32 lessons from Week 13 of the 2022 NFL season: Injury, turmoil alter postseason, prognosis for MVP

The following 32 observations are based on Week 13 of the 2022 NFL season:

1. With the start of December football, it seemed like a crucial weekend, especially in the AFC, as the Buffalo Bills moved into the top spot overall while the Kansas City Chiefs lost yet another game to a potential rival. A couple of notable starting quarterbacks suffering injuries, meanwhile, might shift the balance of power going forward.

2. Next, there is the MVP competition. Joe Burrow, the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, outperformed Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (again). Josh Allen of Buffalo, who hurt his throwing elbow a month ago, now seems to be on track. But Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, who completed 380 yards and three touchdown passes while also scoring on the ground on Sunday, might now be the favorite to win the award. His development as a passer coincided with the Eagles’ ascent to the top of the NFC, and they are the only team in the league with 11 victories.

3. The Bengals defeated Mahomes three times in a row, all by a three-point margin, during the course of the preceding 11 months, making them the first team to do it. This victory included the AFC championship game from the previous season.

Despite being wedged in the AFC standings between the Bengals (8-4) and Bills (9-3) this year, Kansas City (9-3) has dropped games to both of its divisional opponents.

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4. Despite the San Francisco 49ers’ flurry of activity at this year’s trade deadline, we recommended at the time that they focus on acquiring a seasoned backup quarterback; talking to the Pittsburgh Steelers about Mitch Trubisky or Mason Rudolph, for instance, would definitely be a good idea. One month later, it appears that the Niners’ decision to remain steadfast was a severe error. QB1 Jimmy Garoppolo broke his foot on Sunday, ending what appears to be his season.

During the first quarter of the game at Levi’s Stadium, Miami Dolphins inside linebacker Jerome Baker (55) and offensive linebacker Jaelan Phillips (15) sack San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10).

5. The NFC West leaders continue to lead the way for the time being with journeyman Jacob Eason and rookie Brock Purdy, dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” for being the final player taken in the 2022 selection. That doesn’t mean general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan won’t begin searching through opposing practice squads in the hopes that someone like Washington’s Carson Wentz (possibly?) shakes free while evaluating who is on the street, such as Cam Newton. Josh Johnson, a wandering graybeard, is reportedly joining the team via the Denver Broncos practice squad.

6. Despite this, the 49ers’ defense, which was arguably always a strength, helped them thrash the Miami Dolphins on Sunday to extend their winning streak to five games. The first second-half points against the Niners since Week 7 were conceded by San Francisco when WR Tyreek Hill scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

7. In contrast, the Fins’ five-game winning streak ended, costing them the AFC East title and dropping them to sixth place overall in the conference. The only club Miami is now set to play down the stretch with a losing record is the Green Bay Packers, so things may get dicey.

Despite not playing on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills retake the top spot in the AFC.

8. Hill now has a league-high 1,379 receiving yards; to become the first player to reach the 2,000-yard mark, he must average 124.2 over the last five games.

9. Despite the Cleveland Browns’ 27-14 victory over his former team, the Houston Texans, quarterback Deshaun Watson’s much awaited return to regular-season action after a 700-day absence failed to impress. Watson ran for an additional 21 yards and completed 131 yards of passing with one interception. Watson didn’t play for Houston in 2021 before being suspended for the first 11 games of this season for his new team amid a cloud of sexual misconduct claims stemming from interactions with massage therapists, litigation, and a wish to be transferred nearly two years ago. “It’s not going to be perfect, especially playing December football and it’s Week 1 for me,” he admitted.

Watson’s victory marked his first in 738 days.

10. Browns supporters must wonder if Cleveland isn’t better off with QB2 Jacoby Brissett as long as the team has a realistic chance of making the playoffs. Alternatively, they may simply prefer Brissett given Watson’s ongoing resistance to dealing with his off-field issues and rehabilitation efforts.

11. Cleveland scored 27 points, the highest by any club since 1999, without scoring an offensive touchdown. Two defensive touchdowns were scored by the Browns, and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones returned a punt 76 yards for a score.

12. The Packers now have 787 victories overall, the most in league history and one more than Chicago, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers cemented his “ownership” of the Chicago Bears with Sunday’s 28-19 victory. Rodgers is 25-5 all-time versus his team’s most ferocious foe. The illustrious franchises have now come into contact 206 times, which is a record.

The Bears are not the NFL’s most successful team for the first time since December 1921.

13. And given that Rodgers now appears to have a new football weapon of mass devastation, the tendency is certain to continue as long as he is in charge. Of Green Bay’s three touchdowns, rookie Packers WR Christian Watson tallied two of them. Watson has had 30 touches thus far this season, and nine of them, or 30%, have led to six points.

As of right now, Matt LaFleur, the Packers’ head coach, is 8-0 against Chicago.

14. However, Bears quarterback Justin Fields might soon send the pendulum swinging the opposite way. He became the first quarterback to score a touchdown on the ground in six straight games during the Super Bowl era (since 1966) with his 55-yard TD run.

Fields also made history by becoming the first quarterback in the league’s 103-year history to complete three TD runs of at least 50 yards, all of which have miraculously happened this season.

15. If the trade of wide receiver A.J. Brown by the Tennessee Titans on the opening night of the April draft wasn’t absurd enough at the time, Sunday’s defeat by his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles, made it much more so. In a 35-10 thrashing, Brown caught two touchdown receptions to help Philadelphia advance closer to claiming the top playoff seed in the NFC.

In addition, Brown ended with eight catches for 119 yards in addition to his two touchdowns, highlighting what he brings to the table in contrast to what the AFC South-leading Titans have in their air game. The wide receivers for Tennessee caught four passes for a total of 41 yards and a score.

16. Eagles LB Nakobe Dean, a defensive captain for the Georgia Bulldogs’ 2021 national championship team, recorded a season-high six tackles on a big weekend for the Bulldogs. This was a rookie season high. Jordan Davis, a fellow rook and teammate at UGA who was selected by Philadelphia in the first round this year, made a comeback after missing more than a month due to an ankle injury.

17. Chandler Jones, welcome to the 2022 season. The pass rusher was signed by the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency, but after spending $51 million over three years, he had only produced half a sack after 11 games. However, Jones, a four-time Pro Bowler with over 100 career sacks to his credit, sacked Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert three times on Sunday, aiding the Silver and Black in their third straight victory.

As a result of the Bolts’ loss, Kansas City is the only team in the overrated AFC West with a winning record; the other three are all expected to miss the postseason.

18. Even though it forced him to miss Sunday’s game, Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson chose a favorable day to suffer what appeared to be a very minor knee injury; he may be available in Week 14 depending on the results of the MRI. However, the Broncos, who began Week 13 as the league’s lowest-scoring club, were defeated by the AFC North leaders, 10-9, with the help of the game’s lone touchdown.

19. On a more serious note, we would strongly advise Jackson to quickly agree to a long-term contract with the Ravens. Whether or not he would admit it, he has not had an MVP-caliber season. However, the new injury should serve as a reminder that nothing in the NFL is guaranteed, with the exception of the nine-figure contracts that the league’s few superstars, like Jackson, can negotiate. Lamar, make some money even if you can’t match Watson’s fully guaranteed $230 million contract.

20. The Minnesota Vikings’ 27-22 victory over the New York Jets effectively ended a tie for the NFC North title, to use an archaic baseball phrase that wouldn’t apply anyway due to NFL tiebreaker rules. A divisional victory and at least one home playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium are guaranteed with one more Vikings win or Detroit Lions defeat in their matchup the following week.

21. Mike White, the quarterback for the New York Jets, had a mixed performance in his second start of the year. He completed 369 passes, and New York outgained Minnesota 486 to 287. However, the recently promoted starter also threw two picks, one of which was at the Minnesota 1-yard line on the Jets’ final play as they were attempting to score the game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds left.

22. The Dallas Cowboys may now be the Eagles’ biggest obstacle on the path to Super Bowl 57 following Sunday night’s 54-19 rout, which doesn’t say much considering how embarrassing the Indianapolis Colts were to them.

And kudos for the red stripe that Dallas’ helmets now have in recognition of veterans, another nod to 1976.

23. It was perhaps fitting that the second tie of the season was formed by the New York Giants (7-4-1) and Washington Commanders (7-5-1) (especially since we miss draws so much now that the World Cup has advanced to the elimination round). However, despite being neck and neck behind the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East as they compete for the remaining two playoff spots in the division, these teams are pretty evenly matched. There is also a great deal of uncertainty because both Taylor Heinicke of the Commanders and Giants QB Daniel Jones are unsigned for 2023. When they get together again outside of the country’s capital in two weeks, perhaps we’ll see some resolution.

24. However, the tie ended up costing Washington more money in the short term. Los Angeles Rams, the improbable Super Bowl champion, were defeated by the Seahawks, putting Seattle (7-5) percentage points ahead of the Commanders for the final NFC wild-card spot.

25. How about LA? For the first time in his nine-year career, DT Aaron Donald (ankle) missed a game on Sunday. The Rams’ starting quarterback was John Wolford, and their two top receivers were Tutu Atwell and Brandon Powell because Matthew Stafford (neck) and WR Cooper Kupp (ankle) were on injured reserve.

26. If the Rams (3-9) suffer one more defeat, they would join the 1999 Broncos as Super Bowl champions with double-digit losses.

Lions DE: 27  The No. 2 overall draft pick in 2022, Aidan Hutchinson, recorded two tackles and a half-sack on Sunday. Although it wasn’t his best performance of his rookie season, it helped the Detroit Lions defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars 40-14. Travon Walker, the only player taken before Hutchinson last spring, led the Jaguars with five tackles, including one for a loss.

28. The Bills became the first team to defeat the Bill Belichick New England Patriots by double digits in three straight games with their victory on Thursday night (24-10).

29. And discuss a chosen group of people. As the third quarterback to defeat Belichick’s Patriots five times, Allen joins Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Ryan Tannehill.

30. In addition, Allen is the first player in league history to record five rushing touchdowns and at least 25 touchdown throws in three different seasons.

31. Despite the fact that Denver may have lost this season, let’s recognize the continuous efforts of one of the league’s top defenses. That was shown by LBs Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell, who combined for 17 tackles in Sunday’s one-point loss.

32. And last, but by no means least, this weekend was the players’ now-annual chance to spruce up their kicks for deserving causes. So check out the NFL’s #MyCauseMyCleats #MCMC initiative if you want to donate to a good cause and maybe even score some great kicks if you’re a sneakerhead.

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