By Steve Silverman
Since the Rams and Chiefs took the week off following their record-setting Monday night show, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers decided it was his turn to set records. He completed 25 straight passes to start the game against the Arizona Cardinals and finished the game by completing 28-of-29 throws. The 25 straight completions tied the record (held by Ryan Tannehill), and he broke the record for completion percentage in a game.
Texans 34, Titans 17
Tennessee Titans: B-. There were a lot of things to like about the way the Titans played, especially compared to their awful performance in Week 11 vs. Indianapolis. The best of those was the accuracy displayed by Marcus Mariota (22-of-23, for 303 yards), but the Texans were simply the better team for 60 minutes and Tennessee was unable to keep up.
Houston Texans: A-. The Texans are simply on fire, and their hard-hitting and aggressive prime-time performance was highlighted by Deshaun Watson’s leadership and skill along with the explosive running of Lamar Milller (97-yard TD run). The Texans may have started the season with three straight losses, but they have not dropped a game since and their offense has finally caught up with their dynamic defense. This is a very dangerous team.
Bears 23, Lions 16
Chicago Bears: A-. The Bears solidified their position at the top of the NFC North by avoiding mistakes on offense and making big plays on defense. Safety Eddie Jackson’s game-winning pick-6 was almost predictable, because the defense has been so strong. Backup Chase Daniel was accurate and opportunistic playing in place of Mitch Trubisky.
Detroit Lions: C. The Lions lack identity, drive and consistency, and none of this reflects well on rookie head coach Matt Patricia. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has lost most of his weapons and has struggled with his play-making. The Lions are in last place in the NFC North, and will almost certainly remain there.
Cowboys 31, Redskins 23
Dallas Cowboys: B+. The Cowboys have suddenly turned things around, and the 1-2 punch of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott looks strong enough to see them through the finish of the regular season. They surged in the third quarter and put the game away They look like the best team in the NFC East.
Washington Redskins: C+. The Redskins struggled in their first game without starter Alex Smith, and while quarterback Colt McCoy had some decent moments, he could not lead the team with first place on the line. Head coach, Jay Gruden, faces a major test to get this team back on track and not waste their solid start.
Saints 31, Falcons 17
New Orleans Saints: B+. The Saints didn’t hit the 40-point mark in this home game, but they won their 10th straight. The Rams and Chiefs may be the league’s two most glamorous teams, but the Saints appear to be the best. The defense has been coming through since late September, and it will be very difficult to beat Drew Brees & Co.
Atlanta Falcons: C. Another game against a good team, and another loss for the Falcons. Yes, this team has been hurt badly by injuries, but there is something wrong with their makeup. Head coach, Dan Quinn, looked like a solid coach two years ago, but he does not understand what it takes to turn his team around.
Ravens 34, Raiders 17
Baltimore Ravens: B. The Ravens got contributions on offense, defense and special teams, and put away the Raiders with a strong second half. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for one TD and threw for a pair of touchdowns, while Terrell Suggs scored on a 43-yard fumble return and Cyrus Jones scored on a 70-yard punt return.
Oakland Raiders: C. This game went just the way it was expected, as the Raiders lost by more than two touchdowns after traveling coast to coast. It’s difficult for good teams to win under those circumstances, and that’s clearly not the Raiders. They got off to a competitive start before the Ravens seized control.
Bills 24, Jaguars 21
Buffalo Bills: B. How about those Bills? Branded as one of the two or three worst teams in the league earlier in the season, they have shown a surprising resiliency. Josh Allen may or may not be a top quarterback prospect, but he responded to the insults of Jalen Ramsey with a solid game (one TD running, one TD passing). Allen has demonstrated the toughness that he will need over a long career.
Jacksonville Jaguars: D. The pattern continues for the Jaguars, as they have proven to be one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL. Doug Marrone is a front runner who can’t adjust when things go badly, and Tom Coughlin needs to part company with him at the end of the season. The same holds for quarterback Blake Bortles.
Seahawks 30, Panthers 27
Seattle Seahawks: B+. The Seahawks continue to win games that they should lose. Their defense does just enough to keep them in the game, and when that happens, Russell Wilson takes charge in the final moments. Wilson threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns, and his 43-yard TD pass to Tyler Lockett set up Sebastian Janikowski for the game-winning field goal.
Carolina Panthers: C. The Panthers needed a win badly after losing at Detroit in Week 11, and while they had the Seahawks on the ropes, they could not close the deal. Despite the loss, running back Christian McCaffrey was sensational with 125 rushing yards and 112 receiving yards.
Browns 35, Bengals 20
Cleveland Browns: A-. Say what you want about the Cleveland Browns, but they are a better team than they have been in the past. It’s doubtful that Gregg Williams can lead this team over the long term, but the team is playing harder and more efficiently. Baker Mayfield torched the Bengals with four TD passes, and the Browns won on the road for the first time since 2015, snapping a 25-game road losing streak.
Cincinnati Bengals: C-. The Bengals have fallen apart and may only win one more game the rest of the year (Oakland at home in Week 15). The Bengals fell behind by 28-0 at home before they decided to put up token resistance. Marvin Lewis has lost whatever ability he once had to lead this team.
Patriots 27, Jets 13
New England Patriots: B-. The Patriots won by two touchdowns on the road, but it still seemed like a disappointing effort, because expectations are so high. The Patriots moved the ball well on occasion, but not consistently. The defense did just enough to get the win.
New York Jets: C. Veteran quarterback Josh McCown played with guts and exuberance, and he did his best to keep the Jets in the game. He pushed New England hard and threw for 276 yards and a touchdown. However, New York is simply not good enough to compete with the Pats for 60 minutes.
Eagles 25, Giants 22
Philadelphia Eagles: B. The Eagles started late, as is their custom, but this time they came back and picked up the win because they were playing a below-average team like the Giants. The Eagles are not playing good football by any stretch, but because they are in the NFC East, they still have a chance.
New York Giants: C+. The Giants turned victory into defeat as they built and squandeed a 19-3 lead on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions. While the Giants rallied late to tie the score at 22-22, it was no surprise to watch the Eagles go right down the field and drive for the winning score against the New York defense.
Buccaneers 27, 49ers 9
Tampa Bay Bucs: B+. Yes, they can play defense in Tampa. The Bucs held their opponents to nine points, and this was clearly the best defensive effort of the season. Jameis Winston also came through with a rare credible game, as he threw for 312 yards and two TDs and did not make the mistakes that have marked the Bucs’ recent quarterback play.
San Francisco 49ers: C-. The 49ers have played with effort most weeks, and they have been competitive at several points, even if they haven’t been able to win games. However, they were at their most inept against a less-than-impressive opponent. This team is struggling badly.
Chargers 45, Cardinals 10
Los Angeles Chargers: A-. The Chargers woke up after taking a couple of shots and showed off their offensive skill. Philip Rivers was sensational, as he completed 28 of 29 passes for 253 yards with three touchdowns. The Chargers looked as dangerous as any team in the league.
Arizona Cardinals: D+. The Cardinals managed to get off to a sharp start, taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. It was as if an upstart fighter had landed two jabs to the jaw of Deontay Wilder, and that got the champion’s attention. The Cardinals were then pummeled for the rest of the fight, and it should have been stopped.
Colts 27, Dolphins 24
Indianapolis Colts: A-. There was a sloppy element to this game for the Colts, and they did everything in their power to give it to the Dolphins for three quarters. However, when the Dolphins refused to take charge, Andrew Luck said enough of this and won the game in the fourth quarter. The Colts are a playoff contender now, and they may be able to finish the deal.
Miami Dolphins: C. The Dolphins were competitive on the road against a red-hot team, and that’s something of an accomplishment. However, Miami had an excellent chance to win this game, and they let it get away by playing a passive fourth quarter.
Broncos 24, Steelers 17
Denver Broncos: B+. The Broncos don’t have a high level of talent, but they are getting the most out of what they have on a weekly basis. A week after upsetting the Chargers, they did the same to the Steelers, and running back Phillip Lindsay continues to show off his play-making ability. He ran for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Pittsburgh Steelers: C-. The Steelers may have been guilty of taking the Broncos lightly, and that’s something they should never do — especially when they go on the road. Mike Tomlin seems to make these kinds of mistakes more often than many other top-level coaches.
Vikings 24, Packers 17
Minnesota Vikings: B+. The Vikings got stronger as the game progressed, and quarterback Kirk Cousins put the ball in places that gave his receivers a chance to make key catches. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs punished the Green Bay secondary, and the Minnesota pass rush got to Rodgers four times.
Green Bay Packers: C. This game went as many do for the Packers, especially when they are on the road. They get off to a decent start, but they don’t do enough to sustain their effort. The Packers haven’t won a road game since last year, and they are all but out of the playoff race. Aaron Rodgers is not a happy man.
Bye week: Chiefs, Rams