Week 15 NFL takeaways – Packers, Eagles avoid letdown, and Texans take control in AFC South


The Texans’ win put them in great shape in the AFC South, while the Eagles’ victory kept their hopes alive in the NFC East. And the Patriots, as expected, secured a playoff berth with their win. The Packers held off a late charge by the Bears, and the Chiefs got it done in the snow.

Here are Week 15’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

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The Texans put a dagger in the Titans’ hopes of winning the AFC South, despite quarterback Deshaun Watson throwing two interceptions. Now Houston can win the division for the fourth time in five years with a victory over the Buccaneers on Saturday. — Sarah Barshop

Next game: at Tampa Bay (1 p.m. ET Saturday)

The Titans’ four-game win streak in which they scored 30 or more points came to an end. Now they’ll need all hands on deck against the Saints’ high-octane passing attack next week. Also, keep an eye on the kicking game, which struggled thanks to another blocked field goal attempt by Ryan Succop. With the loss, Tennessee now has to win its final two games to have any chance of making the playoffs. — Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. New Orleans (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

What the NFL and outsiders think of the Packers may be quite a bit different than what they think of themselves. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers acknowledged that after what to some might have looked like another ugly win. “I don’t think we have the full respect of the league yet based on some of our performances where we got beat by a couple of scores and based on the reaction we got to know,” Rodgers said. “But we are 7-1 at home and we have an inside track at the two seed. We have an opportunity to win the division next week which guarantees a home game and the third seed at worst. I like our chances. I like our football team.” — Rob Demovsky

Next game: at Minnesota (8:15 p.m. ET Monday, Dec. 23)

The Bears have no one to blame but themselves for mediocre 7-7 record. Chicago’s roster is deep enough to win double-digit games, but the Bears squandered countless opportunities earlier in the year. They really have no business even being a .500 team. What’s especially galling is how well the Bears played over the past month when they won three straight and four of five before dropping a heart-breaker to Green Bay on Sunday. The Bears should be good enough to play with the NFC elite, but for whatever reason, they failed to resemble an elite team for a chunk of the season, and it cost them dearly. — Jeff Dickerson

Next game: vs. Kansas City (8:20 p.m. ET Sunday)

Patrick Mahomes‘ bruised passing hand was not a problem as he threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns. The 10-4 Chiefs cruised to victory, something that has become typical against divisional opponents. They raised their record to 26-3 against AFC West opponents in the last five seasons, are 5-0 in such games this season — with four of the victories coming by at least 18 points — and clinched a fourth consecutive AFC West championship last week. The Chiefs, one game behind the Patriots for the AFC’s No. 2 playoff seed, have one game left against an AFC West rival: Week 17 against the Chargers at Arrowhead. — Adam Teicher

Next game: at Chicago (8:20 p.m. ET Sunday)

Sunday’s snowy loss in Kansas City guaranteed the 5-9 Broncos their third consecutive losing season and their fourth consecutive playoff miss. It’s clear the gap between them and the Chiefs isn’t getting any smaller, and it might actually be growing as Mahomes continues on this track. The Broncos haven’t beat the Chiefs since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season. Oh, and Mahomes just turned 24 in September and has thrown 73 touchdown passes in his last 28 starts. — Jeff Legwold

Next game: vs. Detroit (4:05 p.m. ET Sunday)

The Patriots weren’t looking Super Bowl-caliber at halftime, leading just 13-10, but then turned it on to run away from the one-win Bengals. The bar has been raised so high in New England that anything but a double-digit blowout wasn’t going to help quiet some of the growing questions about the team, and even then, it might have come with a “Yeah, but it came against the Bengals.” But this was a solid win, buying them more time after back-to-back losses and providing some important things for them to build on with the Bills coming to town on Saturday in an AFC East clash. — Mike Reiss

Next game: vs. Buffalo (4:30 p.m. ET Saturday)



Tom Brady throws two touchdown passes and Stephon Gilmore runs back a long pick-six as the Patriots beat the Bengals.

Getting improved play out of its wide receivers will be a point of emphasis in the offseason for Cincinnati. Once again, the unit was collectively called out by Bengals coach Zac Taylor after a lackluster offensive outing. Whether that comes from improved play from the current roster or bringing back A.J. Green or acquiring another player, the issue should be addressed given Taylor’s comments throughout the season. “We got bullied,” Taylor said after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. — Ben Baby

Next game: at Miami (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

The Seahawks are resilient. That was already apparent but especially so Sunday with the way they overcame the absences of so many key defensive players. By the end of their win over Carolina that total reached six, including captain Bobby Wagner with a sprained ankle. The Seahawks would prefer a division title and a first-round bye, which they’d be assured of if they beat Arizona next week and San Francisco in Week 17. But their 7-1 record away from CenturyLink Field would make having to go on the road as a wild-card team seem at least a little less daunting. — Brady Henderson

Next game: vs. Arizona (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday)

Panthers coach Perry Fewell said after last week’s loss at Atlanta that Kyle Allen would remain his starting quarterback but then said after Sunday’s loss he would evaluate the tape before the upcoming game against Indianapolis. The different responses may mean nothing. They may mean the Panthers are close to giving third-round pick Will Grier a chance to see what he can do. Allen, as efficient as he was during a 4-0 start after replacing Cam Newton, has been making way too many turnovers to give the Panthers a chance to win. His three picks on Sunday gave him 15 over the past eight games to only 10 touchdowns. “I need to start putting us in a position to help win the game,” Allen said after losing his sixth straight start. — David Newton

Next game: at Indianapolis (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

When asked about the losing culture that has characterized much of the Bucs’ past decade, coach Bruce Arians proclaimed this week, “We ain’t accepting this s— anymore.” Against the Lions, the Bucs showed they may indeed be in the midst of a culture overhaul, winning their fourth consecutive game to improve to 7-7. Now they have a shot at a signature win against a winning opponent when the Texans come to town next week. But they may have to absorb the loss of not only Mike Evans but also Chris Godwin, who left the game with a hamstring injury. Arians said, “It doesn’t look good.” — Jenna Laine

Next game: vs. Houston (1 p.m. ET Saturday)

The fans were fairly sparse and the crowd — at least in the first half — gave more sarcastic cheers than real ones. It’s another sign of frustration and apathy around a Lions franchise that hasn’t been relevant in this NFL season since the start of November. The common word around the Lions’ locker room is “frustration” about the game and the season. While players and coaches won’t be jazzed about it, the loss did provide one good thing for Detroit: It moved the Lions closer to securing a top-five draft pick in 2020. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: at Denver (4:05 p.m. ET Sunday)

Quarterback Carson Wentz led the Eagles to a comeback win for the second straight week. This time it was via a 4-yard touchdown pass to Greg Ward Jr. in the closing seconds to lift the Eagles over the Redskins and bolster Philadelphia’s playoff hopes. The win sets the stage for Sunday’s Week 16 home game against the Cowboys, which will go a long way in deciding the NFC East champion. Wentz did not have a fourth-quarter comeback win this season before Week 14 and now has two over the past two weeks. And they could not have come at a better time of the season. His confidence, and his teammates’ confidence in him, is on the rise. — Tim McManus

Next game: vs. Dallas (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday)



Dwayne Haskins laterals the ball in the game’s final seconds to avoid a sack, but he fumbles. Nigel Bradham scoops it up and goes 47 yards the other way for an Eagles touchdown.

The Redskins can feel good about rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins‘ performance. He threw for a career-best 261 yards and two touchdowns. And he executed the quick-passing game, preventing the Eagles from getting a sack. This season has become all about his development, and he’s continued to make strides. He’s becoming more vocal with teammates on the field, too. Today he posted strong stats in a loss. The Redskins still need to see more before anyone can be convinced in his long-term potential, but he at least moved in a good direction Sunday. — John Keim

Next game: vs. New York Giants (1 p.m. ET Sunday)

Source : ESPN