The Fifth Down: A quick 2023 NFL Thanksgiving recap

In this week's edition of The Fifth Down, Kinnu Singh surveys the outcome and implications of three Thanksgiving Day matchups, plus a look ahead for the rest of the week's games in Week 12 power rankings.

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The history of NFL Thanksgiving games

The Thanksgiving holiday evokes notions of tradition among the loved ones who celebrate with one another. Favorite dishes, familiar conversations, and lifelong memories are forged on this day, and it's no different for the NFL. Since 1934, fans have gathered around the television to watch familiar conversations and lifelong memories play out on the screen. In recent years, the Lions somehow always lose, the Cowboys always seem to put on a show, and there are always unexpected developments that make this slate a must-watch. And since 1989, there's only one favorite dish to go alongside victory: a turkey leg.

The Thanksgiving game has been a Detroit holiday tradition since 1934 when the Detroit Spartans hosted the World Champion Chicago Bears. The distinctive Thursday game was a ploy by owner George A. Richards to attract fans to his new team, which had been relocated from Portsmouth, Ohio.

Eighty-nine years later, Richards' hopes of garnering interest in the Lions has finally worked: the team has seen a spike in merchandise sales, and its valuation has increased from $2.8 billion in 2022 to $4.1 billion, marking a 43 percent increase year-over-year — that's the highest percentage in the NFL.

It's only fitting that the Dallas Cowboys entered the Thanksgiving fray in 1966 for the same reason the Lions did. Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm thought it would give the struggling team national publicity during the holiday. It worked: the Cowboys would eventually be branded as "America's Team", a moniker that helped cement their place as the most valuable NFL franchise with a $9 billion price tag.

Since 2006, a third NFL game without fixed teams has been piled onto the holiday slate, starting with the Kansas City Chiefs' defeat of the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead. This year, NFC West fans were treated to their own divisional matchup: the San Francisco 49ers versus the Seattle Seahawks.

This year marks a new tradition: 2023 includes the first edition of Black Friday football showcased by none other than online retail giant Amazon. A truly American holiday in its own right, the Black Friday game between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins has the opportunity to create its own historic legacy among holiday games.

After these matchups were stuffed onto Thanksgiving plates, here's a look at how the holiday weekend is shaking out so far for these eight NFL teams.

Christian Watson
Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions / Lauren Leigh Bacho/GettyImages

Green Bay Packers 29, Detroit Lions 22

In any other season, a Packers win wouldn't have been an upset — it would have been the predictable outcome. But without Aaron Rodgers, the 5-6 Packers have seen their fair share of struggles this season, especially in close games. Three Packers' losses were decided by two points or less, while another two of their losses were decided by four points. But the Packers managed to close the deal in Week 11 versus the Los Angeles Chargers, and on Thursday, they did it again in the only Thanksgiving upset of the day.

Despite a bumpy start without Rodgers, Packers quarterback Jordan Love has proven increasingly capable as the weeks go on. Love tied his career high with three passing touchdowns on Thursday, including a 53-yard bomb to Christian Watson on the Packers' first play of the game. In fact, Love made Thanksgiving history for the Packers by becoming the third quarterback in franchise history to score three or more touchdowns and zero interceptions in a Thanksgiving game, following in the footsteps of Aaron Rodgers (2009) and Brett Favre (1994, 2007).

While Love's star continues to rise, Jared Goff is being plagued by a familiar problem: turnovers. Goff witnessed his own career high met by fumbling the ball a record three times on Thanksgiving, paving a wide avenue for Love to take the win. Goff buckled under pressure, with the Lions quarterback completing 6 of 16 passes under pressure. As the league leader in fourth down attempts with 27, the Lions attempted five on Thursday and only converted one of them. One of those attempts — a failed fake punt on the 23-yard line in the third quarter — led to a Packers touchdown, which Packers head coach Matt LaFleur credited in the post-game press conference.

Late-game heroics weren't enough to save the Lions from a loss, and while it may have worked against a lesser team like the Chicago Bears, it didn't fly against a Packers squad finding their groove. Still atop the NFC North, the 8-3 Lions will have to temper their aggressive play-calling and address their inconsistencies against the New Orleans Saints in Week 13 while the Packers face the daunting Kansas City Chiefs.

Joey Slye
Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Dallas Cowboys 45, Washington Commanders 10

Although the Lions have a losing Thanksgiving record, the Cowboys have a winning one, going 32-22-1 before their 2023 matchup. This year, they secured a win for the books as they pummeled the Washington Commanders with a 35-point margin of victory.

While the Cowboys are tied with NFC division leaders like the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions, in the NFC East, they're still trailing behind the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles. But Philadelphia aside, the Cowboys have continuously proven their worthiness of a playoff spot, which was reiterated in a historic Thanksgiving victory thanks to cornerback DaRon Bland.

Bland made history when he recorded his fifth pick-6 of the season, setting a new NFL record as he became the franchise leader in pick-6 plays. Entering the game, Bland aspired to break the record with seven games left, and after managing the near-impossible feat of four of them, he quickly secured his fifth before the Thanksgiving crowd.

Remarkably, Bland is now second on the team in touchdowns, coming behind wide receiver CeeDee Lamb's six scored. Bland's statistics highlight that in addition to Dak Prescott’s impressive play over the past month, the Cowboys' defense has been responsible for the wins by drastically holding opponents back.

Prescott completed 22 of 32 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions and zero sacks, gifting the Cowboys their 13th consecutive win at home. Additionally, their Turkey Day success tied a 55-year-old franchise record of seven games with a margin of victory by at least 20 points.

Like Bland, the Cowboys can expect to break that record with a month of football left — for them, make that at least another month and a half of play. For the Commanders, their 4-8 record confirms that Washington is far from redemption this season.

Deebo Samuel, George Kittle
San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

San Francisco 49ers 31, Seattle Seahawks 13

The 8-3 49ers and 6-5 Seahawks share a division with two of the NFC's worst teams: the 4-6 Los Angeles Rams and the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals. While the 49ers wobbled after their 5-0 start to the season, they're back in full form, which they proved in a 31-13 rout of the Seahawks on Thanksgiving night.

This matchup may not be a Thanksgiving tradition, but it certainly is a treasured NFC West division in this heated rivalry. The Seahawks still lead the series 30-21, but the 49ers are working to upend Seattle's dominance, which they'll have another opportunity to do in a Week 14 matchup.

Quarterbacks Brock Purdy and Geno Smith actually sported close statistics: Purdy completed 21 of 30 passes for 209 yards, one touchdown and one interception; Smith completed 18 of 27 passes for 180 yards and an interception. But the rest of the play determined the 18-point discrepancy: Purdy was sacked once for a yard while Smith endured six sacks for a loss of 48 yards. Ouch.

Instead, the 49ers relied on dynamic running back Christian McCaffrey, who has powered this offense throughout the season, for the win. McCaffrey rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns in what would comprise a statistically significant game for any other NFL running back. For the NFL's leader in rushing yards by 248 yards, it's just another game.

The 49ers won this one by getting an early 21-point lead, finishing the first half of the game 24-3. What the Seahawks accomplished after that, including a pick-6, was remarkable, but it wasn't enough to overcome San Francisco. Smith struggled in his start with a sack and interception early on, resulting in negative pass yards for Seattle in the first half. Smith's elbow injury from the Rams loss in Week 11 seemed to be a contributing factor, as was the 49ers' impressive pressure, but Smith was able to find his way after halftime.

The 49ers will go up against the NFL's No. 1 team next week as they face the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Seahawks will face another tough test a Dallas Cowboys matchup for Thursday Night Football.

Zach Wilson
New York Jets v Buffalo Bills / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

A look ahead: Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets

Following the Thanksgiving festivities, the 7-3 Miami Dolphins will venture up to Meadowlands to tackle the 4-6 New York Jets. Although divisional matchups are notoriously unpredictable — the Packers just proved this yet again — it's a safe bet to assume Miami will take this one. The Jets are beyond turbulence, instead suffering from the burns of internal combustion.

The Jets' Week 11 32-6 loss to the Buffalo Bills saw Zach Wilson benched in the third quarter and replaced by Tim Boyle who, like Wilson, only completed half of his passes and threw an interception. The two inept quarterbacks led an offense that has only scored nine touchdowns this season — an offense that is painfully wasting the talents of wide receiver Garrett Wilson, the 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

For the first time this season, head coach Robert Saleh was noncommittal about Zach Wilson starting this week. Wilson was benched twice last season, as well as being demoted to third-string quarterback. A third benching could mark the end of Wilson’s time in New York.

The Jets were supposed to be one of the league’s best teams this season before Aaron Rodgers ruptured his Achilles in the season opener. Now, the Jets have gone from a ruptured Achilles to a ruptured offense.

Miami's forecast is much sunnier. After a 20-12 defeat of the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 11, the Dolphins have the coaching and personnel to execute a win on the road, even though their three losses this season have been in away games. Even if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has his own turnover issues, they have been significantly mitigated by Mike McDaniel's offensive scheme, which has largely brought out the best in the Dolphins.

Win or lose, the Dolphins are on a path to the playoffs. The best the Jets can hope for is to survive until Aaron Rodgers' return.

Week 12 Power Rankings

Note: These rankings have been calculated before Week 12 play, which means Thanksgiving and Black Friday games will not be calculated in their standing.

. . P. Grade: 92. Trend: --. . 1. 54. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 11-6
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 13-4

When Jason Kelce jersey swapped with his brother Travis following the Chiefs-Eagles rematch, he was prepared for the moment with one word: karma. Karma may be a guy on the Chiefs, but it was on the Eagles’ side on Monday night.

With a shocking 21-17 comeback win, the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles maintain the NFL’s best record. 

Like last season, the Eagles have built a comprehensively solid team, with an offense capable of overcoming high-scoring threats and a defense capable of holding those offenses. Before their Chiefs win, the Eagles rallied over their NFC East rivals, the Washington Commanders and Dallas Cowboys, to keep their head above water in must-win games. And even though the Eagles were down 7-17 in the third quarter against the Chiefs, their defense prevented points as the offense rose to the occasion and put 14 points on the board. 

Although the Chiefs led in virtually every statistical category, the Chiefs’ two turnovers compared to the Eagles’ one gave Philadelphia the edge. The win also impacted a few streaks: the 2023 Eagles are the first team to win at least nine of their first 10 games in consecutive seasons since the 2005-06 Indianapolis Colts while also ending Andy Reid’s unbeaten streak in Eagles-Chiefs matchups. Hurts has also won 13 consecutive games against teams with a winning record and seven consecutive games in which he trailed by at least 10 points, most in NFL history.

Next up, the Eagles will face an inconsistent Bills team coming off their own big win versus the New York Jets.

Grade: 89. Trend: ▲4. . 42. . . S. . . 2

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 12-5
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 14-3

During the San Francisco 49ers’ 27-14 victory, Brock Purdy became the first quarterback in franchise history to earn a perfect 158.3 passer rating with 20 or more pass attempts. Joe Montana is the only other 49ers quarterback to achieve a perfect passer rating with at least 10 attempts — a feat he accomplished in 1989.

More importantly, the 49ers earned their second consecutive victory after a three-game losing streak that included six turnovers from the young quarterback. In the last two games, Purdy has 40 completions out of 51 attempts with an average of 314.5 passing yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions. 

He's first in the NFL in passer rating (109.9), third in completion percentage (70.2%), sixth in passing yards per game (266.2) and tied for fifth in touchdown passes (18). Purdy’s five interceptions are tied for the second-fewest among starters.

Purdy's 9.7 yards per attempt are the second most through 10 games in NFL history (minimum of 250 attempts). That ranks among names like Boomer Esiason in 1988 (9.8), Dan Marino in 1984 (9.7) and Aaron Rodgers in 2011 (9.6). All three of those quarterbacks won the league's Most Valuable Player award in their respective seasons.

Sunday’s game wasn’t all sunshine in the Golden State, however. Safety Talanoa Hufanga sustained a right knee injury in the third quarter of Sunday’s win. Following the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan noted that Hufanga’s injury is feared to be a torn ACL, which would effectively end his season.

Rookie Ji'Ayir Brown, a third-round selection from Penn State, will replace Hufanga at strong safety. Against the Buccaneers, Brown had his ups and downs. He allowed a deep completion that led to a Tampa Bay touchdown but eventually settled down and helped San Francisco secure a victory with a fourth-down deflection and an interception.

Still, San Francisco has reclaimed the NFC West division lead with a 7-2 record. If Purdy keeps playing well, the 49ers should be able to hold onto their NFC West crown, and perhaps even overtake the Philadelphia Eagles for the conference.

. Trend: --. Grade: 88. 3. 26. B. . . .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 11-6
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 12-5

Baltimore is now 20-3 in primetime games at home since 2008. However, this win was overshadowed by its concerning injuries. Lamar Jackson hurt his ankle, and Baltimore lost Mark Andrews to a season-ending injury. 

Fortunately, Jackson was able to return to the field and led the Ravens to a decisive 34-20 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a significant win, especially considering how competitive the AFC North has been.

With a head-to-head sweep of Cincinnati, the Ravens now stand 2.5 games ahead of the Bengals. The Browns and Steelers are much closer to catching the Ravens, and losing Andrews is going to make it tougher for the banged-up Ravens to hold their division lead.

On a positive note, Baltimore has averaged over 34 points per game in their last five games — a feat they last accomplished in 2019 when Jackson won MVP. They also hold the second seed in the conference and have won more games than any other team in the AFC.

The Ravens travel to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers next week, then get some rest during their Week 12 bye. They’ll need it — the rest of their schedule includes games with playoff implications, including matchups against Jacksonville, Miami, and Pittsburgh.

4. d. . 50. Trend: --. . . Grade: 87. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 9-8
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 11-6

The Chicago Bears aren’t close to claiming the NFC North: they entered Week 11 with a 3-7 record as the division’s worst team with one of the NFL’s worst records. But on Sunday, they came close to claiming an upset win over the 7-2 Detroit Lions.

It wouldn’t have unseated the Lions from the NFC North throne, but it would have dented their pristine record and boosted the Minnesota Vikings’ chances of potentially usurping Detroit. With four minutes left in the game, it seemed that the Bears had the game — until they didn’t. The Lions defeated the Beats 31-26, allowing Detroit’s team to continue to be lionized in NFL circles. 

The win didn’t come easy on Sunday. The Chicago Bears had a 98.8 percent win probability with 3:59 remaining in the fourth quarter, according to ESPN. At that point, the Lions were facing a 12-point deficit in a 26-14 game. Dan Campbell’s team, however, is not the same old Lions. Quarterback Jared Goff rallied after three disappointing quarters for a magical fourth-quarter run, leading the team to two touchdowns within the final three minutes. 

The Detroit Lions are 8-2 for the first time since 1962, which encapsulates the historic resurgence the Motor City team has seen in 2023. Even Bears quarterback Justin Fields admitted that the Lions were a top-three team in the NFL this year. For the first time in a long time, there’s quite a bit of distance between the Lions and the Bears in the NFC North, and Lions fans are ready to revel in the wins.

Grade: 86. Trend: ▼3. . 5. 124. . . K. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 12-5
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 13-4

It’s a bit contradictory for Chiefs fans to blame the receivers after arguing that Patrick Mahomes had a Brady-like ability to excel with lackluster weapons in 2021.

While it’s easy to place the blame on Kansas City’s lackluster receivers and their dropped passes, there was enough blame to go around in Monday night’s 21-17 loss to the Eagles. Even Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce — the two most recognizable names on the roster — had costly red-zone turnovers. In the first half, Mahomes threw a floater from the Eagles’ 14-yard line that was intercepted in the end zone. In the second half, Kelce fumbled from the Eagles’ nine-yard line.

The Chiefs running game, defense, and special teams continue to excel, while the passing game keeps holding the team back.

In the second quarter, the Chiefs running game had guided the offense down to the 14-yard line. Then, Mahomes threw an inexplicable floater from a clean pocket that was intercepted in the end zone by safety Kevin Byard.

The defense helped clean up the interception by responding with four sacks in six plays before halftime. Back-to-back sacks from defensive tackle Chris Jones prevented the Eagles from turning the interception into points.

Then, Kadarius Toney did his part to make up for the mistake with an electric punt return past midfield. That punt return set up Kansas City’s second — and last — touchdown of the night.

Mahomes showed a lack of pocket awareness on several occasions, something he’s done in the past when he loses confidence in his protection.

With 10:39 remaining in the third quarter, Mahomes took a drop-back too deep, then climbed the pocket and walked himself right into the Eagles defensive line. The pressure caused him to overthrow a wide-open Travis Kelce on what would have been an easy third-down conversion.

On a third-and-12 with 5:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, Mahomes left a clean pocket and ran right into pressure. As he began to go down for a sack from the self-created pressure, he forced a dump-off to running back Jerick McKinnon that looked more like a failed dunk attempt than a pass attempt.

The defense can only make up for the offense’s shortcomings for so long, especially against powerhouses like the Philadelphia offense. Kansas City will have to fix their offensive attack, but there’s no reason to doubt they won’t figure it out under Andy Reid’s stewardship.

d. . Trend: ▲1. 6. . . Grade: 84. . . 123

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 11-6
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 12-5

Aside from a close, competitive game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys have dominated the past month of NFL play. First, a 23-point margin of victory over the Los Angeles Rams, then two weeks later, a 32-point margin of victory over the New York Giants. It helps that the Cowboys have been able to beat up on the NFL’s worst teams, and in Week 11, they faced the worst one yet: the 1-8 Carolina Panthers.

Now, the Panthers are 1-9 thanks to a 33-10 win for the Cowboys. Quarterback Dak Prescott completed 25 of 38 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, but he wasn’t the only Texas Star shining on Sunday. Cornerback DaRon Bland tied an NFL record with his fourth pick-6 of the season, tying with three other NFL defenders throughout league history. 

d. . Grade: 82. . . . 7. . 59. Trend: ▼1

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 9-8
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 11-6

Although NFL offenses have impressed throughout the season with high-scoring affairs, stellar defensive showings have been disappointingly few and far between. Not in Week 11. Yes, NFL touchdown leader Tyreek Hill did nab 10 receptions for 146 yards in the Miami Dolphins’ 20-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, but it was Jalen Ramsey’s game-ending interception that stunned the sideline. 

The Raiders had a chance to even the score as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter, but Ramsey’s endzone interception of Adrian O’Connell ruined the Raiders’ two-game win streak. By securing the turnover, Ramsey and the Dolphins defense allowed the Dolphins to overcome three of their own turnovers. In fact, Ramsey himself had three takeaways in the game, proving how integral he is to Miami’s defensive success after a seven-game absence. 

Of course, the Dolphins have been doing just fine, even though they’ve lost to two of the NFL’s leading teams (the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles) in the past month. Another point of concern is that despite passing for 325 yards, Tua Tagovailoa is still living up to his unfortunate nickname with two turnovers this game. A win over the Raiders puts the Dolphins at 7-3, or atop the AFC East.

Grade: 80. . 8. . Trend: ▲2. . 10. . H.

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 4-13
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 6-11

Something incredible is happening across the NFL landscape: the Houston Texans are slowly, but surely, creeping into the Top 10 rankings across outlets. C.J. Stroud’s impressive squad made the Top 10 in our power rankings last week, and with a 21-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11, it seems the 6-4 Texans can only go up from here. 

Despite the season’s final outcome, what the Texans have accomplished this year is nothing short of remarkable. With a roster crafted by Nick Caserio, a team coached by Demeco Ryans, and an offense rallied by C.J. Stroud, the Texans have managed to build a stable environment to welcome carefully-selected newcomers. Unlike the Bryce Young experiment in Charlotte, the Texans have the framework to build a sustainable, adaptable, cohesive unit.

After opening the season with two losses, the Texans roared onto the scene with a 37-17 defeat of the Jacksonville Jaguars. And while they ironically gave the Panthers their only win this season, the Texans have shown out against impressive units: 30 points against the Steelers defense, 39 points in a Buccaneers shootout, and another 30-point game against the Bengals before Joe Burrow exited the field. And even with Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray returned, Stroud emerged victorious for the third straight week. 

Stroud did throw a season-high three interceptions in Week 11, but he still outranked Murray in yards (336) and passer rating (85). Another big game from wideout Tank Dell, who secured eight catches for 149 yards, and Devin Singletary, who rushed for 112 yards on 22 attempts, proves this offense could keep humming despite the risky turnovers. 

In Week 12, the Texans face a fascinating rematch when they take the Jacksonville Jaguars at home. 

. . 9. . Trend: ▲2. . 52. J. Grade: 79.

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 11-6
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 11-6

Like the Buffalo Bills, the Jacksonville Jaguars entered into Week 11 with a must-win game on the line against a divisional rival. And like the Bills, the Jaguars came away with a lopsided win: in their case, it was a 34-14 rout against the Tennessee Titans. The 6-4 Houston Texans may be surging, but for now, the 7-3 Jaguars rule the AFC South. 

It’s fitting that following their worst loss of the season, Trevor Lawrence scored four touchdowns, including two to wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Ridley’s touchdowns and his seven catches for 103 yards make for one of his biggest games this season: he doubled his touchdown total for the year with his two end zone scores. 

Calling one of the “cleaner” Jaguars games he’s played, Lawrence ended the day with the fourth-best passer rating of his NFL career (119.5) after his third-worst rating against the 49ers in Week 10. 

Now, the Jaguars will face a much more daunting divisional matchup against the Houston Texans in Week 12.

. 53. B. Grade: 77. . . Trend: ▲2. . . 10

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 9-8
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 7-10

After Deshaun Watson delivered a win in a grueling 33-31 match versus the Baltimore Ravens, Browns fans discovered that the rest of his season was over due to a season-ending shoulder injury from the game. In his stead on Sunday was Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who managed to emerge with a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in his second NFL start.

That gives the 7-3 Browns an edge over the 6-4 Steelers in the competitive AFC North, which was especially critical when the two teams entered the game with 6-3 records. Thompson-Robinson wrapped up the game with four straight completions on the Browns’ final drive that set kicker Dustin Hopkins up for the game-winning field goal. 

It wasn’t a statistically impressive outing for Thompson-Robinson, who completed 24 of 43 yards for 165 yards and an interception. Still, the singular turnover was better than Thompson-Robinson’s three interceptions in his debut, and this made the difference in the game. 

The other, arguably more important factor in the Browns’ win is their top-ranked defense compensated for offensive struggles once again. The Browns are currently ranked No. 1 in yards per game, first downs per game, and third-down defense at 25.4 percent. Additionally, they rank No. 5 in scoring defense and sacks. It’s worth noting that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was the defensive coordinator for the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, who overcame a Carson Wentz injury to win a Super Bowl with backup quarterback Nick Foles. Sound familiar?

Time will tell if the Browns defense is good enough to win a championship, but so far in the regular season, they’ve been good enough to win most of their games. In Week 12, they’ll be tested against a Denver Broncos team on a miraculous four-game win streak.

Grade: 76. 11. . . Trend: ▲4. . B. 16. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 11-6
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 13-4

It seemed the Buffalo Bills finally addressed the issues raised in last week’s column as Josh Allen executed in a 32-6 rout of the New York Jets. Allen completed 20 of 32 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns in the win, although he also couldn’t help continuing his interception streak for the seventh straight game. 

Still, Allen was much more capable than he has been in recent outings, proven by the fact that the Bills scored on six of their first eight possessions. Alongside the interception streak, he maintained a more important one: Allen has scored a touchdown in 19 straight games, surpassing Hall of Famer Jim Kelly’s record over the 1986-1987 seasons. After two disappointing losses, Buffalo bounced back and scored more than 25 points for the first time in seven weeks. Additionally, Allen set a season-high for the longest scoring from scrimmage with an 81-yard touchdown to Khalil Shakir. 

Another star from the Bills outing is tight end Dalton Kincaid, who caught over 5 passes in each of the Bills’ last five games. This makes him the first NFL rookie tight end since at least 1970 to see that volume over a five-game span, but a Week 12 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles may limit his production. 

The Eagles will be a truer test of what the Bills can accomplish, but their overwhelming win 6-5 record definitely improves their standing.

. Trend: ▼4. . . 36. 12. . Grade: 73. . S

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 10-7
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 11-6

The Seahawks should have beat the Rams on Sunday, but they played a sloppy game marred by injury that gave Los Angeles a last-minute 17-16 win. 

After a 17-point Week 10 performance that earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, kicker Jason Myers missed a 55-yard game-winning field goal with three seconds left on the clock. The kick demonstrates how close the Seahawks were to winning this one, but at the end of the game, it still one that’s added to the loss column.  

Quarterback Geno Smith rallied with 22 completions on 34 attempts for 233 yards, but after being sidelined with an injury, Smith returned late in the fourth quarter only to bring the Seahawks in fringe field goal range. 

Despite team-wide heroics, the Seahawks’ 12 penalties for 130 yards did them in. That’s what disappointed head coach Pete Carroll the most, admitting that the team has not been disciplined in terms of penalties throughout the season. Carroll said it “really blew up” on Seattle in Week 11, and perhaps losing to the Rams gave the Seahawks a stark wake-up call.

B. . Trend: ▼4. . Grade: 71. . . . 13. 56

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 12-5
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 9-8

It’s never ideal when a touted matchup between two teams becomes skewed by injury — just ask Megan Rapinoe and the OL Reign after their recently lost NWSL Championship. Unfortunately, that was the case for the Cincinnati Bengals, who lost quarterback Joe Burrow to a season-ending wrist injury in the second quarter.

After Burrow put 10 points on the board in the first half, backup quarterback Jake Browning came in and completed eight of 14 passes for 68 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown. Browning didn’t look bad, but the lack of chemistry with Ja’Marr Chase was evident.

Cincinnati’s effort wasn’t enough to beat the Baltimore Ravens, who scored four touchdowns: two passing touchdowns by Lamar Jackson, and two rushing touchdowns by Gus Edwards. Even though the Ravens suffered their own significant loss with an injury to tight end Mark Andrews, they still had enough roster strength to overpower the Bengals.

In any other AFC division, the Bengals would be tied for the second-ranked team: they have the same amount of wins as the Texans, Raiders, and Bills. In the AFC North, however, the season looks lost. The Bengals have dug themselves into a deep hole, and it’ll be hard to overcome it without their franchise quarterback on the field. In Week 12, they face a must-win divisional matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

. . 55. s. 14. . Trend: ▼1. . . Grade: 70

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 10-7
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 7-10

The 6-4 Pittsburgh Steelers have been clutch in close games: refer to the four-point wins in Week 8 and Week 10. In Week 11, they weren’t as lucky, losing their first close game all year to the Cleveland Browns. 

Finally, it seemed, the Steelers’ inadequacies caught up to them. They were outgained for the tenth straight week despite their six-win record with quarterback Kenny Pickett passing for a mere 106 yards. Pickett was outgained by his own teammate, running back Jaylen Warren, who rushed for a career-high 129 yards and a 74-yard touchdown. 

Like the Browns, the Steelers relied on their defense to shut down the opposing quarterback, and with the two young quarterbacks facing one another, this was more a defensive showing than anything else. But Warren’s 129 yards against the NFL’s No. 1 defense in yards per game is a commendable achievement for the halfback’s resumé.

But Warren’s success wasn’t enough to save embattled offensive coordinator Matt Canada from being fired after the Week 11 loss. This marked the first time the Steelers have made a head coach or coordinator change midseason since 1941. That alarming statistic says a great deal about the share of the blame placed on Canada, something that the Steelers will seek to rectify when they promote running backs coach Eddie Faulkner.

The Steelers still have a strong chance at playoffs despite their AFC standing — and despite the fact that their wins are confounding the NFL landscape. In Week 12, they face another divisional rival lacking their franchise quarterback: the Cincinnati Bengals.   

c. . Grade: 68. 15. . Trend: ▲3. . 46. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 5-12
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 5-12

While the Indianapolis Colts rested during the bye week, the situation only got tougher in the AFC South. The 7-3 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 6-4 Houston Texans both recorded wins, even though the Jaguars’ win came at the expense of the 3-7 Tennessee Titans.

But a Titans loss hardly helps the Colts, who remain 5-5 alongside other struggling AFC teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos. 

While the Colts still consider themselves “firmly in [the] AFC Playoff race”, even if they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12 and the aforementioned Titans in Week 13. Fortunately for Indianapolis, the rest of their schedule features opponents they have a reasonable chance of defeating. Perhaps not all hope is lost after all.

Grade: 64. . b. . . . . Trend: ▲4. 16. 45

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 10-7
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 7-10

After ending the Vikings’ five-game win streak, the Broncos claimed the title for themselves with four. Although the Broncos brought the game down to the wire in their first nine offensive possessions — five ended in field goals and four ended in punts — all the Broncos needed to make it across the finish line was a touchdown. With one minute left on the clock, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson delivered. Wilson completed 27 of 35 passes for 259 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions. He’s come a long way since last season. 

After the Broncos defeated the Buffalo Bills in Week 10, Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton implored NFL critics to fill out a “Russell Wilson Apology Form”, which Greg Jennings refused since the Broncos were last in the AFC West. Now, the 5-5 Broncos rank second in the division behind the Chiefs, and although it would take a lot to overcome the divisional leaders, it may be time to fill out an apology form. If not addressed to Wilson, then it should be directed at Sean Payton for turning the team around. 

The Broncos will take on the Cleveland Browns in Week 12, and although the Browns offense has seen its fair share of struggles this season, their defense could easily end the Broncos’ win streak.

. Grade: 63. 60. . . . 17. V. Trend: ▼3.

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 9-8
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 9-8

It was fun while it lasted. On Sunday, the Denver Broncos extended their win streak to four games, ending the Vikings’ five-game win streak since October. The Vikings held the NFL’s longest win streak until then, representing how despite the better-ranked teams throughout the league, the Vikings have been consistent in their wins, even amid a massive quarterback change. 

The Vikings only lost by a point in the 20-21 loss, and Joshua Dobbs still had an impressive performance in his third outing with the team. Dobbs passed for 221 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another, making him the first quarterback in NFL history to score a passing and rushing touchdown through his first three games with a team. 

But Dobb’s fourth-quarter interception easily put the Broncos in the red zone, which resulted in a field goal. That alone would have made the difference in the game. 

Sean Payton offered glowing praise for the new quarterback, and a Monday Night Football matchup versus the Bears is exactly what this team needs to restart their win streak.

. Trend: ▲6. . 49. . Grade: 59. . . 18. g

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 8-9
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 10-7

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love ended the performance of his career with a 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, giving the two embattled teams the same record at 4-6. 

For the Packers, the win was a positive development after five losses in six weeks. Love threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to Romeo Doubs late in the fourth quarter. For the Chargers, this was a meltdown, but for the Packers, it was a resurgence. 

When Love crossed the 300-yard threshold, he became the first Packer passer to do it since Aaron Rodgers in Dec. 2021. The yardage mattered since Love has struggled in close games: four of the Packers’ six losses have been decided by a cumulative 11 points.

The Packers managed to accomplish this feat without star running back Aaron Jones and Emanuel Wilson, which left AJ Dillon as the sole rusher to shoulder the responsibility of the backfield. Instead of turning to Dillon as the Steelers turned to Jaylen Warren, the Packers relied on Love’s arm.  

. 15. Trend: ▲2. . . Grade: 56. . . S. 19

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 10-7
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 8-9

Week 11 couldn’t have gone better for the New Orleans Saints — even though they were on a bye week. That’s because both of their division rivals who did play in Week 11 lost, which means the Saints maintain their one-game lead over the Atlanta Falcons. 

That lead is going to be challenged in Week 12 as the Saints and Falcons face one another in a game that could potentially go either way. After the bye, both well-rested teams will be recharged and ready to accrue another win in this heated rivalry. 

l. . 28. Grade: 52. Trend: ▼4. . . . 20.

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 7-10
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 4-13

Entering halftime, the Las Vegas Raiders were trailing13-14 against the Miami Dolphins in Week 11. By the end of the game, the Dolphins pulled ahead for a 20-13 victory while the Raiders remained scoreless in the second half. 

Part of this has to do with the Raiders’ reliance on Davante Adams, whose 82 receiving yards included a 46-yard touchdown. Completing about half of his passes, Aiden O’Connell passed for 271 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. The Raiders barely rushed, and when they did, it was ineffective: Josh Jacobs averaged 2.8 YPC on 14 rushes from 39 yards. O’Connell was able to spread the ball around, but it wasn’t enough to make a difference in the second half. 

In Week 12, the Raiders will face the Kansas City Chiefs before a much-needed bye week.

. . Trend: ▼2. . 21. t. Grade: 51. . . 48

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 5-12
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 9-8

When Baker Mayfield began as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, it seemed an adequate solution if Tom Brady was no longer available. The Buccaneers started the season 3-1, but in the weeks since, they’ve fallen considerably. Now, Tampa Bay is 4-6 after a 14-27 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, marking their fifth loss in six weeks. 

Brady’s presence over the past two seasons hid the decline of the Bucs defense after their Super Bowl-winning season, which has now been laid bare by Mayfield’s mediocrity. Tampa Bay failed to slow Brock Purdy and his receivers, exemplified by a touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk that saw Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean beaten in coverage. 

One interesting development in this game is Mayfield’s rivalry with Nick Bosa, which dates back to their college days. After Mayfield celebrated a block against Bosa, the defensive end got revenge in a subsequent combined sack that saw Mayfield fumble the football. With that play and this win, Bosa maintains the upper hand in this feud. 

In Week 12, the Buccaneers have a chance against a 5-5 Indianapolis Colts team coming off of a bye week, but considering Tampa Bay’s recent weeks, the rested Colts will probably fare better in this one.

. Trend: ▼5. . Grade: 50. . . . 22. 13. c

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 9-8
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 11-6

The Chargers had an opportunity to beat a dysfunctional Packers team in Week 11, but their inability to do so put the Chargers’ own inadequacies on full display. Like the Bears are prone to losing games, the Chargers are prone to looking good on paper and bad on the field. Also, they’re prone to injury, which struck again when they lost edge rusher Joey Bosa and linebacker Tanner Muse. The Chargers lost this game 20-23, and even though the Packers scored a touchdown with 2:33 left, the Chargers failed to even the score on two subsequent possessions. 

Five of the Chargers’ six losses this season have been decided by a cumulative 14 points, which only adds to the franchise’s historic predisposition to misery. Even though the team entered Week 11 second in red-zone touchdown percentage, their first three red-zone trips against the Packers failed to produce touchdowns, instead resulting in two field goals and a fumble. 

While quarterback Justin Herbert’s heroics on passing and rushing weren’t quite enough for a win, even though he gained a total of 333 yards. The loss of Bosa early in the game didn’t help, either. 

In Week 12, the Chargers host the Baltimore Ravens in what’s sure to be one of their most difficult matchups of the season. If they can’t beat the Packers, they probably won’t beat the Ravens.

. Trend: ▲2. . 23. f. Grade: 48. . 44. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 7-10
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 7-10

The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints can agree on something: Week 11 included some helpful developments as the two rivals shared a bye week. Their other NFC South rivals — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers — lost their games, plunging the NFL’s worst division further into the depths. But for the Falcons and Saints, that’s a good thing. 

The 4-6 Falcons will now face the 5-5 Saints in a divisional match that could have major postseason implications. At the very least, NFL fans will be treated to another edition of one of the league’s fiercest rivalries.

r. . . Grade: 45. 24. . Trend: ▲3. . . 51

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 7-10
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 9-8

The Los Angeles Rams were 3-3 before a three-game skid that put them at 3-6 entering Week 11. Although the Seahawks had their record inverted — they were 6-3 — it’s no surprise that the Rams were able to challenge, and eventually overpower, their divisional rival in a 17-16 win. 

Matthew Stafford’s presence made a difference, too. In his return after a thumb injury, Stafford exited in the fourth quarter with a nine-point deficit after taking a blow to the chest. When he returned, he made his first fourth-quarter comeback since his Super Bowl LVI victory. 

Although Stafford only managed 190 passing yards, he led two critical scoring drives in the fourth quarter that gave the Rams the game. And in an NFL landscape rife with poor records, the Rams aren’t necessarily down for the count yet, even with a 4-6 record. This game proved that they could still muster up the strength for a playoff spot, although their postseason run would likely end there. 

In Week 12, the Rams face the Arizona Cardinals in what may easily be another divisional win, but an ankle injury to Cooper Kupp could make securing another win all the more challenging.

Trend: ▼3. c. . 58. Grade: 43. . . . . 25

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 7-10
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 7-10

The Washington Commanders figuratively and literally gave this game away to the New York Giants with six turnovers, three of them being interceptions thrown by quarterback Sam Howell. That resulted in a 31-19 victory for New York, which wasn’t even that lopsided considering the amount of turnovers. 

The 4-7 Commanders barely rank above the 3-8 Giants, and the game was described as a low point on a multitude of levels. It was one of Howell’s worst games, it was an embarrassment for Ron Rivera’s tenure in Washington, and FedEx Field struck again as there was no hot water for players to shower in following the game. There is no home game advantage in a Washington environment that has the Commanders at a 1-4 record at home. 

After losing to undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito, the Commanders have lost seven of nine since their 2-0 start to the season. 

. 30. J. Trend: --. . 26. . . . Grade: 40

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 9-8
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 4-13

How bad has the Jets offense been? Through 10 games, they’ve managed to score just nine offensive touchdowns. This week’s 32-6 loss to Buffalo was no different — Zach Wilson and the offense was abysmal.

The Jets offense allowed six sacks and gifted Buffalo three turnovers while going 0-for-11 on third down and generating just 155 total yards of offense. If there’s any positive, it’s that they finally scored a touchdown, ending a drought that lasted 40 consecutive drives through 12 quarters of football. Even that drive almost sputtered out, but punter Thomas Morstead managed to keep it alive with an 18-yard completion on a fake punt.

Zach Wilson, who has dragged this offense down all season, was finally benched with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter. Prior to being pulled, Wilson didn’t complete a single pass to a wide receiver and finished with just seven completions on 15 pass attempts for 81 yards, a touchdown and an interception. None of his seven completions were to a wide receiver, despite having Garrett Wilson, the talented 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, on the field. 

. 27. t. . 35. . Grade: 39. Trend: ▼4. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 5-12
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 8-9

Week 11 could have been a bounce-back game for the Tennessee Titans — after all, they suffered a humiliating 20-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the week before. Instead, the Jaguars bounced back from their own Week 10 loss, trouncing the 3-7 Titans, 14-34.

The loss in Jacksonville illustrated the Titans’ struggles when playing away: Tennessee is now 0-6 this season when on the road while losing nine consecutive away games. In 2023, the Titans have yet to exceed 16 points in any away game. 

Will Levis had a limited yet efficient game with 13 of 17 passes completed for 158 yards and two touchdowns, but a fumble put a dent into his progress for the day. At least the Titans flashed promise on their two scores, especially on a 43-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins in the third quarter.

In Week 12, the Titans can maintain a glimmer of hope as they face the 1-9 Carolina Panthers at home.   

31. . . Trend: ▲3. Grade: 35. . 28. G. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 6-11
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 5-12

Finally, a win. 

The 3-8 Giants managed a high-scoring win over a discombobulated Commanders team, with undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito recording his first NFL win in his second career game. The Commanders have given the Giants two of their three wins this season, remaining ahead on the scoreboard throughout both of these games. 

With the Giants proving they can win, they may be able to keep the momentum going in Week 12 versus the New England Patriots.

B. 29. 57. . . Trend: --. . . . Grade: 30

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 5-12
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 3-14

It was once said that the “Browns is the Browns”, but what should have been said is that the Bears are the Bears. While the Browns have seen success in the years after JuJu Smith-Schuster’s infamous dismissal, the Bears haven’t fared well since 1985. 

And even though they almost defeated the top-ranked Detroit Lions, the keyword is “almost” — the Bears lost the close game with moments to spare. With four minutes left on the clock, the Bears had a 98.8 percent chance of winning the game. But remember: the Bears are the Bears. 

Instead, here are some more believable probabilities for the Bears: they have a  less than one percent chance of winning the Super Bowl and a five percent chance of making playoffs. Don’t expect Chicago to beat those odds.

. 47. p. . . 30. Grade: 29. Trend: --. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 10-7
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 8-9

The 2-8 Patriots were allowed temporary relief from a hailstorm of criticism for being the AFC’s worst team, but that’s likely to resume after a Week 12 matchup versus the New York Giants. The Giants are hardly better — actually, they were also 2-8 before Week 11 — but they are coming off a win over the Washington Commanders that could propel them through Week 12. Momentum versus bye? If the Patriots weren’t so abysmal, maybe bye-week rest would give them an edge.

Trend: ▼3. . c. . 31. 32. . Grade: 27. .

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 3-14
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 5-12

Even with Kyler Murray back, the hapless 2-9 Cardinals continue to suffer after a 16-21 loss to the Houston Texans. In Week 12, the best they could hope for is an upset win over their division rival, the Los Angeles Rams. At least division rivalries can lead to unpredictable outcomes — just ask the Seahawks in Week 11.

. Grade: 21. . . . . Trend: --. p. 32. 87

  • Preseason Record Prediction: 5-12
  • Week 5 Record Prediction: 3-14

Another week, another loss. There’s not much to say beyond the fact that the Carolina Panthers continue to have the NFL’s worst record and the highest draft pick in 2024 — one that unfortunately belongs to the Chicago Bears.

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