NFL 2023 regular season
Dates: 7 September 2023 – 7 January 2024
BBC coverage: Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website every Sunday.
Brock Purdy produced a perfect game as the San Francisco 49ers continued their return to form, while the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns improved on their best starts for decades in week 11 of the NFL.
The Lions and the Browns have won at least seven of their first 10 games for the first time since 1969, with their long suffering fans having genuine cause for optimism this season.
Josh Dobbs could not quite continue his remarkable season despite again throwing and running for a touchdown as his Minnesota Vikings had their five-game winning run ended by a dramatic 21-20 defeat at the Denver Broncos.
Lions and Browns continue standout seasons
The Lions and Browns are two of only four teams never to make a Super Bowl appearance – and the only two to have winless 0-16 seasons – but the usual sense of disappointment among their fans is turning into hope as they both continued their impressive seasons.
After several false dawns over the years, Detroit under head coach Dan Campbell showed again they are the real deal as they overcame a 12-point deficit in the final three minutes to beat the Chicago Bears 31-26.
“We got a chance to do something special,” said Campbell after Detroit overcame four turnovers to go to 8-2 for the first time since 1962.
Despite losing star quarterback Deshaun Watson for the season, Cleveland could still do something special after they pinched another last-gasp victory.
A 13-10 success over the Pittsburgh Steelers was the fourth game Cleveland have won inside the final 10 seconds this season.
If rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson can play like he did in the final minutes, then, coupled with their top-ranked defence, the Browns could seriously challenge.
Texans and Jaguars set for week 12 showdown
Former top draft pick Lawrence threw two touchdowns and ran in two himself for the 7-3 Jags, who stay top of the AFC South by one game from the 6-4 Texans, whom they play next week in what could be a pivotal game in the division.
Houston beat the Arizona Cardinals 21-16 to claim a third victory in a row for the first time in five years and double last season’s win tally as perhaps the biggest surprise package in the league under rookie quarterback CJ Stroud and first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans.
Stroud added another 336 yards and two touchdown throws in a debut season as good as any in history, but his defence helped him out when he had three interceptions, having only had two all season.
“Steph Curry don’t ever stop shooting,” said the confident Stroud. “I don’t have no shame in my game. I’ve definitely got to be smarter, but no confidence is taken away from me and I’m going to keep letting it fly.”
Perfect Purdy shines for San Francisco
After three defeats in a row, it is now two emphatic victories on the spin for the 7-3 49ers, who are back in form heading into the crucial stretch of the season.
Quarterback Brock Purdy was near-perfect against Jacksonville last week and statistically perfect in Sunday’s 27-14 home win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with his 333 yards and three touchdowns earning him the highest possible passer rating – a stats metric used to rate quarterback performance.
It is the first perfect passer rating for a San Francisco quarterback since Hall of Famer Joe Montana in 1989 – the year he won the league and Super Bowl MVP awards. In Purdy’s first full season as starter, that is quite some comparison.
Another big NFC team finding form are the Dallas Cowboys, who beat the Carolina Panthers 33-10 to move to 7-3 for the 14th time since 1989. They have gone on to make the play-offs on 12 of the previous 13 occasions.
Hometown rookie bags first Giants win
Undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito threw three touchdowns to get his first NFL win for the New York Giants despite being sacked nine times in their 31-19 victory over the error-strewn Washington Commanders.
New Jersey native DeVito is still living at home while he plays his rookie season, and he will be glad of a hot shower when he returned home as there was no hot water available for the showers at Washington’s FedEx Field after the game – which just about summed their day up.
DeVito’s win also made it nine rookie quarterbacks to start and win a game this season – that is the most since 1950 and shows how well prepared modern college quarterbacks are when entering the NFL.
Brandon Staley’s position as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers looks under threat after they lost 23-20 at the Green Bay Packers, while a missed field goal at the death cost the Seattle Seahawks in a 17-16 defeat at the Los Angeles Rams.