Week 16 of the 2021 NFL season is officially in the books. The Colts edged the Cardinals. The Rams survived the Vikings. The Bills trounced the Patriots. The Bengals beat up on the Ravens … and that was just a fraction of the action from this week.
But what did we learn about each of the 32 teams in the process? We’re so glad you asked. As Week 17 draws near, we take a look below at one thing we took away from each team:
Kliff Kingsbury teams always collapse. The Cardinals started 7-0, but have now lost five of eight, becoming on Saturday the ninth straight team coached by Kingsbury to start strong and close with a whimper. The NFC West is no longer theirs.
They need to figure out the run game. Cordarrelle Patterson worked just fine as the lead back for a while, but those days appear to be over. Mike Davis is not the answer. Whomever is starting at QB in 2022 deserves a better plan.
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They’re in real trouble. At least one of Lamar Jackson or Tyler Huntley will be back eventually, but man, the injuries keep hitting them, and their defense is getting worse. The AFC North is ugly and crowded, but they’re no longer front-runners.
Josh Allen is back in the MVP race. Or at least he probably should be. His arm and legs were both hard at work in Buffalo’s much-needed revenge game against the Patriots. It’s safe to say he’s proven 2020 wasn’t a fluke.
Nick Foles deserves better. And he has for a while. Justin Fields obviously belongs under center if he’s healthy, but Foles brings just as much as, if not more than, Andy Dalton as the veteran reserve. His clutch finish against Seattle was fitting.
Teams should be afraid of their passing game. When they’re clicking, like they did against the Ravens, Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ trio of top wideouts are a big-play machine. How on Earth can you defend Ja’Marr Chase on this offense?
Kevin Stefanski needs to wake up in regards to Baker Mayfield. He stayed committed to No. 6 earlier this year even when the QB was limping through bad outings. He then inexplicably kept dialing up passes on an awful night for Mayfield in Green Bay.
They’re back. The defense had been faring well for a while, but playing beat-up Washington enabled them to fire on all cylinders. When Dak Prescott is on the money, and their “D” is making plays, they look like a real contender.
The offense needs an overhaul. Chiefly at QB and on the sidelines, where they’ve too often schemed themselves into trouble. Drew Lock predictably struggled in place of Teddy Bridgewater, but the run game was also absent against Vegas.
Amon-Ra St. Brown will be a household name. He’s quietly had a heck of a rookie year, emerging as the Lions’ top wideout even with mostly mediocre QBs throwing him passes. Get him some help, and he’ll break out even more.
Rasul Douglas is clutch. The Packers have cut it close a few times during their road to the NFC’s top seed, but their journeyman corner is a big reason they’ve stayed on top. His picks have come at all the right times.
Davis Mills: real QB prospect. The longer Mills has played for an otherwise underwhelming team, the more promising he’s looked. Rex Burkhead’s huge day helped against the Chargers, but the rookie signal-caller was never rattled.
Only COVID stands in their way. That’s an exaggeration, but imagine if they also had Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson against Arizona. They’ve been finding different ways to win on both sides of the ball. Playoffs, here we come.
The problems won’t end in Week 18. There are still two games to go, but Trent Baalke is already set to return as GM. Trevor Lawrence, who might’ve legitimately regressed because of this season, must be thrilled.
The offense is in full form. And they’re not even at full health. When Byron Pringle, Derrick Gore and Mecole Hardman can lead you in receiving in a blowout win over a fellow AFC playoff contender, you’re in good shape.
They’re gritty again! Appropriately left for dead after their offensive slide, the Raiders won in bruising fashion against Denver, leaning heavily on Josh Jacobs and a suddenly stout run “D.” At least they can play spoiler.
They’re not ready for the big stage. How else are we to read their embarrassing loss to Houston? Justin Herbert is often magic, but he was disheveled. More concerning: Brandon Staley’s defense once again failed to show up.
Sony Michel needs the rock. He saved a bad day from Matthew Stafford in Minnesota. And he’s really been money with most opportunities since he arrived. L.A. shouldn’t abandon the run just because it has toys in the passing game.
Mike Zimmer’s defense isn’t up to the task. Yes, his front disrupted Matthew Stafford early in their big game against the Rams, but it also had no answer for Sony Michel and got more vulnerable in crunch time. Their run appears to be over.
They need perfection to win. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but eventually leaning on a rookie QB and old-school approach was going to hurt them. Mac Jones has now had three straight starts with minimal or negative impact.
Defense can only give them so much. Dennis Allen’s unit successfully got the “W” against Tom Brady, but it turns out you need something on offense to string together victories. Ian Book was a deer in headlights against the Dolphins.
They are doomed. Not just for the rest of 2021 (it’s almost over, New York, we promise), but perhaps for longer. Why on Earth would they be guaranteeing a return for Joe Judge and Daniel Jones right now?
Zach Wilson can scramble. We knew this before, but it looks a whole lot better when he’s playing a hapless Jaguars defense! In all seriousness, his legs were a big reason New York overcame the absence of its own head coach.
They’re almost certainly bound for the playoffs. The path is clear now, with Week 17 bringing realistic clinching scenarios. They can’t keep starting slow, but they also keep finding a way, especially with game-sealing defensive takeaways.
The offense needs an overhaul. And the warning signs have been obvious all year: Ben Roethlisberger isn’t who he once was, the O-line isn’t built to play ground-and-pound, etc. Will Matt Canada be back to fix this?
It’s Trey Lance time (perhaps for a while). Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t great in their close loss to the Titans. Now he’s hurt. With a good showing down the stretch, Lance has the potential to steal the job at a crucial point in the season.
They need help all over the field. Who knows if Russell Wilson will be back, but boy does their defense need reinforcements. The entire unit was gassed by the end of a battle with Nick Foles and the Bears’ offense (!).
Antonio Brown still has it. Maybe his off-field history is — and remains — tattered. But every time Tom Brady has needed him, he’s proven he can still be a No. 1 wideout. The Bucs will be fine with their current setup.
They are a Derrick Henry away from a surprise run. Somehow, they won’t die under Mike Vrabel, even as their lineup has been decimated by injuries, COVID and veteran disappointments. A power ground game would set them back on course.
They’ve packed it in. And can you blame them, considering the losses they’ve suffered? Taylor Heinicke might be chucking it still, but to what avail? Ron Rivera needs a QB upgrade — and a healthier supporting cast — like no one.