The Dallas Cowboys set the tone for Week 13 with a 13-10 upset win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football.
New Orleans had averaged 37.2 points per game through the first 12 weeks of the season.
So when the Cowboys held them to 10 points in a statement win, snapping the Saints’ 10-game win streak, it was a clear message that this Dallas defence is legitimate.
We didn’t know it at the time, but that upset was just the start of a wild week in the NFL.
Here are some quick thoughts heading into Week 14:
Cowboys defence legitimate
Four weeks ago, Dallas seemed primed for another disappointing season following back-to-back losses to the Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans that left them at 3-5.
Since then, the Cowboys have pieced together four straight wins to climb to the top of the NFC East at 7-5. Dallas has allowed an average of just 18.0 points per game over that span.
Led by one of the best linebacker tandems in the league in Jaylon Smith and rookie Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys rank second in the NFL in scoring defence with an average of just 18.6 points allowed per game.
That defence held the Saints to just 176 total yards, which is the lowest total of the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era.
With one of the league’s top defences and an offence that seems rejuvenated since adding wide receiver Amari Cooper, the Cowboys are rolling heading into their Week 14 showdown with the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
The NFC East clash between Philadelphia and Dallas will reveal a lot about both teams.
The 6-6 Eagles are coming off back-to-back wins to put the pressure on Dallas atop the division.
Something missing in Philadelphia
Philadelphia barely scraped past the New York Giants 25-22 in Week 12 and then let the Mark Sanchez-led Redskins hang around with them for three quarters before pulling away with 14-unanswered points in the final frame of a 28-13 win on Monday night.
Injuries have certainly taken a toll on the Eagles.
Can the remaining pieces carry the defending Super Bowl champions back to the postseason?
Remember, Philadelphia will play three of its final four games on the road beginning in Dallas this Sunday.
It will certainly be an uphill climb for the Eagles to get back to the playoffs.
Packers’ coaching change was in the cards
When the Green Bay Packers stumbled in a 20-17 loss at home in a must-win game against an Arizona Cardinals team that was just 2-8 on the year, the decision to make a move couldn’t come fast enough.
The Packers fired Mike McCarthy, who went 125-77-2 as head coach in Green Bay including a Super Bowl victory in 2010, right after Sunday’s loss which dropped them to 4-7-1. However, they are a combined 11-16-1 over the past two seasons.
Missing the playoffs in consecutive years isn’t exactly in line with the sense of urgency throughout the franchise with Aaron Rodgers turning 35 on Sunday. Although they are a combined 11-16-1 over the past two seasons, something had to give in Green Bay.
The question now is where do the Packers go from here? On Tuesday, the team fired associate head coach Winston Moss after he posted a tweet regarding the Packers’ search for a new head coach. The tweet also included a reference to Rodgers.
Chargers rally in memorable performance
The Los Angeles Chargers delivered the most memorable performance of Week 13 with a 33-30 comeback win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite trailing 23-7 at the half, it never really felt as though the Chargers were out of it at any point.
So when L.A. outscored Pittsburgh 26-7 in the second half to earn a statement victory, it felt like a serious reminder that this Chargers team is legitimate.
Phillip Rivers was excellent, Justin Jackson looked explosive and the defence came up big over the final two quarters to give the offence a chance to win the game.
What stood out most is the underrated Keenan Allen.
The Chargers wide receiver isn’t talked about enough.
Allen had 14 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown in the win.
He’s up to 83 catches for 996 yards and five scores this season.
For all of the attention Michael Thomas, Adam Thielen and DeAndre Hopkins receive and deservedly so, it’s time to start talking a little more about Allen as one of the most talented players in the league at his position.
While the Chargers figured out how to rally from being down 16 points against Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Browns had no answer for the Houston Texans.
Houston's perfect plan to stop Mayfield
Over and over again, the Texans dropped their linebackers in zone coverage and relied on a four-man pass rush to get after Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield.
With J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus getting the job done up front, Houston consistently generated pressure and dared Mayfield to test their seven-man coverage.
The Texans held Mayfield to 29-of-43 for 397 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions in the 29-13 win over the Browns. On the heels of nine straight wins, Houston is suddenly a contender in the battle for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Jaguars CB Ramsey still elite
For all of the talk about the Jacksonville Jaguars and specifically cornerback Jalen Ramsey, it’s worth noting his performance in Sunday’s 6-0 win over the Indianapolis Colts stood out as one of the best of the year at his position.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey held Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to three catches for 34 yards on seven targets. He also had two pass breakups and made an impressive tackle to keep inbounds on what ended up being the final play of the game.
Jacksonville’s defence reminded us how good it has the potential to be.
It will be very interesting to see how the Jaguars approach the off-season and what this team looks like in 2019.
Slumping Panthers trending down
Carolina has lost four in a row to fall to 6-6, including a 24-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday that marked a low point in their season.
The Panthers defence has allowed an average of 31.5 points per game during their four-game slide, forcing head coach Ron Rivera to take over the play calling after two assistants were fired.
Meanwhile, turnovers have plagued the Carolina offence, including seven interceptions from Cam Newton over his last four games.
The Panthers travel to face the Browns in Week 14.
With the pressure building in the NFC wild-card race, all eyes will be on Newton and company to see if they can finally end their slide.