The NFL returned to a full schedule in Week 14, and Sunday delivered a whirlwind of big plays, big upsets and big statement wins.
From the Buffalo Bills' second straight prime-time victory, to the MVP race tightening and a winning debut in the City of Brotherly Love, here are some takeaways from another crazy day on the gridiron.
Bills make statement while Steelers look for answers
After a slow start against a tough Pittsburgh Steelers defence, the Bills sprang to life late in the second quarter Sunday night when Taron Johnson intercepted Ben Roethlisberger and took it 51 yards to the end zone.
Like Johnson on his way to pay dirt on the pick-six, the Bills never looked back.
Buffalo won its second prime-time game of the season in consecutive weeks on Sunday, putting the rest of the league on notice by downing the Steelers, who fell out of first place in the AFC with the loss.
Led by two more touchdowns from quarterback Josh Allen – giving him 35 total scores on the year, a franchise record – the Bills declared themselves a true contender by taking care of business at home against the powerhouse Steelers, moving to 10-3 for the first time since 1991 and a step closer to their first AFC East division crown since 1995.
On the flip side, the Steelers are left scratching their heads as Pittsburgh has now dropped two straight after starting the season 11-0. Coupled with the Chiefs' win over the Dolphins earlier Sunday, the loss means Mike Tomlin's team no longer controls its fate in the fight for a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs – a reward that now feels of utmost importance for a team struggling at exactly the wrong time.
Mahomes, Chiefs finding ways to win ugly, close games
It was far from pretty for the Chiefs on Sunday, but Kansas City did just enough to pull out a road victory over the Dolphins and clinch its fifth straight AFC West division title.
Returning to the stadium where they won the Super Bowl in February, the man who captured Super Bowl MVP all those months ago struggled at times in his latest trip to Miami. Patrick Mahomes threw more interceptions on Sunday (three) than he had in the previous 12 games this season combined (two). He was also sacked three times – tying a season-high – including one by Jerome Baker that lost an astounding 30 yards.
We’re so used to the Chiefs winning spectacularly that it’s a bit jarring to see them win ugly. But great teams find ways to emerge from games that don’t always go their way with the W, and K.C. has been doing that over the last five weeks.
Rather than be seen as a reason to doubt the Chiefs, these grind-em-out wins should be viewed as exactly why Andy Reid's team is so hard to beat – they find ways to win, no matter what.
Aaron Rodgers now the MVP "frontrunner"?
After Mahomes had only a so-so game against the Dolphins earlier in the day, Aaron Rodgers solidified his status as the 1B (or maybe 1A) in the race for 2020 NFL MVP.
And if you ask Packers head coach Matt Lafleur, Rodgers is 1A.
Rodgers scored four touchdowns (three through the air and one on the ground) against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, bringing his total touchdowns to 42 this season. The 37-year-old now has eight straight games with a passer rating of at least 100, and has had one game with a passer rating under 100 just once in 2020.
Rodgers is having his best season in half a decade and not only helped his team to a second straight NFC North title in Week 14, but lifted Green Bay into the No. 1 seed in the NFC after the New Orleans Saints’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2020, Rodgers has proven age is but a number and, after what unfolded in the NFL on Sunday, it’s impossible to deny that No. 12 doesn’t belong right alongside Mahomes in the MVP conversation.
Derrick Henry: King among kings
After an off-game last week in a tough loss to the Cleveland Browns, Derrick Henry bounced back in a big way Sunday against a team he loves to run all over, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Henry’s 12 career touchdowns against the Jaguars are more than he’s scored against any other team, and his 215 rushing yards for two touchdowns on 26 carries this week gave Jacksonville zero chance of hanging around in this one.
King Henry’s monster day on the ground also set an NFL record for the most games with 200-plus rushing yards and two-plus touchdowns, surpassing a trio of Hall of Famers in the process.
We’re not always sure what to expect from the 2020 Titans week-in and week-out, but we do know one thing: if Derrick Henry is dominating like he did on Sunday, it’s likely the Titans come out on top.
Jalen Hurts gives Eagles a much-needed boost
In what was by far the biggest upset of a jam-packed Week 14, rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts took over for an Eagles team in crisis and led them to a shocking victory over the NFC’s best team, the Saints.
The Eagles’ struggles under the now-benched Carson Wentz this season have been well-documented and much-discussed, and those woes included the most sacks given up by any team in football and one of the most turnover-prone offences in the game.
On Sunday, Hurts wasn’t sacked at all and the Eagles didn’t turn the ball over until the rookie signal-caller fumbled with just a minute left in the contest.
Now, Hurts was far from the perfect quarterback on Sunday – he completed just 56 per cent of his passes and finished with a QBR or 58.5 – but the 22-year-old injected some explosiveness into the Eagles' offence with plays on the ground, opening up Philadelphia’s run game to snap a couple of noteworthy streaks.
When Miles Sanders broke the 100-yard mark in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, he snapped a Saints’ streak of 56 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Later in the game, Hurts eclipsed the 100-yard mark himself, bringing an end to a seven-year skid for the Eagles without two 100-yard rushers in a single game.
Only time will tell whether Hurts is the future of the Eagles at quarterback, but Sunday’s performance likely guarantees he’ll be part of that conversation going forward.
Bad Beat(s) of the Week
Week 14 featured two tough ones for bettors.
The first came in Miami when the Dolphins kicked a field goal with less than a minute left against the Chiefs to cover a seven-point spread as home underdogs. That's a heartbreaker for those who went with K.C., a team that has now gone 0-5 against the spread in their last five despite winning every game.
The other Bad Beat came in the Lions-Packers game, where another late field goal ensured the favourite wouldn’t cover, as Green Bay only won by seven after a nine-point cover looked to be a lock when the Packers took a 10-point lead with three minutes left in the game.
Playoff Picture after Week 14
Here's how the NFL's playoff picture is shaping up after Sunday of Week 14, which included changes at the top of each conference.
1) Kansas City Chiefs (12-1)
2) Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2)
3) Buffalo Bills (10-3)
4) Tennessee Titans (9-4)
5) Cleveland Browns* (9-3)
6) Indianapolis Colts (9-4)
7) Miami Dolphins (8-5)
In the hunt
Baltimore Ravens* (7-5)
Las Vegas Raiders (7-6)
New England Patriots (6-7)
*Playing Monday night
1) Green Bay Packers (10-3)
2) New Orleans Saints (10-3)
3) Los Angeles Rams (9-4)
4) Washington Football Team (6-7)
5) Seattle Seahawks (9-4)
6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)
7) Arizona Cardinals (7-6)
In the hunt
Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
Chicago Bears (6-7)
The other NFC East teams