It’s Week 7 of the 2022 NFL season, and here are our weekly game takeaways.
On Thursday night, the Arizona Cardinals‘ offense came alive at home against the New Orleans Saints. Sunday came with a few surprises: Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ offense struggled against a Carolina Panthers team potentially in the midst of a rebuild, and the Green Bay Packers lost for the third week in row, this time to the Washington Commanders — who started Taylor Heinicke at QB.
Dak Prescott returned to lead the Dallas Cowboys over the Detroit Lions, the New York Giants survived a late push from the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans stayed atop the AFC South with another win over the Indianapolis Colts, and the Ravens’ defense held off the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore. Four teams — the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles — had a bye and will return in Week 8.
Our NFL Nation reporters react with the biggest takeaways and lingering questions coming out of this week’s matchups and look ahead to what’s next. Let’s get to it.
Jump to a matchup:
NO-ARI | ATL-CIN | DET-DAL | IND-TEN
GB-WSH | TB-CAR | NYG-JAX | CLE-BAL
What to know: The rest of the NFL might have declared the Panthers (2-5) in tank mode after they traded star running back Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, but interim coach Steve Wilks and his players aren’t going there, as they promised all week. They put together their most complete game of the season, finally getting enough offense to back yet another solid defensive performance. They showed they still have the fight to remain in the race for the NFC South, moving within a game of Tampa Bay (3-4) and Atlanta (3-4) with the Falcons next on the schedule. And quarterback PJ Walker showed he should remain the starter even when Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold return from ankle injuries. And, oh, that McCaffrey fellow. The Panthers got almost 200 yards rushing out of their new duo of D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard.
Should PJ Walker remain the starter next week against Atlanta even if Baker Mayfield is ready to return from an ankle injury? Absolutely. Walker was allowed to do what he does best on Sunday in terms of getting the ball downfield, and he responded with two touchdowns on an efficient 16-of-22 passing. He’s now 3-1 as an NFL starter, 1-1 this season. Mayfield won’t like it, but this may signal the end for him at Carolina. It felt like it was the end even before today, given the league-low numbers Mayfield was putting up. — David Newton
Next game: at Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: For the second week in a row, Tom Brady and the Bucs were favored by 9.5 points, and once again, they stunk it up, this time against a team that fired its head coach and recently traded away two offensive stars. The Bucs’ offense looked absolutely dreadful with an abundance of dropped passes, miscues, questionable playcalling and, of course, protection issues, mustering three measly points. Perhaps the only positive: The Falcons lost too, meaning that at 3-4, the Bucs are still tied for first place. But what consolation is that when they’ve now lost four of their past five?
What went wrong this time? More like, what didn’t go wrong? Mike Evans dropped what might have been the most wide-open touchdown pass of his career on the opening drive. They were stonewalled once again in short yardage with Leonard Fournette going nowhere on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1. And Brady failed to connect with Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage in the end zone on three straight incomplete passes from the 8-yard line. Defensively, they couldn’t stop the run — surrendering 173 yards, including a 60-yard run from D’Onta Foreman. Hosting the Baltimore Ravens in four days, they’ll also now likely be without Antoine Winfield Jr., who left Sunday’s game with a concussion. — Jenna Laine
Next game: vs. Ravens (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
D’Onta Foreman breaks free for a 60-yard run, and Chuba Hubbard runs in a 17-yard touchdown on the next play.
What to know: If there was a doubt — and by now there shouldn’t be — the defense will carry the Cowboys to success. Not even quarterback Dak Prescott’s return after a five-game absence could get the Cowboys’ offense rolling. But the defense came through. Again. After allowing two touchdowns last week versus Philadelphia for the first time this season, the defense did not allow a touchdown against a Lions offense that came in averaging 28 points a game. The defense changed the momentum of the game with five takeaways in the second half that the offense turned into 21 points: a Trevon Diggs‘ interception, an Anthony Barr fumble recovery at the Dallas 1, a Jourdan Lewis interception in the fourth quarter, a Sam Williams‘ sack/fumble and a DeMarcus Lawrence fumble recovery to end the game.
Will the Cowboys ever figure out their third-down woes on offense? If they don’t, they will not be a serious threat. They entered the game converting just 32% of their third-down tries and things were supposed to be better upon Prescott’s return. They were 3-of-9 on third down. Through three quarters, Prescott was 0-for-1 with two sacks on third down. In the opener against Tampa Bay, he was 3-of-9 with an interception on third down. In the fourth quarter, they were stopped on third-and-1 when the Lions snuffed out a toss play to Tony Pollard. — Todd Archer
Next game: vs. Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Turnovers absolutely hurt the Lions in critical moments. Quarterback Jared Goff threw two interceptions — and added two fumbles in the fourth. Also, running back Jamaal Williams fumbled twice — including one at the goal line to start the fourth. Detroit was already facing an uphill battle after losing wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown to a concussion during the first quarter. And the Lions were playing without receiver DJ Chark (ankle) — who was recently placed on injured reserve — and running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle), who has missed the past three games. So those mistakes proved to be costly while Detroit was undermanned.
Will the Lions’ defense improve from this performance moving forward? This season it’s been tough to get the offense and defense on the same page. Entering this game, Detroit’s defense was allowing a league-high 34 points per game, but during the bye, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn made some changes, notably having No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson work with both the linebackers and defensive linemen to position him better for success. It worked in Dallas, as he racked up 1.5 sacks. Plus, Texas product Jeff Okudah played inspired football with a career-high 15 total tackles. So, yeah, the Lions certainly can’t do any worse than the first four games, when the defense was horrendous. On a bright note, they allowed a season-low 24 points to the Cowboys — but a loss is a loss. — Eric Woodyard
Next game: vs. Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Titans completed a sweep of the Colts to take a commanding lead atop the AFC South. The Titans’ defensive front dominated the trenches, harassing Colts quarterback Matt Ryan for most of the day. Denico Autry continued his revenge tour against his former team with a sack. Bud Dupree and Jeffery Simmons also had sacks. Pressure from Dupree led to two interceptions for the Titans. One of the interceptions was returned 76 yards for a touchdown by safety Andrew Adams. Tennessee has four more games within the division and now has a 4-2 record, thanks to a four-game winning streak.
Can the Titans continue to win games in such an ugly manner? Although it counts as a win, the Titans’ victory wasn’t pretty. Tennessee won primarily on the strength of its defense with two interceptions, including a 76-yard pick-six by safety Andrew Adams. The Titans don’t deliver many explosive plays, instead relying on long drives to get onto the scoreboard, as evidenced by their 31-minute time of possession on Sunday. Derrick Henry has three 100-yard rushing performances in Tennessee’s four wins. Simply put, this team finds a way to win. However, things will get tough for the Titans over the next five weeks, with matchups against the Chiefs, Packers and Bengals on the docket. — Turron Davenport
Next game: at Texans (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Colts thought they had found a viable path on offense with their best showing in Week 6 against Jacksonville. But the heavy passing attack didn’t work as effectively against Tennessee as the Titans harassed quarterback Matt Ryan throughout and dominated the Colts’ offensive line. Ryan threw two interceptions — including one that was returned for a TD — and now has 12 turnovers for the season. The return of running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines from injuries didn’t change the outcome for the Colts, who are running out of time to salvage their floundering offense.
Can the Colts fix their offense? Against teams that don’t have dominant defensive fronts, the Colts likely have enough firepower to make things tough on opponents. But when they fail to win up front, as they did on Sunday, it’s easier for a defense to neutralize receivers Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell. Their problems are fundamental: an offensive line that is playing at an unacceptable level and a quarterback who is shrinking in the face of the resulting pass rush. How do you fix that? — Stephen Holder
Next game: vs. Commanders (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Earlier in the week, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said a three-game stretch against the Falcons, Browns and Panthers was going to define Cincinnati’s season. It represented three opportunities to bank victories in a tight AFC North race heading into the team’s bye in Week 10. Behind a record-breaking day from Burrow, who became the first player in NFL history to have five games of 400 or more passing yards in his first three seasons, the Bengals started out with a win.
Buy or sell WR Tyler Boyd‘s performance? Buy. Boyd had a career-high 155 receiving yards, with the bulk of that coming in the first quarter. Even with an offense that features Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, Boyd showed why coach Zac Taylor considers Boyd one of the best slot receivers in the league. — Ben Baby
Next game: at Browns (Monday, Oct. 31, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: On an ugly day all around, especially for a defense left short-handed by A.J. Terrell‘s hamstring injury, there might yet be good news for the Falcons: Not many offenses are as explosive as that of the Bengals. And with a stretch that includes games against the Bears, Commanders, Steelers and two against the Panthers coming up, the Falcons have to hope this was a bad matchup instead of a sign of problems to come.
Can Atlanta’s offense sustain when it gets into a hole? Based off what we’ve seen this season, it’s still a bit unclear. But Sunday did not provide much confidence. Trailing by 18 points in the fourth quarter, the Falcons appeared to stay in their same run-based offense. It worked in near comebacks against the Buccaneers and Rams, but against a more explosive offense in Cincinnati, and with the team’s secondary decimated by injury, it didn’t work. This is going to be something to pay attention to going forward but isn’t a huge concern. Yet. — Michael Rothstein
Next game: vs. Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Ja’Marr Chase goes 41 yards into the end zone for another Bengals’ touchdown.
What to know: The Ravens still have fourth-quarter issues but finally got some good fortune at the end. It looked like Baltimore was about to give away another double-digit lead after running back Justice Hill fumbled with 3:12 left in the game. But Malik Harrison blocked a potential game-tying 61-yard field goal. Then Ravens safety Geno Stone forced a fumble on the Browns’ final possession as the game ended. The Ravens avoided becoming just the third team in the past decade to lose four times in the first seven weeks in games in which they held double-digit leads.
What’s going on with Lamar Jackson throwing the ball? Defenses have turned up the heat with blitzes, and Jackson has not been sharp or decisive with the ball. On Sunday, he finished with 120 yards passing, the sixth fewest of his five-year career. Two completions — a 31-yard pass to Devin Duvernay and a 19-yard dump-off to fullback Patrick Ricard — accounted for 50 of those yards. Jackson said this week that the Ravens need to stop overthinking and just play. But Baltimore’s issues go deeper than that. Over the past four games, Jackson has thrown three TDs and four INTs. — Jamison Hensley
Next game: at Buccaneers (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: Cleveland played arguably its best game of the season in Baltimore. But too many errors on a potential game-winning drive sank the Browns, giving them their fourth straight loss. An offensive pass interference call on Amari Cooper negated his go-ahead TD reception. Then a false start on a game-tying FG forced Cade York to attempt a 60-yard try. The field goal was blocked, sealing the victory for Baltimore.
Can Cleveland recover from four straight losses? The Browns desperately needed this victory to hang around in the AFC North race. Now, at 2-5 with arguably the league’s toughest remaining schedule, Cleveland’s season is officially on life support. A loss to Cincinnati next week on “Monday Night Football” would effectively be the death knell — before the Browns even reach their midseason bye. — Jake Trotter
Next game: vs. Bengals (Monday, Oct. 31, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: Quarterback Taylor Heinicke‘s game won’t win any beauty pageants, but he excels at ignoring the aesthetics and competes. It’s why he can have a brutal start — with a first-half pick-six and numerous ugly incompletions early — and later lead a win. It helped that Washington ran the ball for 167 yards, and receiver Terry McLaurin came through with a big second half with a touchdown catch and key completions on the final drive. But Heinicke’s grit allows him to ignore plays that could ruin other quarterbacks coming off the bench. It’s why Washington has won two in a row.
Has the defense turned it around? The Commanders have benefited from facing struggling offenses the past two games in Chicago and Green Bay. But they have played better largely because of their ability to stop the run; they’ve allowed only 3.67 yards per carry in the past five games — fourth best in the NFL. Also, with corner William Jackson III sidelined, they’ve been more consistent in coverage, especially in zone. With Chase Young possibly back within two weeks, the defense could be the reason for a resurgence. — John Keim
Next game: at Colts (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: If the Packers can’t beat the New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Commanders, imagine what the Buffalo Bills are going to do to them next Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills have the most explosive offense in the NFL. They lead the league in yards per game and rank second in points. Their defense leads the league in fewest points allowed and ranks second in yards. Oh yeah, and the Bills were on their bye this weekend and play the Packers at home in a prime-time game. This was supposed to be a get-back-on-track game after two straight losses. Instead, the Packers have their first three-game losing streak since 2018.
Now will the Packers get another receiver? Yes, it’s the same question as last week after the loss to the Jets. The trade deadline is a little more than a week away, and without a significant addition, it’s hard to see how their passing game will improve. The return of Sammy Watkins, who missed four weeks with a hamstring injury, didn’t immediately help. Aaron Rodgers had not attempted a pass that traveled more than 10 yards in the air until the final two minutes of the first half on Sunday, and when he finally did, Watkins wasn’t fast enough to run under it. It was so far off that flags for pass interference were picked up because the ball was deemed uncatchable. Their fastest receiver, rookie Christian Watson, missed a second straight game with a hamstring injury. — Rob Demovsky
Next game: at Bills (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Giants keep finding ways to win, even if it’s just by 1 yard. Trevor Lawrence and the Jags’ offense were on the doorstep late in the game, but Lawrence’s pass to Christian Kirk was stuffed at the 1-yard line as time expired. The Giants leaned for most of three quarters on the arm — and legs — of quarterback Daniel Jones, with Jacksonville concentrating on limiting Saquon Barkley (72 of his 110 rushing yards came in the fourth quarter). Jones threw for 202 yards and a touchdown and ran for 107 yards and another score. It’s what they needed against a Jaguars defense that has been strong in stopping the run. This was the kind of game that showed Jones (despite five dropped passes) has the ability to not only manage games, but win them. He led his fourth fourth-quarter comeback this season.
Just how bad are the injuries? Rookie right tackle Evan Neal (knee), tight end Daniel Bellinger (eye) and left guard Ben Bredeson (knee) all left the game in the first half. Those are three starters. Early indications are Neal and Bredeson avoided serious injury, according to sources. That’s a positive. Bellinger was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. The Giants’ offense was already limited entering Sunday. It can’t afford for any of these injuries to be long term. The injured trio from Sunday has started every game this season — Jordan Raanan
Next game: at Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Travis Etienne Jr. has taken over as the Jaguars’ top back. He started for the second consecutive week and had the breakout game that many have been expecting (114 yards rushing). Etienne averaged 8.1 yards per carry and scored his first NFL touchdown on a 7-yard run. James Robinson, who had started the first five games this season and 32 overall, didn’t have a carry or a reception in a game in which he has played for the first time in his career. He was targeted just once, on a pass that Trevor Lawrence overthrew in the end zone.
Where is the pass rush? The Jaguars’ pass rush looked formidable after putting up seven sacks in the first two games, but it has managed just six since — and only two in the past two games (just one against Daniel Jones). Head coach Doug Pederson said teams are devising game plans to stop No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker by chipping him or double-teaming him. But that means Josh Allen should be getting to the QB more. He did enter the week with 25 QB pressures, per NFL Next Gen Stats, but he hasn’t had a sack since Week 4 and has just three this season. Those two have to be more productive. — Mike DiRocco
Next game: vs. Broncos (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET)
Daniel Jones pushes his way through the end zone to put the Giants ahead late in the fourth quarter.
What to know: The Cardinals’ offense isn’t out of the woods yet. Yes, it played as well as it has played all season during Thursday’s win over the Saints, but Kyler Murray said there’s things that the offense still needs to work on. And he’s not wrong. The Cardinals were saved by the defense, which returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Take those away, and the Cardinals would’ve lost. Next week in Minnesota will be the true gauge for this offense to see if it’s making strides or still stuck in the mud. Having nine days between games will give guys like DeAndre Hopkins and Robbie Anderson a chance to get acclimated more, and players like James Conner and Rodney Hudson a chance to get healthy.
Was Thursday night the spark the Cardinals’ needed to turn around the season? It’ll help, no doubt, but the win was somewhat built on false pretenses because the Saints were down to their top two corners and top two receivers. If Arizona plays well and can beat the Vikings convincingly next week, then yes, the Cardinals will be on their way to turning around the season. — Josh Weinfuss
Next game: at Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Saints are a mess on both sides of the ball, but none of these problems are new. Turnovers, missed tackles and penalties have defined the Saints’ identity this season, and even wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith said self-inflicted wounds are killing the team. Smith said that Alvin Kamara told the team after the game: “We’ve got to really police ourselves, hold our own selves accountable, hold our teammates accountable.”
How does the coaching staff fix the team’s problems with multiple injuries? Saints coach Dennis Allen said the problem starts with him, and when asked how the coaches make changes going forward, he said it’s about “getting the right people in the right spots.” Allen admitted that is a tough thing to do, especially considering the health of the team is his biggest concern. With the Saints down three cornerbacks and several players on offense, there might not be many options for the Saints to turn to. — Katherine Terrell
Next game: vs. Raiders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)