Amazing gifts under their trees on Sunday
Multiple teams found some pretty amazing gifts under their trees on Sunday — clinching playoff spots in the process. Other teams were met with coal as stocking stuffers.
In Dallas, the Cowboys took care of business against a hapless Buccaneers squad to win the NFC East. Further east, the New England Patriots completed a perfect season at home — winning their 10th consecutive AFC East title.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Pittsburgh Steelers came up small in New Orleans. By virtue of their loss, Baltimore now holds the No. 1 spot in the AFC North. Could Pittsburgh miss out on the playoffs altogether?
These are among the top takeaways from what was an eventful Week 16 around the National Football League.
Chiefs exposed big time
Going into Seattle and coming away with a win is never an easy task. Kansas City found that out first-hand on Sunday night with an opportunity to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Instead of taking care of business, the Chiefs were exposed big time.
That included Seattle putting up 210 rushing yards and nearly 500 total yards against what has become a shoddy Chiefs defense. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson seemingly outplayed Patrick Mahomes in this one. Sunday’s loss proved that the Chiefs are beatable in nearly every way. It will also force Kansas City to play its starters Week 17 against the Raiders after falling to wrap up home field. Ouch.
Cowboys win the NFC East
It wasn’t a great performance for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense. In fact, the other side of the ball helped Dallas to 14 points in a quiet 27-20 win over the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch played tremendous football. Meanwhile, the likes of Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory put consistent pressure on Jameis Winston.
By virtue of the win, Dallas wrapped up the NFC East title and the No. 4 seed in the NFC. It will now likely take on the Seattle Seahawks on Wildcard Weekend. Let’s just hope Dak Prescott and Co. are up for the task.
Steelers’ season on the brink
Down 31-28 with the ball across midfield and less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh’s season was on the line. That’s when stud young receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster made a gaffe of epic proportions. Attempting to get extra yards for a potential game-tying field goal, the receiver coughed the ball up. The end result was a Saints recovery and some raw emotion from Smith-Schuster.
By virtue of this loss in New Orleans, the Steelers head into Week 17 with an 8-6-1 record and is a half game behind Baltimore in the AFC North. Short of the Steelers taking care of business against Cincinnati and Cleveland defeating Baltimore, Ben Roethlisberger and Co. will not be playing meaningful January football. That’s an amazing realization to come to given that this team was once 7-2-1 on the season.
Season can’t end soon enough for Arizona
No one really expected Arizona to put up much of a fight against the first-place Rams on Sunday. Even with reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley sidelined, Los Angeles had more than enough firepower to take out the three-win Cardinals. That’s exactly what we saw in a 31-9 victory in the desert.
At issue for the Cardinals is their inability to even compete. Signed off the street just days ago, veteran C.J. Anderson put up 167 yards on 20 attempts. Los Angeles as a team gained 269 rushing yards. That’s just disgraceful from a Cardinals perspective. And it’s one of the primary reasons head coach Steve Wilks will be one and done in Arizona.
Packers avoid humiliating loss
Down 35-20 against the hapless Jets heading into the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers mounted a comeback to prevent a humiliating defeat for the now-struggling franchise. Rodgers led Green Bay to 24 points in the final stanza and overtime, completing 13-of-24 passes for 174 yards during that span.
Sure the win means nothing outside of pride and draft position, but a loss to the Jets would have added even another layer to what has been a lost season. Even then, allowing Jets rookie Sam Darnold to complete 24-of-35 passes for 341 yards with three touchdowns has to be concerning.
Season-saving comeback for the Colts
Down 17-7 at the half against the last-place New York Giants, Andrew Luck and Co. needed to pull off a comeback to remain alive in the AFC Playoff race. That’s exactly what the MVP candidate did en route to leading Indy to three long touchdown-scoring drives in the second half. Two of them culminated in a score from Luck, including a game-winning one-yard pass to Chester Rogers with less than a minute left.
All said, Luck completed 31-of-47 passes for 357 yards in the win. Now at 9-6 on the season, Indianapolis has a win or go home game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 17. After starting the season 1-4, that’s some pretty amazing stuff.
Antonio Gates fumbles away Chargers’ aspirations
With his Chargers trailing 16-10 late in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, this future Hall of Famer might have cost his team a chance at the AFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Gates caught a Philip Rivers pass at the Ravens’ 38-yard line. Unfortunately, the ball was knocked loose and returned 62 yards for a touchdown by Tavon Young.
Having entered Week 16 with an 11-3 record, the Chargers had an opportunity to make their presence known in the AFC. They had just recently beat both the Steelers and Chiefs. None of that will end up mattering with the team now likely looking at the No. 5 seed and having to play the AFC North champion on the road in the wildcard game.
The Browns are streaking
Following their 26-18 victory over Cleveland on Sunday, the Browns have now won three consecutive and five of their past six games. Those five wins are more than the Browns had in their previous 850-plus days. It’s absolutely insane just how much this squad has improved under interim head coach Gregg Williams.
Sunday’s win over Cincinnati not only completed a season sweep, it sent a clear message to former Browns head coach Hue Jackson. Just ask quarterback Baker Mayfield, who ended the afternoon having completed 27-of-37 passes for 284 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Meanwhile, fellow rookie Nick Chubb broke this longstanding franchise record. Now at 7-7-1 on the season, Cleveland is playing for a .500-plus record Week 17 against the Ravens.
Nick Foles is just ridiculous
We’re not ready to say Foles is a better quarterback than Carson Wentz. What we do know is that Philadelphia is better with Foles under center. That came out in a big way at home Sunday against the Houston Texans. Tied at 16 late in the third quarter, Foles hit Nelson Agholor on this sensational 83-yard touchdown.
From there, Foles and the Eagles took care of business for an eighth win on the season to remain alive in the NFC Playoff race. All said, the reigning Super Bowl MVP completed 35-of-49 passes for 471 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in the victory. It’s now readily apparent that Foles will be a starter somewhere next season. What remains to be seen is how the rest of the 2018 season plays out for the veteran and his Eagles.
Titans still very much in play
It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but Tennessee remains very much alive in the AFC Playoff race. Facing fourth-string Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson at home on Saturday, the Titans came out on top by the score of 25-16. It’s a game that was defined by two forced turnovers, including a game-ending pick-six from Malcolm Butler.
Now at 9-6 on the season, it’s rather obvious. If the Titans were to come out on top against Indianapolis in Week 17, the team will be playing meaningful January football again. Whether that’s with the injured Marcus Mariota under center remains to be seen.
Tom Brady isn’t right
New England wrapped up its 10th consecutive AFC East title with a win over the hapless Buffalo Bills on Sunday. That’s the good news. Though, in what has been a continuing theme throughout the second half of the season, future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady just doesn’t seem to be right.
Brady completed just 13-of-24 passes for 126 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the ugly 24-12 win. Brady has now thrown six touchdowns compared to five interceptions over the past four games. That has to be concerning to Bill Belichick and Co. heading into the playoffs.
Vikings remain in playoff contention
Minnesota’s situation is now pretty clear. Following Sunday’s blowout win over the Detroit Lions, these Vikings will be playing playoff football if they are able to come out on top against the Chicago Bears next week. In fact, they can inch into the playoffs with a loss to the Bears and a Redskins win over Philadelphia.
In no way does this mean Minnesota is deserving of a playoff spot. Sunday’s victory over Detroit started out about as bad as it gets. Detroit was actually up 9-0 late in the second quarter before the Vikings scored two touchdowns in the final 1:32 of the half. From that point on, it was all Vikings. Even then, there has to be concern that Minnesota will be one-and-done should it earn a postseason spot.
Road to the Super Bowl goes through Bourbon Street
By virtue of their win over Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Saints now hold home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. That was made possible after a strip of JuJu Smith-Schuster clinched New Orleans’ victory over the Steelers. The game itself was contested from the get with both offenses seemingly moving the ball at will. But when New Orleans needed its improved defense to step up, coordinator Dennis Allen and Co. didn’t disappoint.
Offensively, Drew Brees completed 27-of-39 for 326 yards with one touchdown and zero picks. Eleven of those completions went to stud third-year receiver Michael Thomas. And when all was said and done, New Orleans wrapped up the No. 1 seed with a 31-28 victory.
A lot of meaningful Week 17 football
Now that the dust has settled on Week 16, we’re going to witness a ton of huge games with playoff ramifications during the final week of the season. That starts with the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans in a win-or-go-home contest for both teams. Over in the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles are all battling for the final wildcard spot after Seattle clinched Sunday night. Minnesota take on Chicago next week with the Eagles set to square off against the Redskins.
Outside of teams looking to earn a playoff spot, seeding is on the line here. Only New Orleans is guaranteed of a first-round bye heading into Week 17. In fact, the Chargers and Chiefs could either end up as the No. 1 seed or having to take to the road Wildcard weekend. Week 16 proved that the final slate of games is going to be a blast.
Seahawks rebound in a big way
Following last week’s loss to San Francisco, there was some question about whether the Seahawks would be able to go tit-for-tat with Kansas City on Sunday night. This question was answered almost immediately at home. Seattle tallied nearly 500 total yards of offense, including 210 on the ground. Russell Wilson outplayed Patrick Mahomes for most of the night.
The end result was a 38-31 win in front of the home crowd en route to clinching a wildcard spot in the NFC. Now that this is settled, we’re looking forward to see what type of football Seattle has store for us in January. It might be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.