The A.F.C. playoff race only gets increasingly contentious with each passing week, and teams are adjusting to be sure they’ll keep pace. To that end, the Jets reset their offense by sitting quarterback Zach Wilson and running back James Robinson. The Bengals and the Titans put their contrasting styles on display in one other hard-fought matchup that’s becoming certainly one of the conference’s most underrated rivalries.
The Jets’ offense can work.
Coach Robert Saleh hasn’t gone to date as to say that the second-year quarterback Zach Wilson won’t return because the Jets’ starter, however the team’s 31-10 win over the Bears at home identified the glaring disconnect between Wilson and the offense’s potential.
On Sunday, Mike White accomplished 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns, lacing throws to 10 different receivers while starting rather than Wilson, who was inactive for the sport after a nightmare performance with just nine completions against the Patriots in Week 11.
When the Jets chosen Wilson No. 2 overall out of Brigham Young University in 2021, the bill was that they were getting a semi-athletic, strong-armed scrambler who could go off script and make big plays down the sphere. He can be a player whose creativity and explosive plays could make up for inefficiency, à la Russell Wilson or Kyler Murray.
But despite the team adding tight end C.J. Uzomah and the rookie receiver Garrett Wilson within the off-season, Zach Wilson hasn’t yet consistently made the kinds of throws that keep drives alive long enough for firework plays to develop. He doesn’t work the fast game or check through his progressions, and that has made for a wonky slot in Mike LaFleur’s offense, which is built on timing and precision.
LaFleur, who previously worked under Kyle Shanahan, employs a scheme built on play-action calls and throws targeting the center of the sphere, just like those run by accurate quarterbacks like Jimmy Garoppolo and Tua Tagovailoa.
On Sunday, White highlighted what’s presupposed to work for the Jets (7-4). The team’s first drive featured five short completions before White found Garrett Wilson on a brief corner route ultimately zone for an 8-yard rating that helped put the Jets up by 7-0.
White’s second touchdown, also to Wilson, showcased the big-play potential of the Jets’ personnel. On a first-and-10 near midfield late within the second quarter, the Jets stacked Denzel Mims and Wilson to the appropriate side and had Mims run an over path to clear the center of the sphere for Wilson. White reared back and delivered the ball to Wilson right over a linebacker. Wilson made a Bears defender miss, then zoomed to the top zone for a 54-yard rating.
That is the second straight season during which White has made a star cameo for the Jets. White, chosen within the fifth round by Dallas in 2018, stunned the league within the Jets’ upset win over the Bengals in his first profession start last season. He threw 4 picks to a fierce Bills defense two weeks later. White’s big moment this season comes with a grain of salt: The Bears (3-9) began a backup quarterback of their very own, Trevor Siemian, and couldn’t generate a semblance of a pass rush.
Still, LaFleur called plays that got Jets open all around the field and swapped within the rookie running back Zonovan Knight (14 carries, 69 yards) for James Robinson, whom the Jets acquired from Jacksonville after Breece Hall was injured. With a little bit of accuracy and balance, the Jets, for once, made winning look routine.
Jalen Hurts is constructing an M.V.P. case.
Coming into Week 12, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was still stuck behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa as Las Vegas’s favored candidates for the Most Worthwhile Player Award. But in leading the Eagles to a 40-33 shootout win over the Packers in Philadelphia on Sunday night, Hurts wouldn’t allow a slow passing night to stop him from having a highlight-reel performance.
Hurts was limited to only 5.5 yards per passing attempt but completely dismantled the Packers’ defense, ending the sport with 157 rushing yards on 17 carries. It’s the fourth-highest rushing total for a quarterback in a game throughout the regular season since 2000, trailing only the Bears’ Justin Fields’s 178-yard outing against the Dolphins in Week 9 this season and two Falcons-era Michael Vick games.
Hurts began the festivities immediately with a 24-yard scramble on a third-and-10 on the Eagles’ first drive of the sport. With the Packers (4-8) in man coverage, common for each defense on third down, linebacker Quay Walker tried to peel off his man to tackle Hurts at the road of scrimmage, but Hurts hit Walker with a shimmy, then did the identical to safety Adrian Amos a couple of yards later before angling to the appropriate sideline to complete off the run.
Hurts also added some flair with designed runs. Each Hurts and the Eagles’ experienced, athletic offensive line allow the offense to execute runs most other teams can’t, corresponding to quarterback counter, which the Eagles (10-1) ran successfully near the red zone on this game. At 6-foot-1 and 223 kilos, Hurts not only has the majority and strength to take the punishment of those downhill carries, however the speed and burst to search out extra yards once he gets to the second level.
That Hurts can drop a near record-breaking rushing performance, while also throwing for 153 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions is a testament to his true dual-threat capabilities. That he did it in prime time against the four-time M.V.P. Aaron Rodgers (who left the sport within the third quarter after injuring his oblique), should draw more attention to what was already a solid argument.
Bengals vs. Titans is an underrated clash of styles.
The cliché that styles make fights holds particular truth at this point within the season, when temperatures drop and the stakes rise with each remaining for would-be contenders.
The bottom-and-pound Titans (7-4) hardly have anything in common, stylistically, with the Bengals’ high-flying passing offense and that mismatched pairing once more made for a compelling bout on Sunday. Within the sequel to January’s divisional-round playoff game, which the Bengals won en path to a Super Bowl appearance, Cincinnati (7-4) got here out on top, 20-16, in Tennessee.
Playing behind a middling offensive line and without receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offense were stymied for many of the game by the Titans’ bullying line of defense. As a substitute of attempting to win with speed on the sides, the Titans frequently play the 269-pound Bud Dupree and the 285-pound Denico Autry, a beefy duo who can crush the pocket and condense space.
Cincinnati’s first three drives resulted in punts and Burrow took his only sack of the day in the primary quarter. Tennessee’s defense, certainly one of the league’s best on third downs, held Cincinnati to only 5 of 14 conversions.
However the Bengals’ explosiveness can sometimes detract from how willingly the team’s personnel can adjust. The offense has almost exclusively returned to shotgun formations after a rocky first two games and might spread the sphere for brief gains until a shot opens up for running back Samaje Perine or for Burrow to search out receiver Tee Higgins.
Burrow turned to a smattering of quick throws to avoid coping with the Titans’ pass rush altogether. Tennessee’s offense countered the Bengals’ swarming running back Derrick Henry by feeding him short passes, certainly one of which Henry busted for a 69-yard gain before being stripped on the goal line. Titans receiver Treylon Burks recovered the fumble for a touchdown that put the Titans up, 10-3 after the additional point, within the second quarter.
The sport went to halftime tied, 10-10, and the teams traded field goals within the third quarter. The Bengals’ offensive talent only began to win out during their six-play, 75-yard drive that ended at first of the fourth quarter. Higgins brought in two 20-plus-yard snags on the sideline, the second for a touchdown.
The Titans, who didn’t rating a touchdown in three red zone tries, booted a 38-yard field goal and were elated to limit the Bengals to kicking after their defense held on third-and-11 from the Tennessee 13-yard line with two minutes left. Up by 4 points before the try, Cincinnati, had it made the kick, would have left the Titans somewhat over a minute to attempt to tie. But defensive end Kevin Strong clobbered the snapper on the sphere goal attempt and was called for unnecessary roughness, giving Cincinnati a latest set of downs to kneel out the clock.
With talent and magnificence clashing until the bitter end, this game was a sample platter of what must be a hard-fought finish within the A.F.C.
Justin Herbert’s load is unsustainable and not using a run game.
Numerous the head-scratching related to the Chargers’ middling 2022 season has fallen on the quarterback and coach combination. Coach Brandon Staley has been a favourite of hot seat rumormongers and Justin Herbert, carrying a burdensome amount of the offensive load, hasn’t had the identical magic as last season. Coming into Week 12, Los Angeles was outside the playoff picture despite having spent heavily within the off-season.
But at the very least a few of the trouble has been the team’s inability to run the ball, with injuries to the offensive line and a few intentional personnel shuffling up front leading to a dull rushing attack that ranks twenty ninth in yards per carry. The Chargers weren’t precisely the Nineteen Nineties Cowboys last season, but at the very least they were about a mean unit, rating seventeenth in yards per carry.
On Sunday, the Chargers (6-5) spun a little bit of the old magic to beat the Cardinals, 25-24, counting on Herbert to throw on all seven plays of a scoring drive in the sport’s final two minutes that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown to Austin Ekeler. Staley, as is his calling card, made the daring call to go for the 2-point conversion while trailing by 1, and Herbert got here through with a dart forced inside to tight end Gerald Everett with 15 seconds left for the win.
The Chargers’ running backs took just nine carries for 27 yards, an indication of each their inefficiency and the offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s dwindling faith within the run game because the game progressed. Herbert threw 47 times, which worked on Sunday but can’t be asked of any quarterback on a weekly basis.
Though the win breathed latest life into Los Angeles’s playoff hopes, Herbert is averaging about 42 attempts per game, second only to Tom Brady of Tampa Bay.
That was adequate to eke out a win over the Cardinals (4-8) however the query stays as to how far Herbert can carry the Chargers and not using a ground game to face on. Only one game out of the playoffs after Sunday, Los Angeles still has to face Miami (8-3) and Tennessee (7-4) because it bids for a wild-card berth within the A.F.C. Those defenses aren’t prone to allow Herbert and Staley to conjure last-minute plays out of thin air.
Across the N.F.L.
Eagles 40, Packers 33: Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts dashed to 157 yards, a game-high that narrowly eclipsed running back Miles Sanders’s 143. Aaron Rodgers left the sport within the third quarter with an oblique injury, and the 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love got here on in relief to guide two drives that resulted in a complete of 10 points.
Raiders 40, Seahawks 34, time beyond regulation: Raiders running back Josh Jacobs took 33 carries, brutalizing the Seahawks’ defense for 4 quarters. Jacobs topped off his performance with an 86-yard, game-winning touchdown in time beyond regulation, giving Las Vegas time beyond regulation road wins in back-to-back weeks.
Chargers 25, Cardinals 24: The Cardinals were the marginally higher team for about 59 minutes 45 seconds. Kyler Murray went 18 of 29 for 191 yards with two passing touchdowns, one rushing rating and an interception in his return from a hamstring injury. Justin Herbert dropped back greater than 50 times and was frequently under duress but put together one drive at the top, ending it off with a 2-point play to Gerald Everett to take the lead with 15 seconds left. The Cardinals had three consecutive three-and-outs within the fourth quarter to offer the Chargers the window they needed.
Kansas City 26, Rams 10: Kansas City took a 20-3 lead into the fourth quarter in a game that wasn’t remotely close. The Rams backup quarterback Bryce Perkins eked out 100 yards passing while taking three sacks and tossing two interceptions.
49ers 13, Saints 0: The 49ers’ defense handed the Saints their first shutout since 2001, as defensive end Nick Bosa added one other sack, linebacker Fred Warner was a nuisance across the center, and safety Talanoa Hufanga led the team in tackles with nine.
Commanders 19, Falcons 13: The Commanders don’t feel like a 7-5 team, but with this win over the Falcons, that’s what they’re. Running the ball had been Atlanta’s calling card, but Washington won the bottom battle, 176 yards to 167, led by Brian Robinson’s 105 yards on 18 carries. The Falcons had a shot to win with a minute left, but Marcus Mariota’s pass was tipped contained in the 5-yard line and fell into the hands of Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller. Taylor Heinicke improved to 5-1 since replacing Carson Wentz at quarterback.
Dolphins 30, Texans 15: Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had no issue finding Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle within the Texans’ zone-heavy defense, calling passes over runs at a few three-to-one ratio because the Dolphins scored 30 points in the primary half. The starting left tackle Terron Armstead left the sport with a pectoral injury, and Miami cruised to its fifth straight win and retained control of the A.F.C. East.
Panthers 23, Broncos 10: Russell Wilson was outdueled by Sam Darnold (11 of 19 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown), who made his first start of the season for Carolina. Wilson finished with just 4.1 yards per attempt, and the Broncos’ lone touchdown got here with three minutes remaining within the fourth quarter. A successful onside kick attempt gave the Broncos temporary hope, but Denver turned it over on downs and that was that.
Browns 23, Buccaneers 17, time beyond regulation: Cleveland has a bottom-10-ranked run defense, and the Bucs entered the sport dead last in rushing offense. Tampa Bay stuck with its high-volume passing game, but was held and not using a point on its last seven possessions as Jacoby Brissett mounted a 13-point comeback to beat the Buccaneers in what is anticipated to be his last start before Deshaun Watson returns from an 11-game suspension.
Jaguars 28, Ravens 27: Baltimore’s fourth quarters have been interesting, to say the least. The Ravens entered the ultimate quarter ahead, 12-10, and the 2 teams combined to attain 33 points within the fourth. Trevor Lawrence found Zay Jones and Marvin Jones on back-to-back plays and scored on a 75-yard drive with lower than 30 seconds left. Jaguars Coach Doug Pederson’s 2-point conversion attempt was successful. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker nearly made a 67-yarder as time expired, but in a rare moment of mortality, he got here up short.
Bengals 20, Titans 16: The Titans’ brutish front 4 and tricky coverage schemes put a damper on the Bengals’ offense for about three quarters before Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins decided it was jump ball time. On the opposite end, the Titans’ offense had its game plan flipped on its head. Derrick Henry was held to 38 yards on 17 carries and fumbled into the top zone for his teammate Treylon Burks to recuperate and rating Tennessee’s only touchdown of the day.
Jets 31, Bears 10: Mike White, starting rather than Zach Wilson, carved up a lousy Bears defense, finding Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore for 3 total touchdowns. The Bears, alternatively, looked totally lost with their backup quarterback, Trevor Siemian, who appeared to injure his oblique muscle in warm-ups.