NFL Week 7 takeaways: Lessons, big questions for every game

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Week 7of the 2022 NFL seasonis a wrap, and here are our weekly game takeaways.

On Thursday night, theArizona Cardinals' offense came alive at home against the New Orleans Saints. Sunday came with a few surprises:Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense struggled against a Carolina Panthers team potentially in the midst of a rebuild,and the Green Bay Packers lost for the third week in row, this time to the Washington Commanders-- who startedTaylor Heinickeat QB.

Dak Prescott returned to lead the Dallas Cowboys over the Detroit Lions, the New York Giants survived a late push from the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans stayed atop the AFC South with another win over the Indianapolis Colts, and the Ravens' defense held off the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore. Four teams -- theBuffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles--had a bye and will return in Week 8.

The surprises continued in the late-afternoon window, as the Seattle Seahawks vaulted to the top of the NFC West with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers coupled with a San Francisco 49ers loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The New York Jets continued their surprising start, moving to 5-2 with a win over the Denver Broncos.

On Monday night, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick replaced starting quarterback Mac Jones with Bailey Zappe, who led the Patriots to a pair of quick second-quarter scores, but Justin Fields led the Chicago Bears to 23 unanswered points to run away with the win.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the biggest takeaways and lingering questions coming out of this week's matchups and look ahead to what's next. Let's get to it.

Jump to a matchup:




Chicago 33, New England 14


What to know: The Bears figured out how to best utilize Justin Fields on a night when he turned 12 designed runs into 55 yards and five first downs, all of which were career highs. "I thought it brought a whole different element to our offense," Fields said. Chicago tapped into Fields' dual-threat ability by getting him out of the pocket and on the move, where he went 6-of-7 for 104 yards and a touchdown throwing on the run. Ten full days between games allowed Chicago to follow through on promises of scheme and personnel adjustments, which reenergized the Bears and snapped a three-game losing streak.

How will the Bears continue to tailor their offense around Fields? General manager Ryan Poles held an impromptu news conference hours before the Bears got their first win in Foxborough and said he was encouraged by Fields' development. Chicago has 10 more games to evaluate the second-year quarterback while continuing to build an offense that gets the most out of Fields. Poles said the Bears are evaluating the QB by focusing on how Fields approaches each game and executes what's asked of him. If he can turn in more performances like he did against New England with a game plan designed to his strengths, the Bears will come away with more answers than they expected to by the end of the season, which will guide the next step of this rebuild. -- Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Cowboys (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The defense didn't show up, allowing Bears quarterback Justin Fields to control the game, and Bill Belichick's handling of the QB position makes one wonder how secure Mac Jones' hold on the starting job is. The defense had been the strength of the team in recent weeks, but the ability to get off blocks, tackle and play with physicality was nowhere to be found. And Jones was pulled after three series in favor of Bailey Zappe, who played the rest of the game at quarterback, as Jones' final throw was an INT.

Who starts at QB next week against the Jets? Belichick said the Patriots entered Monday's game with a plan to play both Jones and Zappe. Part of that was likely tied to easing Jones back into the mix from his high left ankle sprain. But with disappointing results when Jones was in the game, and Zappe moving the offense more consistently, does Belichick decide Jones needs more time to recover with a key AFC East game on the horizon? -- Mike Reiss

Next game: at Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Miami 16, Pittsburgh 10


What to know: Tua Tagovailoa is back, but he has some rust to knock off before this offense can truly say the same. The Dolphins led the NFL in points per drive through three weeks to start the season, and displayed that same efficiency with a touchdown and two field goals in their first three drives Sunday night. Their offense sputtered from there, and Tagovailoa played like someone who hasn't played in 24 days. At least four of his passes were dropped by Steelers defenders, and his timing with his receivers was hit or miss throughout the final three quarters. It's nothing to be overly concerned about -- although you have to wonder whether Mike McDaniel will remind him to slide after he finished a couple of runs by lowering his shoulder into a defender. The Lions' NFL-worst defense seems like an opportune opponent in Week 8.

Will the Dolphins' pass rush please stand up? The Dolphins have generated the fourth-fewest quarterback pressures in the NFL through 7 weeks -- despite owning the NFL's fifth-best pass rush win rate. Even more concerning is the fact that Miami blitzes at the 10th-highest rate in the league yet ranks 24th in sack rate. Defense is complementary, meaning coverage and rush help one another. But with the injuries the Dolphins' secondary is facing, their pass rush will have to carry more of the load until their counterparts get healthy. Their nine blitzes Sunday night generated just one pressure -- that simply won't cut it moving forward. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: at Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: After surrendering a big first quarter, the Steelers' defense dampened Tua Tagovailoa's return on Sunday night. The defensive backs just barely missed four would-be picks, and after giving up 13 points in the first quarter, the Steelers held the Dolphins to just three points over the final three -- including a shutout in the second half. The defense gave up big plays in spots to Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, but in the second half, the Steelers held the Dolphins on fourth-and-3 and forced four consecutive punts -- including two three-and-outs. While the offense struggled, the defense played soundly in the second half, giving up only 127 yards after surrendering 246 in the first half. It's the second strong performance -- including crucial halftime adjustments -- by the defense after beating Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a week earlier. With T.J. Watt nearing his return from a Week 1 pectoral tear, the Steelers' defense is shaping up to be a much stronger unit than it looked in the first month of the season.

Can the Steelers' offense find consistency? Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett was inserted at halftime of the Jets game to give the Steelers' offense a spark. In two starts since, the offense flickers like the flame of a lighter running out of butane. Occasionally, everything clicks -- like the second-quarter drive in whichGeorge Pickens hauled in four targets and scored his first NFL touchdown. But other times, it quickly fizzles out, like the two would-be game-winning fourth-quarter drives that ended instead with red zone picks. Pickett's offense is undeniably a work-in-progress, but the Steelers have struggled to sustain drives more often than not with conservative playcalls and costly, untimely mistakes, and playmakers like Pickens disappear for long stretches. The pieces are there, but the Steelers haven't been able to consistently put them together. More time together could help the offensive cohesion, but partly because of the midseason quarterback swap, it has been a slow-developing process.-- Brooke Pryor

Next game: at Eagles (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Seattle 37, L.A. Chargers 23


What to know: With an offense that's still rolling and a defense that has finally caught up, the Seahawks look like legitimate contenders, but DK Metcalf's knee injury is a cause for concern. The Seahawks are now in sole possession of first place in the NFC West at 4-3 after a complete performance in their win over the Chargers. Their offense got another efficient outing from quarterbackGeno Smith and a pair of rushing touchdowns from rookie running backKenneth Walker III, including a 74-yarder. With three sacks and two takeaways, their defense looks like it has turned itself around after another miserable start.

Can the offense keep this up if Metcalf misses time? Metcalf was carted off the field in the first half and quickly ruled out. The Seahawks have the luxury of essentially having two No. 1 receivers in Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but Metcalf makes so many things happen with his ability to make contested catches, stretch defenses and free up teammates by taking up double-teams. Marquise Goodwin stepped up in this game with a pair of touchdown catches. Seattle will need Dee Eskridge to do the same if Metcalf's injury is serious. -- Brady Henderson

Next game: vs. Giants (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Chargers managed a couple of ugly wins in a three-game win streak but failed to show up Sunday and suffered one very ugly loss to the Seahawks. Squandering an opportunity to improve to 5-2 and earn their first four-game win streak since 2018, they instead drop to 4-3 and go into a bye week with an urgent need to do some soul searching in regard to who they are and where they want to go.

How do the Chargers manage their injuries? It has been a season marked by injuries, and now they can add two more significant questions after cornerback J.C. Jackson left the field on a cart because of a right knee injury and wide receiver Mike Williams suffered a right ankle injury. -- Lindsey Thiry

Next game: at Falcons (Sunday, Nov. 6, 1 p.m. ET)

N.Y. Jets 16, Denver 9


What to know: The Jets are 5-2 for the first time since 2010, their last playoff season, and have adopted the same style of play: fantastic defense, low-mistake offense. It's not pretty, but it's working for the Jets. They had no turnovers for the third straight game -- they hadn't done that since 2010 -- letting their defense win the field-position game. They frustrated Denver backup QBBrett Rypien with excellent pass coverage, highlighted by a Lamarcus Joyner interception and three pass breakups by Sauce Gardner. Say this for the Jets: They now boast a 4-0 road record. They haven't done that since ... you guessed it, 2010.

Can the Jets' offense manage without Breece Hall? This was a costly game for the Jets, as they lost rookie standout running back Hall to a knee injury in the second quarter. It would be devastating if it's a long-term injury. Hall, who scored on a 62-yard touchdown run, is the face of the offense. He helps take the pressure off quarterback Zach Wilson, who struggled for the second week in a row.Michael Carteris a solid RB2, but he doesn't have Hall's home run speed. -- Rich Cimini

Next game: vs. Patriots (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: There was optimism in recent days the Broncos could find their rhythm on offense with backup quarterback Brett Rypien in the lineup. File that away because the Broncos had their sixth game of the season with 16 or fewer points and their third with 11 or fewer. Despite Denver's defense keeping the Jets to under 300 yards, it didn't matter.

What can the Broncos' offense do to find some points?The Broncos were better Sunday when they bulked up on offense -- formations with two or three tight ends and two backs. They moved the ball better Sunday when they were in those groupings and lost their way, again, when they got in catch-up mode and leaned on their three-wide receiver sets. They simply have to accept that they can't play how they want to right now and have to play the way they need to. -- Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Jaguars (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET)

Kansas City 44, San Francisco 23


What to know: There is life in the Chiefs' pass rush beyond defensive tackle Chris Jones, after all. The Chiefs started slowly with their pressure against 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolobut got their rush going, and it was productive -- particularly in key moments of the game. Their defense will be difficult to deal with if they can continue this kind of pressure.

Can the Chiefs afford to continue using rookie Skyy Moore to return punts? No Super Bowl contender could afford to do that. Moore is learning on the job. He didn't return punts in college and had his second fumbled return of the season against the 49ers. The first one helped the Chiefs lose a game against the Colts in Week 3. This one didn't, but the Chiefs need to give him some time to learn his new craft on the practice field instead of in game action. -- Adam Teicher

Next game: vs. Titans (Sunday, Nov. 6, 8:20 p.m. ET)


What to know: Much was made of the 49ers' addition of running back Christian McCaffrey, but general manager John Lynch warned last week that McCaffrey isn't a magic cure for what ails the Niners. That was readily apparent Sunday, as the defense got torched by Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the offense failed to keep up, settling for field goals when touchdowns were needed. McCaffrey can and will help, but at 3-4, the Niners are going to need plenty of improvement elsewhere.

What's wrong with the 49ers' defense? The Niners' defense has come crashing back to Earth. That was to be expected as the opponents got better and injuries piled up, but Sunday was a rude awakening. The Niners had Kansas City in third-and-20 and third-and-12 in the second half with a chance to get off the field. They gave up a combined 91 yards on those two plays. Injuries aside, there's enough talent here to prevent those types of things from happening. -- Nick Wagoner

Next game: at Rams (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Las Vegas 38, Houston 20


What to know: The Raiders are ready to go on a post-bye run. While they were 1-4 coming into Sunday, just 3-16 after the bye since 2003 and had lost their past five such games by an average of 17.8 points, their talent suggested they were better. Much better. And after beating Houston, the schedule lightens up considerably, with none of their next five opponents boasting a winning record entering this weekend. In fact, ESPN's Football Power Index favors Las Vegas to win nine of its last 11 games.

Is Josh Jacobs the Raiders' MVP? Yes. Jacobs, who had his fifth-year option declined by the new regime, is playing for a contract. Davante Adams might be more explosive, and Derek Carr is at the controls. But Jacobs -- who became the first player in franchise history with three straight games of 100 rushing yards and a rushing TD and joined Marcus Allen with his fifth career game gaining 100 rushing yards and scoring multiple TDs -- kept the offense afloat again. He finished with 143 yards and three TDs on 20 carries, becoming just the third back in franchise history with multiple games with three rushing touchdowns, along with Allen and Pete Banaszak. -- Paul Gutierrez

Next game: at Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Quarterback Davis Mills played his best game of the season. Prior to the bye, Mills looked shaky, completing 62.7% of his passes for five touchdown passes with four interceptions. But against the Raiders, he was much better. He completed 68% of his passes, threw two touchdown passes and logged a season-high 302 yards. Mills was also money on third downs, throwing both of his TD passes on that down. However, he did throw a pick-six late in the fourth quarter, which blew the game open.

What's going on with the Texans' run defense? The Texans have allowed the third-most rushing yards in the NFL (989), and their issues stopping the run cost them a potential win in a game they led 20-17 early in the fourth quarter. Jacobs rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns, two coming in the fourth quarter, against the Texans as Houston's run woes looked eerily similar to the Week 3 loss to the Bears, when it allowed 281 rushing yards. The Texans have to figure things out -- fast. -- DJ Bien-Aime

Next game: vs. Titans (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Carolina 21, Tampa Bay 3


What to know: The rest of the NFL might have declared the Panthers (2-5) in tank mode after they traded star running back Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, but interim coach Steve Wilks and his players aren't going there, as they promised all week. They put together their most complete game of the season, finally getting enough offense to back yet another solid defensive performance. They showed they still have the fight to remain in the race for the NFC South, moving within a game of Tampa Bay (3-4) and Atlanta (3-4) with the Falcons next on the schedule. And quarterback PJ Walker showed he should remain the starter even when Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold return from ankle injuries. And, oh, that McCaffrey fellow. The Panthers got almost 200 yards rushing out of their new duo of D'Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard.

Should PJ Walker remain the starter next week against Atlanta even if Baker Mayfield is ready to return from an ankle injury? Absolutely. Walker was allowed to do what he does best on Sunday in terms of getting the ball downfield, and he responded with two touchdowns on an efficient 16-of-22 passing. He's now 3-1 as an NFL starter, 1-1 this season. Mayfield won't like it, but this might signal the end for him at Carolina. It felt like it was the end even before today, given the league-low numbers Mayfield was putting up. -- David Newton

Next game: at Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: For the second week in a row, Tom Brady and the Bucs were favored by 9.5 points, and once again, they stunk it up, this time against a team that fired its head coach and recently traded away two offensive stars. The Bucs' offense looked absolutely dreadful with an abundance of dropped passes, miscues, questionable playcalling and, of course, protection issues, mustering three measly points. Perhaps the only positive: The Falcons lost too, meaning that at 3-4, the Bucs are still tied for first place. But what consolation is that when they've now lost four of their past five?

What went wrong this time? More like, what didn't go wrong? Mike Evans dropped what might have been the most wide-open touchdown pass of his career on the opening drive. The Bucs were stonewalled once again in short yardage with Leonard Fournette going nowhere on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1. And Brady failed to connect with Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage in the end zone on three straight incomplete passes from the 8-yard line. Defensively, they couldn't stop the run -- surrendering 173 yards, including a 60-yarder from D'Onta Foreman. Hosting the Baltimore Ravens in four days, they'll also now likely be without Antoine Winfield Jr., who left Sunday's game with a concussion. -- Jenna Laine

Next game: vs. Ravens (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Dallas 24, Detroit 6


What to know: If there was a doubt -- and by now there shouldn't be -- the defense will carry the Cowboys to success. Not even quarterback Dak Prescott's return after a five-game absence could get the Cowboys' offense rolling. But the defense came through. Again. After allowing two touchdowns last week versus Philadelphia for the first time this season, the defense did not allow a touchdown against a Lions offense that came in averaging 28 points a game. The defense changed the momentum of the game with five takeaways in the second half that the offense turned into 21 points: a Trevon Diggs' interception, an Anthony Barr fumble recovery at the Dallas 1, a Jourdan Lewis interception in the fourth quarter, a Sam Williams' sack/fumble and a DeMarcus Lawrence fumble recovery to end the game.

Will the Cowboys ever figure out their third-down woes on offense? If they don't, they will not be a serious threat. They entered the game converting just 32% of their third-down tries, and things were supposed to be better upon Prescott's return. They were 3-of-9 on third down. Through three quarters, Prescott was 0-for-1 with two sacks on third down. In the opener against Tampa Bay, he was 3-of-9 with an interception on third down. In the fourth quarter, they were stopped on third-and-1 when the Lions snuffed out a toss play to Tony Pollard. -- Todd Archer

Next game: vs. Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Turnovers absolutely hurt the Lions in critical moments. Quarterback Jared Goff threw two interceptions -- and added two fumbles in the fourth. Also, running back Jamaal Williams fumbled twice -- including one at the goal line to start the fourth. Detroit was already facing an uphill battle after losing wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown to a concussion during the first quarter. And the Lions were playing without receiver DJ Chark (ankle) -- who was recently placed on injured reserve -- and running back D'Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle), who has missed the past three games. So those mistakes proved to be costly while Detroit was undermanned.

Will the Lions' defense improve from this performance moving forward? This season it's been tough to get the offense and defense on the same page. Entering this game, Detroit's defense was allowing a league-high 34 points per game, but during the bye, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn made some changes, notably having No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson work with both the linebackers and defensive linemen to position him better for success. It worked in Dallas, as he racked up 1.5 sacks. Plus, Texas product Jeff Okudah played inspired football with a career-high 15 total tackles. So, yeah, the Lions certainly can't do any worse than the first four games, when the defense was horrendous. On a bright note, they allowed a season-low 24 points to the Cowboys -- but a loss is a loss. -- Eric Woodyard

Next game: vs. Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Tennessee 19, Indianapolis 10


What to know: The Titans completed a sweep of the Colts to strengthen their lead atop the AFC South. The Titans' defensive front dominated the trenches, harassing Colts quarterback Matt Ryan for most of the day. Denico Autry continued his revenge tour against his former team with a sack. Bud Dupree and Jeffery Simmons also had sacks. Pressure from Dupree led to two interceptions for the Titans. One of the interceptions was returned 76 yards for a touchdown by safety Andrew Adams. Tennessee has four more games within the division and now has a 4-2 record, thanks to a four-game winning streak.

Can the Titans continue to win games in such an ugly manner? Although it counts as a win, the Titans' victory wasn't pretty. Tennessee won primarily on the strength of its defense with two interceptions, including the pick-six by Adams. The Titans don't deliver many explosive plays, instead relying on long drives to get onto the scoreboard, as evidenced by their 31-minute time of possession on Sunday.Derrick Henryhas three 100-yard rushing performances in Tennessee's four wins. Simply put, this team finds a way to win. However, things will get tough for the Titans over the next five weeks, with matchups against the Chiefs, Packers and Bengals on the docket. -- Turron Davenport

Next game: at Texans (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Colts thought they had found a viable path on offense with their best showing in Week 6 against Jacksonville. But the heavy passing attack didn't work as effectively against Tennessee, as the Titans harassed quarterback Matt Ryan throughout and dominated the Colts' offensive line. Ryan threw two interceptions -- including one that was returned for a TD -- and now has 12 turnovers for the season. The return of running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines from injuries didn't change the outcome for the Colts, who are running out of time to salvage their floundering offense.

Can the Colts fix their offense? Against teams that don't have dominant defensive fronts, the Colts likely have enough firepower to make things tough on opponents. But when they fail to win up front, as they did on Sunday, it's easier for a defense to neutralize receivers Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell. Their problems are fundamental: an offensive line that is playing at an unacceptable level and a quarterback who is shrinking in the face of the resulting pass rush. How do you fix that? -- Stephen Holder

Next game: vs. Commanders (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Cincinnati 35, Atlanta 17


What to know: Earlier in the week, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said a three-game stretch against the Falcons, Browns and Panthers was going to define Cincinnati's season. It represented three opportunities to bank victories in a tight AFC North race heading into the team's bye in Week 10. Behind a record-breaking day from Burrow, who became the first player in NFL history to have five games of 400 or more passing yards in his first three seasons, the Bengals started out with a win.

Buy or sell WR Tyler Boyd's performance? Buy. Boyd had a career-high 155 receiving yards, with the bulk of that coming in the first quarter. Even with an offense that features Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, Boyd showed why coach Zac Taylor considers him one of the best slot receivers in the league. -- Ben Baby

Next game: at Browns (Monday, Oct. 31, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What to know: On an ugly day all around, especially for a defense left short-handed by A.J. Terrell's hamstring injury, there might yet be good news for the Falcons: Not many offenses are as explosive as that of the Bengals. And with a stretch that includes games against the Bears, Commanders and Steelers and two against the Panthers coming up, the Falcons have to hope this was a bad matchup instead of a sign of problems to come.

Can Atlanta's offense sustain when it gets into a hole? Based off what we've seen this season, it's still a bit unclear. But Sunday did not provide much confidence. Trailing by 18 points in the fourth quarter, the Falcons appeared to stay in their same run-based offense. It worked in near comebacks against the Buccaneers and Rams, but against a more explosive offense in Cincinnati, and with the team's secondary decimated by injury, it didn't work. This is going to be something to pay attention to going forward but isn't a huge concern. Yet. -- Michael Rothstein

Next game: vs. Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Baltimore 23, Cleveland 20


What to know: The Ravens still have fourth-quarter issues but finally got some good fortune at the end. It looked like Baltimore was about to give away another double-digit lead after running back Justice Hill fumbled with 3:12 left in the game. But Malik Harrison blocked a potential game-tying 61-yard field goal. Then Ravens safety Geno Stone forced a fumble on the Browns' final possession as the game ended. The Ravens avoided becoming just the third team in the past decade to lose four times in the first seven weeks in games in which they held double-digit leads.

What's going on with Lamar Jackson throwing the ball? Defenses have turned up the heat with blitzes, and Jackson has not been sharp or decisive with the ball. On Sunday, he finished with 120 yards passing, the sixth fewest of his five-year career. Two completions -- a 31-yard pass to Devin Duvernay and a 19-yard dump-off to fullback Patrick Ricard -- accounted for 50 of those yards. Jackson said this week that the Ravens need to stop overthinking and just play. But Baltimore's issues go deeper than that. Over the past four games, Jackson has thrown three TDs and four INTs. -- Jamison Hensley

Next game: at Buccaneers (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What to know: Cleveland played arguably its best game of the season in Baltimore. But too many errors on a potential game-winning drive sank the Browns, giving them their fourth straight loss. An offensive pass interference call on Amari Cooper negated his go-ahead TD reception. Then a false start on a game-tying field goal forced Cade York to attempt a 60-yard try. The kick was blocked, sealing the victory for Baltimore.

Can Cleveland recover from four straight losses? The Browns desperately needed this victory to hang around in the AFC North race. Now, at 2-5 with arguably the league's toughest remaining schedule, Cleveland's season is officially on life support. A loss to Cincinnati next week on "Monday Night Football" would effectively be the death knell -- before the Browns even reach their midseason bye. -- Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Bengals (Monday, Oct. 31, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Washington 23, Green Bay 21


What to know: Quarterback Taylor Heinicke's game won't win any beauty pageants, but he excels at ignoring the aesthetics and competes. It's why he can have a brutal start -- with a first-half pick-six and numerous ugly incompletions early -- and later lead a win. It helped that Washington ran the ball for 167 yards, and receiver Terry McLaurin came through with a big second half with a touchdown catch and key completions on the final drive. But Heinicke's grit allows him to ignore plays that could ruin other quarterbacks coming off the bench. It's why Washington has won two in a row.

Has the defense turned it around? The Commanders have benefited from facing struggling offenses the past two games in Chicago and Green Bay. But they have played better largely because of their ability to stop the run; they've allowed only 3.67 yards per carry in the past five games -- fourth best in the NFL. Also, with cornerbackWilliam Jackson III sidelined, they've been more consistent in coverage, especially in zone. With Chase Young possibly back within two weeks, the defense could be the reason for a resurgence. -- John Keim

Next game: at Colts (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


What to know: If the Packers can't beat the New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Commanders, imagine what the Buffalo Bills are going to do to them next Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills have the most explosive offense in the NFL. They lead the league in yards per game and rank second in points. Their defense leads the league in fewest points allowed and ranks second in yards. Oh, yeah, and the Bills were on their bye this weekend and play the Packers at home in a prime-time game. This was supposed to be a get-back-on-track game after two straight losses. Instead, the Packers have their first three-game losing streak since 2018.

Now will the Packers get another receiver? Yes, it's the same question as last week after the loss to the Jets. The trade deadline is a little more than a week away, and without a significant addition, it's hard to see how their passing game will improve. The return of Sammy Watkins, who missed four weeks because of a hamstring injury, didn't immediately help. Aaron Rodgers had not attempted a pass that traveled more than 10 yards in the air until the final two minutes of the first half on Sunday, and when he finally did, Watkins wasn't fast enough to run under it. It was so far off that flags for pass interference were picked up because the ball was deemed uncatchable. Their fastest receiver, rookie Christian Watson, missed a second straight game because of a hamstring injury. -- Rob Demovsky

Next game: at Bills (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

N.Y. Giants 23, Jacksonville 17


What to know: The Giants keep finding ways to win, even if it's just by 1 yard. Trevor Lawrence and the Jags' offense were on the doorstep late in the game, but Lawrence's pass toChristian Kirkwas stuffed at the 1-yard line as time expired. The Giants leaned for most of three quarters on the arm -- and legs -- of quarterback Daniel Jones, with Jacksonville concentrating on limiting Saquon Barkley (72 of his 110 rushing yards came in the fourth quarter). Jones threw for 202 yards and a touchdown and ran for 107 yards and another score. It's what they needed against a Jaguars defense that has been strong in stopping the run. This was the kind of game that showed Jones (despite five dropped passes) has the ability to not only manage games but win them. He led his fourth fourth-quarter comeback this season.

Just how bad are the injuries? Rookie right tackle Evan Neal (knee), tight end Daniel Bellinger (eye) and left guard Ben Bredeson (knee) all left the game in the first half. Those are three starters. Early indications are Neal and Bredeson avoided serious injury, according to sources. That's a positive. Bellinger was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. The Giants' offense was already limited entering Sunday. It can't afford for any of these injuries to be long term. The injured trio from Sunday has started every game this season -- Jordan Raanan

Next game: at Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


What to know: Travis Etienne Jr. has taken over as the Jaguars' top back. He started for the second consecutive week and had the breakout game that many have been expecting (114 yards rushing). Etienne averaged 8.1 yards per carry and scored his first NFL touchdown on a 7-yard run. James Robinson, who had started the first five games this season and 32 overall, didn't have a carry or a reception in a game in which he has played for the first time in his career. He was targeted just once, on a pass that Trevor Lawrence overthrew in the end zone.

Where is the pass rush? The Jaguars' pass rush looked formidable after putting up seven sacks in the first two games, but it has managed just six since -- and only two in the past two games (just one against Daniel Jones). Head coach Doug Pederson said teams are devising game plans to stop No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker by chipping him or double-teaming him. But that means Josh Allen should be getting to the QB more. He did enter the week with 25 QB pressures, per NFL Next Gen Stats, but he hasn't had a sack since Week 4 and has just three this season. Those two have to be more productive. -- Mike DiRocco

Next game: vs. Broncos (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET)


Arizona 42, New Orleans 34


What to know: The Cardinals' offense isn't out of the woods yet. Yes, it played as well as it has played all season during Thursday's win over the Saints, but Kyler Murray said there's things that the offense still needs to work on. And he's not wrong. The Cardinals were saved by the defense, which returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Take those away, and the Cardinals would've lost. Next week in Minnesota will be the true gauge for this offense to see if it's making strides or still stuck in the mud. Having nine days between games will give guys such asDeAndre Hopkins and Robbie Anderson a chance to get acclimated more, and players such asJames Conner and Rodney Hudson a chance to get healthy.

Was Thursday night the spark the Cardinals' needed to turn around the season? It'll help, no doubt, but the win was somewhat built on false pretenses because the Saints were down to their top two corners and top two receivers. If Arizona plays well and can beat the Vikings convincingly next week, then yes, the Cardinals will be on their way to turning around the season. -- Josh Weinfuss

Next game: at Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Saints are a mess on both sides of the ball, but none of these problems are new. Turnovers, missed tackles and penalties have defined the Saints' identity this season, and even wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith said self-inflicted wounds are killing the team. Smith said that Alvin Kamara told the team after the game: "We've got to really police ourselves, hold our own selves accountable, hold our teammates accountable."

How does the coaching staff fix the team's problems with multiple injuries? Saints coach Dennis Allen said the problem starts with him, and when asked how the coaches make changes going forward, he said it's about "getting the right people in the right spots." Allen admitted that is a tough thing to do, especially considering the health of the team is his biggest concern. With the Saints down three cornerbacks and several players on offense, there might not be many options for the Saints to turn to. -- Katherine Terrell

Next game: vs. Raiders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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