The Dolphins had won three in a row and five of their last seven, including some huge divisional game wins over the Jets and Patriots. That late surge had put them right in the thick of the wild-card spot for the AFC Playoffs. But all of that is nearly shot with their efforts on Sunday when they came out and laid an egg against Buffalo. The 19-0 loss for the Dolphins makes it extremely difficult for them to still make the playoffs and they’d need a bunch of other things to go their way for that to happen. Neither quarterback played particularly lights out in this one, but the big stat to note was Ryan Tannehill getting sacked seven times for 46 yards. Those seven added to a total of 56 on the season for the Bills, which is a new single-season record for them. Dan Carpenter scored the most points in this game, tallying four field goals throughout the first and fourth quarter. Outside of that, Fred Jackson had a nine-yard run in the second. Outside of that, little to report on the Dolphins side. And despite the sheer disappointment that fans are likely to be feeling on South Beach, at least Heat season is in full swing.
Drew Brees is known for his late-game heroics and being one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. On Sunday, Cam Newton led his own last minute drive that may have solidified his place among upcoming talent at the QB position. The win, which knocked the Saints from first place in their division and put the Panthers into second in the NFC and the potential at a first-round bye with a win next weekend, shows the changes that have occurred this year in the NFC South. One year after a bounty scandal, the Saints came out the gates firing this season. But a surprising loss last weekend to the Rams put them in a precarious position that allowed for the Panthers to capitalize today. Drew Brees was 30-44 for 281 yards, but he also threw two interceptions. Cam Newton was only 13-22 for 181 yards, but it was the 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left that Carolina fans won’t forget anytime soon. Now the Panthers have to beat Atlanta next week to get that first-round bye, while the Saints will need a win against Tampa to stay in the playoffs. Quite the turnaround in the NFC South this year.
Joke all you want about the Cowboys not being able to win crucial games in December, because they showed that they can with their 24-23 win on Sunday. The only problem is the fact that the game was against a 3-12 Redskins team that had a backup quarterback leading them. Nonetheless, the win, which came with a 10-yard Tony Romo pass to DeMarco Murray with just over one-minute remaining, allows for the Cowboys to potentially make the playoffs if they can beat the Eagles next weekend in the final game of the season. Throughout the rest of the game, Romo would go 17-27 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Kirk Cousins, who got the start over Robert Griffin III, would go 21-36 for 197 yards and one-to-one touchdown to interception ratio. Murray would also have 96 yards rushing in this game, which put him over 1,000 yards on the season. All eyes will now shift to Dallas next week in a pivotal NFC East showdown where the winner will take all and the loser will go home.
It didn’t mean much, but the Rams 23-13 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday continued to show just how tough the NFC West is. If the Rams could somehow win next weekend against Seattle, in a game that doesn’t mean much to the Seahawks, the Rams would finish the season 8-8 and not even make the playoffs. In contrast to the NFC North and NFC East where an 8-8 season may be all that it needs to win their division. Nonetheless, the Rams, who are winners of two in a row, are showing that they have a decent team and will be happy to get back Sam Bradford next season. On Sunday, Kellen Clemens went 16-20 for 158 yards. For the Bucs, rookie quarterback Mike Glennon also had 16 completions for 158-yards. Neither quarterback threw a touchdown or any interceptions. Zac Stacy did have 104 yards on the ground for the Rams and defensive end Robert Quinn had three sacks to set the franchise season record. Not a bad game for the Rams, but both of these teams are out of the playoff picture.
Also out of the playoff picture are the Browns and Jets. That’s why it should come as no surprise that the Jets would come out and put together a 24-13 win when nobody cares. The Jets will have a chance to finish the season at .500 if they can win against the Dolphins next weekend. That should be an interesting matchup between two teams that don’t have any playoff hopes, but may be interested in winning the final game of the season for some sort of moral victory. As for this one, Geno Smith had two touchdowns and no interceptions, along with 214 yards on 20-36 passing. For the Browns, Jason Campbell had a day he’d like to forget on 18-40 for only 178 yards and no touchdowns but two interceptions. The loss marks the sixth in a row for the Browns, all of which have come since their bye week.
The Colts wanted to prove that they were ready for the playoffs with a huge win over the Chiefs on Sunday in Kansas City. And after the Chiefs scored on their opening drive, it may not have looked like they’d have much, excuse the pun, luck in that situation. However, Andrew Luck was able to put up 241-yards and a touchdown and the Colts defense would shutout the Chiefs for the remainder of the game. The final result was a huge 23-7 win over for the Colts, which is their second over a top AFC West opponent (they gave the Broncos their first loss of the season earlier this season). The win also put the Colts in the conversation, depending on what happens to the Patriots, for a potential number two overall seed, which would come with a first-round bye. Wouldn’t that be something if we were looking at Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck going against one another once again next month? Anyways, as for now, the Colts huge win is their second in a row and proves that they can bang out a tough road win if necessary. Although, they may not need to with their current win-loss. As for the Chiefs, the 7 total points has to be a bit of a concern for a team that put up 56 and 45 in their last two games. They’ll look to get things going against San Diego next week in their last game of the season.
On Sunday we saw a lot of performances that were disappointing and resulted in teams losing out on potential playoff spots. Andy Dalton and the Bengals didn’t want to be mentioned in that same sentence. And with their 42-14 win over the Vikings, they won’t be. The win clinches a playoff berth, no matter how things shake out next week against Baltimore. Dalton threw four touchdowns on Sunday and no interceptions, along with 366 yards on 27-38 passing. Matt Cassel would throw nearly as many interceptions, three, as Dalton did touchdowns and only amassed 114 yards total passing. Adrian Peterson would also have a disappointing day with only 45 yards on 11 carries. At 10-5 the Bengals are already in the playoffs so one might think that next weekend’s game isn’t a big deal against the Ravens. However, if the Bengals can continue to play at home like they did on Sunday, they’ll want to win next weekend to further their chances of home field advantage throughout part of the playoffs.
Peyton Manning had a few extra days to plan for the Texans this week. After their disappointing loss to the Chargers on Thursday in Week 15, the Broncos need to continue to play well if they hope for home field advantage throughout the playoffs and potentially at MetLife stadium if they can make it that far. It seemed like the added time to prepare was just what Manning needed. In his four-touchdown performance on Sunday, he would surpass his own season best at 49 touchdowns, as well as Tom Brady’s 50-touchdown mark, on route to setting the new record at 51 touchdowns for a single season. The best part, well if you’re a Broncos fan that is, Manning still has one more game to add to that total. Along with those four touchdowns, Manning would throw for 400 yards on 32-51 passing. For Houston, things continued as expected. Matt Schaub went 18-37 for only 176 yards. He did find Keyshawn Martin in the third quarter for a touchdown, but he also found the Broncos defense twice for two interceptions. The Texans only have one more game before they can call it a season and get into the offseason, while the Broncos are just ramping up into the most crucial part of their campaign.
A loss to the Jags on Sunday would’ve completely demoralized the Tennessee Titans. Sure, they aren’t in the playoff picture, but this is a team that had high hopes at the beginning of the season, until Jake Locker went down and Chris Johnson forgot how to maximize his insanely quick speed. Since their 3-1 start, the Titans have gone 2-8 and needed a win against Jacksonville, for moral reasons if nothing else. And though the 20-16 win might not of been the spread they were hoping for, the Titans pounded the ball on the ground and were able to dominate the time of possession against Jacksonville. Chad Henne was 24-34 for the Jags with 237 yards and two touchdowns, but it’s likely that Jacksonville may be looking at the upcoming draft to find a future quarterback star. They only have one game left against Indy before they’ll start preparing for their offseason. The Titans will look to win their last game of the season against an equally disappointing Texans team.
The Seahawks have already established their place in the NFC Playoffs. The Arizona Cardinals are fighting for their lives with each week. But for the Cardinals to go into Seattle and end the Seahawks 14-game home winning streak is an accomplishment that shouldn’t go overlooked. Not only did the Cardinals beat one of the toughest home teams in the league, but the win also was their 10th on the season. And they are STILL in third place in the NFC West. It’s amazing to think that just two seasons ago the Seahawks represented the NFC West with a 7-9 record. And now this year, it’s possible that all of the teams will be above .500, three teams will have double digits win but only two teams will make the playoffs. But as for Sunday, Jay Feely notched three field goals for the Cardinals and it was a 31-yard pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd that put them just out of reach with the 17-10 win. The loss was the first for Russell Wilson, who went only 11-27 for 108 yards. He was also sacked four times for 19-yards. The Seahawks are in for sure and unless they lose next week, they’ll get the number one seed. But the Cardinals will hope for another huge win against San Francisco next weekend to make things even more interesting for the playoff picture. The 49ers have already beat the Cardinals once, but now this game will be in Arizona with much more on the line.
The Lions loss may have had more implications than just missing out on the playoffs after a colossal collapse in recent weeks. At Week 11 of the season, the Lions were leading a surprisingly weak NFC North conference. But with five losses in their last six games, everyone in Detroit is shaking their heads about how this could’ve happened. One. That’s all they needed. One win would’ve got them into the playoffs and a clean slate with Matthew Stafford and Megatron. Instead, they’ll play a meaningless game against Minnesota next week and wait for what could be a complete reshuffle for their organization. The head coach deserves to be fired. The entire staff deserves to be fired. What may have been worse about the loss on Sunday was that it was to an equally putrid Giants squad that only tallied their sixth win of the season. Eli Manning and Stafford had similar numbers, both throwing 42 times. And while Stafford had 25 completions to Manning’s 23, Manning had 256 yards and a touchdown, to Stafford’s 222 yards and two interceptions. This could’ve been the Lions first divisional title since 1993 and they completely lost it. Expect a bunch of changes to take place, potentially for both of these teams. The Giants will look to end the season on a two game winning streak with a win over the Redskins next weekend.
It seems that every year around this time, the Chargers are making a late push that puts them in the playoff conversation. However, even after their 26-13 win on Sunday, they’ll still need a few more lucky things to happen if they want to make the post season representing one of the toughest divisions in football. As for Sunday, the Chargers did what they needed to. Phillip Rivers was 19-29 for 201 yards and a touchdown and interception. Matt McGloin was 20-36 for 206 yards and a touchdown. Nick Novak also had four field goals for the Chargers. The Chargers need the Dolphins and Ravens to lose if they want to make the AFC West have three teams make it, which very well could happen. But most importantly, the Chargers will need to beat KC next week in a huge divisional game.
The Steelers and Packers game was an interesting one with its result. The 38-31 win for the Steelers allowed Pittsburg to stay in the playoff picture and for the Packers to not necessarily be completely out of it. Like the Chargers, both the Packers and Steelers will need a lot of help for things to work out their way. The Steelers need to win next weekend against the Browns, which is completely viable. But then they also need the Ravens, Chargers and Dolphins to all lose. Luckily for Green Bay, they needed Chicago to lose, which they did and that allows the Packers to stay in playoff contention. However it is looking like Aaron Rodgers may still not return next weekend and it’s uncertain if Clay Mathews will be able to play either. As for this Sunday, Matt Flynn went 21-39 for the Packers for 232 yards and a touchdown. Ben Roethlisberger was 16-28 for 167 yards of his own, including two touchdowns and an interception. It’s unlikely but both of these teams could still be in the conversation after next week.
Add the Ravens to the list of teams this week that completely forgot to show up and their post season hopes could have diminished because of it. The Patriots 41-7 blowout of the Ravens means their fifth straight AFC East title and is also good for their overall standing in the AFC. As for the Ravens, this is their most lopsided loss since 1997 and it makes things very difficult for their playoff chances. And the loss also means they won’t be able to catch the Bengals in the AFC North. Instead, they’ll now have to win next weekend and hope for a few other things to play out for them to get a wild-card spot. Tom Brady was an average 14-26 for 172 yards on Sunday. But LeGarrette Blount had two rushing scores on 16 carries. The Patriots would also score twice on defense, once from Chandler Jones’ fumble recovery in the end zone and then Tavon Wilson’s 74-yard interception return.
Someone apparently forgot to tell the Chicago Bears how important their game against the Eagles on Sunday night was. Sure, the 54-11 loss doesn’t mean that the Bears are completely out of it. But getting blown out so badly in the last weeks of the season leading up to the playoffs doesn’t intimidate any of the teams that they may face in January. Maybe this was just typical Chip Kelly and Nick Foles football for the Eagles. After all, Kelly’s teams at Oregon were the highest scoring in NCAA. But this game was nearly over before it started. The Eagles scored three touchdowns in the opening period and it was 24-3 at halftime. And aside from a 6-yard score from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall with time expiring in the third, the Eagles would have four more touchdowns and a safety in the second half. In total, Foles was 21-25 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Cutler, who was replaced by Josh McCown in the fourth, would go 20-35 for 222 yards. This is the fourth time the Bears let up 40 or more points this season, which is troublesome for a defense that was once among the leagues most revered. But with only 11 points on the board, they’ll have to figure it out on offense in the coming weeks as well. The Bears are in a heap of trouble as they play Green Bay next week. The Eagles control their fate but will need to beat Dallas next weekend to make the playoffs.