Welcome to the Week 13 grades!
We've had a wild day of games so far and we're going to grade them all. In Detroit, we saw the Lions jump out to a 21-0 lead over the Saints, marking the first time since 1944 that they led a team by at least 21 points through one quarter.
In New England, the Patriots might have finally hit rock bottom. In a 6-0 loss to the Chargers, the Patriots became the first team in 85 years to lose three straight games where they surrendered 10 points or less. The Chargers' six points broke the franchise record for fewest points in a win.
In Philadelphia, the 49ers handed the Eagles the largest loss they've ever taken since Jalen Hurts became their starter.
All right, let's get to the grades, starting in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers got beatdown by the Cardinals.
Arizona 24-10 over Pittsburgh
|This wasn't a fluke. The Cardinals dominated in all three phases while picking up their first road win in over a year. A big reason for Arizona's success was its dominance on third down and in the red zone. The Cardinals were 10 of 17 on third down compared to Pittsburgh's 4 of 11. Arizona was 3 of 3 in the red zone, while the Steelers were 1 of 3. Big props to James Conner, the former Steelers Pro Bowl running back who scored two touchdowns in the second half and finished with 105 yards on 23 carries
|We'd assign a lower grade if one was available. Pittsburgh was woefully out-played, and when they weren't being out-played, they were shooting themselves in the foot with penalties and poor execution. An example of this was center Mason Cole's low snap that led to a fumble that set up James Conner's game-winning touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Defensively, Pittsburgh struggled to contain Conner quarterback Kyler Murray. Injuries to Kenny Pickett and ILB Elandon Roberts didn't help matters.
Cardinals-Steelers grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Indianapolis 31-28 Tennessee (OT)
|The Colts' decision to sign Gardner Minshew back in March continues to look like one of the smartest moves of the offseason. Minshew went off against the Titans, throwing for 312 yards and two scores, including a game-winning 4-yard TD pass in overtime to Michael Pittman Jr. The Colts had a total of three receivers go for at least 70 yards, including Pittman, who led the team with 11 catches for 105 yards. Although the offense was good, it was Indy's special teams play that won the game for the Colts. The biggest play of the game came from Grant Stuard, who returned a blocked punt for a TD in the second half. That was one of TWO blocked punts in the game for Indy. The Colts are starting to look like a serious playoff contender in the AFC.
|The Titans suffered possibly the worst special teams meltdown by any NFL team this season and it cost them the win. Ryan Stonehouse saw two of his punts get blocked in the second half, including one that got returned for a touchdown. Stonehouse got injured on one of the blocks and had to leave the game, which meant that Ryan Tannehill had to serve as the holder, and that took a disastrous turn when Nick Folk missed an extra point on his first attempt with Tannehill holding. The Titans arguably outplayed the Colts on both offense and defense, but they simply couldn't overcome their special teams disaster.
Colts-Titans grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Chargers 6-0 over New England
|The Chargers finally figured out how to fix their defensive problems: All you have to do is play the Patriots. The Chargers pitched their first shutout since 2014 and a big reason they were able to do that is because they continually harassed Bailey Zappe. The Patriots QB was sacked five times, with two of those coming from Khalil Mack. The defense also came up with two big fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter. The Chargers offense struggled on a wet day in New England, but L.A. did do just enough to set up Cameron Dicker for two field goals inside 38 yards. This was a game the Chargers couldn't afford to lose and they saved their season by getting the win here.
|The Patriots offense was bad with Mac Jones, and somehow, it might actually be even worse with Bailey Zappe. With Zappe under center, the Patriots couldn't move the ball despite going up against a Chargers defense that was surrendering more yards per game than any other team going into Week 13. The Patriots offense didn't drive inside of the Chargers' 25-yard line a single time in this game. As bad as the offense was, the Patriots were able to keep this close, thanks to an impressive defensive performance. The Pats absolutely shut down Chargers' stars Keenan Allen (58 receiving yards) and Austin Ekeler (18 yards on 14 carries). The Patriots are now the first team since 1938 to lose three straight games where they allowed 10 or fewer points.
Chargers-Patriots grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Atlanta 13-8 over N.Y. Jets
|On a day where the offense mostly sputtered, the defense did most of the dirty work for the Falcons. The defense forced three turnovers, including a fumble recovery by Dee Alford in the second quarter that set up Atlanta's only touchdown (Alford actually recovered two fumbles in the game). With the Falcons clinging to a one-score lead in the second half, the defense forced two more turnovers while also coming up with a fourth-down stop that clinched the win. The Falcons are playing ugly football, but the good news for Atlanta is that you can play ugly football and still win the NFC South.
|The Jets defense played well enough to win, but that side of the ball got absolutely no help from the offense. The defense recorded a safety while limiting the Falcons to 194 yards, including just 87 in the second half, but the effort went to waste because the New York offense couldn't move the ball. The Tim Boyle experiment was an utter failure and Robert Saleh seemed to realize that because he benched Boyle in the second half. Although Trevor Siemian gave the Jets a brief spark, he didn't ultimately lead them to any points. With the Jets' playoff hopes all but gone, it seems pretty likely that we won't see Aaron Rodgers returning this season.
Falcons-Jets grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Miami 45-15 over Washington
|Tyreek Hill continues to be the most unstoppable receiver in the NFL. The Dolphins shot out to a 31-7 halftime lead, and a big reason for that is because Hill caught TWO touchdown passes of more than 60 yards (Hill finished with five catches for 157 yards). As good as Miami's offense was, the defense might have actually been better. Not only did the Dolphins hold Sam Howell to just 127 yards, but Andrew Van Ginkel also had a pick-six. This marks the third straight week that the Dolphins held their opponent to 15 points or less. With the defense getting even better, the Dolphins are starting to feel like a serious Super Bowl contender.
|This was the Commanders' first game since firing their defensive coordinator, and after this loss, they might want to just go ahead and fire everyone. This was an all-around failure for the Commanders. Their defense got torched by Tyreek Hill, the offense saw Sam Howell throw a pick-six and even Joey Slye missed a field goal, which wasn't necessarily his fault, because Ron Rivera should have never sent his field goal team out (The attempt came with the Commanders trailing 38-15 in the fourth quarter). The Commanders are a team that's going nowhere fast.
Dolphins-Commanders grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Houston 22-17 over Denver
|The Broncos only losing on the road by five despite losing All-Pro cornerback Pat Surtain II to a knee injury and Russell Wilson throwing a season-high three interceptions -- nearly matching his total from Weeks 1-12 (four) -- is impressive. Their defense still did a solid job on Stroud, sacking him five times, and limiting him for most of the afternoon. However, going 0 for 11 on third down and losing the turnover battle three to zero prevents their grade from going any higher than the C's.
|The Houston defense played at an A+ level. They intercepted Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson three times, including the game-sealing play by safety Jimmie Ward with 16 seconds left to play. The Texans' two third overall picks from the last two drafts -- cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (2022) and defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (2023) -- shined brightly. Stingley had a career-high two interceptions while Anderson had a career-high two sacks. Houston also prevented the Broncos from having a third-down conversion, holding them to 0 for 11 in that area. Stroud and the offense played turnover-free football after Tank Dell went down with a reported fractured fibula. Nico Collins had a career-day with 191 receiving yards on nine catches, both career highs, in addition to the only passing touchdown from Stroud. However, they were unable to maintain much of a rhythm and needing to punt on their final offensive possessions put a lot of pressure on their defense.
Broncos-Texans grades by Garrett Podell (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Detroit 33-28 over New Orleans
|Detroit jumped out to a 21-0 lead before the Saints had even picked up a first down, but the defense then allowed a 21-3 run, which made things interesting in the end. The Lions offense looks dynamite, but questions still remain with the defense. Either way, the Lions pulled out a close victory to get to 9-3, which is their best start to a season in the Super Bowl era.
|Credit the Saints for coming back from down 21-0 in the first quarter. It was especially tough when you consider how much Derek Carr was being booed in that first half. It would have been interesting to see what he could have done had he not been injured in the fourth quarter. Jameis Winston couldn't lead a game-winning drive, and the defense couldn't get off the field at the end. Three straight losses for the Saints now.
Lions-Saints grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Tampa Bay 21-18 over Carolina
|The firing of a head coach can sometimes lead to a spark for an NFL team, but that didn't seem to be the case for the Panthers in this game. In their first game since firing Frank Reich, the Panthers offense didn't seem to show any improvement, especially during a first half where Carolina went three-and-out on three of its six possessions. Although the offense looked slightly better in the second half, the defense took a step back and that mostly happened after Brian Burns was ejected for throwing a punch. The Panthers did have a chance to win this game late, but Bryce Young threw an interception on Carolina's final offensive possession. Young had a chance to make a statement against a Buccaneers defense that went into Week 13 surrendering the most passing yards per game in the NFL this year, but instead, the offense once again came up short, which has pretty much been the story of Carolina's season.
|The Buccaneers offense has struggled at times this year, but in this game, they found a secret play that worked: Throw the ball to Mike Evans. The Bucs star went off against the Panthers, catching seven passes for 162 yards, including a 75-yard TD in the third quarter that gave Tampa Bay the lead for good. Rachaad White is looking better each week in the offense. The running back totaled 106 yards and a TD, marking the fourth time in five weeks that he's totaled at least 95 yards. Defensively, the Buccaneers struggled some during the second half, but Antoine Winfield Jr. did come up with a late interception to ice the win. This was a game the Bucs had to win to stay in the race for the NFC South. They're now just one game behind the first-place Falcons.
Panthers-Buccaneers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Rams 36-19 over Cleveland
|Less than two weeks after signing Joe Flacco, the Browns were forced to start him on Sunday and he actually held his own. Flacco wasn't perfect, but he certainly played far better than anyone could have expected considering he spent the first 11 weeks of the season at home on his couch. Not only did Flacco throw for 254 yards, but he threw 2 TD passes, including a fourth-quarter scoring throw to Harrison Bryant that cut the lead to 20-19 with just 8:49 to play. The biggest surprise of the game for the Browns is that their defense got run over by the Rams offense. With the Browns playing musical chairs at quarterback, the defense is going to have to play better if this team is going to make the playoffs.
|The Rams suddenly look like one of the hottest teams in the NFC and a big reason for that is Matthew Stafford. The Rams QB diced the Browns' vaunted defense for 279 yards and three touchdowns. Puka Nacua once again played like the rookie sensation that he is, catching four passes for 139 total yards and a TD. Kyren Williams also had an other big game for a Rams offense that seems to be getting more dangerous every week. Although the defense did struggle at times against Joe Flacco, the unit shut down the Browns with an interception, a fourth-down stop and a safety over the final eight minutes of the game to preserve the victory. With this win, the 6-6 Rams are suddenly in the thick of the NFC playoff race after looking to be left for dead at 3-6 coming out of their Week 10 bye.
Browns-Rams grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
San Francisco 42-19 over Philadelphia
|The 49ers blew the doors off the Eagles in their building, scoring six straight possessions in which they ran 47 plays for 452 yards and churned out all 42 points in the 23-point win. This was a completely different team than the one that had -6 yards at the end of the first quarter. Over the final three quarters, they imposed their will on an Eagles defense that had no answers. Deebo Samuel backed up his talk with three touchdowns and Brock Purdy finished with four touchdown passes of his own and a 148.8 passer rating. The 49ers defense also held one of the best offenses in the NFL to under 20 points. From the second quarter on, San Francisco dominated.
|The Eagles still have the best record in football, but they were far from the best team in the NFL against the 49ers. The defense allowed touchdowns on six straight possessions and had five missed tackles, two of which came on 49ers touchdowns (although it seemed like a lot more in the box score). The offense didn't score touchdowns in the red zone on the first two possessions, allowing the 49ers to stick around and take over the game. Coming from behind in the second half isn't a formula for victory, and yet the Eagles keep testing fate. They still control their own destiny in the NFC, but Philadelphia doesn't look like the best team right now.
49ers-Eagles grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Green Bay 27-19 over Kansas City
|Kansas City struggled on both offense and defense, and coughed up a chance to retain the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Injuries on defense didn't help, but the offense was simply not good enough. Patrick Mahomes averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt and threw only one touchdown and one interception, and Kansas City could not find a way to create big plays. Things were difficult pretty much all night, and that's reflected in the score line.
|Jordan Love and the team's young receivers were electric in this one. Love went 25 of 36 for 267 yards and three scores, distributing the ball to the young skill-position corps and routinely getting the Packers into scoring position. Christian Watson went off for two of the three touchdowns, and AJ Dillon ran as well as he has all year. Oh, and the Green Bay defense held the Chiefs to just 19 points. Not too shabby.
Chiefs-Packers grades by Jared Dubin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Cincinnati 34-31 over Jacksonville (OT)
|The only reason they don't get the "A+" is because Zac Taylor inexplicably tried taking the ball out of his quarterback's hands on several botched trick plays. But that speaks to the QB's play, which was a major surprise! Jake Browning diced up the Jaguars defense in just his second career start, showing perfect touch on key throws to Ja'Marr Chase and suddenly returning Cincy to the playoff mix. They still surrendered too much through the air on defense, but four sacks helped seal the road upset. If the Browning-Chase connection can carry on, well, this team isn't dead yet.
|It's tough to flunk them on the same night they lost Trevor Lawrence to an ankle injury in crunch time; C.J. Beathard at least got them to overtime, and they had six (!) different players log at least 25 receiving yards in a productive passing performance. But this was Jake Browning and the Bengals they faced at home. Their "D" was a sieve for much of the night, and the O-line failing to hold up at least partially led to Lawrence's scary exit. They get points for hanging around late, making this a game once Cincy proved a tough out, but suddenly their 2023 playoff prospects look iffy.
Bengals-Jaguars grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Dallas 41-35 over Seattle (Thursday)
|The Seahawks were firing on all cylinders for the first three quarters of this game, but then everything fell apart over the final 14 minutes of the fourth quarter. The offense got shut out and the defense couldn't get a stop, which is how the Cowboys were able to come back. DK Metcalf, who finished with 134 yards and three touchdowns in the game, had just three yards in the fourth quarter. Geno Smith, who was clutch for most of the night, couldn't come up with a big throw in the fourth quarter when Seattle needed it most. The Seahawks' final three offensive possessions of the game all ended with a failed fourth down. This game was there for the taking, but the Seahawks just couldn't take it. Seattle has had some close losses this year, but this one is probably going to sting the most.
|Dak Prescott is starting to make a serious case for MVP. The Cowboys QB capped off his amazing November run with another huge game that saw him throw for 299 yards and three touchdowns. With the Cowboys trailing 35-27 heading into the fourth quarter, Prescott came up clutch for his team by leading three scoring drives during the final frame. CeeDee Lamb (12 catches, 116 yards, 1 TD) and Jake Ferguson (six catches for 77 yards, 1 TD) made life much easier for Prescott by catching almost everything thrown in their direction. Although the offense lit up the scoreboard, the defense wasn't as good. The Cowboys vaunted 'D' got steamrolled for 28 points and more than 300 yards through the first three quarters before they finally came up with some big plays in the fourth quarter, including three fourth-down stops. The most important thing here is that the Cowboys finally proved they can beat a good team, which should give them some confidence going forward.
Cowboys-Seahawks grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)