What we learned in NFL Week 13: The 49ers’ NFC playoff potential, Tyreek’s target in sight and more – Freedom Voice


It was obvious how badly the San Francisco 49ers wanted this one, how much the scars from that afternoon last January remained seared in their minds, an opportunity at a Super Bowl berth effectively lost the moment their starting quarterback went down 22 snaps into the game.

49ers star receiver Deebo Samuel didn’t hide from it during the offseason, admitting what a handful of his teammates were surely thinking: With no healthy quarterbacks, the 49ers were effectively playing a man down in last year’s NFC Championship Game against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

In other words: they never got a fair shake. That made the 31-7 loss harder to swallow.

Eleven months later the 49ers returned to Lincoln Financial Field and pummeled the defending conference champs 42-19, further muddying the NFC playoff picture while reminding the rest of the league just how daunting a team Kyle Shanahan’s group can be when at its best.

“All the games are the same, but we understand how good that team is,” Shanahan said after the win, referring to the Eagles. “We understand their record, and that always makes it a little bit bigger.”

So, then, was the statement. The 49ers are going to be a tough out in January. Or February.

The win moved the 49ers, now 9-3, to within one game of the conference-leading Eagles (10-2) with five to play. Both the Cowboys and Lions are 9-3, as well, setting up a four-team race for the conference’s top seed and lone bye.

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NFL playoff picture after Week 13: Jaguars lose control of AFC’s top seed

In New Orleans, the Lions raced ahead 21-0 before the first quarter was over, then nearly coughed up the lead in the second half. In the end, Detroit edged the Saints 33-28 to remain in firm command of the NFC North and on track for the franchise’s first home playoff game since 1994.

But don’t count out the Packers just yet. At 6-6, Matt LeFleur’s team is one of the hottest in football, and currently in the seventh spot in the NFC playoff picture.

The 6-6 Falcons continue to lead the eminently winnable NFC South after a less-than-convincing 13-8 win against the Jets. But the Bucs and Saints (both 5-7) somehow aren’t out of this.

As for the AFC, Patrick Mahomes played his first game at Lambeau Field on Sunday night and left with a 27-19 loss that knocked the Chiefs out of the top seed.

Both the Texans and Colts kept their wild-card playoff hopes alive with last-second wins.

In Washington, Dolphins wideout Tyreek Hill stayed on track for history as Miami embarrassed the reeling Commanders, 45-15.

In Pittsburgh, a disgusted Mike Tomlin summed up his team’s afternoon thusly: “That was a horrible day at the office.” The Steelers coach didn’t see a thing he liked in a humiliating 24-10 loss to the lowly Cardinals. Making matters worse: Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback, Kenny Pickett, exited at halftime with an ankle injury and could be out for multiple weeks, further hampering the Steelers’ bid for a playoff spot.

Joe Flacco’s debut with the Browns started with a 24-yard touchdown throw and ended with a 36-19 loss to the Rams. Cleveland’s not only losing quarterbacks but losing games, and the Browns’ playoff odds are getting longer.

Here’s what stood out from Sunday of Week 13:

The NFC playoff race just got interesting

Thirteen weeks into the season, San Francisco now owns the two most impressive wins of the year: It routed the Cowboys 42-10 at home in Week 5, then dominated the Eagles 42-19 on the road Sunday evening.

This game was testy from the start, with players from both sides — and even Eagles coach Nick Sirianni — exchanging words before kickoff, then more than once during the game. Among the most heated moments arrived midway through the third quarter, when 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw tossed Eagles wideout DeVonta Smith down hard on the sideline, drawing a flag and inciting a heated reaction from the Philly sideline, including from Eagles security chief Dom DiSandro. After Greenlaw and DiSandro shouted at each other, and Greenlaw aggressively pointed his finger in DiSandro’s face, both were ejected.

“I just can’t believe someone not involved in a football game can taunt our players like that, and put their hands in our guy’s face,” Shanahan said later.

DiSandro exited the field to an ovation from the Philly fans.

Count it among the few highlights for the home crowd: This was a methodical beatdown that saw Shanahan and the 49ers flex their considerable muscle. He was dialed in as play caller, and his offense scored touchdowns on six consecutive drives, three by Samuel, who waved goodbye to the Eagles fans more than once. The defense allowed just 19 points, the Eagles’ lowest output since Week 6.

“If you don’t come out and play your best game against the guys that they have and the coaches that they have, it’s going to look like that,” Sirianni said.

San Francisco’s midseason three-game losing streak? Dead. Buried. History. This team is every bit among the Super Bowl favorites, and may very well, by the end of the season, own the coveted top seed in the NFC and the first-round bye that comes with it.

NFC playoff picture through 13 weeks

Team Overall Conf. Record

1

10-2

6-1

2

9-3

7-1

3

9-3

6-2

4

6-6

4-4

5

9-3

6-3

6

6-6

6-3

7

6-6

4-3

8

6-6

4-4

9

6-6

5-4

Brock Purdy, who was knocked out of that NFC Championship Game in January, was once again excellent, throwing for three touchdown passes and a passer rating of 148.8, the fourth time he’s done that this season. Only Tom Brady (2007) and Aaron Rodgers (2011) have done that in a season in NFL history.

Love, Packers keep it rolling

Jordan Love is on a tear. So are the Packers.

The last five games for Green Bay’s quarterback: 11 touchdowns, just two interceptions, and most importantly, four wins.

And with that, the Packers are not only alive in the NFC playoff picture, but currently in the final wild-card spot, a staggering turn of events from where they were a little over a month ago. Remember: Green Bay began the year 2-5, the franchise’s worst start since 2005.

They’re now 6-6 following Sunday night’s 27-19 win against the Chiefs. And looking ahead, the Packers won’t see another team that currently has a winning record the rest of the way.

Trailing by eight with 79 seconds left, Mahomes led a wild final drive that saw Isiah Pacheco tossed for punching on a play that was ultimately overturned, a blatant pass interference penalty that was missed and an unsuccessful Hail Mary that drew plenty of contact, as well. But ultimately, the Packers escaped. Matt LeFleur remains perfect, 16-0, as Green Bay’s head coach in the month of December.

It was just Mahomes’ fourth career loss in December, a defeat that knocks the Chiefs (8-4) out of the top seed in the AFC playoff picture. They now trail the Dolphins, Ravens and Jaguars, who each have three losses. Jacksonville plays host to Cincinnati on Monday night.

AFC playoff picture through 13 weeks

Team Overall Conf. Record

1

9-3

6-2

2

9-3

6-3

3

8-3

6-2

4

8-4

6-1

5

7-5

5-3

6

7-5

5-3

7

7-5

5-3

8

7-5

4-3

9

6-6

3-5

10

6-6

3-5

Texans, Colts position themselves for big finish

It’s been 11 years since a team with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback made the postseason, and that was a storybook season in Indianapolis in 2012, with top pick Andrew Luck and interim coach Bruce Arians guiding the Colts to 11 wins while Chuck Pagano battled leukemia in a local hospital.

The streak could be in jeopardy this season if the Texans keep playing like this. With their 22-17 win against the Broncos on Sunday, DeMeco Ryans’ group has won five of its last seven and is firmly in the AFC playoff picture for the first time in five years.

It starts with their sensational rookie quarterback, C.J. Stroud, who now leads the league in passing yards (3,540), the third-most by a rookie in league history through 12 games, trailing only Patrick Mahomes (3,912) and Luck (3,596).

But it stretches further. Ryans has his whole team playing well. It was Houston’s defense that came up with the deciding play late in the fourth quarter Sunday, when safety Jimmie Ward picked off Russell Wilson in the end zone with nine seconds left to seal the win — Wilson’s third interception on the day. Another Texans rookie, Will Anderson, had his best game as a pro, hitting Wilson four times, sacking him twice and tipping a fourth-quarter pass that ended up in the hands of Houston cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., one of two picks he had in the game.

The only downside for Houston: standout rookie receiver Tank Dell went down with a broken fibula in the first half and didn’t return; he’s headed to injured reserve and done for the year, a league source told The Athletic.

Another AFC playoff contender stayed hot in Nashville as the Colts pushed their win streak to four with a 31-28 overtime victory against the Titans. For Indianapolis, it’s the longest win streak since 2018, which also happens to be the last time the Colts swept the Titans.

As of this point, the Colts (7-5) own the final AFC wild card spot by virtue of a Week 2 win against the Texans, who also are 7-5, but the teams meet again in Week 18.

Tyreek Hill on pace for history

Take a minute to appreciate what Tyreek Hill and the Dolphins (9-3) are doing on offense this season:

» Hill is on pace for the first 2,000-yard receiving season in NFL history. The 1,481 he’s piled up are the most by a player 12 games into a season in the Super Bowl era. Only four others — Charlie Hennigan (1961), Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch (1951), Lance Alworth (1965) and Calvin Johnson (2012) — had more than 1,400 at this point. Currently, Hill is on track to finish with 2,098 yards.

» Hill has 16 career games with at least 150 receiving yards, tied with Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for the second-most for a player in his first eight seasons. Only Alworth (17) had more. He’s also the fifth player in league history to have five or more in one season, joining Rice (1995), Tim Brown (1997), Antonio Brown (2017) and Roy Green (1984).

» Miami is also one of three teams in the Super Bowl era with 25 passing touchdowns and 22 rushing scores 12 games into a season, joining the 1998 Denver Broncos and 1975 Buffalo Bills.

Commanders, Jets, Patriots continue skidding, but how far?

The wheels are falling off in Washington.

A little over a month after trading two defensive starters in Montez Sweat and Chase Young, and a week after firing defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the Commanders suffered their second consecutive embarrassing loss, this time 45-15 to the Dolphins at home.

Nothing’s working. Toss in their Thanksgiving day loss to the Cowboys, and the Commanders have been outscored 90-25 in consecutive weeks.

“When you spot 21 points to a very good football team, you’re gonna struggle,” Rivera said, referring to the 24-point hole the Commanders found themselves in before halftime.

Rivera’s seat seems to be getting warmer by the minute. His team, once 2-0, has now dropped four in a row and is 4-9. It’s not hard to see the new ownership group, led by Josh Harris, wanting to start fresh in 2024 after missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

The Jets, who fell 13-8 to the Falcons on Sunday, might make Aaron Rodgers’ bid to return this year a moot point. New York (4-8) has lost five in a row and benched another quarterback, Tim Boyle, in a game it failed to score a touchdown. To date, the Jets have scored just 10 touchdowns all season — the fewest by any team through 12 games in at least three decades.

Meanwhile, their AFC East counterpart, the Patriots, slogged through another ugly loss in ugly conditions in Foxboro, losing 6-0 to the Chargers. It was the NFL’s lowest-scoring game since the Jaguars beat the Colts by the same score in 2018.

At least they made some history along the way: The Patriots became the first team since the 1938 Chicago Cardinals to lose three in a row despite allowing 10 points or fewer in each loss.

go-deeper

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NFL Power Rankings Week 14: 49ers make a statement, plus worst-case scenarios

(Photo: Rob Carr / Getty Images)


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