NFL Week 12 takeaways – What we learned, big questions for every game and future team prospects

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Week 12 of the 2021 NFL season began Thursday with the Chicago Bears and tough coach Matt Nagy winning the final game of the game over the undefeated Detroit Lions.

That afternoon saw the Las Vegas Raiders break a three-game losing streak and stay in the middle of the AFC playoff race with an overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys, who have suddenly lost three of four after a 6-1 start. The Buffalo Bills got back on the winning track in drinks with a dominant win over the New Orleans Saints.

Our NFL Nation reporters respond with takeaways and lingering questions. Plus, they each look at the bigger picture with their current team confidence rating – a score of 0-10 for how they feel about each team’s prospects coming out of the week. Let’s get to that.

Jump to a matchup:
CHI-DET | LV-DAL | BUF NO

Bills

What to know: The Bills had another dominant win without playing their best football. Quarterback Josh Allen threw two interceptions, including the first of his career in the red zone, but also finished the match with a career-high 82.1% completion rate. In a way, it’s representative of a Bills season that has offered inconsistent play, but which with 7-4 still has them ready for an AFC East game with the New England Patriots. Much of that success has come thanks to the Bills defense, which has now limited five opponents to 12 points or less. All three phases were successful, with coach Sean McDermott even giving special recognition to the kickoff coverage after the game. When the bills roll like this, they’re hard to beat. Doing it consistently is the key. – Alaina Getzenberg

What is the impact on this defense if cornerback Tre’Davious White misses significant time? White left the fight with a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return. Coach Sean McDermott said they would know more about the injury in the coming days. Backup Dane Jackson filled in for White and played well overall, but there is no one on the list who can sign up for the All-Pro corner, which is among the top five cornerbacks in the league this season, according to Next Gen statistics . “(White) is such a good teammate,” Allen said. “He speaks to everyone in the right way. He just does the little things well that not many people see, but that’s why he’s so good.” If he’s out for several weeks or even the season, Bills’ mighty defense – which has only allowed eight passes this season (the fewest in the league) – will be hit, but should be able to adapt to some degree during coordinator Leslie Frazier. – Getzenberg

Getzenberg’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.9, up from 7.2. The roller coaster continues, but the Bills got a dominant victory overall – even if it was against a shot team – in a short week and showed an ability to continue to come back from heavy losses, though stack wins will be required to stretch that assessment.

Next game: vs. Patriots (Monday, December 6, 8:15 PM ET)


Saints

What to know: It gets uglier every week for the Saints and their exhausted offense – now 0-4, since Trevor Siemian replaced the injured Jameis Winston on QB. They were also without RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II and RT Ryan Ramczyk on Thanksgiving night, and the leftovers were nowhere near good enough. They could all be back next Thursday against Dallas – and the Saints could consider switching QB to Taysom Hill. But at 5-6, they are dangerously close to “too little, too late.” – Mike Triplett

New week, same question: Will they consider switching to Hill on QB? Siemian’s performance has declined every week after a promising start. And although Sean Payton made it clear that he was one of many problems on an evening where the Saints could not run, hand over protect or return kicks either, Payton acknowledged: “We want to look at everything right now. It’s clear we have to . “But Hill has been limited by a foot injury since week 10 (which is why he has been relegated to the relief role for the past two weeks). But he practiced fully this week, so his role needs to be expanded ASAP in some form. – Triplet

Triplett’s confidence rating (0-10): 4.5, down from 5.5. A full point drop for the second week in a row. We know there is a better version of this team after their 5-2 start. But even their Week 8 win over the Buccaneers when Winston left in the second quarter feels like a distant memory.

Next game: vs. Cowboys (Thursday, December 2 at 8:20 PM ET)

Raiders

What to know: Raiders are not done. Not yet, at least. As receiver Hunter Renfrow said, “I felt like we showed the team’s heart today.” In fact, it was as close to a must-win situation as one could get, and by ending a three-game post-bye loss series, the Raiders improved to 6-5. “But I think we felt it a little bit [because] 5-6 is a whole lot worse than 6-5, “Renfrow added.” And beating a good Cowboys team, on Thanksgiving, in prime time, gives us a lot of confidence going forward … we have a long way to go us, but we took a step in the right direction today. ” – Paul Gutierrez

Is DeSean Jackson really part of the offense now? He had better be. Not only did he top the defense with three 102-yard catches, including a vintage 56-yard catch-and-run TD down the left sideline, Jackson’s mere presence opened things up downstairs for people like Renfrow, who had eight catches to a game-high 134 yards. And with another 10 days before Las Vegas ‘next game, Jackson, who turns 35 next week, has so much more time to marinate in the Raiders’ system. “It’s definitely fun to throw the ball to him,” quarterback Derek Carr said. – Gutierrez

Gutierrez’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.5, up from 5.5. A whole two-point leap from last week’s nadir? Of course, when you consider how much the NFL really is a week-to-week season. Beating the much-favored Cowboys on the road and in prime time should be a huge confidence boost. The Raiders are also a good sign to get their running game to 143 yards, especially Josh Jacobs, who is going after 87 yards on 22 carries. However, stay tuned for an update on Pro Bowl tight-end Darren Waller’s injured left knee.

Next game: vs. Washington (Sunday, December 5 at 4:05 PM ET)


Cowboys

What to know: The Cowboys have lost three of four and two right after their overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The offense could only start in the fourth quarter. The defense allowed for many big games. Complaining about the officials is pointless. Cowboys simply need to play better. Ezekiel Elliott was asked if this team has lost its scammer. “No,” he said, adding, “you just have to focus. We have to get better, we have to fix what happened today and become a better team next week.” – Todd Archer

How can the Cowboys limit the penalties? The best hope is not to have Shawn Hochuli’s team back the rest of the way, but penalties have been an issue all season. They have been marked at least seven times in eight games this season, including 14 for 166 yards against the Raiders. Micah Parsons said he does not want to see the defense change his style of play. There is a fine line between being aggressive and careless. Bill Parcells used to say he does not train penalty kicks. No coach does, but it’s a problem that needs to be fixed. “We have to reflect ourselves and keep the referees out of the game,” said Dak Prescott. “Somehow we need to get better.” – Archer

Archer Confidence Assessment (0-10): 7.9, down from 8.4. They can talk about the return of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory anything they want, but there is something wrong with the team at the moment. The offense cannot get going in the race. The defense can not stop allowing big games. They need to turn this around quickly.

Next game: at the Saints (Thursday, December 2 at 8:20 PM ET)

Game

0:20

Cairo Santos kicks a 28-yard field goal in the final second of the game to give the Bears a 16-14 victory over the Lions.

Bears

What to know: Andy Dalton performed admirably for Justin Fields. The 34-year-old became the first Bears quarterback to pass over 300 yards (317 vs. Lions) since Nick Foles in Week 9 last year. Dalton led Chicago on an 18-game drive to set up Cairo Santos’ game-winning 28-yard field goal. Dalton played with balance and confidence – exactly what you would expect from a player with that level of experience. Fields is expected to regain the starting job when his ribs heal, but Dalton proved on Thanksgiving that he can still get the job done. – Jeff Dickerson

Should Bears fire coach Matt Nagy? No. Or rather not yet. The Bears have never fired a head coach during a season in the franchise’s history. The Bears let Marc Trestman finish his final season. Same with John Fox. Nagy was named Coach of the Year three years ago. He has led the Bears to the playoffs in two of his three seasons. Nagy deserves better. Eventually he may be fired after the season, but there is still a lot of football left to play. Hopefully, Thursday’s win over the Detroit Nagy and the Bears provides an opportunity to regroup before a tough game against Arizona on December 5th. – Dickerson

Dickerson’s Confidence Assessment (0-10): 3.5, up from 2. A win is a win, but the Lions are 0-10-1.

Next game: vs. Cardinals (13.00 ET, December 5)


Lions

What to know: The Detroit Lions suffered another heartbreaking loss as they fell to 0-10-1 after a third loss this season on a walk-off field goal. It happened in week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens, then again week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings and now on Thanksgiving against the Chicago Bears. Bears kicker Cairo Santos scored a 28-yard field goal to bury the Lions on Thursday. – Eric Woodyard

Should the Lions be worried about coach Dan Campbell’s playcalling? Safe. The Lions got off to a warm start Thursday with quarterback Jared Goff finding an early groove and completing his first five passes, but the conservative trend of short passes and short progress since Dan Campbell took over playcalling from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn in Week 10 continued in front of it national audience, with some fans even bubbling inside Ford Field. Campbell might consider letting Lynn take responsibility for playing call back if the team wants to win a match. – Woodyard

Woodyard’s confidence rating (0-10): 2, down from 2.3. As always, the Lions play hard, but penalties and errors are too much to overcome as they do not have enough players to save them.

Next game: vs. Vikings (13.00 ET, December 5)

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