The Big Story for every NFL team – ESPN

 In Sports
NFL Nation reporters detail the biggest storylines — and what they mean going forward — for every team coming out of Week 12. Write-ups for the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, who play Sunday night, will be added when their game ends.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


Despite back-to-back wins over lesser opponents, the Bills are still staring down a narrow path to the playoffs. The Bills must win four or five of their remaining games to have a realistic shot at snapping their 16-year playoff drought. Their next game, a cross-country trip to Oakland, could be their toughest test of the season. However, having LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins healthy, as Sunday’s win over the Jaguars showed, gives the Bills a shot. — Mike Rodak

Week 13: at Oakland, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Dolphins were in no celebratory mood after beating the 49ers on Sunday to win their sixth straight game. There were two reasons that was the case. First, Miami wasn’t thrilled that it nearly blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter to a bad team. Second, the Dolphins have a huge game next week against the Ravens that will go a long way in determining their playoff standing. — James Walker

Week 13: at Baltimore, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Tom Brady engineered his 50th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to win his 200th career game, tying Peyton Manning’s all-time record. Afterward, he said it was a long week and he’s glad it’s over. The reason it was a long week was because of the work he put in to get his injured knee ready for action, which sparks the question of how much it might improve leading into next Sunday’s home game against the Rams. — Mike Reiss

Week 13: vs. Los Angeles, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Another week, another quarterback decision. Coach Todd Bowles was noncommittal after Sunday’s loss on whether Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain the starter. He certainly didn’t do anything to lose the job, but the Jets are 3-8. At some point, Bowles will start evaluating for 2017 by playing Bryce Petty. The hunch is that he’ll wait at least another week. — Rich Cimini

Week 13: vs. Indianapolis, Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET


The Ravens are pleased to be atop the AFC North, but they’re not happy with the current state of the offense — they rank 26th in offensive points. The Ravens have scored one or no offensive touchdowns in six of their 11 games. QB Joe Flacco knows that’s not going to cut it against a defense like the Dolphins next Sunday or other playoff contenders. “In order for us to that next step and be a championship football team, we’re not going to survive week in and week out doing things like this,” Flacco said. — Jamison Hensley

Week 13: vs. Miami, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

The Bengals’ offense showed what life would be like without A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard on Sunday in Baltimore, and it wasn’t pretty. Cincinnati just doesn’t seem to have an answer for its ailing offense. To get to the playoffs, the Bengals would not only have to win out but would also need the Steelers and Ravens to both stumble down the stretch. — Katherine Terrell

Week 13: vs. Philadelphia, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Rarely has a bye week ever been more welcome, as the winless Browns will have a chance to escape the negativity over their season of struggle. They’ll return Dec. 11 against Cincinnati. — Pat McManamon

Week 13: Bye

The Steelers face a decision this week: Which corner, Ross Cockrell or Artie Burns, covers Odell Beckham Jr.? Pittsburgh faces one of the league’s hottest teams in the Giants in a clash of two top quarterbacks from the 2004 NFL draft, a challenge Ben Roethlisberger will surely accept. This will test the Steelers’ late-season resolve after defeating back-to-back sub-.500 teams. — Jeremy Fowler

Week 13: vs. New York Giants, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET


Though the Texans lead the AFC South by half a game, their offense has not inspired any confidence that it is good enough to lead them to a second straight division title. In Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, QB Brock Osweiler was 22-of-37 for 246 yards, with no passing touchdowns and three interceptions. Now, the Texans will go to Green Bay to face the 4-6 Packers, who have the 23rd-ranked pass defense. Osweiler says he knows he needs to play better if the Texans are going to win the rest of the way. — Sarah Barshop

Week 13: at Green Bay, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

The Colts received a helping hand from the Chargers on Sunday. San Diego’s victory over Houston helped the Colts move back to within a game of the Texans for first place in the AFC South. It looks as if it’ll be a three-team race between Indianapolis, Houston and Tennessee for the division title. The Titans are a half-game out of first place after barely holding on to beat Chicago on Sunday. — Mike Wells

Week 13: at New York Jets, Monday, 8:30 p.m.

Blake Bortles threw for a season-low 126 yards on Sunday, but he still turned in one of his best games of the season in the Jaguars’ loss to Buffalo. He didn’t turn the ball over (only the second time this season that has happened), was on target with his throws, made good decisions and was victimized by two drops and two non-calls that should’ve been pass interference. Bortles has struggled all season, but this could be a sign he’s close to snapping out of the season-long funk — or at the very least boost his confidence heading into the final five games. — Mike DiRocco

Week 13: vs. Denver, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

The Titans are still very much alive in the AFC South after escaping Chicago with a win. They have a bye this week and could return to action tied for the division lead depending on what the Texans do in Green Bay and what the Colts do on the road against the Jets. Tennessee’s offense could have enough firepower to spring an upset of the Broncos in Nashville on Dec. 11, when things could become even more interesting. — Paul Kuharsky

Week 13: Bye


The Broncos showed grit in Sunday’s overtime loss to the Chiefs, especially quarterback Trevor Siemian, who had 368 passing yards and three touchdowns. At times they showed they still have one of the elite, bruise-inducing defenses in the league, but in the end they couldn’t put it all together at the right time. The Broncos have leaned on their defense for so long waiting for the breakout game on the other side of the ball, and then Siemian goes for his second 300-yard passing game of the season and the defense surrendered three consecutive scoring drives in the fourth quarter and overtime. Denver is still very much alive in the AFC playoff picture, and it has a chance to make up games against the Chiefs and Raiders to end the season. — Jeff Legwold

Week 13: at Jacksonville, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Justin Houston’s return to form gives the Chiefs some hope in the season’s final five games. Houston had three sacks, one that forced a fumble and resulted in a safety, in the overtime win over the Broncos on Sunday night. The Chiefs have a lot to look forward to once their other top pass-rusher, Dee Ford, returns. Ford didn’t play against the Broncos because of an injured hamstring. — Adam Teicher

Week 13: at Atlanta, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Somehow, someway the Raiders find ways to pull out games — “by any means necessary.” So said Khalil Mack. And Bruce Irvin. And Michael Crabtree. Because after watching their 24-7 halftime lead turn into a 32-24 deficit in the fourth quarter, first-place Oakland improved to 9-2 for the first time since 2000 and secured its first winning season since 2002 with the 35-32 victory over the Panthers. It came after QB Derek Carr injured his right pinkie finger on the second snap of the second half. It looked as if he dislocated it, the way it was bent at an awkward angle as he ran off the field in pain — the most pain he said he has felt in his life — but he wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, which cost him a series, only saying he was good. But it bears watching this week, even if he removed the bandage on it for the media conference and waved it for reporters after his ninth fourth-quarter comeback since the start of last season. Because you know the Bills, who come to Oakland next week, will be paying close attention. — Paul Gutierrez

Week 13: vs. Buffalo, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

With 242 passing yards and three touchdown passes, Chargers QB Philip Rivers kept San Diego in the postseason conversation by delivering the Texans’ first home loss of the season. At 5-6, the Chargers head back to San Diego with a chance to get to the .500 mark for the first time since Week 2 against the Buccaneers next weekend at Qualcomm Stadium. “We’re right where we were, with a chance to get to 6-6,” Rivers said. “And then it kinds sets the stage for a four-week deal.” — Eric D. Williams

Week 13: vs. Tampa Bay, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

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