One thing we learned about each NFL team in Week 14 of 2021 season: Packers, not Cardinals, are NFC's top dogs -

2021-12-25 02:03:30 By : Mr. Robin Wang

Start or Sit (NFC Home Games)

Covering the impact of coronavirus on the sports world

Week 14 of the 2021 NFL season is officially in the books. The Browns upset the Ravens to muddy up the AFC North. The Chiefs destroyed the Raiders to confirm their place atop the AFC West. The 49ers survived the Bengals in an overtime thriller ... and that was just a fraction of the action from this week.

But what did we learn about each of the 32 teams in the process? We're so glad you asked. As Week 15 draws near, we take a look below at one thing we took away from each team:

They aren't NFC favorites. For a while, they were. And they're still dangerous! Kyler Murray is an undying highlight reel. But we'd bet on the Packers or Bucs over them right now, fresh off their prime-time home loss to the Rams.

Arthur Smith is setting a decent foundation. The Falcons have not been lethal or even steadily good this year, but with an under-equipped lineup, they've hung around. How about three turnovers for a ridiculed defense against Carolina?

They are the AFC's most mercurial contender. Outside of Buffalo, that is. One week, their defense stands tall. The next, it can't even sniff Baker Mayfield. Hopefully Lamar Jackson gets and stays healthy.

Coaching is becoming a concern. Not to the point anyone would seriously think differently about Sean McDermott big-picture. But the Bills' aversion to the run was just one of several issues that put them in a big hole Sunday.

They might as well start P.J. Walker. If Cam Newton can't master the red-zone game plan by now (and has already been benched twice), why is he even under center? His legs obviously still work, but Carolina needs steadiness, not more gimmicks.

Jakeem Grant can be special. Even if just on special teams. That man was lightning quick on two huge plays that, for a moment, had Chicago threatening to stun the Packers in prime time.

They're losing steam. Yes, Joe Burrow nearly played hero by leading a comeback effort against the 49ers, but they're now down a key piece (Trey Hendrickson) on defense and have endured emotionally draining defeats in successive weeks.

Their defense is back. Maybe the Lamar Jackson-less Ravens just sputtered, but it sure looked good having Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney moving the pocket -- and taking pressure off Baker Mayfield on the other side.

They've got QB issues. Not seriously; Dak Prescott remains a top-10 starter. But he's had three mediocre starts in his last four games, and now Tyron Smith is banged up again at left tackle. Better get things rectified before the big games.

They need to run, run and run some more. Feeding both Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams worked wonders against Detroit. Whatever takes the burden off Teddy Bridgewater's replacement-level arm.

Amon-Ra St. Brown is emerging. That makes two straight games with at least seven catches for the rookie, who has broken through as a safety valve for Jared Goff (and, presumably, whomever takes over at QB down the road).

They're coming for the No. 1 seed. Technically, they own it now, after the Cardinals fell to the Rams. But they're primed to keep it. Aaron Rodgers is truly in MVP form, and they've got big names on the mend on both sides of the ball.

Their run game is even worse than expected. They threw one-year deals at a bevy of old or middling backs, and the results have been unexciting with everyone from Rex Burkhead to Royce Freeman. Can you tell they're ready for 2022?

They're a playoff team. For now! They landed in the official postseason picture during their bye. Now comes the real test: back-to-back games against the Patriots and Cardinals, two potential title contenders.

Urban Meyer might really be one-and-done. Even skeptics wouldn't have guaranteed this, but the Jags look more lifeless now than they did weeks or months ago. Ditto for Meyer, who hardly offered a handshake to Mike Vrabel after the Titans loss.

They're back (for real). Beating up on the Raiders gives them six straight wins going into Week 15. Oh, and Patrick Mahomes finally looked smooth out of the gate, too, pairing with their big-play defense to dominate.

Rich Bisaccia will not be their coach after 2021. Just going out on a limb. They've now lost five of their last six, and the Derek Carr-led offense that once looked like it'd turned a corner, keeps falling further off the map.

Justin Herbert deserves more love. Torching the Giants helped him become the first player in NFL history to eclipse 30 touchdown passes in each of his first two seasons. This kid has Patrick Mahomes-level upside with a more prototypical approach.

Matthew Stafford is back in MVP form. No. 9 threw the ball as comfortably and confidently as he has all season against the Cardinals in a big divisional rematch. The deep balls were especially beautiful.

Their backfield is in trouble. Myles Gaskin is among three running backs now on COVID reserve, hence the potential Lamar Miller reunion. Hopefully it doesn't hurt Tua Tagovailoa's upward trajectory.

They still refuse anything but close games. Talk about almost blowing a lead. They're fortunate to have survived the Steelers. On a serious note, they're still scrappy because Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson are just so darn good.

Mac Jones is truly Bill Belichick's guy. Willingly handing it off 40+ times while throwing just three passes to beat a top division rival in the cold? This rookie was built to be New England's QB.

They can win if they stick to the run. That should've always been the game plan with Taysom Hill, who got a huge reinforcement in Alvin Kamara against the Jets. Just let him use his wheels a la Jalen Hurts in Philly.

This regime is done. Or should be soon. Joe Judge may stick, but there's a real case he shouldn't, either. Daniel Jones' short- and long-term health is up in the air. Anything and everything could be justifiably swapped out this offseason.

They need an offensive overhaul. This has been apparent, to some degree, all year. But man, neither Zach Wilson nor the squad around him can get out of their own way. Situational football killed them against New Orleans.

They're not out of the wild card picture yet. Even with the Vikings winning, they're well positioned to make a run at the final NFC playoff spot. First they must take care of business against Washington.

Big Ben still has fight. Does that mean he deserves another go-round in 2022? No. But give the old man some credit for pushing Pittsburgh to the finish line, even with a shoddy line and wideouts who can't catch or celebrate at the right times.

They will run their way to the playoffs. A wild card spot now feels like a near-certainty for them. They've been steadily hot at the right times for a while now, in large part due to Kyle Shanahan ensuring Deebo Samuel powers the rushing attack.

Rashaad Penny could save their season. They're still long shots to make the playoffs, but if he keeps it up as the sudden RB1, Russell Wilson and Co. will have a much easier run closing the year on a win streak.

Tom Brady is the MVP. At least so far. How can he not be? This ageless signal-caller slung it all over Buffalo while riding another hot performance from Leonard Fournette. These guys are good.

Their defense is their X-factor. Julio Jones' return was nice, but even nicer was Mike Vrabel's "D" stomping all over Trevor Lawrence and the hapless Jaguars. When they make plays, Tennessee looks feisty.

COVID could ruin them. That, and injuries. Their depth will be tested when they play the Eagles in Week 15. There will be more pressure than usual on Taylor Heinicke, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

The new NFL season is here! Win or lose, you can shop jerseys, shirts, hats, and much more to support your favorite team. Shop here and show your colors. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

© 2004-2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

CBS Sports is a registered trademark of CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a registered trademark of CBS Interactive Inc.

Images by Getty Images and US Presswire