Just after we thought we had a very good sense of which groups had been playoff hopefuls and which groups had been taking part in out the string via 10 weeks of the season, Sunday occurred.

The instantly sizzling Lions trounced the Giants at MetLife Stadium. The Eagles escaped Indianapolis with a comeback victory. The Panthers (?!) gave Lamar Jackson and the Ravens all they might deal with at M&T Bank Stadium. And the Jets amassed simply 103 yards on offense in a last-second loss to the Patriots.

The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, Kalyn Kahler and Diante Lee weigh in on what the outcomes inform us about every staff.

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Are the upstart Lions simply “unstoppable” at this level (three consecutive wins!) or had been the Giants responsible of overlooking them in Sunday’s loss at dwelling?

Howe: With a pair exceptions, the Lions have been a troublesome out this season. They play exhausting for coach Dan Campbell, regardless that their document didn’t present it with the 1-6 begin. Now, they’re making the most of the circumstances, beating a flat Packers staff, holding off a rebuilding Bears squad that struggles to shut video games, then stunning the Giants, who’ve overachieved in all probability greater than any staff within the league this season. I’m actually to see how the Giants reply to this loss as a result of this may qualify as probably the most adversity they’ve confronted to this point. They’ll get an opportunity to bounce again on Thanksgiving in opposition to the Cowboys, who dealt them a loss in Week 3, and that’ll be a very powerful matchup. If they had been responsible of waiting for that sport, they higher make it rely in 4 days.

Kahler: I really feel just like the NFL RedZone channel barely confirmed the Lions within the fourth quarter as a result of, by then, Detroit led 24-6 and the Giants by no means actually bought shut. I stored ready for a Lions cut-in that by no means got here and needed to resort to following the play-by-play listing. The Lions have been capable of rating on just about all people (besides New England) all season; it’s the protection, which has allowed anybody to attain on them, that has been the explanation for a number of one-score losses. But at the moment, the protection sacked Daniel Jones twice and held the Giants to 18 factors and 89 dashing yards, simply the third time this season a protection has held the Giants to fewer than 100 dashing yards. At the commerce deadline, when the Lions despatched T.J. Hockenson to Minnesota, all of us wrote off the remainder of Detroit’s season and regarded forward to 2023. While that’s nonetheless in all probability the route it’s going, Detroit has overwhelmed the opposite four-win staff within the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers, and now a staff with a real successful document. I wouldn’t say they’re unstoppable, however they’re a very enjoyable staff to observe, and I feel they’ve taken the place of probably the most lovable losers for impartial NFL followers to root for (the Cleveland Browns sacrificed their maintain on this place after they traded for Deshaun Watson). The Lions are a staff that performs within the mildew of their head coach, and I feel they’ve bought a shot in opposition to anyone.

Lee: In spite of the holes on the roster, I assumed the Lions can be torture to play in opposition to each week due to its sturdy offensive line and bodily strategy to the sport. That’s principally been borne out this season, with six one-score video games coming into this week, and now three consecutive wins that required Detroit to intestine it out late into the fourth quarter. One of the one groups extra accustomed to one-score contests than Detroit is the Giants — who’ve had solely two video games finish with a multiple-score margin. I don’t know if New York fell sufferer to a lure sport as a lot as their turnover luck regressed to the imply and Detroit stored them from dominating the clock with the run sport. For nearly as good as New York has been within the win-loss column, its common scoring margin was +1.6 and I don’t suppose anybody would peg this as a contending roster, so I feel a sport like this was inevitable.

Six days after dropping to the Commanders, the Eagles rating two late touchdowns to escape with a win over the Colts. Reason for concern in Philly?

Lee: I’m of two minds proper now with Philadelphia: It’s necessary to indicate this offense can end drives and video games when the explosive passes aren’t accessible (given a few of Jalen Hurts’ still-present limitations); and it’s nonetheless exhausting to really feel like this offense could make up a two-possession deficit until the protection forces a number of turnovers. The Eagles protection tightened the screws whereas the offense sputtered for 3 full quarters — placing up considered one of its greatest performances in opposition to the run this season — and bought the required stops to place Hurts in place to complete the deal. Against a Gus Bradley protection, which performs an exorbitant quantity of sentimental zone protection, this receiving core is simply too gifted to not have a number of 20-plus-yard positive aspects within the seams. If this offense should depend on Hurts’ legs to get itself out of bother down the stretch and no floor is made up on the explosive passes, I’ve actual considerations about whether or not there’ll be sufficient juice to win video games in January.

Howe: Somewhat involved. Last week, they talked about tightening up some particulars that had been doubtless slipping towards the tip of that successful streak, and that’s a pure impediment for a staff that is still undefeated for thus lengthy. But struggling in opposition to the Colts has me questioning if these corrections had been made. The Eagles have a goal on their again due to that beforehand unbeaten document, they usually’re going to maintain getting their opponents’ greatest shot. They’ll have an attention-grabbing take a look at subsequent week in opposition to the Packers, who’re primarily taking part in for his or her season.

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts scored what would show to be the game-winning landing with simply greater than a minute left within the sport. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)

Kahler: It’s November. Now is the time for good groups to get out all of the errors and errors, and I feel the Eagles are doing simply that proper now. Their turnover luck has overcorrected again to their opponent, and with a bit of little bit of leeway of their lead over the Giants within the NFC East, I’m not too involved by two messy video games proper now. As Jeff identified, Green Bay will likely be an attention-grabbing matchup and a very good alternative to get it proper.

Justin Fields failed to guide a game-winning drive for a 3rd straight week, this time in a 27-24 Bears loss in Atlanta. What’s missing within the second-year quarterback (or his offense)?

Kahler: A pair issues right here. First, the Falcons ought to have gotten a flag for a late hit on Fields throughout the Bears’ final drive when he gave himself up on a slide and nonetheless took successful. Second, he regarded like he damage his left shoulder earlier on that drive, and all through the sport he took a ton of hits on designed runs — perhaps too many designed runs. That mentioned, he’s now 0-6 in game-winning drive alternatives. It’s regarding as a result of it displays on Fields and on the gamers round him. There have been missed flags and dropped passes that haven’t been his fault, and new receiver Chase Claypool remains to be adjusting and studying the offense; he had three targets Sunday and two catches, and his most in three video games with the Bears was six targets and two catches in opposition to Miami, his first sport with the staff. Fields remains to be probably the most sacked quarterback within the NFL, which is partially on him holding on to the ball too lengthy and partially on his offensive line. There are nonetheless a variety of query marks on whether or not Fields is nice sufficient as a passer, and whereas I feel we’ve seen proof that he’s making progress in that space, till he closes out a sport, these questions will solely get louder. The Bears have the bottom payroll of any NFL staff proper now, $18 million beneath the second-lowest spending staff and their opponent Sunday, the Falcons. This means Chicago ought to be capable to get Fields extra help subsequent season and provides him the offensive line and weapons to reach game-winning drives, if they will shield him within the meantime.

Lee: Frankly, I’m undecided we’re in place with this Bears offense to judge for purple flags but. The late-game turnovers and drops have been back-breaking, however I wouldn’t say any of the present points are a mirrored image of poor decision-making from Fields, significantly given how a lot he has grown in that division over the previous month. As my colleagues be aware, his left shoulder appeared to trouble him down the stretch Sunday, and the workload/punishment he takes all through a sport will likely be a serious level of dialog as Chicago stays plucky in these video games. But he has gone all yr with out a lot reliability from his weapons or offensive line. As it stands now, all I need to see is him avoiding sacks on apparent passing downs and utilizing his legs to pressure defenses. We’re near going two-for-two on these, and that’s success — for me not less than.

Howe: Fields seemed to be favoring his left shoulder late on this sport, in order that may very well be a priority. But finally, Fields’ speedy growth is the most important purpose they’ve even been aggressive in a few of these powerful losses. Obviously, the subsequent stage in that growth needs to be ending these video games, and that ought to come. The actual subject is the shortage of assist round him. The Bears are asking an unbelievable quantity of Fields, and he can’t do all of it by himself.

(Top photograph of Daniel Jones: Adam Hunger / Associated Press)

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