NFL 2023 Week 14: Biggest questions, risers and takeaways

Week 14 of the NFL season started Thursday night, when the New England Patriots downed the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Atlanta Falcons to create a three-way tie for first place in the NFC South, Zach Wilson led the New York Jets to a dominant performance over the Houston Texans, and the Baltimore Ravens survived in overtime. Quarterbacks Jake Browning (right hand) and C.J. Stroud (concussion protocol) left their games with injuries.

The San Francisco 49ers continued to roll in the late window with a win over the Seattle Seahawks, while the Minnesota Vikings prevailed in a pitchers’ duel against the Las Vegas Raiders to improve their playoff chances. The Denver Broncos also muzzled the Los Angeles Chargers, while the Buffalo Bills got a big win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Our NFL Nation reporters reacted to all the action, answering lingering questions coming out of each game and picking out who — or what — is rising and falling for every team. Let’s get to it.

Jump to a matchup:
NE-PIT | DET-CHI | TB-ATL | CAR-NO
HOU-NYJ | IND-CIN | LAR-BAL | JAX-CLE
SEA-SF | MIN-LV | DEN-LAC | BUF-KC

Bills

Can the Bills build off this win in the crucial four-game stretch to come? This was a big first step for the Bills, coming into Kansas City and getting a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, especially with the defense finishing the game — something that has been an issue all season. It was far from perfect, with Buffalo struggling to make adjustments and the defense incurring more injuries to watch going forward. There’s still a difficult road ahead for Buffalo, but closing out a must-win game in all three phases was a key step.

Stock up after the win: Running back James Cook, who had one of his biggest games of the season. He had a career-high 83 receiving yards on five receptions, including a 25-yard touchdown, and 58 rushing yards on 10 carries for an average of 5.8 yards per carry.

Stock down after the win: Receiver Stefon Diggs, who finished with four receptions on 11 targets for 24 yards. It was his seventh straight game under 100 yards, which is uncharacteristic of the team’s No. 1 wideout. Allen, Diggs and interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady need to find ways to get that connection going again. — Alaina Getzenberg

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


Chiefs

How badly does this loss damage the Chiefs’ playoff seeding? Surprisingly little, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. Their shot at getting the AFC’s top playoff seed dropped from 22% to 10%, but even though their lead in the AFC West dwindled to one game with the Broncos’ win, their chances of winning the division only went from 95% to 92%. But now that the Chiefs have lost four of their past six games, everything feels more tenuous.

Stock up after the loss: The pass rush. It helped them turn the game around after a slow start. The Chiefs pressured the Bills’ Josh Allen 12 times on 17 dropbacks when they blitzed.

Stock down after the loss: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes. His interception killed a promising opening drive for the Chiefs. — Adam Teicher

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

Broncos

Can a defense that surrendered 164 points in a four-game span earlier this season really power the Broncos to a playoff spot? It can if it keeps its current pace, a pace that stifled the Chargers on Sunday. Since Week 6 — a 19-8 loss in Kansas City — the Broncos (7-6 after Sunday’s win) are 6-2, the defense has 18 takeaways and has allowed 12 touchdowns in those eight games combined. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has cranked up the aggressiveness in the pass rush over that span — six sacks from six different players Sunday as Los Angeles was limited to 171 yards through three quarters — and the Broncos have, so far, made remarkable repairs.

Stock up after the win: WR Courtland Sutton. Sutton had his 10th touchdown catch of the season Sunday, a quality one-handed effort with Chargers cornerback Michael Davis tugging on his left arm. Sutton is the first Broncos player to reach double digits in touchdown catches since 2014 and is just four away from the team’s single-season record, shared by Demaryius Thomas and Anthony Miller.

Stock down after the win: Deferring to the second half. The Broncos have won the toss and deferred possession until the second half 11 times this season. After Sunday’s three-and-out to open the third quarter, they have now punted nine times, have two missed field goals and picked up one first down when they have had the first possession of the second half. — Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Lions (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

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Sutton secures TD with one hand on Wilson’s Hail Mary

Russell Wilson launches a Hail Mary into the end zone, where Courtland Sutton makes an incredible one-handed catch for a touchdown.


Chargers

Where do the Chargers go from here? So much went wrong for the Chargers on Sunday, from Justin Herbert suffering a finger injury on his throwing hand that kept him out of the game to their offensive line, which was dominated throughout. With a little over two minutes and 30 seconds left in Sunday’s game, Chargers fans began to chant “Fire Staley.” Those chants continued throughout the fourth quarter as the Broncos converted on four third downs on their second drive of the period, which ended with a score to effectively end the game. At 5-8, this Chargers season has gone from sky-high expectations to something of a nightmare.

Stock up after the loss: WR Quentin Johnston. Johnston has had a rocky rookie season, with his most notable plays this year being drops. But that changed Sunday when Johnston beat Broncos cornerback Fabian Moreau for a 57-yard catch, the longest of his career. He caught a 22-yard pass on the next play.

Stock down after the loss: The offensive line. The Broncos’ defense dominated the Chargers’ offensive line throughout, securing six sacks and stuffing the run game. — Kris Rhim

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

Vikings

Is Nick Mullens the Vikings’ starting QB moving forward? It’s hard to imagine any other scenario based on how Sunday’s game played out. Let’s face it. Mullens opened the season as the Vikings’ No. 2 quarterback, the player the team planned to use if starter Kirk Cousins was injured. A back injury of his own delayed that ascension, and Joshua Dobbs’ surprising success delayed it further. But Mullens showed in Sunday’s fourth-quarter relief effort that he is best equipped to run the Vikings’ scheme. Mullens threw for more yards (83) in that stint than Dobbs had the entire game (63).

Stock up after the win: LB Ivan Pace Jr. The entire Vikings defense contributed to this shutout, but Pace is worth singling out after his fourth-quarter interception essentially sealed the game for the Vikings. Pace also recorded 13 tackles and one sack.

Stock down after the win: Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell. O’Connell strongly suggested that he would shift the Vikings’ scheme to fit Dobbs’ strengths in this game, but those adjustments were difficult to identify. Only Mullens’ heroics saved the Vikings from a shutout. — Kevin Seifert

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


Raiders

Is Aidan O’Connell truly the guy? The rookie’s unimpressive play answered itself, even as the Raiders still have four games to go after getting shut out by Minnesota. The Vikings had little respect for the quarterback’s deep game, stacking the box all day and daring him to throw long. The Raiders’ offense needed a spark, and O’Connell simply couldn’t bring it. The Vikings saw their starter, Dobbs, get nothing going, so they replaced him with Mullens in the fourth quarter. The Raiders, needing a veteran presence, stuck with the rookie instead of giving Jimmy Garoppolo a shot, and O’Connell got picked off, wasting a stellar defensive effort.

Stock up after the loss: DE Maxx Crosby. Hobbled since Week 2 with a left knee injury that nearly kept him out of the lineup two weeks ago, Crosby missed two practices this week and nicked up his right knee against the Vikings. No matter, the fifth-year edge rusher racked up two sacks, giving him a personal season-best 13.5 sacks, and, with 51 career sacks, he became just the fifth member of the Raiders’ 50-sack club, along with Greg Townsend (107.5), Howie Long (84), Anthony Smith (57.5) and Bill Pickel (53).

Stock down after the loss: WR Hunter Renfrow. Unfair? Probably, but football is a fickle game. From hero to goat in three snaps. Because after picking up 38 yards on third-and-7 to get the Raiders to the Vikings’ 11-yard line, Renfrow fumbled, costing Las Vegas its best scoring chance. — Paul Gutierrez

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

49ers

Can Brock Purdy actually win league MVP? The case is growing stronger every week. Purdy became one of the favorites for the award after his four-touchdown outing against Philadelphia last week. It wasn’t as clean Sunday, but Purdy was 18-of-26 for a career-high 368 yards with two touchdown pass and an interception against the Seahawks. With the win, the Niners completed their key three-game stretch undefeated and squarely in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Purdy will get one more prime stage to make his case Christmas night against the Baltimore Ravens.

Stock up after the win: Deebo Samuel. The receiver is playing some of the best football of his career at a good time, tacking on 150 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks a week after torching the Eagles for 138 scrimmage yards and three scores.

Stock down after the win: 49ers’ defensive health. The Niners entered Sunday without tackle Arik Armstead (knee, foot) but they had even more attrition against the Seahawks, losing starting linebackers Dre Greenlaw (hip) and Oren Burks (knee), tackle Javon Hargrave (hamstring) and cornerback Charvarius Ward (groin) at various points, with only Greenlaw returning to the game. — Nick Wagoner

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


Seahawks

What will the Seahawks do at QB against the Eagles? General manager John Schneider said pregame that the Seahawks didn’t want to make Geno Smith’s groin injury worse, which suggests they sat him with an eye toward getting him back next Monday night against the Eagles. Drew Lock (22-of-31, 269 yards) delivered a mixed-bag performance in his first start with Seattle, throwing two touchdown passes and two interceptions. Smith is clearly the better quarterback, but if he can’t move well enough to protect himself against a strong Eagles pass rush, then Lock’s mobility will come in handy.

Stock up after the loss: Leonard Williams. The defensive tackle had one of three Seattle sacks to go along with four QB hits and a pass defensed. It hasn’t been evident in Seattle’s defensive results, but Williams has been impactful since arriving in a deadline trade.

Stock down after the loss: The Seahawks’ overall defense. Seattle allowed a 72-yard run on the game’s opening play, and San Francisco racked up 527 yards in total, the most allowed by the Seahawks since Week 2 of the 2019 season (571 to the Bengals). — Brady Henderson

Next game: vs. Eagles (Monday, Dec. 18, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Browns

Can Joe Flacco propel the Browns to the playoffs? Flacco said before his first game with the Browns that he believed he could still play. The past two weeks, the 38-year-old former Super Bowl MVP has proved just that. On Sunday, Flacco became the first Browns quarterback since Brian Sipe in 1980 to throw three touchdown passes of 30 yards or more in a game. Flacco’s big arm has jump-started a Cleveland offense that was searching for a spark. If he keeps playing this way, the Browns figure to have a good chance to reach the postseason for the first time since 2020.

Stock up after the win: CB Martin Emerson Jr. With fellow corner Denzel Ward out, Emerson showed why the Browns might have another Pro Bowl corner on their roster, picking off QB Trevor Lawrence twice while blanketing WR Calvin Ridley all day in a dominant effort.

Stock down after the win: The offensive line. With center Ethan Pocic leaving with a stinger injury, Cleveland’s once-vaunted offensive line currently has only two healthy starters (guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller). — Jake Trotter

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


Jaguars

How badly are the Jaguars missing wide receiver Christian Kirk? It was a major issue against the Browns and it may continue to be one, as there’s some doubt about whether Kirk can return this season. Kirk is one of the pass-catchers Lawrence trusts most, and there were multiple times when Lawrence and his receivers were not on the same page. On one play, Lawrence was expecting receiver Calvin Ridley to cut inside, but he instead kept going deep, and Lawrence’s throw was intercepted. Parker Washington also wasn’t in the correct spot on another incompletion. And that’s just what was visibly obvious to outsiders. The Jaguars are going to have to find a way to function without Kirk, who will miss at least three more games.

Stock up after the loss: Tight end Evan Engram caught 11 passes (tying his career high) for 95 yards and two touchdowns on a day when the rest of the pass-catchers were inconsistent. Engram came into the game with 73 catches, which tied his career high and the single-season franchise record by a tight end. He is now on pace to become the first tight end in franchise history to catch 100.

Stock down after the loss: The pass rush. The Jaguars got to 38-year-old Joe Flacco just once (Antonio Johnson’s strip sack) and allowed him to throw for 311 yards and three touchdowns less than three weeks after he signed with the Browns’ practice squad. — Mike DiRocco

Next game: vs. Ravens (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

Ravens

How big was this win in the Ravens’ pursuit of the No. 1 seed in the AFC? Tylan Wallace’s game-winning 76-yard punt return for a touchdown in overtime was huge considering the Rams were the last team on Baltimore’s schedule that doesn’t currently have a winning record. The Ravens couldn’t let this one slip away, because their last four opponents include three division leaders — at Jacksonville, at San Francisco and home against Miami — and their biggest rival in Pittsburgh. Baltimore moved into the top spot by holding off the Rams, although the Dolphins can jump back into the No. 1 seed by beating the Titans on Monday night. Quarterback Lamar Jackson kept Baltimore in the game with three touchdown passes and a team-leading 70 yards rushing.

Stock up after the win: TE Isaiah Likely. In his second game since replacing Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, Likely recorded a season-high 83 yards receiving and caught a 54-yard touchdown pass, which was a career long.

Stock down after the win: RB Gus Edwards. As a result of the Ravens’ reluctance to run the ball, Edwards finished with a season-low 15 yards rushing. — Jamison Hensley

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


Rams

What does this loss mean for the Rams’ playoff chances? After losing to the Ravens, the Rams now have a 35% chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN Analytics. Los Angeles entered the game with a 43% chance. That number could change before the Rams play next, as the Seahawks, Packers and Vikings (all 6-6 entering Week 14) did not play during the early slate. The good news for the Rams? With five games left in the regular season, Los Angeles has only one game remaining against a team that currently has a winning record (the 49ers in Week 18).

Stock up after the loss: WR Cooper Kupp. Kupp had eight catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. Entering the game, he had been held under 50 receiving yards in a career-long six straight games.

Stock down after the loss: The secondary. The Ravens’ first two touchdowns came on explosive plays: a 54-yard touchdown to Likely and 46-yard pass to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — Sarah Barshop

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

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Wide-open OBJ hauls in 46-yard TD vs. former team

Odell Beckham Jr. makes the Rams pay for leaving him open with a 46-yard touchdown grab.

Jets

Why couldn’t Zach Wilson play like this earlier in the season? If Wilson was reluctant to retake the starting reins after a two-game benching, as a published report suggested, he certainly didn’t show it. Wilson played perhaps the best game of his career, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns as the Jets snapped a five-game losing streak. Wilson’s teammates said they expected him to play angry; he definitely played with more confidence than usual. Maybe that’s what he needed. He perked up in the second half, when the coaches got aggressive on first down and let him throw. Too bad they didn’t figure this out earlier in the season.

Stock up after the win: RB Breece Hall. This was his best game in more than a month, with 126 total yards from scrimmage, including eight catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Stock down after the win: WR Allen Lazard. He was back in a full-time role (48 snaps on offense), but he had no targets and one holding penalty. The receiving corps remains a one-man show with Garrett Wilson (nine catches for 108 yards). — Rich Cimini

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

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Zach Wilson finds Breece Hall for an easy Jets TD

Zach Wilson finds a wide open Breece Hall for an easy Jets touchdown in the fourth quarter.


Texans

Can the Texans overcome a rash of injuries to the offense? It’s tough for a team to overcome injuries to its starting quarterback, top three receiving targets and one of its best offensive linemen, but that’s the situation the Texans find themselves in. The worst injury was to quarterback C.J. Stroud, who suffered a head injury during the fourth quarter. The Texans entered the game without standout rookie wide receiver Tank Dell and tight end Dalton Schultz, then lost wide receiver Nico Collins to a calf injury in the first quarter. The Texans were also without offensive tackle Tytus Howard, who was lost for the season after he sustained a knee injury two weeks ago.

Stock up after the loss: DE Jonathan Greenard. He had two sacks on the day and now has 10 on the season.

Stock down after the loss: The pass defense. The Texans allowed Wilson to throw for 300 yards for just the third time in his three-year career. — DJ Bien-Aime

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

Saints

Can the team chemistry be fixed at this point? Despite the win over the Panthers, the atmosphere around the team feels bleak, with empty seats, booing fans and an offense that hasn’t progressed all season. Saints quarterback Derek Carr and center Erik McCoy, both team captains, were seen yelling at each other as they came off the field following a sack. The Saints have only a month left in this season and appear to have several issues that even a win didn’t appear to fix.

Stock up after the win: TE Jimmy Graham. The veteran has been a healthy scratch for most of the season, but when he has played, he’s made it count, scoring three touchdowns on four catches this season, including a late-game score against the Panthers.

Stock down after the win: QB Derek Carr. The Saints pulled away late after Carr doubled his passing yards with a 43-yard connection to wideout A.T. Perry in the fourth quarter, but his 119 passing yards marked one of the lowest totals of his career in a game where he took every snap. — Katherine Terrell

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


Panthers

Can Bryce Young grow under the interim coaching staff and poor offensive line? Only in how he handles adversity. Otherwise, Young has little chance to grow with a line that can’t protect him (47 sacks, third most by a Carolina QB in a season) and not enough playmakers around him. He took a step backward Sunday, completing 13 of 36 passes (season-low 36.1%) for 137 yards. He missed a couple of deep throws when the receiver was open. He had a fumble. It might get worse from here.

Stock up after the loss: DT Derrick Brown. As OLB Brian Burns said earlier in the week, Brown is impossible to block one-on-one — and he showed it Sunday with a team-high 10 tackles and an interception of a pass he tipped at the line.

Stock down after the loss: P Johnny Hekker. He had a muffed punt attempt (initially called a blocked punt) that was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter when the Panthers were still in the game. — David Newton

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

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Saints take blocked punt the other way for a TD

The Saints go up two scores as Nephi Sewell blocks a punt, and D’Marco Jackson picks it up for a touchdown.

Bears

Can the Bears continue to seize momentum? For the second time in three weeks, the Bears built a 12-point fourth-quarter lead against the Lions. But this time Chicago capitalized off the “sudden change” moments coach Matt Eberflus had been preaching about. After falling behind 13-10 in the first half, the Bears turned a fourth-down free play into a touchdown in the third quarter and scored again on their next possession after linebacker T.J. Edwards gifted the offense a possession by recovering a fumble.

Stock up after the loss: Jaquan Brisker. The second-year safety led Chicago with a career-high 17 tackles (13 solo), forced a fumble and broke up two passes, the second of which came on a critical second down with 6:12 to play in the fourth quarter with Detroit driving. Two plays later, the Lions turned the ball over on downs.

Stock down after the loss: Luke Getsy. Chicago’s offensive coordinator redeemed himself, but his playcalling after the Bears’ opening drive (where they scored) dismantled Chicago’s momentum going into halftime. A failed fourth-and-1 at Detroit’s 38-yard line in the second quarter in which Fields pitched the ball to DJ Moore instead of sneaking was emblematic of the Bears’ offensive struggles early on. — Courtney Cronin

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


Lions

Can the slow starts haunt the Lions down the stretch? Detroit has trailed at the end of the first quarter in three of its past four games. This time, the Lions couldn’t overcome it, even after leading 13-10 at halftime. A victory would have given Detroit its first 10-win season since 2014. Instead, the loss served as another reminder that the road to a division title won’t be easy if the Lions don’t come out ready to go.

Stock up after the win: DE Aidan Hutchinson. The defense has struggled to find consistency. And although Hutchinson was flagged for an offside penalty that eventually resulted in a Bears touchdown in the third quarter, he also ended his two-game sack drought with a second-quarter takedown of Bears QB Justin Fields. The sack marked the 16th of his career, which is the most by a Lions player after 30 career games.

Stock down after the win: The defense. Mobile quarterbacks have been a nightmare for the Lions’ defense all season, and Fields continued to shine against Detroit. Fields displayed his versatility, recording 58 rushing yards while throwing for 223 yards, helping Chicago score 18 unanswered points in the second half. — Eric Woodyard

Next game: vs. Broncos (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Buccaneers

How does this impact the Bucs’ playoff picture? With 36 seconds to go, quarterback Baker Mayfield fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cade Otton to keep the Bucs’ playoff hopes alive. With the win and the Saints’ victory over the Panthers, the Bucs, Falcons and Saints (all 6-7) move into a three-way tie for first place in the division. The Bucs’ chance to win the division now improves to 35%, according to ESPN Analytics. Had they lost, it would have dropped to 2%. There’s no margin for error, and they face another top-10 defense on the road next week in the Packers, who are giving up 20.25 points per game.

Stock up after the win: The secondary. Cornerback Carlton Davis III set up the Bucs’ first touchdown by intercepting Desmond Ridder, while Antoine Winfield Jr. contributed a sack/fumble that was recovered by the Falcons in the end zone for a safety. They did, however, surrender a 33-yard leaping catch to Drake London and had a busted coverage on his two-point conversion.

Stock down after the win: WR Mike Evans. He had 150-plus receiving yards last week but had just one catch for 8 yards after a near-touchdown was ruled incomplete in the fourth quarter. — Jenna Laine

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


Falcons

What are Atlanta’s playoff chances now? Atlanta will rue a first-half safety and two missed field goals from Younghoe Koo in its loss to Tampa Bay for many reasons — but none more important than how they impacted the team’s chances to win the NFC South. With the loss, the Falcons’ chances of winning the NFC South dropped to 34% (it would have been 76% with a win) according to ESPN Stats & Information. Atlanta is now in a three-way tie with the Buccaneers and Saints for the division lead.

Stock up after the loss: WR Drake London. A year ago, the Falcons took London with the No. 8 draft pick for games like this: a career-high 172 yards on 10 catches and a two-point conversion that gave Atlanta a late three-point lead, which it eventually relinquished.

Stock down after the loss: K Younghoe Koo. One of the more reliable kickers in the NFL, Koo missed two field goals in the first half, from 50 yards and 52 yards. If he makes both of those, that could’ve been the difference between sole possession of the division lead and the three-way tie Atlanta is now in. — Michael Rothstein

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

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Mayfield hits Rachaad White on the swing for a 31-yard TD

Baker Mayfield dishes to Rachaad White, who takes it 31 yards for a Bucs touchdown.

Bengals

Is the Bengals’ offense good enough to compete for a playoff berth? Absolutely. Cincinnati had a ton of fluidity for the second straight game. The Bengals were able to lean on an explosive screen game from running backs Joe Mixon and Chase Brown and sprinkled in some of the traditional shotgun offense the team used when QB Joe Burrow was healthy. The Bengals scored more than 30 points for the second straight game despite Jake Browning playing at quarterback instead of Burrow, who is out for the year with a wrist injury.

Stock up after the win: Brown. The rookie scored his first career touchdown on a screen pass and gives Cincinnati a big-play threat it has lacked at the position.

Stock down after the win: TE Irv Smith Jr. The veteran began the year as the starter but had the fewest offensive snaps of any Bengals tight end Sunday. — Ben Baby

Next game: vs. Vikings (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)


Colts

Will this loss derail the Colts’ playoff hopes? The Colts were going to be mathematically alive for the postseason regardless of the outcome. But how much damage did they do to their playoff aspirations? Indianapolis still has one of the league’s more manageable remaining schedules, with games against the Steelers, Falcons, Raiders and Texans. And, fortunately for the Colts, they are in direct competition with Pittsburgh and Houston — two teams that are also 7-6 and jostling for a spot. The Colts can boost their own chances with wins in those games.

Stock up after the loss: LB Ronnie Harrison Jr. He made his first start in place of injured starter E.J. Speed (knee). Harrison made a critical play when he snatched an interception away from tight end Tanner Hudson in the second quarter, returning it 36 yards for a touchdown. Harrison was converted to a linebacker from safety this season after starting 45 games as a defensive back in his previous five years.

Stock down after the loss: The pass rush. The Colts had produced 42 sacks entering the game, good enough for second most in the league. But they had shockingly little production against the Bengals, with no sacks and three quarterback hits. — Stephen Holder

Next game: vs. Steelers (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)

Thursday

Patriots

How much will the homestretch affect the Patriots’ draft position? The team entered Thursday in sole possession of the No. 2 pick, but are now tied with the Cardinals with a 3-10 record. The Patriots would currently still pick second based on the tiebreaker and have games remaining at home vs. the Chiefs, at the Broncos and Bills, and at home vs. the Jets in the season finale. Players in the locker room have made it clear they are all about winning, and if they do that down the stretch, it could impact the franchise’s positioning to land a potential franchise QB at the top of the draft.

Stock up after the win: RB Ezekiel Elliott. The veteran totaled 140 yards from scrimmage and played all but five snaps, while adding a hustle tackle on an interception return that would have otherwise been a TD.

Stock down after the win: WR Ty Montgomery II. The special teamer was pulled off the punt-protection unit after allowing a block in the fourth quarter. He was waived by the Patriots on Friday. — Mike Reiss

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


Steelers

Can the Steelers make the playoffs? Not if they keep playing like this. After beating the Bengals, the Steelers were 7-4 entering a very winnable home stretch and had a 74% chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN Analytics. But they dropped back-to-back games against teams with two wins entering the contest and now have just a 36% chance to make it. It wasn’t just that they lost two winnable games, but it was how they lost. Pittsburgh fell behind by at least 18 points in each game. Against the Patriots, the defense made halftime adjustments to shut out the Patriots over the final two quarters. Still, the offense couldn’t score on a short field courtesy of a second-half interception, and it continued to lack execution and consistency. And quarterback Mitch Trubisky was unable to be the catalyst he hoped to be in his first game filling in for Kenny Pickett.

Stock up after the loss: LB Elandon Roberts. Even after sustaining a groin injury against the Cardinals, the inside linebacker not only got on the field four days later against the Patriots, but he also recorded a key pass breakup that turned into an interception. He also recorded six tackles, one sack and a pass defensed.

Stock down after the loss: Coach Mike Tomlin. For the second game in a row, the Steelers came out flat against an opponent with an inferior record. After their loss to the Cardinals, some Steelers said they took their opponent too lightly. That wasn’t the issue against the Patriots, Steelers players said Thursday. But the fact that they allowed one of the league’s worst offenses to jump out to an 18-point first-half lead suggests a failure from the top down. — Brooke Pryor

Next game: at Colts (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)

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