One thing we learned about each team after Week 10: Deshaun Watson proves his worth, Chase Young impacts 49ers



Week 10 was one for the ages in the NFL, highlighted by six games ending on field goals with no time remaining for the first time in NFL history, including Monday night’s wild Broncos win over the Bills.

This also sets up a frantic playoff race in the AFC, where 11 teams are .500 or better and the No. 7 to No. 11 seeds are separated by a half-game in the conference. The NFC has a bit more separation, but the South has three teams within a game of first place with eight weeks to play. 

Even with the wild playoff races starting to take shape, the league is learning some things about each team in mid-November. Here’s one thing we learned about each team that played this week: 

*Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins were on a bye.

The long tight end drought is over: The Cardinals didn’t have a tight end get 100 receiving yards in a game since 1989. That drought ended Sunday thanks to Trey McBride, who ended up with eight catches for 131 yards in the win over the Falcons. That was the longest drought in NFL history as McBride continues his emergence as the No. 1 tight end. Not a surprise McBride was a reliable option for Kyler Murray, who returned from a torn ACL, as he was targeted nine times. McBride has 21 catches for 248 yards and a touchdown in his last three games. 

Bijan Robinson exists: The Falcons actually used the No. 8 overall pick to their advantage, as Robinson had 22 carries while Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson combined for 12. Robinson even had a red zone touchdown after having just five red zone carries on the year. He finished with 95 rushing yards and a touchdown, being utilized the way many envisioned when he was drafted by Atlanta. The change of pace was nice from the 22 total carries he had over the previous two games. With Atlanta’s uneven quarterback situation, the Falcons have to force-feed Robinson to score points consistently. 

They still can’t protect late leads: Doesn’t matter what scheme — offensive coordinator or defense — the Ravens continued a repeated pattern of losing late leads and blowing games. The Browns led for a grand total of 40 seconds in Sunday’s win, a game in which Baltimore was up 15 points in the third quarter and 14 points in the fourth quarter. The Ravens have trailed for a total of 28 minutes and 46 seconds this season, fewest by any team through 10 games since the 1998 Broncos (10-0) — and yet Baltimore is 7-3. Baltimore has lost nine games when leading by seven-plus points in the fourth quarter, the most by any team in any three-year span in NFL history. The Ravens are a very good team, but this is their identity until proven otherwise. 

Josh Allen still turns the ball over way too much: For one reason for another, Allen is careless with the football. The Bills quarterback significantly damages all the positive plays he makes with his interceptions and fumbles, which he had three combined on Monday night. Allen’s 14 giveaways lead the NFL, one year after he led the league with 19. His 51 turnovers over the last three years are the most in the league, as opponents have scored 144 off them (also most in league). The Bills are 9-15 when Allen turns the ball over twice (or more) in a game. The solution is simple: protect the football. 

What happened to Miles Sanders: The Panthers’ free agent signing is a nonfactor for his new team, having just two carries for -5 yards in Thursday’s loss to the Bears. Carolina’s offensive line plays a role, but Sanders had as many carries as Raheem Blackshear — the team’s third-string running back. Sanders is in Year 1 of a four-year, $25.6 million deal and he can’t get on the field, having 10 carries for 34 yards over the last three games. After having 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns (4.9 yards per carry) for the Eagles in 2022, Sanders has 224 yards and one touchdown (3.2 yards per carry) with Carolina. Whatever the problem is, Carolina has a bad contract on its hands. 

Montez Sweat makes an immediate impact: What a week it was for the Bears, as they continue the Panthers’ journey toward having the worst record in the NFL (Chicago has Carolina’s first-round pick), while their trade deadline acquisition already paid immediate dividends. Sweat led Chicago with seven pressures and notched three quarterback hits as the Bears pass rush finished with 17 pressures and nine quarterback hits against a poor Panthers offensive line. Whether it was Carolina or not, Sweat has made Chicago’s pass rush better in his two games, while notching 10 pressures himself. Chicago has 28 pressures in its last two games after having 13 combined in the previous two. Sweat’s presence certainly helps. 

Slow starts continue to haunt the team: Cincinnati was playing from behind again thanks to another slow start by the offense. The Bengals scored a touchdown on their first possession, then ran 19 plays for just 38 yards on their next five possessions (not counting kneel-downs). Cincinnati trailed 20-7 before it got its offense together as Houston scored 20 straight points. The Bengals are 20th in first-half scoring (10.2) and 26th in first-half yards per game (147.3). Even with a healthy Joe Burrow, the slow starts are a problem. They’ll need a fast start Thursday in Baltimore. 

Deshaun Watson lives up to his contract: The final stat line won’t show it, but Cleveland’s comeback will be remembered thanks to how Watson performed in the second half. Overcoming a pick-six on his first attempt in the first half, Watson played like a $230 million quarterback in the Browns’ comeback. He was 14 of 14 for 136 yards with a touchdown in the second half for a 130.6 rating (9.6 yards per attempt). Watson went 7 of 7 for 88 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter, a perfect 158.3 rating. The Browns pulled off their first AFC North win ever when trailing by 14 points, which wouldn’t have been possible without Watson’s performance. 

CeeDee Lamb is basically unstoppable: The Cowboys offense has been red hot of late, especially since putting up 49 points and 640 yards against the Giants on Sunday (in a game which Dallas clearly overmatched New York). Lamb may be the hottest player in the NFL right now, having 34 catches for 500 yards and three touchdowns in the last three games, becoming the first player ever with 10 catches and 150 receiving yards in three straight games. He’s the first player since Lionel James in 1985 with 10 catches, 150 receiving yards, a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown in a game. The Giants are bad, but Lamb has been playing like this for a month. He’s that good in Year 4. 

The defense is red hot during win streak: Lost in the midst of Denver’s three-game win streak is how well the defense has played, the same unit that gave up 70 points against the Dolphins in Week 3. Denver has allowed just 16.0 points over the last three games, first in the NFL. The Broncos have also allowed just 331.3 yards and have 10 takeaways in their last three games. This was a defense that allowed 33.3 points per game and 440.3 yards per game in the first six games. The unit also had just six takeaways in that stretch. This defense certainly has had two personalities in 2023. 

Jahmyr Gibbs is becoming the No. 1 RB: The Lions have their bell cow in David Montgomery, yet Gibbs showcased how good he can be in Montgomery’s absence. Gibbs had 36 carries for 229 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry in the two games Montgomery missed with a rib injury. Gibbs ended up getting 17 touches to Montgomery’s 12 in Sunday’s win, having 112 yards from scrimmage (77 rushing yards, 35 receiving yards). Montgomery had the 75-yard touchdown run, but Gibbs is becoming more than the complement to him. Gibbs earned the role as No.1  running back if the Lions choose to do so going forward (50 carries, 306 yards, 6.1 yards per carry last three games). 

The Christian Watson connection just isn’t there: For whatever reason, Jordan Love and Watson just aren’t on the same page. Love targeted Watson two times in the end zone on Sunday and was intercepted twice, both when the Packers were trailing 23-19 late in the fourth quarter. Watson is not having a good year (just 14 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown in six games), as he and Love haven’t connected. Five of Love’s interceptions this year were when he targeted Watson. The Packers have eight games to figure out how to make Watson a playmaker again. 

Noah Brown is the latest pass-catching weapon in a good offense: C.J. Stroud makes the whole thing go, but his leading wideout on Sunday was a player who had just 425 yards in his first four seasons. Brown (who had 555 receiving yards last season), had seven catches for 172 yards to lead Houston, a week after six catches for 153 yards and a score. In his last two games, Brown has 13 catches for 325 yards and a touchdown (25.0 yards per catch). He leads the NFL with 20.2 yards per catch, being the big-play threat in an offense that already has Nico Collins and Tank Dell. That’s a scary trio in Houston. 

Zaire Franklin may make his first Pro Bowl: Franklin has emerged into a tackling machine for the Colts, always finding his way toward the football. He finished with 15 tackles in Sunday’s win over the Patriots, including a forced fumble on Hunter Henry inside the Patriots’ own territory in the first half that could have been a game-changing play. Fresh off 167 tackles the year prior, Franklin leads the NFL with 117 through Week 10. With 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, the Pro Bowl committee may be calling next month. 

Offensive turnovers can’t be overcome: The Jaguars had a five-game win streak that was impressive, even if they committed eight turnovers in those five games. Those turnover woes continued in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, as the Jaguars had a season-high four giveaways. Trevor Lawrence had two interceptions and a fumble while Christian Kirk also had a fumble, giving Jacksonville nine giveaways in the last three games. The defense didn’t have a takeaway, so the offense couldn’t be bailed out. All of a sudden the Jaguars are minus-1 in turnover ratio, despite being tied for the league lead with 18 takeaways. The problem? They have the third-most giveaways — a major issue for a contending team. 

Coaching change has made a difference: The opponents haven’t been great (Giants and Jets), but the Raiders are 2-0 in the Antonio Pierce era. Pierce has motivated this team back to .500 and a dark-horse contender for a playoff spot. The Raiders are actually 9-5 with interim head coaches over the last three years and 12-18 with actual full-time head coaches. The in-season firings actually seem to work for the Raiders, making the upcoming matchups with the Dolphins and Chiefs even more intriguing. 

Justin Herbert can’t catch a break: Even when the Chargers offense is clicking and Herbert is playing well, Herbert can’t win games. Sunday’s loss certainly wasn’t Herbert’s fault as he threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns. The Chargers scored 27-plus points and Herbert lost for the 11th time, the most for any quarterback since the merger. In Herbert’s 59 career starts, the Chargers have scored 1,502 points and allowed 1,502. The Chargers scored a touchdown on every one of their possessions in the final 40 minutes — and lost (the first team in NFL history to accomplish that dubious feat). No matter what Herbert does to lead his team to a win, it’s not enough. That’s on the organization. 

Undefeated without Justin Jefferson: In one of the oddest developments of the year, the Vikings have won every single game Jefferson hasn’t played. Minnesota is on a five-game winning streak, all of which Jefferson has been out. Jefferson didn’t return on Sunday, yet the Vikings put up 388 yards of offense and have averaged 353.8 yards per game without him (362.4 yards per game with him). Why are the Vikings winning without Jefferson? They allowed under 20 points in four of those five games compared to just once in the first five. The defense is holding opponents while the offense remains on par — hence the team winning games. 

Time to run the ball more: As poor as the Patriots are on offense, Bill O’Brien had the right idea with his run game on Sunday. Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 33 carries and 152 yards as the Patriots had 167 rushing yards in the game. New England only mustered six points, but the Patriots were at least in the game. No matter if the quarterback is Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe, the Patriots probably should go with a 60-40 run-pass ratio. It’s their only chance to compete. 

They are what they are under Dennis Allen: New Orleans has a .500 record through 10 games and it shouldn’t be surprising in the least. Allen can’t control bad throws and dropped passes, but his defense allowed 388 yards and 27 points to a Vikings team that had a quarterback who had a week to game plan for (and hasn’t been on the team for two weeks). This was another disappointing performance from a defense that has allowed 23 points and 364.2 yards per game over the last four games. Inconsistency defines this Saints team, starting with the head coach. They’re .500 for a reason. 

Offense is a lost cause: This just sounds like a broken record, but how can a team score points when it has a third-string quarterback behind a terrible offensive line. Tommy DeVito just isn’t a starting quarterback and the play-calling for him was abysmal, hence why New York punted or turned the ball over on downs each time in the first half. The Giants had run 21 plays and had just 27 yards before closing the half, which is even worse than what they have shown all year. This falls on Brian Daboll and his game-planning. Daboll doesn’t have much to work with, but 1.3 yards per play is abysmal for an NFL team. 

Something has to change in the offense: Count 11 quarters that the Jets haven’t scored an offensive touchdown, which included Sunday night’s loss to the Raiders. The Jets only have eight offensive touchdowns this season — the fewest in the NFL — as Zach Wilson had his eighth career start with no offensive touchdowns (most by a quarterback in his first three seasons since Joey Harrington). Wilson has just 19 passing touchdowns in 30 career starts, tied for the fewest in that span since Alex Smith. The Jets had just one offensive drive that ended inside the Raiders’ 20-yard line, showcasing their offensive ineptitude. Something has to change on that side of the ball. 

The run game is a thing again: Even though the Steelers still continue to get outgained in total yards, their offense appears to look competent thanks to getting the ball to Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. The pair combined for 183 yards on 31 carries in Sunday’s win, an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Both Harris and Warren recorded a rushing touchdown, as the Steelers scored on each of their first two possessions of the game. The Steelers have averaged 185.5 rushing yards in their last two games, both wins. The offense is still a conundrum in the passing game, but the path to victory is Harris and Warren behind the revamped offensive line. Pittsburgh is 2-0 as a result. 

Chase Young makes immediate impact: Didn’t take long for Young to leave his mark on the defensive line, one which had 16 pressures, five sacks, and 10 quarterback hits in Sunday’s dominant victory over the Jaguars. Young had four pressures and a half-sack in his debut, finishing with a 16.0% pressure rate. He was one of three 49ers with four-plus pressures and at least a half-sack in the game, with Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave the others. Bosa and Hargrave combined for three sacks and eight pressures, each having a pressure rate over 14.5%. One game and Young has made a monster impact on the pass rush, hence why San Francisco traded for him. 

Geno Smith is back in a big way: Once there was some talk of whether Smith’s job was in jeopardy, but the Seahawks quarterback battled adversity with his best game of the year. Smith completed 31 of 47 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns (103.9 rating), leading Seattle to a second-half comeback against Washington. Smith was 11 of 15 in the fourth quarter, finishing with 115 yards and a touchdown (116.8 rating) and 15 of 20 for 217 yards and two touchdowns in the second half (143.1 rating). This was the same Smith who had four touchdowns and four interceptions in his last three games. When the Seahawks needed a big game out of Smith, they got one. 

Defense rose to occasion after worst performance of year: Many questions lingered surrounding the Buccaneers defense after giving up an average of 31.5 points over the last two games, including 39 points and five touchdown passes to rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud in Week 9. The defense responded against a Titans offense that severely struggled with its rookie quarterback, Wil Levis, holding Tennessee to 209 yards and six points. Derrick Henry was also held to 24 yards. The Buccaneers run defense has allowed only 95 rushing yards in the last two games, continuing its strength in that area. Bottom line, the Buccaneers needed a strong defensive performance — for Todd Bowles’ sake. 

The end for Mike Vrabel appears to be near: Vrabel has overachieved with Tennessee for a long time, yet the magic appears to be wearing off as the Titans are set to enter a rebuild. The offense continues to struggle in the red zone (0-for-2) and the protection for the quarterback continues to get worse. Tennessee scored just six points and had just 209 yards of offense in Sunday’s loss, the fourth time the Titans have been held to under 300 yards in nine games. The Titans are 3-13 in the past 16 games after being 48-27 in the 75 games prior with Vrabel. With the rebuild on the horizon, the end may be near. 

Sam Howell is showcasing his clutch ability: Howell didn’t win the game for the Commanders, but he certainly did his best to steal a victory in Seattle. Howell was 8 of 13 for 109 yards with two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter (127.9 rating), leading the Commanders to those touchdown passes on consecutive possessions. His biggest throw was the strike to Dyami Brown for a 35-yard touchdown with 52 seconds left on third-and-10, trailing 26-19. That’s the type of throw franchise quarterbacks make. Howell leads the NFL in passing yards (2,783) and has 17 touchdown passes through 10 games. He’s is the Commanders’ best quarterback in years. 





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