The NFL never disappoints. Just when you think you’re beginning to get a feel for the form teams, something comes along to prove you wrong. This weekend was no different as the Tennessee Titans – arguably the form team across both conferences this season – suffered defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans – most definitely not one of the form teams this season. We also saw high scoring games in Los Angeles and Buffalo, and a face-off between two MVP contenders.
Titans stopped in their tracks as Texans end losing streak: Houston Texans 22 – 13 Tennessee Titans
First the first time since 1970, a team with the worst record defeated the team with the best record in the same conference, as the Texans bettered the Titans on Sunday in Nashville. It was a strong defensive performance that made the difference; Tennessee were made to wait until the third quarter before getting their first points on the board. Texans’ DE Jacob Martin recorded six pressures including one sack, with a pressure rate of 13.8% – earning him the title of Next Gen Stats’ underrated player of the week. Desmond King was also effective for Houston, making seven tackles and two out of four Texans’ interceptions – three of which came in the final quarter.
The Titans will be ruing some sloppy offensive play that made themselves their own worst enemy at times. Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill was restricted to just 35 completed passes, against 52 attempted. Optimistic assessments of Derrick Henry’s injury conclude that he might be available in January; Titans’ offense will have a lot of heavy lifting to do without him in the meantime.
Colts get the better of Bills as they begin to find some form: Indianapolis Colts 41 – 15 Buffalo Bills
Another result that turned heads here as an inspired Jonathan Taylor performance drove Indianapolis to an emphatic victory over one of the form teams in the AFC. The Bills’ number one ranked defense could do nothing to stop the Colts, who led the game from start to finish. Before Sunday’s game, Buffalo had only allowed five TDs from running backs all season – then along came Jonathan Taylor, with comfortably one of the best individual performances of the season. Taylor recorded 185 yards rushing, and scored an incredible five TDs. He currently leads the NFL for yards rushed (1,122). Colts will be relying on him to help their push for the playoffs.
The Bills need to be careful not to throw away their early success; they currently sit second in the AFC East. The Colts appear to have found a winning formula at the right time. They have their work cut out but are absolutely in the fight for the playoffs.
MVP contenders Prescott and Mahomes do battle in Kansas: Dallas Cowboys 9 – 19 Kansas City Chiefs
Heading into this game, it was thought that the offensive power of both the Cowboys and the Chiefs would be writing the headlines. To the surprise of many, it was the defense – specifically that of Kansas City – which won the day.
Kansas City DE Chris Jones was a standout performer, forcing seven pressures and 3.5 sacks. Jones’ performance was just one part of an overall defensive display that looks much-improved since the start of the season. The Cowboys entered the game as the only team in the top five for both passing and rushing and as the leading scorers in the league. But the Kansas City defense limited Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott to 216 yards passing and forced two interceptions. On the Chiefs’ side, fellow MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes didn’t fare much better: passing for 260 yards, recording one interception and one fumble.
The AFC West remains hotly-contested, but Kansas City will be able to take advantage of a nicely-placed bye week before returning to take on their divisional rivals. The Cowboys will be hoping that their offensive line can recover from a number of injuries, ready to bounce back against the Raiders on Thursday.
Thriller at the SoFi Stadium as Chargers edge out Steelers: Pittsburgh Steelers 37 – 41 Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert’s LA Chargers dug deep to hold off a late rally from the Pittsburgh Steelers here, who managed to recover a 17 point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter. The Chargers have made a habit of late wins – five of their six victories have been fourth quarter comebacks – and were at serious risk of being on the receiving end of one here.
A 53 yard Justin Herbert TD pass for Mike Williams with just over two minutes on the clock was fatal for the Steelers. He threw for an impressive 382 yards and rushed for 90 – making him the fifth QB to have ever passed for over 300 and rushed for 90 in the history of the NFL. He also completed 31 out of 40 passes. Austin Ekeler put in a career-high 115 scrimmage yards, scoring four Chargers touchdowns in the process. All these things contributed to the Chargers’ incredible 533 yards of offense.
Ben Roethlisberger returned strongly from his Covid-19 absence, recording 273 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Steelers will be disappointed that they couldn’t hold out the lead that they had fought so resiliently for in the fourth quarter.
Moment of the Week: The return of Cam Newton
Cam Newton is back. His first game as a starter back in Carolina was full of narrative, as the Panthers took on the Washington Football Team. Despite being on the losing side, Newton passed for two TDs and rushed for another against Ron Rivera – Newton’s head coach in his MVP and Super Bowl-winning season.