2023 NFL Week 14 winners and losers: Bills' playoff hopes, Bears' Justin Fields are back in business

2023 NFL Week 14 winners and losers: Bills' playoff hopes, Bears' Justin Fields are back in business
2023 NFL Week 14 winners and losers: Bills' playoff hopes, Bears' Justin Fields are back in business

The latest wave of NFL action has ushered in plenty of entertainment. The Rams and Ravens went to overtime, where a walk-off punt return helped keep a particular team in good standing for the playoff race. Joe Flacco threw three touchdowns to build upon his rapidly forming Browns legacy. And the Bears didn't just hang with the Lions this time; they straight-up beat them.

Which coaches, players and teams deserve our biggest praises or critiques? Here are Week 14's top winners and losers:

Winner: The Bills' playoff hopes

We keep writing off the Buffalo Bills, and hey, it's an easy thing to do, considering their roller-coaster crunch-time resume, their boom-or-bust gunslinger at quarterback and their wholly unpredictable defense. But they stepped up when it mattered against the Chiefs of all teams, infuriating Patrick Mahomes to a degree not often seen. In a year where Kansas City is clearly vulnerable (or at least lacks the weaponry required to keep Mahomes at an MVP pace), Sean McDermott's squad isn't dead yet.

Loser: Kevin O'Connell's entire offense

For a little bit this year, O'Connell looked like a real candidate to challenge for Coach of the Year honors. But the Joshua Dobbs magic is now completely gone, as evidenced by the QB getting yanked after a scoreless three-and-a-half quarters against the Raiders. Worse yet, new fill-in Nick Mullens has a severely hampered lineup, with Alexander Mattison, Brian O'Neill, Dalton Risner and, most importantly, star receiver Justin Jefferson banged up on Sunday. At least Brian Flores' defense keeps overachieving.

Winner: The Joe Flacco revenge tour

Who, exactly, is Flacco proving wrong? Everyone that told him for months that he was too old, too blah, too whatever to deserve a backup job! And especially the Jets, who declined a reunion he sought despite sorely needing quarterback help all year. At 38, he already clearly looks like the Browns' best QB of 2023, fresh off a three-touchdown outing in a win over the Jaguars. Coach Kevin Stefanski has rightly crowned him the starter for the rest of the year. Imagine a playoff matchup with his old squad, the Ravens!

Loser: The Panthers' future

It's been cratering all season, to be fair, but man, even on a day where Derek Carr -- cracked ribs and all -- tried his best to be even more inefficient than ailing rookie Bryce Young, Carolina could muster just six points and 3.8 yards per play. Unlike last year, the switch to an interim coach hasn't sparked any momentum here. Young faced a tall task going up against New Orleans' veteran defense, but once again his struggles were more pronounced than expected. How and when will the reinforcements arrive?

Winner: Justin Fields' value, on and off the field

It feels like Fields has been written off as the Bears' long-term QB at least twice this year, but he's now led two straight upset wins over rivals in the playoff picture. Has he been perfect? No. But considering his perpetually lackluster supporting cast, it's very clear he hasn't lost the "it" factor he brings from a physical standpoint. More than that, he showed veteran-level leadership in the lead-up to Sunday's big "W" over Detroit, taking the high road when asked if he's concerned about the Bears drafting his successor.

Loser: The inevitable NFC South playoff game

No matter who wins in games between the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints, does anyone really, truly win? Tampa Bay is back on "top" of the division after Baker Mayfield outlasted Desmond Ridder on Sunday, which means, as of this moment, the Bucs would play host to the Cowboys in a wild card game for the second straight season. It's an indictment on the entire South, which gets points for scrappiness -- both Mayfield and Ridder had their late-game moments -- but never registers as a true threat.

Look, no one's saying the Jets have suddenly unearthed a new version of Wilson after beating the injury-riddled Texans. But this kid had one heck of a week, at one point reportedly unsure about returning to the QB1 role that New York

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