NFL Week 13 takeaways: Ravens move closer to playoffs


Baltimore helped its playoff case with Lamar Jackson‘s third straight win at quarterback, the Bears dropped a game to the Giants, Arizona shocked Green Bay, Indianapolis couldn’t find the scoreboard and Carolina continued its slide.

All that and more in Week 13’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

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Lamar Jackson staked his claim to the starting-quarterback job for the rest of the season, becoming the fifth rookie QB to win his first three NFL starts. It’s not always pretty or smooth, but Jackson brings a run-first offensive identity that has turned Baltimore into a serious playoff contender. The Ravens (7-5) hold a one-game lead for the No. 6 playoff spot in the AFC, thanks primarily to Jackson’s running ability. There is a chance Joe Flacco could be cleared to play in next Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, but it would be difficult to take the job away from Jackson at this point. — Jamison Hensley

The Falcons needed to count on their offense if they had any chance of salvaging the season. Instead, the offense failed once again in a fourth consecutive loss. Managing just 131 total yards against the Ravens — Atlanta’s lowest since totaling 105 in a 1999 loss to the 49ers — seems inexcusable for a team that has a one-time MVP in Matt Ryan and five-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones. But, as Ryan said, the Falcons didn’t execute the plays, and some of the play calls were questionable. Now the 4-8 Falcons have to figure out how to move forward at Green Bay. — Vaughn McClure

The Rams overcame a slow start on offense Sunday to clinch their second consecutive NFC West title. Aaron Donald had a strip-sack at a crucial point in the fourth quarter that Todd Gurley converted into a touchdown to put the game out of reach. The Rams (11-1) are in first place in the NFC and in control of home-field advantage in the playoffs. That alone should provide motivation next Sunday in Chicago. — Lindsey Thiry



Jared Goff credits the Rams’ defense for playing its “ass off” and looks to the playoffs.

Sunday’s loss to the Rams ensures Detroit will not have three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the mid-1990s. It also means the Lions will go 25 years (and counting) without a division title. How the Lions lost — mistakes in the fourth quarter that crushed them — is just emblematic of the team’s problems, no matter the coach, quarterback or general manager, over the past quarter-century. And it leaves the Lions with little to play for over the last month of the season. — Michael Rothstein

The Cardinals’ shot at the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick took a hit Sunday. As Arizona improved to 3-9, quarterback Josh Rosen‘s resolve was on display yet again. He showed that bad plays don’t bother him after he shook off a near-interception to throw a game-saving, 32-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald on third down, which eventually led to the game-winning field goal by Zane Gonzalez. They get another team looking for a high pick in the Lions next Sunday. — Josh Weinfuss

If ever there was a layup for the Packers, it was Sunday’s game at home against the two-win Cardinals. “This was a game that we have won in the past, expected to win,” Aaron Rodgers said. “Teams that want any shot of having some postseason success have got to win these games. Dome team, [34] degrees, snow, wind — it’s playing right into our hands, and we just came out flat.” The loss, when they were a two-touchdown favorite, all but wiped out any chance for the playoffs and could lead to another offseason of change in Green Bay. — Rob Demovsky

After blowing a 16-point lead last week to the Eagles, the Giants (4-8) allowed a 10-point edge to disappear in the final two minutes of regulation against the Bears. They finally escaped with an OT win and avoided being officially eliminated from playoff contention for at least another week (they have Washington next week). Coach Pat Shurmur wants “tough, resilient people.” That’s why he believes this team is growing with a new culture and learning how to win. — Jordan Raanan

The Bears need quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (right shoulder) to start next week. Backup Chase Daniel did an admirable job the past two weeks, but Chicago’s offense looked out of sync during most of Sunday’s overtime loss to the Giants. Trubisky threw on the field prior to the game and is still officially listed as “day to day” by coach Matt Nagy, but it’s difficult to envision the Bears knocking off the Rams next Sunday night without Trubisky under center. — Jeff Dickerson

For the second consecutive week, Jameis Winston played turnover-free football, throwing for 259 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense got four sacks and four takeaways despite finishing the game without a single starting defensive back. Safety Andrew Adams, who had one career interception heading into Sunday’s game, recorded three picks. After the game, Winston said, “We can’t stop playing like we’re playing right now. I love the way we’re playing, I love winning. It just feels good.” — Jenna Laine

Cam Newton threw four interceptions for the first time since his rookie season, and it came only a few days after he said he was playing the best football of his career. And now tight end Greg Olsen appears lost for the season with a ruptured plantar fascia. Coach Ron Rivera, who became more involved in the playcalling against the Bucs, is being asked about his job security with rumblings that new owner David Tepper is growing restless. The Panthers have gone from looking like one of the best teams in the NFC at 6-2 to being 6-6 and in total disarray with a trip to Cleveland next week. — David Newton

The Texans have won nine consecutive games, and this victory came after the defense dominated Cleveland in the first half, allowing just 74 yards and zero points. Houston will attempt to continue their winning streak — now the longest in the NFL — when they host the Colts in Week 14. After Indianapolis lost to the Jaguars on Sunday, the Texans have a three-game lead in the AFC South and have a chance to clinch the division next Sunday. — Sarah Barshop

The 350 yards produced by Baker Mayfield in the second half were offset by his three first-half interceptions. The Browns saw their brief two-game winning streak end because they fell behind, which led to a step back for a team that chirped pretty good after a win in Cincinnati. Now they host the Panthers, who have lost four consecutive games. — Pat McManamon

The Jaguars’ offense wasn’t any better with Cody Kessler at quarterback, but the defense certainly raised its level of play Sunday. The Jaguars held the Colts scoreless, forced two turnovers, sacked Andrew Luck three times and stopped the Colts three times on fourth down. The Colts were averaging 34.6 points per game during their five-game win streak, and Luck had tossed at least three TD passes in eight consecutive games. But the Jaguars resurrected the Sacksonville defense that was one of the league’s best last season. If it sticks around the rest of the season, the Jaguars have a legitimate chance of getting back to .500, starting with Tennessee on Thursday. — Mike DiRocco

The Colts’ five-game winning streak and playoff hopes took a major hit when Luck was shut out for the first time in his NFL career. The Colts (6-6) trail Baltimore (7-5) by a game while also having the same record as Denver and Miami. Said receiver T.Y. Hilton: “11-5 gets you in. 10-6 gets you in, but 9-7 does not get you in. We can’t lose anymore. Have to go out there and play.” Indianapolis faces a must-win next week at Houston. — Mike Wells

The Broncos have a three-game winning streak after a victory over the Bengals on Sunday to climb back to 6-6 and keep themselves in the playoff race. They believe a highly difficult schedule over the season’s first 10 weeks — six games combined against the Chiefs, Rams, Seahawks, Chargers and Texans — has made them a tested bunch that can keep battling to make something of the season. It all means they still have a chance to secure a wild-card spot if they do their part and some things fall their way, starting next week in San Francisco. — Jeff Legwold

The Bengals’ season is essentially over, and it’s time to begin questioning where they go from here. They are playing out the string after falling to 5-7, and it looks like they’re going to have to do it without A.J. Green, who was re-injured on Sunday. Do the Bengals keep Marvin Lewis for the second year of the two-year deal he signed last year? Or do they clean house and start new? The Bengals need to do something to inject life into a team that has become stale this year. — Katherine Terrell

Xavien Howard is a star. The Dolphins somehow found a way to stay alive in the AFC playoff race with a win over the Bills despite just 175 yards of total offense and allowing Josh Allen to gain 135 rushing yards, but Howard loudly made his presence known with two interceptions. He has an NFL-leading seven interceptions and declared himself “the best cornerback in the league.” His teammates agree, and he should receive Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors soon to validate his strong season, with his next opportunity for splash plays coming next Sunday at home against New England. — Cameron Wolfe

Allen had a 71.7 passer rating, but it might have been the most encouraging 71.7 rating you’ll ever see. Allen showed pinpoint accuracy on two touchdown passes, made countless plays outside the pocket and put the Bills in position to win. Allen’s last-minute heave, after spinning several times to elude pressure on fourth-and-11 from the Dolphins’ 30-yard line, should have been caught by tight end Charles Clay. He is also emerging as one of the NFL’s top rushing threats at quarterback, having gained 234 yards over the past two games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau data, that is the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a two-game span since Green Bay’s Tobin Rote had 281 in 1951. — Mike Rodak

The Cowboys enter December in first place in the NFC East. A four-game winning streak has them at 7-5 and believing in their direction as the most important month of the season begins. “One thing about playing a team of this caliber is that every tackle and everything means so much,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “You get to see what your best is made of.” It would be even bigger for the Cowboys if they can beat the world champion Eagles next Sunday at home. — Todd Archer



Stephen A. Smith gives credit to the Cowboys for their win against the Saints, and particularly applauds the defense.

The Saints and Drew Brees went overboard in proving they’re human with a total offensive flop in Dallas that dropped them to 10-2. Of course, they will bounce back, since they were one of the best offenses in NFL history through their first 11 games, but even if they don’t lose again this season, they still might not be able to catch the 11-1 Rams for the top seed in the NFC. The Saints will try to get back on track next week at Tampa Bay. — Mike Triplett

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