Takeaways: Packers and Bills flex for the camera on Saturday

NFL

Week 15 saw the return of Saturday football, with a pair of games that showcased two of the league’s best teams. The Green Bay Packers, despite some second-half struggles, and Buffalo Bills flexed in front of a national audience that could also see them make deep runs into next month’s playoffs. This on the heels of a wild Thursday night game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders.

It’s just the start as we head into the heart of Week 15, but here are the biggest takeaways from NFL Nation through three games.

Jump to a matchup:
CAR-GB | BUF-DEN | LAC-LV

Standout performer: Aaron Jones: 20 carries, 145 yards, 1 TD.

Aaron Rodgers came out of Saturday’s win over the Panthers with this assessment: “That type of football in the second half, not gonna get it done in the playoffs.” Good thing for the Packers (11-3), who still hold the advantage for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, that the struggling Panthers aren’t a playoff team. Otherwise, they might have lost their grip on homefield advantage throughout the postseason. After scoring on their first three possessions, the Packers punted five straight times and only managed a field goal in the second half. They’ll get a much tougher test next Sunday when the Titans come to Lambeau. — Rob Demovsky

Next game: vs. Titans (8:20 p.m. ET Sunday)

When coach Matt Rhule looks back at this season, one-score games will jump off the evaluation chart. The Panthers (4-10) are 0-8 in one-possession games after Saturday’s loss. That’s an indictment on young players who haven’t fully figured out how to finish games. It’s an indictment on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. It’s also an indictment on a young coaching staff that hasn’t fully figured out how to put players in position to get over the hump. The good news? Carolina may be headed for a top-5 draft pick. — David Newton

Next game: at Washington (1 p.m. ET Sunday)


Standout performer: Josh Allen, 359 passing yards, 33 rushing yards, 4 total TD

There is no team playing better football right now than the Bills. They’ve spoken at length over the past month about peaking at the right time — with three straight resounding prime-time wins, the Bills appear to be doing exactly that. Their past three games have been their most complete efforts of the season and they look like a tough out come playoff time. If both sides of the ball continue this level of play, they can go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs, and even win. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: at Patriots (8:15 p.m. ET Monday)

In a season when they haven’t had former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller for a single snap, have played a game without any quarterbacks and suited up just three cornerbacks Saturday, all of the Broncos’ bills finally came due when the Bills came to town. A dismal third quarter turned a one-score game at halftime into what Broncos coach Vic Fangio called “a total team disappointing performance.” The Broncos simply have too many starters on injured reserve and not enough talent left on the depth chart. The biggest sign of the team’s broken spirit was Devin Singletary‘s 51-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 40 seconds to play through the middle of a reeling Broncos’ defense. The Broncos say there is potential to mine some good from this season, but they only have two games remaining to show that. — Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET Sunday)


Standout performer: Justin Herbert, 22 of 32, 314 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT.

Kicker Michael Badgley became the NFL leader in missed field goals with nine at the same time the Chargers got their second win in a row and first divisional win since 2018. Quarterback Justin Herbert tied the rookie record for most passing touchdowns with 27. — Shelley Smith

Next game: vs. Broncos (4:05 p.m. ET Sunday)

So THIS is why the Raiders signed quarterback Marcus Mariota, who showed not only a willingness to extend plays with his legs and take off and run, but also a preternatural talent to do so against the Chargers. No, there is no quarterback controversy in Las Vegas. Not even with Mariota rushing for a game-high 88 yards and passing for 226 more in only his third game being active for the Raiders. He showed a flavor that Derek Carr, who left with a groin injury in the first quarter, might be missing. But with the Raiders all-but-eliminated from the playoff race, why not give Mariota the last two games with his own playcalls just to see what he’s got entering the offseason since you already know what you have in Carr? — Paul Gutierrez

Next game: vs. Dolphins (8:15 p.m. ET Saturday)

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