performance in a 27-24 loss to the Dolphins (5-11). By virtue of this defeat and the Chiefs’ win in Kansas City, New England will be playing wild-card weekend for the first time since all the way back in 2010. It has to be a sickening feeling for Bill Belichick and his team. Just brutal.

Packers survive Lions

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no world in which Green Bay’s 23-20 win over the last-place Detroit Lions on Sunday can be seen as a good thing. By virtue of the victory, Aaron Rodgers and Co. earned a first-round bye.

Even then, a game-ending field goal from Mason Crosby to clinch Green Bay’s 13th win of the season was not great. Sure the Pack will host a divisional round game against one of four teams playing on wild-card weekend. In no way should the team feel good heading into the playoffs. If you can’t dominate an injury-plagued last-place team, there’s little hope for postseason success. That’s the harsh reality of the situation.

That’s it for Freddie Kitchens

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Reports indicated earlier on Sunday that the Browns were vetting potential replacements for first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens. Cleveland entered Week 17 with a 6-9 record and taking on a one-win Bengals team.

What we saw transpire in Cincinnati put an end to Kitchens’ short tenure with the Browns. Cleveland fell in embarrassing fashion by the score of 33-23. It was yet another mistake-prone performance from the squad, and it led to Kitchens getting his walking papers on the eve of Black Monday. Back to the drawing board for the long-downtrodden Browns.

Eagles overcome injuries, win NFC East

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles entered Sunday’s game against the Giants with an opportunity to win the NFC East. It did not start out swimmingly with star offensive players Brandon Brooks and Miles Sanders joining a plethora of other Eagles players on the sideline due to injury.

Despite that, Doug Pederson and Co. were able to will their way to a hard-fought win and the division title with a 34-17 victory. It really is a testament to the job Pederson has done this season. And regardless if the season ends at home next weekend against the Seahawks, it will be seen as a success in Philly.

NFL Playoff field set 

The 49ers, Packers, Ravens and Chiefs will be watching next weekend to see who they take on in the divisional round. Meanwhile, eight teams will take the field for what promises to be a fun weekend of postseason action.

In the AFC, the Tennessee Titans will travel to New England to take on the defending champion Patriots. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills will be taking on the Texans in Houston.

The NFC is even crazier with the Minnesota Vikings heading to New Orleans to take on the Saints and the Seahawks traveling to Philadelphia to play the Eagles. Get your popcorn ready, this should be a blast.

By: Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Vincent Frank  |  Last updated 12/30/19

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/top_takeaways_from_sundays_week_17_nfl_action/s1_12680_30922091

Yardbarker’s NFL Week 16 game-by-game analysis, grades

In Philadelphia, the Eagles moved a massive step closer to clinching the NFC East title with a win over the Cowboys. In Nashville, the Titans fell to the Saints but can clinch the AFC’s No. 6 seed with a Week 17 win at Houston. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 16 whip-around:  1 of 16

PHILADELPHIA 17, DALLAS 9

COWBOYS (7-8): Dallas’ supposed stars didn’t play like stars:Dak Prescott threw for a season-low 6.0 yards per attempt; WR Amari Cooper had just 24 yards receiving, and TE Jason Witten collected only 14 (second-worst total of the season); and RB Ezekiel Elliott averaged just 3.6 yards per rush attempt (fourth-worst of season). The Cowboys have stacked up most of their production in blowouts against bad teams. Dallas has averaged 15.2 points in its six losses to teams that currently own a winning record. Good offenses can beat up on bad teams consistently. Great offenses come through with clutch performances in the biggest moments. The Cowboys simply aren’t capable. Overrated! GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: Vs. Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


EAGLES (8-7): With its offense missing five starters and the season on the line, Philadelphia needed a top-tier performance from its defense and it got it. The Eagles limited Dallas’ supposedly elite offense to a season-low-tying nine points and only 16 first downs (tied for second-fewest). Up front, Fletcher Cox blew up run plays and pressured Dak Prescott into errant throws. In the back end, Philadelphia’s shaky secondary played one of its best games. CB Sidney Jones came up with the play of the game, breaking up a potential touchdown on a fourth-down pass intended for Michael Gallup late in the fourth quarter. If the Eagles are going to win the NFC East and make a surprise playoff run, it’s the defense that must make it happen. If the Eagles beat the Giants in Week 17, they are in. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: At Giants (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 2 of 16

KANSAS CITY 26, CHICAGO 3

CHIEFS (11-4): Kansas City will almost certainly earn the AFC’s No. 3 seed. But this Chiefs edition is playing better than the 2018 iteration that had home-field advantage. Given a “Sunday Night Football” Week 16 road assignment last season, the Chiefs gave up 38 points in Seattle. Before that, they yielded 29 to the Chargers and 33 to the Raiders. The ’19 Chiefs’ past four games combined: 31 points. Steve Spagnuolo’s improved defense held Mitchell Trubisky to 120 pre-garbage-time yards, stopping the Chicago QB’s stretch-run surge. The Chiefs may have overpaid for safety Tyrann Mathieu, and the totality of DE Frank Clark’s season (seven sacks) pales in comparison to his 2018 Seahawks work. But both have become impact players. With a defense capable of complementing Patrick Mahomes in a way last year’s Bob Sutton-coordinated unit could not, these Chiefs are more dangerous than when their quarterback was the runaway MVP. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT:  Vs. Chargers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BEARS (7-8): Andy Reid’s team is at least a tier above where the Bears and his protege Matt Nagy reside. The problem for Chicago on Sunday night at Soldier Field chiefly was the offense, which had neither rhythm nor flow. Neither QB Mitchell Trubisky (18-for-34 for 157 yards) nor the running game (101 yards) provided any spark. The defense really held its own, per usual, against an elite offense, and DE Khalil Mack (one sack and TFL) was as outstanding as ever. Until the Bears get better, more consistent QB play, this will be Chicago’s fate against elite teams. GAME GRADE: C+ | NEXT: At Vikings (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 3 of 16

OAKLAND 24, LA CHARGERS 17

RAIDERS (7-8): The Raiders reportedly are debating whether to end the Derek Carr era after six seasons, but the scrutinized quarterback helped Oakland avoid mathematical elimination with a strong performance. Carr completed 26 of 30 passes for 291 yards in Oakland’s “away” game in Los Angeles, firing mid-range throws that put Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams in position for 56- and 43-yard catch-and-runs, respectively. Jon Gruden’s reported dissatisfaction with Carr’s limited skill set is not without merit. Entering Sunday, Carr ranked last in the league in Next Gen Stats’ intended air yards metric. The Raiders might struggle, however, to upgrade on their mid-level starter next year. Would a team with several needs trade both of its mid-first-round picks to move up for the second- or third-best quarterback prospect? Gruden and Carr might have to coexist to start the Las Vegas years. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT:  At Broncos (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


CHARGERS (5-10): Facing a Raiders team that ranked 26th in run-defense DVOA, the Bolts rushed for 19 yards – their worst regular-season total of the decade. Melvin Gordon gained 15 yards. The fifth-year Charger has one game remaining to avoid injury and move to free agency. He has only 566 yards rushing in 11 games this season. Le’Veon Bell needed a desperate Jets GM to salvage a big payday in March. Without Bell’s accolades, and partially because of the former Steeler’s failure in New York, Gordon will not see that kind of market in 2020. The Chargers have also failed to develop offensive linemen in recent years, and veteran acquisitions Mike Pouncey and Russell Okung missed much of the season with injuries. The center and left tackle will be 31 and 33 next year, respectively. It is safe to predict the Bolts will be targeting offensive linemen in free agency and the draft. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: At Chiefs (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson

4 of 16

NY JETS 16, PITTSBURGH 10

STEELERS (8-7): What a nightmare for Pittsburgh, which somehow is still in the mix for the No. 6 seed. Undrafted rookie free agent Devlin Hodges started at QB but was rightfully pulled after two interceptions (six over his past two games) in favor of Mason Rudolph, who was knocked out with an injury. Mercifully, the Duck fluttered back in. The running back situation is a disaster. James Conner lasted a short stretch before he once again left a game with an injury. Outside of Conner, who can’t be counted on, none of Pittsburgh’s running backs is well-rounded enough to contribute in all phases. Pittsburgh rushed for only 75 yards (3.0 per carry), and its running backs’ inability in pass protection contributed to four sacks. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: At Ravens (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


JETS (6-9): Although Marcus Maye will be Robin to Jamal Adams’ Batman as long as the safety duo stays together, he did the most to deliver an upset win. Maye intercepted a Devlin Hodges second-quarter pass in the end zone, but his acrobatic fourth-quarter pass breakup of a would-be James Washington go-ahead touchdown was more impressive. Maye getting his left hand in between Washington’s grip may keep Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. Adams and Maye become extension-eligible after Week 17. While the Jets will need to give their two-time Pro Bowler a much bigger contract, they must decide on Maye’s future first. No fifth-year option exists on the 2017 second-rounder’s deal, so 2020 will be Maye’s contract year. New York’s B-side safety was former GM Mike Maccagnan’s investment but he has played 15 games this season while battling injuries. A lack of Jets homegrown talent should prompt GM Joe Douglas to consider a Maye re-up. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: At Bills (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 5 of 16

NEW ORLEANS 38, TENNESSEE 28

SAINTS (12-3): The chemistry between Michael Thomas and Drew Brees makes New Orleans the most dangerous team in the NFC. Thomas shredded the Titans’ weak secondary and made history, reaching 145 receptions to set the NFL season record (surpassing Marvin Harrison’s 143 in 2002). Tennessee had no answer for Thomas, who grabbed 12 of 17 targets for 136 yards and a game-sealing touchdown reception with just over two minutes to go. He entered the game leading the NFL with 3.36 yards per route run out of the slot, giving him a mismatch against CB Logan Ryan, who entered the game with league-worst totals of 719 yards and five touchdowns allowed out of the slot. Thomas took full advantage of that edge throughout the game, destroying the Titans with a thousand paper cuts in the underneath game (as he does to most teams). GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: At Panthers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


TITANS (8-7): Many have pondered when QB Ryan Tannehill would come back to Earth. With every passing week, however, the 31-year-old looks less like a fluke and more like a player who has blossomed, albeit later in his career than most quarterbacks. Tannehill’s season passer rating stands at 114.6 after he posted a 133.6 mark against New Orleans (League average was 91 entering Week 16.) He put up strong numbers (17-for-27, 272 yards, 3 TDs) against a strong pass rush (five sacks). Tannehill also showed he is capable of producing without the threat of RB Derrick Henry, who sat out with an injured hamstring. The Titans will make the playoffs if they can beat Houston in Week 17; if they do get in, Tannehill makes them a team no AFC opponent wants to see. GAME GRADE: C + | NEXT: At Texans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 6 of 16

ARIZONA 27, SEATTLE 13

CARDINALS (5-9-1): RB Kenyan Drake continues to be a revelation. After shredding Seattle for 166 yards and two TDs, he has six touchdowns and 303 yards on just 46 carries over his past two games. Drake, a soon-to-be free agent, has three 100-yard games for the Cardinals, and is the catalyst for two straight wins. His season numbers are not eye-popping, which should keep his price down in free agency, but even if there are aggressive bidders, the Cardinals should aim to keep him. Kliff Kingsbury’s system might be all about the quarterback and receivers, but Arizona is not in a position to let talent get away.  GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: At Rams (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


SEAHAWKS (11-4): In addition to losing game, Seattle suffered significant personnel losses that could cripple the Seahawks in the playoffs. RBs Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise are done for the season with hip and arm injuries, respectively. LT Duane Brown needs knee surgery. Second-string RB Rashaad Penny was already done with an ACL injury. Suddenly Seattle is on its fourth-string running back. Yikes. Assuming they are unable to beat San Francisco and win the NFC West, the Seahawks may need Russell Wilson to be spectacular in the first round of the playoffs. Seattle’s entire season was spent on the edge, repeatedly scraping by in close games, mainly due to Wilson’s brilliance. Now, just winning a playoff game will be a major accomplishment. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT:  Vs. 49ers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

7 of 16

INDIANAPOLIS 38, CAROLINA 6

PANTHERS (5-10): Christian McCaffrey caught all 15 of his targets in Indianapolis, setting a record for most targets without an incompletion (record was first tracked in 1992). In his starting debut, rookie Will Grier was 15-for-15 for 119 yards targeting McCaffrey (7.8 per attempt) and 12-for-29 for 105 yards (3.6 per attempt) with three interceptions when targeting any other player. The 15 targets tied a career-high for McCaffrey; the 15 receptions were a career-high, too. Few running backs in league history have showcased as much two-ability as McCaffrey; the ones who have are either in Canton or on their way.GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: Vs. Saints (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


COLTS (7-8): The Colts won’t make the playoffs, but they didn’t quit on Frank Reich, throttling Carolina and giving Panthers quarterback Will Grier a rude welcome in his first NFL start. QB Jacoby Brissett didn’t do much but didn’t have to, as Indianapolis’ running game dominated, and Nyheim Hines became just the fifth player this century and 15th since 1950 to return two punts for touchdowns in the same game. The big question facing the Colts as they approach Week 17 and look toward 2020 is: What’s the ceiling for Brissett? Indianapolis has one of the more balanced rosters in the NFL, but unseating the Texans atop the division will take star power at the most important position on the field. The Colts seem to think Brissett possesses it, but his career passer rating (85.6, below league average) suggests otherwise. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: At Jaguars (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 8 of 16

ATLANTA 24, JACKSONVILLE 12

JAGUARS (5-10): Another week, another listless performance. What will become of head coach Doug Marrone? Jacksonville gave up 518 yards, and, aside from a drive-killing Matt Ryan interception, did not stop an Atlanta march in fewer than six plays. Rookie Gardner Minshew did nothing to suggest he should be the starting quarterback next season. With one game left, Jacksonville has major questions under center. It sounds like a full housecleaning is in order, but NFL.com reported owner Shad Khan may prefer keeping Marrone and GM David Caldwell. Executive VP Tom Coughlin was fired last week in the wake of the NFLPA’s letter to its members warning them about signing with the Jaguars. What a mess. GAME GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: Vs. Colts (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


FALCONS (6-9): Falcons players are playing hard for head coach Dan Quinn, whom they want to return. Quinn’s defense has been particularly impressive. It dismantled Jacksonville, holding the Jaguars to 4.9 yards per play and only 3-for-14 on third down. The secondary was excellent, racking up five pass deflections and holding Gardner Minshew to a 72.1 passer rating and 4.9 net yards per attempt (both season-worsts on the road). Going into its Week 9 bye, Atlanta was one of the league’s worst on defense, allowing 31.3 points a game in its 1-7 start. Since then, the Falcons have allowed just 18.1 points as they have gone 5-2. It’s clear the players respect the coach. Will it matter when ownership evaluates Quinn? GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: At Bucs (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 9 of 16

DENVER 27, DETROIT 17

LIONS (3-11-1): Clearly, this team needs to play better defense. Hello, head coach Matt Patricia? This is your area of expertise, correct? And, as usual lately, the Lions struggled to run (96 yards on 21 carries). Detroit was crushed in the time-of-possession battle (36:08 to 23:52). The Lions allowed four consecutive drives of nine plays or more as Denver took control late in the first quarter. The Broncos got to the second and third levels of Detroit’s defense far too easily. Four Lions recorded eight or more tackles — three of them were defensive backs. Not good. Denver doesn’t feature a particularly dynamic offense and are led by a rookie quarterback, but the Lions were simply too soft. GAME GRADE: D+ | NEXT:  Vs. Packers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


BRONCOS (6-9): Despite Denver drafting Royce Freeman in the 2018 third round and subsequently signing Phillip Lindsay as an undrafted free agent, the latter keeps revealing a massive talent disparity between the sophomore backs. Lindsay runs do not resemble those of most ball-carriers, with the Colorado product’s blend of straight-line speed and frenetic style creating one of the league’s most interesting skill sets. Late in a 109-yard rushing day, Lindsay zoomed through traffic for a game-clinching 27-yard touchdown run. He did so behind blocks from the Broncos’ backup fullback, backup right guard and third-string right tackle. Lindsay is 42 yards from his second 1,000-yard season; he would be the first UDFA to start 2-for-2 in 1,000-yard seasons. While 2018 draftees are not extension-eligible until 2021, Lindsay is next week because he was undrafted. The Broncos can control him via exclusive-rights free agency and restricted free agency through 2021, but with Lindsay having far outplayed his contract, expect 2020 extension discussions. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: Vs. Raiders (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 10 of 16

MIAMI 38, CINCINNATI 35 (OT)

BENGALS (1-14): Congratulations, Bengals fans. Your team is on the clock for the No. 1 overall pick. If LSU QB Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner, is the starter next season, the Ohio native may want to bring a running game with him. RB Joe Mixon was fighting a stomach ailment in this game, and the Bengals got almost nowhere on the ground (59 yards, 2.36 yards a carry). But at least Cincinnati showed spunk. Late in the fourth quarter, Tyler Boyd caught what looked like a meaningless touchdown pass. Then the Bengals recovered the onside kick and found Tyler Eifert on a Hail Mary pass for another amazing touchdown, making the score 35-33. QB Andy Dalton took the two-point conversion into the end zone to take this heart-stopper to overtime. GAME GRADE: B+  | NEXT: Vs. Browns (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


DOLPHINS (4-11): Miami’s defense threatened to undercut Ryan Fitzpatrick’s nearly game-long brilliance with a borderline unfathomable end-of-regulation collapse. The 37-year-old quarterback threw for a career-high 419 yards and a season-high four touchdown passes. While the bearded veteran’s presence looks strange on one of the 21st century’s least talented teams, Fitzpatrick has undeniably helped DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and other developing Dolphins. The fifth-year wideout and second-year tight end combined for 11 receptions, 193 yards and three touchdowns against Cincinnati. They are better positioned for the future. With the Dolphins signing Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal, he will likely have an open invitation to return and mentor whichever quarterback the team selects in the 2020 first round. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: At New England (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 11 of 16

BALTIMORE 31, CLEVELAND 15

RAVENS (13-2): An overeliance on tight end Mark Andrews and rookie WR Marquise Brown has been worrisome. Against the Browns, however, other receivers got involved for MVP candidate Lamar Jackson, a promising sign for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. In all, 10 Ravens were targeted, with Andrews leading the way (shock!) with six catches (on nine targets) for 93 yards. Other than Andrews and Brown, Hayden Hurst and Justice Hill show the most promise; All three young players have excellent speed. WR Miles Boykin (6-4, 220) and TE Hurst (6-4, 260) have great size. Jackson might not throw to any receivers in a game for three weeks. Expect him to sit against the Steelers in Week 17; then the top-seeded Ravens will enjoy their playoff bye and prepare for a division round game at home. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT:  Vs. Steelers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


BROWNS (6-9): The Browns have had far too many stretches of poor play this season, but none was worse than one to end the first half against Baltimore. As it did in beating the Ravens 40-25 in Week 4, Cleveland bottled up Lamar Jackson & Co. early. Then the Browns imploded. During a one-minute-and-18-second stretch in the second quarter, Baltimore scored two touchdowns and accumulated 138 yards. On the Ravens’ first possession in the second half, Cleveland allowed another TD. And the Browns, harboring ever-so-slight playoff chances entering the game, were done for 2019. Cleveland has been inconsistent and undisciplined this season. Blame head coach Freddie Kitchens, who could be done in Cleveland. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: At Bengals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 12 of 16

NY GIANTS 41, WASHINGTON 35 (OT)

GIANTS (4-11): Although they crushed their chances at the No. 2 overall pick and the potential opportunity to select Ohio State stud D-lineman Chase Young, the Giants got a glimpse at their future in Washington. Saquon Barkley was dominant, rushing for 189 yards on 22 attempts (8.6 per carry). He added four catches for 90 yards. He scored once through the air, once on the ground. Barkley has battled injuries all season, but he looked healthy, cutting with gusto and making defenders miss consistently. Daniel Jones was surgical against the Redskins’ makeshift secondary, becoming the first rookie in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to pass for 350+ yards, five or more touchdowns and zero interceptions in a game. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT:  Vs. Eagles (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


REDSKINS (3-12): What matters most for Washington is the development of rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. On the positive side, he was outstanding when he was on the field. Haskins completed 12 of 15 passes for 133 yards (8.9 per attempt), threw for two touchdowns (and no interceptions) and earned a 143.2 passer rating (season-best for the second consecutive week). Haskins made one of the best plays of his pro career, as he scrambled to the left on a broken play and found Steven Sims for a touchdown on a third-down play in the red zone. On the down side, Haskins did not finish the game; he was carted off with an ankle injury early in the second half. (X-rays were negative.) Unless Haskins is 100%, Washington should sit him for Week 17. GAME GRADE: C+ | NEXT: At  Cowboys (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 13 of 16

NEW ENGLAND 24, BUFFALO 17

BILLS (10-5): Facing the staunchest road assignment the modern NFL presents young quarterbacks, Josh Allen showed why he is best positioned to take the reins from Tom Brady as the AFC East’s top quarterback. The dual threat signal-caller remains erratic, and some of his overthrows on a 13-for-26 passing day proved costly in Foxborough. But against far and away DVOA’s top pass defense, Allen displayed flashes of what he could become with more seasoning. The deft drop-in to Dawson Knox and perfect strike to John Brown despite front-side pressure stunned a Gillette Stadium crowd unaccustomed to seeing competent Bills efforts. Allen’s mid-range work with Cole Beasley, particularly on a 25-yard off-balance laser, illustrated the improvement the polarizing prospect has made since a shaky rookie season. Buffalo’s conservative play-calling showed the coaching staff’s lack of complete trust in its passer, but if Allen makes a similar leap in 2020, a (gasp) Bills Super Bowl window will open. GAME GRADE: B | Vs. Jets. (Sun.) 

— Sam Robinson


PATRIOTS (12-3): New England’s nominal third-string running back, Rex Burkhead does not possess the defined role that James White or Sony Michel does. But the Patriots use the ex-Bengals back as a sporadic spark, and Burkhead’s versatility is needed more now than at any point in his three-year New England career. Burkhead did not lead the Pats in yards from scrimmage Saturday, with Michel besting him at 101, but the 29-year-old reserve sparked a team that possesses less firepower than it has had in many years. While Burkhead’s bulldozing 1-yard run gave the Pats the lead, his team-high (and career-best) 77 receiving yards helped Tom Brady against one of the league’s premier defenses. Bill Belichick sticking with Burkhead, whose receiving talents could be labeled redundant alongside White, proved pivotal — after his first-quarter fumble — in the Pats cementing their 11th straight AFC East title. This diverse backfield functioning as it did against the Bills could save the Pats come January. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: Vs. Dolphins (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 14 of 16

SAN FRANCISCO 34, LA RAMS 31

RAMS (8-7):  Although Los Angeles lost, its offense looked dangerous all game Saturday. Sean McVay schemed and scripted effectively, and his ability to get Jared Goff (323 passing yards) on the move and out of the pocket largely neutralized the 49ers’ pass rush. Although he had only 48 yards rushing, Todd Gurley looked like the back who keyed most of the Rams’ success last season. He was explosive and quick, particularly on a touchdown run in which he left Richard Sherman gasping for air. The Rams’ frustration came courtesy of their defense, which surrendered a pivotal first down on a third-and-16 because of a blown coverage by safety Taylor Rapp. That sort of missed assignment, coupled with other poor efforts, could spell trouble for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. GAME GRADE: C NEXT: Vs. Cardinals (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


49ERS (12-3): Although San Fran’s defense was flummoxed much of the game by Los Angeles’ scheme, LB Fred Warner’s pick-six showed how dangerous the 49ers can be. Most noteworthy: the faith head coach Kyle Shanahan showed in QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who did not have a good game statistically (two picks, one TD pass). On a third-and-16 with the score tied, Shanahan trusted Garoppolo to take a shot downfield, and it paid off. Los Angeles blew its coverage, and Garoppolo hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 46-yard gain that all but decided the game. The 49ers’ victory means that their season-ending showdown with Seattle will decide the NFC West. A Niners win will give them the NFC’s top seed. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: At Seahawks (Sun.) 

— Chris Mueller 15 of 16

HOUSTON 23, TAMPA BAY 20

TEXANS (10-5): Thanks to its defense and the generosity of turnover machine Jameis Winston (four picks), Houston clinched the AFC South. As good as the Texans’ defense was, their quiet offensive day is cause for concern. The Buccaneers stifled the run, which is what they do better than almost every team in the league, but Deshaun Watson (184 yards passing) was unable to take advantage of a porous pass defense. It’s also fair to wonder whether the outcome would have been different had the Buccaneers had first-time Pro Bowler Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Mike Evans (hamstring), their top receiving targets. Houston is still alive for the third seed in the AFC, but with Tennessee looking like a strong potential sixth seed, it might be best for the Texans if they draw the Bills in the first round. GRADE: C + | NEXT: vs. Titans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


BUCS (7-8): Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers’ passing attack faced a tall order with receivers Chris Godwin (second in NFL with 1,333 yards) and Mike Evans (fifth with 1,157) out with hamstring injuries. The results were mixed from the young corps of pass-catchers who replaced them. Breshad Perriman, Tampa Bay’s third-leading receiver entering Week 16 (511 yards), was excellent. He led the way with team-highs of seven catches and 102 yards, logging his second consecutive 100-yard game. When targeting wide receivers other than Perriman, Winston went 10-for-19 for 138 yards, picking up just five first downs. Odd stat: Winston has 32 TD passes … and 28 interceptions. GRADE: C | NEXT: Vs. Falcons (Sun.)

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_16_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30874373#slide_15

By: Yardbarker Staff

Yardbarker’s NFL Week 15 game-by-game analysis, grades

In Pittsburgh on Sunday night, the Bills clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Steelers. Earlier, the Eagles earned a come-from-behind win against Washington, setting up an NFC East showdown with the Cowboys in Week 16 in Philadelphia. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 15 whip-around: 1 of 16

BUFFALO 17, PITTSBURGH 10

BILLS (10-4): It’s hard to envision Buffalo being playoff-bound were it not for key additions made during head coach Sean McDermott and since-fired GM Doug Whaley’s few months together. In the spring of 2017, the Bills added Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer – the safeties via team-friendly free-agency deals and CB White via a momentous first-round trade that gave the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes. That trio quickly helped Buffalo assemble a formidable pass defense, one that is belatedly receiving attention. Likely en route to All-Pro acclaim, White intercepted Devlin Hodges twice – the second pick leading to a Bills field goal – and Poyer notched one of the visitors’ two end-zone picks. The third-year Bills were the difference in another defensive battle, one that cemented the franchise’s first 10-win season since 1999. White’s six interceptions are tied for the league lead. Buffalo’s secondary equips QB Josh Allen with a safety net, and it keeps showing up in big spots. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Patriots (Sat.)

— Sam Robinson


STEELERS (8-6): It’s a shame Pittsburgh is so limited offensively with QB Devlin Hodges, who doesn’t have the arm strength to make big-time NFL throws. Duck’s performance (23-for-38, 202 yards, four interceptions) negated another stellar showing by the defense. LB T.J. Watt, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, was spectacular (two tackles for loss, two QB hits), and DE Cameron Heyward was a force, routinely beating Quinton Spain, especially when aligning on the outside shoulder of Buffalo’s top-heavy left guard. Heyward’s aggression and hustle set the tone for what may be the NFL’s best defense. Too bad the Duck couldn’t fly. GAME GRADE: C + | NEXT: at Jets (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 2 of 16

PHILADELPHIA 37, WASHINGTON 27

EAGLES (7-7): For the second consecutive game, the Eagles needed somebody on their banged-up offense to step up. Rookie Miles Sanders delivered, rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and grabbing six passes for 50 yards and another TD. In the process, he smashed the Eagles’ rookie record for yards from scrimmage, held by DeSean Jackson. He has 1,120. Philadelphia needed every yard it could get from Sanders, as the defense struggled to contain a Washington offense that averaged 7.1 yards per play. The Eagles are far from perfect, but their talented backfield of Sanders and Boston Scott has allowed them to overcome injuries. An NFC East showdown against Dallas awaits. GAME GRADE: B  | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


REDSKINS (3-11): For the Redskins, all that really matters is the development of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who suffered from poor pass protection and drops by his receivers in his first five starts. Against the Eagles, Haskins finally got more aid and he had the most productive performance of his pro career. He completed 19 of 28 passes for a career-best 261 yards and posted career-highs in yards per attempt (9.3) and passer rating (121.3). Haskins has a special connection with former Ohio State teammate Terry McLaurin, who caught five passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. A special guest watched from Daniel Snyder’s owner’s box: Urban Meyer, Haskins’ coach at Ohio State. Hmmm. Does Jerry Jones know? GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Giants (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 3 of 16

DALLAS 44, LA RAMS 21

RAMS (8-6): The defending NFC champs’ playoff hopes were virtually extinguished after a performance much more reminiscent of their midseason slump than their recent two-game winning streak. Los Angeles is at its best when it runs the ball effectively, but the Rams totaled just 22 yards on the ground. Todd Gurley did next to nothing, averaging fewer than two yards per carry, and Jared Goff’s numbers (284 yards passing) were inflated by garbage-time production. The Rams could still go 10-6 and miss the playoffs, but they should not be fooled into thinking that there aren’t significant issues to fix. Chief among them is Goff’s performance this season. His passer rating of 84.8 is significantly below the league average of 91.3, and he has been the main cause of multiple losses. Since Los Angeles has guaranteed more than $100 million to Goff, the goal must be to maximize his production and performance, although it is fair to wonder just how high his ceiling is. GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: at 49ers (Sat.)

— Chris Mueller


COWBOYS (7-7): Finally. Dallas earned its first win over an opponent with a winning record. Credit the O-line. Against a defense that entered the game ranked second in pressure rate (30.1%) and seventh in sack rate (8.4%), QB Dak Prescott was not sacked in 23 pass attempts. Los Angeles had also been dominant defending the run, entering the game allowing the fourth-fewest yards per rush attempt (3.8). But Dallas shredded the Rams, rushing 45 times for 263 yards (5.8 per attempt) and scoring three touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliott led the way 24 totes for 117 yards (4.9 per attempt) and two scores, but Tony Pollard was dynamic (131 yards on just 12 carries, 10.9 per attempt). The game marked just the eighth time in Cowboys history that Dallas ran for 250-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns. Run like this and the NFC East is theirs. GAME GRADE: A +  | NEXT: at Eagles (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

4 of 16

ATLANTA 29, SAN FRANCISCO 22

FALCONS (5-9): What. A. Stunner. George Kittle led the 49ers with 13 catches for 134 yards, but the rest of San Francisco’s receiving corps combined to catch just nine passes on 17 targets for 66 yards (3.9 per target), a testament to the Falcons’ lockdown coverage. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, getting extended action for just the fifth time this season, led the Falcons with three passes defended. Desmond Trufant, who entered the game as Pro Football Focus’ third-ranked corner from Weeks 11-14, stayed quiet against Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders. Dan Quinn’s defense held QB Jimmy Garoppolo to 5.9 yards per pass attempt, his second-worst mark of the season. Since the bye week, Atlanta is 4-2 and allowing just 19.2 points per game. Will Quinn keep his gig? GAME GRADE: A+ | NEXT: vs. Jaguars (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


49ERS (11-3): San Francisco was on top of the NFC but left the door wide open for Seattle and New Orleans with a sloppy loss. The 49ers never got going on offense, with only George Kittle providing a consistent threat, and their vaunted pass defense was unable to keep Matt Ryan from going down the field for the winning touchdown. Other than a scramble by Ryan, every play on Atlanta’s winning drive was a pass. That’s problematic for the 49ers, who knew what was coming. Ultimately, the Niners might not need home field, or even to win the division, because when things are going along well, their style of play wins anywhere, as they proved against the Saints. Still, this performance should serve as a wake-up call; they might be loaded with talent, but they’re not nearly good enough to overlook anyone.GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: vs. Rams (Sat.)

— Chris Mueller 5 of 16

HOUSTON 24, TENNESSEE 21

TEXANS (9-5): Houston wasn’t perfect, but it did enough to seize control of the AFC South. While the story of the Texans’ season is primarily about superstar talent – specifically QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins – Kenny Stills was a key figure in the victory over Tennessee, doubling his season touchdown total with two scores. Watson took advantage of Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson’s absence (foot) to hit Stills twice in situations in which Hopkins and Will Fuller commanded significant defensive attention and Stills drew man-to-man coverage. Houston’s chances of winning the division are better than 90%. If Stills, RB Duke Johnson and the rest of the supporting cast take advantage of their opportunities, Houston can beat anyone.GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT: at Bucs (Sat.)

— Chris Mueller


TITANS (8-6): The stats would suggest QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Derrick Henry cooled off from their torrid recent pace, but had Tennessee not suffered multiple self-inflicted wounds, it would be atop the AFC South. Tannehill threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and was victimized on his only interception by a blatant drop by Anthony Firkser. Firkser’s play likely will decide the division, as Tennessee was poised to go in for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Instead, Houston scored a touchdown two plays after Whitney Mercilus’ 86-yard interception return. One more win for Houston will give it the division; the playoff hopes of the Titans, who must win out to take the AFC South, are grim. That’s bad news for them, good news for the rest of the AFC. The way things were going, Mike Vrabel’s team looked like one of the most dangerous teams outside of Baltimore. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Saints (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 6 of 16

ARIZONA 38, CLEVELAND 24

BROWNS (6-8): Embarrassing. The body language from this team was simply awful. And the Browns’ play on the field was sloppy and extremely uninspired. Where is the leadership? Is veteran WR Jarvis Landry providing it? He was spotted sulking. Where’s Odell Beckham? He and Landry combined for 89 yards receiving on 21 targets against a poor defense. Baker Mayfield has a lot of TV commercials, but he’s still finding his way. Head coach Freddie Kitchens, a possible Black Monday candidate, is lost. Cleveland should add veterans who have won in the league. It sure could use a player like Steelers CB Joe Haden. Oh, wait, they had him. GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: vs. Ravens (Sun.) 

— Matt Williamson


CARDINALS (4-9-1): Arizona owes David Johnson plenty of money, but it may have found a full-time running back in Kenyan Drake, at least if the price is right. Johnson will count $16.2 million against the cap in 2020, but Drake now has two 100-yard games in Arizona after Sunday’s 137-yard, four-touchdown effort. Drake, acquired from Miami earlier this season, had just two 100-yard outings as a Dolphin. Drake will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but his career statistics suggest that a big contract is not likely in the open market. Arizona has major areas of need in the draft; trying to retain Drake could fix one of them without the use of a valuable pick. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Seahawks (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

7 of 16

MINNESOTA 39, LA CHARGERS 10

VIKINGS (10-4): Danielle Hunter is a stud. The 25-year-old end out of LSU recently became the youngest player in history to get 50 sacks. Against the Chargers, Hunter caused the Philip Rivers fumble that was returned for a Minnesota touchdown. Shortly afterward, he recovered a fumble by RB Melvin Gordon, one of seven Chargers turnovers. As usual, Hunter’s extreme length and great get-off was on full display against an overwhelmed Chargers line. When Hunter entered the league, he was a piece of raw clay. Man, he has learned the game. Hunter’s Week 16 matchup against Aaron Rodgers, sacked once by the Bears on Sunday, will be intriguing. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: vs. Packers (Mon.)

— Matt Williamson


CHARGERS (5-9): Most NFL teams would trade their skill-position arsenals for what the Bolts have. The Melvin Gordon-Austin Ekeler-Keenan Allen-Mike Williams-Hunter Henry quintet is healthy, but the Chargers still turned the ball over seven times. The franchise had not committed seven turnovers in a game since 1986, in an era when interceptions were more commonplace. Philip Rivers threw three interceptions, running his season total to 18 (second-most in the league), and lost a fumble the Vikings returned for a touchdown. Gordon lost two fumbles. The one-time Charger cornerstones are lumbering toward free agency. While Gordon has little chance to return to Los Angeles, unless his market craters to the point the Bolts re-sign him via a buy-low agreement, Rivers certainly could be back. But after this season, can the Chargers convince themselves to bring back an immobile 38-year-old – at a franchise-QB price – who fared this poorly despite having high-end weaponry? GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: vs. Raiders (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 8 of 16

KANSAS CITY 23, DENVER 3

BRONCOS (5-9): While the 2018 Denver draft/UDFA class produced Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay, the Broncos’ reliance on two less remarkable members of the class has limited the offense. QB Drew Lock cannot count on 2018 fourth-round pick DaeSean Hamilton, a wideout whom the Broncos hoped would step up after the Emmanuel Sanders trade, and third-round RB Royce Freeman has not shown a high ceiling. The Broncos fell behind early and rushed for 52 yards on a snowy day in K.C. So Lock opted to throw Hamilton and ex-UDFA Tim Patrick a combined 16 passes; five of them were completed. Freeman averaged 2.4 yards per carry – his eighth game averaging fewer than 3.5 per tote this season – and continues to fail the eye test. The Broncos need better auxiliary weaponry to support Lindsay, Sutton and Noah Fant next season. With Denver owning a rookie quarterback contract and seven picks in the first four rounds in 2020, upgrade avenues exist. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Lions (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


CHIEFS (10-4): A CBS graphic indicating Travis Kelce’s first seven seasons have produced more receiving yardage than any tight end was deceiving. Microfracture surgery ended Kelce’s rookie season after one stat-less game. The 2013 third-round pick’s 6,367 yards in six seasons better every other tight end’s first seven years. Comparing Kelce’s first six healthy seasons to the field, the Chief has 812 more yards than any tight end in NFL history. Kansas City began using its near-unrivaled chess piece frequently against Denver to avoid testing cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib. Since 2016, the perennial Pro Bowl weapon has posted four 100-yard games against the Broncos; his 11 catches for 142 yards Sunday were easily season-highs. With both Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes, Kelce has been the Chiefs’ skill-position centerpiece. He’s swung the AFC West’s balance of power. With a tight end-record four straight 1,000-yard seasons, the 30-year-old playmaker is on track for the Hall of Fame. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: at Bears (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 9 of 16

NEW ENGLAND 34, CINCINNATI 13

PATRIOTS (11-3): Despite Bill Belichick’s defenses being perhaps the most reliable 21st-century NFL unit, no Patriot has earned Defensive Player of the Year. On a team with an undependable offense, Stephon Gilmore should be given strong consideration to become the sixth cornerback to win this award. Shutdown corners are often avoided to the point where their stats suffer (see: Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey or Raiders 1.0-years Charles Woodson), but Gilmore has six interceptions and two return TDs. Gilmore’s 64-yard pick-6 in Cincinnati came on a day when the eighth-year corner produced two INTs and four passes defensed. Although the Pats’ record is built on a weak schedule, Gilmore has thrived against all competition, regularly locking down No. 1 wideouts to lead a historically great DVOA pass defense. With impact stats plus weekly film showcases, Gilmore has his front-seven peers beat to join Mel Blount, Lester Hayes, Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson as corner DPOYs. GAME GRADE: A-minus  | NEXT: vs. Bills (Sat.)

— Sam Robinson


BENGALS (1-13): Even though Cincinnati lost by 21, the defense is improving. Slumping Tom Brady barely completed 50% (15 of 29) of his passes for a measly 128 passing yards. James White, who gave Cincinnati’s suspect linebackers problems, was the only Patriot with more than 22 receiving yards. New England’s ailing rushing attack racked up 175 yards (5.5  yards per attempt). But after the Patriots’ first drive, the Bengals’ run defense held up well. Five turnovers, not their defense, cost the Bengals. Clearly, Cincinnati needs a QB. Where are you, Ohio native Joe Burrow? GAME GRADE: C  | NEXT: at Dolphins (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

10 of 16

GREEN BAY 21, CHICAGO 13

BEARS (7-7): Aaron Rodgers attempted 33 passes (203 yards) but was sacked just once and rarely disrupted by Chicago’s pass rush. DE Akiem Hicks, put on injured reserve Oct. 15, returned and made his presence felt (4 tackles, 2 QB hits). But Chicago’s edge players, especially Khalil Mack, didn’t put enough pressure on Rodgers. Mack, who has had a down year by his amazing standards, draws most of the attention from offensive coordinators. He isn’t a declining player, but his inability to impact this game (one tackle) is disconcerting. GAME GRADE: C  | NEXT: vs. Chiefs (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


PACKERS (11-3): Kenny Clark is rarely mentioned among the league’s best defensive tackles, a big mistake. Powerful and with long arms and strong hammer-like hands, the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder gets off the ball quickly and with force. Chicago had no success with its inside running game, largely attributable to Clark’s stellar play. (Overall, the Bears rushed for 96 yards on 27 carries.) An every-down force, Clark couldn’t be blocked when the Bears passed either, demonstrating a great bull rush and a wide variety of other pass-rush moves. Clark’s dominance is evident in his stat line: eight tackles (six solo), two sacks and three tackles for loss. GAME GRADE: B + |  NEXT: At Vikings (Mon.)

— Matt Williamson 11 of 16

TAMPA BAY 38, DETROIT 17

BUCS (7-7): Jameis Winston was stellar, rebounding from an early interception to throw for 458 yards (10.9 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns. Winston, who has thrown for over 10 yards per attempt in three of his past four games, eclipsed 300 passing yards in the first half. WR Breshad Perriman stepped up with Mike Evans out with a foot injury, grabbing five passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns. Winston has set a career-high in turnovers, but he is on track for career-highs in touchdown rate, yards per attempt and yards per game. Is he a franchise quarterback or not? At 67 years old, head coach Bruce Arians might not want to start over at QB. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sat.)

— Michael Nania


LIONS (3-10-1): This was a bleak game for head coach Matt Patricia, the former Patriots defensive coordinator whose expertise is supposed to be, well, defense. Even without the injured Mike Evans, the Bucs threw the ball at will. Jameis Winston rarely was under pressure, and even more alarming, Bucs receivers ran free almost all game. Winston found receivers in short zones, deep — heck, they were open everywhere. There were plenty of coverage busts, too. Tampa Bay’s best receiver in this game, Chris Godwin, didn’t even finish because of a hamstring injury. Eleven different Tampa Bay receivers had a least one catch. Is Patricia a Black Monday candidate? GAME GRADE: D-minus  | NEXT: at Broncos (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 12 of 16

NY GIANTS 36, MIAMI 20

DOLPHINS (3-11): Miami deployed one of the least recognizable starting lineups in modern NFL history. The Giants’ rout moved them behind the Dolphins in the 2020 draft order as a result. With a potential draft-damaging game against the Bengals looming, there is no reason for the Dolphins to keep playing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Josh Rosen would cover the Dolphins on multiple fronts. Two more starts would give the trade acquisition more experience and potentially enhanced trade value or, if said starts go as poorly as Rosen’s meetings and practices apparently have, the 2018 first-round pick could “help” the Dolphins lose their final two and secure the No. 2 overall draft slot. While it would look like an NBA-style tanking move, head coach Brian Flores sticking with the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick – as he said he plans to – serves no purpose for a rebuilding team that built 2019 around developing players and acquiring draft capital. GAME GRADE: D  | NEXT: vs. Bengals (Sun.) 

— Sam Robinson


GIANTS (3-11): Eli Manning was solid in perhaps his final home game as a Giant, tossing two TD passes and averaging 10.1 yards per attempt. He had face-plant moments, too: three interceptions against a defense that entered the game allowing the third-highest passer rating in the NFL (103.7). If he decides to play next season, Manning should have no shortage of suitors. Cincinnati and Miami might want a stopgap starter while waiting for a rookie (Joe Burrow?) to develop. Perhaps Chicago or Jacksonville (where Manning has a connection with VP of football operations Tom Coughlin) will be in the market. Pittsburgh, with questions surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, might also seek a starter. If he can’t find a starting spot, he could attract interest from a playoff-worthy franchise. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: at Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

13 of 16

SEATTLE 30, CAROLINA 24

SEAHAWKS (11-3): Tyler Lockett, who had eight catches for 120 yards, is Seattle’s unquestioned No. 1 receiver (75 catches for 994 yards and seven touchdowns). Almost as important as Lockett’s emergence is the rise of rookie D.K. Metcalf, a second-round pick in the 2019 draft. Even though Metcalf was targeted only four times against Carolina, managing a 19-yard touchdown catch in the process, Russell Wilson’s growing trust in him is obvious. Metcalf’s targets have gone up, from 5.6 per game in the first half of the season, to more than seven a game. Metcalf’s detractors claimed he was a Combine superstar and not a polished receiver coming out of Mississippi, but he has proven to be anything but. His college teammate, A.J. Brown, also a 2019 second-round pick, is an emerging star for the Titans. GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT:  vs. Cardinals (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


PANTHERS (5-9): It’s clear Carolina has two glaring needs: run defense and quarterback. Against Seattle, the NFL’s worst run defense was atrocious, yielding 154 yards (and two touchdowns) on 34 attempts. Proving he’s nothing more than a backup, Kyle Allen continued his stretch of ugly play, posting a 58.7 passer rating (91.3 was league average entering Week 14) and tossing three picks. He averaged just 6.8 yards per attempt. Should Carolina bring back Cam Newton, who has missed most of the season with a Lisfranc injury? He was ineffective earlier in 2019. The Panthers will probably draft toward the lower end of the top 10, where Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (if he comes out) and Georgia’s Jake Fromm might be available. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow appears out of Carolina’s reach, barring a trade up. GAME GRADE: C-minus  | NEXT: at Colts (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 14 of 16

JACKSONVILLE 20, OAKLAND 16

JAGUARS (5-9): Jacksonville managed to spoil the Raiders’ final game in Oakland with two late Gardner Minshew touchdown passes to Chris Conley. But the Jaguars’ listless performance before that rally feels more relevant to their future than what happened in the game’s final five minutes. After Jacksonville’s first drive yielded a field goal, its next five possessions featured four three-and-outs and 16 total yards. A beleaguered defense did well to keep the Jags in the game long enough. Head coach Doug Marrone can say his team hasn’t quit on him, but there was precious little to get excited about. GAME GRADE: C +  | NEXT: at Falcons (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAIDERS (6-8): Oakland fans have handled an unfortunate situation bizarrely well. The Raiders are about to become the first NFL franchise to leave their original city twice. They have one winning season since 2003 and went full rebuild in their final two Oakland seasons. Somehow, Raiders supporters accepted Oakland being a three-year lame duck after Mark Davis received relocation approval in March of 2017. The cascade of boos and assortment of items thrown onto the Oakland Coliseum’s field, after a blown lead against the Jaguars in the Raiders’ home finale, seems restrained considering what the city endured. Other markets have not handled imminent relocation so well – see Cleveland in 1995 or Houston in ’96 – yet Raiders fans kept supporting a team that sold off top assets in a pre-Las Vegas purge. Do not be surprised if Raiders home games become somewhat like Chargers LA atmospheres in transplant-heavy Las Vegas. A good bet: Vegas Sundays will not bring the atmosphere the Black Hole provided.  GAME GRADE: C  | NEXT: at Chargers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 15 of 16

MONDAY: INDIANAPOLIS AT NEW ORLEANS

COLTS (6-7): Indianapolis is all but certain to miss the playoffs despite starting 5-2 and looking more solid top to bottom than most of the rest of the AFC. A three-game losing streak has derailed the Colts’ season; Jacoby Brissett’s poor play during that stretch (82.1 passer rating; league average 91.3 through Week 14) is a major reason why Indy has slumped. He was unable to win a shootout with turnover-prone Jameis Winston in Week 14, despite Tampa Bay’s defense being one of the league’s worst against the pass. The Colts signed Brissett to a two-year, $30 million deal in September. The length of that deal looks like a wise move, because while Indianapolis’ early rally after Luck’s retirement was a nice story, Brissett has not proven definitively that he can perform like a franchise-level player. NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


SAINTS (10-3): The defense has sputtered in its three home games since the bye week, yielding an average of 35 points. The Saints have had a tough time stopping QBs at the Superdome, as their 100.5 passer rating allowed at home ranks seventh worst in the NFL. Saints opponents average 25.2 points in New Orleans, the 11th-worst figure by a home team. New Orleans is 11th in home point differential (plus-17), after ranking sixth from 2017-18 (plus-129). Sean Payton’s team should dominate a Colts team that is 2-4 on the road, but will the defense step up? NEXT: at Titans (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

16 of 16

BALTIMORE 42, NY JETS 21

JETS (5-9): Lamar Jackson’s latest showcase came against a depleted secondary and revealed a perennial Jets deficiency. Surely drawing scorn from fantasy owners facing Jackson-led teams, the Jets’ pass defense was missing Pro Bowler Jamal Adams and bounce-back slot cornerback Brian Poole. Ravens targets ran wide open in the blowout – the Jets’ seventh loss by at least two touchdowns this season – and Jackson tossed a career-high five touchdown passes and averaged 9.2 yards per pass attempt. The returns of  Adams, Poole and C.J. Mosley will help, but needs remain at boundary corner and edge rusher for yet another offseason. The Jets, who ranked 22nd in pass-defense DVOA before the Jackson rampage, have one front-seven player (free agent-to-be Jordan Jenkins) with more than three sacks. Needs across the offensive line, and the ill-advised contracts Joe Douglas’ GM predecessor authorized – such as the nightmare pact given to cornerback (and imminent dead-money sinkhole) Trumaine Johnson – will not make defensive upgrades easy, however. GAME GRADE: D-minus  | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


RAVENS (12-2): Thursday night’s win, which clinched the AFC North for the Ravens, showed us how dangerous Baltimore’s passing game is when TE Mark Andrews (58 catches, 759 yards and 8 TDs) and rookie WR Marquise Brown (43-563-7) are in the lineup. Coordinator Greg Roman does a great job scheming to get them open. Andrews stretches the field and makes plays after the catch, and he’s a supreme weapon in the red zone. Brown isn’t quite Tyreek Hill (yet), but he’s a threat against whom defenses must keep deep help on his side of the field. That can hurt against the Ravens’ NFL-leading running game. Andrews and Brown combined for eight catches, two TDs and only 97 yards, but their impact went far beyond those stats. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Browns (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_15_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30813089#slide_1

NFL Week 14 game-by-game analysis, grades

In New Orleans, the 49ers claimed the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a wild win. At New England, the Chiefs snapped the Patriots’ 21-game home winning streak. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 14 whip-around: 1 of 17

Yardbarker’s NFL Week 14 game-by-game analysis, grades

In New Orleans, the 49ers claimed the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a wild win. Also, the Chiefs snapped the Patriots’ 21-game home winning streak. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 14 whip-around: 2 of 17

SAN FRANCISCO 48, NEW ORLEANS 46

49ERS (11-2): If San Francisco won over most doubters with its performance in defeat against Baltimore in Week 13, it silenced all remaining ones with this win. Surprisingly, it was fueled by the offense and not the defense, which was strafed by Drew Brees. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for four touchdowns, and the 49ers ran for 162 yards on a Saints team that came into the game having allowed the third-fewest rushing yards in the league. Garoppolo’s performance was even more impressive because the Saints had allowed the fifth-fewest net yards per passing attempt in the league through Week 13. The 49ers control their own destiny; if they win out, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through San Francisco. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Falcons (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


SAINTS (10-3): Despite the loss, New Orleans must be thrilled with how its passing attack clicked against the top-ranked DVOA pass defense. Drew Brees was masterful, completing 29 of 40 passes for 349 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions (138.4 passer rating). TE Jared Cook, who entered the game averaging 72.8 yards receiving over his past four games, posted 38- and 26-yard touchdowns on his only two targets. This was a San Francisco defense that owned league-best marks of 5.5 yards per pass attempt allowed and an 11.3% sack rate; the 49ers did not sack Brees and allowed him to average 8.7 yards per attempt. If these teams meet again in the playoffs … whew. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Colts (Mon., Dec. 16)

— Michael Nania 3 of 17

KANSAS CITY 23, NEW ENGLAND 16

CHIEFS (9-4): Kansas City led the NFL with 52 sacks last season, but in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots, the Dee Ford-Justin Houston group did not sack Tom Brady and hit him just once. The Chiefs overhauled their D-line this offseason, and while Frank Clark and Alex Okafor are well off Ford and Houston’s statistical pace, they produced pressure in a big spot. Clark, Okafor and Chris Jones each dropped Brady, and the Chiefs hit him six times. Clark added a critical tackle for loss – one of the Chiefs’ eight Sunday – on a James White red-zone run, forcing a field goal. Kansas City’s final-play blitz led to Bashaud Breeland’s pass breakup. After midseason struggles induced panic among the Chiefs’ fan base, Kansas City’s defense has strung together back-to-back strong efforts. That’s a key development considering K.C.’s offensive capabilities. With the win, the Chiefs clinched the AFC West.
GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: vs. Broncos (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


PATRIOTS (10-3): Seventy-two of New England’s 184 passing yards came on trick plays. Bill Belichick’s defensive wizardry has consistently given his offenses high margins for error, but this group fell through that safety net Sunday. Tom Brady’s pass-catching cast is obviously a cut below the norm, but the 42-year-old quarterback cannot be absolved after averaging fewer than five yards per attempt for the third time this season. He’s enjoyed historically great circumstances for most of the Pats’ dynasty – be it elite defenses, offensive lines or the most dominant tight end ever. Does the legend have enough left to produce when his weaponry isn’t optimal? Now 2-3 against winning teams, the Patriots have coasted on the easiest schedule they’ve played in a decade chock full of them. With Bengals and Dolphins games coming soon, they will still likely earn a playoff bye. But this loss provided a sign this operation will be more vulnerable in January than any Pats team since 2009. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Bengals (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson

4 of 17

LA RAMS 28, SEATTLE 12

SEAHAWKS (10-3): Until D.K. Metcalf’s 35-yard catch with less than 10 minutes left, the Seahawks didn’t have a play over 20 yards. After opening the game with a field goal, Seattle went scoreless on its next seven offensive possessions, before kicking another field goal midway through the fourth quarter. The Seahawks are only as good as Russell Wilson and the offense on a given day. That’s usually an acceptable recipe, because they entered Week 14 fifth in the league in points per game. RB Rashaad Penny’s knee injury throws some uncertainty into Seattle’s running attack, so Chris Carson might have to shoulder a heavier burden. What Seattle really needs is for Wilson to regain his MVP form. He has four straight games with a passer rating under 100, after opening the season topping that mark in eight of nine. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Panthers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAMS (8-5): QB Jared Goff was mostly razor-sharp, and though he threw two interceptions early in the third quarter, it seemed that both were the fault of his wide receivers. Goff excelled when he wasn’t stationary; he was 7-of-7 for 134 yards and a touchdown when throwing from outside the pocket. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 2018, Goff earned the highest Pro Football Focus grade of any NFC West quarterback when it came to passing outside the pocket, easily besting Russell Wilson, who finished second. Head coach Sean McVay and Goff are figuring things out, but whether they did so in time remains to be seen. To catch Minnesota for the final wild-card spot, Los Angeles likely must win out. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Cowboys (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 5 of 17

TENNESSEE 42, OAKLAND 21

TITANS (8-5): Reports surfaced before Sunday’s game that Ryan Tannehill and the Titans were in discussions about a contract extension. It’s easy to understand why, as Tannehill has completely changed the trajectory of Tennessee’s season. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he is playing like the league MVP in his seven starts. Tannehill has the highest yards per attempt in the league, at 9.8, and his 118.9 passer rating in the eight games in which he has actually attempted a pass is also tops in the league. Tannehill’s career history suggests that eventually he will regress, but the eye test shows a quarterback who appears to have put it all together, whose success isn’t fluky or unsustainable. If Tannehill’s play continues at this level, Tennessee will have to pony up a huge amount of money on a long-term contract, but considering that the Titans’ current ceiling looks like that of a Super Bowl contender, they’ll be more than happy to do so.GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAIDERS (6-7): After throwing the football-following world off the scent with a midseason win streak, Oakland’s three consecutive blowout losses restore the expected reality. The Raiders assembled some passable defensive outings and saw growth from select players (namely DE Maxx Crosby). But the franchise will fold up shop in Oakland after deploying below-average defenses in an astounding 17 straight seasons. Ryan Tannehill’s 391-yard showing during a game when the Titans finished 8-for-11 on third downs provided more evidence the Raiders need more help. Oakland’s secondary covered and tackled poorly, with Titans rookie wideout A.J. Brown joining RB Derrick Henry in shrugging off Raider defenders. The Khalil Mack trade gives the Raiders the Bears’ 2020 first- and third-round picks – although Chicago owns Oakland’s second-rounder from that deal. Beyond wide receiver, the Las Vegas-bound team needs reinforcements at cornerback, linebacker and on the defensive line. With his team projected to hold $73 million in 2020 cap space, expect Jon Gruden to land multiple veteran upgrades as well.  GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Jaguars (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 6 of 17

LA CHARGERS 45, JACKSONVILLE 10

CHARGERS (5-8): The Chargers showed a glimmer of what could have been Sunday in Jacksonville. One contributor continues to hover above the rest. Austin Ekeler’s performances will represent the best Bolts memories from this season. The Chargers should initiate extension talks with their explosive passing-down back, who is a restricted free agent-to-be. Ekeler totaled 213 scrimmage yards (17.7 per touch), delivering a career-best 101 on the ground. Eighty-four of Ekeler’s yards came on a tunnel-screen touchdown. He became the second Charger to eclipse 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game, joining not LaDainian Tomlinson but Lionel James. James is one of three backs to amass 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Ekeler leads 2019 backs with 830 and has a chance to reach 1,000. The Chargers can draft a between-the-tackles Melvin Gordon replacement, but the 24-year-old’s low mileage (404 touches in three seasons) makes him a good bet to maintain long-term value. GAME GRADE: A + | NEXT: vs. Vikings (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


JAGUARS (4-9): The Jaguars lost their fifth straight game by at least 17 points. Focusing on any individual player’s performance for Jacksonville is irrelevant. The real story is that Doug Marrone has very likely coached his final game for the Jaguars. The team certainly appears to have quit on him, and with another losing season guaranteed, owner Shad Khan needs to take a hard look at his franchise and decide what he wants it to be. A star-studded defense has imploded, battled with the front office and ultimately turned into a shell of its former self, and while rookie QB Gardner Minshew is a fun story, there are serious quarterback questions to answer. Firing Marrone is an obvious, easy move. Taking a long, honest look at what has ailed this franchise comes next, and that is the hard part. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Raiders (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

7 of 17

BALTIMORE 24, BUFFALO 17

RAVENS (11-2): Baltimore clinched a playoff berth in a difficult environment in Buffalo. But it also potentially exposed an area of concern: TE Mark Andrews left early with a right knee injury for a Ravens team short on quality receivers. Hayden Hurst (3 catches for 73 yards) played well in Andrews’ absence, but Ravens wideouts had a rough time gaining separation against a quality secondary. No one besides Hurst had more than 29 yards receiving. QB Lamar Jackson (145 yards passing and 40 rushing) did just enough. Another positive: With New England’s loss, the Ravens tightened their grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Jets (Thurs.)

— Matt Williamson


BILLS (9-4): Buffalo allowed six sacks, managed 209 yards and converted 4 of 18 third- and fourth-down plays. But there was a silver lining: The Bills held the Ravens to a season-low 118 rushing yards. Considering the AFC favorites are on pace to (somehow in 2019) to break the NFL season rushing yardage record, this represents an achievement for any team – let alone a Bills defense that entered 22nd in run-defense DVOA. Lamar Jackson had a season-worst 185 yards, and Baltimore’s multifaceted ground attack averaged 3.6 yards per carry after coming into Sunday at 5.5. The Bills did not score a touchdown until seven minutes remained yet still had an opportunity at a tying score. This margin for error shows more development from Buffalo’s defense, strengthening the Bills’ chances for what would be their first playoff win in 24 years. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Steelers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 8 of 17

DENVER 38, HOUSTON 24

BRONCOS (5-8): The bevy of non-Paxton Lynch Broncos quarterbacks between Peyton Manning and Drew Lock enjoyed moments, but Sunday’s game provides a stronger indicator about Denver’s future than productive games from Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenum or Joe Flacco. Lock’s 22-for-27, 309-yard, three-touchdown pass showing in Houston gave Denver its best win this season. It marked a major improvement from Lock’s choppy debut in Week 13. Whereas Flacco and Brandon Allen squandered fourth-quarter leads, Lock’s effort built a big enough advantage that it would have taken an NFL-record collapse for the Broncos to lose it. The second-round rookie displayed his blend of arm strength – via the middle-of-the-field laser to TE Noah Fant for Denver’s first touchdown – mobility and patience on well-designed plays. The Broncos entered this game a candidate to use their 2020 first-round pick on a quarterback. Barring a significant Lock regression over the final three games, they can prepare to build around him next season. GAME GRADE: A + | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


TEXANS (8-5): No team had a more embarrassing Week 14 than the Texans, who put their status as AFC South favorites in question. Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions and couldn’t get anything going until the game was out of reach, but Houston’s defense was its real issue. The Texans entered the game 28th in the league in pass defense and played down to that ranking and then some against rookie Drew Lock, who was making just his second NFL start. Lock picked apart Houston’s secondary despite not having much of a running game (90 yards). The game illustrated Houston’s chief vulnerability on defense and was an object lesson in how quickly things can go bad for the Texans if Watson and DeAndre Hopkins don’t deliver spectacular individual performances. A road date with the Titans for control of the AFC South looms, and the Texans can’t be feeling good about themselves. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Titans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 9 of 17

TAMPA BAY 38, INDIANAPOLIS 35

COLTS (6-7): Indianapolis’ playoff hopes are probably cooked because it was unable to dictate the terms of this game. Jameis Winston and the Bucs are accustomed to playing turnover- and point-filled track meets. Colts QB Jacoby Brissett did his best to keep up, and Indy’s defense scored points courtesy of a Darius Leonard interception return, but Indianapolis was gashed by Tampa Bay’s offense for 542 yards, the most it has allowed all season. The Colts couldn’t run the ball, lost badly in the time-of-possession battle and simply ran out of gas. Well, at least kicker Adam Vinatieri, who missed the game with a left knee injury, didn’t blow this one. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Saints (Mon., Dec. 16)

— Chris Mueller


BUCS (6-7): It’s not often we give a quarterback kudos when he throws three interceptions, but Jameis Winston was mostly stellar against the Colts’ 14th-ranked DVOA defense. He completed 33 of 45 passes for four touchdowns and 456 yards, 10.1 yards per attempt. Head coach Bruce Arians got everybody in on the party. No Buccaneer hit the 100-yard receiving mark, but nine different players collected at least 19 yards receiving and four different players hauled in touchdowns. Tampa Bay is red-hot, winning four of its past five games and averaging 29.6 points over that stretch. The Bucs’ playoff chances are minuscule, but they are building a foundation for 2020. GAME GRADE: B+  | NEXT: at Lions (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

10 of 17

PITTSBURGH 23, ARIZONA 17

STEELERS (8-5): In what was quasi-home game for the Steelers in Arizona, Devlin “Duck” Hodges threw for only 152 yards, but he was efficient. The star of this game, however, was rookie Diontae Johnson, a third-round pick out of Toledo. He scored Pittsburgh’s first touchdown on a dynamic, 85-yard punt return. In the third quarter, Johnson again showed off his vision and explosion with the ball in his hands on a screen play in which he reversed fields and made something out of nothing. A few plays later, Johnson scored his second touchdown with a crisp, two-yard out route for a TD. He has great body control and the ability to explode out of his sharp breaks. But Johnson’s sharp route running is where he really thrives. Wow, the Steelers can find receivers. GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT: vs. Bills (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


CARDINALS (3-9-1): Kyler Murray saw an unfortunate but predictable trend continue against the Steelers: Against the league’s better defenses, he usually struggles. Murray has two strong games against San Francisco on his resume, but against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and the Saints, he has been unable to make big plays with regularity. Part of that is a reflection of the Cardinals’ overall lack of talent, but some of it is on Murray. Pittsburgh harassed him all game, sacking him five times and intercepting three passes. Murray has five interceptions in his past four games, after going five straight contests without a turnover. Taking more chances is good for Murray in the long run, but as the Cardinals proved yet again, their road back to contention will be long and arduous and will require a major roster overhaul. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Browns (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 11 of 17

ATLANTA 40, CAROLINA 20

PANTHERS (5-8): It’s like clockwork. Week after week, opponents shred the Panthers on the ground with ease. The Falcons, who entered Week 14 ranked 27th in rush offense DVOA, ran 32 times for 159 yards (5.0 per attempt) and two touchdowns on Carolina’s abysmal run defense. The Panthers have allowed league-worst marks of 5.3 yards per rush attempt and 24 rushing touchdowns. Significant resources must be invested in the defense in the offseason. With better run defense, the Panthers would have two or three more wins, despite their problems at quarterback. Carolina Kyle Allen again was poor (28-for-41, 293 yards, two interceptions). GAME GRADE: F |  NEXT: vs. Seahawks

— Michael Nania


FALCONS (4-9): The offense was strong, averaging 6.9 yards per play. Matt Ryan posted his second game with 300-plus yards on 9.0-plus yards per attempt against the Panthers in a four-week span. An unlikely hero helped break the game open for the Falcons: undrafted free agent Olamide Zaccheaus. He entered Week 14 having played just 32 offensive snaps; he did not have a target or a touch. Against the Panthers, Zaccheaus broke free for a 93-yard touchdown on the first grab of his NFL career and his only catch of the game. The Falcons wrapped up a five-game stretch against divisional opponents with a 3-2 record. Is that enough to save head coach Dan Quinn? GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: at 49ers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 12 of 17

NY JETS 22, MIAMI 21

DOLPHINS (3-10): With the Giants and Bengals still on the Dolphins’ schedule, a team with one of the worst rosters in modern NFL history could finish 5-11. Were it not for an overturned pass-interference call that allowed the Jets to kick a winning field goal, the Dolphins would have possessed a six-win ceiling. That is borderline unfathomable, based on Miami’s offseason actions and the talent trades and injuries removed from the roster in-season. Brian Flores appears to be the right coach for this rebuild. He has gotten more from this roster than almost anyone envisioned. First-time offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea has also overseen the long-awaited, oft-doubted breakout by WR DeVante Parker. This resembles a semi-competent offense despite a replacement-level offensive line. The Dolphins have less talent than the 0-16 Browns of  2017, yet Flores has lapped Hue Jackson’s work. Even without the No. 1 overall pick, the Flores-led Dolphins are on the right track. And his 2020 roster will be much better. GAME GRADE: C+ | NEXT: at Giants (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


JETS (5-8): A recent trade candidate, Robby Anderson may be positioning himself for a long-term Jets extension. Or he could be one of the prizes in a thin wide receiver free-agent class. Sam Darnold located his most talented receiver seven times for 116 yards against the Dolphins, and the fourth-year deep threat found space across the field against Miami’s undermanned secondary. Anderson’s extra-effort touchdown helped the Jets win a meaningless game, but this stretch is more about evaluation than final scores. Dating to last season, the 26-year-old wideout has shown chemistry with Darnold. However, Anderson’s career has included inconsistency and off-field issues. If the Cowboys extend Dak Prescott and use their franchise tag on Amari Cooper, Anderson would be the top 20-something wideout on the market. It will take eight figures per year for the Jets to retain him, but without any young outside threats on the roster, GM Joe Douglas must consider an Anderson re-up. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Ravens (Thurs.)

— Sam Robinson

13 of 17

MINNESOTA 20, DETROIT 7

LIONS (3-9-1): No one should expect David Blough to be Matthew Stafford. But this game was a massive step backward from his impressive showing in a loss to Chicago on Thanksgiving Day. He missed open throws and threw two interceptions, but what stood out most was how poorly he handled himself in the pocket. The Vikings have a very good pass-rush — DE Danielle Hunter in particular caused great problems for the Lions’ protection. But Blough is to blame more than Detroit’s pass blocking. He held the ball too long, didn’t feel the rush around him, and even when the Vikings were not bearing down on him, he perceived pressure that wasn’t there. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Bucs (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


VIKINGS (9-4): Minnesota’s cornerback situation (See Rhodes, Xavier) is problematic. But the Vikings, who won their fifth straight game, may have found something in one of their former first-round picks. Mike Hughes blanketed Marvin Jones (3 catches) much of the game, as the Vikings limited the Lions to only 161 yards passing. Coming into this game, the only advantage the Lions’ offense had on paper was the combination of WR Kenny Golladay, who is impressive, and Jones against Minnesota’s outside cornerbacks. Hughes may give head coach Mike Zimmer a possible answer to one of this team’s biggest questions as the Vikings head toward the playoffs. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: at LA Chargers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 14 of 17

GREEN BAY 20, WASHINGTON 15

REDSKINS (3-10): Washington’s defense did an admirable job in Green Bay keeping a high-octane offense in check. The Packers, who came into the week ranked seventh in points per drive (2.24), scored just 20 points, their lowest mark of the season at Lambeau Field. The Redskins got after Aaron Rodgers, sacking him four times and registering seven quarterback hits. It was a team effort, as four different players picked up a sack and seven different players picked up a hit. Rodgers passed for 195 yards, his worst mark in a fully played home game since Week 4 of 2017. The Redskins are doing some nice things to set the tone for their future. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


PACKERS (10-3): The Redskins ‘ offense has some decent, young pieces, but no one is going to confuse it with the 2019 Saints’ attack. Green Bay took care of business, limiting rookie QB to Dwayne Haskins to 170 yards passing. But the Packers’ run defense may be a weak link. Packers tackling was shoddy at times, and they weren’t disciplined controlling gaps. It wasn’t a horrible showing against the run but something to be mindful of in the playoffs. That’s when the defense won’t be able to stack the box against much more formidable passing teams. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Bears (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 15 of 17

CLEVELAND 27, CINCINNATI 19

BENGALS (1-12): RB Joe Mixon was easily Cincinnati’s best player in this game. Although his stats early in the season were poor, it wasn’t his fault. The line rarely opened holes. Now with cracks to slip through, Mixon looks like one of the best running backs in the league. Against the Browns, he ran with passion, burst and power (146 yards) and showed terrific change-of-direction ability against a defense geared to stop him. The Bengals even split Mixon out wide and threw him deep routes against linebacker coverage. (He had 40 yards receiving.) The Bengals’ offense, with OT Jonah Williams returning next year, isn’t as far off as many might think. GAME GRADE: C + | NEXT: vs. Patriots (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


BROWNS (6-7): Cleveland was far too pass-heavy in the first half, especially considering the Bengals rush the passer well but are horrendous against the run. In the second half, Cleveland’s offense went through RBs Nick Chubb (106 yards) and Kareem Hunt. (26 yards rushing and 40 receiving) Smart, smart move: The Browns’ pass protection is a liability, and QB Baker Mayfield and WR Odell Beckham’s on-the-field relationship couldn’t be more disjointed. Perhaps the coaching staff will stick to the ground in the final three  games. (Psst: I don’t trust ’em.) Beckham (2 catches, 39 yards), reportedly dealing with a sports hernia injury, remains a disappointment. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

NY GIANTS AT PHILADELPHIA

GIANTS (2-10): Perhaps veteran QB Eli Manning  who hasn’t played since Week 2, can solve the Giants’ turnover woes. Rookie QB Daniel Jones, out with a high ankle sprain, has 21 turnovers this season. Manning is coming off of a 2018 season in which he posted a career-low interception rate of 1.9%, and he did a solid job at the beginning of 2019 with just two interceptions over 89 pass attempts (2.2%  rate, better than league average of 2.3%). Philadelphia has struggled a bit in taking the ball away as well as limiting the effectiveness of opposing quarterbacks, ranking 18th in takeaway rate (10.7%, below league average of 11.9%) and 19th in passer rating allowed (91.8). 

— Michael Nania


EAGLES (5-7): The defense must perform at a consistently dominant level, which it has the talent to do. The Eagles are 19th in points allowed per drive (1.99), after yielding a season-worst 37 points to the hapless Dolphins in Week 13. The Eagles, who stunningly could still win the terrible NFC East, are surprisingly mediocre against the pass. They are tied for 19th in net yards per pass attempt allowed (6.4 versus league average of 6.3) and are allowing the 10th-highest touchdown pass rate (5.2% versus league average of 4.5%). This unit has the talent to be substantially more reliable than that.  NEXT: at Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 17 of 17

CHICAGO 31, DALLAS 24

BEARS (7-6): Much maligned this season, QB Mitch Trubisky has played significantly better recently. Led by WR Allen Robinson (76 catches for 898 yards), he’s throwing to a better group of receivers than some may realize. The third-year QB’s passing prowess showed up again Thursday night (244 yards and three TDs). But in this game, we saw the running ability (10 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown) that was so crucial for him in 2018, when he scampered for 421 yards. The Cowboys did a really poor job of tackling, but Trubisky was smart when he chose to run, avoiding taking punishment. Trubisky looks much healthier and more confident now than he did in the first half of the season and is making a strong push to be Chicago’s starter in 2020. Using his legs as a weapon (143 rushing yards in 2019) sure helps. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Packers (Sun.)

 — Matt Williamson


COWBOYS (6-7): The Cowboys’ struggles against strong competition continued in Chicago, as they fell to 0-6 in games against teams with a winning record. Dallas, somehow still in first in the NFC East, has been close, as the loss to the Bears marked its ‘ fourth loss by seven points or fewer out of those six games. Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky carved up the struggling pass defense (which entered Week 14 ranked 23rd in DVOA), posting three touchdowns, a 115.5 passer rating and a season-best 80.6 QBR. Slot corner Jourdan Lewis was a primary culprit, yielding four catches on four targets for 64 yards and three first downs. One was an eight-yard touchdown to Allen Robinson. Lewis has given up 12 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at LA Rams (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_14_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30753680#slide_1

By: Yardbarker Staff

NFL Week 14 matchups: An insiders’ guide

Yardbarker’s Sam Robinson and Michael Nania go deep inside NFL games each week, focusing on key numbers and roster issues. 

GLOSSARY: 

DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average): A method of evaluating teams, units or players in a comparative fashion. It takes every play during the NFL season and compares each to a league-average baseline based on situation.

EPA (Estimated Points Added): The measure of a play’s impact on the score of the game. It represents the difference between a team’s “expected points value” (the net point value a team can expect given a particular combination of down, distance and field position) before and after a play. 

Net Yards Per Pass Attempt: Passing yards per attempt adjusted for sack yardage. 

THURSDAY

Dallas (6-6) at Chicago (6-6), 8:20 p.m. ET

Inside Cowboys numbers: Dallas is 0-5 against teams that currently have a winning record. The Cowboys lost the turnover battle 10 to one in those games.  

Inside Cowboys roster: With Amari Cooper on pace to eclipse his season yardage high by nearly 150, Dallas’ decision to trade a first-round pick for him worked out. Despite Cooper wanting to stay in Dallas, it will probably come down to the team’s ability to extend Dak Prescott before the March 10 franchise tag deadline. Prescott will certainly take precedence if this extension saga moves to this point, forcing the Cowboys to tag him and thus sending Cooper to free agency. If the Cowboys cannot navigate this situation and keep an important player off the market, it will be an organizational failure.

Inside Bears numbers: Chicago’s defense has overcome unfavorable circumstances to remain one of the league’s most dominant units, ranking fourth in scoring defense per drive (1.50) despite playing with the second-worst average starting field position (opponent’s 31-yard line). The Bears allow the fourth-fewest yards per rush attempt (3.7) and seventh-fewest net yards per pass attempt (5.8). 

Inside Bears roster: Chicago has not featured a long-term receiver duo since its Brandon Marshall-Alshon Jeffery tandem, but Anthony Miller has crept into the equation as a potential Allen Robinson complement. Despite a part-time role for half the season, the Bears’ second-year slot receiver surpassed his rookie-year receptions and yards total in Week 13 via his career-high nine-grab, 140-yard showing. Miller has exceeded 50 yards in six of his past eight games and is now a full-time player. Given Chicago’s issues at tight end, Miller’s development is critical for a Robinson-reliant passing attack.

SUNDAY

Carolina (5-7) at Atlanta (3-9), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Panthers numbers: Carolina’s 22 rush touchdowns allowed is the most through 12 games since the 2000 Cardinals. After taking on Atlanta’s 25th-ranked DVOA run game, the Panthers will play three teams ranked in the top-13 of rush offense DVOA (Seahawks, Colts, Saints), so more embarrassment could be on the way.

Inside Panthers roster: Despite Carolina’s struggles over the past two seasons, Ron Rivera should be a candidate elsewhere soon. But second-year owner David Tepper firing the two-time Coach of the Year was easy to anticipate, given his comments since arriving. It will be interesting to see if the Panthers stick with Cam Newton, as Kyle Allen has predictably shown he’s more a backup QB than a viable starter, given Newton’s relationship with Rivera. Tepper seeking a “modern” coach should point to the Panthers’ next leader having an offensive background.

Inside Falcons numbers: The offense is respectable, ranking 10th in EPA and 12th in points per drive (2.02). The Falcons are doing this despite a down season from QB Matt Ryan, who averages his fewest yards per attempt (7.3) since 2013 (6.9).

Inside Falcons roster: Some of the Falcons’ pass-protection issues in the Saints’ franchise-record-tying nine-sack performance stemmed from three offensive linemen being out, but backups Ty Sambrailo and Wes Schweitzer are ex-starters with several years’ experience. Atlanta’s line has underwhelmed throughout what’s been a wasted year for a veteran-laden roster. With the Falcons projected to be over the 2020 salary cap (without many cuts possible) and having used two first-round picks on linemen this year, the team will need to need to bargain shop for any upgrades it seeks for this unit.

Indianapolis (6-6) at Tampa Bay (5-7), 1 p.m. ET 

Inside Colts numbers: The Colts have stubbornly stuck with a washed-up Adam Vinatieri, and it has cost them dearly. Vinatieri has missed eight field goals (tied for league lead with Robbie Gould) and six extra points (most in the league). His 30 points worth of missed kicks is by far the highest total in the league.

Inside Colts roster: Indianapolis is in a dire place at wide receiver. In addition to T.Y. Hilton battling injuries throughout the season, would-be No. 2 wideout Devin Funchess will not come off IR as the team once expected he would. Third-round rookie Parris Campbell has 115 yards receiving  in five games and has not played since Week 9, and the Colts just placed auxiliary cog Chester Rogers on IR. QB Jacoby Brissett will have a difficult time keeping Indianapolis in the playoff race.

Inside Bucs numbers: Coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense has dealt with bad field position (sixth worst) due to an offense that owns the second-highest turnover rate (18.2 percent). But the group has prevailed with impressive situational football. The Bucs’ defense ranks 10th in takeaway rate (13.5 percent), and 14th in the red zone (54.3 percent). 

Inside Bucs roster: Now two sacks from Warren Sapp’s season Bucs record of 16.5, pass-rusher Shaq Barrett looks like an extension no-brainer. But with he, Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib on expiring contracts, this current Bucs strength spot will be a need area soon. JPP being willing to accept a discount or an incentive-laden deal would help, given his history, but Tampa Bay may need to consider an early-round edge rusher pick due to its uncertainty here and a pricey Barrett extension likely on tap.

Miami (3-9) at N.Y. Jets (4-8), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Dolphins numbers: A dose of Fitzmagic has made the Dolphins surprisingly competitive. Fitzpatrick ranks 12th among qualified quarterbacks in QBR (60). Since Week 9, the Dolphins rank 11th in points per game (24.6), a feat nobody would have figured possible after Miami entered the bye week averaging 6.5 points.

Inside Dolphins roster: The only borderline name-brand player in Miami’s patchwork secondary, Eric Rowe signed a three-year extension this week. This move may well check off one of the Dolphins’ many needs with the ex-Patriots cornerback-turned-Dolphins safety signed through 2022 and 2018 extension recipient Bobby McCain due back from injury next year. While the Dolphins need help nearly everywhere, they appear content with their in-house safeties.

Inside Jets numbers: The run defense has allowed a league-low 2.89 yards per rush attempt, 1.4 yards below the 2019 league average of 4.29. If the Jets can maintain that mark, they would top the Super Bowl era (since 1966) record held by the 2000 Ravens (-1.39 differential, with 2.69 yards per rush allowed versus league average of 4.08). 

Inside Jets roster: C.J. Mosley’s top 2019 NFL contribution was changing the off-ball linebacker market, with his Jets deal representing a staggering $4.5 million-per-year markup from 2018’s top contract at the position. But a player who missed three games in five years with the Ravens is now on IR after missing most of the Jets’ 2019 snaps due to a nagging groin problem. The Jets will need a strong 2020 from Mosley to remotely justify this outlandish $17M-per-year price, because they cannot reasonably escape this contract until 2022.

San Francisco (10-2) at New Orleans (10-2), 1 p.m. ET

Inside 49ers numbers: In Week 13, the 49ers held Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson to a career-low 4.6 yards per pass attempt; he entered the game averaging a 10.1 yards per attempt over his previous three games. San Francisco’s secondary leads the NFL in fewest yards per pass attempt allowed (5.5) despite having played games against Jackson, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. 

Inside 49ers roster: Although San Francisco needed Emmanuel Sanders, the team’s second-round pick Deebo Samuel pick looks like a decision that will benefit many future 49er offenses. The rookie has become the reliable target the franchise hoped 2018 Round 2 choice Dante Pettis would be, with 564 yards and a strong midseason surge aiding Jimmy Garoppolo in the team’s biggest games in six years. Pettis should not be discarded just yet, given his impressive finish to last season, but Samuel has helped the 49ers cover for the second-year wideout’s disappearance and will be a key figure for the revitalized franchise.

Inside Saints numbers: The Saints are excellent producing stops on third down, allowing the sixth-lowest conversion rate (34.4 percent). Cornerback Marshon Lattimore is a driving force behind that success, as he is tied for second among all players with seven passes defended on third down.

Inside Saints roster: New Orleans has never really replaced tight end Jimmy Graham since trading him in 2015, but Jared Cook – his Thanksgiving drops notwithstanding – has proven to be a worthwhile investment at two years and $15 million. Since Drew Brees’ return from injury, the veteran tight end has exceeded 70 yards in three of his four games and has scored twice. Despite being 32, Cook is averaging 45.9 yards per game – the third most of his career – and at least gives defenses more to worry about than Ben Watson, Coby Fleener or Josh Hill did.

Detroit (3-8-1) at Minnesota (8-4), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Lions numbers: Detroit struggles to score without injured QB Matthew Stafford, going 0-4 and averaging 19 points in four games without him after going 3-4-1 and averaging 23.8 offensive points over eight games with him. Jeff Driskel and David Blough are mediocre, combining to average 6.7 yards per attempt (league average 7.3).

Inside Lions roster: Detroit almost has Pittsburgh outflanked on December’s weirdest quarterback starter. While David Blough did go to a Division I-FBS school (Purdue), unlike Devlin Hodges, he spent his first NFL months with the Browns before being traded to the Lions in August. With Jeff Driskel now on IR, Blough has an unusual opportunity to audition to be Matthew Stafford’s backup next year. These final four Lions games may look irrelevant on the surface, but considering Stafford’s back issues the past two years, identifying a future backup will be important.

Inside Vikings numbers: The Vikings are average on the road, ranking 16th in win percentage (.429) and 13th in point differential (+9). Conversely, are dominant at home (5-0), ranking third in point differential (+68) and sitting with the Patriots as the only team yet to lose. 

Inside Vikings roster: Many of Minnesota’s recent-years extensions have benefited its defense – from Danielle Hunter to Everson Griffen to Eric Kendricks to Harrison Smith. But the Vikings’ Xavier Rhodes deal appears to have outlived its usefulness, with the $14 million-per-year cornerback exiting Week 13 as Pro Football Focus’ No. 109 player at this position. The Seahawks (badly) burned the former first-round pick and All-Pro for a 60-yard touchdown Monday. One of four first- or second-round corners on Minnesota’s roster, Rhodes, 29, runs the risk of being a trade or cut candidate next year.

Denver (4-8) at Houston (8-4), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Broncos numbers: Denver’s defense is tough to beat in the red zone, allowing the lowest touchdown rate in the league (39.4 percent). The secondary is particularly stout in the red area, allowing a first down or touchdown on a league-low 15.4 percent of red-zone pass plays.

Inside Broncos roster: Denver entered this season with each of its starting defensive linemen in a contract year, but frequent healthy scratch Adam Gotsis has faded out of the long-term picture and Derek Wolfe is now on IR. Wolfe and versatile defensive end Shelby Harris profile as extension candidates, and while a Justin Simmons re-up or a third Chris Harris deal may take precedence, the Broncos’ situation here should mean either Wolfe or Harris stays. Wolfe has said he wants a third Denver deal and made a case as a fit for head coach Vic Fangio, recording a career-high seven sacks pre-injury.

Inside Texans numbers: Deshaun Watson is enjoying unprecedented success to begin his career; he is on track to become the first quarterback in league history to post a 100-plus passer rating in each of his first three seasons. Watson is electric on third down, posting a 109.4 passer rating, helping Houston rank fourth in third- down conversion rate (45.8 percent). 

Inside Texans roster: Overlooked amid one of the biggest wins in Texans history: a report indicating they plan to keep their GM-less setup in 2020. The Texans fired GM Brian Gaine in May, after barely a year on the job, and have used head coach Bill O’Brien as the new front office boss. O’Brien (50-42 as Texans HC) has not won enough to hold this job in non-emergency situations and has traded two first-round picks, a second-rounder, two third-rounders and Jadeveon Clowney since August. A GM-less blueprint is incredibly risky for the Texans, who were thought to make another run at Patriots exec Nick Caserio once his contract expires at season’s end.

Baltimore (10-2) at Buffalo (9-3), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Ravens numbers: Baltimore is on track to set Super Bowl-era records for yards per rush rush attempt (5.6) and total rushing yards (on pace for 3,325). All four of the Ravens’ remaining games are against teams ranked in the top half of defensive DVOA (Bills, Jets, Browns, Steelers).

Inside Ravens roster: Justin Tucker is the NFL’s highest-paid kicker, making $5 million annually. That fits nicely into the kicker price range, but with the salary barely $200,000 per year more than the second-highest-paid kicker, the Ravens have an incredible bargain. The most accurate kicker in NFL history just made perhaps the season’s most important field goal – his 49-yarder in the rain to beat the 49ers – and is on his way to what would be a record (for pure kickers) fourth first-team All-Pro honor. In a year featuring widespread kicker unreliability, the Ravens’ Tucker contract has never been more important.

Inside Bills numbers: The defense is superb, ranking third in fewest points allowed per drive (1.25). The secondary and pass rush have worked together beautifully, as the Bills are tied for second in passes defended (69) and eighth in sack rate (8.1 percent). That combination has Buffalo ranked third in opponent passer rating (78.5) and net yards per pass attempt (5.1). 

Inside Bills roster: Josh Allen has accounted for 16 touchdowns and has thrown one interception since Week 7, and Buffalo’s offseason additions have undeniably aided his development. John Brown leads the Bills in receiving, and Cole Beasley has given the improving quarterback a consistent target. Signed for barely $7 million per year, Beasley is averaging a career-best 52.9 yards per game. Brown and Beasley’s combined salaries match ex-Bill Sammy Watkins’, and the lower-profile new tandem is on pace to give the Bills two 800-yard receivers for the first time since 2003.

Cincinnati (1-11) at Cleveland (5-7), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Bengals numbers: Defensive strides are being made in Cincinnati, as the Bengals have allowed just 13 points per game over the past three weeks. Improved pass defense is the key, as the Bengals have yielded a passer rating of just 82.8 over the last three weeks, after giving up a mark of 107.4 over their first nine games. 

Inside Bengals roster: Cincinnati has gotten little from its past three first-round picks this season, with Jonah Williams (2019) out all season and John Ross (2017) missing much of it. Hope remains for each, however. But the Bengals’ 2018 first-rounder, center-guard Billy Price, is on the verge of “bust” status. The Bengals benched the ex-Ohio State standout again Sunday, replacing him at right guard with fourth-round rookie Michael Jordan. This came a week after Price was set to be replaced at guard by the now-injured Alex Redmond and months after he lost his center job in training camp.

Inside Browns numbers: Baker Mayfield has dipped significantly in his second season, ranking last among qualifiers in passer rating (79.9). He has struggled mightily to get on the same page with WR Odell Beckham, who is posting career-lows in receiving yards per game (67.1), receiving touchdowns per game (0.17), and catch rate (55.3 percent).

Inside Browns roster: An overmatched Freddie Kitchens and a regressing Mayfield are essentially wasting a year of Beckham prime. A player who once carried the 2016 Giants to the playoffs and may still be the game’s most talented receiver ranks 29th in the league, trailing four tight ends, in yards per game. The Browns owe Beckham a non-guaranteed $14 million salary next year, and while that setup makes him a valuable trade asset, Cleveland’s next play-caller must get more from the 27-year-old star.

Washington (3-9) at Green Bay (8-4), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Redskins numbers: Washington would like to see more flashes from rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who has thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions. He has averaged only 6.0 yards per attempt over his 133 pass attempts. Better protection would go a long way, as Haskins has taken a high sack rate of 14.2 percent (22 sacks total).

Inside Redskins roster: It’s safe to say Quinton Dunbar has outplayed his contract. The Redskins did well to extend him at $3.4 million average annual value on New Year’s Day 2018 – the first day the former UDFA was extension-eligible – and have seen the fifth-year defender spend most of the season rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 cornerback. Head coach Bill Callahan benched $15M-per-year corner Josh Norman, a surefire cut candidate after this season, and the Redskins have won two straight games with Dunbar and Fabian Moreau working as their boundary corners. Expect Dunbar, whose contract runs through 2020, to seek a raise soon.

Inside Packers numbers: Green Bay’s passing attack is disappointingly average outside of the red zone, ranking 15th in yards per pass play (7.5) and 19th in passing first-down rate (32.2 percent). Inside the red zone has been a different story, as the Packers rank second in touchdown rate (70 percent) and eighth in passing conversion rate (36.8 percent).

Inside Packers roster: Even though Allen Lazard caught three passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s snow game in East Rutherford, N.J.,, Green Bay does not have a reliable pass-catcher beyond Davante Adams. The Packers let Randall Cobb defect to the Cowboys in free agency, and he’s outplayed each of Green Bay’s younger auxiliary wideouts. With Jimmy Graham also a shell of his Pro Bowl self, GM Brian Gutekunst must address the team’s pass-catching situation in 2020 after ignoring it this year.

L.A. Chargers (4-8) at Jacksonville (4-8), 4:05 p.m. ET

Inside Chargers numbers: L.A. has a 2-8 record in games decided by seven points or less, with three consecutive one-score losses entering Week 14. Los Angeles’ total of eight losses by seven points or less is tied for the most through a team’s first 12 games in NFL history (along with the 1993 Patriots and 2001 Lions).

Inside Chargers roster: Not much has gone well around him, but 15th-year linebacker Thomas Davis has shown he can still play. Signed to a two-year, $10.5 million deal in advance of his age-36 season, Davis has 96 tackles – 35 more than any other Charger. After considering retirement while still in Carolina, it is entirely possible he will be kept on Los Angeles’ payroll through the 2020 season. Not many off-ball ‘backers have been starters at age 37; London Fletcher in 2013 serves as the most recent example.

Inside Jaguars numbers: Nick Foles was highly ineffective after returning from injury, averaging 5.1 net yards per attempt and tossing just two touchdowns over 109 attempts (1.8 percent touchdown rate). Rookie Gardner Minshew, who remains 16th in net yards per attempt (6.1) and 17th in passer rating (91.1), should provide a boost as he makes his final pitch to become Jacksonville’s quarterback of the future. 

Inside Jaguars roster: Going back to Minshew does not necessarily doom Foles in Jacksonville, but signing off on the Foles deal a year after authorizing the Blake Bortles extension does not look good for the Jaguars. The bizarre Bortles reinvestment tagged the franchise with $16.5 million in 2019 dead money, which forced cap-casualty cuts of starting defenders, and the Jags proceeded to give Foles $50M guaranteed despite perhaps bidding against themselves. Head coach Doug Marrone might not be the only scapegoat for the past two years; GM David Caldwell’s job could be in jeopardy. 

Pittsburgh (7-5) at Arizona (3-8-1), 4:25 p.m. ET

Inside Steelers numbers: The Steelers’ pass rush is almost unstoppable in Pittsburgh, leading the NFL with 5.0 sacks per game and a 12.7 percent sack rate. The record for sacks at home in a season is 41, held by the 1985 Los Angeles Raiders. Conversely, the pass rush ranks 29th in sacks per game on the road (1.6).

Inside Steelers roster: Though they are winning games with a rookie UDFA from Division I-FCS Samford at quarterback, the Steelers still need their running game more than most contenders. James Conner has now missed seven games since becoming the starter last season, and he remains questionable going into Week 14. While he’s fared worse than his Pro Bowl 2018, Conner still represents an upgrade on the Benny Snell-Jaylen Samuels tandem. Conner’s injuries will affect his value when it comes time to see if the Steelers are up for negotiating an extension with Le’Veon Bell’s successor next year.

Inside Cardinals numbers: Arizona must get Kyler Murray back on track. He has averaged a minuscule 4.7 yards per attempt over his past two games (finishing with under 5.0 yards per attempt in each game). Getting Christian Kirk more involved needs to be a focal point. Kirk has averaged just 4.5 catches for 32 yards over his last two games, following a six-catch, 138-yard, three-touchdown breakout in Tampa Bay four weeks ago. 

Inside Cardinals roster: The Cardinals, who have the NFL’s worst pass defense, allowed embattled Rams QB Jared Goff to throw for 424 yards in three quarters in Week 13. The secondary’s leader, Patrick Peterson, has struggled since his return from a six-game PED suspension but recently spoke of a desire for another Cardinals extension. Do the Cards want to pay top dollar for Peterson’s early 30s? By resisting trade interest the past two years, it would seem they would have to negotiate with the signed-through-2020 cornerback next year. Regardless of how this process goes, Arizona needs plenty of secondary help.

Tennessee (7-5) at Oakland (6-6), 4:25 p.m. ET

Inside Titans numbers: The Titans are 5-1 with an average of 29.7 points per game under Ryan Tannehill, versus 2-4 with an average of 14.7 points per game under Marcus Mariota. Tannehill leads qualified quarterbacks in passer rating (113.9) and yards per attempt (9.1) 

Inside Titans roster: Tennessee interestingly did not pick up Jack Conklin’s fifth-year option in May, putting him on track for 2020 free agency. The right tackle who missed time in 2018 because two knee injuries has been a key part of Tennessee’s bludgeoning ground attack, helping Derrick Henry become a Pro Bowl candidate. The 2016 first-round pick (Pro Football Focus’ No. 16 overall tackle) resides in good position, after Trent Brown, Ja’Wuan James and Lane Johnson transformed the right tackle market this year. With Henry also a free agent next year, the Titans have some major decisions forthcoming.

Inside Raiders numbers: The Raiders will be thrilled to return home, where their 5-1 record is tied for third best in the league. Derek Carr, who posted a 62.7 passer rating over Oakland’s two-game road trip, will be looking to continue the success he had in the team’s three-game homestand from Weeks 9 to 11 (3-0 record, 109.2 passer rating, one interception over 92 passes). 

Inside Raiders roster: Despite his strong debut that produced a win in Indianapolis, Trevor Davis received his walking papers barely two months after the Raiders traded for him. The return man/supporting cast wide receiver is now a Dolphin after a waiver claim. The Raiders have shuffled their receiver group many times this season and will enter the offseason with a glaring need. Fortunately, Oakland has two first-round picks in a draft expected to feature one of the best receiver talent pools in many years.

Full article here https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/nfl_week_14_matchups_an_insiders_guide/s1_13132_30712250

By: Michael Nania and Sam Robinson

NFL Week 13 game-by-game analysis, grades

In the AFC, the Ravens —  who defeated the 49ers– took the lead in the race for No. 1 seed when the Patriots fell to the Texans in the Sunday night game. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 13 whip-around: 1 of 16

HOUSTON 28, NEW ENGLAND 22

PATRIOTS (10-2): From owner Robert Kraft hoping to lure Rob Gronkowski out of retirement, to the rumblings of Tom Brady being against the Antonio Brown release, signs of Patriots unease with their aerial weaponry have persisted. New England’s offensive woes, James White’s garbage-time routine notwithstanding, continued in Houston. The Patriots’ weeks-long concern about their receiving situation manifested itself in a discombobulated effort. From 2007-18, the Pats featured at least two reliable receivers (in addition to White). Although both Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett returned to action Sunday, the Patriots’ current optimal lineup appears to contain one. The Texans gave Julian Edelman deserved attention and frequently forced Brady into awkward pocket shuffling. Brady (24-for-47, sub-7.0 yards per attempt for a fourth straight game) struggled against the Texans’ No. 26 DVOA pass defense. When the Pats’ defense runs into a high-caliber offense, as it did Sunday and will against the Chiefs, can Brady’s limited air support (and suddenly average rushing complement) keep up?  GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Chiefs (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


TEXANS (8-4): The Texans’ superior individual talent overwhelmed New England for the majority of the game. Most encouraging for Houston was the way Deshaun Watson performed against the Patriots’ vaunted pass defense. Watson repeatedly exploited New England’s linebackers in pass coverage, and when he had chances to take deep shots, he was able to hit them. The Patriots had allowed just four passing touchdowns entering the game, but Watson had three, and caught one from DeAndre Hopkins, to boot. Perhaps most striking was Bill O’Brien’s level of trust in his quarterback. The Texans didn’t attempt their 20th carry of the game until late in the fourth quarter, despite the stats suggesting New England’s run defense was its weakness. Watson rewarded O’Brien’s faith with the best game of his season, accounting for quality of opponent. If he continues playing this way, the Texans can beat anyone in the NFL.GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Broncos (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 2 of 16

BALTIMORE 20, SAN FRANCISCO 17

49ERS (10-2): In defeat, San Francisco may have done more to solidify itself as the class of the NFC than it did in any of its victories. The 49ers, who had a chance to win until the waning minutes, made QB Lamar Jackson (101 yards rushing) and Baltimore earn every yard. More impressive was San Francisco’s ability to move the ball on the Ravens; RB Raheem Mostert churned out 146 yards rushing, and despite terrible weather conditions, QB Jimmy Garoppolo was efficient (15-for-21, 165 yards), although his fumble did translate into a Ravens touchdown. Considering the degree to which Baltimore was throttling quality opponents, and the conditions favoring the Ravens’ running game and misdirection tendencies, San Francisco’s defensive performance, particularly in the second half, was encouraging. The Niners are primed for the Week 14 showdown against the Saints (10-2). GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: at Saints (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAVENS (10-2): Credit kicker Justin Tucker and the Ravens for persevering in terrible, rainy conditions. Tucker, who has missed only one field goal this season, booted the winning, 49-yard field goal as time expired. The 49ers’ excellent secondary took away Lamar Jackson’s deep passing, and San Francisco focused on stopping the Ravens’ running backs (77 rushing yards) more than it did the second-year QB, who was superb with his ball handling and play fakes. Jackson’s legs were the cheat code, as he led Baltimore in rushing (101 yards) by a wide margin. (He has rushed for more than 100 yards four times this season.) San Francisco’s defense played well, but no team can take away all the Ravens’ high-powered, multidimensional offense. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Bills (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 3 of 16

PITTSBURGH 20, CLEVELAND 13

BROWNS (5-7): Minus defensive end Myles Garrett, suspended indefinitely for his role in the brawl the last time these teams played, Cleveland generated little pass rush. End Olivier Vernon’s limited role also cost the Browns, who dealt with other, lesser injuries on the D-line, as well as injuries in the secondary. As this game progressed, the Steelers exploited these weaknesses with deep passing and then eventually with a power running game that took its toll on a depleted unit. After being held to two yards in the first quarter, the Steelers racked up 321 in the final three quarters. Garrett’s absence may have cost the Browns a win. Cleveland’s playoff hopes are on life support. How embarrassing is it to lose to third-string rookie QB “Duck” Hodges. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Bengals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


STEELERS (7-5): Lacking playmakers nearly all season, the Steelers may finally have found one in wide receiver James Washington, who went duck hunting last week with his quarterback, Delvin “Duck” Hodges. Heading into the rematch with the Browns, Washington had caught three or more balls in each of his last four games, accumulating 306 receiving yards in that stretch. Against the Browns, Washington led the Steelers with 111 yards receiving. He ran free deep late in the game, but Hodges didn’t see him. Washington is built almost like a running back, but with long legs and a high waistline. He builds up speed downfield and shows great ball skills, finding the football from tough body positions. As usual, the Steelers — one of the best teams in the league at drafting receivers — are developing their wideout talent. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

4 of 16

LA RAMS 34, ARIZONA 7

RAMS (7-5): Los Angeles has waited for this version of QB Jared Goff (424 yards passing) to show up, and as impressive as he was, it may be too little, too late. The Rams must hope division rival Seattle helps them out by handing Minnesota a loss Monday night, or else the Rams will remain two games back for the final wild-card spot with four games to play. Goff was well-protected all game, with the Cardinals sacking him just once. Protection was one element the Rams have missed all season, and a productive Todd Gurley was the other. Gurley was sharp, with 95 yards on just 19 carries, and Los Angeles was able to run the ball almost at will against Arizona, which came into the game 23rd in the league in yards allowed. The Rams still have a difficult road, but they at least showed that the dominant offense that carried them to a Super Bowl appearance isn’t completely gone. GAME GRADE: A + | NEXT: vs. Seahawks (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


CARDINALS (3-8-1): Arizona might be tempted to use the 2020 draft to surround QB Kyler Murray with weapons, but it really needs help on defense above all else. During their current five-game losing streak, the Cardinals have allowed 31.8 points and 473.8 yards per game. The secondary is dreadful, as it entered the Rams game last in the NFL in yards and touchdowns allowed. Yet somehow it performed even worse than its normal standard against LA.; Jared Goff threw for 424 yards. Arizona is powerless to stop tight ends: Rams TE Tyler Higbee had seven catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. While wins and losses aren’t paramount, this loss represents a major step backward in the Cardinals’ development. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 5 of 16

GREEN BAY 31, NY GIANTS 13

PACKERS (9-3): The book for beating the Giants’ defense — which is solid against the run — is to attack it through the air. But the ugly, snowy conditions in East Rutherford, N.J., figured to play to New York’s advantage. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, however, showed off his veteran guile, dealing superbly with the poor weather (four TD passes). “I admit I was a little worried that it might be more rain than snow,” he told reporters after the game. “When those big flakes were falling down, I felt pretty good about our chances.” There is an art to throwing the ball in wind, cold and precipitation, and clearly Rodgers understands this. But there is also value in having immense arm talent, which Rodgers still has to rival just about any passer in the game. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: vs. Redskins (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


GIANTS (2-10): Daniel Jones, who tossed three interceptions, continues to be a turnover machine. The rookie QB has 21 turnovers in 11 games, 10 fumbles lost and 11 interceptions. Jones also recorded his league-leading 15th fumble, but the Giants recovered it. His effectiveness has also dwindled, as Jones is averaging 6.0 yards per attempt over his past eight starts (in which the Giants are 0-8) after posting an impressive mark of 8.4 over his first two starts (in which the Giants went 2-0). Three of New York’s final four games are against teams ranked in the bottom half of takeaway rate. Jones must secure the football to build some hope surrounding his potential going into 2020.For those counting, this is the third straight season the Giants have lost 10 or more games.GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Eagles (Mon., Dec. 9)

— Michael Nania 6 of 16

MIAMI 37, PHILADELPHIA 31

EAGLES (5-7): Philadelphia’s solid pass defense, which entered Week 13 ranked 10th in DVOA, was surprisingly torched by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and WR DeVante Parker. Fitzpatrick threw for 365 yards on 39 pass attempts, averaging an impressive 9.4 yards per attempt. Parker had a dominant performance, making highlight grab after highlight grab (seven catches for career-best 159 yards) and scoring two touchdowns. The Eagles’ pass rush did its part, racking up 11 quarterback hits, but the secondary failed to take advantage, consistently losing in contested catch situations. Three of Philadelphia’s final four games are against the Giants (twice) and Redskins (once), so there is no excuse for the pass-defending struggles to continue against bad competition. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Giants (Mon., Dec. 9)

— Michael Nania


DOLPHINS (3-9): During a season designed to be one of the worst in franchise history, the Dolphins have observed a breakout from a player they hoped would produce years ago. Once in danger of being traded or cut, DeVante Parker has become the consistent wide receiver the franchise’s previous front office envisioned. Parker’s seven-catch, 159-yard, two-touchdown game elevated the Dolphins to their season’s best win and further solidified the 2015 first-round pick’s status as a dependable target. Parker out-jumped Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby for two chunk plays – the first such sequence including some careful sideline steps on a 43-yard touchdown – and made a contested touchdown catch against Jalen Mills in a major upset. Dolphins GM Chris Grier gave Parker a two-year, $13 million deal this offseason; he’s outplayed that contract. The ex-doghouse occupant now has a career-most 854 receiving yards. Still just 26, Parker now profiles as a cornerstone player for a team lacking them. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Jets (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 7 of 16

KANSAS CITY 40, OAKLAND 9

RAIDERS (6-6): Facing a Chiefs defense that counts cornerback as its lowest-profile spot, investment-wise, the Raiders completed a grand total of four passes (for 34 yards) to wide receivers. While Oakland’s receiving corps was supposed to include Antonio Brown and just lost Hunter Renfrow, such an outing is unacceptable for an NFL offense. Nominal No. 1 wideout Tyrell Williams has caught three passes for 27 yards over the past two games. Williams must produce if the Raiders are to have a shot at reviving their playoff hopes. The ex-Charger wideout’s four-year contract contains no fully guaranteed money after 2019. If Williams cannot help Derek Carr’s Darren Waller-dependent aerial corps down the stretch, the Raiders will balk at his $11 million base salary next season. The Antonio Brown trade deterred Jon Gruden and Co. from targeting a receiver early in the draft, hurting this year’s team. Gruden and GM Mike Mayock will be prepared to draft one early in 2020. GAME GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: vs. Titans (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


CHIEFS (8-4): Kansas City employed one of this decade’s premier safeties for years, but Eric Berry’s injuries proved costly. Daniel Sorensen and a hobbled Berry started last season’s AFC Championship Game, but the Chiefs could not stop Tom Brady in crunch time. The Chiefs threw key resources at the problem this offseason, adding Tyrann Mathieu on a position-record-tying $14 million-per-year contract and drafting Juan Thornhill in the second round. Mathieu and Thornhill justified the investments Sunday, forcing the Raiders to play catch-up. Each intercepted a pass; both picks led to touchdowns. Mathieu’s coverage fooled Derek Carr and set up Darrel Williams’ first-quarter score, and Thornhill took a Carr pass back for a 46-yard second-quarter TD. None of Thornhill’s 13 INTs at Virginia went for touchdowns. His second NFL pick helped compensate for the Chiefs’ 259 yards Sunday and highlighted the potential the franchise sees in a Mathieu-Thornhill long-term tandem. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Patriots (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 8 of 16

DENVER 23, LA CHARGERS 20

CHARGERS (4-8): What a way to squander a game. The Bolts allowed the Broncos to kick a walk-off field goal after a one-play drive that began at Denver’s 28-yard line. After the Chargers tied the score, cornerback Casey Hayward barreled into Courtland Sutton to give a listless Broncos offense 37 yards. While the call was questionable, the Bolts’ penchant for unique losses is not. Facing a Broncos team also excellent at crafting final-minute defeat blueprints, the Chargers did their best to help their opponent by mismanaging the clock and committing two false-start penalties on a late fourth down. The Chargers are closing out a largely wasted decade – one featuring numerous endings such as Sunday’s in Denver – and with QB Philip Rivers near the end of his NFL career, the perennial underachievers will enter the 2020s with far less certainty. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BRONCOS (4-8): Trading Pro Bowl wideouts in each of the past two Octobers, Denver depleted its pass-catching situation considerably. Courtland Sutton has helped compensate, the 2018 second-round pick joining Phillip Lindsay as a cornerstone piece on an offense largely lacking them. Propping up Drew Lock like he did Brandon Allen in his debut, Sutton has now produced with three quarterbacks this season. His first-half work – highlighted by one of this season’s premier catches – saved a Broncos offense that (again) accomplished little after halftime. Lock averaged a Paxton Lynch-ian 4.8 yards per attempt; 74 of the rookie’s 134 yards went to his 6-foot-4 weapon. Sutton’s deft tumble to draw a game-deciding pass interference penalty also halted the Broncos’ trend of late-game collapses. While not on Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders’ levels yet, Sutton is on his way. The jump-ball maven is on pace to eclipse 1,200 yards and makes for a stealth Pro Bowl candidate in a down season for AFC receivers. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Texans (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 9 of 16

TAMPA BAY 28, JACKSONVILLE 11

BUCS (5-7): Tampa Bay’s defense was dominant, forcing QB Nick Foles and his four-year, $88 million contract to the bench in just his third start since returning from injury. The Buccaneers racked up five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Leading the unit was OLB Shaquil Barrett, who picked up two sacks to bring his total to a league-leading 14.5. Barrett had four quarterback hits, giving him nine over his past two games. The Buccaneers also lived up to their No. 1 ranking in run defense DVOA, holding Jacksonville to 47 rushing yards on 2.9 yards per attempt. Head coach Bruce Arians’ team has a nearly even point differential at -6 and is 5-7 despite a 2-4 record in close games (decided by seven points or fewer). He has the Bucs playing around an average level, a step up from where they were the previous two seasons. GAME GRADE: A NEXT: vs. Colts (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


JAGUARS (4-8): Nick Foles was abysmal against a Buccaneers defense that entered the game second-worst in the NFL in passing yards allowed. Foles threw an interception, lost two fumbles, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and was completely ineffective before giving way to Gardner Minshew to start the second half. Foles got $88 million from the Jaguars, including $50.125 million guaranteed, but Minshew has looked like the better, more effective player this season. Foles isn’t going anywhere, because he has a $33.875 million dead cap hit for 2020, but while the Jaguars don’t have much to play for as a team the rest of this season, Foles needs to finish strongly to prove that Jacksonville made a smart investment. If Foles fails to inspire, Jacksonville will have to consider making the starting quarterback job an open competition next season. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Chargers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

10 of 16

CINCINNATI 22, NEW YORK JETS 6

JETS (4-8): On a day when the Jets’ mini-resurgence died, their offensive line showed why GM Joe Douglas will conduct an offseason overhaul. Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap dominated Jets right tackle Brandon Shell, a former starter back in the lineup due to injuries. Dunlap registered three sacks; Sam Hubbard beat guard Tom Compton for another. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum committed three of the O-line’s seven penalties, including a holding infraction that resulted in a safety. Le’Veon Bell’s dreadful 2019 continued with a 10-carry, 32-yard day against Cincinnati’s 32nd-ranked run defense. Beachum had played better in recent weeks but joins Shell as a free agent-to-be, and no guaranteed money remains on injured right guard Brian Winters’ deal. All five of the Jets’ Week 1 O-line starters are good bets to be elsewhere next season. A 16-point loss to an 0-11 team should accelerate Douglas’ long-anticipated revamp of the perennially poor unit.
GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Dolphins (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BENGALS (1-11): This downtrodden franchise has plenty of needs. Defensive line might not be one of them. Against the Jets, end Carlos Dunlap demonstrated he can abuse lesser offensive tackles. Tackle Geno Atkins may have lost a slight step, but he remains a potent interior disruptor. Andrew Billings is a nice complement on early downs to Atkins, excelling against the run with his great strength and power. Hubbard and Carl Lawson are young up-and-comers off the edge. With Cincinnati’s first win, the pressure may be off for the Bengals, who can focus now on securing the No. 1 overall pick. Kidding. (I think.) GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Browns (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 11 of 16

TENNESSEE 31, INDIANAPOLIS 17

TITANS (7-5): Tennessee showed off its new-found resilience and offensive explosiveness under QB Ryan Tannehill. Despite a 17-7 deficit and lots of pressure (six sacks), Tannehill did not blink. The Titans’ offensive prowess was most on display after Tennessee intercepted Jacoby Brissett while up 24-17. Tannehill then hit Kalif Raymond for a 40-yard touchdown to effectively ice the game. That the Titans went for it all on 3rd-and-6 instead of playing conservatively shows how much faith they have in their quarterback, who replaced the ineffective Marcus Mariota in Week 7. Tennessee is still out of playoff position, but should it get in, the Titans will be dangerous because of their offense. Imagine that. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Raiders (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


COLTS (6-6): Another game, another kicking disaster for the Colts. Adam Vinatieri was already 1-for-3 on field goals when he lined up for a 46-yarder that would have put Indianapolis ahead 20-17. But the kick was blocked — why, of course — and returned for a touchdown. Indianapolis’ efforts to come back were further hampered by a Jacoby Brissett interception. Head coach Frank Reich’s loyalty to Vinatieri has cost the Colts multiple games; if Indianapolis got even slightly better than league average kicking, it would be at least two and possibly three or four games better in the standings. The Colts probably will miss the playoffs; they have no one to blame but themselves. GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Bucs (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 12 of 16

WASHINGTON 29, CAROLINA 21

REDSKINS (3-9): Washington took full advantage of Carolina’s 31st-ranked DVOA run defense. The Redskins racked up 248 yards on 30 rush attempts, averaging a 8.3 yards per rush. They rushed for three touchdowns, two by Derrius Guice and one by Adrian Peterson. Guice picked up 129 yards on 10 carries, finally breaking out after averaging 24.7 yards per game on 2.7 yards per carry over his first three career games. The run game bailed out rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who was extremely ineffective (3.8 net yards per pass attempt). At least he didn’t take a selfie with a fan during this game. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Packers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


PANTHERS (5-7): Ron Rivera’s defense continues to be embarrassed against the run. Carolina, which entered Week 13 ranked 31st in both run defense EPA and DVOA, was shredded on the ground by a Redskins offense ranked 30th in rush offense DVOA. Washington ran for 248 yards, more than 100 yards greater than their previous season-best. The Panthers have yielded a league-high 22 rushing touchdowns and have given up at least 100 yards on the ground in all but two games. Each of Carolina’s final three games will be against teams that currently rank in the top half of rush offense DVOA. More humiliating efforts in run defense could be on the way, potentially sending Rivera out the door. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Falcons (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

13 of 16

NEW ORLEANS 26, ATLANTA 18

SAINTS (10-2): The pass rush went berserk on Thanksgiving, taking down Matt Ryan for nine sacks (tying his career-high). That total also tied the Saints’ franchise record, set in 2001 (at Falcons) and 1985 (vs. Rams). End Cameron Jordan led the charge with a career-best four sacks, bringing his season total to a career-high 13.5. Through games played Thursday, New Orleans was tied for third in quarterback hits per game (7.0) and ranked eighth in sack rate (8.0 percent). The Saints’ dominant pass rush will be tested down the stretch as New Orleans seeks the NFC’s top seed. Two solid offensive lines await in the next two games (49ers and Colts). GAME GRADE: B |  NEXT: vs. 49ers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


FALCONS (3-9): Against New Orleans, Matt Ryan averaged just 6.2 yards per attempt over 50 passes and threw two interceptions. While not entirely his fault, Ryan is playing some of the most ineffective football of his career, posting a 77.8 passer rating (league average 91.2 through Thursday) and averaging 5.0 net yards per attempt (league average 6.3) over his past five games. On the season, Ryan has averaged 5.9 adjusted net yards per attempt (which adjusts for sacks, touchdowns and interceptions), slightly below the league average of 6.2. It is the worst season mark compared to league average that Ryan has posted in his career. Perhaps Atlanta should bench him and keep him healthy for 2020. GAME GRADE: C– | NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 14 of 16

CHICAGO 24, DETROIT 20

BEARS (6-6): Don’t celebrate yet, Bears fans, but QB Mitch Trubisky is playing better. In the first eight games, he mostly dinked and dunked. Over the past month, he has thrown deeper downfield. Trubisky was especially effective working the intermediate portions of the field against the Lions, who dared him to beat them downfield by playing mostly man coverage. Oddly, the Lions rarely sent added pressure. Trubisky’s lone interception, to CB Darius Slay early in the second half, was a poorly placed throw against tight man coverage. But other than that, Trubisky was solid, with several impressive throws to Anthony Miller (nine catches for 140 yards), who abused cornerback Justin Coleman. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Thurs.)

— Matt Williamson


LIONS (3-8-1): There were several positives for the Lions. Their wideouts owned Chicago’s cornerbacks in the first half, and the pass protection — it was a smart move to double up against Khalil Mack — was solid for rookie QB David Blough, who made his first career start. Blough stood strong in the pocket, allowing Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones time to set up the Bears corners. Blough’s poise was noteworthy and his accuracy (22-for-38 for 280 yards) stood out. He often looked for TJ Hockenson (11 targets), a smart move, although the rookie tight end had only six catches for 18 yards. Detroit’s offense dried up in the second half after Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano made adjustments to help Chicago’s cornerbacks and Mack came to life. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: at Vikings (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson  15 of 16

BUFFALO 26, DALLAS 15

BILLS (9-3): After using Ed Oliver on most of their defensive snaps during the season’s first half, the Bills demoted their first-round pick entering November. Oliver’s resurgence over the past three weeks showed why Buffalo used the ninth overall pick on him. Despite coming off the bench for the fifth straight game, the rookie defensive tackle unveiled a ceiling few Bills have possessed this century. The compact interior rusher sacked Dak Prescott twice – the first featuring a game-changing strip – and registered a tackle for loss. After going nine games without sacking a quarterback, the ex-Houston Cougars tackles-for-loss dynamo has four in Buffalo’s past three games. Rarely given nationally televised opportunities, the Bills made the most of this one. Oliver’s dominance of Cowboys backup left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo helped change the narrative of the Bills being a product of weak competition and served notice that they won’t be a wild-card pushover. GAME GRADE: A+ | NEXT: vs. Ravens (Sun)

— Sam Robinson


COWBOYS (6-6): Dallas continued its struggles against elite competition, falling to 0-5 in games against teams that currently have a winning record. The same issue that plagued Jason Garrett’s squad in previous games against strong opponents was evident against Buffalo: turnovers. The Cowboys coughed up the football twice in the first half, setting up Buffalo with a lead it would not relinquish. Dallas failed to take the ball away from Josh Allen’s offense. In its five games against winning teams, Dallas has lost the turnover battle 10 to one. Good news for the Cowboys: Three of Dallas’ final four games are against .500 or worse teams — the lone exception is the Rams (7-5). GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Chicago (Thurs.)

— Michael Nania 16 of 16

MONDAY: MINNESOTA AT SEATTLE

VIKINGS (8-3): The offensive line is far better than it was in 2018, but it is still inconsistent, and it will face a Seattle defense boosted by the returns of end Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Jarran Reed, Seattle’s two best defensive linemen. This game sets up well for Kirk Cousins, who is light years better than most seem to realize (2,756 yards passing, 70.6 percent complete percentage). Wide receivers and tight ends have put up a lot of production against Seattle, so look for a big game from Cousins if his O-line can deliver a solid game. NEXT: vs. Lions (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


SEAHAWKS (9-2): Although he has only three sacks, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, returning from an injury, will be a welcome addition. Per Pro Football Reference, Clowney ranks eighth in the league with 14 hurries, despite being sent on a designed blitz just once all season, and nine quarterback knockdowns (11th in the NFL). The Vikings have balance on offense, but their resurgence after a slow start is largely connected to Kirk Cousins’ improved play. Clowney’s ability to disrupt the pocket against Minnesota – even if he can’t generate sacks – is integral to Seattle’s defense holding up. Clowney might not be filling the stat sheet with traditional counting stats, but there is no denying that his return gives an otherwise mediocre Seahawks defense (21st in the league entering Week 13) some teeth. NEXT: at Rams (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_13_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30690191#slide_16

NFL Week 12 game-by-game analysis, grades

The Browns showed signs of life. Frank Gore passed Barry and the Bengals all-but-clinched the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 12 whip-around.  1 of 18

HOUSTON 20, INDIANAPOLIS 17

Deshaun Watson continues to play at an MVP level. Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

COLTS (6-5): The Colts are still very much alive, but once again, their inability to get the details just right, something that propelled them to a 5-2 start, did them in against Houston. This time head coach Frank Reich was at fault, as he burned a timeout to set up a pivotal fourth-down play with just under three minutes left and his team trailing by three. Instead of having a decisive call ready, Indianapolis decided to talk things over despite the clock already being stopped. That ended up costing the Colts dearly, as the Texans, who otherwise would have had to give Indy the ball back with at least some time to spare, instead were able to run out the clock. The Colts know they have little margin for error; all but one of their games this season has been decided by seven points or fewer. That makes Reich’s blunder all the more unforgivable. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT:  vs. Titans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


TEXANS (7-4): Deshaun Watson restored some semblance of order to the AFC South proceedings. A month after Jacoby Brissett outdueled him in Indianapolis, Watson got a major measure of revenge, thoroughly outplaying his counterpart and rallying the Texans to a win. The game was a case study in what Houston is all about. The Colts got a more balanced effort, and did enough to win, but spectacular star-level production from Watson and DeAndre Hopkins carried the day. Star power won in this instance, but the Texans have proved fallible enough that even though they have the best quarterback and best wide receiver in the division, success is not guaranteed. If they want to have a better chance at putting a stranglehold on things, they could start by fixing a run defense that has given up 431 yards in the last two games. The Patriots have a terrible rushing attack, so stifling them next week would be a good step in that direction. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Patriots (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 2 of 18

BUFFALO 20, DENVER 3

BRONCOS (3-8) : Denver’s near-four-year offensive lull has sunk the franchise to its lowest place in the NFL hierarchy since the early 1970s. Sunday in Buffalo represented the post-Peyton Manning basement. The Broncos completed 10 passes and gave Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman a combined 15 carries, ending with 134 total yards. That is the third-lowest NFL figure this season – behind only two Sam Darnold-less Jets outings – and the 12th-lowest Denver output in the Broncos’ 60-year history. This was the Broncos’ worst yardage day in 27 years. Considering Brandon Allen’s inexperience, his 10-for-25, 82-yard showing should not be too surprising. Still, this game illuminated better than any other one during the franchise’s post-2015 tailspin just how lost the Broncos are. It is time to bring Drew Lock off IR. Even if circumstances are not favorable for the rookie, Vic Fangio is wrong. It is vital the second-round pick debuts this year, because the Broncos need to know if they have to consider a 2020 first-round quarterback. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Chargers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BILLS (8-3): Although Frank Gore surpassing Barry Sanders for third on the all-time rushing list was Sunday’s statistical takeaway from Buffalo, the outing doubled as one this NFL season’s best defensive performances. Buffalo held Denver to 134 total yards; and Tre’Davious White continued his Pro Bowl push in the process. Courtland Sutton has produced despite Denver’s myriad offensive issues this season, authoring a quiet breakout while working with an on-his-way-out-of-the-league Joe Flacco and first-time starter Brandon Allen. White led the way in shutting down the Broncos’ top weapon Sunday. Sutton finished with one catch for a season-low 27 yards, and White’s interception on a miscommunication between Allen and the 6-foot-4 wideout stopped a prime Broncos scoring chance. White also matched his season high with four passes defensed. The third-year defender represents the Bills’ best defensive chess piece for when this top-end pass defense encounters better offenses, and he will become the Bills’ first Pro Bowl corner since Nate Clements in 2004. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Cowboys (Thurs.)

— Sam Robinson 3 of 18

TAMPA BAY 35, ATLANTA 22

BUCS (4-7): Tampa Bay’s run defense, which entered Week 12 ranked No. 1 in DVOA, continues to be dominant . In Atlanta, the Buccaneers held the Falcons to just 57 rushing yards on 19 carries, an average of 3.0 yards per attempt. The Falcons’ running backs combined for only 34 yards on 17 totes (2.0 per attempt). The impact of new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has been strongly felt in run defense. He can be a positive presence as the season progresses, and Tampa Bay should look to keep him around. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


FALCONS (3-8): On their own field against the Buccaneers’ 30th-ranked pass defense (according to DVOA), the Falcons simply could not get anything going in the passing game . Matt Ryan tossed 55 passes but managed just 271 yards and took six sacks. Ryan finished the game averaging 4.3 net yards per attempt, and his 59.3 passer rating was his worst at home since Week 14 of 2017. At 3-8, the Falcons should consider shutting down Ryan and keeping him fresh for 2020.  GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Saints (Thurs.)

— Michael Nania

4 of 18

CLEVELAND 41, MIAMI 24

DOLPHINS (2-9) : Considering the Bengals have surprisingly outflanked the Dolphins to the No. 1 overall pick position, and with Tua Tagovailoa having suffered a stock-altering injury, it would behoove Miami to try Josh Rosen again. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick keeping him benched throughout Sunday’s loss in Cleveland points is telling. It points to a scenario in which the Dolphins ditch Rosen and keep Fitzpatrick next year. Despite being nearly 37 and playing behind a horrid offensive line, Fitzpatrick has made Miami’s passing attack look competent – a better developmental situation. The Dolphins could use their 2020 draft haul to load up on best-available talent to strengthen their roster for a possible Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields pick in 2021. However, too much improvement would hinder those plans. Miami’s best chance to land a quarterback without sacrificing a lot in draft-night trades would be selecting one next year, and Fitz would make a strong mentor-caretaker starter in the event the team goes quarterback next year. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BROWNS (5-6): Maybe it is too late, maybe not, but the Browns at 5-6 are really starting to turn it on in November. Baker Mayfield looks better every week, and it looks as though he is finally developing chemistry and timing with Odell Beckham. Kareem Hunt has been a very welcome addition without eating into Nick Chubb’s output. But this day was about former Dolphin Jarvis Landry, who is easy to overlook amongst all of Cleveland’s offensive star power. A sharp and powerful route runner, Landry proved again to be Mayfield’s most trusted target and found the end zone twice while catching 10 passes for 148 yards as the Browns scored 41 points. Landry plays the game with passion and aggression and didn’t hide that this was a “Revenge Game” against Miami. That passion and great play rubbed off on his young teammates, and now they head to Pittsburgh in a game that will not be short on emotion. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Steelers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 5 of 18

CHICAGO 19, NY GIANTS 14

GIANTS (2-9): Big Blue’s young offensive centerpieces had a rough day at the office in Chicago . Saquon Barkley continued his poor stretch, rushing for just 59 yards on 17 carries (3.5 per attempt). Daniel Jones was flustered on the road against Chicago’s tough defense, averaging a paltry 3.6 net yards per attempt (league average: 6.3). The road ahead doesn’t get any easier, as the Packers and Eagles await next. New York needs its young stars to step up against the tougher competition.  GAME GRADE: C- | NEXT: vs. Packers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


BEARS (5-6) : Hey, Mitch Trubisky certainly wasn’t great in this win, but can we at least concede that he is playing better than he was early in the season? Last year, he was very inconsistent. He missed too many easy throws but made up for it to some degree with a handful of big throws per game and some dynamic runs. Chicago’s defense was better in 2018 than it is now, but Trubisky is getting back to the formula he showed last year of late rather than the inability to complete passes that we saw to begin the year. Trubisky made several highly impressive throws downfield against the Giants and quickly realized that New York had no one who could cover Allen Robinson. Trubisky also showed toughness and athletic ability as a runner. Today, we saw the 2018 version of Trubisky, which is good enough and without question, he was the best quarterback on that field on Sunday. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Lions (Thurs.)

— Matt Williamson 6 of 18

WASHINGTON 19, DETROIT 16

LIONS (3-7-1) : The Lions are 3-7-1, without their starting quarterback and just lost to the Redskins. Matthew Stafford’s replacement, Jeff Driskel, is a good athlete, but he was under a ton of pressure in this contest. Driskel was sacked six times (it could have been more) and threw three interceptions as a result of the pressure more often than not. While it is often overlooked, Washington does have a very good defensive front. But this constant pressure was alarming when considering how much Detroit has invested in its offensive line. The Lions have shown to have a very good downfield passing game, but they simply couldn’t protect long enough on the road to go downfield with any regularity. Also, the revolving door at the running back position has clearly been problematic in protection, not only with execution of blocks but also with communication and knowing which pass-rushers to even block. GAME GRADE: D+ | NEXT: vs. Bears (Thurs.)

— Matt Williamson


REDSKINS (2-9): Dwayne Haskins picked up his first win, but the Redskins still need to see more from him down the stretch . Haskins missed numerous throws and was helped out by some monster catches from Terry McLaurin. Haskins finished with only 4.5 net yards per pass attempt and a 47.5 passer rating at home against Detroit’s 26th-ranked DVOA defense. The Redskins can do a better job helping him out, but Haskins needs to start showing signs of potential more frequently.  GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Panthers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

7 of 18

NEW ORLEANS 34, CAROLINA 31

PANTHERS (5-6): Despite the loss, Carolina has to be thrilled with the performances of its young offensive stars on the road against New Orleans’ 5th-ranked DVOA defense . After four games with a sub-90 passer rating, Kyle Allen tossed three touchdown passes and no picks as he earned a 112.7 rating, his best since Week 1. D.J. Moore went for 126 receiving yards, his fourth straight game with 95-plus yards. Christian McCaffrey caught for 69 yards and ran for 64, scoring once in each phase. The present is bleak, but more wins should come for Carolina if its offensive stars continue to play like this. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


SAINTS (9-2): Michael Thomas, who entered Week 12 with an 83.2 percent catch rate, continues to be incredibly reliable. Against the Panthers, Thomas caught 10 of 11 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown. That extended his streak of 100-yard games to five straight, his career-best. Until somebody proves they can stop Thomas, the Saints offense looks like it cannot be halted. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Falcons (Thurs.)

— Michael Nania 8 of 18

NY JETS 34, OAKLAND 3

RAIDERS (6-5): Considering what the Raiders’ offense had accomplished this month, and the personnel they faced in New Jersey, Sunday’s letdown has the potential to be season-altering. Oakland’s offensive line possessed a clear trench advantage, and its pass catchers were facing a Jets cornerback corps that’s among the league’s worst. The result: key drops, zero red zone appearances and a third-quarter Derek Carr benching a week away from the biggest game of the Raiders’ second Jon Gruden era to date. No Raider wide receiver eclipsed 31 yards. Against a makeshift Jets boundary cornerback contingent, Raiders outside receivers combined for four receptions for 23 yards. Arrowhead Stadium is far more imposing than MetLife’s Raider-friendlier atmosphere, and the Chiefs possess a significant talent edge on the Jets. Gruden’s bunch looking like this ventures beyond the trap-game parameters. With Andy Reid posing as a Bill Walsh-Paul Brown hybrid after bye weeks, the Raiders’ playoff hopes took a major hit Sunday. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


JETS (4-7): Entering Sunday with the NFL’s three worst yardage performances this season, the Jets have now scored 34 points in three straight games – doing so for the first time since the Brett Favre-piloted 2008 season. After preying on the Giants’ and Redskins’ low-end defenses, the Jets shredded a Raiders unit that had played well recently. Adam Gase’s game plan was on point. Five Jets – Robby Anderson, Braxton Berrios, Le’Veon Bell, Vyncint Smith and Demaryius Thomas – posted at least one 20-yard reception, and Sam Darnold’s fourth career 300-plus-yard day included completions to nine targets. Gase’s play-calling on the second half’s first possession besieged the Raiders. A slick bunch-formation route concept allowed Berrios to break loose on a 69-yard gain, and Gase’s delayed tight end screen to Ryan Griffin for a 1-yard touchdown was one of the better goal-line play designs executed this season. With the Bengals and Dolphins on tap, this bounce-back run could get weird quickly. GAME GRADE: A+ | NEXT: at Bengals (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 9 of 18

SEATTLE 17, PHILADELPHIA 9

SEAHAWKS (9-2) : A major storyline of the Seahawks’ season is that they’ve not been particularly good on defense, but Russell Wilson has bailed them out at almost every turn. That tendency had some doubting their staying power in the NFC, but Seattle’s complementary pieces had their day in a sloppy, hard-fought win over the Eagles. Rashaad Penny and a defense that was without Jadeveon Clowney carried the day for Seattle, overcoming a mediocre performance by Wilson in conditions that were worse than any they’ll likely face in the playoffs, unless the road to the NFC Championship Game runs through Seattle. The Seahawks will still go as far as Wilson takes them, but winning a game without him at his best is a major confidence boost moving forward. More than confidence-boosting, Penny’s emergence gives Seattle another potential offensive weapon to utilize in the postseason. GAME GRADE: A- | NEXT: vs. Vikings (Mon.)

— Chris Mueller


EAGLES (5-6): Philadelphia’s offense, averaging 9.5 points per game since the bye week, has gone ice cold . With numerous injuries to the offensive line and wide receiver corps, Carson Wentz struggled at home against Seattle’s 21st-ranked DVOA defense, averaging 5.0 net yards per pass attempt and posting a 75.8 passer rating (league average: 91.5). With the Dolphins, Redskins and Giants next, there is no excuse for Wentz to continue his stretch of mediocrity.  GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Dolphins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

10 of 18

PITTSBURGH 16, CINCINNATI 10

STEELERS (6-5): Mike Tomlin had no choice but to pull Mason Rudolph from this game in favor of Devlin Hodges. The Steelers offense was going nowhere against possibly the league’s worst defense with Rudolph at quarterback. Rudolph was also coming off his worst game as a pro in Cleveland’s last game. His accuracy was poor in Cincinnati, as was his timing. But what was probably most concerning was Rudolph’s pocket presence. He looked like a very unconfident player in the pocket. Not that Hodges was great, but confidence isn’t an issue with this young man. Hodges is playing with house money and he knows it. He provided a least a small spark to Pittsburgh’s ailing offense. But who to start next week at home in the rematch against the Browns? That is a more difficult decision. GAME GRADE: C- | NEXT: vs. Browns (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


BENGALS (0-11) : If Cincinnati would have played Andy Dalton rather than Ryan Finley in this game, they would have won. Sure, the Bengals are playing for tomorrow and want to see what they have in their rookie quarterback, but this is a little ridiculous. After going 7-of-10 in the first half, Finley completed just five more passes. His lack of arm strength is alarming, and he really has a tough time getting the ball in tight spaces. As the weather continues to worsen, this will be exposed more and more. The Bengals are not a good football team, but aside from quarterback, they are showing signs of life. Against constantly stacked boxes, Joe Mixon was very impressive in this game, and with a little more of a passing threat, he could have really lit up the scoreboard with the way he was running. Tyler Boyd had a crucial late fumble, but he also made a couple outstanding plays that bailed out Finley. Cincinnati’s pass rush features quite a few above-average players and showed up big against the Steelers. Finley wasn’t the only reason the Bengals couldn’t get their first win, but a professional signal caller such as Dalton would have been enough to win this ugly football game.  GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Jets (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 11 of 18

TENNESSEE 42, JACKSONVILLE 20

JAGUARS (4-7) : Jacksonville’s rush defense let the Jaguars down, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise, considering they entered the game last in the NFL in yards per carry allowed, at 5.3. What was somewhat surprising about their failure was how suddenly it happened. Derrick Henry gouged Jacksonville for 159 yards and two touchdowns, nearly one year after scorching them for 238 yards and four scores. The problem for the Jaguars was a familiar one; they couldn’t tackle at all, and it did them in. Multiple Jacksonville defenders had a chance to tackle Henry on his 74-yard touchdown run, but none was able to do so. That sort of sloppiness and lack of attention to detail have kept the Jaguars’ defense from greatness all season, and it likely snuffed out any faint hopes Jacksonville  had of contending for a playoff spot. The Gardner Minshew story was fun, but 2019 looks as if it will be another lost season for Jacksonville. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Bucs (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


TITANS (6-5) : The Titans still have an uphill climb for a playoff spot, but they’ve undergone a metamorphosis since Ryan Tannehill took over. Tennessee is 4-1 in Tannehill’s five starts, and even though they have not asked him to throw the ball often – just 27 attempts in his starts, on average – he has made the most of his chances, throwing for 10 touchdowns and posting a 120.4 passer rating. It isn’t just that Tannehill’s play in and of itself has transformed the Titans, it’s that his mere presence has opened up other avenues for their offense. Tennessee has scored 29.4 points per game in Tannehill’s starts, compared to 16.3 in games started by Marcus Mariota. If the Titans can keep creating big plays, they’ll become that much more dangerous, and with four division games left, including two with Houston, they can still dream big. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Colts (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 12 of 18

NEW ENGLAND 13, DALLAS 9

COWBOYS (6-5): Dallas continues to fall short against the elite competition, dropping to 0-4 in games against teams that currently have a winning record . The turnover margin has been a huge issue for the Cowboys in those games, as across those four contests, they have turned the ball over eight times while taking the ball away just once. The Cowboys have a good opportunity to break this streak on Thanksgiving, as they take on a tough, but beatable Buffalo Bills team at home. Dallas may still have a great shot at making the playoffs, but they have a long way to go until they can be considered anything near a Super Bowl contender.  GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Bills (Thurs.)

— Michael Nania

PATRIOTS (10-1): The path to another AFC team taking home-field advantage is narrowing, with ESPN’s FPI giving the Pats a 78% chance to earn that slot for the sixth time this decade. Bill Belichick’s defenses care little for yards yielded. Of the eight top-10 scoring defenses the Pats have deployed this decade, only two of them ranked top 10 in total defense. Belichick’s latest bend-but-don’t-break charges smothered the Cowboys repeatedly, forcing Brett Maher to attempt five field goals. The Pats held the No. 1-ranked Cowboys’ offense to nine points and did it without sacking Dak Prescott, limiting Dallas to 2-for-13 on third downs. This masked the Patriots’ 3-for-14 third-down showing. The Pats’ offense is well off its MVP-level Tom Brady (feat. Rob Gronkowski) days, but it will improve to some degree, per its late-season usual. And with an even stronger defensive safety net backing Brady’s crew, derailing the Patriots in Foxborough will require a near-perfect effort. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Texans (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson

13 of 18

SAN FRANCISCO 37, GREEN BAY 8

PACKERS (8-3): This game was a glaring example of where the Packers and 49ers, teams constructed from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree, are respectively in their overall development. San Francisco has had this system instituted for longer and wow, does it show. The Packers may have one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game and some great individual players, but the 49ers have a great team that feeds off and complements each side of the ball about as well as any team in the NFL right now. The Packers have pieces. The 49ers are whole. The scheme in San Francisco is very much in place on offense and defense and everyone is bought in. Not so much yet in Green Bay. Who is to say if LaFleur will ever have a complete team or not in Green Bay, but clearly the process is further along with the 49ers. In some ways, that should be encouraging. In other ways, it shows that this team has a lot more holes and problems than their counterpart tonight and who is to say if Green Bay will ever reach such heights in team building. GAME GRADE: C- | NEXT: at Giants (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

49ERS (10-1): San Francisco’s defense turned in another stunning performance, laying waste to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ passing attack in a showdown of two NFC powers. Rodgers threw for just 104 yards, the second-lowest total in a game this season for a quarterback with at least 30 attempts. The 49ers sacked Rodgers five times, but it wasn’t just their pass rush that was dynamic; their secondary also made plenty of plays on the football when Rodgers did have time to throw. Green Bay looked disjointed and had no answers for Robert Saleh’s defense, and the truth of the matter is, unless teams can run the ball right at San Francisco and have consistent success, they won’t do much offensively. If the Niners can slightly improve their current pace, they’ll challenge the single-season record for fewest passing yards allowed in a 16-game season. Make no mistake: the 49ers delivered a major statement with this win. GAME GRADE: A+ | NEXT: at Ravens (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 14 of 18

MONDAY: BALTIMORE AT LA RAMS

RAVENS (8-2): Week 12 concludes with the Ravens heading to Los Angeles to take on the Rams. This will be a real test for Baltimore’s outstanding and unique offense. Expect Jalen Ramsey to follow Marquise Brown and get very physical with him at the line of scrimmage in press man coverage much of the time. That will allow Wade Philips to bracket Mark Andrews with a steady combination of safeties and linebackers. The Rams are an excellent run defense and while they haven’t seen the likes of Lamar Jackson, Baltimore hasn’t had to deal with a disruptive force like Aaron Donald. The Ravens running game is diverse, but Donald can destroy it like no one else in the league. Jackson had better be careful at the mesh point of Baltimore’s read-option game or he could get a face full of Donald. NEXT: vs. 49ers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


RAMS (6-4): It looks like Los Angeles will have Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods back for their showdown with Baltimore, and perhaps their presence will be enough to jump start an offense that has averaged under 20 points per game over its last five contests. Los Angeles’ passing offense struggled mightily against Pittsburgh and Chicago, and Jared Goff was terrible against Pittsburgh, and only marginally better against Chicago. The Rams still have the Cardinals twice, as well as a revenge game at home against the Seahawks. They likely need to go 4-2 and possibly 5-1 over their last six games to have a realistic chance at a playoff spot. That would make a win over the Ravens a necessity, as they still have road trips to Dallas and San Francisco remaining. With his stable of skill talent full again, the pressure is squarely on Goff to deliver results, regardless of who Los Angeles is facing. NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 15 of 18

BYE: ARIZONA

CARDINALS (3-7-1): Does David Johnson still have a role with the Cardinals? Kliff Kingsbury insists that he does, despite Johnson not getting a single touch and only being on the field for nine snaps against San Francisco. Johnson is owed over $13 million next season, and carries a dead cap hit of $16.2 million. He’s not going anywhere unless Arizona finds a trade partner, which seems unlikely. Bruce Arians was at the helm for the Cards when Johnson had a monster 2016, but it’s highly unlikely that a reunion in Tampa will be arranged. So what will Arizona do? Kingsbury has an extra week to either tinker with ways to get Johnson more involved, or further bury him on the depth chart. It stands to reason that Johnson, if healthy, would be a big boon to Kyler Murray’s development and Arizona’s offensive production moving forward. If he’s completely phased out, the Cardinals will be paying a lot of money for nothing.  NEXT: vs. Rams (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

16 of 18

BYE: KANSAS CITY

CHIEFS (7-4): Two years ago, Kareem Hunt won the rushing title in 15 games and one play. The 2017 third-round pick was better last year, averaging 109.2 scrimmage yards per game. The Chiefs have not replaced him effectively and lack ground-attack consistency. Damien Williams’ plug-and-play production of last season has not carried over; his 91-yard touchdown run against the Vikings represents nearly a third of his season-long rushing total (309 yards; 3.7 per carry). As a once-undrafted former Dolphins third-stringer, Williams should not have been expected to replace Hunt. LeSean McCoy has shown flashes of his old self, but his three fumbles (one shy of his single-season high) make him an unstable asset. The Chiefs rank 22nd in rushing (94.4 YPG), and Williams is now nursing a rib injury. The Chiefs must hope their renewed offensive line health can stabilize a suddenly shaky patchwork backfield, because with the slim margin for error their defense allows, they cannot afford to be vulnerable anywhere on offense. NEXT: vs. Raiders (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 17 of 18

BYE: LA CHARGERS

CHARGERS (4-7): Last week, Philip Rivers undercut his 353-yard performance with four more nationally televised interceptions, drawing attention to his 2019 regression. But the player who accounted for nearly a third of those aerial yards remains on a historic pace. Austin Ekeler has been one of the Chargers’ few bright spots, and his work in Los Angeles’ final five games will be a key reason to follow the NFL’s least-followed team. Ekeler’s 108-yard receiving performance against the Chiefs lifted him to 667, leaving him on pace for 970 for the season. Ekeler’s two goal-line fumbles notwithstanding, he has outplayed Melvin Gordon this season. Letting Gordon walk for a higher-end compensatory pick and attempting to extend their undrafted success story next year would be a prudent strategy for the Bolts. NEXT: at Broncos

— Sam Robinson 18 of 18

BYE: MINNESOTA

VIKINGS (8-3): The Vikings should be in a real good position coming out of their bye week. Over the past two months, Kirk Cousins is playing as well as just about any quarterback in this league. And that was mostly without Adam Thielen, who is set to return after the week off. With Thielen out, tight ends Irv Smith and Kyle Rudolph really stepped up while Stefon Diggs remained a dominant player even with more coverage attention during that stretch. Smith has a very bright future in this league. Dalvin Cook is a huge force in the passing game and with the punishment he has sustained this year, the week off comes at a great time for Cook. The Vikings offense has a chance to one of the very best in football to finish the regular season and presumably beyond. NEXT: at Seahawks (Mon.)

— Matt Williamson

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_12_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30633026#slide_18

By: Yardbarker Staff

Why 2017 NFL running back class holds key to position’s future

The running back position’s prestige peak occurred decades ago in the NFL. Most teams have steadily devoted fewer resources to acquiring starters at the position, leading to the job’s plummeting value, but major recent investments have thrust running backs into a strange place.

From July 2018-September 2019, contracts given to Todd Gurley (Rams), David Johnson (Cardinals), Le’Veon Bell (Jets) and Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys) transformed a stagnant running back market. Those deals, for the most part, have not benefited the teams. Injuries altered the trajectories of Gurley and Johnson, and Bell has predictably struggled behind a terrible offensive line.

But the next wave of impact talents took the baton; many of this season’s premier backs came from the 2017 draft class. Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) and Dalvin Cook (Vikings) are surging toward All-Pro status, and Aaron Jones (Packers) is not far behind. Pro Bowl rosters will include them and Leonard Fournette (Jaguars), with Alvin Kamara (Saints), Marlon Mack (Colts) and former undrafted free agent Austin Ekeler (Chargers) vying for invites. Add Chris Carson (Seahawks), Joe Mixon (Bengals) and former rushing champion Kareem Hunt (Browns), and that 2017 running back class looks like one of the deepest in the common-draft era (1967-present).

That group has produced this season’s top three in yards from scrimmage, four of the top six touchdown scorers and five of the top seven in rushing yards per game. Despite some previous big-ticket backs’ stocks dropping, the position remains in good hands.

With Bell and Elliott waging memorable contract standoffs, next year promises to be one of the most interesting offseasons involving a single position in modern NFL history. All 2017 draftees become extension-eligible in January. The flood of re-up candidates set the stage for a macro reassessment of the modern running back, following a grim decade for the position. But it wasn’t always like that.

In the 1990s, 35 running backs became first-round picks. Teams’ thinking did not change much in the 2000s, when 32 backs were first-rounders. This decade’s final tally? 16, with none going in the 2013 or ’14 first rounds. Despite the impressive work the 2017 draft class has shown this season, the contract-seeking backs’ signing windows will open in the worst era for such investments.

Elite running backs’ salaries once comprised bigger chunks of teams’ payrolls. Terrell Davis signed for $7.8 million per year with Denver in July 1998, when the salary cap was barely $52 million. That salary would have ranked top five among running backs in July 2018, when the cap stood at $177 million. The needle did not move too far until the summer of 2011, when Chris Johnson signed a $13.5 million-per-year deal with Tennessee, and Adrian Peterson broke through with a $14.2 million-AAV pact with Minnesota. Those contracts soon became relics.

Peterson’s six-year, $85.3 million contract topped the market for years. Teams stopped rewarding ball-carriers on that level, as prices for other positions — including offensive linemen, who have longer shelf lives than the players they block for -– steadily rose. When Peterson’s contract came off the Vikings’ books, the highest-paid running back salary stood at barely $8 million.

Select franchises have taken renewed interest in the position, with Elliott, Fournette and Saquon Barkley (Giants) going in the top five from 2016-18. But the injuries to Gurley and David Johnson, and Bell’s $13.25 million-per-year Jets deal generating 3.1 yards per carry through nine games surely have franchises reevaluating running backs’ worth. How they proceed in 2020 will be telling.

The Panthers and Saints, respectively, rely on the versatility McCaffrey and Kamara provide. They are the modern prototypes, working as premier aerial weapons as well as between-the-tackles runners. McCaffrey is on pace to threaten Chris Johnson’s season scrimmage yards record (2,509); Kamara has made two Pro Bowls and joins Michael Thomas in a dual-engine Saints offense. Although Fournette has a throwback skill set, he drives the Jaguars’ offense. 

Expect extension talks to commence between these three and their respective South division teams next year, with McCaffrey and Kamara possessing intriguing leverage for big-money deals. The others’ negotiating positions — including that of Cook, who plays in a system notorious for running back turnover — are not as powerful.

Elliott holding out after three years and landing a record $15 million-per-year extension should provide a blueprint for McCaffrey and Kamara. Although McCaffrey can be controlled through 2021 via the fifth-year option, he should strongly consider holding out in 2020 rather than risk greater mileage and/or an injury decreasing his value. Fournette’s deal also has a fifth-year option, but because he has not demonstrated McCaffrey-like value, the Jaguars should have more time to consider their options.

The Cook-Kamara-Jones-Mack-Mixon-Carson contingent will enter 2020 on expiring contracts, forcing their teams to make decisions. The uncharted territory between the top tier (north of $13 million annually) and the stratum of Atlanta’s  Devonta Freeman (approximately $8 million AAV) figures to be explored. It would behoove teams seeking to retain their backs long term to strike early, with the prospect of the next CBA changing the landscape.

As the cap keeps spiking by around $10 million each year, the gulf between the Tier 1 and Tier 2 running back salary spectrum will represent better value than it did during the mid-2010s.  However, organizations may play hardball with their backs because of the position’s replaceability, short lifespan and the fallout from the mistakes of the Rams, Cardinals and Jets. Some of these players will then advance to free agency in 2021, making that market unusually interesting.

On the field, this class is on track to push that of 2008 — which produced Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Jonathan Stewart and Ray Rice — as the 21st century’s best. With nearly a third of next year’s depth charts likely to have a 2017 draftee or UDFA in first-string running back slots, the 15 months between January 2020 and March 2021 will bring major developments for one of the NFL’s most recognizable positions. 

And the latest rising talents will play pivotal roles in how the NFL views the running back position in the 2020s.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/why_2017_nfl_running_back_class_holds_key_to_positions_future/s1_13132_30590156

By: Sam Robinson

Grading each NFL team at the halfway mark of the season

With about half of the NFL season in the books, the 2019 outlook for each team is clearer. We handed out grades for each team through eight weeks of the season. 1 of 32

Arizona Cardinals: C

Arizona made a splash in the offseason by hiring Kliff Kingsbury and drafting Kyler Murray first overall. The defense has spent most of the first eight weeks without Patrick Peterson due to a suspension and has allowed the second most points in the league, but the offense has shown some explosion, resulting in a 3-4-1 record, including a recent three-game win streak. It’s definitely progress. 2 of 32

Atlanta Falcons: F

The Falcons cleaned house in the offseason, getting rid of all three coordinators, but it’s apparent the problem was above them. Atlanta enters the bye week 1-7, allowing a staggering 31.3 points per game and underachieving on offense with only 20.6 points per game. Matt Ryan’s recent ankle injury has only added to their woes. Head coach Dan Quinn led the Falcons to the Super Bowl only three years ago, but now it’s clearly time for him to go. 3 of 32

Baltimore Ravens: B+

It was fair to expect regression from the Ravens after losing significant talent on defense during the offseason, but the team has made up for its defensive issues with an explosive offense led by Lamar Jackson. Baltimore ranks second in the league with 30.6 points per game and is coming off a huge win at Seattle. The Ravens host New England this week, which will be a measuring stick for both teams.

Buffalo Bills: B

While it’s hard to complain about a 5-2 record, especially given the recent history of the Bills, we still need to put their five wins in perspective. They all came against teams with a .500 or worse record, including two winless teams. The offense has struggled despite several notable offseason additions, with young quarterback Josh Allen showing inconsistency. A 31-13 home loss to a floundering Eagles squad in Week 8 is concerning. 5 of 32

Carolina Panthers: B

Considering Cam Newton’s foot injury and resulting five missed games, a 4-3 record is about as good as the Panthers could have expected. That said, they were blown out at San Francisco, 51-13, coming off a bye, which puts a stench on their start. After Kyle Allen’s poor play in that game, Newton’s return is probably coming sooner than later. The defense had played well up to that point, but now there are suddenly questions about it. 6 of 32

Chicago Bears: C-

The Bears have big problems, starting with third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He’s taken a big step back early this season, with a terrible 5.6 yards per attempt and a 81.4 passer rating. His poor play has resulted in consecutive home losses, and two missed field goals by Eddy Pineiro vs. the Chargers also raises questions about the kicking game, which was one of the top priorities in the offseason. At 3-4 in a tough division, Chicago’s prospects to return to the playoffs this year don’t look great.

7 of 32

Cincinnati Bengals: F

The expectations for Cleveland were probably a bit too lofty after their big offseason moves, including the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. That said, the team is a disappointment at 2-5 for even the most pessimistic. Despite a bevy of weapons, the team ranks 25th in points per game, and Baker Mayfield has seen huge regression with 12 picks in seven games. The Browns have committed the most penalties in the league and have the second-most giveaways. That’s losing football, and it goes squarely on first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens. 9 of 32

Dallas Cowboys: B-

It’s been a first half of inconsistency for the Cowboys, who have a three-game winning streak and a three-game losing streak already. The good news is that their offensive line is finally healthy again, and it looks like their 24-22 loss at the Jets in Week 6 was a wake-up call. Dak Prescott remains an MVP candidate with a 102.6 passer rating, and the team is in the driver’s seat in the NFC East after a big win vs. Philadelphia. The Cowboys could do a lot of things better, but they’re in an enviable position in the standings.

10 of 32

Denver Broncos: D

Vic Fangio’s long-awaited chance to be a head coach hasn’t gone well, with a 2-6 start and an inept offense. The truth is that the Broncos roster has been in transition, with many new faces on defense and Joe Flacco at quarterback. Flacco has continued to prove he’s a below-average quarterback at this point in his career, with the team averaging only 15.6 points per game, and he could be out indefinitely with a neck injury. The team desperately needs to address the offensive line next offseason, but that’s something we’ve been saying for years. John Elway, are you listening? 11 of 32

Detroit Lions: C

Detroit went into its bye week 2-1-1, with a home loss vs. Kansas City as the only major blemish. Since then the team is 1-2, losing to division opponents Green Bay and Minnesota. Quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to play well under new coordinator Darrell Bevell, but running back Kerryon Johnson will miss significant time for the second straight year to injury, and the defense remains a disappointment, allowing 26.6 points per game. 12 of 32

Green Bay Packers: A

The ball has bounced Green Bay’s way during the first half of the season, most recently with favorable reffing vs. Detroit in Week 6 and the absence of Patrick Mahomes when the team visited Arrowhead Stadium in Week 8. Regardless, Green Bay is 7-1 through the first half of the season and has been without No. 1 wideout Davante Adams for most of the year. Aaron Rodgers is playing great football under new head coach Matt LaFleur, and running back Aaron Jones also looks like a potential MVP candidate with 11 touchdowns. Looking ahead, the team’s visit to San Francisco in Week 12 could have huge playoff positioning implications.

13 of 32

Houston Texans: B

The Texans are in good position in the AFC after a 5-3 start, and Deshaun Watson continues to play like an elite quarterback. However, the team has already spent much of its 2020 draft capital to help in the short term, and J.J. Watt is now out for the year. Anything short of a playoff run will be a disappointment, and missing the playoffs is still well within the range of possibilities with four division games remaining. 14 of 32

Indianapolis Colts: A-

With a 5-2 start to the year, Frank Reich has to be the current leader for Coach of the Year. Andrew Luck retired just before the start of the season, and the Colts have also had significant injuries, most notably T.Y. Hilton, Malik Hooker and Darius Leonard. Jacoby Brissett has been extremely efficient, which is a direct credit to Reich’s development, and the defense continues to play in the top half of the league despite the injuries. 15 of 32

Jacksonville Jaguars: B

If the Jaguars were told Nick Foles would suffer a fractured collarbone in Week 1 and Jalen Ramsey would appear in only three games, another disastrous season would probably be considered a foregone conclusion. However, rookie Gardner Minshew has done a great job filling in for Foles, and the Jags were able to get past the Ramsey distraction and net a great trade return from the Rams. Leonard Fournette is also playing the best football of his career. At 4-4, the Jags’ playoff hopes are still alive.

Kansas City Chiefs: B

Injuries have ravaged the Chiefs, including to Patrick Mahomes, three offensive linemen, their top two wideouts and top two defensive linemen. The team has also lost three home games already. However, Mahomes might miss only one or two games after what looked like a catastrophic knee injury in Week 7, and the defense has picked up the pace despite its missing pieces. The Chiefs remain in good position to not only win the AFC West again but to also possibly earn the coveted No. 2 seed in a thin AFC. 17 of 32

Los Angeles Chargers: D

With 2018 being a rare exception, the Chargers seem to have lived through the movie “Groundhog Day” for the last decade. They’ve had numerous major injuries, headlined by star safety Derwin James, lost games in ways no one would believe and continue to disappoint despite a talented roster. Through seven games, they already had more losses than last season. Philip Rivers has started to show his age at times this year, and the remainder of the schedule is brutal, including the Packers, Vikings and two games against the Chiefs. 18 of 32

Los Angeles Rams: B-

The Rams seemed to put their disappointing Super Bowl performance behind them by starting the season 3-0, but that was followed by three straight losses. They’ve righted the ship against the Falcons and Bengals and still have a good shot to make the playoffs. The offense ranks eighth in points per game, well behind what it did last year as Jared Goff and Todd Gurley have struggled, and the defense has been embarrassed on multiple occasions. The good news is that they seem to have received a boost after acquiring cornerback Jalen Ramsey two weeks ago.

19 of 32

Miami Dolphins: F

It appeared the Dolphins were tanking before the season began, and that speculation was realized prior to Week 1 when Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills were traded. The team has continued to make trades, most notably Minkah Fitzpatrick for Pittsburgh’s 2020 first-round pick. For all its struggles, Miami has gotten closer to a win recently with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. However, there’s no sugarcoating the fact that the Dolphins rank dead last in points scored and points allowed per game. 20 of 32

Minnesota Vikings: A-

Minnesota is doing a nice job bouncing back from a disappointing 2018 season, with a solid 6-2 start. Kirk Cousins has played some of the best ball of his career recently, while a healthy Dalvin Cook is on a 2,200 yards from scrimmage pace. The defense also looks better, allowing only 16.5 points per game. While both losses came in the division, they were also on the road. The Vikings remaining schedule is difficult, but an NFC North title and No. 2 seed in the NFC are still well within reach. 21 of 32

New England Patriots: A

There’s no debating that the Patriots’ schedule has been incredibly easy, but they’ve barely had a scare through eight games. The defense is on a historic pace, with only 7.6 points allowed per game, and the team also quietly leads the league with 31.3 points per game. Still, the schedule is about to get much tougher, and it remains to be seen if the offense has enough weapons for Tom Brady to stand up to the challenge, averaging only 3.2 yards per carry and 7.3 yards per pass attempt despite that mediocre schedule.

By: Seth Trachtman

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/grading_each_nfl_team_at_the_halfway_mark_of_the_season/s1__30392639#slide_1

Top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 7 NFL action

The Baltimore Ravens went into Seattle and took out a red-hot Seahawks team in a statement win on Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers remained the NFC’s only undefeated team with a shutout win over the Redskins in D.C.

On the other side of the ledger, the Atlanta Falcons’ season-long struggles continued while the Houston Texans put up a bummer of a performance against the Indianapolis Colts.

These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 7 NFL action.

Ravens make a major statement

Oct 20, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Baltimore defeated Seattle 30-16. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off ho-hum wins over the Steelers and Bengals, Baltimore headed to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. This was already being billed as a statement game for the Ravens. They did not disappoint.

The recently-acquired Marcus Peters made a personal statement early on with a pick-six of Russell Wilson . Lamar Jackson continued to dazzle, both through the air and on the ground in putting up 259 total yards. Baltimore then put the game away with a fumble return for a touchdown to ice things. Now at 5-2 following a 30-16 win over Seattle, these Ravens look like real threats in the AFC.

Aaron Rodgers excelling in new offense

Oct 20, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass in the second quarter during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

It took some time for the former NFL MVP to get into rhythm in first-year head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense. Rodgers had tallied just eight touchdowns in six games heading into Week 7. That changed big-time against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

Rodgers completed 25-of-31 passes for 429 yards with six total touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 42-24 win. Statistically speaking, it was the best performance of his Hall of Fame-worthy career. It also led to Rodgers making history as he navigated his team to a 6-1 record heading into the midway point of the season. Things are going swimmingly for Mr. Rodgers and his Pack right now.

Kirk Cousins and Co. keep pace

Oct 20, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the best two-game span of his Vikings career, Cousins busted out more of his new tricks against the division rival Lions in Detroit on Sunday. He led Minnesota to at least 38 points for the second consecutive game, throwing four touchdown pases and zero picks while tossing the ball around the field to the tune of 337 yards.

More than anything, Cousins’ ability to connect with Stefon Diggs loomed large in a 42-30 win. Diggs caught 7-of-8 targets for 142 yards. For his part, Cousins is completing 76% of his passes for nearly 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception over the past three games. He also now has Minnesota at 5-2 after the Vikings struggled to open the season.

Jaguars ride stout defense to much-needed win

Oct 20, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) talk with each other after the Jaguars defeated the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

If the Jaguars were to have any say in the AFC South this season, they had to dispose of the winless Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. That’s exactly what we saw from Jacksonville in a 27-17 win over the Bengals.

That included a pick-six of Andy Dalton with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter. All said, Jacksonville’s defense forced four turnovers in a brilliant all-around performance. This defense also held the Bengals to -2 rushing yards in an all-time great first-half performance. Now 3-4 on the season, Jacksonville is not yet done.

Texans blow big opportunity

Oct 20, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) motions at the line of scrimmage in a game against the Indianapolis Colts during the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off an upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs last week, Bill O’Brien and the Texans had to be feeling good about themselves heading into Sunday’s AFC South outing against the Indianapolis Colts. But it did not go according to plan.

MVP candidate Deshaun Watson put up his worst performance of the season, throwing two key interceptions. Meanwhile, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett picked apart Houston’s defense to the tune of 326 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-23 win. The Texans had an opportunity to move two games ahead of Indy in the win column. Instead, Houston now finds itself in second place heading into Week 8.

Chargers find a new way to lose

Oct 20, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) and Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) after a Titans win at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles entered Sunday’s action at 2-4 on the season and in must-win mode against another pedestrian team in the Tennessee Titans. After making the game close late in the fourth quarter, the Chargers found yet another way to lose.

Down just 23-20 after overcoming a double-digit deficit, it looked like the Chargers were on the brink of a game-winning touchdown. They had second-and-goal from inside the one with mere seconds left. That’s when former holdout running back Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball, leading to yet another horrible loss for the Chargers. More so than Gordon’s fumble, the decision by head coach Anthony Lynn to go with him instead of Austin Ekeler will stand out. Ekeler had put up 125 total yards compared to Gordon’s 32 before that final snap. Ouch!

49ers defense is just stupid good

Oct 20, 2019; Landover, MD, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) celebrates while leaving the field after the 49ersÕ game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The weather played a huge role for the NFC’s sole remaining undefeated team on Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo and San Francisco’s offense managed just nine points and 282 total yards in Landover, Maryland against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. However, that’s not the story here. Instead, it’s all about what has now become an historically good defense.

San Francisco held Case Keenum to 50 net passing yards. It has now given up 98 net passing yards over the past two games. Heck, the 49ers have yielded 10 total points over their past three games. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead are absolutely dominant up front. Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner might be the best linebacker tandem in the league. Meanwhile, the Richard Sherman-led secondary is freakishly good. Championship-caliber stuff.

Bills break out of early funk

Oct 20, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (10) celebrates his touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo found itself as a resounding 15.5-point home favorite against the winless Miami Dolphins on Sunday. It was certainly a trap game for a Bills squad that was looking to go 5-1 for the first time since 2008. At least initially, it looked like Buffalo was going to be a victim of one of the biggest upsets of the NFL season.

Miami held a 14-9 lead heading into the second half. That’s when the defense stepped up. Tre’Davious White intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick at the goal line with Miami driving for a potential two-score lead. Buffalo would ultimately score a touchdown on the ensuing possession. It also scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter after White forced a fumble to put the game away. It’s this ball-hawking and dominant defense that has Buffalo as a legit contender heading into the midway point of the season.

Yet another win for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals

Oct 20, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws a pass during the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

 When Arizona started the season out 0-3-1, it looked like much of the same for the long-downtrodden organization. Murray was in over his head as a rookie starting quarterback. Kliff Kingsbury’s offense had yet to click. That’s now changed altogether. Arizona entered Sunday’s matchup against the New York Giants having won two consecutive games and then took care of business against the Giants in Jersey.

This game did not feature the eye-opening numbers we’ve seen from Murray recently. He completed just 14 passes for 104 yards. However, it was the performance by Chase Edmunds (126 rushing yards, three touchdowns) and Arizona’s defense that made the difference in a 27-21 win. Now at 3-3-1 on the season, Arizona finds itself as a budding playoff contender. Crazy stuff.

Wheels completely off in Atlanta

Oct 20, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) grabs the facemark of Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) as defensive end Michael Brockers (90) and defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) are shown on the play in the third quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it was Devonta Freeman’s frustration or an inability to even slow down what had been a struggling Rams offense, Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons were an absolute mess. When the clock struck zero in Atlanta, the Falcons were on the losing end of a 37-10 blowout loss.

The much-maligned Falcons defense allowed Jared Goff to throw for 267 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Falcons, it didn’t get too much better on the other side of the ball. Former MVP Matt Ryan exited in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and was seen in a walking boot. With the Falcons now at 1-6 on the season, questions will continue to come up regarding Quinn’s status. It’s really bad in Hotlanta right now.

Bears need a quarterback

Oct 20, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not sure if it’s possible for the Bears to add a starter-caliber signal caller ahead of the Oct. 29 trade deadline. What we do know is that Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer under center in the Windy City. The third-year quarterback entered Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints having thrown three touchdowns in four games. He was downright dreadful throughout the afternoon, leading to Bears fans booing the former top-three pick.

Trubisky tallied 251 yards on a ridiculous 54 passing attempts, putting up most of his numbers in garbage time when the Bears found themselves down 36-10. Now at 3-3 on the season, one has to wonder if the Bears will look to make a move. The likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marcus Mariota and Nick Mullens might be available.

Cowboys get off the schneid

Oct 20, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) gives a way a towel after a victory against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas entered Week 7 having lost each of its past three games. Head coach Jason Garrett was clearly on the hot seat . The time was now to come up with a win and salvage their season. That’s exactly what the Cowboys did at home against the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night.

The Cowboys’ defense forced four turnovers of Carson Wentz and Philadelphia’s offense. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott completed 21-of-27 passes for 239 yards in a near-flawless performance. The end result was a dominating 37-10 win over Philadelphia and sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Separation made in the NFC

Oct 20, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) and Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) meet after the game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

By virtue of their win Sunday night, the Cowboys have come out on top in all three of their divisional games to date. They are now one game ahead of Philadelphia with the Giants and Redskins riding up the rear. The New Orleans Saints’ blowout road win over the Chicago Bears changes the dynamics for both teams. New Orleans is now a full game ahead of Carolina in the NFC South. Chicago? Well it falls three games behind Green Bay in the win column.

Out west, the San Francisco 49ers’ shutout win coupled with Seattle’s loss has Kyle Shanahan’s squad two games ahead of the Seahawks in the loss column. Despite their win over Atlanta, the defending NFC champion Rams are three games behind San Francisco in the loss column. Yeah, these NFC teams have created separation heading into the midway point of the season.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/top_takeaways_from_sundays_week_7_nfl_action/s1_12680_30313784

By: Vincent Frank