Week 15 of the NFL season started Thursday night when the Las Vegas Raiders crushed the Los Angeles Chargers 63-21 in what became Chargers’ coach Brandon Staley’s final game with the team (he, along with general manager Tom Telesco, was fired the following day).

On Saturday, the Cincinnati Bengals kept their playoff hopes alive with a thrilling 27-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in overtime.

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.

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Are the Bengals too banged up to keep the magic rolling? Cincinnati suffered two massive injuries in Sunday’s win. Defensive tackle DJ Reader left the game with a lower-body injury, and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was also knocked out with a right shoulder injury. The Bengals have been able to withstand the loss of quarterback Joe Burrow, but also being down a top defender and one of the league’s best wide receivers will complicate things further.

Stock up after the win: Defensive tackle BJ Hill. Hill now owns one of the more improbable stats of the NFL season: He has recorded an interception in back-to-back games.

Stock down after the win: Cornerback DJ Turner. The promising rookie cornerback allowed five catches on his first six targets as the nearest defender, plays that yielded 100 yards and a touchdown. — Ben Baby

Next game: at Steelers (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)


Why does an otherwise great defense keep giving up late leads? Saturday marked the third time in four games the Vikings have lost after giving up the winning score with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game. They led 17-3 early in the fourth quarter and 24-17 with 3:48 remaining. Bengals receiver Tee Higgins deserves credit for an acrobatic effort to score with 39 seconds remaining, but the Vikings have proved vulnerable to deep dig routes. Bengals quarterback Jake Browning, in fact, completed 10 of 14 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns to wide receivers on their final six drives.

Stock up after the loss: Running back Ty Chandler. In his first NFL start, Chandler produced a 132-yard effort, the Vikings’ first 100-yard game of the season.

Stock down after the loss: The Vikings’ “tush push.” Minnesota overthought its personnel on two failed quarterback sneaks in overtime, using receiver Brandon Powell as the pusher in hopes of keeping the Bengals out of their goal-line defense. — Kevin Seifert

Next game: vs. Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



How much did Raiders Antonio Pierce help his case to get the full-time gig? Probably as much as the 3-0 loss to the Vikings hurt his chances four days earlier. Each game is a season unto itself, but as more than one player said in the locker room after beating the Chargers they are playing for Pierce and interim general manager Champ Kelly. “Because we love both of them,” said right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor. Eight players scoring touchdowns and scoring a TD after all 5 takeaways helped. They next face the Chiefs on Christmas Day.

Stock up after the win: Interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree. Moved upstairs to the press box from the sidelines, Hardegree seemed to have a better feel for the game with his play calling. At least, he seemed more willing to call deeper passes for Aidan O’Connell, and the rookie quarterback responded, with aplomb, and a career-best 120.7 passer rating, while Hardegree authored a season-high 378-yard game on offense.

Stock down after the win: Pass coverage. OK, so we’re truly picking nits here, but if we have to find something negative from a blowout win, two blown coverages did result in a pair of TDs for the Chargers, from 79 yards to close out the third quarter, and from 13 yards, midway through the fourth quarter, respectively. — Paul Gutierrez

Next game: at Chiefs (Monday, Dec. 25, 1 p.m. ET)


Will Dean and John Spanos finally make the right hires to turn this franchise around? Letdowns and mediocrity have been synonymous with this team. This tradition has stood partly because of the ownership’s failed hires. They kept general manager Tom Telesco for 11 seasons despite just two playoff wins; hired coach Brandon Staley after one year as a coordinator, and kept him into this season despite a historic playoff meltdown. This appears to be the perfect scenario to turn this franchise around finally, but there is no such thing as a perfect scenario for these Chargers.

Stock up after the loss: The Chargers’ draft pick. The Chargers are now projected to have the No. 5 pick in the draft. With a roster that is projected to be $34.8 million over the salary cap next season, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System, taking advantage of talented rookies on cheap deals will be paramount.

Stock down after the loss: The entire organization. Thursday night’s loss was one of the most embarrassing in NFL history. It reflected dysfunction at every level, from an ownership group that had waited too long to move on from a coach and general manager to the players, who seemed to have given up. Now that Staley and Tedesco have been let go, the franchise can embark on a new era. — Kris Rhim

Next game: vs. Bills (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET)