Week 14 NFL takeaways – What’s next for the Saints, Bills after crushing losses

In an 94-point offensive duel between two NFC teams with double-digit wins, the 49ers edged the Saints. The showdown headlined a strong lineup of Week 14 matchups. The Ravens clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Bills, Drew Lock impressed in a big Broncos win over the Texans and the Buccaneers kept their playoff aspirations alive with a victory against the Colts.

Here are Week 14’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

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The 49ers have what it takes to win in the most difficult situations, including in the loud Superdome. Sunday’s scintillating 48-46 win against the Saints showed that a Niners team that has leaned on its defense most of this season can win a shootout against another top contender. In the process, the Niners kept control of their future in the NFC playoff race. “It’s going to come down to the last week with a number of teams in the NFC, and we are looking forward to next week,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. — Nick Wagoner

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

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The Saints finally got the offensive outburst they’ve been waiting for but squandered it with their worst defensive performance of the season. The Saints (10-3) can still potentially wind up as the NFC’s No. 1 seed. But now they may need losses by the 49ers, Seahawks and Packers to make it happen. — Mike Triplett

Next game: vs. Indianapolis (8:15 p.m. ET Monday, Dec. 16)


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The Ravens clinched a playoff berth Sunday in Buffalo, but there wasn’t much celebrating. “I tried to make a big deal about it in the locker room, and the guys kind of gave me a smattering of applause,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They expected that; I think they’ve earned the right to expect that.” Winners of nine consecutive games, the Ravens (11-2) are looking to secure the top seed in the AFC for the first time in franchise history. — Jamison Hensley

Next game: vs. New York Jets (8:20 p.m. ET Thursday)

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Regardless of how well the defense plays, 209 yards of offense is not going to cut it. Neither will 146 yards on 17-of-39 passing. The Bills and quarterback Josh Allen figured that out the hard way in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Are the Bills the team that averaged 401 yards in its previous three games, or the one that relies on its defense to bail it out until its offense heroically puts points on the board? We’ll find out against the Steelers in Week 15. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

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


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The Bucs overcame the loss of Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans to a hamstring injury, a broken thumb for quarterback Jameis Winston and four turnovers for their third straight win. Winston threw three interceptions — including an 80-yard pick-six from Darius Leonard — yet also threw a career-high 456 passing yards and four touchdowns with a fifth score on the ground. “It’s a damn good thing I’m a young cub. Coaching the nicest team in the league is tough. We just love spotting 17 points to the other team, then come back and winning,” coach Bruce Arians joked. “I don’t think I have blood pressure anymore.” — Jenna Laine

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

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The Colts came unraveled in the second half for the second consecutive game, as their playoff hopes are basically on life support after they gave up 542 total yards Sunday. The Colts have allowed the final 17 points in each of their past two games, both games they were in position to win. Indianapolis has lost five of its past six games after having a 5-2 record and being in first place in the AFC South. — Mike Wells

Next game: at New Orleans (8:15 p.m. ET Monday, Dec. 16)


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It might be viewed as a “bounce-back” performance by the Vikings’ defense, but the way this unit played against a third-string rookie quarterback was expected regardless of its recent struggles. The Vikings opened the final quarter of the season by getting some mojo back against an overmatched opponent, sacking QB David Blough five times with their fourth-lowest pressure rate of the season (11 of Blough’s 45 dropbacks) and watching their new-found cornerback rotation take shape. “I think it’s important we get a chip back on our shoulder, and I thought we kind of did that,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We need to keep going and keep doing that. That’s why I wish we wouldn’t have let them score.” — Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET Sunday)

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The good news for the Lions in their sixth straight loss is the team continues to move up in the 2020 draft. Atlanta’s defeat of Carolina moved Detroit into the No. 5 position, just behind the Bengals, Redskins, Giants and Dolphins. Considering some of those teams still play each other, it’s entirely possible that three more losses could put Detroit in even better position to land a top pick in the spring. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: vs. Tampa Bay (1 p.m. ET Sunday)


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The Broncos have now won both of Drew Lock’s starts over the past two weeks, his first two games since formally coming off an injury earlier this month. He finished 22-of-27 passing for 309 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in a game the Broncos led 38-3 in the third quarter. Lock joins John Elway and Marlin Briscoe as the only first-year players in Broncos history with 300 passing yards and three passing touchdowns in a single game, per ESPN Stats & Information. His teammates have lauded his composure to this point, and Lock himself said Sunday his challenge now was to take “it day by day … and not get too far ahead of ourselves.” — Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Kansas City (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

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A week after the Texans beat the Patriots, Houston struggled against the Broncos at home. All three Houston touchdowns came after they were already trailing 38-3. Coach Bill O’Brien took the blame for the loss, saying, ” I don’t think there was anything very good” in the game. At 8-5, Houston still has an opportunity to win the AFC South with two games in three weeks against the Titans. But Sunday’s loss ended any hope of a first-round bye. — Sarah Barshop

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


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Chris Berman and Tom Jackson recap the weekend’s games with extended highlights and analysis.

The show will stream live at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday during the 2019 season and will be available on demand each week until late Wednesday night. Watch on ESPN+

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Winning ugly might work against teams like the Giants and Redskins, but at 10-3, the Packers probably can’t expect a performance like Sunday’s to be good enough for a long playoff run. Or maybe it can? While quarterback Aaron Rodgers said there’s frustration at times with the inconsistent performance on offense, he added that “it might be ugly to some folks … [but] I wouldn’t mind winning ugly all the way to the Super Bowl.” — Rob Demovsky

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

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The Redskins are not a good team, but they are a tough-minded one. There’s no reason they should have been within a score of Green Bay late in this game, not given their talent level and several injuries during the game. They’ve proven resilient the past couple weeks, but the problem is they keep falling behind in games (14-0 deficits in each of the past two games). The Redskins are not equipped offensively to consistently handle such deficits. But despite a bad record, they have developed a good mindset. — John Keim

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


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The Falcons definitely looked better along the offensive line with rookie Chris Lindstrom back in the lineup for the first time since breaking his right foot in the season opener. Lindstrom started at right guard and was in a rotation with another young, inexperienced player in Matt Gono. But when Lindstrom drove Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler to the ground, it showed just how much the Falcons missed his play throughout the season. The Falcons ran the ball better, with a season-high 159 rushing yards and Devonta Freeman’s first rushing touchdown since December 2017. Plus, quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked just one time on a day he surpassed 50,000 passing yards for his career. — Vaughn McClure

Next game: at San Francisco (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday)

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Interim coach Perry Fewell said it best after Carolina’s fifth straight loss after a 5-3 start: “We’re all fighting for our jobs.” The losses already cost head coach Ron Rivera his job. Sunday’s sloppy performance (four turnovers) didn’t help Fewell’s chances of being a serious candidate to replace him. The five-game losing streak gives the Panthers a 1-12 record in the second half of the season over the past two years. Last year’s team started 6-2 and lost seven straight before winning its finale. This team could be headed for a complete overhaul by owner David Tepper. — David Newton

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


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The Browns defeated the Bengals once they remembered they boast the NFL’s leading rusher and were facing the league’s worst run defense. After getting only three carries in the first half Sunday, Nick Chubb powered the Browns with his sixth 100-yard rushing game this year, the most by a Cleveland runner since 1968. Yet even as the Browns landed their fourth victory in five games, speculation surrounding Odell Beckham Jr.’s health and future in Cleveland seemed to overshadow the game itself. Earlier in the week, Beckham was vague about his future in Cleveland past this season. Then after Sunday’s game, when asked about a Fox pregame show report that he’s been telling opposing coaches and players to “come get me” out of Cleveland, Beckham only would say he wouldn’t be answering questions “about any offseason stuff that’s going on.” That non-denial will surely fuel even more speculation about his future with the Browns as they prepare to meet Arizona next weekend in a must-win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. — Jake Trotter

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

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Mark Sunday’s loss to the Browns as another that the Bengals should have won this season. Cincinnati outgained Cleveland, won the turnover margin and had five red-zone possessions. However, the Bengals were unable to score more than one touchdown. The loss at Cleveland and the season-opening defeat at Seattle could be reasons the Bengals have the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. “It was a game we felt like we had good control over,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “We just didn’t execute in those key situations.” — Ben Baby

Next game: vs. New England (1 p.m. ET Sunday)


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The Jets overcame a lot to beat the Dolphins, including no Le’Veon Bell, no Jamal Adams and no consistency on offense. And let’s not forget about a late deficit. The talent might not be there, and a lot of key players weren’t out there because of injuries, but the team showed mental toughness after last week’s no-show. — Rich Cimini

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

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The Dolphins haven’t lacked in fight or emotion, but talent upgrades are needed at just about every position as we look toward 2020. Almost every week since its Week 5 bye, Miami has been competitive and in position to win. That fight is admirable but shouldn’t hide the talent dearth, most notably at offensive line, edge rusher and defensive back, that will make this offseason so important. — Cameron Wolfe

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


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Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is finally playing like a top-five pick. It’s impossible to ignore the fact Trubisky struggled mightily at times this year, but it all came together against the Cowboys. Trubisky not only passed for 244 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, but he also ran for 63 yards and a score. That’s important because he entered the game with just 80 rushing yards on the entire season. The Bears need Trubisky to be multi-dimensional, which he certainly was in Chicago’s victory over the fading Cowboys. Trubisky can’t erase what happened earlier in the season, but he appears to be ending the year on a high note. — Jeff Dickerson

Next game: at Green Bay (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

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With 10 days off between games, maybe the Cowboys can use the time to gather themselves after the Chicago loss marked their third consecutive defeat. Emotions are edgy from owner and general manager Jerry Jones to the players. They know what they have to do — play better football — they just don’t know how to get it done. The Cowboys can still win the division, thanks to Philadelphia’s issues, but this was a team that was viewed as a Super Bowl contender. Having lost seven of their last 10 games, the Cowboys lack confidence and belief to fight through the adversities of the game. — Todd Archer

Next game: vs. Los Angeles Rams (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday)

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