The Seahawks made a move toward a wild-card spot with a win over Carolina, Baltimore got Lamar Jackson a second win, the Browns snapped a 25-game road losing streak and the Eagles took down the Giants in the final minute.
All that and more in Week 12’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.
The Seahawks (6-5) are in position for a wild-card spot after their win over Carolina and have four of their last five games at CenturyLink Field. The only road game is against the 49ers (2-9), and the toughest of their four home games — Kansas City (9-2) in Week 16 — might not be as tough if the Chiefs have their foot off the gas. Either way, things are looking up for the Seahawks after their most impressive win of the season. — Brady Henderson
The Panthers have gone from 6-2 and a seeming lock for the playoffs to 6-5 and in danger of not making the postseason with five games left, including two against the Saints. Cam Newton summed it up best, saying after the loss to Seattle that if somebody had told him three weeks ago this was going to happen, “I would have slapped them.” Up next for the Panthers are games at Tampa Bay and Cleveland as they try to improve from 1-4 on the road this season. — David Newton
John Harbaugh is nearing the biggest decision of his 11-year run in Baltimore: Will Joe Flacco or Lamar Jackson be his starting quarterback heading into the stretch run? Flacco (right hip) could be cleared to practice as soon as this week, and Harbaugh said he won’t announce his starter heading into Sunday’s game in Atlanta. “Whether the decision has been made or not, it’s not important for anybody to know but us,” Harbaugh said. “If I decide to do it one way or another, I don’t want our opponent to know.” In replacing Flacco, Jackson has won both of his NFL starts. — Jamison Hensley
Twice Derek Carr had to come off the field to be medically examined in the Raiders’ loss at the Ravens, once for a potential head injury and once for a sprained right ankle. He was sacked on consecutive snaps to follow but remained in the game. “He wants to finish with his teammates,” coach Jon Gruden said of Carr. “There’s a certain responsibility, I think, you have as a coach to let your quarterback, your captain of the team, finish the deal with the rest of his teammates, no matter how it gets.” Tight end Jared Cook lauded Carr’s toughness (he has been sacked a career-high 35 times). Carr said he would be ready to play Sunday against Kansas City. — Paul Gutierrez
The Eagles’ win over the Giants sets up a key Monday Night Football game against Washington that, unbelievably, could give the Eagles a share of the NFC East lead. Hope is alive and well for the defending champions thanks to a come-from-behind win and a mediocre division. — Tim McManus
Zach Ertz discusses the team battling adversity to get the win and notes how important it was to beat the Giants.
The Giants continuously talk about how they’re in all these games. They’re close. Well, until they start winning some of them, especially against division opponents (0-4 this season), they will continue to struggle. This time, they lost on a Jake Elliott 43-yard field goal in the final minute after blowing a 16-point lead. Saquon Barkley touched the ball five times in the second half. He had 111 yards rushing and two touchdowns after the opening drive of the second half — he finished with 111 yards rushing. That’s not a recipe for success. — Jordan Raanan
With the return of Rob Gronkowski (TD catch), the emergence of Sony Michel (133 yards, TD) and lots of contributions at receiver, the Patriots had as close to their complete offense as we’ve seen this season. And while it didn’t always look great, it buys the Patriots more time to find their groove with a tough test against the Vikings next Sunday (Rex Burkhead is expected to return). The offense is still evolving as it gets more of its key pieces in place. — Mike Reiss
The Jets have reached a new low with the first five-game losing streak of the Todd Bowles era. The potential silver lining to the season is a strong finish by quarterback Sam Darnold, who missed the past two games with a foot strain. But there’s no guarantee he will play next week at Tennessee. The rest of the team continues to regress, especially the defense. — Rich Cimini
Jameis Winston took huge step regaining the starting quarterback position for good by throwing for 312 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Winston had to realize he couldn’t continue to chase what Ryan Fitzpatrick did at the beginning of the season with all the dazzling “FitzMagic” plays. Winston said, “The most important thing is to be the best me. Never try to chase someone else — chase the man in the mirror and compete against him every day.” Winston looks to continue his improvement next week at home against Carolina. — Jenna Laine
The 49ers’ loss to Tampa Bay was mostly inconsequential compared to the arrest and forthcoming release of linebacker Reuben Foster. Most players said Foster’s situation did not affect them emotionally on Sunday, but his departure creates another huge hole in the defense. The Niners once had high hopes Foster could become a franchise building block. Instead, he has become the latest San Francisco top pick to move on without coming close to meeting expectations. The 49ers can now add another huge need to their offseason shopping list. — Nick Wagoner
Quarterback Baker Mayfield has won his past two games with seven touchdown passes, no interceptions and no sacks. His play and the playcalling of coordinator Freddie Kitchens have given the Browns new life. Mayfield will be tested next week, when he faces J.J. Watt and the Texans defense. — Pat McManamon
Baker Mayfield throws a career-high four touchdowns to four different receivers in a 35-20 rout of the Bengals.
There is no fixing the Bengals this season. It’s clear the team has too many problems to run the table and get into the playoffs. They were thoroughly mocked by the Browns, a team the Bengals previously had dominated. Even A.J. Green won’t help them now with the Chargers and Steelers ahead on the schedule. The Bengals aren’t eliminated yet, but considering how their season has unraveled, they might as well be finished. — Katherine Terrell
The Bills likely would need to win out and finish the season on a seven-game winning streak to make the playoffs, but optimism is rising for 2019. Josh Allen returned from a five-week absence and responded to Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey‘s assessment of being “trash” by rushing for 99 yards, topping Tyrod Taylor‘s franchise record for a quarterback. Allen’s 75-yard touchdown pass to Robert Foster in the first quarter is the sort of play from the pocket that could separate Allen from Taylor and other Bills quarterbacks before him. — Mike Rodak
The Jaguars are officially a mess, and it’s hard to see them stopping the free fall that began in October. Blake Bortles was subpar again, Leonard Fournette got ejected for fighting after playing his best game of the season and the defense busted a coverage that resulted in a 75-yard TD pass and allowed Josh Allen to run for 99 yards. They have lost seven consecutive games, and the problems on offense (more injuries, lack of playmakers, Bortles’ erratic play) can’t be fixed until the offseason. — Mike DiRocco
As expected, the Chargers blew out the Cardinals to improve to 8-3. Philip Rivers was surgical, tying an NFL record with 25 consecutive completions. However, the Chargers received some bad news in the second half, with running back Melvin Gordon suffering a right MCL knee injury, calling into question his availability for the team’s tough road test against the Steelers in a nationally televised game next Sunday. The Chargers will look to Austin Ekeler to help fill the void. — Eric D. Williams
For the second time in five games, the Cardinals lost a game 45-10. And it was as bad — if not worse — than the score indicates. The Cardinals took a quick 10-0 lead, and their offensive woes looked like a thing of the past, but the Chargers scored 45 unanswered points. Arizona, 2-9 and with a tough remaining schedule — including games against the Rams and Seahawks — might not win a game the rest of the season. — Josh Weinfuss
The Broncos have defeated teams with seven wins in back-to-back weeks to put themselves in the playoff conversation. They took down the Chargers last week on a field goal as time expired, and then Shelby Harris intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the Broncos’ end zone with just 1:03 to play to preserve a victory over the Steelers this Sunday. Can they make three straight next Sunday against the struggling Bengals? — Jeff Legwold
The Steelers still have the season right where they want it despite a clumsy, four-turnover loss in Denver. The offense produced 527 yards on a good Denver defense and held an elite pass-rush to two sacks with a third-string, rookie right tackle in the mix. Remove the sloppy ball security and Pittsburgh is still poised for a run. “We’ll be ready to go,” running back James Conner said. “We’ll have more opportunities.” They have big opportunity next week when they host the 8-3 Chargers. — Jeremy Fowler
The Colts matched their longest winning streak since 2014 season, and they also have a winning record (6-5) for the first time since November 2015. More importantly, they’re still right in the thick of things in the AFC playoff race. The Colts have the same record as Baltimore, but the Ravens have the final playoff spot because they have a better conference record than Indianapolis. The Colts continue their playoff push next Sunday at Jacksonville. — Mike Wells
Even with Ryan Tannehill‘s return, the Dolphins likely aren’t a playoff team. Adam Gase’s late-game playcalling raises valid questions about whether he believes Tannehill can lift the team out of bad situations. The Dolphins blew a golden opportunity to use Tannehill’s return to spark them in the playoff race, and instead they are left with a lot of “what if” thoughts. — Cameron Wolfe
Safety Eddie Jackson could end up being Bears general manager Ryan Pace’s best draft pick. Taken in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft, Jackson’s pick-six versus Matthew Stafford and the Lions on Thursday was his fifth defensive touchdown since last year; no other NFL player has more than two scores over the same span. Jackson is quickly becoming one of the league’s top free safeties. He has helped the Bears to a five-game win streak and a comfortable lead in the NFC North heading into next Sunday’s matchup against the Giants. — Jeff Dickerson
The Lions have equaled their loss total — seven — from the past two seasons and there are still five games to go. Oh, and the Rams come to town next week. This season has not gone how the Lions have envisioned and it has been myriad mistakes from different units throughout the year. One week, the defense is the problem. The next, the offense is poor. Special teams (while improved lately) has been hit-and-miss. It’s all leading to one thing — inconsistency and likely missing the playoffs for another year. — Michael Rothstein
The Cowboys have won three straight since losing on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, and find themselves in first place in the NFC East with their Thanksgiving Day victory against Washington. “Everyone jumped off the bandwagon, of course, at 3-5,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “You expect that. But I can tell you who didn’t doubt ourselves, who didn’t think we couldn’t do this or didn’t think that we had the team, is everybody in that locker room — and that’s all that really matters. So as long as we locked arms, we stayed tight, we knew could do this, but we can do more.” — Todd Archer
The Redskins remain in contention for the playoffs, even if it doesn’t feel that way. After losing to Dallas, they’re 6-5 and tied with the Cowboys for first in the NFC East. But having lost three of their past four games, the Redskins are trending in the wrong direction. The running game — on both sides of the ball — has been a big reason for the recent struggles. Defensively, they miss too many tackles in the secondary. When teams can pass on them, the Redskins are cooked. Washington has enough so-called winnable games down the stretch, starting with the Eagles next week, to stay in the postseason conversation. But they have to play better and hope running back Adrian Peterson has a hot finish. — John Keim
The Saints (10-1) might need to win out to stay ahead of the Rams (10-1) in the NFC. But they haven’t shown any signs of stumbling with three straight wins of 14-plus points. And it’s not just their historic offense but a surging defense that is playing its best football over the past three weeks. New Orleans forced four takeaways in a 31-17 win over Atlanta on Thursday, including three in the red zone. The Saints also had six sacks and two fourth-down stops. — Mike Triplett
To put it simply, the Falcons aren’t very good this season and don’t play with a consistent sense of urgency. They knew their playoff chances were slim, yet didn’t have anywhere near the same competitive fire against the Saints they did in a loss to the Cowboys last week. Three fumbles lost in the red zone by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley symbolized the Falcons’ subpar season. Now at 4-7 with the Ravens coming to Atlanta next, the Falcons need to shift the focus toward what changes need to be made to make the 2016 Super Bowl runner-up a championship contender once again. — Vaughn McClure