Welcome to Week 12 of the 2022 NFL season, which opened on Thanksgiving Day with three games.
The Detroit Lions have been hosting Thanksgiving games for 88 years but have not had a lot of success of late. The Buffalo Bills completed a late comeback to beat the Lions, who have won just six Thanksgiving games since 2000. The Dallas Cowboys then ended a three-game losing streak on the holiday by outlasting the NFC East rival New York Giants. In the final Thanksgiving contest, the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots battled back and forth until the Vikings pulled away late to earn the victory.
On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins put up 30 points on the Houston Texans in the first half and triumphed, the New York Jets started QB Mike White and won, the Cleveland Browns came from behind to drop the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime and the Jacksonville Jaguars topped the Baltimore Ravens in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion.
Elsewhere, the Washington Commanders notched their seventh win by defeating the Atlanta Falcons, the Cincinnati Bengals took down the Tennessee Titans and Sam Darnold made his season debut and led the Carolina Panthers to a win over the Denver Broncos.
In the late-afternoon window, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers continued to roll, while the Los Angeles Chargers‘ gutsy call to go for two late pushed them past the Arizona Cardinals. The Las Vegas Raiders also won on a walk-off, overtime touchdown (for the second straight week) against the Seattle Seahawks.
Our NFL Nation reporters react with the biggest takeaways and lingering questions off this week’s matchups and look ahead to what’s next. Let’s get to it.
What to know: Quarterback Jalen Hurts is rewriting the record books. He set a new franchise high with 158 rushing yards — a mark previously held by Michael Vick (130 yards) — and thanks to a monster first half, became the first player in at least the past 30 seasons to have 125 pass yards and 125 rush yards in a half. Hurts’ rushing duties have increased over the past two weeks in the absence of one of his top receiving targets, tight end Dallas Goedert. No matter what the situation calls for, Hurts continues to prove he can adapt and deliver. That’s a scary thing for the rest of the NFL.
Will the mounting injuries catch up with them? Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who entered Week 12 as the league leader in interceptions (6), left because of a rib injury in the first quarter following a collision with Packers receiver Christian Watson and did not return. The Eagles are being hit by injuries at positions with questionable depth of late, including tight end (Goedert), slot corner (Avonte Maddox) and now safety. If Gardner-Johnson misses extended time, it could spell problems for the back end. — Tim McManus
Next game: vs. Titans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: One way or another, it looked like Jordan Love would get his shot in 2022. Welcome to the most interesting storyline for the rest of this season. When Aaron Rodgers left Sunday’s loss in the third quarter because of an oblique injury, it opened the door for Love, the third-year backup and possible heir apparent. It’s always possible Rodgers could return next week, but if not, the Packers will get the look at Love they need to evaluate his future. He gave them something to think about right away, hitting Christian Watson on a slant for a 63-yard, catch-and-run touchdown and then leading a field goal drive with 1:08 left. Love never got a third possession because the Packers’ defense couldn’t get a stop in the final minute.
Why did anyone think the Packers’ run defense would be any good? Forgotten in all the self-congratulation the Packers did this offseason about how good their defense was last year and how great it was going to be this year was the fact that they ranked 30th in the NFL last season in rushing yards allowed per rush at 4.7. As impressive as the Eagles’ dynamic duo of Hurts and Miles Sanders was (Hurts with 17 rushes for 157 yards and Sanders with 21 for 143 and two TDs), defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s unit was easy pickings. — Rob Demovsky
Next game: at Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Raiders have righted their ship and are in the midst of another unlikely winning streak after Sunday’s overtime decision against the Seahawks. The stunning home loss to the Colts seems like a distant memory; Denver and Seattle handing the Raiders games will do that. It hasn’t been the prettiest of streaks, but the Raiders won four straight to force their way into the playoffs late last season. Can they do it again? Especially with Josh Jacobs carrying the offense at Seattle with 303 total scrimmage yards — the most in a game in Raiders history — and the defense doing just enough.
How long can this streak last? Well, the Raiders’ next four games are against teams that have a combined record of 18-25 in the Chargers (6-5), Rams (3-8), Patriots (6-5) and Steelers (3-7), before closing out against the 49ers (7-4) and Chiefs (9-2). Plus, four of the Raiders’ last six games are at home. A six-game winning streak and a record of 8-7 heading into the final two contests? The Raiders, who won in Seattle for the first time since 1998, would take that. — Paul Gutierrez
Next game: vs. Chargers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Seahawks are going in the wrong direction after a disheartening overtime loss. You could chalk up their defeat to Tom Brady and the Bucs in Munich to getting beat by the best QB of all time on a sloppy field. But how do you explain losing at home after a bye to a three-win Raiders team? The Seahawks were on the wrong end of some questionable calls, but they also benefited from some conservative decisions by the Raiders, including one that gave Geno Smith and the offense a chance to win it in OT. The Seahawks can’t afford to lose to teams they should beat when the 49ers are hitting their stride, having already overtaken Seattle in the NFC West.
Why is the Seahawks’ defense regressing? Their turnaround on defense was key to their four-game winning streak, but they’ve struggled against the run since. And while they underestimated Tampa Bay’s run game, that wasn’t the case against Josh Jacobs and the Raiders. Jacobs’ 86-yard touchdown run in overtime was a fitting end to a game in which Seattle repeatedly got overpowered to the tune of 283 rushing yards. The Seahawks’ pass defense came up with two interceptions from Quandre Diggs, but the pass rush didn’t get nearly enough pressure on Derek Carr. — Brady Henderson
Next game: at Rams (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: The 49ers’ offense was asleep for most of Sunday’s game, which was easy to see coming thanks to a short holiday week following a long stay in Colorado and Mexico City. But the defense dominated, and the Niners got their fourth win in a row and first shutout since October 2019. It was enough to get the job done against New Orleans, but San Francisco can’t afford such a flat offensive performance next week with old friend Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins coming to town.
Will the Niners ever allow a second-half point again? The answer is yes, but the 49ers haven’t yielded a second-half score since a Week 7 loss to the Chiefs, a streak of four games. This defense’s ability to close games should come in handy as the Niners make their postseason push. — Nick Wagoner
Next game: vs. Dolphins (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Saints continue to play like a bad team in every way. Running back Alvin Kamara fumbled twice, Wil Lutz missed a field goal, a takeaway was negated by a penalty and the Saints simply could not get into the end zone. The same problems that plagued the Saints earlier in the season continue to show up now, and it feels doubtful at this point they’ll turn things around.
What happened to the Saints’ run game? It was clear the Saints were going to have trouble running the ball against the 49ers’ rush defense, but the outcome was even worse than expected, with quarterback Andy Dalton leading New Orleans with 21 yards. The Saints have only amassed more than 100 net rushing yards once in the past six games. Even the return of two starting linemen did nothing to help, and Kamara’s fumbles put his total at four this season, tying a career high. — Katherine Terrell
Next game: at Buccaneers (Dec. 5, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Chargers’ playoff hopes are alive after a daring decision by coach Brandon Staley to go for a two-point conversion for the win over the Cardinals rather than kicking an extra point and settling for overtime. After dropping back-to-back games and slipping out of the AFC playoff picture, Sunday’s matchup against the struggling Cards was a must-win. The victory improved the Chargers’ chance of a postseason berth to 60%, according to ESPN analytics, while a loss would have dropped it to 36%.
How can the Chargers fix their slow starts? The Chargers have become synonymous with slow starts, digging themselves into a double-digit hole in six games this season but managing to go 4-2 in such instances. The Bolts still face an uphill battle to make the postseason, with games remaining against the Dolphins (8-3) and Titans (7-4), and must find a way to eliminate their inconsistent starts if they want to make a run down the stretch. — Lindsey Thiry
Next game: at Raiders (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Sunday’s performance was a snapshot of what could’ve been had the Cardinals been able to put wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown on the field together earlier than Week 12. The two combined for 133 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches. But it was the unpredictability they brought to the Cardinals’ offense in a last-second loss to the Chargers that sparked the most wonder about what could’ve been had Hopkins not been suspended for six games and Brown not broken his foot.
At 4-8, is the Cardinals’ season over? It sure looks that way. Wilders things have happened, but the hill to get into playoff contention just got a whole lot steeper for Arizona, which now sits near the bottom of the NFC. — Josh Weinfuss
Next game: vs. Patriots (Dec. 12, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Chiefs can’t be tempted to use rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore as their punt returner again. Moore’s fumble, his third on a punt return this season, didn’t cost the Chiefs in their win over the Rams. But turnovers are one thing that can bring the Chiefs down, so they can’t afford to risk it with Moore again. The Chiefs have some adequate options to return punts, including Justin Watson and, when he returns from injured reserve later this season, Mecole Hardman.
Should the Chiefs continue to use the three-player running back rotation for the rest of season? Yes. The Chiefs received meaningful contributions from Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon and Ronald Jones against Los Angeles in their first game without the injured Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Getting solid play from all three backs hasn’t happened much this season. The Chiefs should move forward with the strong running from Pacheco and Jones and the pass-catching from McKinnon, even after Edwards-Helaire returns. — Adam Teicher
Next game: at Bengals (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: At 3-8, the Rams are using this final stretch to figure out if any of the depth they’ve had to utilize this season can be a part of their future. Due to injuries, Los Angeles has been forced to rely on players it didn’t expect to use. Along with missing quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp, the Rams have started 11 different offensive line combinations in 11 games. The Rams entered Sunday’s contest with a 0.9% chance to make the playoffs, so their focus going forward should be to see if players such as running back Kyren Williams or wide receivers Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell and Brandon Powell can have roles going forward.
Will Stafford play again this season? Sean McVay said he isn’t sure whether Stafford, who is in the concussion protocol, would be back on the field for any of the Rams’ six final games. Stafford missed two games in three weeks in the concussion protocol, and McVay was clear last week that the team wouldn’t do anything “reckless” with its quarterback’s health. The smarter play might be to protect Stafford from these meaningless games and hold him out for the remainder of the season. — Sarah Barshop
Next game: vs. Seahawks (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: Trevor Lawrence sure looked like a franchise quarterback on Sunday. He led the Jaguars to a game-winning touchdown drive and two-point conversion with 14 seconds remaining in what is definitely the signature victory in his two seasons. Not only did he come up big when it mattered, it looks like he found the consistency that head coach Doug Pederson has said was the next step in his development. This is the third game in a row in which he’s completed more than 70 percent of his passes and had a passer rating more than 100 — the first time in his two-year career he’s done that.
Have the Jaguars figured out something behind RB Travis Etienne Jr.? The fear when the team traded James Robinson on Oct. 25 was what happens if Etienne gets hurt? JaMycal Hasty hadn’t done much — 24 yards on 13 touches since the trade — and Snoop Conner had played just two snaps. However, Hasty came up big after Etienne went down in the first half against the Ravens, accounting for 95 total yards and a touchdown. He showed against a good defense that he can be an effective role player and the situation gets better once Darrell Henderson Jr., claimed off waivers last week, gets up to speed, especially if Etienne is out for any period of time. — Mike DiRocco
Next game: at Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Marvin Jones Jr. gets his feet down in bounds in the waning seconds for a touchdown. The Jaguars elect to go for two for the win and convert.
What to know: Down by one point with four minutes remaining, Lamar Jackson converted a second-and-20 with his best pass of the season. He uncorked a 62-yard throw to 35-year-old wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who had gotten behind two defenders. Before that throw, Jackson was having one of his worst passing games (13-of-29 for 168 yards). Jackson entered this game completing just 24% of his throws that traveled more than 20 yards in the air (which was better than only the benched Zach Wilson in the NFL). Jackson then finished off the drive hitting Josh Oliver for a 12-yard score, his first touchdown pass since Nov. 7. The Ravens have now lost three games when leading by multiple scores in the fourth quarter, tied for the most in a season in NFL history.
What’s going on with the Ravens in the red zone? The Baltimore offense is keeping lesser teams in games by failing to finish off drives. The Ravens are 3-of-9 in the red zone the last two games, including 2-of-5 on Sunday. Jackson is struggling inside the 20-yard line after excelling there for years. Over the last two weeks, Jackson is 2-of-10 passing for 17 yards in the red zone. From 2018 to 2021, Jackson had completed 60.2% of his red-zone passes, throwing 59 touchdowns and two interceptions. — Jamison Hensley
Next game: vs. Broncos (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: During training camp, Washington envisioned Brian Robinson excelling on power carries and helping control the clock. He suffered a near-tragic setback after getting shot in late August, and it took time for him to return to his old ways. But Robinson has continued to slowly progress, surpassing 100 yards for the first time in his career against Atlanta. Robinson’s running has been a key reason Washington has won six of its past seven games.
How does this affect Washington’s playoff chances? Washington is in a good position for the final stretch, climbing two games above .500 for the first time since 2018. They’re now a half-game behind the Giants — and they play them twice in the next three weeks. Washington will be in control of a playoff spot with a sweep. It’ll be interesting to see which quarterback takes the reins down the stretch: They’ve stuck with Taylor Heinicke because they were winning, but Carson Wentz also wasn’t ready to return from a fractured right ring finger. But if they keep winning, Heinicke likely continues to get the starts. — John Keim
Next game: at Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: It looked so, so familiar. A multitude of running backs punishing an opposing front seven, running no matter the down and distance. Using play-action and quarterback movement to keep defenses from stacking too much against the run. The problem for the Falcons on Sunday? It was Washington that was executing Atlanta’s offensive game plan, and pulling it off with more precision. Even so, the Falcons were in the red zone with a chance to win it before a batted Marcus Mariota pass was intercepted.
Where does this team stand in terms of the playoff race? The loss to the Commanders does damage to any potential wild-card hopes as Washington would now hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. Atlanta still holds tiebreakers over Seattle and San Francisco, but the Falcons have also lost three of their past four games. The loss also hurts their chances to win the NFC South — although Tampa Bay’s loss to Cleveland keeps the Falcons within a half-game of the lead in the weirdest division in football. — Michael Rothstein
Next game: vs. Steelers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Jacoby Brissett went out a winner. In what will likely be his final start as Cleveland’s starting quarterback, Brissett led the Browns on a game-tying touchdown drive at the end of regulation. Then, he set up the game-winning touchdown — which running back Nick Chubb punched in from 3 yards out in overtime — to defeat the Bucs. Brissett has exceeded all expectations in his 11 games as Cleveland’s starter. His late-game heroics in a win over Tom Brady could ultimately be a fitting finale.
Can the Browns build off this victory? Despite being 4-7, Cleveland isn’t completely out of the AFC playoff race. The Browns can afford only one more loss, and probably will still need help. But Cleveland has the talent to reel off wins. — Jake Trotter
Next game: at Texans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Thanks to the Falcons’ loss to the Commanders, Tom Brady and the Bucs remain in first place in the NFC South, but losing All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs for any length of time and possibly the remainder of the season after he was carted off the field with a left leg injury could have devastating ramifications. The offense has already struggled to put points on the board, and losing him creates an even thinner margin for error.
What do you make of the Bucs’ defense? The issues that plagued the defense earlier in the season surfaced against the Browns — a slow start, lack of gap control, overpursuit and costly penalties. Linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka’s aggressiveness was exploited on the reverse to Anthony Schwartz that resulted in a 31-yard touchdown on the opening drive, and once again, linebacker Devin White was slapped with a costly penalty that resulted in a 51-yard field goal. They buckled down for most of the second half, but they still can’t put together a complete performance. — Jenna Laine
Next game: vs. Saints (Dec. 5, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The merry-go-round at quarterback is over. The job is Sam Darnold ‘s for the foreseeable future. Darnold did exactly what interim coach Steve Wilks envisioned — and what former coach Matt Rhule needed. He played within the system, got the ball to receiver DJ Moore, didn’t make any mistakes and let the defense do the rest. His one mistake, a fumble, he recovered and scored on. With a favorable schedule, Carolina (4-8) could even make a run in the weak NFC South.
Will Baker Mayfield be on the roster in two weeks? Carolina has seen all it needs of Mayfield, 1-5 as the starter. So moving forward, look for PJ Walker to be the backup and Mayfield to be inactive at best. That Mayfield has continued to exhibit leadership could keep him on the roster. But with the Week 13 bye, this might be a good time to release him, sign a young quarterback to the practice squad and get him ready for an emergency situation. — David Newton
Next game: at Seahawks (Dec. 11, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: It becomes clearer with each dismal showing on offense that with a league-leading number of players on injured reserve, the Broncos continue to call plays for the team they wish they had on the field instead of the one actually in uniform. When the game was still in the balance, they continued to play with the formation wide open, as if their left tackle and starting center aren’t on injured reserve — and as if three of the receivers in uniform aren’t undrafted players, with two being rookies.
Have the Broncos’ offensive woes finally broken the team’s defense as well? It’s one thing when it’s Raiders receiver Davante Adams romping through the defense, but when the offensively challenged Panthers, with their third different starting quarterback of the season and an interim head coach, line up and control the line of scrimmage, it should sound the alarm. With the run-heavy Ravens next week, the Broncos need some complementary football — as in an offense that at least eats some time when it doesn’t score any points — or their defense will get pulled down into the losing swirl as well. — Jeff Legwold
Next game: at Ravens (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Sam Darnold finds DJ Moore for the quarterback’s first touchdown pass of the season.
What to know: Cincinnati picked up a key win to begin its toughest stretch of the season. Entering Sunday, five of the Bengals’ final seven opponents were ranked ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC standings. In a rematch of their divisional round game last year, Cincinnati’s victory in a low-scoring game at Tennessee showed the same mettle that helped the Bengals make a deep postseason run last season.
Should Samaje Perine be more involved in the offense? When running back Joe Mixon returns after being out with a concussion, Perine has earned the right for a few more carries. The numbers might not suggest it (58 yards on 17 attempts), but Perine was efficient throughout the game, scoring a touchdown. Between Perine, Trayveon Williams and Chris Evans, Cincinnati has some reliable depth at running back. — Ben Baby
Next game: vs. Chiefs (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Titans’ second-half woes resurfaced. Tennessee added to its poor second-half scoring average by scoring six points Sunday. The inability to find a rhythm on offense beyond the second quarter has plagued the Titans all season. This instance was particularly alarming because the Bengals beat the Titans at their own game. They were the more physical team on both sides. As a result, the Titans lost a third straight game to the Bengals. Cincinnati just seems to have their number.
Is Treylon Burks positioned to be the No. 1 receiver going forward? Burks’ leaping 51-yard reception late in the third quarter marked the second week in which he’s had a catch of 50 yards or more. Although they lost the game, Burks appears to have emerged as the Titans’ No. 1 receiver after a stint on injured reserve. Burks’ emergence is timely considering Tennessee will face former Titans No. 1 receiver A.J. Brown and the Eagles next week. — Turron Davenport
Next game: at Eagles (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said he was pleased with his team’s focus and work ethic following its Week 11 bye. His players proved him right by taking a 30-0 lead by halftime. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was pulled midway through the third quarter after completing 22 of 36 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown, pushing his streak without an interception to five games. The win puts the Dolphins back atop the AFC East and keeps them in control of their own destiny as they seek their first division title since 2008.
Will three straight road games in December reveal who the Dolphins really are? Ever since the schedule came out in May, this upcoming stretch was circled as the one that could define the Dolphins’ season. They’re at the 49ers, at the Chargers and at the Bills to start the month before hosting the Packers on Christmas. There are no more pushovers remaining on the Dolphins’ schedule and, considering the AFC East race, they can ill afford to drop more than one of their upcoming games. Miami has recently been spoken of as one of the best teams in both the AFC and NFL — this final stretch could remove all doubt. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Next game: at 49ers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: Another season lost for the Texans, who are 1-9-1 and headed toward the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft. They need to find a long-term answer at quarterback. The organization had hoped that 2021 third-round pick Davis Mills could blossom into a franchise quarterback after an impressive rookie year. But Mills threw 11 interceptions through his first 10 starts and was benched. Backup Kyle Allen wasn’t any better in his first start, as he produced a passer rating of 67.8 with an interception and a touchdown. Now the Texans’ offseason will center around discovering which quarterback coming out in the 2023 draft can accelerate this rebuild. Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis are among the options.
Will Lovie Smith be one-and-done as head coach? The Texans looked worse than last week against the Washington Commanders when they had only 5 yards at half. Against the Dolphins, the Texans barely had more yards (32) in the first half than the Dolphins had points (30). The Texans’ schedule doesn’t get any easier. They face the Cleveland Browns with former Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson next week. They then face the Cowboys, Chiefs, Jaguars, Titans and Colts to finish the season. If Smith finishes 2-14-1 or 3-13-1, it’s not guaranteed he will return. — DJ Bien-Aime
Next game: vs. Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Texans tight end Jordan Akins loses the ball, and Xavien Howard recovers for a Dolphins touchdown.
What to know: New starting quarterback Mike White didn’t just provide a spark; he brought a full-blown inferno in his season debut. Replacing the demoted Zach Wilson, White delivered the Jets’ best passing day of the season. He threw three touchdowns, connected with 10 different receivers and did it all without much help from the ground game for three quarters. Instead of playing not to lose — the way they do with Wilson — the Jets utilized a vertical passing attack. The offense had a personality transplant, all because of White, who made coach Robert Saleh look like a genius for making the change.
Can Elijah Moore be an X factor for the playoff push? Absolutely. It took a while, but this was Moore’s breakout game of the season, with two catches for 64 yards and his first touchdown. Moore, who requested a trade in October because he was unhappy with his usage, was an absolute nonfactor with Wilson at quarterback. We’re talking only two catches for 17 yards in his previous four games. He came alive with White, who sees the field better than Wilson and gets everyone involved. Welcome back, Elijah Moore. — Rich Cimini
Next game: at Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Well, that was dramatic. Trevor Siemian ended up getting the start against the Jets in place of Justin Fields (shoulder) after the veteran backup injured an oblique in warm-ups and the Bears announced Nathan Peterman as QB1. Siemian led back-to-back drives that resulted in Chicago’s only 10 points of the game and had a couple of good moments, getting Chase Claypool and Byron Pringle involved, but that was short lived.
When will Justin Fields return? The Bears open December with Green Bay at home before finally reaching their bye in Week 14. Giving Fields the next two weeks to heal his separated left shoulder could be the smartest play. But if this is strictly a pain management issue, and if Fields can do more in practice this week, the Bears may opt to let him play against the Packers. Meanwhile, the Bears suffered an onslaught of injuries Sunday (safety Eddie Jackson, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Larry Borom). — Courtney Cronin
Next game: vs. Packers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Vikings reversed the bad karma of their historic Week 11 loss to the Cowboys by beating the Patriots, their second victory over a winning team in the past three weeks. At 9-2, closing in on an NFC North title and still within range of the NFC’s No. 1 overall seed, the Vikings are back in the discussion as one of the NFL’s top teams. They’ve now won all eight games they’ve played that have been decided by one possession, tied for the longest winning streak in such games for one season in league history.
Is there anything the Vikings can’t do with Justin Jefferson? At this point, it’s hard to think of something! Thursday night, he caught nine of the 11 passes thrown his way for 139 yards and a touchdown against a defense that mixed its coverages against him as well as any opponent this season. Quarterback Kirk Cousins said the Patriots were changing up the type of double teams they used against him and only occasionally left him in true single coverage. — Kevin Seifert
Next game: vs. Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Patriots were 0-for-3 in the red zone, 3-of-10 on third down and committed five penalties that led to Vikings first downs. That’s not a formula for winning football. The Patriots entered the game as the NFL’s 31st-ranked red zone offense and were going up against the league’s last-rated red zone defense. The red zone remains a major concern.
If the Patriots couldn’t stop Justin Jefferson, what will they do against Stefon Diggs next week? As Devin McCourty said after the game, “We play like that against No. 1 guys, it’s going to be a long year.” The Patriots’ defense stepped up in class, facing quarterback Kirk Cousins and Jefferson, and the results looked a lot different from the prior weeks against less-threatening offenses. They will be facing a lot of offensive firepower the rest of the way — starting with Buffalo next week. — Mike Reiss
Next game: vs. Bills (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Bills offense has some issues, but their stars performed when they needed them which is an important step. Coming into the game, Buffalo was 1-9 when trailing in the fourth quarter over the last two years. But quarterback Josh Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs led the unit downfield on back-to-back drives, connecting on five targets for 65 yards and a score on the final two drives to win the game. But improving in the red zone remains a priority for the offense.
What’s next at cornerback? Cornerback Tre’Davious White was active for the first time since tearing his ACL on Thanksgiving last year, but played just the first two series (15 snaps). After that, Buffalo mostly played rookie Christian Benford and Dane Jackson. Coach Sean McDermott said White played within the range of snaps they expected. With a big game coming up against the Patriots, White’s availability could be key as the defense continues allowing opposing No. 1 receivers to surpass 100 yards in games. — Alaina Getzenberg
Next game: at Patriots (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Detroit Lions have proved they can compete with the league’s best after a close loss to the Buffalo Bills. Now they have to figure out a way to win those tight games through better clock management and decision-making down the stretch. The Lions are 2-7 against teams currently .500 or better. All of their games have been against teams currently .500 or better except for their wins against the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
Is linebacker James Houston‘s debut performance for real? To an extent, but let’s not get carried away. He’s not expected to put up two sacks with a fumble recovery in every game, but the Lions can find a role for him. He became the first player with two sacks in his NFL debut since 2017 (Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt). Nobody’s asking him to become those players, but the Lions’ defense, which ranks last in pass rush win rate (29.1%), could use a defensive playmaker next to fellow rookie Aidan Hutchinson. — Eric Woodyard
Next game: vs. Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Rob Ninkovich weighs in on how Von Miller’s injury could affect the Bills’ Super Bowl hopes.
What to know: This might be 12 days that shape the Cowboys’ season. After losing to Green Bay in overtime Nov. 13, the Cowboys responded with two wins in four days by beating Minnesota and the New York Giants. They were almost perfect vs. the Vikings and less so against the Giants, but they got to 8-3 and swept their divisional rival. “It was a win,” said Dak Prescott, who rebounded from two first-half interceptions with two second-half touchdowns. “It was a win against a division opponent and sometimes all that matters is the win.”
Do the Cowboys need to sign Odell Beckham Jr.? Maybe they don’t. CeeDee Lamb has two 100-yard receiving games in the last three games. Michael Gallup is showing signs that his surgically repaired knee is no longer an issue. And the tight end group of Dalton Schultz, Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot and Sean McKeon is showing they can be a featured part of the offense. Beckham may be a Cowboy, but they will not need him to be their lead receiver. He can come in, after a long layoff from a torn ACL, and be a contributor. — Todd Archer
Next game: vs. Colts (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: So maybe making the playoffs is going to be a struggle for this Giants team, especially with all the injuries. They are not talented or deep enough and it shows when they play better opponents. New York (7-4) overachieved in the first half of the season but this is now consecutive losses, and their schedule is not about to get easier. The matchups with Washington are going to be massive. They appear to be the Giants’ biggest threat for the NFC’s final wild-card spot.
Will the Giants be healthy for the stretch run? After Thursday’s loss coach Brian Daboll indicated he didn’t think any of the recent injuries were going to be long term. The Giants were already anticipating starting outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, left guard Ben Bredeson and right tackle Evan Neal back for their next game against Washington. Daboll’s comments seem to insinuate cornerback Fabian Moreau could be back, as well. Those are four pretty important players that should be returning relatively soon for the Giants’ stretch run. — Jordan Raanan
Next game: vs. Commanders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)