NFL Week 15 Recap
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Do you enjoy your NFL weekend with games spanning Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday? Well, then Week 15 is for you. With the college football season entering its bowl schedule, the NFL is expanding to Saturday for the rest of the slate.

The weekend began with the Bengals, Colts and Lions all winning to help their playoff causes. On Sunday, the Chiefs snapped a two-game skid to handle the Patriots, while the Dolphins dominated the Jets without Tyreek Hill.

However, Sunday’s best game on paper was the Cowboys visiting the Bills in the late window. Instead, it turned into a Buffalo romp, led by James Cook going over 100 rushing yards for the third time this season.

Finally, Sunday night had the Jaguars hosting the Ravens, with Baltimore clinching a playoff berth. For Jacksonville, it’s a third consecutive loss at the worst time possible.

SUNDAY

Ravens 23, Jaguars 7

  • What it means for Ravens: Baltimore (11–3) is in excellent position to be the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2019. By beating the Jaguars, the Ravens remain the top seed and while their schedule is tough with the Niners, Dolphins and Steelers remaining, Miami’s slate is even tougher. Ultimately, beating the Dolphins and Pittsburgh would be enough to clinch a first-round bye. The game in San Francisco will get plenty of national hype next week, but Baltimore doesn’t need to win it.
  • What it means for Jaguars: Jacksonville (8–6) needs to hit the panic button in a big way. For months, it seemed a foregone conclusion the Jaguars would win the AFC South. No more. They are tied atop the division with the Colts and Texans, and although they hold the tiebreaker, one more loss could sink them. Jacksonville desperately needs to go into Tampa Bay and snap their three-game skid with a solid performance against the Buccaneers.

Texans 19, Titans 16 (OT)

  • What it means for Texans: Houston (8–6) may have saved its season with the gutsiest performance from the team year. The Texans were without C.J. Stroud, Nico Collins, Tank Dell and Will Anderson Jr., among others, yet won behind a stellar defensive performance and with Case Keenum doing just enough. Keenum threw for 229 yards with a touchdown and interception, while the defense held Derrick Henry to nine rushing yards on 16 carries. With eight victories, the Texans have an excellent chance to make the playoffs if they can win two of their final three games against the Browns, Titans and Colts.
  • What it means for Titans: Tennessee (5–9) was coming off its best win of the year over the Dolphins, but this one hurts. The Titans couldn’t find their offensive footing all afternoon, registering only 204 total yards while being sacked seven times. For the Titans, general manager Ran Carthon must figure out what direction the offense needs to go in this offseason, whether that’s revamping the supporting cast around Will Levis or finding a new quarterback altogether. 

Bills 31, Cowboys 10

  • What it means for Cowboys: Dallas (10–4) has to do some soul searching. After winning five straight, the Cowboys went to Buffalo with a chance to make a huge statement, and they sure did. Dallas was never competitive, getting blown off the ball defensively and allowing 266 rushing yards. Every team has a bad week or two, but the Cowboys were an embarrassment. Next week they’ll play the Dolphins, who lead the league in yards per carry.
  • What it means for Bills: Buffalo (8–6) is firmly in the conversation as a Super Bowl contender, and yet it by no means has a playoff spot secured. Based on what we’ve seen from the rest of the AFC, there’s a good chance the Bills will need to win out, albeit with the next two games coming against the Chargers and Patriots. There’s a very real scenario where Buffalo will either win the AFC East in Week 18 against the Dolphins, or miss the playoffs entirely. Wild.

Browns 20, Bears 17

  • What it means for Bears: Chicago (5–9) had a real chance to upset the Browns on the road, but brutal drops, a fourth-quarter collapse and a dropped Hail Mary on the game’s final snap cost the Bears a chance to sneak into the periphery of the playoff race. While the season is lost, Chicago has improved after winning only three games last year. Should the Bears finish with six or seven wins, will coach Matt Eberflus get another year? That’s one of many questions waiting for the Bears this offseason.
  • What it means for Browns: Cleveland (9–5) almost lost a crushing game to a feisty Bears team at home, but rallied to score 13 points in the fourth quarter to move toward the postseason. Joe Flacco threw three interceptions, but Cleveland won chiefly because its defense allowed only 236 yards, albeit with some help from Chicago’s drop issues. Ultimately, though, the Browns found a way and remain the AFC’s top wild-card team with a manageable schedule ahead.

Dolphins 30, Jets 0

  • What it means for Jets: After a confidence-building win over the Texans, the Jets (5–9) reverted to being a meandering, punchless group. The defense got smoked early, giving up 197 yards and 24 points in the first half, putting the offense in an impossible position. Of course, the offense did its part in the disaster, gaining a measly four first downs while turning it over at its own 1-yard line over the first 30 minutes. This led to Zach Wilson being benched … again. Only three more games, Jets fans.
  • What it means for Dolphins: Miami (10–4) showed it’s not just the Tyreek Hill show. With Hill sidelined due to an ankle injury, the Dolphins put the Jets away in the first half as Tua Tagovailoa threw for 168 yards, Raheem Mostert ran for two touchdowns and Miami’s defense limited New York to four yards before the half. With a brutal three-game finish against the Cowboys, Ravens and Bills ahead, this was a much-needed win.

Buccaneers 34, Packers 20

  • What it means for Buccaneers: Kudos to Baker Mayfield, who had his best day as a Buccaneer. Tampa Bay (7–7) is back at .500 and still leading the NFC South, thanks to a terrific offensive effort at Lambeau Field. The Buccaneers saw Mayfield throw for 381 yards and four touchdowns, while Chris Godwin caught 10 passes for 155 yards. Next up? The Jaguars, who entered Sunday with the 31st-ranked pass defense.
  • What it means for Packers: Green Bay (6–8) looked to be in prime position for a run to the playoffs after beating the Chiefs on Sunday night only two weeks ago. Since then: a bad loss to the Giants under the lights at MetLife Stadium, before coming home and getting blown out by the Buccaneers. Jordan Love threw for 284 yards and two scores, but it wasn’t enough as the defense yielded 452 yards on a whopping 7.5 yards per play. Any dreams of the playoffs are on life support.

Chiefs 27, Patriots 17

  • What it means for Chiefs: Kansas City (9–5) needed to get right after losing four of its last six, and the Chiefs handled business after a rocky start. Mahomes threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns, while rookie Rashee Rice continued to produce, leading Kansas City with 91 receiving yards and a score. The Chiefs have largely gotten excellent defensive play all year, but the offense has been uneven. If Rice can continue turning into a reliable, top-end target, that’s a huge development for the champs.
  • What it means for Patriots: Nothing new for the Patriots (3–11), who couldn’t consistently move the ball. Before the game turned into garbage time, New England gained 154 yards in the first three quarters. The Patriots also got an interception leading to a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line, and only mustered a field goal. While the defense struggled to stop Mahomes, the story was once again an anemic offensive performance.

49ers 45, Cardinals 29

  • What it means for 49ers: San Francisco (11–3) wrapped up the NFC West with its sixth consecutive win. Now, the Niners will try to win out. If they do, the road to the Super Bowl will go through the Bay Area for the second time in five seasons. While the Eagles and Cowboys won’t be easy to deal with, San Francisco has to be a clear favorite to represent the NFC come February.
  • What it means for Cardinals: Arizona (3–11) was expected to be the league’s worst team in many corners, and the season has gone just about to script. While Kyler Murray’s return and Trey McBride’s ascension have been nice positives, the Cardinals don’t have the requisite talent on either side of the ball to compete against decent teams. The big question moving forward is whether the Cardinals see Murray as their future under center, or if they’ll attempt to draft his replacement.

Saints 24, Giants 6

  • What it means for Giants: New York (5–9) unfortunately saw the Tommy DeVito hype train come to a screeching halt. DeVito went into concussion protocol after a hit in the second quarter. While he came back in, he struggled mightily at the Superdome, throwing for only 5.2 yards per attempt. After winning three straight, the Giants now have to regroup for a tough ending stretch, which will see them face the Eagles twice in three weeks along with the Rams at home.
  • What it means for Saints: After being relentlessly booed by the home fans last week, Derek Carr showed why the Saints (7–7) signed him this offseason. The veteran threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns in a rout of the Giants. Additionally, Carr did it without Chris Olave, instead leaning on Alvin Kamara, who totaled 110 yards in the victory. The Saints now have three games remaining against teams that, like them, all entered the day at 6–7 (the Rams, Buccaneers and Falcons).

Rams 28, Commanders 20

  • What it means for Commanders: Washington (5–9) is playing out the string before we see sweeping changes this offseason. This is almost certainly Ron Rivera’s last season on the sideline, as new ownership in Josh Harris will look to remake the franchise. It’s also fair to wonder whether general manager Martin Mayhew will be gone, and then there’s the open question of Sam Howell’s future. Regardless, Sunday’s loss made sure there would be no dreams of a magic playoff run in D.C.
  • What it means for Rams: If Los Angeles (7–7) can sneak into the playoffs, it would be a very dangerous wild card team. The Rams dispatched the Commanders with ease at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, and sit in the seventh seed of the NFC playoff picture after the Packers lost to the Buccaneers. The remaining schedule is also manageable, with Los Angeles drawing the Saints and Giants over the next two weeks before seeing what could be a backup-laden Niners team in Week 18.

Panthers 9, Falcons 7

  • What it means for Falcons: Atlanta (6–8) is likely finished, considering the Saints and Buccaneers both won and the Falcons couldn’t handle a one-win Panthers team. Desmond Ridder was awful, throwing for 152 yards and an interception. All told, Atlanta registered only 204 total yards and 12 first downs, along with giving away two turnovers. While the Falcons are only technically a game back in the rancid NFC South, it feels like a mountain to climb.
  • What it means for Panthers: Carolina (2–12) hasn’t had much to be excited about, but this is such a moment. The Panthers got their first win under interim coach Chris Tabor, who took over for Frank Reich after he was ousted in November. Furthermore, No. 1 pick Bryce Young played one of his better games in this challenging rookie campaign, throwing for 167 yards on 7.0 YPA. It wasn’t a Mona Lisa, but it’s a win for a Carolina team in desperate need of a lift.

SATURDAY

Bengals 27, Vikings 24 (OT)

  • What it means for Vikings: Minnesota (7–7) should be sick. The Vikings lost because of two first-half, red-zone interceptions by Nick Mullens, both coming on third down when Mullens could have played it safe and secured field goals. Then there was the failure on consecutive QB sneaks to pick up a single yard. Minnesota is still in the playoff picture as things sit, but with two games left against the Lions, the schedule ahead isn’t easy.
  • What it means for Bengals: Cincinnati (8–6) continues to have an improbable run with Jake Browning under center. After torching the Jaguars and Colts over the past two weeks, the Bengals’ backup threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns Saturday in a third consecutive win. With a two-game road trip against the Steelers and Chiefs, Cincinnati still has a chance to make the playoffs. Who would have thought that when Joe Burrow was lost for the season?

Lions 42, Broncos 17

  • What it means for Broncos: Denver (7–7) played like the team that started the season 1–5. Russell Wilson & Co. didn’t score until the third quarter after a three-yard touchdown pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey. As for Denver’s defense, the unit struggled to contain Detroit’s rushing attack. The Broncos’ playoff hopes took a hit with the loss in Detroit. They likely need to win their final three regular-season games to have a shot at capturing a wild-card spot. That’s feasible against three teams not in the playoff mix: back-to-back home games vs. Chargers and Patriots and a road matchup against the Raiders.
  • What it means for Lions: Surprisingly, Detroit (10–4) leaned on its defense before building a 21–0. The Lions produced a shutout in the first half behind a pass rush that was on point from the opening kickoff. After a sluggish first quarter, the Lions’ offense broke the game open, as Jared Goff threw touchdowns to multiple playmakers, including Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta and Jahmyr Gibbs, who also had a rushing score. The Lions might have quieted the narrative of them being postseason pretenders after the dominant performance. They can make a louder statement by beating the Vikings on the road next week. Detroit plays in Dallas in Week 17 before ending the regular season at home vs. the Vikings.

Colts 30, Steelers 13

  • What it means for Steelers: Pittsburgh (7–7) took the ball after winning the coin toss to help ignite its stagnant offense. It didn’t help much because the Steelers received another poor performance from backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who threw two interceptions before he was replaced by Mason Rudolph in the final two minutes of regulation. It was also a dreadful outing by the Steelers’ defense, which struggled to stop the run in the second half. At one point, Indianapolis ran the football 13 consecutive times. Regardless if Kenny Pickett returns next week, the Steelers probably won’t be making the playoffs, with remaining games against the Bengals, Seahawks and Ravens.
  • What it means for Colts: Indianapolis (8–6) cruised to victory, despite playing most of the game without wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Zack Moss. The replacements, Tyler Goodson, Trey Sermon and D.J. Montgomery, helped the Colts score 27 unanswered points after falling behind 13–0. Moss injured his arm during his 16-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, and Pittman sustained a head injury attempting to catch a poor pass that shouldn’t have been thrown by Gardner Minshew II. The Colts will need those two key players for next week’s game in Atlanta, but they’re now in the playoff picture after jumping the Steelers in the AFC standings. 

THURSDAY

Raiders 63, Chargers 21

  • What it means for Chargers: Well, it means a full housecleaning a few weeks early. The Chargers (5–9) are one of the league’s biggest disappointments and while it was a foregone conclusion coach Brandon Staley would be gone at season’s end, the primetime embarrassment was the final straw. The Chargers now finish the season against the Bills, Broncos and Chiefs with Easton Stick at quarterback and Giff Smith as interim coach.
  • What it means for Raiders: It’s odd to say this when a team scores 63 points and wins by 42, but this game was far more about the Chargers. Las Vegas was fine, with rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell throwing for 248 yards and four touchdowns, while the defense added five takeaways and two scores of its own. Next up is a trip to Arrowhead Stadium for a Christmas Day showdown with the Chiefs.

Source: https://www.si.com/nfl/2023/12/16/2023-nfl-week-15-recap-analysis-bengals-beat-vikings-overtime

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