Week 16 featured a few blowout wins by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, and Chicago Bears, but for the most part this was a nail biting weekend of football. The Kansas City Chiefs were given a scare, as they came close to losing to the 4-win Atlanta Falcons. The Cleveland Browns, plagued by COVID, would lose to the now 2-win New York Jets, who at one point were thought to never be able to win a game this year. Let’s take a look at all of these storylines and more from a busy Week 16 in the NFL.
Minnesota Vikings (6-9) – 33 vs New Orleans Saints (11-4) – 52
For Alvin Kamara, this game was a highlight reel, as he scored an NFL record tying six touchdowns. Kamara would have had the chance to break the record and score seven touchdowns if it weren’t for do-it-all player Taysom Hill, who scored a one yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Along with the six touchdowns, Kamara put up 172 total yards in the Saints’ win. However, Drew Brees did look sloppy at times as he would throw 2 interceptions in the game, which allowed the Vikings to make the game closer than it should have been. Despite this, Brees was able to throw for over 300 passing yards on the day. With this loss, the Vikings were officially eliminated from playoff contention, and with a defensive performance like this, it was deserving. Injuries have plagued this defense all year, with seven starters inactive for this game. It looked as if the Vikings’ defense had given up on some plays with the amount of success the Saints’ were able to have offensively. The Saints have now clinched their fourth straight NFC South division title as they head towards the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5) – 47 vs Detroit Lions (5-10) – 7
The last time the Buccaneers were able to make playoffs was in 2007, with Jon Gruden as the head coach. Thirteen years later and the Buccaneers are in the playoffs once again. Tom Brady for 12 straight season has clinched a playoff berth, but this is the first time without the Patriots. Brady was cooking in this one, as he threw for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns in the first half alone! Brady didn’t need to play any of the second half as the Buccaneers led 34-0 at halftime. When he was actually playing, Brady looked like he was in his prime. Rob Gronkowski was even able to score two touchdowns this game. For the Lions, this game was a mess before it even started. Earlier in the week, it was announced head coach Darrell Bevell would be unable to coach due to COVID-19 protocol. From there, Matthew Stafford would go down during the first offensive series, and never return. By the end of the game the Lions had used three different quarterbacks (Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniels, and David Blough), with none having any success. The Lions defense allowed 588 yards to a Buccaneers team that only played their starting QB for one half. This isn’t a new occurrence for the Lions, as they allow the most points per game in the NFL at 32.1. The Buccaneers will look to clinch the 5th seed in the NFC against their division rival, the Falcons, next week. The Lions will face off against the Vikings in a meaningless Week 17 game and continue their search for a new head coach and general manager to lead their team in the right direction.
San Francisco 49ers (5-9) – 20 vs Arizona Cardinals (8-7) – 12
With the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with a win, the Cardinals were upset by the 49ers and third-string QB C.J. Beathard. To make matters even worse for the Cardinals, Kyler Murray needed to be helped off the field after taking a hit as he threw a game ending incompletion. The Cardinals are going to need Murray under center in order for the team to be competitive in the playoffs if they do end up clinching a spot. For the 49ers, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. had a career day, with 204 total yards and a receiving touchdown. Beathard came ready to get the job done in this one, throwing for 182 yards and three scores in the win. This game would have been much different had veteran kicker Robbie Gould not missed two field goals and an extra point. The 49ers defense was able to hold out on third downs throughout the game, only allowing the Cardinals to convert on 4 of their 16 third down attempts. This game for the 49ers allowed them to potentially play spoiler for the Cardinals postseason aspirations. For the Cardinals, they will need to win their Week 17 matchup, and get some help along the way, in order to make the playoffs. The injury riddled 49ers can’t wait for next season, where they will get back players like Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Raheem Mostert, and more as they return from injury.
Miami Dolphins (10-5) – 26 vs Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) – 25
The Raiders led throughout the first three quarters of this game, despite not converting a third down the whole game. After a back-and-forth fourth quarter, the Raiders had a one point lead with 19 seconds left in the game. With the ball in the red zone, instead of opting to have Josh Jacobs run the ball in for the score, the Raiders had him slide down at the one yard line. They would continue to run out clock, and ultimately had Daniel Carlson kick a field goal instead of going for the touchdown. The Raiders thought they had won the game and only had to play prevent defense to close it out, but they weren’t able to do it. After Ryan Fitzpatrick came on in relief of Tua Tagovailoa, he would find Mack Hollins for a 34 yard gain while having his helmet nearly ripped off his head on a facemask penalty. That would give the Dolphins another 15 yards on top of the passing play, setting them up for a 44 yard field goal to win the game. The Raiders inability to hold on for the final 19 seconds has resulted in them officially being eliminated from playoff contention. Meanwhile, the Dolphins continue their playoff run, as they’ll face a division rival in the Buffalo Bills as they look to hold onto to their wild card spot. The Raiders will continue to move forward with their strong core of young players while looking to improve their defense over the offseason.
Cleveland Browns (10-5) – 16 vs New York Jets (2-13) – 17
The Browns came into this game without two starting offensive linemen and only one active wide receiver due to the COVID protocol, and the Browns’ performance showed it. It happened on such short notice that Browns’ head coach Kevin Stefanski had to run practice squad players through a walkthrough in the parking lot of the team’s facility prior to the game. Baker Mayfield was left with nothing but tight ends, running backs, and a single wide receiver who hadn’t been on the team for very long. This resulted in the Jets loading the box in anticipation of the run. 4 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries later, along with Jamison Crowder getting one receiving and passing touchdown each, and the Jets were victorious. The Browns path to the playoffs has become much more difficult after this loss, as they will probably need to pull out a win against the Steelers next week in order to break the NFL’s longest playoff drought. The #1 pick is no longer a possibility for the Jets with this win, as their two game win streak has allowed the Jaguars to sneak away with the #1 pick.
New York Giants (5-10) – 13 vs Baltimore Ravens (10-5) – 27
Coming into this game, both the Ravens and the Giants felt they had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Just watching the first half of the game you wouldn’t have been able to tell though, as the Ravens dominated the Giants in every aspect. The second half would be a slight increase in productivity for the Giants, despite allowing seven sacks in just that half alone. The Ravens at the end of the day had three rushers in Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, and J.K. Dobbins go over 77 yards. Jackson was also able to throw for two touchdowns on the way to the win. With the Colts losing, the Ravens now have a wild card spot, and can clinch their spot by winning their Week 17 matchup. Once not too long ago the Giants held the division lead in a competitive NFC East, but that’s no longer the case, as they have now lost their third straight game in a row. The Giants will have to win in Week 17 and get a lot of help from other teams in order to make the playoffs now.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-10) – 37 vs Houston Texans (4-11) – 31
This game was an unexpected offensive bloodbath, with the Texans not having all their weapons, and the Bengals without quarterback Joe Burrow after he tore his ACL earlier this season. Bengals QB Brandon Allen was able to show out this game, throwing for 371 yards and two touchdowns, and did so while spreading the wealth to a number of different receivers. The two defenses together allowed a total of 1028 total yards, 540 yards allowed by the Texans and 488 allowed by the Bengals. J.J. Watt aired out his frustrations with the defense’s performance, and how the team is letting down fans that still continue to support them despite their losing record.
Watt isn’t wrong though, as the team’s defense has played poorly all season, only producing a league low eight turnovers this season. Neither team will make the playoffs this season and will continue to look towards the offseason to improve. The Bengals have a bright future ahead of them with Joe Burrow and company, while the Texans need to surround Deshaun Watson with weapons and a defense if they want to take advantage of his talent.
Chicago Bears (8-7) – 41 vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) – 17
The Mitchell Trubisky led Bears pushed their win streak to three and are now in complete control of their playoff chances. This loss is just as important for the Jaguars as the win is for the Bears, as the Jaguars have now secured the #1 pick in next years draft, and they could potentially have Clemson’s QB Trevor Lawrence in their view. Allen Robinson had another big game, as he had 10 receptions for 103 yards, and David Montgomery had 95 rushing yards and a score to help propel the Bears to victory. The Jaguars helped the Bears out quite a bit as well, as they committed 10 penalties that added up to 115 free yards to the Bears. Once being seen as an unlikely playoff team following their six game losing streak, the Bears are currently holding a playoff spot after this game, and only need to win to get in. The Jaguars can rest easy now having secured the #1 pick, and can finally focus on putting the finishing touches to their rebuild.
Atlanta Falcons (4-11) – 14 vs Kansas City Chiefs (14-1) – 17
With a chance to send the game to overtime, Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo missed a 39-yard field goal, which would seal the win, and the #1 seed in the AFC, for the Chiefs. The Falcons were able to hold the high powered Chiefs offense to their lowest scoring game this season. Calvin Ridley was able to have a field day against the Chiefs secondary with 5 catches for 130 yards. The Falcons did what only two other teams have been able to do this season in intercepting a Patrick Mahomes pass. The Chiefs defense sacked Matt Ryan four times and had five tackles for a loss in the game, which would be crucial to their victory. The Falcons let another opportunity to win slip, as they dropped an interception in the end zone, only to have Demarcus Robinson score the game winning touchdown moments later. We likely won’t see the trio of Mahomes, Hill, and Travis Kelce until the second week of playoffs, as the Chiefs have clinched the #1 seed in the AFC. The Falcons continue to cough up winnable games, and they will look to make some changes for a fresh start over the offseason.
Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – 24 vs Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) – 28
A tale of two halves would be the perfect way to describe this game in a phrase, as after halftime we saw a different Steelers team. If it weren’t for a strip-sack by T.J. Watt, the first half could have very well been scoreless for the Steelers seeing the way they were playing. With Jonathan Taylor and Philip Rivers combining for three touchdowns in the first half, the Colts were bullying the high powered Steelers’ defense, and it was looking like a fourth straight loss was coming for the Steelers. At half time, Ben Roethlisberger told the team to “Just have fun”, and what he said worked, as they came out in the second half and dominated. Roethlisberger in the second half alone had 242 yards and three touchdowns. The game winning score would be a 25 yard passing touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had 96 yards and this score on the day.
Steelers CB Mike Hilton was making plays left and right, as he had an interception, fumble recovery, and 4 tackles. The Colts in the second half only scored 3 points and looked defeated by the Steelers defense. The inability to run the ball for the Steelers is still a concern for their playoff run if they want to make it far. The Steelers will play for better seeding in Week 17, while the Colts will now have to battle their way back into the playoffs after this loss.
Carolina Panthers (5-10) – 20 vs Washington Football Team (6-9) – 13
It looks like Dwayne Haskins Jr.’s career in Washington is over, as he was released less than 24 hours after the Football Team’s loss. Between his off the field antics leading to him being stripped of his captaincy, to his on the field play getting him benched, Haskins isn’t the guy in Washington and won’t be going forward. Haskins threw two interceptions to go along with a fumble in the first half prior to getting benched. In addition to Haskins struggles, it didn’t help the Football Team when wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. muffed a punt which would lead to a Panthers touchdown. Curtis Samuel was all over the field for the Panthers, as he rushed for 52 yards and had 106 receiving yards as well. Washington had more yards at the end of the game with 386 compared to the Panthers 280 yards, but it was the Football Team’s turnovers that cost them this victory they needed to secure a playoff position. The Football Team will have another chance to clinch the NFC East next week against their division rivals Philadelphia Eagles. Meanwhile, the Panthers are out of contention, and will look to come back better next season.
Los Angeles Rams (9-5) – 9 vs Seattle Seahawks (11-4) – 20
For the first time since 2016, the Seattle Seahawks have won the NFC West division, and their team looks a lot different from 2016 version. This game is the fifth straight game that the Seahawks defense held their opponent under 20 points. The last time they did this was when they reached the Super Bowl in 2014, which is a promising sign as the Seahawks look towards the playoffs. This game was a defensive chess match, as the Rams sacked Russell Wilson five times, while the Seahawks sacked Jared Goff three times. Goff and the Rams were unable to reach the end zone this game, as Goff threw an interception, and the offense struggled on third down throughout the game. The Rams still have a chance at the playoffs with a win or Chicago loss next week, although they would have loved to take control of the division with a win. The Seahawks can play for better seeding, as they begin to ramp up for the playoffs.
Philadelphia Eagles (4-10) – 17 vs Dallas Cowboys (6-9) – 37
This game featured what looked like prime Andy Dalton, as he threw for 377 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception. For Dallas, Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper both had 121 receiving yards, with Gallup having two touchdowns. Jalen Hurts came back down to earth to an extent with this performance, as he threw for 342 yards, but only had one score with two interceptions. The Eagles as a whole had 3 turnovers, but also 12 penalties for a total of 115 yards. They did all they could to beat themselves this game and it was obvious throughout. DeSean Jackson returned to action for the first time in over two months and had a huge 81 yard receiving touchdown. Ezekiel Elliott, for the first time in a month, had over 100 rushing yards, as he ran for 105 yards, which is another positive to take from the game for the Cowboys. The Eagles no longer are in playoff contention following this loss, while the Cowboys still have a chance to win the NFC East with a win and a Washington loss next week.
Denver Broncos (5-10) – 16 vs Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) – 19
Justin Herbert set the record for most passing touchdowns in a rookie season with 28 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Drew Lock threw two interceptions and continued his streak of 11 straight games with a turnover, the longest active streak in the NFL. The Broncos, as a team, have the most turnovers in the NFL with 32. However, both teams weren’t able to score regularly, turnovers or not. Broncos kicker Brandon McManus missed a field goal from 37 yards, his first miss within 40 yards since 2017, that would become crucial as they would end up losing by 3. As the game came down to the wire, Jerry Jeudy would drop a pass that would’ve put the Broncos within field goal range, and they wouldn’t come close afterwards. There were no playoff implications in this game, with both teams playing to see who gets the higher pick in next years draft.
Tennessee Titans (10-5) – 14 vs Green Bay Packers (12-3) – 40
Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams would continue their dominance in this game against the Titans. Rodgers threw for 231 yards 4 touchdowns and 1 interception, and Adams had 142 yards and three touchdowns. On top of their dominant aerial attack, the Packers were dominant in the run game as well. Aaron Jones ran for 94 yards before getting injured, and rookie A.J. Dillon picked up where Jones ended as he ran for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Titans just couldn’t stop the Packers in any aspect of the game on defense, and they weren’t able to keep pace with their high powered offense either. Derrick Henry would run for 98 yards on the day, but he was unable to score. Ryan Tannehill looked like the old Tannehill that struggled with the Dolphins, as he only threw for only 121 yards, one score, and two interceptions. With a win next week the Packers will secure the #1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. As for the Titans, they are still very likely to make the playoffs despite the loss, and will look to punch their ticket in next week.