Examining how Denver has turned it around, and whether it can be sustained

The Broncos are the NFL’s hottest team, a sentence that over a month ago would’ve been describing the heat of the flame inside the dumpster fire in Denver, now that the club has won a league-high five straight.

After Week 6, the Broncos were 1-5 with an epically embarrassing 70-20 defeat to the Dolphins on their resume and a lone win coming by three points against the Bears. Things couldn’t have gotten worse.

And they didn’t.

Because in the parity-driven NFL, every game is an opportunity, and Sean Payton’s squadron took full advantage.

They squeaked past the still-finding-themselves Packers 19-17, then bamboozled the previously unbamboozleable Patrick Mahomes to the tune of three Mahomes-inflicted turnovers in a convincing 24-9 win. An absolutely bananas 24-22 win in Buffalo out of the bye proved the throttling of Kansas City wasn’t a fluke. Then a one-point win to halt the Josh Dobbs train and now a comfortable handling of the Dorian Thompson-Robinson led Browns, and Russell Wilson and Co. are tied in the win-loss column with the currently No. 7 seed Colts.

October’s NFL laughingstock is squarely in the playoff hunt. Heck, they’re only two games back of the Chiefs for the AFC West crown.

How has it happened?
Somehow, after trading 2022 prized free-agent signing Randy Gregory, the Broncos went from the NFL’s third-worst pass rush from a pressure perspective (28.8% pressure rate), to the 12th-best at 39.5%. Every Gregory-less snap has been meant more opportunity for youngsters Nik Bonitto, Baron Browning, and Jonathan Cooper, and that trio has rocked with a hefty collective pressure-generation rate of 17.7%.

And the secondary has worked in tandem beautifully with the pass rusher, as the last five quarterbacks Denver’s faced — two of which were Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen — have a combined passer rating of 71.7.

Baked into the stunning defensive turnaround has been a philosophy shift from coordinator Vance Joseph. His unit was blitzing at the 15th-highest rate (28.4%) from Week 1 to Week 6. During the five-game win streak, the Broncos have blitzed at the fifth-highest rate in football at 37.4%. With that shift has come striking success.

Is it sustainable?
However, after a reprieve the past two weeks against a career backup — who is playing well — in Dobbs and a rookie in DTR, the next three opponents crank the intensity once again at the quarterback spot, on the road against C.J. Stroud, Justin Herbert, and Jared Goff.

I don’t foresee a collective quarterback rating of 71.7 against that trio — particularly because Stroud and Herbert have been awesome against the blitz — but it might not matter. Why?

The Broncos’ offense has slowly but surely started to resemble Payton’s vaunted Saints attacks as the season has progressed.

Frankly, the quarterback-coach fit with Payton and Russell Wilson seemed strange at the outset of this experiment in Denver. With Drew Brees, Payton deployed a pass-happy spread that required lightning-quick decisions and surgical accuracy underneath from its quarterback. That’s not even remotely close to how Wilson operated in his illustrious Seahawks career.

But Wilson has adjusted. While his time to throw is still astronomically high, his 7.2 average depth of target (aDOT) is easily the lowest of his career. His adjusted completion rate is over 80% for the first time as a professional, and his turnover-worthy play rate is the lowest it’s been (under 2.5%) for the first time since 2019.

During the five-game heater, Wilson has completed over 71% of his throws with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Wilson is playing as close to Brees-ian football as is possible for Wilson, who naturally has a diametrically opposed style to the future Hall of Famer who flourished in Payton’s system for over a decade.

Like the defense, I do think Wilson will come back to Earth a bit because the now trusty ground game will have stiff tests against two top-tier run-stopping units in Houston and Detroit on the road. Essentially, the Broncos are going to need more than the 26.8 attempts Wilson has averaged during the five-game winning streak. Given his propensity to get sacked — 9.5% sack rate during the win streak — the more drop backs for Wilson, the more chances for opposing pass rushes to take him to the turf.

But even a slight regression over the next month won’t necessarily mean all will be lost in the future for the sizzling Broncos.

The AFC has more parity than ever, with a whopping 12 teams at five or more victories entering Week 13, so unless Denver’s streak screeches to an abrupt halt, Payton’s club will almost assuredly be at the very least squarely in the playoff hunt entering the final day on the calendar in 2023 — which is Week 17 — before the regular-season finale in Las Vegas against the Raiders.

And for the Broncos to be squarely in the hunt after Year 1 of the Russell Wilson era and the cataclysmic 1-5 start to Payton’s tenure, fans in Denver should be thrilled.

Who is Chris Tabor? Panthers tab special teams coach as Frank Reich’s interim replacement after firing

The Carolina Panthers are the second team this season to let go of their head coach. Following the club’s Week 12 loss to the Titans that dropped them to 1-10 on the year, owner David Tepper fired head coach Frank Reich less than a full season into his tenure leading the organization. Carolina’s offense had particularly struggled under Reich and No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young had not taken encouraging steps in his development, which likely helped in the coach’s departure. Reich was hired by the Panthers in January after being fired by the Colts in the middle of last season.

This is the second time in as many years that the Panthers have fired a head coach in-season and Tepper has now tabbed special teams coach Chris Tabor to be the club’s interim head coach the rest of the way. Who is Tabor? Let’s take a look at the new top of Carolina’s coaching masthead.

The Missouri native broke into the NFL as an assistant special teams coach for the Chicago Bears in 2008. Before that, he’d worked at the collegiate level, most notably as the running backs coach and special teams coach at Utah State (2002-2004), and then held the same positions at Western Michigan (2006-2007) before jumping to the pro ranks. He was the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach at Utah State from 2002-2004 and the only time he’s been a head coach in title (outside of interim status) came in 2001 when he was the head coach of Culver-Stockton, a private liberal arts college in Missouri.

After three seasons as the assistant special teams coach with the Bears, Tabor left Chicago to become the special teams coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2011. He held that title through 2017. In that time, the Browns special teams unit had been stellar and he led a group that saw kicker Phil Dawson and returner Joshua Cribbs both reach the Pro Bowl (2012).

In 2018, Tabor returned to the Bears as the club’s specials coordinator under head coach Matt Nagy. During the 2021 season, Tabor did serve as Chicago’s interim head coach for a Week 8 game against the San Francisco 49ers after Nagy tested positive for COVID-19. With Tabor leading the Bears in his head coaching debut, the club fell to the Niners, 33-22. The now 52-year-old joined the Panthers in 2022 as the special teams coordinator under Matt Rhule and kept his role even after the team elected to fire Rhule in the middle of last season and eventually hired Reich. Now, he’ll be taking over as the interim head coach for Carolina as the club moves forward through the 2023 season.

Former Carolina coach joins infamous list headlined by Urban Meyer, Chip Kelly

Patience is in short supply these days across the NFL when it comes to the tenures of head coaches. No more so is that the case than with the Carolina Panthers and owner David Tepper, who pulled the plug on head coach Frank Reich 11 games into his (1-10) tenure on Monday. A quick release given the team knew it was rebuilding around 2023 first overall pick quarterback Bryce Young, whose 5.4 yards per pass attempt is the lowest in the league among qualified quarterbacks. Reich’s 11-game pitstop with the Panthers now stands as the shortest tenure for an NFL head coach in 45 years. The last time a team fired a head coach this fast was when the San Francisco 49ers dumped Pete McCulley after a 1-8 start in 1978, according to Sports Illustrated. The 49ers obviously rebounded with their next hire, bringing in Bill Walsh, who would become a Hall of Famer for his three Super Bowl titles won with the team. When looking across the last decade, since 2013, tolerance for slow starts for NFL head coaches has thinned. Reich is now the 10th head coach in the last 10 years to be fired in or after his first season, joining the likes of Urban Meyer, Chip Kelly, Nathaniel Hackett and more. The Panthers have been even more chaotic than the rest of the league. They have had six different head coaches in six seasons under owner David Tepper including interims like current interim Chris Tabor. He started the season as the Panthers special teams coordinator. Carolina’s six coaches under Tepper since 2018 are the most in the NFL. They only had four different head coaches in their first 23 seasons of existence. Under Tepper the team is 30-63, which gives the Panthers the second-worst record in the league under his ownership. Only the New York Jets are worse at 28-65.

Colts hold final playoff spot in AFC, Eagles lead NFC

Two-thirds of the NFL season have come and gone, with the full focus shifting to the wild playoff races in each conference. Five teams are within two games of the final playoff spot in the AFC while three teams are a game out of the final playoff spot in the NFC.

The NFC South is on pace to be the worst division in history (in terms of win percentage), with the Atlanta Falcons leading the division with a 5-6 record. That division will certainly come down to the wire at the rate the teams are playing.

As the NFL heads into December, the playoff races are heating up. Below, you can find a division-by-division breakdown of the current standings and what each contender is facing in Week 13.

Miami Dolphins
What to know: Miami has a commanding lead in the AFC East thanks to the Buffalo loss to Philadelphia Sunday, being up three games in the loss column. The Dolphins are currently the No. 4 seed in the AFC, losing a tiebreaker to the Chiefs and Jaguars based on the Chiefs having a head-to-head sweep over both teams and losing the strength of victory tiebreaker to the Jaguars.

Remaining schedule: at Commanders, vs. Titans, vs. Jets, vs. Cowboys, at Ravens, vs. Bills

Buffalo Bills
What to know: The Bills are fighting for their playoff lives after an overtime loss to the Eagles. Heading into the bye week, Buffalo is the No. 10 seed in the AFC, a half-game behind Indianapolis for the final playoff spot.

Remaining schedule: Bye, at Chiefs, vs. Cowboys, at Chargers, vs. Patriots, at Dolphins

New York Jets
What to know: The Jets are the No. 15 seed in the AFC as their playoff hopes continue to fade with Aaron Rodgers not playing since Week 1. They are two games out of the final playoff spot in the AFC.

Remaining schedule: vs. Falcons, vs. Texans, at Dolphins, vs. Commanders, at Browns, at Patriots

New England Patriots
What to know: The Patriots have the worst record in the AFC and the third worst record in the NFL

Remaining schedule: vs. Chargers, at Steelers, vs. Chiefs, at Broncos, at Bills, vs. Jets

Baltimore Ravens
What to know: The Ravens are up a game in the loss column (1.5 games overall) and are the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Remaining schedule: Bye, vs. Rams, at Jaguars, at 49ers, vs. Dolphins, vs. Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers
What to know: The Steelers hold the tiebreaker over the Browns based on having a better win percentage in diviison games. They are currently the No. 5 seed in the AFC.

Remaining schedule: vs. Cardinals, vs. Patriots, at Colts, vs. Bengals, at Seahawks, at Ravens

Cleveland Browns
What to know: The Browns are a game up on the final playoff spot in the AFC, losing the tiebreaker to the Steelers due to Pittsburgh having a better divisional win percentage.

Remaining schedule: at Rams, vs. Jaguars, vs. Bears, at Texans, vs. Jets, at Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals
What to know: The Bengals are the No. 11 seed in the AFC, one game behind the Colts for the final playoff spot in the conference.

Remaining schedule: at Jaguars, vs. Colts, vs. Vikings, at Steelers, at Chiefs, vs. Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars
What to know: The Jaguars are the No. 3 seed in the AFC, tied with the Chiefs and Dolphins for the second best record in the conference. Jacksonville loses the head-to-head tiebreaker with Kansas City and have the strength of victory tiebreaker over Miami. The Jaguars lead the AFC South by two games.

Remaining schedule: vs. Bengals, at Browns, vs. Ravens, at Buccaneers, vs. Panthers, at Titans

Indianapolis Colts
What to know: The Colts are the No. 7 seed in the AFC, holding the tiebreaker over the Texans and Broncos for the final playoff spot. Due to the Colts beating the Texans earlier this year, they hold the tiebreaker over Houston. Indianapolis holds the conference record tiebreaker over Denver.

Remaining schedule: at Titans, at Bengals, vs. Steelers, at Falcons, vs. Raiders, vs. Texans

Houston Texans
What to know: The Texans dropped to the No. 8 seed in the AFC after the Jaguars loss, falling two games out of first in the division. The Colts have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Texans for the No. 7 seed, but Houston has the conference record tiebreaker over Denver.

Remaining schedule: vs. Broncos, at Jets, at Titans, vs. Browns, vs. Titans, at Colts

Tennessee Titans
What to know: The Titans are the No. 14 seed in the AFC, two games out of a playoff spot in the conference.

Remaining schedule: vs. Colts, at Dolphins, vs. Texans, vs. Seahawks, at Texans, vs. Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs
What to know: The Chiefs lead the AFC West by two games over the Broncos and hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC over the Chiefs and Dolphins based on beating both teams.

Remaining schedule: at Packers, vs. Bills, at Patriots, vs. Raiders, vs. Bengals, at Chargers

Denver Broncos
What to know: The Broncos are tied with the Colts and Texans for the final layoff spot in the conference, but are the No. 9 seed thanks to the conference record tiebreaker with the Colts and Texans — who both have better conference records with them.

Remaining schedule: at Texans, at Chargers, at Lions vs. Patriots, vs. Chargers, at Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders
What to know: The Raiders are 1.5 games (two out of the loss column) for the final layoff spot in the AFC. They are the No. 12 seed in the conference.

Remaining schedule: Bye, vs. Vikings, vs. Chargers, at Chiefs, at Colts, vs. Broncos

Los Angeles Chargers
What to know: The Chargers are the No. 13 seed in the AFC, two games out of the final playoff spot in the conference.

Remaining schedule: at Patriots, vs. Broncos, at Raiders, vs. Bills, at Broncos, vs. Chiefs

Philadelphia Eagles
What to know: The Eagles control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the division, up two games on the Cowboys for the division lead (with the head-to-head tiebreaker). They also hold a two-game lead over the 49ers for the No. 1 seed in the conference and can clinch a playoff berth with a win next week.

Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers, at Cowboys, at Seahawks, vs. Giants, vs. Cardinals, at Giants

Dallas Cowboys
What to know: The Cowboys are the No. 5 seed in the NFC, two games behind the Eagles for first in the NFC East (lost the head-to-head tiebreaker).

Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks, vs. Eagles, at Bills, at Dolphins, vs. Lions, at Commanders

New York Giants
What to know: The Giants are the No. 12 seed in the NFC, 2 1/2 games behind the Seahawks for the final playoff spot in the conference.

Remaining schedule: Bye, vs. Packers, at Saints, at Eagles, vs. Rams, vs. Eagles

Washington Commanders
What to know: The Commanders are the No. 13 seed in the NFC, three games behind the Seahawks for the final playoff spot in the conference. The Giants swept the Commanders, so they own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins, Bye, at Rams, at Jets, vs. 49ers, vs. Cowboys

Detroit Lions
What to know: The Lions are up two games over the Vikings in the NFC North and are the No. 3 seed in the conference, losing the conference record tiebreaker to the 49ers.

Remaining schedule: at Saints, at Bears, vs. Broncos, at Vikings, vs. Cowboys, at Vikings

Minnesota Vikings
What to know: The Vikings hold the No. 6 seed in the conference, holding the conference-record tiebreaker over the Seahawks. They play the Bears Monday night.

Remaining schedule: vs. Bears, Bye, at Raiders, at Bengals, vs. Lions, vs. Packers, at Lions

Green Bay Packers
What to know: The Packers are one game behind the Seahawks for the final playoff spot in the NFC. They are the No. 8 seed, winning the tiebreaker over the Rams and Saints based on beating both teams (head-to-head sweep).

Remaining schedule: vs. Chiefs, at Giants, vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, at Vikings, vs. Bears

Chicago Bears
What to know: The Bears are the No. 14 team in the NFC, three games behind the Seahawks for the final playoff spot.

Remaining schedule: at Vikings, Bye, vs. Lions, at Browns, vs. Cardinals, vs. Falcons, at Packers

Atlanta Falcons
What to know: The Falcons lead the NFC South based on having the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints.

Remaining schedule: at Jets, vs. Buccaneers, at Panthers, vs. Colts, at Bears, at Saints

New Orleans Saints
What to know: The Saints lose the head-to-head tiebreaker for the division lead thanks to their Week 12 loss to the Saints. They are one game out of the final playoff spot in the NFC, but lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Packers and the conference record tiebreaker to the Rams.

Remaining schedule: vs. Lions, vs. Panthers, vs. Giants, at Rams, at Buccaneers, vs. Falcons

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What to know: The Buccaneers are one game beck of the NFC South lead and the No. 11 seed in the NFC, two games out of the final playoff spot.

Remaining schedule: vs. Panthers, at Falcons, at Packers, vs. Jaguars, vs. Saints, at Panthers

Carolina Panthers
What to know: The Panthers have the worst record in the NFL and five games out of the final playoff spot.

Remaining schedule: at Buccaneers, at Saints, vs. Falcons, vs. Panthers, at Jagaurs, vs. Buccaneers

San Francisco 49ers
What to know: The 49ers are the No. 2 seed in the NFC, two games behind the Eagles for the conference lead. San Francisco plays Philadelphia this week. The 49ers also have a two-game lead on the Seahawks with the head-to-head tiebreaker in tow.

Remaining schedule: at Eagles, vs. Seahawks, at Cardinals, vs. Ravens, at Commanders, vs. Rams

Seattle Seahawks
What to know: The Seahawks are the No. 7 seed in the NFC, having a game lead on the final playoff spot. Seattle can jump to the No. 6 seed with a Minnesota loss Monday.

Remaining schedule: at Cowboys, at 49ers, vs. Eagles, at Titans, vs. Steelers, at Cardinals

Los Angeles Rams
What to know: The Rams are the No. 9 seed in the conference, one game behind Seattle for the final playoff spot. They lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Packers, but hold the conference record tiebreaker over the Saints.

Remaining schedule: vs. Browns, at Ravens, vs. Commanders, vs. Saints, at Giants, at 49ers

Arizona Cardinals
What to know: The Cardinals are 2-10 and have the second-worst record in the NFL. They are five games back in the loss column for the final playoff spot.

Vikings’ Justin Jefferson will not play vs. Bears in Week 12 on ‘MNF’ despite improving hamstring, per report

Justin Jefferson was limited throughout the week of practice and the Vikings officially listed him as questionable for Monday’s matchup against the Bears to wrap up Week 12. While head coach Kevin O’Connell told reporters that the wideout is “getting closer” to getting back on the field, he is not going to be activated for this game vs. Chicago, per NFL Media. Jefferson is expected to be 100% following Minnesota’s Week 13 bye, practice fully that week and play against the Raiders on Dec. 10.

This will be the seventh-straight game that the Vikings will be without Jefferson after he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 5. He was officially placed on injured reserve on Oct. 11.

“If I miss this one, it will be my seventh game, so it’s definitely frustrating,” Jefferson told reporters Friday. “It’s tough to be patient and try and make sure an injury heals properly, it’s definitely not something that I want to do, but it just comes with the game, trying to be healthy, trying to be 100 percent and just [taking] the safe route.”

One of the NFL’s most productive pass catchers when healthy, the 24-year-old Jefferson has repeatedly hinted about a return to the field, recently suggesting he’s excited to work with new quarterback Joshua Dobbs. But he’s also hinted he won’t rush his recovery, recently posting on social media that his health is more important than “your fantasy (football) games.”

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With Jefferson again sidelined, the Vikings figure to lean on reserves K.J. Osborn and Brandon Powell behind rookie Jordan Addison out wide, with tight end T.J. Hockenson remaining a top target. Minnesota (6-5) is one of several NFC teams well-positioned to make a run at a wild-card spot, but the Bears (3-8) are fresh off a close defeat to the Lions.

Ravens’ Lamar Jackson casually reacts to reaching 5,000 career rushing yards

The Baltimore Ravens came away with an important 20-10 win against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday evening. In doing so, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson made some history as he reached 5,000 career rushing yards.

Jackson became the fourth-fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach the 5,000-yard mark on the ground. He beat out lengendary mobile quarterbacks such as Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick and Cam Newton as it only took Jackson 82 career games to achieve the feat.

Following the Ravens’ win, Jackson had a very casual response when he was asked what it means to tally 5,000 career rushing yards.

“Cool,” Jackson said, prompting a laugh from reporters.

https://t.co/18iqA8PNRV pic.twitter.com/fnLzQPpmk9

— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 27, 2023
Jackson ended up finishing Sunday’s contest with 39 rushing yards on 11 carries, while also throwing for 177 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Ravens thrived on the ground with 5.6 yards-per-carry and 197 total rushing yards on the night.

Jackson is having a strong season up to this point. The Ravens signal caller is completing a career-high 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,618 yards and 13 touchdowns. Jackson also has tallied 574 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

The Ravens currently have an AFC-best 9-3 record with only the Philadelphia Eagles having more wins across the leagues. Baltimore also has two wins more than the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns in the AFC North division race.

Details on Panthers’ firing of Frank Reich, plus Bears-Vikings ‘MNF’ best bets and Week 12 winners and losers

Today’s not just any Monday, it’s Cyber Monday! Since everyone loves to get a discount on Cyber Monday, we’ve got a deal for you today: Everything in the CBS Sports store is 25% off until midnight if you use the promo code “CYBER.” I would highly suggest that everyone who is reading this purchase at least $75 worth of Pick Six gear (You can click here to find the store). I already own a Pick Six hoodie and I might buy two more since they come in various colors.

Alright, I promise I won’t ask you to buy anything else in today’s newsletter, but we should probably move on because we have a lot to cover, including the firing of Frank Reich. The Panthers dumped their coach this morning and we’ll be covering that, plus handing out some Week 12 grades and naming some winners and losers.

As always, here’s your daily reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here. Let’s get to the rundown.

  1. Today’s Show: Biggest questions after Week 12
    If I fall asleep while writing the newsletter today, it’s because I stayed up until 2:01 a.m. last night recording a podcast with Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson.

The three of us touched on our 10 biggest takeaways from Week 12. Here are a few of the biggest questions that we tried to answer:

Will the Steelers make the playoffs? For the first half of the season, I thought the Steelers were a house of cards and it would only be a matter of time before their season started to completely fall apart. However, I’m starting to think they’re going to stick around. The Steelers have the second-easiest remaining schedule in the AFC and I think they’ll be able to squeeze out enough wins to make it to the postseason.
Will the NFC South winner finish under .500? The Falcons are currently in first place in the NFC South with a record of 5-6. Every team in the division seems to be in total disarray. The Falcons have had QB problems all season, Derek Carr hasn’t been cutting it for the Saints, Tampa Bay’s offense is bad and the Panthers just fired their coach. Based on that, if I had to bet money right now, I’d say the division winner finishes with a losing record.
Are the Broncos for real? If you win five games in a row in the NFL, I think that automatically makes you for real and that’s exactly what the Broncos have done (They’re tied with the Eagles for the longest-winning streak in the league). Russell Wilson is starting to look like the Russell Wilson that the Broncos thought they were getting last year and the defense has been forcing turnovers at a torrid pace. The Broncos are 6-5 right now and I think they’ll end the season 9-8, and if that happens, they’ll certainly have a shot at making the playoffs.
To check out the rest of our takeaways from Week 12, be sure to click here so you can listen to the entire episode of the podcast. You can also watch the episode on YouTube here, which you’ll want to do if you want to see my sad Bruno costume.

  1. Panthers fire Frank Reich: All the details you need to know
    After just 10 months on the job, Frank Reich is already done in Carolina. Panthers owner David Tepper announced on Monday that Reich has been fired following a 1-10 start. Considering Tepper dropped an F-bomb when leaving the locker room following Carolina’s loss to the Titans yesterday, it’s not a surprise at all that this move is being made.

Here’s what you need to know about the situation.

Panthers offense wasn’t working. A big reason Reich was hired is because he’s an offensive mind, but through 11 games, the Panthers offense looked broken. Bryce Young has the third-worst QB rating through 12 weeks, the Panthers rank 30th in passing yards per game and they averaged just 15.7 points per game with Reich, which ranked 29th in the NFL. The Panthers haven’t topped 15 points in any game since Week 6. It’s easy to see why Tepper got frustrated.
Tepper loves to fire coaches. The Panthers job might not be a popular one and that’s because Tepper has a quick trigger finger when it comes to firing people. Since purchasing the Panthers in 2018, Tepper has now fired three coaches in Ron Rivera, Matt Rhule and Reich.
Reich makes unfortunate history. Reich also got fired by the Colts in November 2022, which makes him the first coach in NFL history to be fired in back-to-back seasons. In Carolina, Reich was fired after just 11 games, which means he had a shorter coaching tenure than both Nathaniel Hackett (15 games) and Urban Meyer (13 games). This is the earliest a coach has been fired in his first season with a team since 1978 when the 49ers dumped Pete McCulley after just nine games. Of course, if Carolina has the 49ers’ luck, then they’ll be in good shape because San Francisco hired Bill Walsh after firing McCulley. Reich is just the sixth coach since 1970 to get fired before finishing his first year with a team.
Reich’s replacement. Carolina will now be coached by special teams coordinator Chris Tabor for the rest of the season. The 52-year-old knows a thing or two about watching a coach get fired and that’s because he was a Browns’ assistant from 2011 thru 2017. Tabor also spent four seasons (2018-21) with the Bears before joining the Panthers’ coaching staff in 2022.
You can read our full story on the firing here. If you’re wondering who might replace Reich, we took a look at a few options here.

  1. Week 12 grades: Eagles and Bills both get high marks
    Every week I team up with four of my colleagues here at CBSSports.com to hand out grades, and this week, the Bills and Eagles both walked away with a grade in the ‘A’ range.

Here’s a look at the grades from two notable games that were played Sunday:

Eagles 37-34 over Bills (OT) (Click here for full game stats)

Bills takeaway: “Josh Allen did all he could to lead the Bills to victory, but just came up short to a magnificent second half by Jalen Hurts. The Bills had their miscues (again) with two missed field goals and Allen’s interception in his own territory, but they played well enough to beat any team in the league on this cold, rainy day. This was a loss Buffalo couldn’t afford, but the Bills know they can compete with the top teams in the league and that confidence should help with Kansas City and Dallas on the horizon. If Allen continues to play like this (339 pass yards, 81 rush yards, 2 pass TD, 2 rush TD), the Bills will be in the playoffs.” — Jeff Kerr. Grade: A-
Eagles takeaway: “There’s nothing else you can say at this point. The Eagles are never out of a football game. Not with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, the player who has the NFL record with eight consecutive wins when trailing by double digits and 14 straight wins against winning teams. Hurts was phenomenal in the second half, going 14 of 20 for 137 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for the winning 12-yard score in overtime to get the Eagles to 10-1. Jake Elliott hit a 59-yard kick in the rain to tie it and force overtime. The Eagles defense didn’t give up the winning touchdown in OT either, as the Bills had the ball first — allowing Hurts and the offense to win the game. This is a clutch football team.” — Jeff Kerr. Grade: A
Broncos 29-12 over Browns (Click here for full game stats)

Browns takeaway: “Things got out of whack for the Browns after Dorian Thompson-Robinson suffered a concussion early in the second half that knocked him out of the game. At that point, the Browns trailed by just five points, but then they proceeded to watch the Broncos score 12 unanswered points in his absence. Cleveland struggled to protect backup P.J. Walker, who was sacked four times in his short stint, including a late safety. While the wheels came off at that point, the Browns were sluggish to start this game offensively. They were able to reach the red zone twice in the first half but ultimately settled for field goals. When they finally got into the end zone at the start of the second half to cut the lead to just two points, the defense immediately let the Broncos travel 70 yards down the field to kick a field goal to go up by five. That was just one example where complementary football wasn’t firing on all cylinders for Kevin Stefanski’s team as they had their three-game winning streak snapped. They also committed three turnovers on the afternoon, which resulted in 10 points in favor of Denver.” — Tyler Sullivan. Grade: C-
Broncos takeaway: “This was a hard-nosed win for Denver, which extends the club’s winning streak to five games and puts it over .500 for the first time this season. The Broncos came out of the gate moving the football on the ground and finding tremendous success, including first-half rushing touchdowns by Samaje Perine and Russell Wilson. They also picked up chunk plays through the air when they needed to. While the offense did its job, the defense was particularly stellar for Denver. They were stout early in the red zone against Cleveland and forced three fumbles throughout the game, two were turned into points by the offense. They also put points on the board themselves with a late safety that capped a 15-0 run to end the game. Don’t look now, but Broncos Country is getting hot.” — Tyler Sullivan. Grade: A
As for all the other grades that we handed out on Sunday, you can check those out by clicking here.

  1. NFL Week 12 winners and losers: Sean Payton has revived the Broncos
    You can’t have a week of NFL action without having winners and losers, so we have some winners and losers.

Cody Benjamin came up with this week’s list, which you can check out below.


Sean Payton. “The Broncos were once 1-5, and Payton inexplicably appeared on track to outdo even Nathaniel Hackett as leader of a hapless Denver program. Now they’re 6-5, squarely in the AFC playoff race, after cruising past the Browns on Sunday.”
Matthew Stafford. “For weeks, Stafford has been fighting just to survive behind the Rams’ shuffling O-line. On Sunday, he got Kyren Williams back in the lineup, and Los Angeles’ ground game exploded all the way back. He slung it pretty well himself, too, tossing four scores and spreading the ball all over Jonathan Gannon’s defense to lead a rout of the Cardinals.”

Mac Jones. “Bill Belichick refused to name him the starter all week, then trotted Jones out anyway. The saddest part is anyone could’ve predicted what would come next: Even with a bad Giants defense in front of him, Jones tossed two ugly picks to warrant yet another benching, this time at halftime. “
Sean McDermott. “For a while on Sunday, his Bills looked poised to put the Eagles down handily, which would’ve been a huge accomplishment for a team looking to fully restore its playoff stride. But then McDermott’s defense allowed Jalen Hurts to revert to MVP form in the second half, and his decision to “ice” Eagles kicker Jake Elliott, then forfeit a potential 20-second offensive drive, at the end of regulation backfired.”
If you want to see Cody’s full list of winners and losers, be sure to click here.

  1. Monday preview: Prepping you for Bears at Vikings
    The Vikings (6-5) are currently in the thick of the NFC playoff race, but the Bears (3-8) could throw a wrench into things by pulling off an upset tonight in Minnesota.

My good buddy Jared Dubin put together our deep-dive preview for this game here at CBSSports.com, and here’s how he sees the game playing out:

Why the Bears can win: When it comes to throwing the ball, Justin Fields hasn’t been putting up huge numbers this season. In seven starts, Fields has only thrown for more than 215 yards a total of two times. If the Bears are going to win, Fields is likely going to need to have a big game through the air against a Vikings defense that is susceptible to the pass. The Vikings are 0-2 this season when their opponent throws for 265 yards or more.
Why the Vikings can win: Although the Vikings have struggled to stop the pass this year, the same holds true for the Bears, which could set the stage for Josh Dobbs to have a big game. Dobbs will be facing a Bears defense that surrenders an average of 245.9 yards per game through the air, which ranks 25th in the NFL. The Bears have also given up the second-most touchdown passes (22). Basically, it won’t be surprising if K.J. Osborn, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson all have a big night. If the Vikings can avoid turning the ball over, they should win. The Vikings are 4-1 this season when they commit one turnover or less in a game.
You can get a full preview of the game from Jared by clicking here.

If you’re thinking about betting on the game, here’s the prop I like:

ONE PROP I LIKE: Cairo Santos OVER 6.5 points (+110). When Justin Fields is playing, Santos usually puts up big numbers, which is why I love this prop and I love it even more because it’s at plus money. In the last three games that Fields has started, Santos has gone over 6.5 points each time, scoring 10, 7 and 16 points. Also, opposing kickers are scoring an average of 7.8 points against the Vikings this year, which is another reason why I like this prop.
My prime-time prop record is 17-9 this year.

Finally, if you’re wondering who we’re picking, here’s who we have tonight:

Jared’s pick: Vikings 24-20 over Bears
My pick: Vikings 24-21 over Bears

The Vikings are favored by 3.5 so although Jared and I are picking a similar score, we’re making very different bets. He has Minnesota covering while I have the Bears pulling off the cover as an underdog.

Over on our CBSSports.com picks page, seven of our eight experts are taking the Vikings to win.

  1. Extra points: Aaron Rodgers hoping to return to practice soon
    It was a busy weekend in the NFL, and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.

Aaron Rodgers eyeing early December for possible return to practice. The Jets QB is hoping to return to practice less than three months after tearing his Achilles. According to multiple reports, Rodgers is eyeing Dec. 2 for a possible return. That date also happens to be Rodgers’ 40th birthday, so it’s probably not a coincidence that he’s looking to return then.
Jets rolling with Tim Boyle again. The Jets offense was bad with Zach Wilson and it was even worse with Tim Boyle in Week 12, but despite that, Boyle will be getting another start this week when the Jets play the Falcons. In Week 12, the Jets had just 50 yards of offense through three quarters against the Dolphins before piling up some yardage in garbage time.
Shaq Leonard set to visit Cowboys. The Cowboys could soon be adding some serious depth at linebacker. Leonard, who was cut by the Colts last week, is expected to visit with Dallas on Tuesday, CBS Sports HQ Senior NFL Insider Josina Anderson has reported.
Justin Tucker is no longer the most accurate kicker in NFL history. The Ravens kicker missed a 44-yard field goal against the Chargers last night, which dropped his career accuracy rate to 89.93%. The miss dropped him to No. 2 on the NFL’s all-time accuracy list, behind Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo, who has made 90% of his field goals in his career.

Giants GM Joe Schoen says Daniel Jones is starter when healthy, but team will address QB position in offseason

The New York Giants extended themselves last offseason and handed Daniel Jones a four-year contract worth $160 million. To this point, the organization hasn’t exactly received the caliber of play from the quarterback position that costs an average of $40 million per season. To make matters worse, Jones suffered a season-ending ACL tear in early November that puts his availability for the start of the 2024 campaign into question. Despite this shaky start in Jones’ first year of his new deal, the front office still appears to be behind him.

With New York now in its Week 13 bye following a win over the Patriots on Sunday, general manager Joe Schoen told reporters on Monday that he’s confident Jones will attack his rehab and is still the franchise’s starter whenever he returns to full strength.

“The expectation is when Daniel is healthy that he will be our starting quarterback,” said Schoen, via SNY. “At the end, we don’t have a crystal ball in terms of how the rehab is going to go. Different patients respond differently to these surgeries whether there’s swelling in the knee or any setbacks. Again, nobody has a crystal ball in this but that’s the expectation moving forward.”

In Jones’ six starts this season before going down with the injury, the Giants were 1-5 and the quarterback had just two passing touchdowns alongside six interceptions. Those picks exceeded last year’s total when Jones threw just five interceptions over 16 starts en route to the Giants reaching the postseason. That regression in 2023 has opened back up the question of whether or not Jones is the quarterback that can lead New York to consistent contention in the NFC.

While Tyrod Taylor and, more recently, Tommy DeVito have somewhat kept the Giants afloat in Jones’ absence, Schoen admitted that the Giants will have to address the position in some capacity this offseason.

“I think we’re going to have to do something in the quarterback [room], whether it’s free agency or the draft,” he said. “We don’t know when [Jones] is going to be ready. Just from an offseason program standpoint, that’ll be a position that we’ll have to address it at some point.”

When asked if that meant taking a signal-caller in the first round, Schoen answered, “We’ll take the best player available. If the best player available for our team is at a certain position, we’ll take it. We won’t shy away from it.”

At 4-8, the Giants would currently be slotted with the No. 6 overall pick at the 2024 NFL Draft if the regular season ended today. However, there is the possibility of New York moving a bit higher on the draft board as they possess the second-toughest remaining schedule (tied with Cincinnati) in the league with their opponents owning a combined win percentage of .636.

While the Giants did sign Jones to a four-year deal last offseason, the club could get out of his contract following the 2024 campaign and clear roughly $20 million in cap space for 2025, so this new deal likely doesn’t preclude them from any QB-related moves this offseason.

Eagles become fourth team in NFL history to pull off this improbable feat and 13 other wild facts from Week 12

The wildest game of Week 12 happened in Philadelphia where the Eagles stunned the Bills 37-34 in overtime. It was a quarterback duel for the ages that saw Josh Allen total 420 yards and four touchdowns, only to be outdone by Jalen Hurts, who totaled five touchdowns for the Eagles.

There was a lot of history made in the game and thanks to our research department, we’re going to cover it all here. Here’s a look at 13 of the wildest facts from Week 12:

First time for everything. The Eagles’ win over the Bills marked the first time NFL history that multiple players finished a game with at least two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns. Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts both pulled that off during Philly’s overtime win.
Eagles join rare club. Thanks to their win over the Bills, the Eagles have now joined a rare club: They’re just the fourth team in NFL history to start 10-1 in consecutive seasons. The Eagles now join the Bears (1941-42), Dolphins (1972-73) and Colts (2005-06). The three previous teams all won at least one title.
Hurts so good. With two rushing touchdowns agains the Bills, Jalen Hurts now has 11 games in his career with multiple rushing touchdowns, which is a new NFL record. Hurts had previously been tied with Cam Newton for the record.
Josh Allen probably hates overtime. The Bills quarterback has played in a total of six overtime games in his career and he’s now 0-6 following Buffalo’s loss to the Eagles. That’s right, Allen has never won an OT game in his career.
Allen hits historical mark. The Bills QB threw for 339 yards while also rushing for 81 yards, marking the eighth time in his career that he’s thrown for at least 300 yards with 50 yards rushing. That now tied with Steve Young for the most 300/50 games in NFL history.
Giant victory for Tommy DeVito. With the Giants’ win over the Patriots, Tommy DeVito became just the fifth undrafted rookie in the common-draft era to win at least two of his first three starts. He also became the first undrafted rookie since 1966 to record a passer rating of 100 or higher in consecutive starts.
The ‘Patriot Way’ seems to be the wrong way. The Patriots are the first NFL team in 30 years to lose back-to-back games despite surrendering 10 or fewer points in each game. Not only ddi they lose 10-7 this week, but they also lost 10-7 to the Colts back in Week 10.
Patriots need to bring Tom Brady back. The Patriots have had four games where they scored seven points or fewer this season, which is notable, because they only had five such games in Tom Brady’s 283 starts with the team.
Even more Patriots ugliness. NFL teams are 49-2 this season when allowing 10 or fewer points, which breaks down like this: The Patriots are 1-2 while the rest of the league is 48-0.
Comeback kid. The Chiefs beat the Raiders 31-17 on Sunday in a game where they trailed 14-0 at one point. The comeback means that Patrick Mahomes is now 15-11 in his career in games where the Chiefs trail by double-digits. He’s the only quarterback since 1950 to have a winning record in that situation.
Steelers finally hit 400 yards. Firing Matt Canada seemed to pay off for the Steelers offense. In their first game without Canada, the Steelers hit the 400-yard mark for the first time in 59 games. Before this week, the last time they hit 400 yards came in Week 2 of the 2020 season.
Stroud sets rookie record. With 304 passing yards against the Jaguars, C.J. Stroud became the first rookie in NFL history to throw for 300 yards or more in four consecutive games.
Kelce hits 11,000 receiving yards. With 91 ayrsd against the Raiders, Travis Kelce now has 11,076 for his career, making him just the fourth tight end in NFL history to hit the 11,000 yard mark, joining Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates. Kelce reached the mark in 154 games, which is the fastest in NFL history. To put that in perspective, it took Gonzalez 194 games to reach the mark (He was the previous record-holder).
Justin Tucker is no longer the most accurate kicker in NFL history. The Ravens kicker missed a 44-yard field goal against the Chargers last night, which dropped his career accuracy rate to 89.93%. The miss dropped him to No. 2 on the NFL’s all-time accuracy list, behind Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo, who has made 90% of his field goals in his career
Tucker has only hit 80.8% of his field goals this year, which would be the lowest accuracy rate of his career if that’s where he finishes. Of course, one reason Tucker’s percentage is so low is because he’s always attempting difficult kicks. Of his five misses this year, three of them have come from 55 yards or longer.