Week 16 wrapped up with a bang as Monday Night Football had a nice matchup that saw a bit of an upset. Sunday was full of key games that would determine many playoff scenarios as well. If we learned anything from week 16, it was that protecting the quarterback is mission number one for any team with Super Bowl aspirations. It is priority one for the league also, which is obvious by all the QB protection rules. A team like Arizona, down to its third string quarterback, can crumble after having an amazing season. Lose your starter, lose your playoff hopes.
The Thursday night game featured two of the worst teams in the NFL. The Jaguars and Titans faced off in what surely had to be the lowest rated TNF game of the season. Although the cellar dwellers have come alive in the past few weeks with the Jets showing some heart and even the Raiders winning a couple of games. Jacksonville won this game 21-13 and many were talking up Blake Bortles after this win. But the guy was only 13 of 26 on his way to an underwhelming 115 yards. I am not sure what the excitement was all about. He was facing the Titans after all. He should have had 500 yards passing.
After getting praise from me all year for flying under the radar as a consistent team, Philadelphia collapsed at the end. They lost to the lowly Redskins 27-24 to ensure they will miss the playoffs this year. This was the third loss in a row for the Eagles. I guess Chip Kelly’s offense wasn’t quarterback proof after all. RG3 got the win as he started the game for the Skins, and now after this one game win streak probably is having more delusions of grandeur.
I’m not sure how San Francisco blew a 28-7 halftime lead over the Chargers, but I’m not sure how this team is doing anything right in the midst of the Harbaugh situation. The Chargers managed to get the win in overtime 38-35. Colin Kaepernick had an electrifying 90 yard run for a score in the third quarter. But his efforts were not enough for the Niners to get past the playoff hungry Chargers. San Diego took advantage of a 49ers fumble in overtime to set up their 40 yard field goal for the win. Phillip Rivers and the Chargers are currently at the projected 6th spot in the AFC playoff bracket, but their hold on it is shaky at best.
The Ravens lost to the Texans 25-13 in a game they needed badly to stay in the playoff hunt. Houston has post season visions dancing in their heads also and J.J. Watt, bloody nose and all, helped push them to a much needed win to stay in the hunt. Joe Flacco had a forgettable game as he threw the ball 50 times for just 195 yards, which seems mathematically impossible. The three interceptions certainly didn’t help his cause either.
Aaron Rodgers came back from his worst game ever last week to throw for 318 yards and a score versus Tampa Bay. Rodgers wasn’t quite himself as he battled a head cold, but was plenty well enough to knock off the floundering Bucs 20-3. The Packers will host the Lions next week to see just who will be king of the NFC North. The winner of next weeks game still has a shot at home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. They have to hope Seattle loses to the Rams in their final contest however.
Pittsburgh cemented a playoff berth with a win over Kansas City on Sunday. The Steelers sacked poor Alex Smith six times as the Chiefs lost their fourth game in five weeks. Big Ben had to leave the game with a leg injury, but did return to help his crew to a convincing, if mundane win over their AFC foe. The Steelers and Bengals square off next week for the AFC North Title. Both those teams are already in the post season regardless of the outcome of that game.
Cleveland fans got another dose of Johnny Manziel. The prescription of J-Football wasn’t quite right though as he was ineffective against Carolina before going out with a hamstring injury. This 17-13 win set the Panthers up for a showdown with Atlanta next week for the NFC South Title. After the game, Manziel acknowledged that he needed to take his craft a bit more seriously. The NFL is not quite as easy as Manziel envisioned it.
Detroit set themselves up nicely with another win over Chicago. Even three turnovers by the Lions couldn’t help the hapless Bears to a victory. The Lions now head to Green Bay Wisconsin to decide the champion of the NFC North. Chicago is just playing out the string to get in vacation mode. 20-14 was the final here.
The Dolphins ended up on top of a high scoring game with the Vikings 37-35. The Minnesota defense made things rough on Ryan Tannehill early on with consistent pressure. He made a great showing however as he passed for four scores and nearly 400 yards. Lamar Miller had another nice game for the Dolphins, going off for 92 yards. Mike Wallace added two touchdown receptions as well. Joe Philbin got the nod to return for 2015 from team owner Stephen Ross. This wasn’t one of those empty gestures that an owner makes to avoid saying he is going to fire a coach. Philbun is really going to be back….I’m pretty sure.
A big shock for me was seeing my Atlanta Falcons actually get a road win in New Orleans. This was the most aggressive I have seen the Birds all year, in two years in fact. This game was never close as Atlanta showed some real tenacity on offense and defense. New Orleans had shown signs of life the past few weeks, but this game revealed just how down they really are this year. Falcons 30-14 over the Saints.
The Patriots just got by the Jets 17-16 in this last game between Belichick and Rex Ryan for a while. Ryan will likely get another head coaching gig next year if he wants it though. This game was not a sexy contest in the least, with Geno Smith throwing for only 210 yards, but that was more than Brady who wound up with only 182 yards passing. The Jets had a shot to go ahead in this one late, but missed on a 52 yard field goal. Things like that happen to teams like the Jets.
37-27 was the final in the Giants’ win over the Rams. Odell Beckham had another fantastic game with two touchdown catches and 148 yards receiving. Rookie of the year is in his future. The Rams hit a snag after their defense had been impressive in the past three weeks.
If anyone saw the Cowboys’ mauling of the Colts coming, they are better predictors of the future than I. Indy was fortunate to score at all in this 42-7 drumming. While the Colts didn’t need to win this one since they have their division wrapped up, they didn’t need this kind of loss heading into the post season.
The Raiders won another game. This time they got the Bills 26-24. It’s almost as if the Raiders think they have something to play for here at the end of the year. Maybe they are trying to impress Jim Harbaugh so he won’t dismiss the idea of heading there after this season ends.
Seattle wasn’t able to break away from Arizona until the fourth quarter as the game stayed 14-3 for a while. The Cardinals put up the best fight they could with a third stringer in at quarterback. They had a great season, but no team could come back from big injuries to both the starter and the backup QB. They should be one and done in the playoffs. Seattle looks like the best team in the NFL period. This one ended 35-6 in favor of the Hawks.
The Bengals knocked off Denver 37-28 as Peyton Manning continues to not look like himself. He tossed four picks in this one and with the loss Denver assured the Patriots home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Jeremy Hill rambled for 147 yards including one touchdown of 85 yards.