Winter has arrived! The playoff picture is kind of ridiculous right now, as only four teams have locked up playoff spots: New England and Oakland in the AFC and Dallas and Seattle in the NFC.
The Pro Bowl teams were also announced this week! But I’m not even going to entertain that until next month, when we know who is actually playing. I will say that I’m having a Pro Bowl season. Another good week for me in Week 15, as I finished 10-6. Let’s take a look back at the games I missed:
– Miami started backup QB Matt Moore for the first time since January 1, 2012 – and he proceeded to light the New York Jets up for 4 TD passes on only 18 passes in a 34-13 blowout win at MetLife Stadium.
– Damn it, Chiefs. Kansas City head coach Andy Reid saw his passing game shut down by the Tennessee Titans, with QB Alex Smith throwing for only 163 yards while tossing a red zone INT. That, along with Reid’s icing, kept the door open for Tennessee to steal a road win after a 53-yard FG by K Ryan Succop as time expired.
– So much for RB Adrian Peterson this season. Minnesota was smacked at home against the Indianapolis Colts 34-6, a game that saw Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck gain 250 pass yards and throw 2 TD passes. Meanwhile, Peterson was held to 22 rushing yards and a lost fumble.
– The Saints went to Arizona and emerged victorious after a 48-41 shootout that saw QB Drew Brees blow up for 389 pass yards and 4 TD without an INT.
– Go ahead and look: the New England Patriots have the best scoring defense in the NFL entering Week 16 after holding the Broncos to 58 rushing yards and avenging their 2015 AFC Championship loss with a 16-3 win in Denver.
– The Carolina Panthers kept their slim playoff hopes alive while damaging Washington’s with a 26-15 road win on Monday Night Football, led by RB Jonathan Stewart’s 132 rushing yards. Washington will probably not mind not hosting Monday Night Football after taking two home losses this season on ESPN:
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 20, 2016
I mentioned that this is a crazy week of games that will be played across 4 of the next 5 days, starting with the last Thursday Night Football game of the season. 14 of the 16 games have playoff implications as of Thursday. The only two that don’t feature teams on 14 and 13-game losing streaks! The 0-14 Cleveland Browns have matched the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ record, and they’re trying to avoid going 0-16 like the 2008 Detroit Lions. Cleveland will host the San Diego Chargers in what will be their home finale. Speaking of 1976, that’s the last time the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.The Rams are the only team the 49ers have beaten, and that was in Week 1:
— Law Murray ? (@LawMurrayTheNU) December 21, 2016
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: New York QB Eli Manning will start his 79th consecutive game since his last postseason appearance. Since 1991, no QB has started more consecutive team games without a postseason appearance. Manning has also been inconsistent all year, while folks keep thinking that New York has a top-five WR trio:
— Law Murray ? (@LawMurrayTheNU) December 21, 2016
But we’re here because the Giants can sweep the Eagles for the first time since 2007. And they’ll do it because New York has the 2nd-best pass defense in the league (use opposing passer rating, not pass yards!) and Philadelphia rookie QB Carson Wentz has the 5th-worst passer rating in the league this season (78.5).
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans: It’s prime time football on Saturday night, and this will be the last interdivisional AFC game of the season. The Bengals started 8-0 last year, but the Texans gave them their first loss. Since then, the Bengals are only 9-12-1, including their stupid Wild Card loss to the same Steelers team that eliminated them from playoff contention this past week. At least Cincinnati WR A.J. Green is back to get his 6th straight 1,000-yard receiving season since entering the league, which would tie future HOF Randy Moss for most ever to begin a career. Also, long live Joe Flacco sprite Tom Savage, who is here to rescue the Texans from Brock Osweiler.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: Oh, Merry Christmas, everyone. It’s Sunday, so the NFL had to put a couple of games on the holiday. NBA will be priority, but the NFL has a couple of important AFC divisional games on Christmas, with the de facto AFC North championship leading into this game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs will be praying that a double-digit lead is enough, as head coach Andy Reid has blown 11 of those in the 4th quarter in his coaching career now, the most ever. As long as the Chiefs can get the ball into Pro Bowl rookie WR Tyreek Hill’s hands, they should be able to score the needed 15 points to beat Denver.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: The Game of the Week is on Boxing Day, and it’s the last NFC interdivisional game of the season! It also pits two of the least potent big play defenses in the league against one another. Detroit QB Matthew Stafford is from the Dallas area, and he has had multiple memorable games. Unfortunately for the Lions, the most recent matchup was memorable for the wrong reasons, as Dallas LB Anthony Hitchens was cleared of a pass interference penalty that went unexplained. Dallas Pro Bowl rookie QB Dak Prescott got back on track at home against Tampa Bay in primetime, and he has a much more forgiving pass defense this week, especially with Detroit CB Darius Slay nursing a bad hamstring.