The Cleveland Browns stumbled to defeat at the New York Jets to leave them in danger of dropping out of the AFC playoffs, in the same week that the Pittsburgh Steelers clinched the North, while the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears both boosted their chances of booking a postseason berth in the NFC: here’s a look at what we learned from NFL Sunday in Week 16…
Cleveland Browns 16-23 New York Jets
A week after winning their first game of the season, the Jets made it two in a row with an almighty upset victory over a Browns team that were expected to unleash Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt as “trojan horses” to put them within sight of a rare appearance in the postseason.
Chubb and Hunt each scored touchdowns, but their combined rushing yardage amounted to a paltry 39 yards as Baker Mayfield attempted a whopping 53 pass attempts, of which he completed only 28 scattered among eight different targets.
This was a huge chance missed for a Cleveland franchise bidding for only their second playoff appearance in their history, and their first since 2002-03. They can still advance, but they would rather be looking for revenge against the Jets than facing the visit of NFC North champion Steelers in Week 17, knowing that nothing less than a victory will extend their campaign. Keith Jackson
Up Next – Browns vs Steelers (Sunday, 6pm); Jets @ Patriots (Sunday, 6pm)
Chicago Bears 41-17 Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars kept this competitive in the first half, threatening even at times to cause an upset and make Jets fans the world over a very happy bunch.
But, from trailing by just three, 13-10 the break, the Mitch Trubisky train picked up the pace in the second half, leaving Jacksonville stranded behind in its wake – the Bears scored four unanswered touchdowns to start the second half.
Chicago now, suddenly, have an incredible chance to make the postseason – a mere three weeks on from sitting in a perilous position having lost six straight. David Currie
Up Next – Bears vs Packers (Sunday, 6pm); Jaguars @ Colts (Sunday, 6pm)
Denver Broncos 16-19 Los Angeles Chargers
Offensive Rookie of the Year might be all-but wrapped up, and it probably has been for some time. It’s been coming, and on Sunday Justin Herbert finally broke Baker Mayfield’s record for most single-season touchdown passes by a rookie in NFL history with 28, his decisive connection coming courtesy of Austin Ekeler.
Again, Broncos general manager John Elway was left to watch with envy while his own quarterback Drew Lock endured another disappointing day, finishing 24 of 47 for 264 yards and two interceptions.
While Herbert finds himself blessed with a fine supporting cast in Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry, it’s also worth point towards his success this season in making playmakers out of the lesser-known Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson and even Donald Parham in stages. On Sunday, he linked up with team-hopping veteran undrafted tight end Stephen Anderson with four catches for 48 yards. It’s a trait the best quarterbacks need. Cameron Hogwood
Up Next – Broncos vs Raiders (Sunday, 9.25pm); Chargers @ Chiefs (Sunday, 6pm)
Carolina Panthers 20-13 Washington Football Team
How the Washington Football Team need Alex Smith back.
With a playoff spot within their grasp, Dwayne Haskins has almost singlehandedly derailed the team in his last two weeks as starter, with an ill-advised trip to a strip club sandwiched between two uninspiring efforts on the field.
Haskins’ latest and perhaps last go leading the Washington offence saw him benched after throwing two picks with Washington digging themselves a 20-0 hole they ultimately couldn’t climb out of.
The NFC East, somehow, is still in their hands, but on this showing, would you back Washington to get the win they need next Sunday night, in prime time, against Philadelphia? David Currie
Up Next – Panthers vs Saints (Sunday, 6pm); Washington @ Eagles (Sunday, 6pm)
Philadelphia Eagles 17-37 Dallas Cowboys
In the ever-changing, bonkers world of the NFC East, are the Cowboys now favourites to take the division?
They’re certainly the form team of the bunch, taking this rout of the Eagles (to knock them out of contention) – their third-straight win – with them to New York next week, where the suddenly limping Giants await.
Victory for Dallas there would then just require a favour from old Philly – how Eagles fans would love that! – for them to sneak into the playoffs. And the way this offence and all its weapons are suddenly clicking, the Cowboys could actually prove to be a tough out. David Currie
Up Next – Eagles vs Washington (Sunday, 6pm); Cowboys @ Giants (Sunday, 6pm)
Atlanta Falcons 14-17 Kansas City Chiefs
Oh, Atlanta. Doesn’t get any easier, does it? Younghoe Koo learned that the NFL is rarely kind when it comes to timing. The Falcons kicker shanked a 39-yard field goal to tie the game with 13 seconds remaining to end a week that saw him named to the Pro Bowl for the first time before speaking to the media about refusing to give up after being cut by the Los Angeles Chargers on the back of a rocky start to his rookie year.
“I tried to get a backup plan, this and that, but it just never sat right with me. I felt I was wasting energy,” Koo told ESPN. “If it doesn’t work out, then I’ll put all my energy into something else. But I can sit at a desk and get a job when I’m 40. I can’t kick a ball when I’m 40.” – Timing.
As for the Chiefs, they delivered a warning of their ability to show up in big moments, namely Frank Clark and Chris Jones providing back-to-back sacks on Matt Ryan to derail the Falcons deep in Chiefs territory after Foyesade Oluokun had returned a Patrick Mahomes interception near the goalline for 51 yards. And then for Mahomes to sling a dime to DeMarcus Robinson to win the game as he did, you are once again left wondering who can stop this team from running it back. Cameron Hogwood
Up Next – Falcons @ Buccaneers (Sunday, 6pm); Chiefs vs Chargers (Sunday, 6pm)
Cincinnati Bengals 37-31 Houston Texans
Impressive again from the Bengals, proving that their win over the Steelers last week was far from a one-off.
Brandon Allen had himself a day, throwing for 371 yards and two scores! Deshaun Watson too boasted his typically impressive numbers – 324 yards and three TDs – but again the rest of his Texans team let him down.
J.J. Watt summed it up best as Houston dropped to 4-11 on the year! “If you can’t go out there and you can’t work out, you can’t show up on time, you can’t practice, you can’t want to go out there and win, you shouldn’t be here,” he said. “Because this is a privilege. It’s the greatest job in the world.
“We’re getting paid handsomely. That’s why. And that’s … that’s who I feel the most bad for.” David Currie
Up Next – Bengals vs Ravens (Sunday 6pm); Texans vs Titans (Sunday, 6pm)
New York Giants 13-27 Baltimore Ravens
By the end of NFL Sunday we’d been reminded of just how ridiculous the NFC East has been this season, as even a rather one-sided defeat for the Giants failed to completely diminish their playoff chances.
So here goes. The Giants will win the NFC East if they beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 and Washington lose to the Philadelphia Eagles. On the flip side, a defeat to the Cowboys along with wins for the Houston Texans against the Tennessee Titans, the Atlanta Falcons against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cincinnati Bengals against the Baltimore Ravens, the Eagles against Washington and the Detroit Lions against the Minnesota Vikings clinches them a top-three pick at the NFL Draft.
A third straight loss means they now occupy the eighth overall pick, meaning a real shot at one of the top first-round receivers in Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith, or potentially one of the leading pass rushers in Kwity Paye or Joseph Ossai. Joe Judge won’t be thinking about the Draft, though. Cameron Hogwood
Up Next – Giants vs Cowboys (Saturday, 6pm); Ravens @ Bengals (Sunday, 6pm)
Tennessee Titans 14-40 Green Bay Packers
Might Aaron Rodgers just have sewn up the league MVP award? It shouldn’t be as easy to chuck the ball around a snowy Lambeau Field as he made it look on Sunday night.
Just the four touchdown passes for Rodgers in the game – three of which to top target Davante Adams – to take him to 44 for the season and just one shy of his career-high mark of 45 set in 2011.
It wasn’t a one-man show on offence for Green Bay, however. Far from it. Rookie running back A.J. Dillon also had a day, helping himself to 124 yards and two TDs on the ground, as he outperformed the NFL’s leading rusher on the opposite sideline, Derrick Henry – no easy feat. David Currie
Up Next – Titans @ Texans (Sunday, 6pm); Packers @ Bears (Sunday, 6pm)
Los Angeles Rams 9-20 Seattle Seahawks
There is an added weight of expectation on the shoulders of Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks when he puts on the 56 jersey, which was of course donned by Cliff Avril during his Super Bowl-winning career with the team.
Brooks’ impact has been slow-coming since being selected at 27th overall in April’s Draft, but he was one of the decisive contributors on Sunday in perhaps the Seahawks’ most accomplished defensive performance of the season.
The Texas Tech product led Seattle with eight total tackles and had a hand in three of four successive stuffs while his team defended from inside their own four-yard line as the Rams looked to respond to Russell Wilson’s rushing touchdown at the beginning of the second half. The stop typified the performance, defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s unit shutting down Darrell Henderson and the run game throughout while wisely testing a confidence-lacking Jared Goff to beat him.
It also helps when you have somebody like Jamal Adams, who was everywhere on the day. He produced a touchdown-saving clip to stop Henderson short of the goalline in a play that set up Brooks’ key involvement, and should have actually had an interception after breaking up a pass intended for Tyler Higbee. Cameron Hogwood
Up Next – Rams vs Cardinals (Sunday, 9.25pm; Seahawks @ 49ers (Sunday, 9.25pm)
Indianapolis Colts 24-28 Pittsburgh Steelers
For almost an hour of a big AFC clash at Heinz Field, the Steelers were “lacklustre”, “looking short of energy and ideas” and “second best in every department” – but a rejuvenated defence combined with Ben Roethlisberger’s renewed poise and accuracy, and some clutch catching from the wide receiving corps led the hosts to the NFC North title.
Rodrigo Blankenship’s field goal made it 24-7 to the Colts early in the second half, and there seemed no way back for the Steelers, but a stunning catch in the endzone from Diontae Johnson turned the game on it’s head.
The Steelers now march into the postseason with renewed confidence, while Colts head coach Frank Reich has much repair work to do on his squad before their final-week clash against the Jaguars. At 10-5, Indianapolis are one of five teams in the AFC with the same record as the Wild Card race goes down to the wire. Keith Jackson
Up Next – Colts vs Jaguars (Sunday, 6pm); Steelers @ Browns (Sunday, 6pm)
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