The NFL certainly had an interesting Week 13, with six matchups featuring two teams with winning records. Of course, these matchups altered the playoff races in both conferences, starting with the Cincinnati Bengals establishing themselves as a Super Bowl contender once again.
The Philadelphia Eagles had a convincing win over the Tennessee Titans, while the Minnesota Vikings earned another one-score victory to get to 10 wins. Both teams are on the verge of a playoff spot after Week 13, with the Vikings able to wrap up the NFC North next week. The New York Giants and Washington Commanders played to a tie, also altering the state of the NFC playoff picture.
While the playoff races are getting interesting, here’s one thing we learned about each team in the Week 13 slate of games.
Might be time to see what Desmond Ridder can do: The talk of Marcus Mariota being replaced by Ridder has been benched for a few weeks (no pun intended), yet it may have to be revisited. Mariota went 13 of 24 for 167 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the loss to the Steelers, with only 17 yards rushing.
Not only did the Falcons offense fail to score 20 points for the fourth time in the last five games, Mariota helped that situation with a missed throw to Drake London that should have resulted in a touchdown. The Falcons are a running team, but are 31st in pass attempts because of Mariota’s limitations through the air.
With playoff hopes fading, it might be time to give Ridder a shot.
Running game struggled, despite opponent: The Ravens are still a run-based offense — and one of the best in the league at getting yards on the ground. Yet, all season Baltimore hasn’t been dominant in that department, which made Sunday’s game against Denver an opportunity to rack of yards against the 17th ranked run defense.
The Ravens put up a pedestrian 103 yards, which was affected by Lamar Jackson leaving after the first quarter. Baltimore proved it could run with Tyler Huntley at quarterback last year, but had just 3.7 yards per carry Sunday.
Perhaps it’s the lack of wide receivers, making teams stack the box. Maybe it’s J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards being out with injuries most of the year, but this team isn’t running the ball like it is capable of. Keep in mind: Baltimore is still third in the league in rushing and yards per attempt.
Josh Allen cleans up red zone woes: Allen has not been great in the red zone as of late, having four interceptions inside the red zone in his last five games before Thursday. The Bills quarterback finished with his first 100-plus passer rating in the red zone since Week 6, going 4 of 5 for 29 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Allen has just a 52.3% completion rate in the red zone this year, with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions for a 76.2 rating. While Allen still has to fix his turnover woes in the red one, getting back to his pre-2022 ways in Thursday’s win was a good start.
Bears offensive line leads Justin Fields to his best day: The Bears aren’t making the playoffs, so the sole purpose of this season is to develop Fields. Not surprisingly, the offensive line having their best performance of the year Sunday led to Fields having his best week as a passer.
Fields finished 20 of 25 for 254 yards, as the 80% completion rate is the highest of his career. Yes, Fields did throw two interceptions — but he had a season-high in passing yards and completion rate. No coincidence this was the first time the Bears haven’t allowed a sack in over two years.
Good protection is going to make Fields as dangerous as a passer as he is as a runner. That will bode very well for the Bears, who have to address the offensive line this offseason.
Samaje Perine is a playmaker in an offense full of them: It was another week where Perine stepped up in the absence of Joe Mixon, giving the Bengals excellent balance on the ground in Sunday’s win over the Chiefs. Perine’s physicality was on display in Week 13, as he rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries while adding six catches for 49 yards.
Perine already is an excellent pass blocker and provides excellent pass catching out of the backfield. He can be a featured back in this league, and is a player defenses have to account for in Cincinnati’s offense.
Don’t forget about Perine when discussing Bengals playmakers.
Deshaun Watson looked like he hasn’t played in 700 days: Poor off-target throws and passes that hit the ground well before reaching the receiver were a significant part of Watson’s debut with the Browns, as he finished 12 of 22 for 131 yards with an interception (53.4 rating). The Browns didn’t even have an offensive touchdown in Watson’s first game with the team.
Watson looked like he only had a week taking reps with the first team offense before going out onto the field, as the Browns were fortunate his play didn’t cost them against the worst team in the NFL. The impact of Watson at quarterback wasn’t going to come right away, but Jacoby Brissett could have been a significantly better option last week. Luckily for the Browns, their defense got them a win.
Odell Beckham Jr. is not needed: The Cowboys wide receivers showcased Sunday night why Beckham is a luxury rather than a need. CeeDee Lamb had five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, which gave Dallas its first lead of the game in the first quarter.
While Lamb is making acrobatic plays for scores, Michael Gallup had two touchdowns of his own — his first scores since Week 4. Noah Brown is been reliable and James Washington could be returning for the end of the year. Why do they need Beckham at this rate?
Would Beckham even be ready to play a regular season game in time for the Eagles showdown in three weeks? That’s the game that matters for the Cowboys.
Greg Dulcich provides actual hope for this offense: Dulcich has been discussed before as a bright spot for Denver — and had another good game for the Broncos. He finished with six catches for 85 yards (eight targets), including a 30-yard catch late in the game that got Denver to midfield in a 10-9 contest.
Dulcich had a 22-yard catch earlier in the game that led to a field goal, the only points the Broncos can generate these days. The rookie tight end has 25 catches for 319 yards and a touchdown in seven games, already displaying the skill set to be a good pass catcher in the league.
The Broncos should target Dulcich more.
D.J. Chark significantly opened up the passing game: The Lions got the version of Chark they thought they were signing this offseason, as he finished with five catches for 98 yards in the blowout victory over the Jaguars. Chark was slowly playing his way back into the lineup after recovering from an ankle injury that landed him on injured reserve.
Because of Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown was able to have an easy day against Jacksonville — 11 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns — and Jameson Williams got his feet wet in his debut.
The Lions pass catchers are even more dangerous with Chark healthy. He showed the value he brings to the passing game.
Christian Watson may be the best rookie wideout in NFL: Give Watson eight touchdowns in his last four games, the first rookie wide receiver to have eight touchdowns in a four-game stretch since Randy Moss in 1998. Watson has been brilliant in his last four games, having 15 catches for 313 yards and seven touchdowns — including a 46-yard rushing touchdown Sunday.
For those keeping track, Watson is averaging 20.9 yards per catch and 22.4 yards per touch over his last four games. He’s one of the best playmaking wideouts in the NFL already, even if this is only a four-game stretch.
The Packers season may be lost, but Watson has figured things out. If Aaron Rodgers wants to stick around, him and Watson could be a lethal duo.
No. 1 wide receiver is necessary: The Texans do believe Brandin Cooks is that player, but Cooks hasn’t been the same since he asked for a trade in October. A frustrated and injured Cooks has left Houston with a significant void at wide receiver.
Take Sunday’s loss to the Browns. Nico Collins had three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets while Chris Moore finished with three catches for 46 yards. Neither of these guys are starting wideouts going forward.
Houston needs a franchise quarterback, but no elite quarterback can succeed without good wideouts in today’s NFL. The Texans need to prioritize both in the draft.
Matt Ryan deserves to lose his job (again): Ryan clearly isn’t the long-term answer in Indianapolis, proving it once again in an embarrassing loss to the Cowboys. Not only did Ryan throw three interceptions, he lost another fumble.
Ryan finished with a 59.9 passer rating, the fourth straight game since he’s returned as the starting quarterback the passer rating has declined. Ryan has completed 66.4% of his passes for 867 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions since his return (82.5 rating)– with two fumbles lost.
Ryan leads the league in interceptions (13) and fumbles (14) and the Colts are out of the playoff race. After Sunday’s embarrassing performance, why start him again?
Defense has worst performance of the year: This is the biggest understatement of the week, as the Jaguars were embarrassed by the Lions offense. Detroit scored on all eight possessions (not counting a kneeldown at the end of the game) in running Jacksonville out of the building.
The defense gave up 5.9 yards per play as the Lions carved them up through the air. Jacksonville allowed a season-high 40 points and has allowed an average of 446 yards over the last three weeks. The Jaguars defense has been getting worse as the season enters the home stretch, not a good sign for defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell in Year One.
Kansas City Chiefs
Rare lack of aggressiveness for Andy Reid and coaching staff: In a game where 27 points was needed to beat the Bengals, Reid was conservative on offense. Reid decided to take three points on the road on Kansas City’s opening drive instead of going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Bengals’ 8-yard line in a 7-0 game — it was interesting to see the Chiefs pass on that red zone opportunity.
After a Patrick Mahomes sack on third-and-4, the Chiefs quarterback was taken off the field on fourth-and-7 at the Bengals’ 37-yard line with 3:24 to play in a 27-24 game. Harrison Butker missed the 55-yard field goal and Kansas City never got the ball back.
The Chiefs coaching staff wasn’t aggressive enough in a game where they needed to engage in a shootout with the Bengals. Reid was surprisingly conservative when he didn’t have to be in two situations, giving up more opportunities for points.
Chandler Jones can still play at a high level: The Raiders brought in Jones to help out Maxx Crosby in the pass rush, but he arguably was the most disappointing free agent signing this past year. Jones had just half a sack and five quarterback hits in 11 starts leading up to Week 13.
Against the Chargers, Jones dominated. He finished with three sacks and five quarterback hits in playing 88% of the snaps, being the difference-maker the Raiders were hoping for when they signed him. Las Vegas stayed alive in the playoff race because of its pass rush, and need Jones to play at a high level down the stretch to have a shot.
Los Angeles Chargers
Run defense continues to be Achilles heel: The Chargers run defense was the reason why they missed the playoffs last year and may be the culprit in 2022 as well. Los Angeles hasn’t allowed an offense to rush for under 100 yards since Week 6, as Las Vegas had 154 yards Sunday — which is actually the Chargers’ lowest amount allowed in that span.
That’s not ideal. The Chargers have allowed 178.2 rushing yards per game over their last six games — and are 2-4 as a result. This team isn’t making the playoffs without shoring up the run defense.
Hey look, the Rams can run the ball: Sean McVay called a balanced offense in the loss to the Seahawks, which was surprising, given how much he likes to pass — no matter who is at quarterback. The Rams ran the ball 33 times for 171 yards (5.2 yards per carry), with six different players getting carries.
Cam Akers averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, but the Rams were creative in generating touches with wide receiver Brandon Powell (three carries for 45 yards) and Tutu Atwell (four carries for 23 yards). The Rams still need to improve at running back this offseason, but it’s clear McVay can still find creative ways to get yards on the ground.
Why wasn’t Los Angeles doing this throughout the year?
Don’t worry about Tua: The Dolphins have the most accurate quarterback in the NFL in Tua Tagovailoa, but he wasn’t the most accurate against a 49ers defense that’s arguably the best in the league. Tagovailoa completed just 54.5% of his passes in Sunday’s loss, his lowest completion rate of the year.
The Dolphins quarterback also threw two interceptions, the first ones since he returned from his concussion. Tagovailoa still has completed 68.1% of his passes this year while leading the league in yards per attempt (9.0) and passer rating (112.0).
Tagovailoa’s deep ball is still there too. This is just one average game against a great defense (with a thin offensive line) that resulted in a loss. No reason to panic.
Red zone defense stands tall: The Vikings’ pass defense had another subpar performance Sunday, but more than made up for it in the red zone. The Jets were just 1 of 6 in red zone opportunities, kicking field goals on their first five trips inside the 20.
The performance was typical “bend but don’t break,” ending with Mike White throwing an interception at the 19-yard line in the final seconds. Heading into Sunday, Minnesota allowed 64.5%of red zone attempts into touchdowns — 26th in the NFL.
The Vikings needed a performance like that to remain in the race for home-field advantage.
Jon Jones is excellent in the slot, but not against No. 1 receivers: The Patriots have used Jones on the outside and covering the No. 1 wide receiver rather than keeping him in the slot where he’s thrived. Jones has been targeted 22 times over the last two games, allowing 17 passes to be caught for 195 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
The Patriots cornerback has been covering Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs during that span, and the results haven’t been what New England expected. He’s allowed a 124.1 passer rating, which is abysmal for any cornerback. Jones is a very good one, so why take him out of his element?
New England has to try another strategy in the secondary. Leaving Jones out to get beat every week isn’t working.
Defense still proves to be a paper tiger: The Saints allowed just 350 yards Monday night, but 130 of them came in the final 5:21 — resulting in 14 points and blowing a 16-3 lead late in the fourth quarter. New Orleans allowed 6.1 yards per play and allowed Tampa Bay to go down the field easily.
The Buccaneers had just two third down attempts in those 21 plays, converting both. The final one was Tom Brady’s winning touchdown pass to Rachaad White with three seconds left.
For a team that’s 11th in yards allowed in 10th in pass yards allowed, the unit isn’t that great. Perhaps that’s why New Orleans will be missing the playoffs once again, which falls on Dennis Allen this time.
The interior offensive line is a major problem: The Giants offensive line — at least the interior of it — was the culprit in the Commanders getting seven pressures and three sacks in Sunday’s tie. Mark Glowinski gave up two sacks in the loss while Nick Gates gave up two pressures in his first game back from a serious leg injury.
Gates may replace Jon Feliciano at center at some point, while Ben Bredeson and Joshua Ezeudu could return later in the year. This is what the Giants have for now, which is going to struggle against good interior defensive fronts — especially in the NFC East.
The 189 pressures New York allows is third most in the NFL.
New York Jets
Bam Knight deserves more carries: Zonovan “Bam” Knight made an impact in his first NFL start, as the undrafted rookie had 15 carries for 90 yards and five catches for 28 yards against a Vikings run defense that held the Patriots to 45 yards in its last outing — and had 10 days off.
Knight has 29 carries for 159 yards (5.5 yards per carry) in his two games with the Jets, showcasing why he deserves a bigger role in the running back room. There’s a reason why James Robinson hasn’t been playing — Knight has overtaken him on the depth chart.
Two No. 1 WRs on the roster: The Eagles have the best deep ball receiver in A.J. Brown, who is second in the league in yards per catch and yards per target since his rookie season (2019), and they also have DeVonta Smith — who is just 28 catches away from breaking the franchise record for most receptions in his first two seasons.
Smith set the tone for the Eagles in Sunday’s win over the Titans, catching three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown on the first drive — en route to 102 yards on the afternoon. On pace for a 1,000-yard season (and 86 catches), Smith showcased why he can be just as dangerous in the passing game as Brown.
The Eagles can kill you with 1,000 cuts with Smith — or go for the jugular with Brown. They have two receivers that are equally dangerous, which makes the offense so explosive.
The wide receivers need to be better: George Pickens and Diontae Johnson are too talented to combine for six catches for 62 yards and zero touchdowns, especially with Kenny Pickett improving by the week. Pickens’ attitude is a problem, having to be calmed down by Cam Hayward after yelling — at a rookie quarterback — to give him the ball.
While Pickens has to earn those demands, Johnson had a drop that was costly for Pittsburgh and a fumble that was overturned. Johnson only has three drops this year and has improved in that category over the years, but has to be more reliable going forward.
For Pickett to grow, his receivers have to develop as well.
San Francisco 49ers
Brock Purdy is good enough: The 49ers could try to get Baker Mayfield or settle for the No. 3 quarterback on their roster going forward. Purdy made an excellent case to be the quarterback in San Francisco, as the 49ers scored on five of the drives he was in with only committing one turnover (and that was an interception on fourth down that was essentially a punt).
The 49ers offense was stabilized with Purdy, as he completed 25 of 37 passes for 210 yards with two touchdowns for an 88.8 rating. Whether the 49ers can win the Super Bowl with Purdy remains to be seen, but San Francisco can win games with him as long as they allow him to manage the game.
Offensive line had a subpar performance: Without Aaron Donald playing for the Rams, this matchup appeared to be one the Seahawks would win in the trenches. Instead, the Rams generated pressure throughout the afternoon — forcing Geno Smith to get rid of the ball quick.
The Seahawks allowed four sacks and 11 pressures, uncharacteristic of a unit that has been solid all year. Smith was hit eight times, so he took a beating in a game where he probably figured he’d be upright most of the day.
The offensive line is something to monitor, but Kenneth Walker and DeeJay Dallas getting injured didn’t help matters either.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady can still come back with the best of them: Brady was incredible in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s comeback, finishing 15 of 22 for 125 yards with two touchdowns and a passer rating of 118.2. On the final drive, Brady went 9 of 11 for 61 yards and the winning six-yard touchdown pass to Rachaad White with three seconds left to give the Buccaneers full control of the division.
The Buccaneers offense hasn’t been good, but Brady will always make this team dangerous. He still plays his best football late in the game, having the most fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives in NFL history.
A.J. Brown made sure they missed him: If the 31st-ranked pass defense wasn’t enough for Tennessee to miss Brown (who had eight catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns against his former team), the Titans had a nonexistent passing game once Treylon Burks left Sunday’s game with a concussion.
The Titans wide receivers had four catches for 41 yards combined in Brown’s revenge game — and Ryan Tannehill was just 1 of 4 for 6 yards targeting wide receivers when Burks exited the game. Tennessee could have used a player like Brown Sunday — especially if the Titans wish to compete for a Super Bowl.
Taylor Heinicke is excellent in the two-minute offense: Heinicke almost threw two interceptions in a wacky game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, but there’s no denying his ability to get the most out of his team when they needed it.
Heinicke was 6 of 8 for 86 yards and a touchdown on that tying drive, completing consecutive passes of 25 and 28 yards for the score. He was 27 of 41 for 275 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, yet the game was defined based on the tying touchdown drive.
Washington did lose ground in the playoff race, but that tie can be immensely beneficial going forward.