Although John Harbaugh‘s newest two-point gamble ended a shootout in Baltimore, defenses received out Sunday. The Saints continued to frustrate Tom Brady, whereas the Steelers and Bengals survived due to their defensive efforts. Double-digit underdogs, the Lions concluded a tough Cardinals week as effectively. Here are the Week 15 grades from across the NFL.
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Cam Jordan retains Saints’ Tom Brady guide operational
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Running its regular-season document to 4-0 towards “Tompa Bay,” New Orleans (7-7) additionally shut out the legendary quarterback for the primary time for the reason that Nick Saban-led Dolphins did so in 2006. Even earlier than accidents stripped Brady of his high weapons, the Saints’ plan labored. Jordan turned the uncommon cross rusher to shred the Bucs’ top-tier O-line, breaking by means of for 2 third-down sacks, three QB hits, and stripping Brady to cease a possible go-ahead drive. An All-Decade-teamer who now has 100.5 sacks, Jordan bolstered his Hall of Fame case with this island-game dominance. The Saints’ playoff path — which now encompasses a much less imposing schedule — cleared up due to this upset.
SAINTS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Dolphins (Mon.)
2 of 24
Bucs’ accidents change playoff image
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Amid Brady’s tablet-smashing, expletive-shouting prolonged tantrum, the Bucs (10-4) blew a primary alternative to maintain strain on Green Bay. The Packers confronted a tougher closing schedule than the Bucs, whose tilt towards the Sean Payton-less Saints was by far their hardest remaining. In Brady’s protection, high chain-movers Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Leonard Fournette left the sport. Antonio Brown does function a de facto fill-in for Godwin, who sprained an MCL, however these accidents in all probability value an injury-prone Bucs workforce its likelihood on the NFC’s bye. They have dropped to the third slot, and a highway Super Bowl run shall be more durable in fan-filled environments this season.
BUCCANEERS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: at Panthers (Sun.)
3 of 24
Green Bay deep risk submits full recreation
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Aaron Rodgers moved nearer to his fourth MVP by preserving the Packers offense in excessive gear regardless of a second-stringer-laden offensive line. Down 4 starters up entrance, Rodgers relied on his weapons. Normal deep goal Marquez Valdes-Scantling turned wanted on short- and mid-range performs — together with an 11-yard landing — and Rodgers stored discovering him throughout a five-catch, 98-yard recreation. Even towards Baltimore’s battered secondary, MVS being concerned past long-range pictures is an efficient signal for a buzzing Green Bay offense. Home video games towards the Browns and Vikings are primarily all that stands between the Packers (11-3) and a 3rd straight bye.
PACKERS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Browns (Sat.)
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John Harbaugh’s second failed do-or-die two-point attempt in three weeks gave Brandon Staley some cowl. The Ravens (8-6) have slunk all the way down to the “In the hunt” sector and are trying unlikely to make a fourth straight playoff berth. But focusing on Andrews on that underwhelming two-point rollout made sense. While Travis Kelce and George Kittle have reached larger peaks this season, Andrews has been important to a decimated Raven squad and deserves sturdy first-team All-Pro consideration. His 10-reception, 136-yard, two-TD day was actually vital for Tyler Huntley‘s progress. Andrews (1,062 yards) is now the primary Ravens tight finish to submit a 1,000-yard season.
RAVENS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: at Bengals (Sun.)
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He of 6.5 sacks over his first three seasons, Hendrickson now has 26.5 over his previous two. The Bengals’ high hired-gun defender stored producing Sunday, including a half-sack — his tenth straight recreation with one — and drawing a number of Garett Bolles holding penalties. The Bengals (8-6) pressured Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, and Hendrickson — the one impression participant from the loaded 2017 Saints draft class allowed to go away — led the best way in a recreation that featured scant Cincy offensive help. The ex-Saint’s 13 sacks are 0.5 away from Carlos Dunlap’s franchise document (although Coy Bacon holds the unofficial Bengals mark). Hendrickson shall be wanted throughout a troublesome Bengals homestretch.
BENGALS GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Ravens (Sun.)
6 of 24
Broncos’ purple zone self-destruction might be seminal gaffe
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Other than leaving Tyler Boyd uncovered on a third-quarter TD, the Broncos protection submitted an ace effort to comprise a high-flying Bengals assault. This was not sufficient, and Denver’s newest low-wattage QB plan is about maxed out. Bridgewater began slowly earlier than his scary harm, and Lock remained erratic. But the Broncos (7-7) might have stolen this recreation had OC Pat Shurmur prevented giving his QB2 the keys on a expensive zone learn. Khalid Kareem’s strip of Lock stopped the Javonte Williams-Melvin Gordon duo from giving the hosts the lead and preserving sensible playoff hopes alive. The catastrophic Lock blunder as an alternative might result in wholesale adjustments in Denver quickly.
BRONCOS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Raiders (Sun.)
7 of 24
Injuries creating uncommon Titans mission
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Considerable fuss emerged after Tom Brady misplaced his high three playmakers; Ryan Tannehill has handled this setup for a lot of the season. Julio Jones left with yet one more hamstring subject in a recreation through which the Derrick Henry- and A.J. Brown-less Titans wanted him. Tannehill dedicated two second-half turnovers and couldn’t topple a Steelers workforce that totaled 168 yards. The Titans had an opportunity to snare the AFC’s No. 1 slot with a win, however their Henry-backed victories over the Colts maintain them in good condition. With Brown due again quickly and Henry on monitor for the playoffs, a formidable Titans squad lurks. Tannehill has to maintain a leaky boat afloat to place that actuality in play.
TITANS GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. 49ers (Thu.)
8 of 24
Haden, Watt maintain Steelers’ playoff window open
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The Steelers’ identification started to shift in 2017 when T.J. Watt and Joe Haden arrived. The All-Pro edge rusher and Pro Bowl cornerback stay important cogs for a Pittsburgh workforce that has seen its offense steadily worsen. Both had been wanted in Week 15. Watt’s 1.5-sack effort allowed him to cross James Harrison for many Steelers sacks in a season (now at 17.5), and Haden supported the Defensive Player of the Year favourite with a nifty fumble restoration and victory-preserving fourth-down deal with. Haden, who missed the previous 4 video games, allowed only one catch for six yards. The 32-year-old cowl man is a giant purpose the Steelers (7-6-1) nonetheless have a pulse within the AFC image.
STEELERS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)
9 of 24
Alarm sounding in Arizona
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The 2020 Cardinals went from 6-3 to 8-8, with a Kyler Murray shoulder harm sinking that intriguing workforce’s hopes. This model can not fairly collapse like that, however a three-score loss to the Lions in all probability ought to induce panic. Murray fared worse towards the one-win Lions than he did in Monday’s Rams loss, and with 270 speeding yards (simply three Sunday) this season, the one-time MVP candidate doesn’t pose the identical risk he as soon as did. With video games left towards the Colts and Cowboys, the Cardinals (10-4) are in peril of being pressured to put on these unfortunate white uniforms within the playoffs (barring one other Dallas journey). Staying atop the NFC West is not a given.
CARDINALS GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Colts (Sat.)
10 of 24
Lions all of the sudden getting loads out of small-school RB
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An undrafted free agent out of Division II Kutztown (Pa.), Craig Reynolds led all NFL rushers with 112 yards Sunday within the Lions’ shocker. For the second straight week, the observe squad stash impressed for the Lions, who gave their new ball-carrying discover the rock 26 occasions (Godwin Igwebuike and Jermar Jefferson mixed totes: seven). This doesn’t seem a Bo Scarbrough scenario, the place a late-season add produces for an injury-ridden Detroit workforce. Reynolds might be a long-term D’Andre Swift complement. “Netflix” pressured 9 missed tackles and performed a lead function in dropping the Lions (2-11-1) out of the highest slot within the 2022 draft.
LIONS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: at Falcons (Sun.)
11 of 24
NFC’s No. 7 seed race about to lose entrant
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Having not overwhelmed an over-.500 workforce and rating close to the underside in DVOA, the Falcons are however nonetheless within the NFC playoff combine at 6-8. A San Francisco no-show pushes them to the brink. The Ravens and Chargers’ purple zone gambles will overshadow the Falcons’ efforts, however they did see three goal-to-go sequences finish with fourth-down failures. Two of these got here on the 1-yard line, with a Cordarrelle Patterson first-quarter TD reversal affecting Atlanta’s momentum and fantasy playoff qualifiers alike. With a Week 17 Buffalo journey nonetheless on the docket, a talent-limited Falcon workforce might be discarded for postseason functions.
FALCONS GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: vs. Lions (Sun.)
12 of 24
49ers O-line smashes Falcons
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Despite lacking lead rusher Elijah Mitchell, the 49ers amassed 162 floor yards and noticed three ball-carriers discover the tip zone. Jeff Wilson (110 yards) was one; Deebo Samuel — on a quest to be the primary wideout to guide his workforce in speeding TDs for the reason that 1970 merger — was one other. Samuel adopted Trent Williams for his seventh speeding TD. The Twelfth-year left deal with is having a low-key dominant season, sitting with a strange-looking 99.0 Pro Football Focus grade (tops amongst all gamers), whereas the remainder of San Francisco’s Mike McGlinchey-less O-line has held as much as assist Jimmy Garoppolo. Injuries and all, the 49ers (7-7) are seventh in speeding.
49ERS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Titans (Thu.)
13 of 24
Cowboys protection a important NFC variable
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Although Dak Prescott‘s stewardship of a workmanlike offense could also be considerably unsettling for Cowboys followers, Dan Quinn’s protection retains compensating. The Cowboys pressured 4 turnovers for the third straight week, their first such streak since 1994. Yes, Mike Glennon’s presence made these takeaways simpler to return by, however Dallas having its troops again on protection injects appreciable intrigue right into a top-heavy NFC title race. Trevon Diggs now has 10 INTs (three greater than anybody else), and Dallas’ 31 takeaways are tied atop the NFL. The Buccaneers’ loss strikes the Cowboys (10-4) into the No. 2 NFC place, and the NFC East leaders shall be favored of their last three video games.
COWBOYS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Washington (Sun.)
14 of 24
QB2 changeover one among Giants’ many missteps
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Colt McCoy quarterbacked the Giants to an upset win in Seattle final season, and his QB2 work this 12 months stored the Cardinals afloat amid a three-game Kyler Murray absence. The Giants (4-10) inexplicably handed on re-signing McCoy so as to add Glennon, who’s on his sixth workforce in six years. Glennon threw three interceptions — two that sailed on to Cowboy DBs — Sunday and has seven in 4 begins. The ninth-year QB is now 6-24 as a starter. With Daniel Jones anticipated to overlook the remainder of the season, the Giants have both Glennon or Jake Fromm to run the offense. Even for the Giants, this Jones-less stretch marks new territory for sheer irrelevance.
GIANTS GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Eagles (Sun.)
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In what’s trying like Newton’s last run within the NFL, his Panthers return has drifted to a tragic place. The hottest participant in workforce historical past has now misplaced his previous 12 begins as Carolina’s quarterback. Still posing sufficient of a run risk to begin, the long-declining passer averaged 4.1 yards per try in Buffalo. Ex-Panthers DC Sean McDermott annoyed the QB who as soon as led the franchise to a Super Bowl. The Panthers (5-9) made two purchaser’s trades — buying C.J. Henderson and Stephon Gilmore — and signed Newton to remain in one of many worst wild-card chases in NFL historical past. Even with a No. 2-ranked protection, they’ve been unable to try this.
PANTHERS GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Buccaneers (Sun.)
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Rather than choose one of many high receivers in a deep 2020 wideout class, the Bills traded for Stefon Diggs. They nonetheless look to have discovered his wingman in that draft. A fourth-round choose final 12 months, Davis helped the Bills (8-6) navigate a stingy Panthers protection by hauling in 5 passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Josh Allen discovered the big-bodied goal on two tight-window performs on a third-quarter TD drive, and an inconsistent Bills offense did effectively to separate. Emmanuel Sanders is clearly a placeholder; a Diggs-Davis duo might be in place for some time. Davis will definitely assist a Bills workforce that wants all palms on deck to return to the playoffs.
BILLS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Patriots (Sun.)
17 of 24
It is early, however Jets seeing dangerous indicators from Zach Wilson
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Sam Darnold didn’t pan out in New York, however he confirmed extra glimpses on a foul 2018 Jets roster than what’s presently transpiring. Darnold’s alternative continues to be down his high two wideouts and battled a knee harm just lately. Wilson didn’t present a lot earlier than Corey Davis and Elijah Moore went down, nonetheless, and struggled once more Sunday. OC Mike LaFleur blended in strong trick performs to maintain the Jets going early, however QBR’s last-ranked passer couldn’t maintain the assault. Wilson accomplished eight of his last 18 passes and took a number of protection sacks, shedding a fumble on one. The Jets face a vital 2022 offseason after they should go all out to stop one other top-three QB from turning into a fast bust.
JETS GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Jaguars (Sun.)
18 of 24
Outlet again graduates to RB1 function in hometown
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The Browns and Texans stationed Duke Johnson as a passing-down again, and a number of other groups deemed him unworthy of observe squad spots at exercises this 12 months. The Dolphins (7-7) gave the Miami native one other shot in October, and it will definitely led to Johnson’s first 100-yard NFL outing. Used as a standard again throughout his last Miami Hurricanes season in 2014, Johnson had seen greater than 12 carries simply thrice as a professional. He shined on 22 totes Sunday. Though the Jets sport a foul run protection, Johnson shed tackles within the open area and scored on two second-effort performs in shut. An unlikely hero within the Dolphins’ belated wild-card push.
DOLPHINS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Saints (Mon.)
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At the middle of Drew Brees- and Tom Brady-piloted offenses, Cooks scored his payday after Sean McVay signed off on a 2018 commerce. The second-year Texan has drifted off the grid, however he moved into place so as to add a sixth 1,000-yard season. Cooks tallied 102 yards (to provide him 947) and two TDs in a Jacksonville rainstorm. Helping Davis Mills acclimate appears a waste of Cooks’ abilities, however the NFL’s second participant to submit 1,000-yard receiving years for 4 groups — following Brandon Marshall — is undoubtedly aiding the rookie. It shall be attention-grabbing to see if the Texans turn into the fourth workforce to commerce Cooks or maintain the veteran on this unusually constructed roster.
TEXANS GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Chargers (Sun.)
20 of 24
Can Lawrence regression safe Jags one other No. 1 choose?
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Had Urban Meyer been in a position to maintain Trevor Lawrence within the Offensive Rookie of the Year working, the since-fired coach doubtless nonetheless has a job. The subsequent Jaguars workers can have a quite key revival effort to undertake. Lawrence went yet one more recreation with out throwing a landing cross. The ex-Clemson phenom now has one TD toss in his previous seven video games. This disastrous season now contains two losses to the Texans, each by two scores. A silver lining might come from the Lions (2-11-1) having not been overwhelmed down by their rookie coach. Meyer’s basis has put the Jags (2-12) in place for the No. 1 choose. Can they comply with the Hue Jackson-era Browns by securing a second straight best choice?
JAGUARS GRADE: D | NEXT: at Jets (Sun.)
21 of 24
Patriots nonetheless lacking WR piece
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The Patriots contending for the AFC’s high seed appeared a bit optimistic on the season’s outset. Now that they’re right here, the offseason reconstruction of their receiver room centering round Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne appears inadequate. For the best way the Pats (9-5) favor to function, going Bourne-Jakobi Meyers is sensible. But for video games like Saturday’s, when Mac Jones dug the workforce a three-score gap with two INTs, New England appears one weapon quick. The Pats are able to beating nearly anybody, however their lack of a go-to goal will damage if a playoff recreation script veers towards the cross.
PATRIOTS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Bills (Sun.)
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Leonard helped put the Patriots behind 17-0. The stat-stuffing linebacker picked up his NFL-leading sixth pressured fumble this season and added a diving interception (his third). Leonard won’t win Defensive Player of the Year, however he’s forcing turnovers at a historic price. Only one Twenty first-century linebacker — the Bengals’ Odell Thurman in 2005 — bettered Leonard’s mixture of six pressured fumbles and three picks. Thurman went 5-and-5 right here in his one NFL season. Leonard has three video games left. Critical to the Colts’ possibilities of routing one other 0-3 slate to the playoffs, Leonard will definitely earn his third All-Pro nod in 4 seasons.
COLTS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Cardinals (Sat.)
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Chiefs on cusp of finishing NFL first
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Written off by some and doubted by nearly everybody within the season’s first half, the Chiefs are actually a recreation up within the AFC bye pursuit. Travis Kelce’s detonation lifted Kansas City to 10-4. While 52 groups have rallied from 3-4 to make the playoffs for the reason that 1970 merger, none of them obtained a No. 1 seed. A number of groups have earned a No. 2 slot, however home-field benefit after such a begin is unprecedented. With only one workforce (final 12 months’s Bucs, in stadiums principally with out followers) making a Super Bowl and not using a bye over the previous eight seasons, the Chiefs’ seminal march represents severe hassle for different AFC hopefuls.
CHIEFS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)
24 of 24
Chargers cross protection fails stiffest take a look at
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Brandon Staley‘s fourth-down resoluteness obscures the actual fact his protection broke down when it needed to cease the Chiefs’ high weapons late. Many non-Raider groups have slowed Kansas City’s aerial present this season, however Patrick Mahomes ripped the Chargers for 410 yards and three touchdowns. Already challenged in speeding deterrence, rating twenty ninth, the Bolts (8-6) noticed Kelce’s time beyond regulation breakaway swing their season. AFC favorites would certainly really feel safer if Justin Herbert had been stored out of the playoffs, however the Chargers shall be favored in every of their last three video games. Still, it’s arduous to belief them as a real contender.
CHARGERS GRADE: C-plus | NEXT: at Texans (Sun.)