Welcome to Week 14 of the 2022 NFL season, which is filled with divisional matchups that could have playoff implications.
The Los Angeles Rams won in dramatic fashion Thursday night when Baker Mayfield — who was claimed off waivers two days prior — led the team to a comeback victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.
On Sunday afternoon, the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles overpowered their divisional rivals, the Detroit Lions won for the fifth time in their past six games and the Dallas Cowboys nearly lost to the last-place Houston Texans at home.
In the late-afternoon window, the San Francisco 49ers and rookie quarterback Brock Purdy rolled over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Carolina Panthers stayed alive with an upset of the Seattle Seahawks, while the Kansas City Chiefs held off the Denver Broncos for the 14th straight time.
The Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Washington Commanders are on a bye and will return to action in Week 15.
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.
Jump to a matchup:
LV-LAR | PHI-NYG | NYJ-BUF | CLE-CIN
MIN-DET | BAL-PIT | HOU-DAL | JAX-TEN
KC-DEN | CAR-SEA | TB-SF
What to know: Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy has had only one start with the 49ers, but it’s safe to say the pressure of taking over a legitimate Super Bowl contender isn’t too much for him. Purdy was 16-for-21 and threw for 185 yards and two touchdown passes. Purdy didn’t just manage Sunday’s game — he took it over in the first half, becoming just the second quarterback since 1950 (along with Don Strock) to throw for two touchdowns and rush for one in the opening half of his first career start. Purdy still has plenty to prove, but this was a nearly flawless first impression.
What will the offense look like with WR Deebo Samuel‘s left ankle injury? Samuel was emotional as the cart took him to the locker room, indicating he was expecting the worst. But it was an ankle injury, not a knee issue as initially indicated, which offered some hope. If he has to miss a significant amount of time, the Niners have other playmakers — Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle — who can fill the void, but they’ll need others, such as wideout Jauan Jennings and running back Jordan Mason, to play bigger roles, because nobody else offers Samuel’s versatility. — Nick Wagoner
Next game: at Seahawks (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: In his return to the Bay Area, Tom Brady was picked off twice (he banged his throwing hand on one of them) and couldn’t find the end zone until 2 minutes, 56 seconds to go in the third quarter off a deflected pass caught by Russell Gage. The Bucs’ defense — without nickelback Antoine Winfield Jr., safety Mike Edwards and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, in addition to cornerback Jamel Dean and tackle Vita Vea leaving the game with toe and calf injuries, respectively — surrendered five touchdowns to the 49ers and Brock Purdy, snapping Brady’s 7-0 streak against rookie signal-callers.
How does this affect the Bucs’ position in the NFC South? At 6-7, the Bucs are still in first place in the NFC South by one game. The Falcons (5-8) and Saints (4-9) are on a bye. The Panthers improved to 5-8 with a win over the Seahawks. The Bucs are now just the seventh team in NFL history to lead their division with a losing record after Week 14. But at this point, do the playoffs truly matter? The offense, even with multiple future Hall of Famers, has been dysfunctional all season, and their only hope has been their defense pitching a near shutout every week, and they’re now down several key players. — Jenna Laine
Next game: vs. Bengals (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Don’t look now but the Panthers are in control of their own playoff destiny. At 5-8, they are only a game behind Tampa Bay (6-7) in the NFC South and would capture the division title if they win their final four games because they would own the tiebreaker over the Bucs and Atlanta at 9-8. They got here by winning their first road game of the season Sunday and sticking to their formula — control the clock with the run and let the defense do the rest.
Can Carolina hold serve the next two weeks at home and keep the pressure on division foes? The Panthers are 3-0 at home under interim coach Steve Wilks, with their next two games at Bank of America Stadium against the Steelers (5-8) and Lions (6-7). Make it 5-0, and Wilks has a strong case for the full-time job next season and sets Carolina up for a New Year’s Day showdown at Tampa Bay. Heck, he might have a case for NFL Coach of the Year if he can pull this off. — David Newton
Next game: vs. Steelers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Seahawks still have a good chance to make the playoffs, but they don’t look like contenders at all. They’ve played four straight games against teams that were under .500. They’ve lost three of them and barely won the other one. Sunday’s loss to Carolina was their worst yet. The Panthers entered with a 4-8 record and the 27th-ranked scoring offense, yet they gashed Seattle on the ground to the tune of 223 rushing yards. With their backfield missing Kenneth Walker III and DeeJay Dallas, the Seahawks needed Geno Smith at his best. Instead, he played one of his worst games of the season. If the Seahawks can’t beat a bad Carolina team at home, how can they make any noise in the playoffs if they get there?
Do the Seahawks have a chance against San Francisco? The 49ers hammered Tampa Bay on Sunday to improve to 9-4, giving them a two-game lead over Seattle in the NFC West heading into Thursday night’s showdown at Lumen Field. The Seahawks need to win that game to have any shot at catching the 49ers, and they might get a break with Niners star receiver Deebo Samuel suffering an ankle injury Sunday. — Brady Henderson
Next game: vs. 49ers (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Chiefs need to be more conservative with a big lead, particularly against struggling opponents like the Broncos. After taking a 27-0 lead in the second quarter, there was only one way the Broncos were getting back into the game and that was by coming up with turnovers. Two Patrick Mahomes interceptions helped bring the Broncos back. With a sizable lead, running the ball and punting aren’t bad things as the Chiefs chase the AFC’s top playoff seed.
What got into the pass rush? The Chiefs made getting pressure on Russell Wilson a priority with frequent blitzes and it paid off with six sacks. But getting the opposing quarterback on the ground won’t always be so easy. The Chiefs took advantage of a Broncos offensive line filled with backups. The Chiefs had been doing a nice job of pressuring the quarterback before last week’s game in Cincinnati, with 21 sacks in the previous five games. But six sacks is a season high. — Adam Teicher
Next game: at Texans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: A lot has been said about the Broncos’ injury-riddled lineup in this lost season. That they lack the firepower on offense to compete, make too many mistakes at crucial times and that, after six consecutive playoff misses before this year, they simply don’t know how to win anymore. But while their flaws were still easy to see much of the time Sunday, they are still playing for coach Nathaniel Hackett and his staff, evidenced by Jerry Jeudy‘s first career three-touchdown game as well as two interceptions from the defense. And with a new ownership group faced with its first big decision following a disappointing season, effort down the stretch could matter when it’s time to decide the next move.
What does Russell Wilson‘s injury mean for the Broncos’ offense? The Broncos’ outburst Sunday notwithstanding — their 28 points was a season high — they might have to make some tough choices if Brett Rypien has to get them through a game or two. Wilson was knocked from the game with a concussion in the fourth quarter and will now be in the league’s concussion protocol. It might push a Broncos offense that has struggled to consistently run the ball to find ways to get the run game revved up a little more. Rypien will need it if he has to play down the stretch. — Jeff Legwold
Next game: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: A statement performance from Jalen Hurts helped clinch a playoff berth for the Eagles. His last game at the Meadowlands was the worst of his career, as he threw three interceptions with no touchdowns. His growth was showcased Sunday, as he threw two 30-plus-yard touchdowns and added a 10-yard touchdown run to rout the Giants. He didn’t put any added significance on last year’s performance, but we’ve learned he’s good at righting previous wrongs. Nobody plays the quarterback position better than Hurts right now.
Is this the greatest offense in Eagles history? It’s making a strong case. The Eagles set a new record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 27. A.J. Brown surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and is the fourth Eagle to have 1,000 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. Hurts and Miles Sanders each have at least 10 rushing TDs, marking the first time in Eagles history multiple players have reached that benchmark. This unit can do whatever it wants — a nice quality to have for a team with championship aspirations. — Tim McManus
Next game: at Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: That was a disaster. The Giants, who have won once in six games, did little right and were outclassed by the Eagles in a game in which they allowed 253 yards rushing. It was further proof that they’re not ready to compete with the big boys, especially in their own division. The Giants are 0-3 against the Cowboys and Eagles this season, which magnifies their matchup with the Commanders next week. That game will probably determine whether they make the playoffs following a 7-2 start.
Is Saquon Barkley healthy going into next week’s game at Washington? Barkley was a game-day decision Sunday with a neck injury that occurred this week during practice. He looked OK at times against the Eagles, but his usage was undoubtedly limited (20 snaps and nine carries). The Giants don’t have enough playmakers to survive without Barkley being a major factor. They need him Sunday night against the Commanders. The good news is it appears Barkley made it out of Sunday no worse than he was when he started. — Jordan Raanan
Next game: at Commanders (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Bills’ defensive ends made it a long day for Mike White, with Greg Rousseau, AJ Epenesa and Shaq Lawson all getting at least one sack in the second full game without Von Miller. The trio also combined for four of eight quarterback hits, and the defense got pressure without blitzing, pressuring White 46.7% of dropbacks with just four rushers. With the success up front, the Bills limited the Jets to fewer than 300 total yards. These types of performances will go a long way without Miller.
How can the Bills avoid slow offensive starts? While the Jets have a good defense, the Bills had to punt on five straight drives to start a game for the first time since Allen’s third career start, which is unacceptable. Instead, the slow start was reflective of the problems that the offense has had since the bye. The Bills didn’t get the running game going with their backs and finished with their fewest net yards in a game this season (232) by almost 100 yards. The offense has to find ways to get the ball more consistently into the hands of their playmakers outside of Allen. — Alaina Getzenberg
Next game: vs. Dolphins (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: Quarterback Mike White took an absolute pounding as the Jets’ offensive line suffered major breakdowns. That he finished the game was a testament to his toughness. He was sacked three times, hit seven times and pressured 21 times, and he went to the sideline twice (missing six snaps) because of blows to the ribs/midsection. The Bills aren’t known as a blitzing team, but they seemed to surprise the Jets with a barrage of five- and six-man rushes. With lousy pass protection and two turnovers, the Jets had no chance on offense.
The Jets have their first losing streak. Time to panic? The Jets have lost two in a row for the first time this season, and their best player, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, is iffy for next Sunday with a calf injury. So, yeah, it’s time to worry about the Jets and their playoff chances. At 7-6, they probably have to win three of their last four to secure a wild card. Their offense (only two TDs in the past two games) has gone cold, and they can’t keep the quarterback upright. This isn’t the December they envisioned. — Rich Cimini
Next game: vs. Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has pretty much answered every question this season, and Sunday’s rout of the Titans confirmed that the second-year player is more than capable of putting the franchise on his shoulders and carrying it. The run game was ineffective, and Lawrence threw it 40-plus times and set a career high with 368 yards passing to snap the team’s eight-game losing streak in Nashville. He’s the first QB in franchise history with 300 pass yards, multiple passing TDs and a rush TD in a single game. Lawrence had rallied the Jaguars from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Baltimore Ravens, but Sunday was his “leave it to me” moment.
Did the defense snap out of its slump? It sort of looks that way after it forced four turnovers, but the Titans are a banged-up team — they were without their best receiver, Treylon Burks — that doesn’t have much in terms of offensive threats outside of running back Derrick Henry. Getting a big lead allowed the pass rush to have some success (four sacks), but Henry still had more than 100 yards rushing, and the defense gave up a fourth-quarter touchdown to make the game closer than it should have been. What the defense did Sunday won’t be anywhere close to good enough against Dallas next week. — Mike DiRocco
Next game: vs. Cowboys (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Titans’ loss to the Jaguars isn’t the most lopsided defeat points-wise under coach Mike Vrabel, but it’s probably their most humiliating. Tennessee lost three consecutive games for the first time under Vrabel since Weeks 5-7 in 2018. The Titans turned the ball over four times and didn’t generate any themselves. Jacksonville converted the turnovers into 20 points. All of this comes on the heels of general manager Jon Robinson being fired Tuesday. Vrabel said the Titans were at a crossroads after last week’s loss to the Eagles. One can only imagine the depths Tennessee has fallen to after losing to the Jaguars.
Are the Titans slipping toward an offseason implosion? Sunday’s showing was the third consecutive humiliating loss. This time it was against a team that hasn’t won in Nashville since Nov 10, 2013. The offense looked inept for most of the game, especially the second half. Tennessee’s defense couldn’t stop tight end Evan Engram, who had 11 receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk wanted to send a message by firing Robinson. The Titans’ uninspired play couldn’t have sat well with Adams Strunk, who was in attendance and said the final weeks of the season will be an evaluation opportunity. — Turron Davenport
Next game: at Chargers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
Trevor Lawrence increases the Jaguars’ lead with his 1-yard rushing touchdown.
What to know: Perhaps the Cowboys will look back at this win as the one that got their heads on straight for a drive to the Super Bowl. It won’t matter that they had to scratch their way to victory against a team that had not won since October — just that they got the win. What will be remembered: a fourth-quarter goal-line stand by a defense that did not do very much against a limited Houston offense for most of the game. Dak Prescott came to life on the final drive, completing 6 of 7 passes and scrambling twice for first downs on a 98-yard march that ended with Ezekiel Elliott’s 2-yard game-winning touchdown run with 41 seconds to play. Following the decisive score, there was a noticeable sigh of relief from everybody associated with the Cowboys. At 10-3, they are at least keeping pace with the Eagles (12-1) and still have a shot to win the division. They also have won double-digit games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995-96. But they know they can’t play like this and be considered a true contender.
If RT Terence Steele‘s knee injury keeps him out, how will the Cowboys shuffle their line? The Cowboys have Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith ready to return from injured reserve after suffering a torn hamstring that required surgery in August, so they have options. They went with Josh Ball against the Texans, but do they slide rookie Tyler Smith to right tackle after he has had snaps only on the left side (tackle and guard) all season? Do they go with veteran Jason Peters, who has played only on the left side this year? After Ball was beaten for a play, Peters took over late in the fourth quarter. Smith played right tackle as a rookie back in 2011. The good news is they have options, but they have to choose wisely. — Todd Archer
Next game: at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Houston Texans deployed a two-quarterback system and came close to pulling off an upset. The Texans started quarterback Davis Mills, and after the first series of the game, he was replaced by backup Jeff Driskel. But Mills wasn’t benched. It was only the start to the two-quarterback rotation the Texans planned on using. Driskel’s first snap came right after the Cowboys’ KaVontae Turpin muffed a punt in the first quarter and the Texans took over on the Cowboys’ 24-yard line. Driskel and Mills each played 50% of the snaps, and the Texans scored their second-highest point total of the season.
Can the defense continue forcing turnovers? The Texans’ defense forced three turnovers against the Cowboys, a season high, and scored on their drives following two of those turnovers. It was a respectable effort from the Texans’ defense that held a Cowboys offense that averaged 27 points per game in check until the last drive of the game. The Cowboys had to produce a 98-yard game-winning drive to finally solve the Texans’ defense and win. — DJ Bien-Aime
Next game: vs. Chiefs (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Quarterback Jared Goff is locked in and the Lions remain one of the hottest teams in the league, winning five of their past six games. Goff has entered one of the best stretches of his career, hitting the 300-yard mark for the second straight week. He hasn’t thrown an interception in his past five games, and on Sunday he displayed his deep-ball ability with long touchdown passes to Jameson Williams and DJ Chark, marking the first time in his career he has had two touchdown passes of at least 30 air yards in the same game.
Can Jameson Williams become a consistent deep-ball threat? After Williams tore an ACL in the national championship game with Alabama, the Lions were extremely patient with his recovery process. The organization sees him blossoming into one of the faces of the team for many years to come. So I don’t think they’ll put too much pressure on Williams this season to become the preferred deep-ball threat, but he’ll certainly be getting opportunities — which became apparent with his 41-yard touchdown catch on his first career NFL reception. — Eric Woodyard
Next game: at Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
C.J. Moore takes the direct snap on fourth down and races down the sideline for a 42-yard gain.
What to know: The Vikings missed out on clinching the NFC North for the second consecutive week. They are still in a great position to win the division. Even with the loss, ESPN’s Football Power Index gives them a 99.9% chance to do it. It would have been a strong statement to clinch with four weeks left to the season, against a divisional rival on a hot streak. But the Vikings — who entered the game as 2.5-point underdogs — knew it would be tough against a the Lions, especially after safety Harrison Smith, left tackle Christian Darrisaw and center Garrett Bradbury were all ruled out because of injury.
Was that Kirk Cousins‘ best game of the season? Yes, and it’s not really close. Cousins has had a weird season, leading the Vikings to 10 wins in their first 12 games despite statistically being one of the worst performances of his career. But Sunday, he was throwing darts from the start against an admittedly porous Lions defense. He completed 31 of 41 passes for 426 yards and two touchdowns, and it’s fair to ask whether the outcome Sunday would have been different if the Vikings had not been so committed to establishing a running game that went nowhere. — Kevin Seifert
Next game: vs. Colts (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Cincinnati exorcised one of its biggest demons in a win over the Browns. Cincinnati had lost five straight to its Ohio rivals, with QB Joe Burrow playing in four of those defeats. The Bengals overcame injuries and a sluggish start to win their fifth straight game and increase the momentum in their playoff push.
Do the Bengals have the depth to withstand injuries to Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd? Depends on how long they’re collectively out. Depth at wide receiver was a big question entering the season. With Boyd and Higgins missing on Sunday, Cincinnati leaned on Trent Taylor and Trenton Irwin, who each made key catches against the Browns. It’s a tall order to ask that duo to fill in long term for Boyd and Higgins, who along with Ja’Marr Chase form one of the best WR trios in the league. — Ben Baby
Next game: at Bucs (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Myles Garrett and the Browns’ defense hung in tough to keep Cleveland in the game. But three devastating miscues — Tony Fields II‘s roughing the punter penalty, Ronnie Harrison Jr.’s defensive holding on what would’ve been a third-down stop and Grant Delpit turning a receiver loose on a flea-flicker — all led to Cincinnati TDs and ultimately proved too much for the Browns to overcome.
Where does the offense go from here? The Browns have scored one offensive TD with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. One. After its eighth loss, Cleveland is likely out of the playoff conversation. Getting its $230 million franchise passer acclimated is all this lost season figures to be about now. — Jake Trotter
Next game: vs. Ravens (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
Joe Mixon gets the ball and tosses it back to Joe Burrow, who finds Trenton Irwin wide open down the field for a touchdown.
What to know: The AFC North-leading Ravens showed they can win in December without Lamar Jackson. They did so with their third-string quarterback playing the entire fourth quarter. Baltimore rolled up its sleeves and went old-school, relying on defense and its ground game. The Ravens picked off three passes inside their own 20-yard line and produced 214 yards rushing, including 120 by J.K. Dobbins — playing for the first time since a six-game injured reserve stint. It was desperate times, especially when quarterback Tyler Huntley left late in the third quarter with a concussion and undrafted rookie Anthony Brown was pressed into his first NFL game. This was a critical win for the Ravens, who had lost their previous four games when Jackson didn’t start. Baltimore (9-4) is now a 74% favorite to win the AFC North, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
Who is starting the next game at quarterback for the Ravens? Ravens coach John Harbaugh might not even know at this point. Baltimore has two banged-up quarterbacks and faces a short week with a Saturday game in Cleveland. Jackson missed his first game of the season on Sunday with a knee injury and is not expected to return until the Dec. 24 game against the Atlanta Falcons, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Huntley, who was filling in for Jackson, then left the game in the concussion protocol after taking a hard hit on a third-down run with 7:26 left in the third quarter. The Ravens may be forced to go with Brown, who would make his first NFL start in Week 15. — Jamison Hensley
Next game: at Browns (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Steelers’ already slim odds for a playoff bid are microscopic after their loss to the division-rival Baltimore Ravens, who finished the game without Lamar Jackson or backup quarterback Tyler Huntley. Before Sunday’s loss, the Steelers were quietly building momentum with three wins in their past four games, but Sunday, that progress ground to a halt as the Ravens went up 10-0 early on a two-play scoring drive set up by a 44-yard run by J.K. Dobbins on the first play of the drive. The run defense, which looked to have improved since the bye, gave up a season-high 214 yards — 5.1 yards per play. Playing without Kenny Pickett (concussion protocol), the Steelers’ offense surged with a quick scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get the ball back. The Ravens snapped their four-game losing streak to the Steelers.
What’s the plan at quarterback next week? Pickett was thrown to the ground hard by Roquan Smith at the end of the Steelers’ first drive, and though he initially cleared the concussion protocol and returned for one more drive, he was ruled out for the rest of the game with a concussion late in the the first quarter. Mitch Trubisky gave the team a spark in relief with a couple of deep completions to George Pickens and a late fourth-quarter touchdown drive, but he also threw three red zone interceptions, including on back-to-back drives. Pickett previously landed in the concussion protocol in the Week 6 win against Tampa Bay, but he returned for the next game. Still, two concussions in less than two months is something to monitor. — Brooke Pryor
Next game: at Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: After putting on a show in the final four minutes of the game, QB Baker Mayfield is going to make the rest of the season interesting for the Rams. The Rams are likely going to be without every star player outside of Jalen Ramsey for the rest of the season. They’re going to use these final games as a chance to evaluate their younger or less-established players for next season and beyond. Mayfield isn’t among that group, but he definitely adds a certain bit of intrigue. If the 2018 No. 1 overall pick’s comeback win over the Raiders is any indication, the Rams will remain a team to watch.
Does Mayfield have a future with the Rams? This likely depends on whether Mayfield will have an opportunity to start somewhere else. If he is willing to start next season as the Rams’ backup quarterback, it’s a pairing that makes sense for both parties. The Rams want to use the final four games to evaluate Mayfield, but McVay made it clear how impressed he was with the quarterback in his first game. — Sarah Barshop
Next game: at Packers (Monday, Dec. 19, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: Yes, the Raiders’ defense surrendered a 98-yard drive to Mayfield — who entering Thursday night’s game had been with the Rams for only 48 hours. But the offense bears a significant part of the blame as well in blowing a 16-3 lead with more than four minutes to play. QB Derek Carr, whose ill-attempted pass into the end zone at the end of the first half was picked off, completed just 2 of 7 passes for 11 yards after halftime and had a career-low 36.9 passer rating for the game.
Is the Raiders’ playoff dream now dead? To quote Pro Bowl DE Maxx Crosby, “There is zero breathing room, so that’s unfortunate.” At 5-8, the Raiders next face the Patriots at home before traveling to face the Steelers and then closing out at home against the 49ers and Chiefs. The Raiders ran off four straight wins to force their way into the playoffs last season, but the locker room after this devastating loss to the Rams had a sense of finality to it — at least for this week. — Paul Gutierrez
Next game: vs. Patriots (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)