TheGreen Bay Packers‘ offense was silent in a loss to the New York Jets — one week after losing to the New York Giants. Speaking of the Giants, they handed Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens their third loss of the season. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers(No. 6 in ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers(No. 9) suffered losses at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.
Elsewhere, Matt Ryan and the Indianapolis Colts put up 15 fourth-quarter points to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cincinnati Bengals came from behind to secure a win against theNew Orleans Saints, rookie quarterbackBailey Zappe threw for over 300 yards in a New England Patriots win over the Cleveland Brownsand the Minnesota Vikings continue to pad their lead in the NFC North with a win against the Miami Dolphins. On Thursday, the Commanders squeaked out a 12-7 win over the Chicago Bears.
In the late window, the Buffalo Bills made a statement (and grabbed a potential AFC playoff tiebreaker) by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. On Sunday Night Football, the Philadelphia Eagles earned a statement win over the Dallas Cowboys to remain the only undefeated team in the league. And on Monday, the Los Angeles Chargers rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to take down the Denver Broncos, 19-16 in overtime.
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.
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What to know:The Chargers have won three straight, steering their way out of a 1-2 start to now be 4-2 and tied with the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West. The Bolts are in the thick of the race for the AFC West, while proving that they can come up clutch. Last Sunday, the Chargers were gifted a victory from the Cleveland Browns when kicker Cade York missed a potential game-winning 54-yard field goal. On Monday Night Football, the Chargers left no doubt that they could win on their terms.
What is the extent of kicker Dustin Hopkins‘ right hamstring injury?Hopkins kicked four field goals, including a game-winner, after he felt a “pop” in his right hamstring, as he described it, after an extra point attempt early in the second quarter. Hopkins declined to offer specifics after the game on what he thought the injury was, but it’s known that hamstring injuries can linger and it remains unclear if it will affect his availability moving forward.— Lindsey Thiry
Next game:vs. Seahawks (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: It would be difficult to find a team that has performed beneath their preseason expectations on offense more than the Broncos have. Some of it is growing pains, sure, but minus-9 net passing yards in the second half of an NFL game a team loses in overtime means something is broken. Coach Nathaniel Hackett, who is the Broncos’ play-caller on offense has simply overseen a group that is at or near the bottom of the league rankings in every category that matters, and needs to find answers before a defense playing well enough to win starts cracks under the weight.
What now on offense if quarterback Russell Wilson‘s hamstring injury is bad? Wilson was already dealing with a muscle injury near his right shoulder that required treatment, the hamstring injury he suffered in the fourth quarter will bear watching Tuesday and beyond as the Broncos have a short week after Monday’s loss to get ready for the Jets. They haven’t been committed to the run enough, but may be forced to if Wilson’s mobility is limited or he has to miss time. —Jeff Legwold
Next game:vs. Jets (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know:Quarterback Jalen Hurts answered the bell. Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said: “All you need to write is he hasn’t played the Cowboys yet, so we don’t know how good he is,” when asked about Hurts’ improvement this week. Hurts threw for a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions against one of the NFL’s best defenses, including the game-clincher to DeVonta Smith midway through the fourth quarter while operating behind an offensive line missing two of its starters. That, and the Eagles’ three defensive takeaways — two by C.J. Gardner-Johnson — pushed the Eagles past the Cowboys and to 6-0.
What are the Eagles going to do about these second-half droughts? Philadelphia has a habit of falling asleep offensively down the stretch. The Eagles have scored 35 points in the second half this season compared to 126 first-half points. It hasn’t bitten them yet, but it will be a point of focus during their bye week. — Tim McManus
Next game: vs. Steelers (Sunday, Oct. 30, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know:Cooper Rush did all he could do, winning four straight starts after Dak Prescott suffered a fractured right thumb. At some point, it had to come apart and it did against the Eagles, especially in the first half. Rush’s first two interceptions of the season turned into 10 points in the second quarter when Philadelphia took a 20-0 lead. The Cowboys made a game of it in the second half, but for all of those wondering whether there would be a quarterback controversy, Sunday answered that question. Rush deserves credit for keeping the Cowboys’ season alive, but it’s up to Prescott to make sure they stay in the NFC East race the rest of the way.
Should there be worry about the Cowboys rush defense? For the fourth time in six games, the Cowboys allowed more than 120 yards on the ground. If there is an Achilles’ heel to the defense, it is their run defense. They do not have a lot of bulk up front and choose to get it done with speed. When the Eagles took control of the game with a 13-play, 75-yard drive, they ran it 10 times and never faced a third down longer than 4 yards. Their next two games come against theDetroit Lions and Chicago Bears, who have the eighth- and second-ranked run offenses in the league. — Todd Archer
Next game: vs. Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Despite offensive miscues and the defense allowing Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes to throw for more than 100 yards to both Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Bills came away with another regular-season win at Arrowhead Stadium. The win was far from perfect, and there were miscues on both sides of the ball, including allowing the Chiefs to mount a 16-second drive for a field goal at the end of the first half.
The Bills brought in Von Miller to help win games like this. Has his performance paid off so far? The Bills invested heavily in the front seven over the offseason, most significantly with the addition of Miller. Against the Chiefs, the outside linebacker showed why it was worth it, finishing with his second two-sack game of the season, four tackles, two quarterback hits and two tackles for loss. Miller was also the first to pressure Mahomes on the game-ending interception. Overall, the Bills’ defense was not able to pressure Mahomes as much as they would have hoped (32.6% of throws). But Miller’s impact was felt at key moments, which is exactly what the Bills were hoping for. — Alaina Getzenberg
Next game: at Packers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Chiefs’ defense needs to be more productive with its blitz than it was against Bills quarterback Josh Allen. On one play, the Chiefs blitzed Allen with seven defenders and left him with enough time to throw a dime to Gabe Davis for a touchdown. On another, they sent six but left him enough time to throw a TD to Stefon Diggs.
Should the Chiefs be concerned about their secondary? They played without two of their top three cornerbacks and one of their top three safeties because of injuries. Therefore, the Chiefs were left with no choice but to play two rookies at cornerback, and the Bills successfully went after one of them, Joshua Williams, who played little until Sunday’s game. Things should improve when cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and Rashad Fenton and safety Bryan Cook return. That could be as soon as Sunday against the 49ers. — Adam Teicher
Next game: at 49ers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Rams snapped their two-game losing streak, but their offense still hasn’t hit its stride. Los Angeles did score multiple touchdowns (three) for the first time since Week 3, but this offensive performance won’t be enough. After the Rams’ Week 5 loss, coach Sean McVay said the team needed to help quarterback Matthew Stafford. Los Angeles took a step forward against Carolina (rushing for two scores and giving up zero defensive touchdowns), but there’s still room for improvement.
Is this performance what the Rams can expect out of WR Allen Robinson II? Through five games, Robinson’s role in the offense was inconsistent, but he had his best game Sunday. Stafford spread the ball around more evenly than in previous games this season, and Robinson finished with five catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. This is likely what McVay envisioned when adding Robinson in free agency, so expect him to continue to get these targets as the season progresses. — Sarah Barshop
Next game: vs. 49ers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Panthers didn’t look much different under interim head coach Steve Wilks than they did under coach Matt Rhule, who was fired Monday. The offense and defense continued to struggle on third down, the offense still was lifeless with PJ Walker at quarterback instead of Baker Mayfield (sidelined by an ankle injury), and the team still made too many critical mistakes. Wilks did make his presence felt with more dedication to getting running back Christian McCaffrey involved in all facets, but even that wasn’t enough.
Will McCaffrey and wide receiver Robbie Anderson be on the team much longer? Anderson’s time with the team appears near the end after he was sent to the locker room by Wilks following two heated arguments with wide receivers coach Joe Dailey. Will a team give up a draft pick for Anderson, and does Carolina really want to take a $20 million dead-cap hit over the rest of this year and next? Moving McCaffrey before the Nov. 1 trade deadline makes the most sense because the Panthers could get something in return that would help down the road. To move on from McCaffrey would be moving on from the team’s best offensive playmaker, as he showed Sunday. — David Newton
Next game: vs. Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Seahawks’ embattled defense finally showed up. In a reversal of what became well-established roles over the first five weeks, the defense carried Geno Smith (20-of-31, no touchdown passes) and the offense for a change. Seattle kept Arizona’s offense out of the end zone (its only touchdown was on special teams), stopped it on four of its five fourth-down attempts and sacked Kyler Murray six times. It was an encouraging performance by a defense that entered Sunday ranked last or near last in several categories.
How good can Seattle’s rookie class be? This looks like the best group of rookies the Seahawks have had since the 2012 class that produced Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, among others. Cornerback Tariq Woolen is an early front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year now that he has an interception in four straight games. He also recovered a fumble forced by nickelback Coby Bryant, Bryant’s fourth of the year. Running back Kenneth Walker III ran for 97 yards and his second TD in as many weeks. Tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas are off to strong starts despite some struggles for the offensive line Sunday. — Brady Henderson
Next game: at Chargers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Cardinals didn’t convert on three fourth downs in field goal territory against Seattle, costing them nine points and a shot at making it a game. By not taking the points, coach Kliff Kingsbury put pressure on the Cardinals’ defense and forced the offense to play from behind yet again. Had Arizona taken the points in all three situations and had kicker Matt Ammendola made his only extra point attempt, the game could have been tied at 19.
Can the Cardinals’ offensive woes be fixed by the return of DeAndre Hopkins? In theory, yes. The addition of Hopkins will force defenses to spread their coverage across the entire field instead of focusing only on Marquise Brown. But with how Arizona has been producing, adding Hopkins might not matter. Regardless, he’ll be a much-needed boost for Arizona six games into the season. — Josh Weinfuss
Next game: vs. Saints (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: Marcus Mariota showed Sunday why, in a controlled offense, he can still be a dynamic performer. Mariota had his best game as an Atlanta Falcon in beating San Francisco, completing 13 of 14 passes for 129 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions while running six times for 50 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t throw an incompletion until 10:52 left in the fourth quarter and ran coach Arthur Smith’s offense perfectly against one of the better defenses in the NFL. It’s a clear sign Mariota is starting to gain confidence.
Is Atlanta’s defense something to believe in? Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees gave an impassioned speech about how he wanted his defense to be like the ones he ran in Baltimore and New England. Atlanta is starting to look somewhat like it. The Falcons forced three three-and-outs Sunday, scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery, pressured 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and intercepted him once. Of course, there is some concern, too, as both starting cornerbacks A.J. Terrell (thigh) and Casey Hayward (undisclosed) finished the game on the bench because of injuries, which will be something to monitor. — Michael Rothstein
Next game: at Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Relentless injuries have made it impossible for the 49ers’ defense to carry this team, which means it’s time for the offense to pull more of the weight. It was only a few weeks ago that Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke about the offense’s efforts to find a rhythm following a strange offseason. That was OK when a healthy Niners defense was suffocating opponents. But the toll of injuries left the Niners with four healthy starters on the field at the end of Sunday’s loss, leaving the offense to make up the difference. It wasn’t up to the task.
How bad is it going to get on the injury front? Every team in the league deals with injuries, but the Niners continue to have more than their share, with 11 of 22 starters on injured reserve, a pregame inactive or a player departing Sunday’s game because of injury. No team can overcome such attrition. — Nick Wagoner
Next game: vs. Chiefs (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Who needs a star quarterback? The Jets proved again they can beat a good team without a prolific passing day by quarterbackZach Wilson, who was held without a touchdown pass for the second straight game. The Jets (4-2) upset the Packers with a classic game of complementary football. With Wilson struggling, they relied on the running game (two TDs), a suffocating defense (four sacks) and big plays by the special teams (a blocked punt and field goal). It took a few games, but the Jets have found their identity: a smash-mouth offense featuring rookie Breece Hall (116 rushing yards) and a dramatically improved defense led by tackleQuinnen Williams.
Is it time to take the Jets seriously? Heck, yeah. They’re a legit playoff contender. They’re in second place in the AFC East, riding their first three-game winning streak since 2019. They beat the Packers and Dolphins, two respectable teams, by a combined score of 67-27. They flipped the script from last October, when they got blown out on a weekly basis. They finally beat an elite quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, controlling him for the better part of 60 minutes. This isn’t a mirage: The Jets are for real. — Rich Cimini
Next game: at Broncos (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: It was hard to tell who was worse: Rodgers, his offensive linemen or his skill-position players’ hands. Rodgers missed what used to be routine throws, and his blocking didn’t give him much of a chance to stand in the pocket. Oh, yeah, and the Packers had six dropped passes — their most in a game since 2017. And then there was the lost fumble on a botched exchange between Rodgers and running back AJ Dillon. The Packers can’t go more than 3 quarters without an offensive touchdown like they did on Sunday and expect to be a contender. But that’s what happened because Rodgers was off target and his offensive line allowed him to get hit nine times. It all added up to the first time the Packers have lost consecutive games in Matt LaFleur’s four seasons as head coach.
Do the Packers need to bring in a receiver? The trade deadline is a little more than two weeks away, and if the Packers stand pat, it’s hard to imagine how their passing game will get better. Maybe they’re counting on Sammy Watkins, who could return this week off injured reserve after spending four weeks on it because of a hamstring injury. Watkins was off to a nice start before he got hurt in practice leading into Week 3. Or perhaps they believe rookie Christian Watson, who also has battled hamstring problems and was inactive on Sunday, can add some speed to the lineup when or if he returns. But if not, there could be more performances like this. — Rob Demovsky
Next game: at Commanders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: It wasn’t a must-win game, but it was one the Bengals desperately needed after a rough start to the season. New Orleans was without several key offensive starters, and playoff teams don’t lose three games to backup quarterbacks. Bengals quarterbackJoe Burrow and wide receiverJa’Marr Chasedelivered the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter to provide Cincinnati a big midseason boost.
Is Cincinnati’s offense back? It’s too early to say yes. But the Bengals’ offense had its best showing of the season. Burrow had his best game since the end of the 2021 regular season. He was elusive, had great field awareness and feasted on short throws. It resulted in the most fluid offensive showing for the Bengals this season. If Cincinnati can replicate that performance next week against Atlanta, it’s a great sign for a unit that has struggled this season. — Ben Baby
Next game: vs. Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Surprisingly, there was some life in the Saints’ offense despite being short at wideout. New Orleans didn’t have Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave or even Deonte Harty and managed to move the chains with unlikely replacements, like explosive rookie Rashid Shaheed. They also continued their luck with the run game, rushing for more than 200 yards as a team. But they kicked too many field goals, and after the defense gave up a late-game touchdown, they couldn’t do enough to come back.
Do the Saints keep going with Andy Dalton? It’s clearJameis Winston is progressing from his back injury, returning to practice on a limited basis and even being active on game day. But the offense, even though it was compromised, seems to have found a rhythm with Dalton. If Winston is healthy enough to play next week, the Saints could be wading into a quarterback controversy, unless they feel he could boost their chances if he’s playing at 100%. — Katherine Terrell
Next game: at Cardinals (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: This Giants team is unflappable. They put up 90 yards in the first half, while the Ravens had 256. They were down 10 points with under 10 minutes remaining and their offense couldn’t do much of anything. It doesn’t matter with this group. They hang around and do just enough — seemingly every week — to win. The Giants may not have been the better or more talented team Sunday, yet they still found a way in the final minutes. This group is resilient.
What can the Giants do to make this offense more explosive? The offense is so unimposing Baltimore keyed on Saquon Barkley and the run game with the Giants down 10 and less than 10 minutes remaining. New York didn’t produce a 20-plus-yard play in the contest. ButWan’Dale Robinsonreturned after missing four games with a knee injury, and the Giants didn’t put Kadarius Toney (hamstring) and Kenny Golladay (knee) on injured reserve in hopes they could return soon. It’s their only hope at this point. In the meantime, they’re surviving. — Jordan Raanan
Next game: at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: This ugly loss falls squarely on Lamar Jackson, and it will go down as one of his worst performances. With the game on the line, Jackson turned the ball over on the final two drives with an interception and a fumble. Less than sharp all game (17-of-32 for 210 yards), Jackson got intercepted on one of the worst decisions of his career. With three minutes left in the game, Jackson picked up a poor snap and threw a wild, off-balance pass in the middle of the field while deep in his own territory that was picked off by safety Julian Love. The Giants converted that turnover into Barkley’s game-winning touchdown. On the Ravens’ next possession, Jackson got stripped with 1:29 left, sealing another late-game collapse by Baltimore.
Has Kenyan Drake surpassed J.K. Dobbins as the go-to running back? It could be by default right now. The biggest positive of the game was the big-play running by Drake, who became the first Ravens running back to produce 100 yards rushing this year. Dobbins, who acknowledged that it was “super hard” not being the featured back late in last week’s game, didn’t play in the second half. He wasn’t even holding his helmet on the sideline, which could be a sign that he’s dealing with an injury. Drake, who was inactive for two games earlier this season, has earned more playing time going forward. — Jamison Hensley
Next game: vs. Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Vikings have reached their bye with a 5-1 record, nearly a best-case scenario with a new coaching staff and schemes installed on both sides of the ball. Their loss came at the Eagles, who entered Week 6 as the only undefeated team in the NFL (5-0). Only one of the Vikings’ five wins has been convincing, their Week 1 defeat of the Packers, and the disappearance of their offense for long stretches in Miami will give coach Kevin O’Connell plenty to study. At one point, the Vikings had as many three-and-outs (seven) as they did first downs.
What happened to the Vikings’ running game? It was waiting for the right moment. Tailback Dalvin Cook had been primed for a big game in his hometown but managed 17 yards on his first nine carries as the Dolphins’ defense presented favorable looks for the passing game. When they needed to carve time off the clock midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings passed three times. But given a reprieve, Cook popped through the line for a 53-yard touchdown that sealed the game. The running game affected the outcome in another way, too: Both of Kirk Cousins‘ touchdown passes came on play-action. — Kevin Seifert
Next game: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, Oct. 30, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Regardless of your feelings aboutTua Tagovailoa‘s long-term status as the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback, it is abundantly clear this team is quantifiably better with him on the field. Miami’s offense hasn’t moved the ball with any sort of consistency since Tagovailoa went down in Week 4. Rookie Skylar Thompson was inspiring in the first half (7-of-13, 89 yards) before a thumb injury to his throwing hand knocked him out of the game. In his stead, Teddy Bridgewater was skittish in the pocket, late on his throws and constantly harassed behind an offensive line that gave up 23 pressures — 19 of which came when the Vikings weren’t blitzing. It’s not often you can say one player would make all the difference, but it’s reasonable to think Tagovailoa’s return next week against the Steelers should turn things around for what’s been a stagnant Dolphins offense.
Can the Dolphins’ defense stay hot and find a groove over the next month and a half before a grueling December?Sunday was the Dolphins’ best defensive performance of the season, outside of a game-sealing 53-yard touchdown run by Dalvin Cook late in the fourth quarter and a 47-yard catch-and-run by Justin Jefferson on the previous series. Those two plays accounted for 42% of the Vikings’ offense in what was otherwise an impressive effort from Miami’s defense. Ideally, it’s the start of a trend of improved defensive play during a still-winnable stretch of the season coming up. If the Dolphins can keep this up against the Steelers, Lions, Bears, Browns and Texans, they should be rolling by the time a difficult December slate comes around. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Next game: vs. Steelers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: This didn’t figure to be the game where the Colts discovered a viable offensive game plan, given the way the Jacksonville defense dominated the first meeting, and with running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines sidelined on Sunday. But the Colts used a new offensive line configuration, timely throws on crossing routes from quarterback Matt Ryan and deep shots to emerging star Alec Pierce to pull off a critical AFC South victory. Pierce (winning TD catch, two drawn pass interference penalties) and Michael Pittman Jr. (13 catches, 134 yards) benefited greatly from the much-improved pass protection.
Has Ryan turned things around? There have been massive struggles for Ryan this season, especially in an earlier shutout loss to Jacksonville. But Ryan showed what he is capable of with improved pass protection. The Colts revamped their line for the second consecutive game, and Ryan took advantage, throwing for 389 yards and three touchdowns on 42-of-58 passing. For the first time this season, Ryan was not sacked and his pocket presence was clearly improved as a result of the protection. This was easily Ryan’s most complete performance of the season. — Stephen Holder
Next game: at Titans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Jaguars had a chance to take early control of the AFC South with back-to-back games against struggling Houston and Indianapolis. They lost both — including Sunday’s game against the Colts on a last-second field goal — and are now 1-2 in the division with none of the early momentum they gained with their 2-1 start. It’ll be hard to make up the two games in the division considering they’ve struggled against the Tennessee Titans (the Jags haven’t won in Nashville since 2013) and have lost nine consecutive games to Houston. The Jags are likely going to be fighting to stay out of the cellar — again.
Should Travis Etienne Jr. be the Jaguars’ feature back? Etienne has outperformed James Robinson in back-to-back weeks, rushing for 157 yards on 20 carries and catching five passes for 63 yards, while Robinson rushed for 81 yards on 22 carries and caught three passes for 13 yards. Etienne had a 48-yard run against the Colts and is flashing the big-play potential he was drafted to provide. He started on Sunday, and it may be time to make that permanent. — Mike DiRocco
Next game: vs. Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe, the fourth-round draft pick from Western Kentucky playing in place of injured Mac Jones, finished 24-of-34 for 309 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions. While many of the throws were shorter and allowed his pass-catchers to do the rest, Zappe once again played with poise and stayed within himself to complement a stingy Patriots defense (which limited the Browns’ No. 1 rushing attack). Zappe smiled last week when asked if he’d heard of “Zappe fever” — a playful theme that has been discussed on local sports-talk radio — and he gave Patriots fans a reason to smile Sunday with another solid performance.
Will Mac Jones return for a Monday Night Football matchup against Justin Fields and the Bears? Jones made the trip to Cleveland, which was a reflection he was hoping to play but wasn’t quite there yet. That bought the Patriots more time until 90 minutes before kickoff. But Jones didn’t go through a pregame warm-up and, when he came out to the field, he was walking with a limp. Over the past three weeks, Jones has progressed from out to doubtful to questionable on the injury report. If he takes the next step, he’d be going up against fellow 2021 first-round draft pick Fields with the Bears coming to town on Monday night. — Mike Reiss
Next game: vs. Bears (Monday, Oct. 24, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: New England took away NFL leading rusher Nick Chubb and the Browns’ vaunted running game, and Cleveland had no answer. Chubb finished with 56 yards, as coach Bill Belichick forced quarterbackJacoby Brissett to beat the Patriots. Brissett couldn’t consistently make New England pay, throwing two interceptions in a game the Pats controlled from the opening kickoff.
Is Cleveland’s season already on the brink? The season isn’t over. But the Browns are 2-4 after facing QBs Baker Mayfield, Joe Flacco,Mitch Trubisky, Marcus Mariota and rookie Bailey Zappe, who cooked Cleveland for more than 300 yards through the air. The Browns are getting ready to face Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Josh Allen and Tom Brady. The season might not be over, but the way the Browns have played, especially defensively, it could begin to spiral. — Jake Trotter
Next game: at Ravens (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Maybe it was senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach Brian Flores’ insight into Tom Brady‘s psyche. Maybe it was the defense figuring out how to get pressure without injured defensive end T.J. Watt. Whatever it was, the Steelers’ defense kept Brady and the Buccaneers in check, applying steady pressure and keeping the offense out of sync.Cam Heywardand Larry Ogunjobi constantly made Brady uncomfortable, and the patchwork secondary that included James Pierre and former practice squad corner Josh Jackson largely kept Tampa Bay’s weapons from exploiting a talent mismatch. The Steelers got to Brady by rarely bringing a blitz, doing so only once.
What’s Kenny Pickett‘s status going forward? The rookie quarterback’s first home start was dampened when he exited with less than eight minutes left in the third quarter after sustaining a concussion on a hard hit by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White. Veteran Mitch Trubisky replaced Pickett, and he completed 9 of 12 attempts for 144 yards and led the Steelers on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Pickett, who completed 11 of 18 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown, is still more than likely the Steelers’ starter when he returns. Pickett must clear concussion protocol, and there’s no concrete timeline for that. — Brooke Pryor
Next game: at Dolphins (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Bucs’ red zone scoring woes continue. Errors and costly penalties have contributed. Even Tom Brady‘s patent quarterback sneak on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter didn’t work. They made it to the Steelers’ 17-, 1- and 4-yard lines but couldn’t find the end zone until there was 4:45 to go (an 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Leonard Fournette), and then botched the 2-point conversion. Bottom line: For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, they have certainly underachieved.
Why does the Bucs’ offense look so out of sync? There are a lot of reasons for this. First, the offensive line is struggling. Rookie left guard Luke Goedeke once again looked lost. The Bucs can’t run the ball effectively with Fournette getting clobbered in the backfield. And then Brady had a difficult day. He’s rarely off-target, and heading into Sunday’s game, his off-target percentage was 16.2%. But against Pittsburgh, it was 28%. His struggles most notably came when targeting wide receiver Chris Godwin. Bucs officials said it wasn’t a big deal that Brady missed Saturday’s walk-through to attend New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s wedding, but with an offense struggling, it probably didn’t help. — Jenna Laine
Next game: at Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Washington has a long way to go. The Commanders won the game, but coach Ron Rivera was fired up after about various mistakes that could have cost them — the same ones that have cost them other games. They’ve committed 27 penalties in three games. They give up big plays and their offense struggles. A true turnaround must also include smarter, more disciplined play.
Can the run game spur a turnaround? Washington ran the ball much better in the second half, albeit against a defense that struggles against the run. But any turnaround must start with running the ball consistently. They can mix Brian Robinson‘s power runs with Antonio Gibson‘s ability to get around the corner. A consistent run game would be Step 1 for an offensive turnaround. But until they solve their protection issues, there will still be struggles, especially with an immobile quarterback. He needs help up front; if he gets it, they could be efficient. — John Keim
Next game: vs. Packers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Bears took 11 snaps inside the Commanders’ 6-yard line and couldn’t punch in a touchdown. Chicago went 0-for-3 inside the red zone for the second time in three games, and the offense’s inefficiencies were showcased in a litany of ways, starting with an interception thrown by Justin Fields at Washington’s 5-yard line, a missed throw to tight end Ryan Griffin that Fields stressed he has to make and wide receiver Darnell Mooney‘s potential game-tying catch ruled down at the 1-yard line.
How can Justin Fields improve in spite of what’s around him? The Bears need to reevaluate their offensive scheme and what’s being asked of Fields. Chicago’s shortcomings are hindering his development. But how can Fields improve when he’s being pressured on 46% of his dropbacks and his receivers can’t consistently make catches or create separation? This is the position Chicago put itself in during the offseason when it did not address the talent deficiencies around Fields, and if the Bears want to get a clearer picture about Fields’ development over the next 11 games, a number of adjustments need to be made. — Courtney Cronin
Next game: at Patriots (Monday, Oct. 24, 8:15 p.m. ET)