What we learned, big questions for every game and future team outlooks

The Titans kept the Chiefs out the end zone in Week 7, the seventh week of the 2021 NFL season. This was another worrying performance for Kansas City. A big AFC victory was also achieved by the Bengals, who defeated Lamar Jackson and Baltimore's Ravens. This was thanks to a tremendous day from Ja'Marr Chase.
With three Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes from the Packers, the Packers won in Washington. The Patriots beat the Jets by 54 points in a thrilling win. The Giants won a huge win over the Panthers and the Falcons scored the game-winning field goal to defeat the Dolphins. On Thursday night, Case Keenum was in the middle of the Browns' victory over the Broncos.

The NFL Nation reporters respond to the key takeaways and questions left over from this week's action. They also look at the larger picture by comparing their team confidence rating, a score between 0 and 10, which shows how they feel about the team's outlook going into the week. Let's get on with it.

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The real fun begins now. The Packers made it through the most difficult part of their schedule, which included wins over Chicago (and now Washington). We are now going to find out how great the Packers will be. It's not a long wait, thanks to the quick turnaround from Thursday's Arizona game. Arizona entered Sunday's action as NFL's only unbeaten side. This season, the Packers have not faced a dynamic quarterback like Kyler Murray. They've had to deal with a steady stream either of mediocre (Jameis Winston and Jared Goff) or ones with potential, but they aren't quite there yet (Joe Burrow who is surging and Justin Fields and Taylor Heinicke), and even one who might be washed-up (Ben Roethlisberger). Murray is a front-runner for MVP. Then it's Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. Rob Demovsky

Are the Packers able to fix their red zone defense? That's debatable. They got four stops in succession after allowing 15 touchdowns to 15 possessions within the 20. They were the first team to not make a red zone stop in the NFL's first six games. Even a field goal would have been counted. They allowed three points on Sunday -- a field goal with just 2:25 remaining in the game -- during those four drives. They managed to get their two first stops against Washington by the smallest margins. One of those required replay review. Although it appeared that Heinicke had scored on a third and goal scramble, replays showed that he was actually down at the 1. To make it to the second red zone, the Packers needed a fourth down incompletion. Chandon Sullivan's fourth quarter interception in the endzone resulted in the third. -- Demovsky

Demovsky's confidence rating (0-10): 7.5. This is no different from last week. It's difficult to predict how many injuries will cost the Packers (6-1), as long as they keep winning. They will eventually have to get players back, especially on defense. The Packers were without Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith, two of their most prominent defensive players (Za'Darius Smith) on Sunday. Smith was unable to play in the game due to an injury to his oblique, which ended a streak that lasted 102 consecutive games. King was also unable, as he sustained a shoulder injury. They won't likely get left tackle David Bakhtiari (or any other offensive player) back until at least another week. The same could happen for receiver Marquez Valdes Scantling.

Next game: at Cardinals (8.20 p.m. ET, Thursday


What you need to know: Washington performed in many aspects as well as possible. The defense put pressure on Green Bay with three sacks and outgained them by 126 yards. JJonathan Allen, the defensive tackle, was outstanding and made Aaron Rodgers hesitate at times to allow the rush to succeed. The defense allowed only 304 yards for the season. The offense managed six trips within the 25 which resulted in three points. This is a sign that it lacks firepower. Green Bay had previously allowed 15 touchdowns on 15 red zone trips prior to this game. The defense is able to build a strong game but the offense remains a problem. It will be more difficult to do it right. John Keim

Are they nearing the end of their misery? Washington will play Denver next week, which is also in trouble, with a chance of ending a three-game skid. Logan Thomas should be back soon after the Week 9 bye. Ryan Fitzpatrick (its original starting quarterback) is still on injured reserve due to a hip injury and no date has been set for his return. Washington will now have to be with Taylor Heinicke. On Sunday, he created with his legs but couldn't complete drives and threw one pick in the endzone. It will be hard to turn the tide until they have more outside help -- Curtis Samuel, receiver, continues to have a season-long groin problem that has been a major issue for the offense. -- Keim

Keim's confidence rating (0-10): 4.3, an increase from 3.7. Washington may feel more confident about its defense but, after the combined 23 points in the previous two games, it's difficult to feel the same way about the offense.

Next game: at Broncos (1. p.m. ET, Sunday


What you need to know: After taking a lead of two possessions, the Falcons watched that lead fade away. It looked grim. These Falcons may have found some resilience. Matt Ryan, who lost the ball to Miami, took the ball with 2 minutes remaining and marched down the field using a combination throws to Kyle Pitts at tight end and runs to score the game-winning field goal. Atlanta won the season's second game from behind, showing courage even though it was trailing by a significant margin. Although it was against a poor Dolphins team, Atlanta is still beating them and will be in a position to be at least relevant for a while longer. -- Michael Rothstein

Can you trust Kyle Pitts, the first round pick? After a Week 5 119-yard loss to the Jets, Pitts recorded his second consecutive 100-plus yard day against the Dolphins. Since the 1970 Raiders' Raymond Chester, Pitts is the only rookie tight end to record back-to-back 100 yard games. Chester's back to back 100-yard games in the sixth and fifth games of his season were similar to Pitts'. The 163 yards that Pitts worked on Sunday included a remarkable 39-yard reception on deep routes in which Miami safety Eric Rowe seized Pitts' right arm and impeded his ability to catch him. Pitts didn’t seem to care, sticking his left arm out to make a one handed grab. To open the second half, he also caught a 26-yard pass that set up a deep touchdown for Ryan and Russell Gage. Pitts' talent is undisputed. Arthur Smith, the Falcons' coach, has unleashed Pitts' potential in the NFL and has made him one of the most valuable players on the team. -- Rothstein

Rothstein's confidence rating (0-10): 5.1. This is an increase from 5. Atlanta is still in the running as long as Younghoe Koo is available to kick the ball to win the game.

Next game: vs. Panthers (1.pm. ET, Sunday

Play 0:19 Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley connect for Falcons' first TD game Matt Ryan connects to Calvin Ridley for a 5-yard touchdown that gives the Falcons victory over the Dolphins.


The bottom line: This season is over. Because they won't make the playoffs, the Dolphins will be playing for pride. Sunday was their sixth consecutive loss. A matchup against the AFC East's bully, the Buffalo Bills is imminent. Tua Tagovailoa had one of the most impressive games of his career, but also threw two devastating interceptions. The defense of Miami forced two turnovers, but it was overcome by Matt Ryan (and Kyle Pitts) After winning 10 games last year, the Dolphins believed they would be a playoff team. Now coach Brian Flores, and GM Chris Grier could be the first to lose it all. Did I mention that the Bills will be rested after a bye? It seems relevant. The Dolphins are about to face desperate times, and this could lead to one of the most controversial moves in NFL history. Marcel Louis-Jacques

Will Grier's and Flores’ desperate need force them to make a deal for Texans quarterback Deshaun Wilson? Even though Watson played like an MVP candidate last year, nothing can save Miami's season. However, Grier and Flores will likely stay around to see this experiment through until at least another season if Deshaun Watson is cleared for play in 2022 (suspension). Watson faces 22 civil lawsuits for sexual assault and inappropriate conduct. He is currently under grand jury investigation. It is unclear what Watson's future holds, until indictment is filed. Louis-Jacques

Louis-Jacques' confidence rating (0-10): 1. This is a decrease of 2. I believe the Dolphins will make it to the field next Sunday. They won't be able to do much against a Bills team who's outscored them 91-25 in their previous two meetings.

Next game: at Bills (1 p.m. ET, Sunday


What you need to know: Since Week 7, the Patriots have played at the same level as their opponents, so they knew they had to play this type of game to prove they could compete. They attacked the Jets quickly and won. Although some may be inclined to say "Yeah but it's Jets", the Patriots had not shown that they could bury ANY team this season. Remember Week 5 against Texans? In a narrow 25-22 victory, the Patriots were barely able to escape. They didn't lead until 15 seconds into the final. The Patriots have not been a great football team up until this point, even though the Jets aren't a good one. This gives them confidence going into next Sunday's game against the Chargers. -- Mike Reiss

If Devin McCourty or Jonnu Smith are out of the game, who will step in? This could have been a warning sign. Safety Devin McCourty (abdomen), and tight end Jonnu Smith(shoulder) were both ruled out of Sunday’s game in the second period. Devin Asiasi, a 2019 third-round draftee, would likely be the No. 2 tight end if Smith isn’t available to play next Sunday against the Chargers. 2 at the tight end for the first time in this season. He has been a healthy scratch throughout the year. Matt LaCosse, a veteran of the game, is also part of the team's practice squad. McCourty's void is already a problem. Veteran Adrian Phillips would be his opponent, the Chargers, but the team would need to look into a DB addition from either the practice squad (Elijah Benton or Sean Davis) or the open marketplace. -- Reiss

Reiss' confidence rating (0-10): 5.2, an increase from 5. Reiss' confidence rating (0-10): 5.2, up from 5.

Next game: at Chargers (4.05 p.m. ET, Sunday


What you need to know: Zach Wilson, the Jets' Quarterback, has suffered a serious knee injury that could cause a significant setback in their roster rebuild, also known as The Wilson Plan. Wilson's development is the main focus of this season, so there is a possibility that he may miss valuable game experience. The No. The No. 2 pick is a great talent but is still very raw. He needs game reps. He did not commit any mistakes against the Patriots, but it was another jittery start. The injury occurred when the Jets were leading 17-0. The Jets are a cursed franchise and a long-term injury is a nightmare scenario. -- Rich Cimini

The Jets will regret not having a veteran backup quarterback. Yes, absolutely. It's not going to be easy for Backup Mike White to steer the ship. White, who took over for Wilson in the second quarter and threw a touchdown, but it didn't go well from there. White threw two interceptions and looked like a rookie quarterback. The Jets refused to hire an experienced backup quarterback for their QB2, and now they are in danger of paying the price. The entire offense will suffer because White will not allow for growth; there will also be regression, as White will have to start over. This could lead to a repetition of the Luke Falk Debacle. -- Cimini

Cimini's confidence rating (0-10): 2, down from 3. The Jets did what? Work on Halloween costumes. They didn't seem to be working on football; they were regressing in every way possible.

Next game: vs. Bengals (1 p.m. ET, Sunday


The good news: The transformation has been completed. The Cincinnati Bengals are not only playoff contenders but are also the front-runners for the AFC North. The Ravens were beaten by the NFL's worst team, the Bengals. This was undoubtedly the most important game of Zac Taylor’s coaching career. This team is now at the top in the division, and this is Year 3. -- Ben Baby

Can the Bengals maintain this winning streak? Yes. It's not even the beginning. The Bengals are a certifiably good team at this stage of the season and after their victory over Baltimore. Baltimore's quarterback Lamar Jackson was not impressed by Cincinnati's defense. Cincinnati was a master of offensive play, picking apart the Ravens for the largest yardage day during Taylor's tenure as a coach. -- Baby

Baby's confidence rating (0-10): 8.5. This is an increase of 7. This is the Bengals' best team in six years.

Next game: at Jets (1 p.m. ET, Sunday

Play 1:24 Burrow dominates Ravens by 3 TD passes Joe Burrow leads the Bengals to a big win over the Ravens.


What you need to know: The Ravens don't have the AFC North lead. Baltimore was a touchdown favourite against Cincinnati, and had the chance to move two games higher in the division. The Ravens lost first place to Cincinnati because their secondary and run game were not as strong as they had been. It was becoming clear that Lamar Jackson could compensate for any shortcomings. However, Joe Burrow and the new Bengals proved they could go toe-to–toe with Jackson when it comes to big plays. These aren’t the Bengals who were 0-5 against Jackson. -- Jamison Hensley

What is the Ravens secondary doing? Ravens' pass defense is often very bad. Baltimore was unable to answer Joe Burrow's pass defense questions a week after they shut down Justin Herbert. Burrow threw for more than 400 yards. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Ravens have become the third team to allow three passers of 400 yards in seven games. Marlon Humphrey, a former cornerback in the NFL's Bowl, said that this week Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase made it easy to transition to the NFL. Humphrey and Baltimore's defense made it much easier by not tackling. 72 yards were gained after Chase's touchdown reception of 82 yards in the third quarter. This is the tie for the third-most yards after a touchdown catch since ESPN started tracking it in 2009. Hensley

Hensley's confidence rating (0-10): 8. This is a drop of 9 points from 9. The Ravens aren't the most impressive team in the AFC. Baltimore is limping into the bye, but there's still a chance for it to make another run next month with games against the Minnesota Vikings (Miami Dolphins), and Chicago Bears.

Next game: vs. Vikings (1.pm. ET, Nov. 7)


What you need to know: Last week was a bad game for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. He played brilliantly against the Panthers, despite having to play with a weak supporting cast. His top four players were all injured. Jones completed 22 out of 33 passes for 203 yards, a touchdown and ran for 28 more yards. He also made a diving catch one-handed to round out his highlight reel. He didn't even commit a turnover. This feat was made even more impressive by the fact that he did it without seven of his Week 1 starters, which is another sign that he could be the franchise quarterback to watch. -- Jordan Raanan

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Are the Giants' defenses back on track? This defense was the best and most complete this season. This unit gave up 173 yards and allowed three points. It also produced six sacks. It looked just like the unit that finished at the top of the league last year. For the second consecutive week, Leonard Williams, the most highly paid player on the roster and defensive lineman, performed like that. Williams and Dexter Lawrence, another defensive lineman, were dominant on the interior. They combined for 1.5 sacks as well as six total tackles. This was exactly what the Giants needed. Next up is a matchup against Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. -- Raanan

Raanan's confidence score (0-10): 3.1. This is an increase from 1.8. After last week's poor performances, you are feeling much better about the defense as well as the quarterback.

Next game: at Chiefs (8.15 p.m. ET, Nov. 1)


The important thing to know: As Coach Matt Rhule stated this week, he shouldn't have "bought-in" quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold made too many mistakes before Sunday and this led to his being benched to make room for P.J. Walker. Darnold was intentionally grounded from the end zone, which resulted in safety and an interception close to the New York goal line. In the last four games, he has thrown seven interceptions. He is a complete wreck. Perhaps it's time to make a change. -- David Newton

Can the Panthers (3-4), salvage their season after their fourth consecutive loss? They have lost three straight to losing teams and Darnold was benched. There are still some favorable games in the schedule, including New England and Atlanta. They could also get Christian McCaffrey, their running back, back in a few more weeks. Also, Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilbertmore will be back next week. This team appears to be in chaos, and the back end could prove overwhelming. Newton

Newton's confidence rating (0-10): 4. This is a decrease of 5. The confidence rating (0-10) of Newton is 4. This is a drop from 5.

Next game: at Falcons (1. p.m. ET, Sunday


What you need to know: The Titans defense proved it was capable of dominating. The Titans' front four, which included Bud Dupree and Denico Autry on the outside and Harold Landry on their interior, harassed Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throughout the game. Mahomes was intercepted once and was sacked four more times. Kevin Byard, Titans safety, forced Mahomes into a scramble that gave Tennessee two turnovers. Kansas City converted 4 out of 11 third-down chances. In a dominant performance, the Titans held the Chiefs to just three points. This was the first time this has happened to a Mahomes-led Chiefs offense in the regular season. Turron Davenport

Can the offensive line withstand the injury bug? The injuries continue to plague the Titans' offensive line. Taylor Lewan had already been out of the game due to a concussion. Bobby Hart was named as the backup left tackle after Kendall Lamm, an ankle injury, was forced him out of the game. Rodger Saffold was injured in the thigh and missed a few snaps. Tennessee has been able to put a unit back together every week. They will eventually catch up to them. It could be next week against the Colts or 2020 All-Pro defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. -- Davenport

Davenport's confidence score (0-10): 8. This is an increase of 7.5. The Titans dominated the Chiefs in every aspect and looked like they could compete with any other team in the AFC.

Next game: Colts (1. p.m. ET, Sunday

Play 0:27 Derrick Henry fools Chiefs by TD pass to MyColepruitt Derrick Henry takes an immediate snap, pretends to run, and passes to MyCole Pruitt to score a touchdown.


What you need to know: Chiefs cannot count on Patrick Mahomes scoring more points each week than they do. The Titans blew that illusion away, shutting out the Chiefs in halftime and allowing only one field goal in the final quarter. In five of six of their last six games, the Chiefs have had at least two turnovers. -- Adam Teicher

Defense can get worse. It is not something the Chiefs should be surprised to discover. Their next four opponents include Aaron Rodgers and Packers, Derek Carr, the Raiders and Dak Prescott, the Cowboys and the Raiders. -- Teicher

Teicher's confidence rating (0-10): 4. This is a decrease of 6. The Chiefs are looking stale. Their defense problems have been with them nearly all season while their offense in Tennessee has been a disaster.

Next game: vs. Giants (8.15 p.m. ET, Nov. 1)


Know this: Case Keenum was not signed by the Browns to mentor Baker Mayfield. Keenum was brought in by the Browns believing that he would be able to keep Cleveland's season alive if needed. Keenum was able to do exactly that as the Browns defeated Denver in a dramatic two-game series. Although it's not clear when Mayfield will be able to return due to his non-throwing shoulder injury, Keenum proved that the Browns still have a quarterback who can deliver. Jake Trotter

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Is Baker Mayfield going to make a comeback? Mayfield revealed that he has a fracture in his left shoulder and a torn labrum on his left shoulder. Mayfield hopes to be back for Cleveland's next game against the Steelers on Oct. 31. Kevin Stefanski, Browns coach, said that it was too early to determine if this is ambitious. However, Mayfield's future status will be the main topic of discussion in Cleveland. Trotter

Trotter's confidence rating (0-10): 6.7, an increase from 6. With a steady effort to remain in the hunt in AFC North, the Browns helped to stabilize the ship.

Next game: vs. Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday


What you need to know: The Broncos lost four games and four times, but they didn't win the line of play on either side of their ball four times. The Broncos couldn't stop the Browns controlling the pace. When Denver finally had enough offense to make it a full game, the defense couldn’t get the stop it needed to win. The offensive game has been a disaster for the Broncos. The Broncos are more successful when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is in the shotgun more often, which is nearly half the time. They have more big plays and more effective ball movement. In their three wins, he was in the shotgun eight more times than under center, but since the loss to Baltimore, he has been in the shotgun much more. He had 45 snaps more in the shotgun than he did under center in their loss to the Steelers in Week 5. It's not unusual for a quarterback to be under center, even if he's been more successful on those plays. Jeff Legwold

Is Jerry Jeudy's return going to help? It's certain, as defenses have been tempted to the line of scrum to protect the run. They don't want to be beaten by the deep ball. The Broncos offense is slow because Jeudy and KJ Hamler, both wide receivers, are out of the game. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam has also been out. Jeudy is expected to return to the lineup against Washington on Oct. 31, which will require an adjustment from the opposing defenses, which could allow the Broncos to play their play-action passing game a bit more. Legwold

Legwold's confidence score (0-10): 5. This is a decrease of 5.5. They have seven injured reserve linebackers, their quarterback is a battered player and they are losing the line of scrimmage consistently on both sides.

Next game: vs. Washington (4.25 p.m. ET, Sunday


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