Analysis

What We Learned: 33 Expert Takeaways From Week 15

Jakobi Meyers New England Patriots

Week 15 saw three teams winning by erasing deficits of 17 or more points, three overtime games, two defensive walk-offs and one of the most bizarre finishes you’ll ever see. The 33rd Team’s experts weighed in with 33 takeaways from the weekend’s games:

Sunday

Eagles 25, Bears 20

1. “The Eagles have the best pass rush in football right now, and it’s been true most of the year. They have 26 sacks the last five weeks. They have power rushers, speed rushers, they have run-stoppers, they have depth. A lot of people ask me what group is better: 2017 or this group? At least up front on the defensive side of the football, I would say it’s this group. I held off answering that question for a while, but they have four guys who are knocking on the door when it comes to double-digit sacks. When we won the Super, we didn’t have a single guy with double-digit sacks.” Chris Long

Saints 21, Falcons 18

2. “Saints tight end Juwan Johnson was a big mystery in the scouting community. The former wide receiver attended two colleges, went undrafted in 2020, and was waived by the Saints on final cuts. He now has established himself as a legitimate NFL tight end. Johnson has to be taken seriously with seven touchdowns since late October, including two against the Falcons on Sunday.” — T.J McCreight

Lions 20, Jets 17

3. “It’s one thing for the Detroit Lions to win at home against a really soft defense like Minnesota’s like they did last week. It is another thing entirely to go on the road outdoors and still find a way to come away with a win. The Jets’ defense is not good, it’s frickin’ awesome. This was the ninth-straight game the Jets did not allow a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver. Yet the Lions made just enough plays to win.” — Trey Wingo

4. “The Detroit Lions are very much still in the playoff hunt because of the belief the team has in Dan Campbell. Remember, no team has ever started 1-6 under the current format and made the postseason. The Lions are right there knocking on the door.” — Trey Wingo 

5. “The Lions had some big games they come up short early in the season. But I think that helped them transition to where they are now. Hopefully, they make the playoffs. And I will tell you if they do make the playoffs, they will not go out early.” — Mike Martz

Steelers 24, Panthers 16

6. “Believe it or not, I am betting on the Steelers to win their last three games and to finish above .500 yet again. Mike Tomlin has never had a losing record, and I don’t expect him to finish with one this season. Tomlin and the players will show up and finish this season in typical Steelers fashion.” — T.J. McCreight

Jaguars 40, Cowboys 34

7. “With the Cowboys, people always say, ‘I don’t believe in them.’ Well, this is why. The Cowboys were up 14-0 in this game. They were up 21-7 in this game. They were up 24-10 in this game. They were up 27-10 in this game and somehow found a way to lose. I don’t care who you are or who you’re playing, if you want to be thought of as a legitimate playoff team, bury someone when they’re down.” — Trey Wingo

8. “This game was there for the taking, and instead the Cowboys let Jacksonville take it. They could have run out the clock and really put the Jaguars behind the eight ball in regulation after a Trevor Lawrence fumble, after a really great, brilliant scramble. But on third-and-11, they took a long shot down the field instead of running the ball and running out the clock. That allowed this game to get to overtime. So, the Dallas Cowboys are a very good football team, they still have everything in front of them. But can you trust them?” — Trey Wingo 

9. “The Achilles’ heel for Dallas: the offensive line was not very good. They’re just not a real physical group, and they have a hard time in pass protection.” — Mike Martz

10. “Dallas has some soul-searching to do defensively, especially when you give up those kinds of yards in the rushing game. And the Jaguars have a hell of a running back, but my gosh, to put up those kinds of yards, it shouldn’t be.” — Mike Martz

Chiefs 30, Texans 24

11. “The way the Chiefs are playing right now is not good enough for them to make a deep run into the postseason. They look a little bored. They a look a little, ‘Can we just get to the playoffs?’ And they better not mess around. Because if they don’t take care of business the last three games of the regular season, there is a distinct possibility that — not only will they not catch the Buffalo Bills for the No. 1 seed — they might fall to the three seed. Which means they might have to go through both Cincinnati and Buffalo if they want to get to a third Super Bowl in four seasons.” — Trey Wingo

12. “You never apologize for a win in the NFL, but the Chiefs are not a really good football team right now. By the way, that’s also why Patrick Mahomes is the MVP of the league, because he continues to do stuff, with a team that isn’t really playing well. ” — Trey Wingo

13. “Kansas City, watching them — their body language on the sideline — they just did not look inspired at all. At this time of the season, when you play at such a high level and have so many tough games back to back, you get tired. Your guys get worn down. I don’t believe it was Kansas City’s best effort, but they were able to get out of there with a win. As a coach and as a football team, the whole point is to get out of there with the win. You don’t get style points.” — Mike Martz

14. “Give the Chiefs an extra day off because they need it. They look tired to me. That’s a tired football team. I’d give them an extra day off if it were me and let them recover a little bit and get ready for the next one.” Mike Martz

Broncos 24, Cardinals 15

15. “I understand it goes against conventional thinking, but I liked how the Cardinals went for two when they scored to close the gap to just a 9-point deficit. By going for it, they know what they must do and where they are in regard to the score moving forward for the rest of the game. It might go against analytics, but I agree with the thought process.” — T.J. McCreight

Raiders 30, Patriots 24

16. “The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce. The Cincinnati Bengals have Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase. We can go on and on — Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs. The Patriots do not have a game-breaker on offense. The Patriots need to lean on the defense because that’s the game-breaker on this team — along with solid special teams and playing great in situational football. So when you have an opportunity like that, after being down 17-3 at the half, to push this game into overtime and have an opportunity to win. And then the one thing that you’re known for — situational football — is your downfall, that’s a game-changing blow for the New England Patriots. Not only for this game but for their whole season.” — Tank Williams 

17. “The first thing I thought of was, what went down in the locker room? When Belichick called the team up, his first words talking about that play like, if somebody could’ve recorded that I’d love to hear that. There’s nobody better at it than Belichick I mean getting past that. You always hear him say, ‘On to Pittsburgh, on to Cincinnati.’ If anybody can refocus a team, it’s absolutely Belichick.” Carson Palmer

18. “That might have been the worst play in the history of football. Scratch that — it was the worst play in the history of football. I have no idea what Jakobi Meyers was thinking.” — Trey Wingo

Chargers 17, Titans 14

19. “We all can agree there is no season that can be more fluid with more narratives than an NFL season. As long as the Chargers are in the playoff hunt, Justin Herbert should be in the MVP discussion.” Marc Trestman

20.  “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better interception than the one Roger McCreary gave to Joshua Kalu and it wasn’t just because it was a takeaway in the end zone. But the wherewithal of a rookie to know he is going to catch this ball and be out of bounds and toss it back it in, I’ve had dreams of making plays like this. I’m sure a lot of defensive backs have. This was an unbelievably unselfish play.” Ronde Barber

Bengals 34, Buccaneers 23

21. “That’s what good teams do in situations like this in December — they win the close games. The Bengals got off to a slow start against the Buccaneers. What did they do in the second half? They throttled Tampa Bay and let everyone know they’re still one of the most dominant teams AFC and in the NFL.” Tank Williams

22. “It’s 17-0, Tampa. Tom Brady and the offense finally have it all figured out. And once again, Joe Burrow proves that he is unflappable. The idea of being down 17 to the greatest quarterback of all time doesn’t even phase the kid. The Bengals’ best might be better than anyone’s best.” Trey Wingo

23. “The Bengals can just sit back in coverage and let the ball get completed in front them, and they can rush the passer with four. They’ve run great games up front, but that offense, too. They’ve had to do it without Ja’Marr Chase for a little while. They’ve had to do it without Tee Higgins. They’ve had to do it without Mixon. They really proved they can figure out a way to win with whoever is up or down, and that is the mark of a great team.” Carson Palmer

Giants 20, Commanders 12

24. “The Giants played with a greater sense of urgency throughout. It started early and Daniel Jones had one of his better games. He looked comfortable. I thought he threw the ball really well. He had good rhythm, he really made some impressive throws under duress, with push and pressure in his face. And remember, this is not the most talented group of wide receivers. You’ve got a rookie at the tight end position. If they don’t run the ball, as we’ve seen most of the season, this is a team that’s going to struggle. Yet, Daniel Jones found a way to hang in there and make big plays, both inside the pocket and outside the pocket.” — Rich Gannon

Saturday

Vikings 39, Colts 36 

25.  “The Vikings are kind of the way we were with the Rams in the Greatest Show on Turf. You’ve got enough guys that can make big plays, and you’ve got a quarterback who is capable of making those big plays or those big throws. They’re a dangerous team, they really are, and you could see that in the second half. So, they’ll be a major factor in the NFC at the end. And who’s to say it’s not them and Philadelphia in the NFC Championship.” — Mike Martz

26. “They give up 33 points in the fourth quarter to Dallas two weeks ago, which is the second-most ever given up in an NFL fourth quarter, you have a bye week to go look at what happened, and then you come out, and this is what happens? What did you correct? What did you fix? What controls did you put in place so that it doesn’t happen again? It doesn’t look like any of that stuff was taken care of.” — Eric Mangini 

27. “It only counts as one win in the standings, but what the Vikings did against the Colts will go a long way as they head into the postseason. The confidence that they must have after this comeback hits on several different levels. The quarterback showed that he can overcome errors, not get discouraged, and come from behind in a big way. Justin Jefferson showed how tough and talented he is. Dalvin Cook showed his resolve, and Kevin O’Connell showed he is in charge and can lead. This was a statement game.” — T.J. McCreight

Browns 13, Ravens 3

28. “Since the moment Lamar went out last week, it’s been time for the panic button with the Ravens, even though they won last week with Tyler Huntly. In the Huntley experiment, you got to see for yourself it’s not who they have. It’s about No. 8. If I’m Lamar Jackson, I’m not going back out there because the price goes up for him every game he doesn’t play.” — Samari Rolle

29. “In the future, if they are able to just match the way their defense plays, production-wise or field-position-wise, the Browns have a slight chance of making the playoffs this year. But I think you can expect more out of the Browns next year when they have a full offseason to implement Deshaun.” — Samari Rolle 

30. “This is a quarterback league now and forever. The Browns got their quarterback back, and the Ravens lost theirs. Even though Watson did not have huge numbers, he made key throws and did enough to secure the victory. Tyler Huntley, on the other hand, did not do enough. And in the NFL, it’s all about the player that takes the snap from center.” — T.J. McCreight

Bills 32, Dolphins 29

31. “Defensive backs and linebackers are scared to death to get too aggressive, because they might fall down with the ice, snow and wind. Now, with most quarterbacks, it won’t matter because the guy is not strong enough, is not accurate enough, he doesn’t have the velocity on the football to make throws through those bad conditions. Well, guess what, Buffalo fans? Josh Allen does. He’s the difference in the game, and he will be the difference in getting the Bills to the AFC Championship Game.” — Dave Wannstedt

32. “Josh Allen was built to play in Buffalo. The arm talent, size, strength, and power are perfect for that city and December football. It is not easy playing in cold, windy weather. If you don’t have an arm to cut through the elements, you will always struggle in adverse weather late in the season. The NFL is and always will be a league of big, strong players.” — T.J. McCreight

33. “The Bills should be seriously concerned about their defense. Von Miller is out for the season, and who knows when Jordan Phillips will return after missing the last two games. Buffalo’s run defense, which gave up nearly 200 yards to the Dolphins on Saturday, could end up being its Achilles’ heel in the playoffs this season.” — Mike Tannenbaum

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