Thanksgiving week has arrived, which means every snap of every NFL game becomes significantly more meaningful.
That was especially evident during a wild Week 11, that saw several contenders pull off statement victories - both of the comeback and blowout variety, and other teams suffering the kind of losses that put their coaches even further under the microscope.
Here are our biggest takeaways from the week that was in the NFL:
First Down: Lions Show Championship Character in Comeback Win
The Lions treating their annual Thanksgiving game showcase as the franchise's Super Bowl is an autumnal right of passage in Detroit. But, this season, the Lions arrive at Turkey Day as a legitimate threat to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVIII in Vegas next February.
"They're as tough-minded and resilient a football team as you'll find in this league," an AFC Personnel Executive told FanBuzz, of the Lions. "They've had some scarring as they've grown, and that prepares you for tests like they passed today."
Against a resurgent Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears, it didn't matter that Detroit spotted their NFC North rivals a 26-14 lead with 4:20 remaining. Certainly, Jared Goff's three interceptions were suboptimal.
But, in the end, neither of those things wound up mattering.
As we have come to know, and expect from Dan Campbell's Lions, Detroit came roaring back.
Over the final three minutes of the game, and the Detroit's final two possessions, Jared Goff was a torrid 10-of-12 passing for 115 yards with touchdown passes to Jameson Williams, and David Montgomery to complete the comeback.
Just for good measure, Aidan Hutchinson bolstered his All-Pro resumé by forcing a Fields fumble that went out of the end zone to force a safety, clinching Detroit's 31-26 comeback victory.
These are the type of games that Super Bowl contenders win.
These aren't your older brother's Lions.
When you and your family gather around the bird, stuffing, and all the mashed potatoes Thursday, the Lions will be doing so at 8-2 first time since 1962.
As much as the Lions have gotten off to a blistering pace because of a young roster loaded with elite talent such as Hutchinson, rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs, Williams, rookie safety Brian Branch, and others, there is one man who has established the buy-in and melded all of Detroit's talent into a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
"Dan Campbell is what makes that team special," a league source told FanBuzz. "He's the perfect head coach for today's athlete. And, you have to give a ton of credit to Brad Holmes and that front office for choosing higher character guys, too."
Second Down: DeMeco Ryans Has Texans Light-years Ahead of Schedule
Thanks in large part to DeMeco Ryans and C.J. Stroud, the Houston Texans are no longer some cute little Cinderella story.
Ryans and Stroud have belonged in the Coach of The Year and MVP conversations for weeks, and Sunday against a Cardinals team buoyed by the return of Kyler Murray and playing its best football of the season, the Texans once again showed they are a team to be reckoned with.
Even on a day where C.J. Stroud wasn't at his best, tossing three interceptions, Houston overcame their rookie quarterback's rookie growing pains while outlasting Arizona 21-16, holding serve in the AFC South race.
How many people expected Stroud to be this good, the Texans to enter Week 12 at 6-4, comfortably tucked in the AFC Playoff picture?
"I'll tell you this," an AFC Offensive Coordinator told FanBuzz. "DeMeco and [GM] Nick Caserio are doing a great job. And that quarterback is special. You have no idea how much that helps."
Stroud wasn't exactly special on Sunday, finishing 27-of-37 for 336 yards with two touchdowns to three interceptions, but the fact that the Texans held serve against an opponent they should have beaten despite not getting the level of play they have come to expect from their quarterback simply underscores how ahead of schedule this team is in terms of competing for something meaningful.
Despite Sunday's out of character performance, Stroud boasts a 62.8 completion percentage with 2,962 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions, don't expect the Ohio State product to back down.
"Man, Steph Curry don't ever stop shooting," Stroud said. "I don't got no shame in my game. I definitely got to be smarter, but no confidence is taken away from me. I'm gonna keep letting it fly."
Here's the thing, it was Caserio's aggressiveness during the NFL Draft, taking C.J. Stroud and trading up for edge rusher Will Anderson that proved instrumental in Sunday's victory.
Stroud, alongside Ryans, has rooted a winning culture in Houston. Sunday, Anderson solidified that culture and sealed the victory with a monster performance, with a sack and two tackles for loss. Anderson also pressured Murray into a fatal mistake, forcing a throw with Anderson charging that Steven Nelson batted to the turf to clinch the victory.
"In this game, there were a lot of miscues, things that didn't go our way," Ryans told reporters after the game. "But what I love most, what I told our guys, is we found a way to win. And that's what it takes to be a good football team."
Third Down: Zach Wilson's Limitations the Jets' Undoing
The Jets finally benched Zach Wilson in the second half of Sunday's loss to the Buffalo Bills, in a move that many have been clamoring for but might be too little too late to save New York's season.
Team and league sources tell FanBuzz that frustrations have been growing within the Jets' front office over Wilson's poor play since being thrust into action after Aaron Rodgers ruptured his Achilles tendon four snaps into the season, and head coach Robert Saleh's reluctance to make a change prior to Week 11.
"Legit quarterbacks can overcome their own mistakes and those around them," a team source told FanBuzz. "Zach has zero chance to do that."
Sunday, Wilson was erratic from the pocket, missed some open throws, and did not seem comfortable in the pocket before ceding to Tim Boyle in the third quarter.
Wilson completed just 7-of-15 passes for 81 yards with one touchdown and one interception. While Boyle wasn't much better, at 7-of-14 for 33 yards with an interception, the Jets' offense did seem to open up a bit, especially in the running game, when Boyle came into the game.
Saleh moving off Wilson, and turning the reins of the Jets' offense over to Tim Boyle was too late to preserve any chance of coming back against the Buffalo Bills, in a 32-6 shellacking in Western, NY. However, Wilson left his head coach little choice, and if the move sticks it might stave off a mutiny.
Heck, Sunday afternoon, the Jets' best offensive play was a deep completion by punter Thomas Moorstead on a fake punt.
New York had been betting big that Wilson and the offense could merely survive, because of the abundance of high-end talent on defense. However, that simply hasn't happened.
The Jets entered Sunday as a top-five total defense and top-10 scoring defense. Yet, New York fell to 4-5 with Sunday's loss, and prior to getting benched Wilson had completed a pedestrian — and that's putting it kindly — 59.2 percent of his passes for 1,944 yards with six touchdowns to seven interceptions.
During the CBS broadcast of Sunday's game, Tracy Wolfson reported that Rodgers hoped to be back in New Jersey by Thanksgiving to be with the team full-time, and Jay Glazer reported that Rodgers is targeting a Week 13 return to the practice field. The Jets had been hoping to stay relevant and in the playoff race to get Rodgers on the field for meaningful games at the end of this regular season.
With a short week, as the Jets host the NFL's first Black Friday game against the explosive Miami Dolphins, Saleh is going to have his work cut out for him just to keep his team together after Sunday's effort. But, playing Boyle might be a big step towards doing exactly that and what's best to keep any hope that December will even matter enough to put Rodgers back on the field, if he's ready.
Fourth Down: Brandon Staley on NFL's Hottest Seat
After the Chargers couldn't close out the Green Bay Packers, in a game Los Angeles led 20-16 with 5:29 remaining, it's a wonder the team flight didn't leave Brandon Staley on the tarmac in Appleton.
With the game on the line, and nursing a four-point lead, the Chargers' defense folded like a cheap tent, allowing Jordan Love to lead a six-play and 75-yard march down the field culminating with a 24-yard bomb for a touchdown to Romeo Doubs to seal a 23-20 victory.
According to multiple sources across the NFL, Staley is sitting on the hottest of hot seats of any coach in the league, after Sunday.
Despite coaching a roster that is loaded with premium talent on both sides of the football, few teams have underachieved more than Staley's Chargers.
"He should have been gone last year," a rival AFC Scouting Director told FanBuzz, of Staley. "That hot seat is flaming hot."
Shortly after the Chargers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, again, Staley unloaded on a reporter, who mind you, was not in fact calling the defense against the Packers.
"You can stop asking the question," Staley barked at a reporter during his post-game press conference. "I'm going to be calling the defenses, so we're clear. So, you don't have to ask that again."
After Staley's Chargers defense allowed Love to carve them up for a career-high 322 yards with two touchdowns, and with Los Angeles falling to 4-6, it is becoming fair to wonder just how much longer Staley is going to be making any calls for the Chargers.
MVP of Week 11: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence put the Jaguars on his back, and carried Jacksonville to a blowout over the Tennessee Titans in a pivotal AFC South contest.
With the Texans charging fast, and the Jaguars stumbling earlier this season to Houston eliminating any margin for error in the AFC South race, Lawrence led the way to a pivotal division win on Sunday.
Lawrence did a little bit of everything, hitting on a deep touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley for a 20-yard score, rushing for two touchdowns and helping the Jaguars finish the day scoring three touchdowns on five trips into the red-zone.
As the driving force in Jacksonville's 34-14 blowout of the Titans, that was never really even as close as the final score indicated, Lawrence completed 24-of-32 passes for 262 yards with two touchdowns while rushing for 17 yards and two more scores.
Sunday was a franchise quarterback performance for Lawrence, in the kind of game that underscores why Jacksonville is currently the No. 3 seed in the AFC Playoff race. If Lawrence can string together performances like Sunday's, the Jaguars are a team that is capable of making some serious noise in the postseason.
Breakout Star of Week 11: Tommy DeVito, QB, New York Giants
Two days after a Secaucus Italian restaurant named a vodka chicken parm sandwich after Tommy DeVito, the Giants' rookie quarterback turned in the most impressive performance of his young career.
For the first time, in his fourth appearance this season, DeVito looked like a competent NFL quarterback and operated the Giants' offense at a scintillating level.
DeVito passed for 246 yards with three touchdowns, with zero interceptions, as the Giants ran past the Washington Commanders 31-19 while looking like a competent operation in all phases.
Maybe most impressive about DeVito's performance is the fact that seven different Giants caught a pass, including Darius Slayton and Saquon Barkley combining for eight receptions for 139 yards with three touchdowns.
Any notion that the Giants are tanking for a quarterback went out the window with DeVito's performance. If nothing else, the 25-year-old quintessential Jersey quarterback, who still lives with his parents, gives Giants fans something to be excited about on Sundays the rest of what has been an otherwise forgettable season.
Week 11 Team of The Week: Cleveland Browns
No Deshaun Watson, no problem.
In a classic, bruising AFC North clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns took the air out of the football and the wind out of their division rivals' sails. By playing a physical brand of defense and emphasizing the running game, offensively, the Browns saw critical contributions from all three phases in a 13-10 walk off.
Sure, rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was uninspiring, passing for just 165 yards with no touchdowns but one interception. But, all seven Browns that Thompson-Robinson targeted caught a pass. Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt were a formidable backfield duo, combining for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Maybe most importantly, the Browns' offensive line only allowed one sack. And, it was to the potential Defensive Player of The Year, T.J. Watt.
Defensively, Myles Garrett and the Browns' defense stifled Kenny Pickett, holding the Steelers' second-year starter to 106 passing yards. Sure, Jaylen Warren ran roughshod, for 129 yards with a touchdown, but the Browns made Pittsburgh's offense look like it would have been right at home in 1923, rather than 2023. The Steelers struggled to even complete a forward pass.
Cleveland won't win any style points, but Sunday's win was essential to the Browns remaining in the playoff race — they're currently the AFC's No. 5 seed, and it was a victory that overcame adversity both during the week leading up to it and between opening whistle and final gun.
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