NFL News: The Starting 11 – Plenty of Hope for Playoff Hopefuls; Titanic NFC Clash on Marquee for Week 13

By Lydia Jane Allison

NEW YORK ­— Nov. 28, 2023 — Two thirds of the 2023 season is history. And as the race for the playoffs intensifies, plenty of history lies ahead.

After all, in 17 of the past 19 seasons (2004-22), a team with a losing record through 11 games has made the postseason, including each of the past five years. In 2022, the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS were 4-7 at this point. They rebounded to win their division, win a playoff contest and finish a touchdown shy of advancing to the AFC Championship Game.

This year, four teams enter Week 13 at 5-6. One of those clubs, GREEN BAY, is following in the Jaguars’ footsteps and attempting to become just the 11th team since 1990 to begin a season with two-or-fewer wins through seven games and reach the postseason.

Both DENVER (6-5) and MINNESOTA (6-6) started the season 0-3 but each club now has a clear path to the postseason. Since 1990, only four teams have reached the playoffs after opening 0-3, and just one – the 2018 HOUSTON TEXANS – has done it over the past 24 seasons. Could two teams do it this year?

Meanwhile, with BALTIMORE (9-3) on a bye, four AFC teams could be tied atop the conference by week’s end, if JACKSONVILLE (8-3), KANSAS CITY (8-3) and MIAMI (8-3) can secure wins. With six weeks left, who earns the AFC’s No. 1 seed, homefield advantage and the conference’s only first-round bye is anyone’s guess.

Including those AFC teams and DALLAS (8-3), DETROIT (8-3), PHILADELPHIA (10-1) and SAN FRANCISCO (8-3) in the NFC, eight clubs have at least eight wins through Week 12. That’s tied with 2020, 2019 and 2003 for the most such clubs through the first 12 weeks of a season since 2002, when the league expanded to 32 teams.

So saddle up. December starts this week in the NFL. And people tend to remember what happens in December.

The Starting 11 entering Week 13

  1. NINERS, EAGLES CLASH IN REMATCH OF NFC TITLE GAME: Teams that have lost their conference championship games have rebounded the following seasons to win five of the last 11 Super Bowls. Could theSAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (8-3) be next? Not if the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-1) can help it. Those teams will battle at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX).
      • The 49ers and Eagles own the NFC’s top two conference winning percentages, a key tiebreaker in playoff seeding. Philadelphia is 6-0 in NFC games while San Francisco is 6-1.
      • Four teams have had 10-or-more wins through their first 11 games following a Super Bowl loss: the 1972 MIAMI DOLPHINS (11-0), the 1975 MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-1), the 1991 BUFFALO BILLS (10-1) and the 2023 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-1).
      • Philadelphia is 10-1 for a second consecutive season, becoming the fourth team in NFL history to win at least 10 of its first 11 games in consecutive years, joining the 1941-42 CHICAGO BEARS, 2005-06 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS and 1972-73 MIAMI DOLPHINSNICK SIRIANNI is only the third head coach in league annals to win 10 of his first 11 games in consecutive seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers TONY DUNGY (2005-06) and DON SHULA (1972-73).
      • The Eagles are 5-0 in 2023 when trailing at halftime, including each of their past four wins. The rest of the NFL is a combined 35-129 (.213) in those games.
      • Philadelphia quarterback JALEN HURTS has 11 career games with at least two rushing touchdowns, the most such games by a quarterback in NFL history.
      • San Francisco, meanwhile, is 8-0 with wide receiver DEEBO SAMUEL and tackle TRENT WILLIAMS in its lineup. And quarterback BROCK PURDY, who ranks first in the NFL with a 112.3 passer rating, could become the youngest player to lead the league in that category since Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO in 1984.
      • The 49ers are not only among the most explosive teams in the NFL, they’re also adept at preventing explosive plays. On offense, San Francisco has 54 plays of 20-plus yards, fifth in the league. On defense, the 49ers have allowed only 31 plays of 20-plus yards, tied with Kansas City for fewest in the league.
      • Last week, CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY became the first player in 48 years and only the fifth overall to reach 10 rushing touchdowns and five touchdown receptions over his team’s first 11 games of a season. Pro Football Hall of Famers JIM BROWN (1962) and O.J. SIMPSON (1962) as well as CHUCK FOREMAN (1975) and ABNER HAYNES (1962) are the only other players in history to do that.
      • McCaffrey, who has 16 scrimmage touchdowns this season and had 19 with Carolina in 2019, joined Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (Minnesota and New England) as the only players with at least 16 in a season with two teams in NFL history.
      • Wide receiver BRANDON AIYUK has at least five touchdown receptions in each of the last four seasons (2020-23). The last four San Francisco players to accomplish that feat were VERNON DAVIS (five from 2009-13), Pro Football Hall of Famers TERRELL OWENS (four from 2000-03) and JERRY RICE (11 from 1986-96), and DWIGHT CLARK (four from 1982-85).
  1. NUMBER OF THE WEEK – 5: The number of games on the Week 13 schedule featuring rematches of past Super Bowls or NFL/AFL Championship Games, including the clubs that met in the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game,GREEN BAY and KANSAS CITY. The game was renamed the Super Bowl two years later thanks to a suggestion from the Hunt Family, owners of the Chiefs. Other classics related to rematches this week:
      • In 2008, PITTSBURGH defeated ARIZONA in Super Bowl XLIII.
      • In 1972, MIAMI capped the NFL’s only undefeated season with a Super Bowl VII victory over WASHINGTON. Ten years later, Washington avenged the loss to the Dolphins with a triumph in Super Bowl XVII.
      • The SAN DIEGO CHARGERS captured the 1963 AFL title by defeating the BOSTON PATRIOTS.
      • And three times in six seasons, the CLEVELAND BROWNS met the LOS ANGELES RAMS to decide the NFL’s world championship, with Cleveland winning in 1950 and 1955 and the Rams – who called Cleveland home from their 1937 inception until first moving west in 1946 — winning in 1951.
  1. BRONCOS AUTHORING HISTORIC IN-SEASON REBOUND:DENVER (6-5) is bidding to join a small group of teams that opened seasons 0-3 and qualified for the playoffs. The Broncos would take a big step with a win at HOUSTON (6-5) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Currently the hottest team in the AFC and tied with Philadelphia for the NFL’s longest current winning streak, the Broncos have won five straight. In addition to the 2018 Texans (the last to do it), the 1992 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, 1995 DETROIT LIONS and 1998 BUFFALO BILLS also reached the playoffs after opening 0-3.
      • Led by defensive coordinator VANCE JOSEPH, the Broncos have an opportunity to author the largest in-season improvement of any team in league history with respect to points allowed. After allowing 36.2 points over the season’s first five games, the Broncos have surrendered just 16.5 per contest since then, a 19.7-point difference.

The largest points-per-game-allowed improvements in NFL history:

Denver Broncos 2023 36.2 *16.5 19.7
Cleveland Rams 1939 25.4 6.2 19.2
Pittsburgh Steelers 1976 22.0 3.1 18.9
New York Giants 2013 36.4 18.3 18.1
*with six games remaining        


      • Denver leads the NFL with 22 takeaways. The Broncos’ 15 takeaways over the last four games are their most in a four-game span since 1989, when Denver earned a berth in Super Bowl XXIV.
      • Houston quarterback C.J. STROUD is the first rookie in NFL history with 300 passing yards in four consecutive games. Stroud has 3,266 passing yards this season and last week surpassed JUSTIN HERBERT (3,224) for the second-most passing yards by a player in his first 11 career games in NFL history. Only PATRICK MAHOMES (3,434) has more.
      • Stroud also has five games with at least 300 passing yards and two touchdown passes, tied with JUSTIN HERBERT (five games in 2020) and ANDREW LUCK (five games in 2012) for the most by a rookie in NFL history.
      • Also last week, Houston wide receiver TANK DELL became the third rookie in NFL history with at least five receptions and a touchdown catch in four consecutive games, joining ODELL BECKHAM JR. (Weeks 14-17, 2014) and AMON-RA ST. BROWN (Weeks 15-18, 2021).
      • Stroud and Dell have connected for seven touchdowns this season. That combination is the sixth rookie quarterback-receiver pairing in NFL history to account for seven touchdowns, joining New England’s JIM PLUNKETT and RANDY VATAHA (nine touchdown connections in 1971), the New York Giants’ CHARLIE CONERLY and BILL SWIACKI (nine in 1948), the Cleveland Browns’ TIM COUCH and KEVIN JOHNSON (eight in 1999), Indianapolis’ ANDREW LUCK and T.Y. HILTON (seven in 2012) and the St. Louis Rams’ TONY BANKS and EDDIE KENNISON (seven in 1996).
      • Texans cornerback DEREK STINGLEY has an interception in each of his last two games.
  1. SPOTLIGHT – INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: Jacksonville’s 2022 class of unrestricted free-agent signings has proven to be one of the strongest groups in recent memory. One of those signings, cornerbackDARIOUS WILLIAMS, has found a home in the Jaguars’ secondary. This season, Williams has three interceptions and two forced fumbles, and leads the NFL with 16 passes defensed. Meanwhile, the Bengals’ JA’MARR CHASE enters the week with 75 receptions for 914 yards and six touchdowns. Chase needs only five receptions and 86 receiving yards to become the fourth player ever to reach 80 catches and 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, joining ODELL BECKHAM JR.JUSTIN JEFFERSON and MICHAEL THOMAS. Williams, who also met Chase in Super Bowl LVI as a member of the Rams, will be standing in his way when JACKSONVILLE (8-3) hosts CINCINNATI (5-6) on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC).
      • Jacksonville has won each of its last four primetime games, including the postseason, the Jaguars’ longest stretch since they won five straight under the lights from 1998-99.
      • In last week’s win, quarterback TREVOR LAWRENCE completed four passes of 40-plus yards. The last NFL player to do that in a game was DEREK CARR on Oct. 11, 2020. The last Jaguars player to do it was MARK BRUNELL on Sept. 22, 1996.
  1. SPOTLIGHT – TEAM MATCHUP: When theDETROIT LIONS (8-3) pass the ball against the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (5-6) on Sunday, it should make for an exciting chess match at the Caesars Superdome (1 p.m. ET, FOX). Detroit’s passing offense (268.5 yards per game) ranks third in the NFL while the Saints are seventh in the league against the pass (196.3 yards allowed per game). The Saints’ defense also leads the league with 72 passes defensed and has 14 interceptions, second-most in the NFL.
      • Since entering the NFL in 2021, Lions wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN has at least eight catches in 17 games, tied with ANQUAN BOLDIN (17) for the second-most games with eight-plus receptions by a player in his first three seasons in NFL history. Only JUSTIN JEFFERSON (19) has more.
      • Detroit tight end SAM LAPORTA last week became the second tight end in NFL history to reach 50 receptions, 500 receiving yards and five touchdown catches in his first 11 career games, joining KEITH JACKSON in 1988.
  1. STREAK SPEAK:INDIANAPOLIS (6-5) has a takeaway in 16 straight games, the NFL’s longest active streak, twice as long as the next-longest active stretch, Denver (eight). The Colts will put that streak on the line this week at TENNESSEE (4-7) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), looking to keep pace with the Broncos and Texans in the fight for the AFC’s final playoff spot.
      • Tennessee running back DERRICK HENRY has six rushing touchdowns this season and became the fifth player in the Super Bowl era with at least five in each of his first eight career seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers MARSHALL FAULK and LADAINIAN TOMLINSON as well as EDDIE GEORGE and RICKY WATTERS.
      • The Colts, who posted six sacks in last week’s win, are 5-0 this year in games with four-or-more sacks.
      • Tennessee is 4-0 at Nissan Stadium in 2023.
  1. DID YOU KNOW?:PITTSBURGH (7-4) is 43-17-1 (.713) when recording 400 yards of total offense under head coach MIKE TOMLIN. The Steelers, who host ARIZONA (2-10) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), bid to reach 400 yards of total offense in consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 6 and 8 in 2018 (two games with a bye week in between).
      • Pittsburgh has four wins in 2023 when trailing at halftime, second in the NFL behind Philadelphia (five).
      • Steelers linebacker T.J. WATT had two sacks and a forced fumble in last week’s win, his 20th career game with at least two sacks. No other player has more multi-sack games since Watt entered the league in 2017. Watt, tied for the league lead this season with 13.5 sacks, has 91 sacks in 98 career games and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE (82 games) as the only players since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to reach 90 sacks in fewer than 100 NFL games. Watt is also the second player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, with at least 13 sacks in five of his first seven seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE (six seasons).
      • Arizona quarterback KYLER MURRAY had two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) in Week 12. Murray has 18 career games with both a touchdown pass and a rushing touchdown, tied with DAUNTE CULPEPPER (18) for the third-most such games by a quarterback in his first five seasons in NFL history. Only CAM NEWTON (31 games) and JOSH ALLEN (25) have more.
  1. UNDER-THE-RADAR STORYLINE: QuarterbackJORDAN LOVE made his first NFL start against the team he’ll see when GREEN BAY (5-6) meets KANSAS CITY (8-3) at Lambeau Field on Sunday Night Football (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). Love, who replaced AARON RODGERS at Kansas City on Nov. 7, 2021, completed 19 of 34 attempts (55.9 percent) for 190 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 13-7 loss. The touchdown pass, the first of his career, capped a 10-play, 53-yard drive and brought the Packers within one score with under five minutes left in regulation. It was Love’s only start over his first three seasons, until taking the reins of the Packers’ offense in 2023.
      • Love has five touchdown passes and no interceptions over his last two games (both wins).
      • In last week’s win, Packers linebacker RASHAN GARY forced two fumbles and matched his career best with three sacks. Green Bay is 7-0 when Gary has 1.5-or-more sacks.
      • Chiefs quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES has 66 career games with at least two touchdown passes, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (65) for the most such games by a player in his first seven seasons in NFL history.
      • Kansas City tight end TRAVIS KELCE has 11,076 receiving yards in 154 games, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer TONY GONZALEZ (191 games) as the fastest tight end to reach 11,000 in NFL history.
  1. TREND TIME:DALLAS (8-3) leads the NFL with six defensive touchdowns while SEATTLE (6-5) is tied for second with three. Those teams, each of whom played on Thanksgiving, will kick off Week 13 at AT&T Stadium on Thursday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video).
      • Dallas is the first team in NFL history to win each of its first five home games by 20-or-more points. This week, the Cowboys look for their 14th consecutive home win. Over the last 10 years, NFL teams have won 14-or-more home games in succession on only three occasions.
      • Cowboys cornerback DARON BLAND not only is the first player in NFL history with five interception-return touchdowns in a season, he also has tied the single-season league record for overall defensive touchdowns, five (shared with KEN HOUSTON, 1971). Incidentally, as a high-school junior at Central Catholic in Modesto, Calif., Bland had three interception-return touchdowns, two in the state title game.
      • Dallas linebacker MICAH PARSONS has 11.5 sacks this season and is the third player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to record at least 11 in each of his first three NFL seasons, joining DWIGHT FREENEY and Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE.
      • Since DAN QUINN became defensive coordinator in 2021, the Cowboys lead the NFL with 21 takeaways.
      • Also since 2021, Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT has four games with 300 passing yards and four touchdown passes. In that period, only JOSH ALLEN (five) has more such games.
      • Seattle cornerback DEVON WITHERSPOON leads all rookies with 14 passes defensed. He’s broken up a pass in nine of his 10 career games.
  1. NEXT GEN STAT OF THE WEEK: Wide receiverKEENAN ALLEN leads the league this season with 97 receptions, all from quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT. With a minimum of 100 pass attempts to an individual wide receiver, Herbert’s completion percentage when targeting Allen (75.2 percent) is second in the league. The quarterback’s 116.1 passer rating when targeting Allen is third.
      • When the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (4-7) travel to NEW ENGLAND (2-9) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), Allen can further solidify his name in the record books. Allen enters the week with 19 career games of 10-or-more receptions and 100-plus receiving yards, third in NFL history behind ANDRE JOHNSON (21) and ANTONIO BROWN (20).
      • Chargers linebacker KHALIL MACK is just the second player in league annals to record 12 sacks in a season with three teams, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer KEVIN GREENE. Mack also has 20 career games with two-or-more sacks, tied for most in the league since he entered the NFL in 2014.
      • Meanwhile, the LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-6) are hosting CLEVELAND (7-4) on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX). In last week’s win, Rams running back KYREN WILLIAMS became the fourth player ever with at least 140 rushing yards, 60 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in a game, joining LARRY BROWN (Dec. 16, 1973), BILLY CANNON (Dec. 10, 1961) and KAREEM HUNT (Sept. 7, 2017).
      • Riding a two-game winning streak, the Rams are in the NFC playoff hunt. The Rams franchise, which launched in Cleveland in 1937, played the Browns three times for the NFL Championship in the 1950s.
  1. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Wide receiverTYREEK HILL, who leads the NFL in both receiving yards (1,324) and touchdown receptions (10) and ranks second with 88 receptions, takes his prolific pace with MIAMI (8-3) into FedExField to meet WASHINGTON (4-8) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX).
      • Last week, Hill established the most receiving yards (1,324) over the first 11 games of a season in the Super Bowl era (1966-present). Hill, who is on pace to break the single-season NFL record held by Pro Football Hall of Famer CALVIN JOHNSON (1,964 in 2012), is the fourth player in history to reach 1,300 receiving yards in his team’s first 11 games of a season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer ELROY “CRAZY LEGS” HIRSCH (1,349 in 1951), CHARLIE HENNIGAN (1,327 in 1961) and JULIO JONES (1,305 in 2018).
      • Also in last week’s win, Dolphins running back RAHEEM MOSTERT carried 20 times for 94 yards (4.7 avg.) and two touchdowns. He enters Week 13 leading the league with 13 rushing touchdowns while ranking second with 15 scrimmage touchdowns. Mostert needs three scrimmage touchdowns to match the Dolphins’ single-season record (18), established by MARK CLAYTON in 1984.
(courtesy NFL Communications)


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