NFL 2023 Week 17: Biggest questions, risers and takeaways


Week 17 of the NFL season started Thursday night with Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco continuing his hot streak before the Dallas Cowboys held on after some controversy for a key win in a battle of two of the NFC’s best Saturday night.

Our NFL Nation reporters reacted to all the action, answering lingering questions coming out of each game and picking out who — or what — is rising and falling for every team. Let’s get to it.

Jump to a matchup:



Does this win mean anything for the Cowboys? It’s certainly better than losing a third straight game. The Cowboys have never made a Super Bowl in a season with a three-game losing streak. This was the definition of what Mike McCarthy calls complementary football. The defense came up with key stops in the fourth quarter after Dallas took a second-half lead. The offense – mainly CeeDee Lamb – was able to do just enough, especially in the critical moments. They close the regular season next week at Washington. Winning on the road is a must.

Stock up after the win: WR Brandin Cooks. In a game where Lamb set the Cowboys’ single-season records for catches and yards on the season, breaking marks held by Michael Irvin since 1995, it was Cooks who came up big for Dallas in the clutch. On the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, Cooks had a 21-yard grab on third-and-4 against the blitz and scored the touchdown five plays later. It was his seventh score of the season and second straight with a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

Stock down after the win: RB Tony Pollard. There wasn’t a lot of room for Pollard to run for a good portion of the game, and he was able to pick up some tough yards in the second half. But he also had a key drop on the opening possession of the third quarter that could have broken the game open for Dallas. Instead, they were forced to punt and had to slog through a difficult evening. — Todd Archer

Next game: at Washington Commanders


How much will this loss hurt their playoff seeding? Detroit came into this game having already clinched a playoff spot and the NFC North with a shot at reaching the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Lions are guaranteed at least the No. 3 seed, but with a win, they would have been in the No. 1 spot heading into Sunday with a half-game lead. Now, it’ll be tough to get the top spot, home-field advantage and a first-round bye, but crazier things have happened.

Stock up after the loss: CB Ifeatu Melifonwu. The reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week snagged another interception in the first quarter and has continued to find a groove after being inserted into the starting lineup in Week 14.

Stock down after the loss: Third down efficiency. Although the Lions were aggressive on fourth down, they went just 4-for-13 on third downs. — Eric Woodyard

Next game: vs. Minnesota Vikings



Can anyone slow down Joe Flacco? Evidently not. Coming into Thursday, Flacco was already leading the NFL in passing (1,307 yards) dating back to Week 13, when he took over at quarterback. And that was before he threw for 296 yards in the first half alone Thursday, the most in any half of his career, against one of the NFL’s top pass defenses. The way Flacco is slinging it, to go along with their dominant defense, the Browns could be a difficult out for anyone in the playoffs.

Stock up after the win: TE David Njoku. He had 113 receiving yards in the first quarter alone and is proving he is one of the top receiving threats at his position.

Stock down after the win: Browns WR corps. The Browns were already without star wideout Amari Cooper (heel), and then they lost their other key receiver, Elijah Moore, to a head injury during the game. — Jake Trotter

Next game: at Cincinnati Bengals


Do the Jets need to tweak their defense in the offseason? This is supposed to be the strength of the team — a “championship-caliber defense,” coach Robert Saleh likes to say — but it got embarrassed by Joe Flacco & Co. Does this mean it needs to be overhauled? No, this was an outlier — it’s still a solid defense — but they were exposed in the middle of the field. Their linebackers and safeties were torched in pass coverage. They need a playmaking safety.

Stock up after the loss: RB Breece Hall. He went over 100 yards from scrimmage for the second week in a row, finishing with 126 and a touchdown. They need more players like Hall.

Stock down after the loss: LB C.J. Mosley. He’s not at his best when playing in space, and he got lit up by tight end David Njoku. Mosley allowed three receptions for 75 yards as the nearest defense, per Next Gen Stats. — Rich Cimini

Next game: at New England Patriots

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