Top takeaways from busy NFL Week 16 action

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL world was filled with wacky results and some crazy performances during Week 16. It set the stage for what promises to be an equally crazy final week of the regular season.

On Saturday, the New England Patriots clinched their 11th consecutive AFC East title with a win over the Buffalo Bills. Later that day, the San Francisco 49ers recaptured the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a comeback win over the Los Angeles Rams.

While Sunday’s action did not provide as much drama, a lot still went down. That included multiple players breaking records, one struggling team pretty much ending its playoff aspirations and another squad shockingly still in the race.

These are among the top takeaways from what was a wild Week 16 around the NFL world.

Record-breaking Sunday for a ton of players

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas hauled in 12 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans. He now holds the single-season mark for receptions with 145.

In D.C., Adrian Peterson’s one-yard touchdown run for the Redskins represented the 111th of his career. In doing so, he surpassed Walter Payton for fourth on the all-time list.

Meanwhile, two NFC South stars made big time history on Sunday. Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones became the quickest player to 12,000 career receiving yards. MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers became the first running back in NFL history with multiple 100-catch seasons. Yeah, a lot of records fell during the weekend.

Jimmy Garoppolo has that clutch gene

We saw it a couple weeks back when Garoppolo went tit-for-tat with Drew Brees in San Francisco’s thrilling road win over the Saints. Garoppolo was back up to his old tricks Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium, helping eliminate the Rams from playoff contention.

After struggling through the first three quarters, the much-maligned signal caller dominated in the final stanza. That included converting on two third-and-16 opportunities with the game tied late in the fourth quarter.

Garoppolo has continued to prove himself throughout the season as his 49ers head into Week 17 with a 12-3 record and a shot at earning home-field advantage in the NFC Playoffs. That was once again the case in a 34-31 win over Los Angeles Saturday evening.

Bengals take tanking for Joe to a new level

Down 35-12 to the Dolphins in South Beach with just over six minutes remaining, NFL analysts were already talking about the Cincinnati Bengals clinching the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Misery loves company and the like.

That’s when all heck broke loose with Cincinnati scoring 23 points in the final six minutes and eleven seconds of regulation. This included three touchdown scoring drives and the Bengals’ first onside kick recovery in a decade.

Once Andy Dalton hit Tyler Eifert on a Hail Mary as time expired, it looked like Cincy might pull off a great comeback. His two-point conversation to tie the game added to that.

Luckily for Bengals fans, Miami came out on top with a last-second field goal in overtime to gift Cincy the No. 1 overall pick and reigning Heisman winner Joe Burrows. What a game in Miami.

Steelers blow it in Jersey

It was simple for Mike Tomlin and Co. Come out on top in the final two games of the season and earn the final wild card spot in the AFC. Taking on the New York Jets, most figured Pittsburgh would inch closer to a surprise playoff berth.

It was not to be. Much like we’ve seen since Ben Roethlisberger went down to a season-ending injury back in Week 2, the quarterbacks failed these Steelers in every way. Rookie undrafted free agent Devlin Hodges was benched in favor of Mason Rudolph after throwing two interceptions. He ultimately came back into the game once Rudolph was injured.

The end result was an ugly 16-10 loss with Steelers quarterbacks throwing for a combined 185 net passing yards. Now at 8-7, these Steelers must come out on top against Baltimore and hope that the Texans take out the Titans next week.

Browns embarrassment continues

It’s not that Cleveland lost to the Baltimore Ravens and was eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday. No one really expected Freddie Kitchens’ squad to take out the best team in the NFL.

Instead, it’s all about how the Browns lost and the way they looked in clinching yet another losing season. This included Baker Mayfield getting into it with Browns fans and Odell Beckham Jr. having words for Kitchens on the sideline.

We’ve seen drama envelop these Browns all season. A year that started with Super Bowl aspirations has come crashing down at an epic level. Some might say this is the same old Browns. It isn’t. Heightened expectations ruined this team at every turn. Sunday’s cataclysmic events magnified this further.

Titans now control their own destiny

Despite falling to the New Orleans Saints in controversial fashion Sunday, the Titans are one win away from clinching the No. 6 playoff spot in the AFC.

It’s intriguing to look at. As we noted above, Pittsburgh controlled its own destiny heading into Week 16. But a loss to the Jets changed the tiebreaker dynamic between the Steelers and Titans. That gives Tennessee the upper hand heading into the final week of action.

Ryan Tannehill and Co. will earn a wild card spot with a win over the Houston Texans or a Steelers loss to Baltimore next week. A team that started the season playing ugly football under a now-benched Marcus Mariota could end up being dangerous should it clinch.

That’s all she wrote for Garrett in Big D

It’s now finally the time for owner Jerry Jones and Co. to move on from the longtime head coach. Dallas had been hoping against hope that it could earn the NFC East title and make a surprise run in the playoffs.

That was all thrown out the window in a brutal 17-9 loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia on Sunday. A win here would have clinched the division for Garrett and his Cowboys.

Instead, Dallas must hold out hope that it can take out the Redskins next week with Philadelphia losing to Washington. Good luck with that. And in the end, this loss pretty much put the final nail in the coffin of Garrett’s career in Big D.

Raiders astonishingly still alive

It’s absolutely amazing. Despite heading into Sunday’s action with a 6-8 record and having lost four consecutive games, the Oakland Raiders were still somewhat alive in the playoff race. They had to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers with the Steelers, Browns and Titans all losing and the Colts winning. 

The early-afternoon slate saw the first four things happen. Oakland then took care of business against the Chargers in Los Angeles. All that needs to happen next week is for the Raiders to defeat Denver with the Bengals, Steelers, Titans and Jaguars all losing. It could still happen. And what a story it would be. 

Seahawks fall flat, lose multiple players to injury

The Seattle Seahawks knew that Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals mattered very little in the NFC West race. Their game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17, since flexed to Sunday Night Football, will be for the division. 

Despite this, most expected Seattle to take care of business at home against a four-win Cardinals squad. In absolutely stunning fashion, that did not come to fruition. Russell Wilson and Co. lost by the score of 27-13.  The team will also be without running backs Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise as well as starting left tackle Duane Brown for the huge game next Sunday night. This weekend could not have gone worst for the Hawks.