Recap – Week 16

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Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans

16-25 

Tennessee’s postseason chances seemed doomed when quarterback Marcus Mariota left the game with a shoulder injury at the end of first half, but Blaine Gabbert played an efficient game in the second half, completing 7 of 11 passes for 101 yards and the game-winng touchdown in the fourth quarter to help keep their postseason hopes alive.

Gabbert might get another shot to lead the team in Week 17 against the Colts, depending on Mariota‘s status. Having said that, the Titans, who improved to 9-6 on the season will need a repeat of Gabbert‘s play given that the wild-card berth in the AFC is likely to come down to the final game.

In his previous two games Titans running back Derrick Henry produced 170+ rushing yards, but the Redskins brought him back down to Earth, holding him to 84 yards rushing and a touchdown on 21 carries. Henry, however, saved his best running for when it mattered most in the final two quarters. After being held to 27 rushing on seven carries in the first half, he found a rhythm in the second with 57 yards on 14 attempts to help pace Tennessee’s ground attack, which totaled 99 yards.

Henry‘s hot December continued in the end zone on Saturday. In his three year career he’s had 22 rushing touchdowns with 12 coming in December. Eight of his 12 rushing scores in 2018 have come in the past three weeks, his emergence down the stretch of the season will be a large contributing factor in determining whether the Titans make it to the postseason.

Washington’s offensive story has been one of turmoil, plagued by injuries at Quarterback and on the offensive line. On Saturday veteran running back Adrian Peterson proved a constant light for the hosts. He showed flashes of his younger days, running with speed, agility and power en route to an impressive 199 yard rushing day from 26 carries. The 33-year-old joined the ‘Skins in August and entered the game needing 77 yards to reach 1,000 rushing for the eighth time in his career.

Peterson became just the fifth player in the history of the NFL to rush for 1,000+ yards in a season at the age of 33 or older. He joins Frank Gore and Hall of Famers John Riggins, who did it twice, Franco Harris and John Henry Johnson, who also did it twice.

Washington QB Josh Johnson was having a good game, displaying poise through the first three quarters, until ‘disaster’ struck. The 32-year-old signal-caller threw two costly interceptions with the game still very much in doubt, costing the Redskins victory and likely any glimpse of hope for some postseason action. To his credit he’s in a tough spot, taking over last week when injuries wrecked the QB position after both Alex Smith and Colt McCoy broke their leg.

The loss dropped the Redskins to 7-8 with one game to go.

 

Up Next:

Eagles v Redskins – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Colts v Titans – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Baltimore Ravens v Los Angeles Chargers

22-10 

In a game featuring two AFC heavyweights, the Ravens became the defensive fiends we all knew they could be. They dominated LA’s sixth-ranked offense, who managed just 198 total net yards, 194 yards below their game average of 392. The Chargers were also held 18.2pts below their season average of 28.2.

Baltimore set the tone early with an incredible first half, holding 19:53 to LA’s 10:06 time of possession and a 223-72 margin in total net yards. The Ravens’ defense continued to deal blows in the second half, finishing the game with four sacks, two interceptions and a game-changing fumble recovery which was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Baltimore’s rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson totaled 39 yards rushing, he then proved he can be more than a rusher by posting a career-high 204 passing yards. His most impressive throw of the game came on a gorgeous pass over the top to fellow rookie Mark Andrews, who caught the ball in stride en route to a 68 yard touchdown.

Jackson,who completed 12 of 22 passes, posted a career-high 101.3 passer rating and 9.3 yards per attempt. He still has room to improve, as most rookies and even veterans do, especially when it comes to his mechanics and accuracy, but his performance in Los Angeles against a Chargers defense ranked eighth in the league put AFC teams and defensive coordinators on high alert. He proved that everyone has something to worry about if they come up against them in the postseason.

The Chargers made some costly turnovers in the game on Saturday night, add that to their inability to convert on third down (4 of 13) and eight penalties for 69 yards, it just wasn’t a good night for them. Quarterback Philip Rivers came up short with 181 yards passing, marking the first time this season he’s failed to top the 200 yard mark.

While the defeat lessons the Chargers’ hold on the top wild-card spot, the setback opened up some breathing room for Kansas City in the AFC West. Don’t be too quick to write off the Chargers based on this game though, they still remain one of the NFL’s top teams. They just had the misfortune of coming up against a Ravens defense who finally found their stride.

Speaking of Baltimore, they have won five of their last six games and are arguably the team nobody in the AFC wants to face come January. They maintained their hold on the No.6 seed and are on fire just at the right time with an elite defense built to win it all.


Up Next:

Ravens v Browns – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Chargers v Broncos – Sunday, December 30th (4:25pm)

 

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Houston Texans v Philadelphia Eagles

30-32

Nick Foles shook of a lost fumble, an ugly interception and a few first half miss-throws to dismantle Houston’s secondary, who lost three of their top four cornerbacks in the process.

After a gorgeous 83 yard throw, a 37 yard play to Darren Sproles and an almost telepathic connection with Zach Ertz, Foles broke Donovan Mcnabb‘s single-game franchise passing record with 417 yards. He also became the only Eagles QB to ever record multiple games of 400+ yards and four touchdowns

Texans coach Bill O’Brien opted to punt from midfield in their key fourth-and-manageable situations, which was a stark contrast to Doug Pederson‘s aggressive ways. Philly built their lead on the fourth-and-2 scoring play by Sproles and fourth-and-3 conversion to Dallas Goedert that led to a fourth-and-1 touchdown by Ertz.

Deshaun Watson deserved a better result, carrying an offense that couldn’t run the ball and struggled in pass protection, they also lost Demaryius Thomas to what’s now believed to be a torn Achilles tendon. With the game hanging in the balance, Watson escaped three different sackers to hit Jordan Akins for 22 yards on third-and-11, which set up a beautiful 35 yarder to Vyncint Smith in the back of the end zone. Houston’s defense proceeded to let the signal-caller down in the two-minute drill.

What’s next for both teams? Well with Dallas clinching the NFC East, Philly need Minnesota to lose at home to the Chicago Bears in the final game to earn a wild-card berth. The defeat for the Texans was made worse by the Colts, Titans and Patriots winning on Sunday. Indy’s and Tennessee’s results mean Houston will have to go to Jacksonville and beat their frisky defense to secure the AFC South title, meanwhile New England have now leapfrogged Houston for the AFC’s No.2 seed and the postseason bye.

Up Next:

Jaguars v Texans – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Eagles v Redskins – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Green Bay Packers v New York Jets

44-38 (OT)

The game between two teams needing a merciful end to their season seemed like it would never end, but Aaron Rodgers looked like his old self again. The playmaker threw a dart to Davante Adams for a 16 yard game-winning score in overtime for a 44-38 victory over the Jets.

Heading into Sunday’s game, Rodgers was having one of his less productive seasons with a 97.2 QB rating (ninth-best in his career) and a rating of 1.6 touchdowns per game (last). He showed his old colors during the game, down 35-20 in the fourth quarter he orchestrated three scoring drives as Green Bay outscored the Jets 18-3 to send the game to overtime. The signal-caller scored twice on one yard runs and added a two point conversion rush for a 38-35 lead. He then found Adams in overtime, who had 11 catches for 71 yards and is just one reception away from tying the single-season team record. Rodgers threw for 442 yards, two touchdowns and completed 37 of 55 passes and ran for the two scores.

Rookie Sam Darnold was on point for the Jets Sunday afternoon. He completed eight of 10 passes for 111 yards in the first quarter alone. Perhaps most impressively – thanks in large to Andre Roberts‘ 99 yard touchdown – Darnold was just as impressive in the second half. After Green Bay cut the score to 21-20 on the first drive of the third quarter, the young playmaker went a perfect five for five on the ensuing drive, culminating a 5 yard score to Chris Herndon.

A Packers special team play netted a fumble recovery following kickoff and Darnold completed a 20 yarder to Elijah McGuire for another touchdown and a 35-20 lead. After that New York got drastically conservative on both sides of the ball. Darnold finished the game completing 24 of 35 passes for 341 yards and three scores with no picks. After their late demise he drove the Jets downfield for a game-tying Jason Myers field goal. It may have been a loss for the Jets, but Darnold showed the world why he was a first-round pick.

Sunday’s victory was the Packers’ first on the road all season, the last time they went  winless away all season long was in 1958, the season before Vince Lombardi took over. The triumph gives them one last chance to win their first back-to-back games of the season. Should they lose to Detroit next week, it’ll be the first time since 2005 that they’ve failed to win back-to-back games in a campaign.

Up Next:

Lions v Packers – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Jets v Patriots – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots

12-24 

It was a record setting day for New England. They set the NFL record for 10 consecutive divisional titles by one team, winning the AFC East every year since 2009. They LAO equalled San Fransisco’s record of 16 consecutive double-digit victory seasons, the Pats haven’t finished a season without winning at least 10 games since 2002.

The Patriots have now won 15 divisional titles since the realignment in 2002, the most by far in the NFL. In addition to that, they’ve won the division 18 times under Robert Kraft‘s ownership and Bill Belichick tops the NFL coaches list with 10 consecutive titles under his belt.. Finally quarterback Tom Brady set another two records – the NFL’s record for most consecutive divisional titles by a starting quarterback (10) and the most divisional titles by any QB (16).

Moving on to the game action, the Bills defense did a good job for two and half quarters, but their season was embodied by a single play, a Julian Edelman catch and apparent tackle, but instead of the play being over the wide receiver landed on a defender without hitting the ground, realizing immediately he got up, raced to the end zone and added six more points to the scoreboard.

Up until that point the Patriots offense was struggling to take advantage of opportunities, but Edelman‘s was handed to them on a silver platter. That play was ultimately what sank Buffalo, who just couldn’t put together many points offensively. The bright light for them was Zay Jones, who caught five passes for 67 yards and found the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Fresh off their tough loss in Pittsburgh, New England rebounded well. Their defense caused Josh Allen a plethora of problems, resulting in two interceptions and a 52.6 passer rating. The Patriots blanketed the Bills’ rushing attack, limiting LeSean McCoy to just nine yards on six carries.

It started off as a very weird game, with both teams trading turnovers early and the Pats not fully separating from Buffalo until time made it a non-factor. Brady threw an uncharacteristically ugly interception to Lorenzo Alexander, which was followed up by an Allen interception on a great read by J.C. Jackson. Then Rex Burkhead fumbled an opportunity. In the end though it was the team that’s well-versed in success who came out on top and punched their ticket to the postseason.

For the first time in a while the Patriots don’t inspire a lot of confidence heading into the postseason, but no one can argue with their dominance. Their record of 10 consecutive AFC East titles and their double-digit wins, soothed concerns from last week and took care of business in a game that could’ve easily fallen on the tracks.

Houston’s loss to the Eagles sees New England jump to the AFC’s No.2 seed and a postseason bye.

 

Up Next:

Dolphins v Bills – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Jets v Patriots – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions

27-9 

The Vikings found themselves in a 9-0 hole early in the game with their offense seemingly asleep. Before Kirk Cousins and Co. woke up they’d compiled just five total yards on their first four drives and didn’t earn a first down until there was only 3:48 left in the first half. Full credit to the Vikings D for holding Detroit to three field goals, giving their offense the chance to awaken and find their groove, which they did.

Minnesota closed the first half with back-to-back touchdowns in the final 1:32 to take control of the game. Cousins took advantage of a blown coverage on Adam Thielen for a 40 yard gain to set up Stefon Diggs‘ score. Kyle Rudolph then went for a 44 yard Hail Mary touchdown that stole any momentum Detroit may have gained early on. In the second half Dalvin Cook finally arrived, shattering Detroit’s defense as the Vikings squeezed any sign of life out of a deflated Lions team, scoring 27 straight, unanswered points to close the game.

It was far from a crisp game for the 8-6-1 Vikings, but they took another step closer to the postseason with a divisional win on the road. Their defense held the Lions out of the zone for a second time this campaign, completely smothering Matthew Stafford in the second half. With the Eagles’ comeback victory over Houston, the Viking’s couldn’t clinch a postseason berth, but still can if they beat the NFC North-leading Bears in the season Finale at the U.S. Bank Stadium.

Matt Patricia’s Lions wasted golden opportunities to take a big lead early in the game. They began with great field position but had to settle for three field goals. As the saying goes winning teams score touchdowns, losing squads kick field goals. On Sunday the Lions were a field-goal team.

The margin of error for Matthew Stafford and his offense is so small they can’t consistently beat good defenses. The quarterback compiled a minute 116 passing yards before the final two drives. On his last five possessions, the Lions punted four times and turned it over on downs. The lions earned 37 yards on those five drives. Thanks to a defensive collapse at the end of the first half Detroit found themselves trailing by 14-9 heading into the break, destroying any positivity they may have generated. The Lions put zero effort into the final 32 minutes of the game.

Matt Patricia and his Lions will finish his first season in charge at the bottom of the NFC North.

Up Next:

Bears v Vikings – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Lions v Packers – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys

20-27 

Dallas desperately need a strong performance to forget about last week’s disastrous one. They got what they needed, just about, against the Buccaneers despite an uneven performance. In doing so they clinched their third NFC East title in five years with the victory, and their defense caused plenty of chaos for Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay.

Dak Prescott put in a steady performance that characterized most of his post-2016 games. He completed 20 of 25 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Ezekiel Elliot had 85 yards rushing on 18 carries to help provide a steady flow of offense that was greatly enhanced by a pair of defensive turnovers. It may not have been the most impressive performance but it was a good bounce-back game for Dallas who could be this year’s playoff underdogs.

Those two defensive turnovers were key in Dallas’ win. Randy Gregory registered a blindsided sack on Winston forcing a fumble that was promptly picked up by Jaylon Smith and returned for a 69 yard touchdown. The whole word watched as the 6ft 5″, 242-pound player bore down on the quarterback. Smith‘s gallop down the sideline was equally as exciting to watch. Later in the game Gregory recovered another fumble, this time on Tampa’s 6 yard line, to help the Cowboys score another TD two plays later. Dallas’ defensive contributions have played a massive role in the team’s second-half surge toward NFC stardom.

In Dallas, Winston tallied decent numbers, completing 34 of 48 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown, he also got sacked three times. The Buccs struggled once again to translate yards into points, going four-for-13 on third downs. Their running game lay dormant and holding penalties stymied drives, dooming them to their fifth 10-loss season in six years.

 

Up Next:

Falcons v Buccaneers – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Cowboys v Giants – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

18-26 

It’s the second time this season that the Browns faced the exiled Hue Jackson and Cleveland’s coaching staff operated aggressively, ignoring their punter on a pair of early fourth-and-shorts. The first was blown up by a penalty, but the second saw Baker Mayfield hit Jarvis Landry for nine yards to set up a perfectly placed, leaping touchdown grab by David Njoku three plays later.

That was the turning point of the game, with Cincy’s offense drifting away. Landry returned on the following drive to throw a beauty to Breshad Perriman for 63 yards to set up Mayfield’s sublime touchdown strike to Darren Fells.  That touchdown pass was the rookie quarterback’s 23rd of the season, tying him with Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson for the second most as a rookie passer. He finished the game with 284 yards and three scores, putting him all alone in third place in that rookie category behind Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson (26).

The Bengals offense is one of the league’s most banged-up and you could tell, with backup QB Jeff Driskel opening the game with five straight punts and generating just 37 yards in the first half. A fourth quarter blocked punt sparked a late-game Bengals rally, but it was too little, too late.

Cincinnati are a dangerously sloppy, flag-prone side who are like watching paint dry. Their worn out defense sat on the field for 35:31 against the 7-7-1 Browns, who dialed up three sacks and completed a Cincy sweep for the first time since 2002.

Cleveland’s Rashard Higgins (6/60/1) made a handful of eye-popping catches, one of which was a wildly artistic leaping scoring grab. Nick Chubb (19/112) ran with intense power, breaking the team’s rookie rushing record and again looked like a star-in-the-making. Their defense was led by constant pressure up the middle by Joe Schobert, Chris Smith, Larry Ogunjobi and Genard Avery.

 

Up Next:

Bengals v Steelers – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Browns v Ravens – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers

24-10 

This game saw two teams who are destined to watch the playoffs from the comfort of their own homes. The Falcon’s aerial attacked proved to be the difference on the day. Matt Ryan burned the Panthers’ D with two third-quarter lobs, a 75 yarder to Calvin Ridley and a 44 yard toss to Mohamed Sanu, to break the game wide open.

Those two were enough to give the Falcons the win and eliminate the Panthers from playoff contention. The defeat is the seventh straight for Carolina. Whilst it’s expected that Ron Rivera will return as head coach next season, you can expect plenty of changes elsewhere.

Christian McCaffrey continued to cement himself in the record books after another productive Sunday. The 22-year-old proved to be an effective security blanket for first-time starter Taylor Heinicke, who battled through what look like an ugly left elbow injury to finish the game. McCaffrey gathered up 12 passes to push his season total to 106, passing Matt Forte to set the NFL season record for receptions by a running back. He also topped Steve Smith for the team record of receptions in a season.

The NFL sophomore also cleared the 100 yard mark on the ground for the fourth time this season, becoming the first Panthers running back to rush for 1,000 yards since DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both did so in 2009. On top of that he’s just the third back in NFL history to log 1,000 rushing yard and record 100+ catches in a single season. Forte and Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson are the only others to achieve the feat.

Atlanta punter Matt Bosher delivered one of the hits of the year during the first half. Panthers returner Kenjon Barner found a crease down the right sideline on a second quarter kickoff and was met by Bosher at Carolina’s 36 yard line. The punter picked Barner up and clotheslined him with a tackle that just added insult to injury in the Panthers’ final home game of the season.


Up Next:

Falcons v Buccaneers – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Panthers v Saints – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Miami Dolphins 

17-7 

In the two weeks since the Miami Miracle the Dolphins have fallen flat, first getting blown over by the Vikings in Minneapolis and now failing to muster more than seven points against a beatable Jacksonville. To put into perspective how beatable the Jags really are, they found themselves in the red zone on one possession and ended up punting three downs later, on fourth and 46. Miami didn’t take advantage of a single one of the opportunities handed to them by the visitors.

Worst of all when the game was tied 7-7 midway through the final quarter, the ‘Fins collectively crumbled, capped off by Telvin Smith‘s pick-six of Ryan Tannehill, which followed the Jags’ go ahead field goal.

Miami lost to a Jaguars team so confused offensively, it turned to Blake Bortles when it became clear the banged-up Cody Kessler couldn’t lead them to a win. The hosts had the look of a team that might have been capable of a playoff appearance, but fell short.

Jacksonville’s defense was the one we expected to see for most of the season. Fresh off a 16-13 defeat to Washington, they stood tall and did much of what led them to an AFC South crown last year; they pressured the quarterback (six sacks), kept the opposition out of the red zone (one trip) and completed the trifecta with the vital defensive score. Whilst their defense has shone for much of this season, they need a major offensive remodeling in the offseason.

Up Next:

Jaguars v Texans – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Bills v Dolphins – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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New York Giants v Indianapolis Colts

27-28 

Indy trailed for the majority of the game, but, no matter how grim it looked they never appeared to be in a dire situation. Andrew Luck spearheaded the rally, piecing together a nice, eight-play drive that included a 14 yard run by the quarterback and a 12 yard pass to T.Y. Hilton before throwing to Chester Rogers for a one yard score, giving the hosts their first lead of the afternoon with 2:48 left in the game.

Eli Manning showed flashes of brilliance throughout the affair, but couldn’t get the job done when the 5-10 Giants needed him most. Getting the ball back with 55 seconds left and only trailing by a point with one timeout left, he was picked off by Malik Hooker in the midfield to close out the game. Besides the interception he had a strong game, connecting on 25 of 33 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown, however Manning‘s crunch time struggles continue to cast doubts over his ability to lead the Giants back to the postseason.

Although the Colts defense had some issues keeping the veteran QB in check, they found ways to limit Saquon Barkley‘s effectiveness in a matchup between the likely offensive and defensive rookies of the year, Indy’s Darius Leonard put on a slightly better show, tallying eight tackles. Barkley was limited to 42 yards on the ground and a touchdown on 21 carries, though he did find himself with five catches for 34 yards.

 

Up Next:

Cowboys v Giants – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Colts v Titans – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Chicago Bears v San Fransisco 49ers

14-9

It may not have been pretty but the Chicago Bears took care of business on the road. It was a scrappy, mistake-filled contest, but the best defense in the league stood tall when it mattered most. Danny Trevathan got an early christmas present when a pass from Nick Mullens rebounded off the hands of Niners receiver Marquise Goodwin and into his lap for an interception as the hosts were driving for a score.

On the next drive, they looked poised to close out the game, but on 3rd-and-3 Allen Robinson caught a slant and gained enough ground to earn a first down. Had he simply slid down, Chicago could have kneeled out the game, instead he kept running and had the ball popped out from behind by Tavarius Moore, giving the Niners new hope. Again the visiting defense stood tall to thwart any chance of a comeback.

San Fransisco have a no quit attitude this season, fighting tooth-and-nail with the NFC North champions even with the ever increasing number of injuries. Despite those setbacks they still moved the ball well against Chicago, including converting 7 of 14 third downs. Nick Mullens continued his stellar performances, throwing strikes and standing strong in the face of pressure. The signal-caller is fearless in the face of defensive rushes. Their season may be lost, but the Niners performance down the stretch should bring a lot of optimism into next season.

The contest was marred by a late fourth quarter sideline fight that led to the ejections of 49ers’ Richard Sherman and Bears receivers Anthony Miller and Josh Bellamy. The incident occurred after a Mitch Trubisky scramble. The QB slid and took a late hit by Niners’ Marcell Harris in front of the Bears’ sideline. The fight then broke out, during which Sherman seemed to take on the entire Chicago roster. After a lengthy delay all three players were kicked out and can all expect fines to be coming later this week.

The victory keeps the 11-4 Bears in the hunt for a possible playoff bye. They will be San Fransisco fans next week with Matt Nagy‘s team needing a victory over the Vikings and a Rams loss against the 49ers to leapfrog LA for the No.2 seed.

 

Up Next:

Bears v Vikings – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

49ers v Rams – Sunday, December 30th (4:25pm)

 

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Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals

31-9 

LA snapped an ugly two-game losing streak with a victory over the helpless Cardinals. Without the injured Todd Gurley, who was ruled out pre-game with a knee injury, the Rams handed the ball and the reins to C.J. Anderson, who had the game of his career. He rushed for 167 yards, one short of a career high, at an impressive 8.4 yards per carry and scored his first touchdown of the season. The 27-year-old rammed through the Cardinals’ front seven and helped the Rams’ first half scoring drives. The consistent attack opened the visitor’s play action game and lessened the beating on Jared Goff, who had his most solid outing since their bye (216 yards, 1 TD, 1 sack).

In addition to AndersonRobert Woods picked up some of the work with 89 yards and a score through the air and another on the ground. That being said, the O-line is still showing signs of weakness in pass protection and could wilt against a more serious pass rush in the postseason.

Aaron Donald‘s Defensive Player of the Year campaign reached new highs on Sunday afternoon as the defensive tackle accumulated three more sacks, giving him 19.5 heading into the final week of the season, just three behind Michael Strahan‘s single-season record of 22.5. Donald‘s QB takedowns are the most in a single season by an interior linesman in NFL history and by a Rams player in franchise history.

In what might have been Larry Fitzgerald‘s home game as a Cardinal he put up six catches for 53 yards. Whilst they’re pedestrian numbers, if it’s his final game in front of home fans it was a memorable one. He did something he’s not done before in his 15 year career, throw a touchdown pass. The 35-year-old took a second quarter toss from Josh Rosen and sent it flying down the sideline to David Johnson for a 32 yard score.

With the Saints also winning, the Rams can’t secure home-field advantage in the NFC, but they can ensure themselves a first-round bye if they defeat the Niners next week.

Up Next:

49ers v Rams – Sunday, December 30th (4:25pm)

Cardinals v Seahawks – Sunday, December 30th (4:25pm)

 

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Pittsburgh Steelers v New Orleans Saints

28-31 

Heading into the matchup both teams had plenty on the line, Pittsburgh were looking to secure its hold on the AFC North and the Saints were seeking to clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason, New Orleans accomplished their mission.

The home offense looked better than in its previous three games, helped by the fact it was their first home game since Thanksgiving. Drew Brees paced an efficient first half with 151 passing yards and the Saints held a 17-14 lead. The second half was a completely different story, with the Saints struggling with consistency after taking a 24-14 with two straight punts and a blocked field goal. They then had to claw back with less than two minutes remaining to come out on top.

Pittsburgh pretty much abandoned their running game after gaining 41 yards on 12 carries in the first half, unleashing Ben Roethlisberger on the Saints’ pass defense. The quarterback completed 33 of 50 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns, finding Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster for big plays. Brown hauled in 14 passes for 185 yards and two scores, whilst Smith-Schuster totaled 11 catches for 115 yards. At the completion of the game the Steelers had rushed for just 65 yards on 18 carries.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff hopes are on life support heading into the final week. At 8-6-1 they need to beat the Bengals and see the Ravens lose to the Browns to secure a spot in the playoffs, if that doesn’t happen they’ll miss the postseason for the first time since 2013.

 

Up Next:

Bengals v Steelers – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Panthers v Saints – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

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Kansas City Chiefs v Seattle Seahawks

31-38 

Seattle bounced back to deliver a shock defeat to the AFC leaders on Sunday night, punching their ticket to the postseason for the sixth time in seven season. They clinched a playoff spot off the legs of Chris Carson, who ran for a near-season-high 116 yards and two touchdowns, the golden arm of Russell Wilson, who threw for three touchdowns and escaped the pocked for 59 rushing yards; and the toughness of Dough Baldwin, who stepped up for a season-high 126 receiving yards.

The game of keep-away played by the Seahawks resulted in them rushing for 211 yards by the end of the night and saw them keep the lead they took into halftime. Even when the hosts took a slim lead in the fourth quarter they didn’t shy away from attacking the visiting defense with feline-eqsue instincts.

Patrick Mahomes is never one to be outperformed, he bolstered his MVP campaign by throwing three touchdowns, including two marvels after the break. The Chiefs’ playmaker continues to throw passes at unseen angles, shocking defenders and fans alike with his casually improvised style. Even in defeat, he performed like a QB primed for adverse environments in the upcoming postseason push. With one game left, the signal-caller is up to 48 passing touchdowns, a feat only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have accomplished. If he manages eight more against the Raiders on the final day, the single-season record is his to boast.

Due to the Chargers’ loss on Saturday night, K.C. could have not only clinched the AFC West but postseason home-field advantage too, alas the defeat sees them fight it out down to the wire.

Riding their first two-game losing streak of the season, the 11-4 Chiefs now enter week 17 unsure of their postseason status. Though they should easily handle Oakland and therefore secure home-filed advantage, all isn’t well with the Chiefs, especially defensively, aside from Chris Jones, who extended his sack streak to a record 11 games. The traveling D allowed at least 30 first downs for the second consecutive game, including five via penalties.

The Seahawks can secure the fifth seed position with a win over the Cardinals. A matchup with the Cowboys in Arlington on Wild Card weekend is all but secured.

Up Next:

Raiders v Chiefs – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

Cardinals v Seahawks – Sunday, December 30th (4:25pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 13.27.30

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders

14-27

The Raiders’ win didn’t help their chances of being the first team on the draft clock in Nashville this April, but it did showcase some encouraging signs for their offense.

Derek Carr put in a steady performance, leaning heavily on short and medium-range passes and relying on receivers Jordy Nelson and Jalen Richard to win position battles rather than foot races. The signal-caller finished the game completing 19 of 26 passes for 167 yards. It was a strong, crowd-pleasing performance for a Raiders team that found revenge for their Week 2 loss to the Broncos.

The quarterback and Coach Gruden ended their night by giving fans high-fives. If Monday’s game did indeed mark the end of the Raiders’ time in Oakland, at least they went out with a bang. It remains to be seen where they’ll be playing next year amid an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by the City.

Doug Martin, who’s more or less been dormant in the Raiders’ offense this year, churned out a season-best 107 yards. He started off his big night with a 24-yard touchdown run that helped the Raiders jump to a 14-0 lead. The offensive line consistently stymied the Broncos’ pass rush, creating lanes for Martin to burst through.

Dwayne Harris also came out of the woodwork and scored one of the most thrilling touchdowns of the season to set the tone early on. After Denver tried to keep a Raiders punt out of the end zone, Harris scooped up the loose ball on Oakland’s 1-yard line and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. The play, which tied for the second-longest punt return in NFL history, sent Gruden into a fist-raising frenzy on the sideline. It was his first touchdown since 2016 when he was still with the New York Giants. Harris joins Patrick Peterson (99 yards) and Robert Bailey (103) as the only players to score a TD on a punt return of 99 yards or more.

Oakland’s defense was solid. It wasn’t until the middle of the third quarter that Case Keenum was able to cross the Raiders’ 40-yard line on an 82-yard drive that was capped off with a 7-yard touchdown pass to DaeSean Hamilton. Denver’s glimpse of hope didn’t last long though, with the Raiders piecing together a seven-minute scoring drive in the fourth quarter, the Keenum comeback machine just couldn’t get up and running.

Marcus Gilchrist and Erik Harris picked off Keenum on consecutive possessions to annihilate the Broncos’ chances for victory. Denver’s playmaker racked up just 23-of-37 passing for 202 yards and two touchdowns, showcasing his limitations in an offense that’s sorely missing Emmanuel Sanders.

 

Up Next:

Chargers v Broncos – Sunday, December 30th (4:25pm)

Raiders v Chiefs – Sunday, December 30th (1pm)

 

ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN

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