The NFL has 16 games to end the 2019 regular season today, and 10 of them have playoff implications.
Here’s a look at which games have implications for both teams, which games have implications for one team, and which games don’t matter in the playoff race:
MAJOR IMPLICATIONS FOR BOTH TEAMS
49ers at Seahawks: Sunday Night Football has the game of the day, the NFC West championship game. The winner wins the division, the loser is the NFC 5 seed and will play on the road against the NFC East champion next week. If the 49ers win they earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs; if the Seahawks win they still need help to get a bye.
MAJOR IMPLICATIONS FOR ONE TEAM, MINOR IMPLICATIONS FOR ONE TEAM
Titans at Texans: For the Titans, they’re in the playoffs with a win. For the Texans, it’s possible that a win could bump them from the AFC 4 seed to the AFC 3 seed, but that’s such a minor difference that Houston plans to rest its starters and accept the 4 seed.
PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS FOR ONE TEAM
Steelers at Ravens: The Steelers make the playoffs with a win and a Titans loss. (The Steelers can also make the playoffs with a loss, if the Titans also lose, the Colts win and the Raiders lose.) The Ravens have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Eagles at Giants: If the Eagles win, they win the NFC East. (They also win the NFC East with a loss, if the Cowboys also lose.) The Giants are mathematically eliminated.
Washington at Cowboys: The Cowboys win the NFC East if they win and the Eagles lose. Washington is mathematically eliminated.
Dolphins at Patriots: The Patriots earn a playoff bye with a win. (The Patriots also earn a playoff bye if the Chiefs lose.) The Dolphins are mathematically eliminated.
Chargers at Chiefs: The Chiefs earn a playoff bye with a win and a Patriots loss. The Chargers are mathematically eliminated.
Raiders at Broncos: The Raiders make the playoffs with a win, a Titans loss, a Steelers loss and a Colts win, as long as they clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Steelers, which they will if at least one of the Bears, Lions, Chargers or Patriots win.
Packers at Lions: The Packers clinch a first-round bye with a win and can clinch home-field advantage with a win and a 49ers loss. (The Packers could also clinch a bye with a loss, if the Saints also lose.) The Lions are mathematically eliminated.
Saints at Panthers: The Saints clinch a first-round bye with a win and either a Packers or 49ers loss, and clinch home-field advantage with a win and both a Packers and a 49ers loss. (The Saints can also clinch a bye with a loss, if the 49ers lose and the Packers win.) The Panthers are mathematically eliminated.
PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS ONLY FOR AFC TIEBREAKERS
Colts at Jaguars: Both teams are mathematically eliminated, but a Colts win is necessary for the Raiders to win the AFC tiebreaker.
Bears at Vikings: The Bears are mathematically eliminated and the Vikings are locked into the NFC 6 seed, but a Bears win is one component that can give the Raiders the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Steelers.
NO PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS FOR EITHER TEAM
Jets at Bills: The Jets are mathematically eliminated and the Bills are locked into the AFC 5 seed.
Browns at Bengals: Both teams are mathematically eliminated.
Falcons at Buccaneers: Both teams are mathematically eliminated.
Cardinals at Rams: Both teams are mathematically eliminated.
Like Black Friday, Black Monday now starts a day early. So when Sunday rolls around, who will be out?
Here’s a look at the candidates to be coaching elsewhere after the 2019 season ends for their respective teams.
Pat Shurmur, Giants: It’s being regarded as a given that Shurmur will be fired. The Giants haven’t said he’s safe, which means that he’s in danger, grave or otherwise. He’s done poorly in two years on the job, tying the team record for consecutive losses (nine) and winning fewer games than Ben McAdoo, who unlike Shurmur didn’t get to finish his second season. It would be a surprise if Shurmur stays put.
Freddie Kitchens, Browns: The experiment has gone poorly. But dysfunctional teams do dysfunctional things, and it would be no surprise if the Browns fail to admit their mistake and move on — like they did with Hue Jackson after 2016. And after 2017. The bigger challenge for the Browns comes from the lingering disagreements between G.M. John Dorsey and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta regarding big-picture questions, like who the coach should be.
Doug Marrone, Jaguars: Some think that if he was going to go, he would have gone with Tom Coughlin. Others think Marrone remains in trouble. If the organization plans to give Gardner Minshew a chance to become the franchise quarterback, it makes sense to keep Marrone and G.M. Dave Caldwell around.
Jason Garrett, Cowboys: With a contract expiring when the season ends, Garrett’s tenure definitely ends if the Cowboys fail to make it to the playoffs. Even if they do, Garrett likely needs to get to the NFC title game to get a third contract, even though the Cowboys haven’t gotten that far since 1995.
Mike Zimmer, Vikings: His contract expires after the 2020 season, and there was a clear sense in league circles that failure to make the playoffs could prompt ownership to look elsewhere. So what if the Vikings flame out in the wild-card round? Zimmer could end up becoming the latest coach to enter the last year of his contract, a dynamic that has played out more and more frequently in recent years.
Anthony Lynn, Chargers: It seems like there’s a surprise firing or resignation every year. This year, league insiders are watching the Chargers. Lynn was 12-4 a year ago, but the Chargers have failed in 2019 — and they continue to fail to resonate in L.A. While Lynn doesn’t deserve it, it could be coming.
Dan Quinn is safe in Atlanta, Matt Patricia will return in Detroit, and Adam Gase will get a second season with the Jets. Another surprise (or two) can’t be ruled out; it could come from the Steelers letting Mike Tomlin head to Carolina (or Washington), the Saints allowing Sean Payton to coach the Cowboys, Bill Belichick handing the reins to his son, Steve, in New England, Andy Reid winning a Super Bowl and walking away, or some other unexpected development that currently isn’t on the radar screen. Whatever the outcome, two spots (Washington and Carolina) already are open, and several more inevitably will arise — starting Sunday.
Twitter is a-flutter regarding an image broadcast by CBS of a Ravens employee wearing a bluetooth headset on the sideline on Sunday, while standing behind coach John Harbaugh.
It’s technically a violation of the rules for team personnel other than doctors and training staff to have such devices in the bench area. (It’s believed that the person wearing the headset is Ravens director of security Darren Sanders.) Earlier this year, for example, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was fined $5,000 for wearing an Apple watch in the bench area during a game.
Of course, having it and using it are two different things. And it will be easy for the league to determine whether the person actually utilized the device while in the bench area, or whether he simply had it in his ear and forgot to remove it, for example. If the device was used, a major fine could be imposed.
If he wasn’t using it, it’s a non-issue. But it still could/should result in a fine, given the bright-line rule that the league has adopted regarding such devices.
***NOTE*** Edited to reflect the Packers winning the NFC North title over the VIkings, thread was originally posted prior to Week 16's Monday Night Football game.
We are finally here. The last week of the NFL regular season. Which, sadly, means there are only 6 weekends of football left, until we go back into "The NFL has no offseason, just multiple months where they don't play any games", plus "OMG, is the XFL gonna succeed when the AAF was a colossal waste of time?" mode...
What's at stake?
The Packers have already won the NFC North. They are potentially playing for a bye week in the Playoffs, so won't be resting against a Lions team they should beat easily. Minnesota is the 6th seed in the NFC, no matter what happens in week 17.
Next, the NFC East. If the Eagles beat the Giants, they are NFC East champions. If the Eagles lose to the Giants, but Redskins beat the Cowboys, they are NFC East champions. Dallas needs to beat the Redskins AND have the Eagles lose to the Giants to win the NFC East.
In the NFC West, San Francisco and Seattle are playing in what is most likely the most important game of the week. A San Francisco win wraps up the NFC West and home field throughout the NFC playoffs, along with the bye week that comes with it. If the Seahawks win, not only are they the NFC West champions, but the 49ers drop all the way down to being a Wildcard team, playing on the road...Technically, Seattle can finish as the #1 seed, but it requires the Lions to beat the Packers, so it's not really worth getting in to.
In the NFC South, the Saints won the division weeks ago, so their goal is simple: earn the #1 seed in the NFC. It's a 4 team race right now, with San Fran, Green Bay, New Orleans and Seattle all still in play.
Over in the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens have already clinched both the AFC North and the #1 seed overall. No games in week 17 will have any impact on that, so don't expect to see Lamar Jackson playing very long, if at all. The Ravens should be in full "rest" mode, so look for RGIII to get significant playing time against the Steelers. However, the Steelers aren't going to roll over either, as they are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot. If they beat the Ravens, and the Texans beat the Titans, the Steelers are in.
The New England Patriots clinched the AFC East already, but are still competing with the Kansas City Chiefs for the #2 overall seed, and a bye week. If the Patriots win, it's theirs. If the Dolphins beat them, but the Chiefs end up losing to the Chargers, the Patriots will still be the #2.
In the AFC South, the Houston Texans are already the division champs, and are playing for playoff positioning.
Where it really gets interesting is the AFC West. Not only because depending on who beats who, the Chiefs can be the #2, #3 or #4 seed, but because, somehow, the Oakland Raiders, in their very last season in Oakland, are still in contention for a playoff spot. Entering Week 16, the Raiders needed 5 specific things to happen in Week 16 and 4 things in Week 17 to make the playoffs...and all 5 of the events they needed to have happen in Week 16 DID happen...So what do they still need?
1. Beat the Broncos.
2. Colts beat the Jags.
3. Texans beat the Titans.
4. Ravens beat Steelers.
None of those events would even be upsets. All the Raiders need to make the playoffs, is for the teams with the better record in each of those games to be better than their opponent.
Kansas City Chiefs 26, Chicago Bears 3
1. With one week left in the regular season, Kansas City is rounding into shape on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs defense, buoyed a bit by the acquisition of Terrell Suggs via waivers this week, held Chicago to three points (tied for a season-low), 234 total yards (Chicago's second-lowest at home) and 18 first downs. Suggs played 17 of 59 snaps and tallied a tackle as he was cycled in and out of Steve Spagnuolo's system, complementing the pass rush provided by Chris Jones and Frank Clark (a sack each). Since Week 11, K.C.'s defense has been tops in the league in points and opposing TDs allowed; that didn't change on Sunday night. The Chiefs' win over Chicago marked the fifth straight game they've allowed fewer than 17 points. They figure to extend that trend next week against the static Chargers. After entering last January as the worst defense in the playoffs, there's a case to be made this time around that this Chiefs unit will enter the postseason as one of the best.
2. Sunday night didn't provide the fireworks desirable of a prime-time game in deep December but watching Patrick Mahomes dance around Khalil Mack's advances was good enough entertainment. Unbothered by Chicago's pass rush, Mahomes (251 yards, 2 TDs) effortlessly spread the ball around and extended scoring drives under the Soldier Field lights, becoming the first player in NFL history to reach 9,000 passing yards and 75 passing touchdowns in his first 30 games in the process. Mahomes did this all in front of a Bears organization that, IF YOU RECALL, passed on Mahomes in the 2017 draft and instead traded up to select Mitchell Trubisky, who through three seasons, has not been as successful as the reigning MVP Mahomes, to say the absolute least. Surrounded by a more talented crop of pass-catchers, Mahomes played better than Trubisky (157 yards on 34 attempts) in their first head-to-head meeting, throwing for 94 more yards and completing 16.7 more percent of his passes. After a second-quarter touchdown, NBC's cameras caught Mahomes counting to 10 with his fingers. Ten, as in how the hell was Mahomes the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft, and how many years will it take Chicago fans to get over the fact the Bears drafted Trubisky at No. 2 instead?
3. Chicago's postseason hopes were dashed last week and there's little left to say about the Bears' 2019 campaign, other than better luck next year with Trubisky (or whoever they sign to compete with him). The AFC West champion Chiefs, on the other hand, are heading to the postseason and already assured a home playoff game. All that's left to finalize is when it will take place and against whom. Kansas City will enter Week 17 with the opportunity to either secure the No. 2 seed (and a first-round bye), the No. 3 seed or the No. 4 seed. The Chiefs need a win over Los Angeles and a Patriots loss to the 4-11 Dolphins at home -- yikes -- to secure a first-round bye. If K.C. and New England win, then the Chiefs will host either the Titans, Steelers or Raiders as the No. 3 seed. If the Chiefs lose and the 10-5 Texans beat the Titans, then K.C. will host the Bills as No. 4. Long story short, the Chiefs have a lot to play for at Arrowhead in Week 17.
-- Jeremy Bergman
Philadelphia Eagles 17, Dallas Cowboys 9
1. This game got off to a hot start thanks to the Eagles sprinting out of the tunnel and into the end zone, and then it turned into a late afternoon nap.
OK, maybe it wasn't that bad, but it seems almost too perfect for this snooze-filled NFC East that doesn't want to separate contender from pretender (perhaps they're one and the same?) to work toward begrudgingly deciding itself by slogging through nearly three quarters of pure attrition. Instead of trading errant shots from one trench to the other, the Cowboys and Eagles traded failed third-down conversion attempts and resulting punts.
The Eagles broke through late, though, thanks to a big play made by little-known quarterback-turned-wideout Greg Ward. It was fitting for these Eagles, who are without a significant collection of talent they once counted on to make these types of plays. It wasn't DeSean Jackson or Alshon Jeffery making the 38-yard reception that set up Miles Sanders' 1-yard touchdown run, but Ward, last week's hero who stepped up again in the clutch. Thanks to the underdogs like Ward and others, and the preparation of coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles are a victory from winning the NFC East.
2. If the Eagles end up winning the division, Dallas Goedert will find himself enjoying his first taste of Philadelphia sports royalty. The tight end with a frame similar to that of Zach Ertz was asked to fill the void left by the more notable tight end when he suffered a rib injury, and boy, did he answer that call. Goedert finished with nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown, including two massive grabs made to extend possessions with fresh sets of downs late with the Eagles clinging to their eight-point lead. His last was the most impressive, making the catch and tight-roping the sideline enough to move the chains. Sanders finished it off with a 38-yard run through the heart of Dallas' defense three plays later.
Philadelphia began with a touchdown pass to Goedert and finished by going right back to him. That will make the diehards in Philadelphia love him for weeks, and perhaps years to come.
3. The Cowboys showed us a glimpse of what they should be last week when they dominated the Rams, but fell right back to earth in a hostile environment Sunday. Dallas waded its way through a sleepy first half, mustering six points but only after managing to get up off the mat after the Eagles landed an early haymaker, and failed to find the end zone all night. Ezekiel Elliott tapped out for a play and didn't go back in on second or third down, instead leaving it to Tony Pollard, who fumbled on third down to end Dallas' first possession of the second half. Dak Prescott couldn't find targets on third downs throughout most of the second half (though he had a nice fourth-down completion), as the Cowboys converted just three of 14 such attempts. Amari Cooper spent a crucial fourth down on the sideline after an errant pass from Prescott fell short of him on third down, and that might be the most emblematic image from this entire season. With the underachieving Cowboys up against it, their best target wasn't even on the field.
These are the Cowboys, unfortunately. There's too much evidence at this point to prove anything but that disappointing reality. They'll now need the Eagles to lose in Week 17 in order to salvage their postseason hopes.
-- Nick Shook
Arizona Cardinals 27, Seattle Seahawks 13
1. Kyler Murray exited Sunday's game due to a hamstring injury with the Arizona Cardinals leading 20-7 early in the third quarter, and the world expected a Seahawks comeback. The Cards' defense and Brett Hundley had other plans. The backup quarterback led a 9-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that milked the clock to give Arizona cushion late, negating any Russell Wilson magic. Mostly ineffective through the air, Hundley used his legs on that scoring drive, evading defenders and picking up first downs. Murray spun magic through two-plus quarters, making bullet throws, heady scrambles, and brilliant magic, as the Cards controlled the game before he exited with the hamstring injury. Kenyan Drake is about to get P-A-I-D, paid. The running back, who was head-scratchingly mothballed in Miami, once again dominated. The speedster dashed for an 80-yard touchdown run in the first quarter in which he outraced Seattle's defensive angles. Drake gobbled up a career-high 166 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns, motoring the Cards offense both before and after Murray's injury. Sunday was the latest example of brighter days ahead in Arizona under Kliff Kingsbury.
2. Seattle looked unbeatable to open the game, picking up chunk gains with ease on an 89-yards, nine-play touchdown drive. The offense went to sleep the rest of the way. The Seahawks next six drives generated 40 yards, two first downs, four straight three-and-outs and two plays for negative yards before halftime. The Cardinals defense swarmed holding Seattle to a meager 224 total yards -- 135 after the opening drive -- 1 of 12 on third down and just 13 total first downs. With running backs Chris Carson (hip) and C.J. Prosise (arm) being ruled out at halftime with injuries, Seattle's offense had no identity. Sixth-round rookie Travis Homer was the only back left. Under siege behind a brutal offensive line that came in banged up, Russell Wilson was routinely fleeing for his life. Against an Arizona defense that had been flamed through the air this season, Wilson generated just 169 yards and a TD on 16-of-31 passing. Tyler Lockett was smothered, with his only catch on eight targets coming with 11:59 left in the game, and D.K. Metcalf put up a goose-egg. With no one to block Chandler Jones, the Seahawks offense was a dink-and-dunk operation to Homer as they attempted to come back. That's no way to live and will be especially daunting next week against San Francisco and into January.
3. Chandler Jones deserves attention for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Yes, his team is marred at 5-9-1, but the pass-rusher leads the NFL with 19 sacks, after picking up four Sunday against Wilson. Jones was unblockable all game, creating havoc in the Seahawks' backfield and wrecking play after play after play after play. Where the ball was, so was Jones. His final stat line was ridiculous: Four sacks, six tackles, six QB hits, two tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. Give the man some love, world. For Seattle, the disappointing loss puts their record at 11-4 ahead of a showdown with the 49ers for the NFC West on the line next Sunday night. Pete Carroll's crew can still take the division and get a bye, but life is much harder to secure one of the top two seeds after the loss.
-- Kevin Patra
New Orleans Saints 38, Tennessee Titans 28
1. A sleepy, sloppy, penalty-filled start by the Saints saw Drew Bees and Co. dig a 14-0 hole before New Orleans woke up on both sides of the ball. Trailing 14-3 with under three minutes remaining in the first half, the Saints' next five possessions went touchdown, end of half, touchdown, touchdown and touchdown, New Orleans scoring 24 straight points at one point to take a 31-21 lead it would never relinquish. Alvin Kamara enjoyed his best game in weeks, blasting off a 40-yard touchdown to open the half, his longest of the season, and his first TD since Week 3. Kamara looked more like the dynamic back we're used to seeing gobbling up 110 scrimmage yards and his first two-rushing TD game of the season. After a slow start outdoors, Brees caught a groove in the second half, throwing dimes as he compiled three touchdown passes to extend his NFL record to 544 for his career. As the Titans kept the game close, it was apropos that Brees found Michael Thomas repeatedly down the stretch. In a magical season, Thomas generated his third straight game with 11 or more receptions, gobbling up 12 catches for 136 yards and a TD to break Marvin Harrison's single-season NFL catch record. Thomas has 145 catches with one week to go.
2. Ryan Tannehill continues to impress, throwing strikes as the Titans streaked out of the gate with big plays to take the lead. It was a five-series stretch, however, that ultimately cost the Titans. After taking a 14-0 lead, Tennessee's next five drives generated just 42 total yards, all ending in punts. After getting down double digits, Tannehill battled the Titans back to keep the game close, throwing three TDs, zero INTs and 272 yards passing, despite suspect blocking that cost him five sacks. With Derrick Henry sitting due to a hamstring injury, the Tennessee offense wasn't able to grind the ball like we'd become accustomed to seeing. Credit Tannehill with keeping the Titans in the game sans the offensive centerpiece.
3. The victory keeps the Saints (12-3) in the hunt for a potential playoff bye. Despite a plethora of defensive injuries, Sean Payton's team stood tall in key moments Sunday until the offense got churning. New Orleans can't finish with worse than the No. 3 seed, but has its sights set on one of the top two spots in the NFC, and potentially the No. 1 seed. With the Carolina Panthers on the docket in Week 17, getting to 13-3 could be enough. Still, New Orleans remains in a dogfight with the 49ers (12-3), Seahawks (11-3, playing a late game versus Arizona) and the Packers (11-3, playing Monday night) for a postseason bye. The Titans (8-7) loss means little in the grand scheme and did so entering the game (likely the reason Henry sat). With the Steelers losing to the Jets, Tennessee's postseason path is simple: Beat the Houston Texans next week. Since Tannehill took over, the Titans have played like a playoff team. Now they have one game to cement it.
-- Kevin Patra
Baltimore Ravens 31, Cleveland Browns 15
1. The Browns drew up the only plan that has actually beaten Lamar Jackson since the first month of the season, and they were following it again, albeit with lesser defensive personnel, through 25 minutes of game action. Then Jackson tore it to shreds in less than two minutes.
Jackson and Co. went right down the field not once, but twice, scoring two touchdowns to wipe out nearly two quarters' worth of positive momentum for Cleveland and remind folks of who rules the AFC North. After gaining 120 yards on its first four possessions, Baltimore racked up 138 yards, seven first downs and two touchdowns in 1:18 of game time, then followed it up with a methodical drive to its third straight trip to the end zone in as many possessions to start the second half. In a flash, a break and a march, the Ravens won the game.
So cements the reality that the Browns' Week 4 win over the Ravens was an aberration, a product of a past moment in time in which they were a stronger and hopeful squad.
2. Freddie Kitchens cannot escape blame for his team's meltdown in the final minutes of the first half. After Baltimore took a 7-6 lead, Kitchens rode his fatally aggressive style to a possession that took just 0:23 off the clock and opened the door for the Ravens to again fly down the field to permanently wrestle away momentum.
Earlier this season, Kitchens attempted to close a half in aggressive fashion with the goal of scoring, getting the ball back and scoring again, as he'd explain afterward. It was similarly fatal to Cleveland's hopes.
For the second straight week, a star wideout (this time, Odell Beckham Jr.) went to the sideline late to exchange heated words with Kitchens. The calls for his job are louder than ever, and Browns fans went home from the team's final home game of 2019 with the same unhappiness that has too often plagued home finales. The first season in which the Browns (6-9) beaten every AFC North team at least once seems wasted with the postseason now out of the question. It's hard to believe there won't be some repercussions come January.
3. One of Baltimore's greatest strengths is its ability to move the chains on third down. The Ravens were 7-of-11 on third down Sunday, relying heavily on tight end Mark Andrews and Jackson's quick-fire ability to get the ball out to a target at or beyond the sticks. The frequency with which Baltimore moved the chains had to be demoralizing to Cleveland's shorthanded defense. Instead of forcing Ravens mistakes, it was Baltimore that was doing exactly what it needed to overcome a deficit, pad its lead and ensure it wasn't going to be swept by Cleveland.
We'll have to wait to learn more about the health status of Mark Ingram, who left with a calf injury, but these Ravens (13-2) keep cruising into the postseason with something they've never owned until now: the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
-- Nick Shook
New York Jets 16, Pittsburgh Steelers 10
1. With the game on the line, Devlin "Duck" Hodges fumbled the snap and chucked it errantly into center field, the ball, along with a 16-10 Steelers loss to the Jets, falling to the ground. Hodges, following two first-half interceptions, was benched and then returned as Mason Rudolph -- who threw the Steelers' only touchdown of the day -- left with an injured shoulder. As the Steelers' chaotic quarterback carousel spins along and the offense as a whole struggles to maintain scoring drives and health, alike, it is the defense, a fearsome contingent of first-rounders, that's leading the way -- hopefully back to the playoffs. Yep, the Steelers still have their sights and very real hopes set on the AFC's No. 6 spot. JuJu Smith-Schuster returned from injury, James Conner left with another one and Maurkice Pouncey hitched a cart ride, too. Still, the Steelers defense, led by T.J. Watt and his first-round mates (the Steelers have eight first-rounders on defense) held the Jets' inept offense to one touchdown and 259 yards. As it has all season, the Pittsburgh defense gave the Steelers a chance. Sitting at 8-7, the Steelers still have a chance to get into the playoffs with a game left against the mighty Ravens, who have already locked up the top seed and might well have little incentive.
2. Though certainties (in air quotes) have been made by the franchise that Adam Gase will return for a second season, this victory over a possible playoff team bodes well for another campaign with eyes focused on turning around Gang Green. The offense continued to struggle, though, with a touchdown pass from Sam Darnold and a trio of Sam Ficken field goals standing as the offensive production. Playing against such a formidable defense as the Steelers offer, perhaps that's excuse enough for this week. But amid all the tumult of this currently 6-9 season, Gregg Williams' defense looked good once again. The returns of Jamal Adams (game-high eight tackles, including two for a loss) and cornerback Brian Poole boded well and a phenomenal Marcus Maye pass deflection late saved the day. Offensive woes remain, but the Jets defense continues to offer building blocks going forward.
3. For the first time -- presumably since the end of the 2017 season --
-- Grant Gordon
Indianapolis Colts 38, Carolina Panthers 6
1. There wasn't much on the line as it concerned these respective teams. But that was hardly the case for certain players. Nyheim Hines might have won himself a starting job. He became the first NFL player since 2012 to return two punts for touchdowns in a single game, going for 84 and 71 yards respectively. Hines nearly took his first punt return to the house as well, making multiple defenders miss en route to a 40-yard return that set up the Colts' first touchdown. Hines' 195 PR yards were the fourth-most ever and just 12 shy of LeRoy Irvin's all-time record. And Hines did it with just those three returns. The second-year running back came into the game with nearly as many receptions (40) as rushing attempts (44), and just four punt returns. His special skill warrants a new role in Indy (7-8).
2. In what is another lost season for the Panthers (5-10), to ignore the exploits of Christian McCaffrey would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. He's only having one of the most prolific seasons in NFL history. With a franchise-record 15 catches Sunday, McCaffrey reset his own NFL record for RB receptions in a season with 109. He's the first-ever running back to hit the century mark twice, and he's done it in consecutive seasons. Additionally, only Michael Thomas (321) has caught more passes in his first three seasons than CMC's 296. With one game to play, McCaffrey needs 216 yards against the Saints next week to break Chris Johnson's record for yards from scrimmage in a season (2,509).
3. Welcome to the league, Will Grier. It was a rough debut for the 2019 third-rounder, as he was sacked five times and intercepted thrice. He threw for just 224 yards and averaged 5.1 yards an attempt, all while completing just 12 of 29 passes to Panthers not named McCaffrey. It might be hard to assess what Grier is in these final weeks with a makeshift coaching staff. But the rookie QB will be eager to put better play on tape in the regular-season finale as the Carolina front office contemplates big decisions about its future.
-- Adam Maya
New York Giants 41, Washington Redskins 35 (OT)
1. Even with their combined win total of six coming in, the struggling Giants and Redskins would've been out of playoff contention. Still, the NFC East foes battled late into the afternoon, Case Keenum emerging from the bench to lead his woebegone Redskins into overtime against the returning Daniel Jones and resurgent Saquon Barkley. On a day that didn't matter in the standings, it was Danny Dimes who threw a nickel's worth of touchdown passes, the last coming in overtime to Kaden Smith for a 41-35 Giants triumph over the Redskins. Making his way back from an ankle injury that allowed Eli Manning to have a fitting ride into the sunset, Jones looked outstanding from phenomenal start to clutch ending for the Giants (4-11) against the Redskins (3-12). On a day in which he was locked in a duel with fellow first-rounder Dwayne Haskins and ultimately outlasted him, Jones was 28-for-42 for 352 yards and a 132.1 rating, the yards, rating and five touchdowns all season-highs. From Jones to Barkley (see below) and a few others, a glimpse was provided of what the Giants offense hopes to be for autumns ahead.
2. Surely there were those who doubted Saquon Barkley would return to his rookie-phenom form. But this Sunday, preceded by a 112-yard outing against the Dolphins, saw Barkley flash his previous self and renew hope with a career-high 189 yards rushing, buoyed by a 67-yard first-quarter touchdown run that was his longest jaunt of the year. Versatile as we remember, he added a 33-yard touchdown catch as one of his four grabs for 90 yards as part of a career-high 279 scrimmage yards. Barkley's back, skillful and special as always and still budding with potential to lead the Giants back from the doldrums.
3. From progress to peril went Dwayne Haskins' Sunday. The 2019 15th overall pick made his NFL debut in a Week 4 loss to the Giants. Though he didn't start, he had three interceptions, a 32.8 rating and was 9-for-17 for 107 yards in that game. In the first two drives on Sunday, he was 9-of-9 for 111 yards, two touchdowns and a sterling 157.6 rating. Without argument, it was the best he's looked in a trying rookie campaign. But then came a Markus Golden sack and a cart ride to the locker room. Haskins left and did not return to action with an ankle injury. He did return to the sideline, though, and watched his team rally. Though it ended with a limp, this was a hugely positive step forward for Haskins in a rematch with the team against which he had the worst showing of his first year.
-- Grant Gordon
Atlanta Falcons 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 12
1. Two squads with 5-9 records, lame duck head coaches and unmet expectations faced off Sunday afternoon in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Falcons got on the board early with a pair of touchdowns by Devonta Freeman in the first quarter. The Falcons offense efforted a well-balanced attack against the struggling Jaguars defense. Along with Freeman, Julio Jones had a big day with 166 yards on 10 receptions. Atlanta's offensive line, which has been a problem this year, blocked well, allowing Matt Ryan and Co. to move the ball around evenly. However, the Falcons (6-9) weren't error-free and had plenty of missed opportunities. It was exciting to see the offense finally click but time isn't on their side. Perhaps it will be just enough to prove there's plenty of good pieces on this Falcons roster.
2. Days after parting ways with Tom Coughlin and resetting the clocks around the team facility, it was assumed a revitalized Jaguars team would take the field. It did not. The Jags (5-10) fell into a hole early getting blanked in the first quarter. Down 24-6 late in the fourth quarter, Gardner Minshew tossed his first and only TD pass of the game to Chris Conley. The late burst was too little too late, which sums up the Jaguars' season perfectly.
3. Since this turned out to be an underwhelming game, let's talk about record-setting performances! Sunday's matchup featured two big moments for a pair of players. Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette reached over 1,600 yards from scrimmage and over 75 receptions this season, edging out previous Jags record-holders Maurice Jones-Drew (2011) and Jimmy Smith (1999), respectively. Falcons star receiver Julio Jones became the fastest player to reach 12,000 receiving yards.
-- Andie Hagemann
Miami Dolphins 38, Cincinnati Bengals 35 (OT)
1. A game that had no playoff implications ended up being one of the most exciting games of the day due to a wild finish. The Dolphins (4-11) had the game in the bag for almost four quarters. Ryan Fitzpatrick was on fire out of the gate hitting Christian Wilkins for a big-guy TD in the opening drive, making the defensive tackle the sixth player weighing 300-plus pounds to catch a receiving TD this season. This was Fitzmagic's second game this season with three passing TDs before halftime. He had a whopping 252 yards at the half but finished the day with 419 yards and four touchdowns.
2. Though the Bengals (1-14) lost today, it must be noted that a team with the worst scoring offense in the league was able to score 23 points in the final six minutes to force the game into overtime. After a missed FG by Miami late in the fourth quarter, the Bengals took advantage by scoring back-to-back TDs (Tyler Boyd [9/128/2] and Tyler Eifert [4/57/1]) and two-point conversions with an onside kick recovery in between to tie the game. After a rough start, Andy Dalton finished with 396 yards and four touchdowns. But it was a little too much, too late. Cincinnati is officially on the clock. They might've lost the game, but they locked down the draft pick battle. With this loss, the Bengals have the first overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. This is the first time since 2003 when they drafted Carson Palmer out of USC.
3. It felt like Fitzpatrick was slinging it to anyone who would catch a pass. Before the end of the first quarter, wideout DeVante Parker surpassed 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career. He also became the first Dolphin with 1,000 receiving yards and nine receiving TDs in the same season since Chris Chambers in 2005. Tight end Mike Gesicki also had a big day scoring two of Miami's five touchdowns of the day.
-- Lakisha Wesseling
Oakland Raiders 24, Los Angeles Chargers 17
1. The Raiders (7-8) are improbably still eligible for the playoffs. It's not impossible that they get in either. Oakland needed nine things to break its way in the final two weeks of the season. Five happened Sunday, requiring four specific outcomes in Week 17: Raiders over Broncos, Texans over Titans, Ravens over Steelers and Colts over Jaguars. It would create a four-team cluster with 8-8 records, and Oakland would prevail thanks to its Week 4 win over the Colts and a superior strength of victory percentage than the Steelers.
2. If every game is an audition for Derek Carr with coach Jon Gruden, he would seem to have passed Sunday. He repeatedly found the open receiver, even if it wasn't downfield as often as his coach would prefer. Carr completed 26 of 30 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns, including one on the ground. It was a crucial performance for Carr after his lackluster play contributed to four consecutive losses coming into this weekend.
3. What was supposed to be a Chargers send-off before they head to SoFi Stadium in 2020 turned into another farewell party for the Raiders in their former hometown. The Chargers' final game at Dignity Health Sports Park went about as well as you might expect considering it was in front of a legion of Raiders fans. Philip Rivers, who played through an apparent thumb injury, had to burn a timeout because he couldn't hear a fourth-down call. He tried to rally Los Angeles back from a 14-point deficit in the second half by leading a pair of scoring drives. But the Chargers (5-10) never had possession with a chance to so much as tie in the second half. It was their ninth one-possession loss of the season.
-- Adam Maya
Denver Broncos 27, Detroit Lions 17
1. This one was for pride, and both teams played with it. The Lions jumped out to a 10-0 lead following a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jamal Agnew. Denver tied it by halftime, before the two teams traded leads in the second half. Too much Phillip Lindsay ultimately proved to be the difference. He rushed for 64 yards after the break and 109 overall. His 27-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter made it a two-possession game. A Lions offense that produced just 191 yards wasn't going to overcome that.
2. Drew Lock has won again. He was fairly responsible for it too. The rookie quarterback was more solid than stellar in his fourth start, completing 25 of 33 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Denver (6-9) had just three wins through the first 11 games of the season. It's won three of four with Lock as the starter. He's certainly given John Elway something to ponder as the Broncos face another offseason with questions about their long-term plans at QB.
3. Sometimes when you lose, you win. The Lions (3-11-1) enter the final week of the regular season positioned to draft third overall in 2020. They have a chance to earn the second pick with a loss to the Packers next week and a Redskins win over the Cowboys. Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford opened this past week declaring second-year coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn would be back next season. She also said she expects to be a playoff contender. Building through the draft is vital for a team that needs more talent and isn't always able to attract top free agents.
-- Adam Maya
Other NFL News This Week:
- Darren Sproles is calling it a career
- The Chargers had to use a silent count, in their own stadium. I can understand wanting to get in a huge market like LA but there are reasons why LA has had rotating teams over the years, they don't support the NFL. Which is made even worse because of the Rams.
» Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram has a calf injury and did not return vs. the Browns. Coach John Harbaugh told reporters after the game that there were "no structural issues" with Ingram's calf. Ingram is set to undergo an MRI, and there will be more of an update on his status Monday.
» Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins was carted off with an ankle injury and did not return vs. the Giants.
Haskins told reporters that X-rays on his ankle came back negative, but he will undergo an MRI exam for further evaluation. Haskins added that he wanted to return to the game, but owner Daniel Snyder instructed him to sit out the remainder of the game.
Cornerback Danny Johnson has a hand injury, while offensive tackle Morgan Moses hurt his knee in the loss.
» Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter vs. the Seahawks and did not return. Brett Hundley replaced him at QB.
» Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner suffered a thigh injury and did not return versus the Jets. Center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a knee injury
Quarterback Mason Rudolph suffered a left shoulder injury and was seen with his left arm in a sling.
» Seattle Seahawks running backs Chris Carson (hip) and C.J. Prosise (arm) exited early and did not return. Pete Carroll said afterward Prosise needs surgery and is out for the rest of the season, and Carson likely is as well. The Seattle coach added left tackle Duane Brown will have knee surgery and won't play against the 49ers in Week 17 but could return in the postseason.
» Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz briefly exited Sunday's game against the Cowboys with a ribs injury. Philly already is without wide receiver Nelson Agholor (knee) in their must-win game against the Cowboys.
Cornerback Ronald Darby (hip flexor) and wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside (foot) suffered injuries. Cornerback Jalen Mills was carted off to the locker room with an ankle injury but later returned to the game.
» Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore did not return after sustaining a concussion against the Colts.
» New Orleans Saints cornerback Eli Apple suffered an ankle injury, while safety Marcus Williams injured his groin.
» New York Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree did not return vs. the Redskins after hurting his back.
» Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson suffered a concussion against the Panthers.
» Miami Dolphins cornerback Jomal Wiltz did not return with a shoulder injury vs. the Begnals.
» Cincinnati Bengals cornerback William Jackson was ruled out with a right shoulder injury vs. the Dolphins.
» Oakland Raiders defensive back Lamarcus Joyner (calf) did not return.
» Chicago Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman was ruled out against the Chiefs with a concussion.
» Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware and cornerback Bashaud Breeland tweaked their shoulder against Chicago, coach Andy Reid told reporter
No Thursday night football games anymore. I know, you are all SO SAD about that. I feel ya. But, we do get 3 Saturday games, so there is that.
Now, what's at stake this week? (taken directly from NFL.com)
Baltimore Ravens - AFC North division
Kansas City Chiefs - AFC West division
Buffalo Bills - playoff berth
New England Patriots - playoff berth
BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-2) (at Cleveland (6-8), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)
Baltimore clinches a first-round bye with:
1) BAL win or tie OR
2) KC loss or tie OR
3) NE loss
Baltimore clinches homefield advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) BAL win OR
2) BAL tie + NE loss or tie OR
3) KC loss or tie + NE loss
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11-3) (vs. Buffalo (10-4), Saturday, 4:30 PM ET, NFL Network)
New England clinches AFC East division with:
1) NE win or tie
New England clinches a first-round bye with:
1) NE win + KC loss or tie OR
2) NE tie + KC loss
HOUSTON TEXANS (9-5) (at Tampa Bay (7-7), Saturday, 1:00 PM ET, NFL Network)
Houston clinches AFC South division with:
1) HOU win OR
2) HOU tie + TEN tie OR
3) TEN loss
Houston clinches a playoff berth with:
1) HOU tie + PIT tie OR
2) PIT loss
New Orleans Saints - NFC South division
Green Bay Packers - playoff berth
San Francisco 49ers - playoff berth
Seattle Seahawks - playoff berth
GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-3) (at Minnesota (10-4), Monday, 8:15 PM ET, ESPN)
Green Bay clinches NFC North division with:
1) GB win or tie
DALLAS COWBOYS (7-7) (at Philadelphia (7-7), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)
Dallas clinches NFC East division with:
1) DAL win
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-4) (vs. Green Bay (11-3), Monday, 8:15 PM ET, ESPN)
Minnesota clinches a playoff berth with:
1) MIN win or tie OR
2) LAR loss or tie
Tom Coughlin is out as the head of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ front office.
The news comes at the end of the Jaguars’ second consecutive disappointing season — and it comes just two days after the NFL Players Association won a grievance against the Jaguars for improperly fining players. The NFLPA encouraged union members to be cautious about signing with the Jaguars, given their propensity for issuing stiff fines, and although Jaguars owner Shad Khan didn’t directly address that in his announcement, his statement suggested that he decided just this week to get rid of Coughlin immediately.
“I determined earlier this fall that making this move at the conclusion of the 2019 season would be in everyone’s best interests but, in recent days, I reconsidered and decided to make this change immediately,” Khan said. “I thank Tom for his efforts, not only over the past three years but for all he did from our very first season, 25 years ago, to put the Jacksonville Jaguars on the map. General Manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone will each report directly to me on an interim basis. My expectations and those of our fans, for our final two games and the 2020 season, are high.”
Coughlin has been perhaps the most significant figure in the history of the Jaguars’ franchise, first as the team’s original coach and then in his current stint running the front office. But in both cases he wore out his welcome, and now he’s been fired by the Jaguars for the second time.
The NFL has a lot of strange and interesting stories, some of which are even actually true. What are some of your favorites? Some of the strange stories:
- The only players to catch a pass over the age of forty are Jerry Rice and Brett Farve (who threw it to himself) . Jerry Rice and Brett Favre are the only non-kickers to play in more than 300 games. Brady is currently at 283 and Brees is at 273.
- Two Browns fans developed helmet radios. While they were testing them a police car driving by picked up their signal are asked what they were doing. After hearing their story, the police officer agreed to never tell anyone about it cause he was also a fan.
- The Steelers and Eagles, due to man shortage caused by WW2, once combined to become the Steagles.
- You can fair catch a kickoff and then attempt a field goal from that spot. The defense has to start 10 yards away and you dont have to hike the ball, just kinda kick it.
- Frank Reich, a career back up, once held the record for both the greatest comback in college football and greatest comeback in the NFL. He still holds the record for the NFL. He is also the only QB to be undefeated in the playoffs with multiple starts
- Steve Young is the only left-handed quarterback in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Bruce Arians is the first white Virginia Tech football player to share a room with a black roomate. His roommate? James Barber, father of Tiki and Ronde Barber.
- The 1932 NFL Champion Chicago Bears did not score a single point until their fifth game.
As you have no doubt heard, last night against the Colts, New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees put on a freaking SHOW. In an absolutely unforgettable performance, (29/30, 307 yards, 4TDs, 0 INTs), not only did Drew set the all-time record for passing TDs, surpassing both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but he also set an NFL record for passing completion percentage, at 96.7%.
As far as regular season stats go, Drew Brees is:
#1 in passing yards, all-time.
#2, #4, #5, #6 and #10 in passing yards, single season.
#1 in passing TDs, all-time.
#6 and #9 in passing TDs, single season.
#1 completion percentage, all-time.
#1 in completion percentage, single game.
#1, #2, #3, #6 and #7 in completion percentage, single season.
This post isn't to debate whether or not Brees' accomplishments make him the true GOAT or not, it's not about whether he is overall a better QB than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana or anyone else, it's simply a recognition that you know what? Drew Brees is a pretty damn good Quarterback. Whether he is the GOAT or not doesn't really matter. He is a guaranteed Hall of Famer, and will always be one of the greatest players the NFL has ever witnessed.