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November 30, 2021
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Takeaways and big questions: Ravens and Rams roll, Wentz impresses

Week 6 of the 2021 NFL season featured a statement win from the Ravens, who blew out the Chargers in a highly anticipated AFC matchup. The Rams and Colts also had big days, with Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Cooper Kupp and Jonathan Taylor posting huge numbers on offense. The Chiefs bounced back against Washington to get back to .500 on the season, the Packers got an NFC North win against the Bears, and the Vikings pulled off an overtime victory over the Panthers. The Cowboys added an overtime win of their own in the late-afternoon window, while the Steelers outlasted the Seahawks in extra time on Sunday night.

While the Jaguars broke their winless streak with a last-play field goal in London, the Lions fell to 0-6 after a great showing from Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. And on Thursday night, the Buccaneers got to 5-1 with a two-TD outing from Leonard Fournette.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the major takeaways and lingering questions from this week’s action. Plus, they each look at the bigger picture with their current team confidence rating — a 0-10 grade of how they feel about the team’s outlook coming out of the week. Let’s get to it.

Jump to a matchup:
LAC-BAL | KC-WSH | MIN-CAR
LAR-NYG | GB-CHI | HOU-IND
CIN-DET | MIA-JAX | TB-PHI
ARI-CLE | LV-DEN | DAL-NE
| SEA-PIT

Steelers

What to know: The Steelers’ defense is a bona fide roller coaster. It pitched a shutout in the first half, gave up 14 unanswered to start the second thanks to a plethora of missed tackles, then stymied the Seahawks in overtime. T.J. Watt, the Steelers’ $112 million dollar man, showed why he’s such a coveted player with two overtime sacks — including the second one during sudden death that forced Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith to cough up the ball and allowed Devin Bush to collect it in prime field position to set up Chris Boswell‘s winning field goal. The strip sack and win made it easier to stomach a lot of the earlier wounds, including the missed tackles on Gerald Everett‘s 41-yard reception. The Steelers wouldn’t have needed OT to beat the Seahawks if the defense stayed sound in the second half, but a good defense finds a way to atone for earlier mistakes. The Steelers weren’t going to win Sunday’s game without the defense stepping up, and the unit did just that when it mattered most. — Brooke Pryor

What is the Steelers’ offensive identity? There have been flashes of the kind of offensive team the Steelers could be. A week ago, they seemed to find their best rhythm as a balanced offense with more running plays than pass attempts in the win against the Denver Broncos. But that wasn’t quite the case against the Seahawks, as the run game stalled at times facing the league’s worst rushing defense, averaging 4.0 yards per carry, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger attempted 40 passes. Coordinator Matt Canada’s influence was also evident in spurts — like the 25-yard jet sweep by receiver Diontae Johnson and the 1-yard rushing touchdown by tight end Eric Ebron. But six games into the 2021 season, nothing seems cohesive or consistent in the offense, except, maybe, Roethlisberger’s connection with Johnson and running back Najee Harris‘ willingness to be a lead back. — Pryor

Pryor’s confidence rating (0-10): 5, up from 4.9. The first-half Steelers are worthy of a higher confidence rating, but the second-half performance still poses too many questions to the Steelers’ viability as a playoff team.

Next game: at Browns (Sunday, Oct. 31, 1 p.m. ET)


Seahawks

What to know: In rallying from a 14-0 halftime deficit and taking the Steelers to overtime, the Seahawks showed they can be competitive without starting quarterback Russell Wilson. The bad news: They’re hanging by a thread at 2-4, which has them four games back in the NFC West. Quarterback Geno Smith led four scoring drives in the second half and was given an opportunity for a fifth in overtime before fumbling while scrambling. This game was encouraging in some respects as Smith, backup running back Alex Collins and Seattle’s embattled defense all played well enough to win. But this was a golden opportunity against a beatable Steelers team, and you can’t count on too many of those with a backup quarterback and all the other questions Seattle has. — Brady Henderson

Is there any hope left for the Seahawks in 2021? The most important question of all is whether Darrell Taylor is OK. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said CT scans were clear and that Taylor, Seattle’s second-year defensive end, was moving his extremities after leaving on a stretcher late in the fourth quarter, with his face mask removed and his neck immobilized. As for the biggest football issue: The Seahawks are running out of time to save their season. They’ll have a good chance in their next two games — both at home vs. the Saints and Jaguars — based on how they looked after halftime Sunday night. But even getting two wins before Wilson is eligible to come off IR might be too little, too late with the Cardinals still unbeaten and the Rams right behind them at 5-1. And that assumes Wilson returns in Week 10 after the bye. — Henderson

Henderson’s confidence rating (0-10): 5, down from 6.2. The Seahawks looked competitive, but four games is a big hole to climb out of in a tough division, even once Wilson is back.

Next game: vs. Saints (Monday, Oct. 25, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Cowboys

What to know: These might not be Tom Brady‘s Patriots, but Bill Belichick is still coach and playing at Gillette Stadium is always difficult, so an overtime win against New England is meaningful. The Patriots were 109-3 with a halftime lead at home under Belichick. Make that 109-4. Quarterback Dak Prescott led the tying drive with a huge 24-yard completion to CeeDee Lamb on third-and-25 at the end of regulation and in overtime hit Lamb for a 35-yard score for the win. Prescott had 445 yards passing. Lamb had 149 yards receiving and two scores. The Cowboys have won five straight, and this was their toughest. At 5-1, the Cowboys can claim they are among the best in the NFC even if they made it harder than they needed to. — Todd Archer

Is the bye week coming at a good time for the Cowboys? Coaches generally like to have the bye later on in the season with how injuries pile up. Coach Mike McCarthy thinks along the same lines, but he says the Cowboys’ mini-bye, between their Thursday night game vs. the Saints on Dec. 2 and their game against Washington on Dec. 12, is a big benefit. The week off will allow some rest for players who are banged up (Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory) and time for others coming back from injury (Michael Gallup, Dorance Armstrong, DeMarcus Lawrence, Neville Gallimore). But they need to come off the bye with some fire. — Archer

Archer’s confidence rating (0-10): 9.1, up from 8.9. The Cowboys have won five games in a row, tying for their longest streak since 2018. In the 18 previous years in team history in which the Cowboys have had a winning streak of at least five games, they have made the playoffs. Six of those times they made the Super Bowl, and two other times they made it to the conference championship game.

Next game: at Vikings (8:20 p.m. ET, Oct. 31)


Patriots

What to know: The Patriots’ style of play will keep them in a lot of games but also gives them little margin for error. Mac Jones‘ pick-six with 2:27 remaining in the fourth quarter was a stunning turn, only to have him respond with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne. But in the end, when the defense needed a stop, it couldn’t deliver in regulation and overtime — in part because the unit had spent so much time on the field over the course of the game. The Patriots were right there in the end with the Cowboys, but they often have to rely on sustained drives to ultimately score points. They were able to overcome a blocked punt in the second quarter, as it didn’t hurt them on the scoreboard, but the play was reflective of how they are still making mistakes that create adverse situations for them to dig out of. — Mike Reiss

Are the Patriots capable of beating top teams? Their wins are over the Jets and Texans, and while they’ve been close in other games, they haven’t been been able to get over the hump. Often, it just comes down to one play, and the Patriots haven’t been able to make them in critical situations. Third-and-long on defense, in particular, has been a trouble spot, and it showed up again to help the Cowboys set up their tying field goal at the end of regulation. The Patriots can say they’re one play away from being where they want to be, but they have not proved they can consistently make them when the game is on the line. — Reiss

Reiss’ confidence rating (0-10): 5, up from 3.5. After escaping with a win last week in Houston, the Patriots played a much better all-around game against the Cowboys.

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

Raiders

What to know: The Raiders were able to ride the swell of emotions surrounding coach Jon Gruden’s resignation. Rich Bisaccia, who had never been a head coach at any level in a career that began in 1983, won his first game as interim coach. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson took over playcalling duties as Derek Carr had his fourth game of 300-plus passing yards of the season (the only Raiders QB with more such games in the first six games of a season was Rich Gannon, who had five in his 2002 MVP season); Henry Ruggs III caught three passes for 97 yards, including a 48-yard TD; Josh Jacobs rushed for 53 yards and a TD on 16 carries; and the oft-forgotten Kenyan Drake scored twice, once by air and once by ground. Defensively, the Raiders forced four turnovers — interceptions by Brandon Facyson, Tre’von Moehrig and Johnathan Abram and a fumble recovered by Denzel Perryman that was forced by Solomon Thomas — and Maxx Crosby had three sacks. — Paul Gutierrez

Can they maintain the emotional momentum? You expected an emotional bump, but you weren’t sure, exactly, whether it would be positive or negative. Time will tell, but with a home game next against the Eagles and the bye week following, the emotional high of ending a two-game losing streak should sustain … for at least another week. — Gutierrez

Gutierrez’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.5, up from 5.5. Let’s go back to where the Raiders were after they suffered their first loss, two weeks ago, because the offense looked reinvigorated, the defense forced three turnovers and the pass rush was straight nasty.

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


Broncos

What to know: Vic Fangio has felt little heat during his time as Broncos head coach, but that is about to change. The Broncos’ 3-3 record won’t feel very much like .500 after the Raiders — despite all the distractions surrounding coach Jon Gruden’s resignation this week — looked far better prepared and emotionally ready to play Sunday. The Broncos displayed bad body language in the second half before a late window-dressing touchdown/onside kick combo in the final minutes. Fangio can try to insulate himself inside the Broncos’ complex with a short week to prepare for the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, but the players, staff and others will hear criticism. For a team that cherishes its sellout streak that dates back to 1970, the sight of fans streaming toward the exits before the third quarter was over is a stark reminder of the boiling frustration. — Jeff Legwold

Is it time to worry — a lot — about this defense? Yes. And yes. There are times when coverage busts can be attributed to a talented, experienced defense trying to do too much. But it’s happening far too often to the Broncos to say it’s not a concern and just needs a little attention. It’s officially a concern. Toss in the fact the team’s pass rush has effectively evaporated. In short, the rush-coverage combination that held so much promise during a 3-0 start hasn’t been there when the more savvy quarterbacks have their shot at it. — Legwold

Legwold’s confidence rating (0-10): 5.5, down from 6. Another couple of injuries to marquee players — linebacker Alexander Johnson and left tackle Garett Bolles each left the game — another disjointed game on offense and another loss to a team that had far more problems coming in than the Broncos did.

Next game: at Browns (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)

Cardinals

What to know: No coach, no star pass-rusher, no problem. Arizona showed in Sunday’s win over the Cleveland Browns that they are, by and large, a well-oiled machine. With Kliff Kingsbury out because of COVID-19, the Cardinals showed they didn’t need their head coach. And they showed this is quarterback Kyler Murray‘s team, and not much might stop them this year. While it had some lulls, Arizona put up 30 points for the fifth time in six games, and the defense overwhelmed the Browns. This was a statement win in a different way. The Cardinals showed there’s little that can derail them. — Josh Weinfuss

How long can the Cardinals stay undefeated? Arizona might not lose for at least another week. The Cardinals have the hapless Texans next week and then turn around to face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on “Thursday Night Football.” That might be the most difficult game on the Cardinals’ upcoming schedule, because after that, Arizona has the 49ers, Panthers and Seahawks before their bye. — Weinfuss

Weinfuss’ confidence rating (0-10): 9.4, up from 8.8. The Cardinals went into Cleveland and dominated a Browns team that was coming off the so-called “game of the year,” last week against the Chargers, to remain the NFL’s only undefeated team.

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


Browns

What to know: Quarterback Baker Mayfield aggravated his ailing left shoulder while committing another turnover, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dropped a fourth-down pass in the red zone again, and running back Kareem Hunt had to be carted to the locker room after injuring his right calf, adding to Cleveland’s ever-expanding injury report that already included Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb and both starting offensive tackles. After two straight losses — and consecutive defensive no-shows — the Browns are suddenly a mess. — Jake Trotter

Can the Browns’ defense recalibrate? After a dominant effort two games ago in Minnesota, the defense has gotten completely lit up in back-to-back weeks — including Sunday by Kyler Murray & Co. Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett got pressure on Murray. But too often, once again, Murray had receivers running wide open downfield. As the Browns showed in Minnesota, they have the talent and potential to feature a championship-caliber defense. But to get there, the Browns have to clean up the miscues and tighten up the coverage. And they have a long way to go. — Trotter

Trotter’s confidence rating (0-10): 6, down from 8.3. Despite all the injuries, the Browns must turn around to play the Broncos in five days in what already feels like an inflection-point game in the season.

Next game: vs. Broncos (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)

Vikings

What to know: The Vikings have yet to master the art of putting away bad teams and keeping their foot on the accelerator. An overtime win against Carolina was the result of overcoming another late-game scare from an inferior opponent after blowing an 11-point lead. Minnesota twice played for field goals when it should have gone for it on fourth down. After a failed 2-point conversion in the first quarter, it seemed like the Vikings were chasing those missed points all game. The same issues with the offense at the end of the first half remains, and the Vikings’ vaunted defense allowed the Panthers to go 96 yards on 11 plays in 1:27 to force the extra period. Like it or not, this conservative play won’t beat good teams coming out of the bye. — Courtney Cronin

How can the Vikings fix their offensive inconsistencies? The Vikings showed they’re capable of digging themselves out of a hole and scoring in the second half, which they did for the first time since Week 1 by rattling off 16 unanswered points following a third-quarter blocked punt. But the conservative playcalling, missed opportunities and wasted drives remain (they entered Week 6 with the second-highest percentage of three-and-outs in the NFL). The Vikings’ offense still looks bad, and it’s not always the byproduct of playing against a better defense, like when quarterback Kirk Cousins was pressured on only two of his 22 first-half dropbacks and the offense yielded six points. — Cronin

Cronin’s confidence rating (0-10): 4.5, down from 5. Minnesota’s schedule after its Week 7 bye is brutal. The Vikings have the Cowboys at home on Halloween night, face the Ravens and Chargers on the road in back-to-back weeks, then have the Packers (home) and 49ers (road). Getting more than one win in that stretch will be challenging.

Next game: vs. Cowboys (8:20 p.m. ET, Oct. 31)


Panthers

What to know: An amazing 96-yard touchdown drive to send the game into overtime aside, Sam Darnold has been bad without Christian McCaffrey. The running back has missed three straight games and will miss at least the next two because of a hamstring injury. Darnold has thrown six interceptions, including one in Sunday’s loss. His Total QBR is more than 40 points lower without McCaffrey. The protection has also fallen apart, magnifying his weaknesses. He has been sacked 12 times (four on Sunday) during the three-game losing streak that has now dropped Carolina to 3-3. He’s uncomfortable without his security blanket. — David Newton

Why are the Panthers so bad in the third quarter? They’re not just bad. They’re a league-worst bad with their offense being outscored 48-7 (13-0 today). Darnold is a big reason. He has completed 50% of his passes with no touchdowns to four interceptions. He has been sacked six times, including twice Sunday. Fixing it has been a focus all season. Coming out with more energy has been the most common answer to what’s wrong. It’s more than that. It’s lack of execution. — Newton

Newton’s confidence rating (0-10): 5, down from 5.8. The offensive line isn’t good enough to keep Darnold comfortable in the pocket, and an uncomfortable Darnold simply isn’t good enough to win.

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

Colts

What to know: Thank you, Houston. The struggling Texans arrived in Indianapolis at the right time, helping the Colts get over a blown 19-point lead against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5 and potentially get their season back on track. Four of the Colts’ next five opponents — 49ers, Titans, Jets and Jaguars — entered Week 6 with a losing record. It’s a marked difference from their first five games, four of which were against teams that are playoff contenders. Division-leading Tennessee (the only team with a winning record through Week 5) is about to experience what the Colts went through to start the season. The Titans’ next five games are against the Bills, Chiefs, Colts, Rams and Saints. An opportunity could be there for the Colts to take the lead in the AFC South if they continue to take care of business in a struggling division. — Mike Wells

When will the Colts give running back Jonathan Taylor at least 20 touches a game? It took a franchise-record 83-yard run in the third quarter for Taylor to get rolling. Good things tend to happen for the Colts when the second-year running back touches the ball. He had a 76-yard touchdown off a screen against Baltimore in Week 5. Taylor finished Sunday with 145 yards on 14 carries. Taylor has reached the point where an argument could be made he deserves at least 20 touches a game. That’s happened only once this season, when he had 17 rushes and six receptions against Seattle in Week 1. — Wells

Wells’ confidence rating (0-10): 4.8, up from 4.2. The Colts did what they were supposed to do in beating a bad team. They need to get a victory over a playoff-caliber team for confidence to get higher.

Next game: at 49ers (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Carson Wentz lets the pass fly and connects with Parris Campbell for a 51-yard score vs. the Texans.


Texans

What to know: Davis Mills has been up and down in his short NFL career, but his performance in the Texans’ loss to the Colts shows the level of play Houston should expect with him at quarterback. Against the Patriots the week before, Mills threw three touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over. However, one of the touchdowns came on a flea-flicker and one was on a great play made on the sideline by wide receiver Chris Moore. Against the Colts, Mills had a solid first half, but he barely attempted to throw the ball downfield. He was 29-of-43 for 243 yards and two interceptions. Coach David Culley said Wednesday regardless of how well Mills plays while Tyrod Taylor continues to recover from an injured left hamstring, he will be the backup when Taylor is healthy because Taylor gives the Texans the best chance to win. That showed on Sunday. — Sarah Barshop

Will the Texans win on the road this season? Houston is now 0-3 away from NRG Stadium and has not scored a touchdown in a road game since the second half in Cleveland in Week 2. Houston does play the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars on the road, but without Taylor, there might not be much Mills can do to lead Houston to a victory. — Barshop

Barshop’s confidence rating (0-10): 1, down from 1.8. It’s hard to feel confident in a team that scored three points against a Colts team that had given up 25 or more points in its first five games.

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

Packers

What to know: Aaron Rodgers said everything you needed to know about the Packers-Bears rivalry — or lack of it. After a 6-yard scramble for a touchdown with 4:30 left in the game, Rodgers not only did his championship-belt celebration, but then also shouted at Bears fans behind the end zone: “I still own you.” He’s not wrong. Rodgers improved to 22-5 in his career as a starter against the Bears, his most wins against any opponent. He now has the third-highest winning percentage by any starting quarterback against one opponent since 1950 (with a minimum of 25 starts, including playoffs). Rodgers has 12 touchdown passes and no turnovers in the Packers’ current five-game winning streak against the Bears. Just give the Packers the NFC North crown now. The Lions are winless, the Bears are punchless on offense and the Vikings aren’t impressing anyone. With Sunday’s win over the Bears, the Packers improved to 13-1 in NFC North games since Matt LaFleur took over as coach in 2019. — Rob Demovsky

How many more players can the Packers afford to lose? Already without their two most important defensive players — CB Jaire Alexander and OLB Za’Darius Smith, both on IR — plus CB Kevin King (inactive because of a shoulder injury), the Packers finished this game without OLB Preston Smith (oblique) and S Darnell Savage (concussion). On offense, they have been without LT David Bakhtiari (PUP, knee) and WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring), and then lost C Josh Myers (knee) on the game’s first series. They did get fill-in LT Elgton Jenkins back on Sunday. Also, Valdes-Scantling is eligible to come off IR this week, when Bakhtiari also can begin practicing. But they’re getting thin at some key spots. — Demovsky

Demovsky’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.5, no change from 7.5. Nothing has changed here, good or bad. The Packers are winning — five in a row now. And their defense is giving up touchdowns in the red zone. The Bears scored twice in as many red zone trips, meaning the Packers have allowed 15 touchdowns in 15 red zone defensive possessions. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Packers are the first team in at least the past 40 years to allow a touchdown on every opponent red zone possession through the first six games in a season.

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


Bears

What to know: The Bears showed a lot of heart playing without their top two running backs (David Montgomery and Damien Williams), but the game followed a predictable script. The Bears’ defense played well enough to hang with Green Bay, but outside of two quality drives, Chicago’s offense struggled to produce enough points. This wasn’t nearly as bad as the Cleveland debacle three weeks ago, but the Bears failed over and over on third down until Justin Fields caught fire on a fourth-quarter scoring drive. In the end, the Bears proved they don’t have the firepower to compete with Green Bay. That does not bode well for next week’s matchup at Tampa. — Jeff Dickerson

Are the Bears legitimate contenders in the NFC North? Probably not. The Bears kept it close most of the afternoon — led by running back Khalil Herbert, who had another solid performance — but they are not on Green Bay’s level. The road to the NFC North title (as usual) goes straight through Lambeau Field. Until the Bears can win these games, they will never be true contenders in the division. And as long as Aaron Rodgers plays for the Packers, the Bears are in big, big trouble. All of Chicago hopes Rodgers is elsewhere in 2022. — Dickerson

Dickerson’s confidence rating (0-10): 4.8, down from 6. To be the man, you have to beat the man.

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

Chiefs

What to know: Even though the Chiefs got away with it against Washington, Patrick Mahomes has to cut down on the bad interceptions. He cost the Chiefs at least a field goal on Sunday when he threw an interception while trying to avoid a sack, and he has thrown too many of those types of interceptions this season. The Chiefs are not good enough to overcome such mistakes every week. — Adam Teicher

Are the Chiefs’ turnover problems here to stay? Turnovers are notoriously difficult to predict, but they don’t have to be. Mahomes needs to make better decisions while under pressure, and that solves most of the issue. Yes, the Chiefs have also been hurt by some deflected passes. Interceptions like that tend to be bad luck, so perhaps the Chiefs have run their course in that department. — Teicher

Teicher’s confidence rating (0-10): 6, up from 4. A better defensive game has improved the outlook for the Chiefs, whose biggest problem hasn’t been their record or last-place AFC West standing but the way they were playing.

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

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Patrick Mahomes goes deep to Demarcus Robinson, who hauls it in for the 24-yard touchdown.


Washington

What to know: Washington had a chance to turn its season around, or at least get a big win, but failed in key spots Sunday. It’s indicative of where the team is right now. Washington forced three turnovers in the first half, yet turned it into only a 13-10 lead. Rookie receiver Dyami Brown has been too inconsistent and failed to secure a leaping catch in the end zone (a tough but makeable catch). They lack a true identity on offense — the run game should be the focus — and keep needing to rely on quarterback Taylor Heinicke, which isn’t the best recipe for success. The defense played better and can build off this game, but to beat a good team, Washington has to take advantage of opportunities — and take a chance or two on fourth downs vs. a good offense. It did not. — John Keim

How much longer does Taylor Heinicke have? Washington’s choice is to ride with Heinicke or bench him for Kyle Allen — and hope it can remain somewhat in contention if and when Ryan Fitzpatrick is healthy. Fitzpatrick is recovering from a hip injury and, realistically, he’s at least a few weeks away. Heinicke isn’t the only one to blame for the offensive shortcomings — the team was missing four starters — but teams are doing enough to cause him to hold the ball longer than desired and keeping him contained in the pocket. Allen has been moving better in practice — he broke his ankle last season — and has a stronger arm. The reality is Washington is in a bad spot offensively. It can make a change at quarterback, but the position won’t improve much until it’s adequately addressed in the offseason. — Keim

Keim’s confidence rating (0-10): 3.7, down from 4. Washington’s defense was better and ran into some of Patrick Mahomes’ wizardry at times, but the offense struggles to find any consistency. It needs more firepower, but with four starters missing, including receiver Curtis Samuel, that might be hard to find.

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

Ravens

What to know: The Ravens made their biggest statement of the season. In a battle of first-place teams, Baltimore proved it should be mentioned with the Buffalo Bills as the class of the AFC by routing the Chargers. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens ran over the the NFL’s worst run defense, and the Baltimore defense continually frustrated quarterback Justin Herbert. This had been a season of close calls for the Ravens, who won their first four games by an average of 6.3 points. On Sunday, Baltimore led by four touchdowns at the start of the fourth quarter. — Jamison Hensley

Have the Ravens fixed their pass defense? The Baltimore defense, which taken its lumps this season, took out its frustration on Herbert and the Chargers’ receivers. The Ravens put the pressure on Herbert and got physical with his targets. The result: the NFL’s 28th-ranked pass defense held Herbert to 195 passing yards. This shows that the Ravens can shut down one of the best and hottest quarterbacks in the NFL. But Baltimore needs to respond with another strong performance next Sunday against Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals before you can say everything on its pass defense has been corrected. — Hensley

Hensley’s confidence rating (0-10): 9, up from 8.5. Baltimore rose to the occasion, playing its most complete game of the season against the best opponent it’s faced to date. The Ravens now have the best record in the AFC at 5-1 (the Bills play on Monday night). This marked the Ravens’ largest win in franchise history against an opponent with an .800 or better win percentage.

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


Chargers

What to know: The Chargers need to reevaluate their run defense or they are going nowhere. They gave up 230 rushing yards and three touchdowns last week to the Browns and nearly lost after giving up 42 points. They gave up 187 yards on the ground and another three rushing touchdowns in a loss to Baltimore on Sunday in what was expected to be a bitter fight until the end. It wasn’t. — Shelley Smith

Should Chargers coach Brandon Staley reevaluate his decision-making on fourth down? Not necessarily. On fourth-and-1 from their 19-yard-line with less than six minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Chargers down 24-6, Justin Herbert launched it to Josh Palmer for an incomplete pass. So maybe deciding to throw to the rookie Palmer was the mistake and not the decision to go for it? After converting 7-of-8 (the one miss being a fake punt) on fourth downs prior to Sunday, the Chargers went for it twice on fourth down in their own territory against the Ravens and weren’t successful. But they were playing the math — they had a 63% chance to make the fourth-and-1 play. So expect Staley to continue to be aggressive. — Smith

Smith’s confidence rating (0-10): 5.7, down from 6.2. The defense continues to slide.

Next game: vs. Patriots (4:05 p.m. ET, Oct. 31)

Rams

What to know: No letdown. The Rams have entered a three-game stretch against opponents with losing records, but proved Sunday in a 38-11 rout of the Giants that they didn’t let their struggling opponent affect their preparation. Chalk that up to a lesson learned after they were unprepared in a Week 4 loss to the Cardinals, a team they had previously defeated in eight consecutive meetings. The defense arrived in New York ready to play and forced a season-high four turnovers. The offense capitalized and converted three of those takeaways into touchdowns. — Lindsey Thiry

Can the Rams maintain consistency with the Lions and Texans next? After a decisive win against the Giants, the Rams must maintain focus moving into their next two games against the Lions (0-6) at home and the Texans (1-5) on the road. Both opponents could be easily overlooked. However, these two games will provide further opportunity for the offense to establish a rhythm and for the defense, particularly the secondary without cornerback Darious Williams and with rookie cornerback Robert Rochell in a starting role, to come together. — Thiry

Thiry’s confidence rating (0-10): 8.4, up from 8. Sure, it was against a Giants team that’s undoubtedly struggling, but the Rams get a slight bump up after proving they could travel to the Eastern time zone and dominate an opponent that frankly could have been hard to get motivated for after a thriller against Tampa Bay and a pair of division games.

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

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Matthew Stafford hits Cooper Kupp for the pair’s second touchdown connection of the game.


Giants

What to know: The Giants looked like a JV team against the Rams. They were woefully outmanned and blown off the field on a day when they honored the 2011 Super Bowl championship team. It’s getting ugly for these Giants (1-5). Quarterback Daniel Jones struggled with three interceptions and a lost fumble, and never had much of a chance with the supporting cast around him. Rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle) and left tackle Andrew Thomas (ankle) didn’t make it out of the first quarter, joining New York’s lengthy list of walking wounded. And the defense continues to struggle badly. This team needs to get healthy and better, quickly, or it’s going to get worse against a tough schedule. — Jordan Raanan

What do the Giants do now? This team is going nowhere fast. Do the Giants need to make any significant moves in another lost season? Do they need to clean house afterward? This is clearly not what ownership wanted after spending recklessly in free agency. Co-owner John Mara said before the season he expected this team to be in contention for a playoff spot. That is not going to happen. It was probably not an accident that Mara was nowhere to be seen during Sunday’s halftime ceremony. — Raanan

Raanan’s confidence rating (0-10): 1.8, down from 2.6. You can’t feel good about this team at 1-5 and with all these injuries. The Giants are outmanned and their defense is a problem, in a big way.

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

Bengals

What to know: The Bengals showed why they could be a playoff team in their win over the Lions. Even when they’re not at their best, they can thump a bad team. Cincinnati struggled to get going offensively, but they were eventually able to start rolling in the second half. And while it wasn’t always pretty, it’s the type of win that instills some confidence that the Bengals will be able to hold their own when the schedule gets tougher. — Ben Baby

Did the Bengals solve long-term questions about their offense? Not exactly. The Bengals lack offensive rhythm, and it showed again in the first half. After scoring on their first drive, Cincinnati had a stretch in which it gained 5 yards on six plays in the second quarter. The offense didn’t get on track until a fourth-and-1 that turned into a touchdown. If that doesn’t happen, perhaps the game doesn’t turn into a rout. Cincinnati can’t afford that against better teams. — Baby

Baby’s confidence rating (0-10): 7, up from 6.5. Cincinnati ended up scoring 34 points and racking up 398 yards, but the offensive performance in the first half is a little worrisome.

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


Lions

What to know: Slow starts continue to plague the Detroit Lions, who are the NFL’s last winless team. Detroit has gone four consecutive games without a first-half touchdown, which last happened in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers. Detroit is also the lone team in the league to trail by double digits in every game this season. Although a boatload of injuries have hit the squad hard, it doesn’t excuse the fact that they weren’t even competitive against Cincinnati. — Eric Woodyard

Should the Lions consider a change at quarterback? That’s not realistic. Sunday’s loss to the Bengals was arguably the worst performance of the season for Jared Goff, as he completed 28 of 42 passes for 202 yards and an interception. The Lions didn’t take a quarterback in the 2021 draft, handing the keys to Goff to run the show this season. Meanwhile, backup Tim Boyle remains on the injured reserve list and Detroit’s other backup, David Blough, was 0-5 in his five starts as an undrafted rookie in 2019. — Woodyard

Woodyard’s confidence rating (0-10): 2.5, down from 3. With the Jaguars’ win on Sunday, the Lions now have the longest active losing streak in the NFL at 10 games dating back to last season. That pretty much says it all.

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

Jaguars

What to know: Coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Trevor Lawrence got their first NFL victory thanks to a field goal by a kicker who was a free agent when the season started. It stopped a 20-game losing streak that was the second longest in NFL history dating back to the 2020 season opener. It doesn’t matter that the Dolphins were missing their top two cornerbacks and top three receivers and that it was a struggle all the way. This takes a lot of pressure off Meyer and Lawrence. — Mike DiRocco

What does this mean for kicker Josh Lambo? The most accurate field goal kicker in Jaguars history is now likely out of a job after Matthew Wright‘s two field goals, including the winner. Lambo has been battling confidence issues since the season started and hasn’t played in the past three games. Wright’s performance should win him the job permanently. — DiRocco

DiRocco’s confidence rating (0-10): 3, up from 2.5. The Jaguars got sneaky at the end, and it set up a field goal, overcoming all the questionable decisions Meyer had made all day.

Next game: at Seahawks (4:05 p.m. ET, Oct. 31)

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Matthew Wright converts from 53 yards to give the Jaguars their first win of the season vs. the Dolphins in London.


Dolphins

What to know: Coach Brian Flores said righting the ship would be a team effort and the onus wasn’t on Tua Tagovailoa to stop their four-game losing streak. However, Miami put the game in Tagovailoa’s hands in his first game back from injured reserve. Tagovailoa attempted 47 passes, completing 33 for 329 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His shining moment came during a seven-play, 91-yard, go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth quarter in which he completed all six of his attempts for 83 yards and a touchdown — a drive that came immediately following a possession in which he threw a bad interception. The Dolphins seem ready to live and die by Tagovailoa’s left arm, and he nearly delivered — but his performance wasn’t enough to overcome poor defensive play and coaching decisions down the stretch. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Can Miami figure out how to play from ahead? The Dolphins haven’t led too often this season, but they have held multiple-score leads twice and failed to keep either. Miami led 13-3 against one of the worst teams in the NFL and didn’t finish the job. If putting consistent drives together is the first step toward fixing Miami’s problems on both sides of the ball, the second is learning how to finish — especially with another must-win game in Week 7. — Louis-Jacques

Louis-Jacques’ confidence rating (0-10): 2, down from 4. Tagovailoa’s return was strong, but losing to the Jaguars is unacceptable for a team that considered itself a playoff contender entering the season. The Dolphins’ record drops to 1-5; 111 teams have started their seasons with the same record, and three have made the playoffs. If the Dolphins can’t beat the Falcons and the Bills in their next two games, stick a fork in their playoff hopes.

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

Buccaneers

What to know: With a ravaged defense already down four starters and cornerback Richard Sherman leaving the game in the first quarter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and running back Leonard Fournette carried the load on the road. — Jenna Laine

Can the Bucs survive yet another injury on defense? Sherman suffered a hamstring pull on the opening drive and was ruled out for the remainder of the game for the Bucs, who were already without Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Lavonte David. Coach Bruce Arians said Winfield is close to clearing the concussion protocol, but this pass defense was already banged up prior to Sherman’s injury. Now the Bucs must make do with Jamel Dean, Ross Cockrell, Dee Delaney, Pierre Desir and Rashard Robinson. Over the past two weeks, the pass rush has helped tremendously. — Laine

Laine’s confidence rating (0-10): 8, up from 7.5. The Bucs are 5-1 despite being totally decimated by injuries, but will the offense continue to carry them against tougher defenses? We will find out soon with the Bears and Saints up next.

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


Eagles

What to know: Coach Nick Sirianni continues to ask too much of quarterback Jalen Hurts. Entering Week 6, Hurts had accounted for 87% of the Eagles’ offense by yardage, the highest of any team in the NFL. It was the same story against Tampa Bay. Eagles running backs received just one carry in the first half and nine for the game. Hurts has made 10 NFL starts. He is not consistent enough of a passer at this point to be shouldering such a load. — Tim McManus

What is with the big swings in Hurts’ accuracy? In games against the Falcons, Chiefs and Cowboys, Hurts completed a combined 69% with seven touchdowns to two interceptions. Against the 49ers, Panthers and Bucs, he completed 53% with a touchdown and two interceptions. To establish himself as a quality quarterback in the NFL, Hurts needs to stabilize as a passer. — McManus

McManus’ confidence rating (0-10): 3.9, down from 4.5. The Eagles have dropped four of five and have clear identity issues on offense. They are through the most difficult portion of their schedule. Perhaps they will find some answers on the road the next two weeks against the Raiders and Lions.

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

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