Week 16 of the NFL helped shape a good portion of the playoff picture. Some teams clinched playoff berths while others were eliminated. Let’s do things a little differently this week and look at each game with playoff implications. I’ve added next to each team in the hunt with their current seed should the season end today. The real playoffs might only have 6 seeds, but for today, all teams in the hunt get a number.
(1)Denver 37 Houston 13 – Denver remains in control of their destiny by defeating Houston. Peyton Manning set a new record for passing touchdowns in a season by throwing 51 with a game left to play. He finished 32-51 for 400 yards with 4 touchdowns while Matt Schaub went 18-37 for 176 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions. Both Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas had outstanding receiving days with Decker hauling in 10 catches for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns while Thomas had 8 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. By winning, they keep a game lead in the AFC standings. With this win, Denver has the AFC West locked up. If Denver wins next week, they will get the #1 seed. They can also get it with a Patriots loss and can finish no worse than #2.
(2)New England 41 (7)Baltimore 7 – Baltimore fell completely flat as Murphy’s Law reared its ugly head. The Patriots pretty much were able to do anything without trying all that hard due to the Ravens making so many mistakes. Baltimore outgained New England 358-300, yet was handed their worst ever home loss. Tom Brady finished 14-26 for 172 yard with a touchdown while Joe Flacco went 22-38 for 260 yards with 2 interceptions. The game was 27-7 when Flacco was pulled and Tyrod Taylor came in. Taylor proceeded to fumble the ball and threw an interception and each were returned for a touchdown. The Patriots can finish anywhere from the #1 seed all the way down to the #4 seed. To get to #1, they need to win next week and the Broncos to lose. For #2, they either need to win/tie with the Broncos winning or the Bengals and Colts both lose. For #3, they lose and either the Colts or Bengals win and for #4, the Patriots lose and both the Colts and Bengals win. Baltimore is part of the 6th seed race. The Ravens are in if they win and either the Chargers or Dolphins lose. They are also in if Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh all lose regardless of the Ravens’ last game.
(3)Cincinnati 42 Minnesota 14 – Cincinnati continues to be undefeated at home as they easily dispatched the Vikings and clinched the AFC North title. For Cincinnati, Andy Dalton went 27-38 for 366 yards and 4 touchdowns while Matt Cassel went 13-27 for 114 yards with a touchdown and 3 interceptions. Cincinnati has a shot to jump up to #2 and fall to #4. If they win against Baltimore and New England loses, Cincinnati takes 2nd. If they win and the Patriots do as well, the Bengals hold to 3rd. If the Bengals lose, they need the Colts to lose to hold the spot or else they will fall to 4th.
(4)Indianpolis 23 (5)Kansas City 7 – In what could be a preview of the first round of the playoffs, Indianapolis went to Kansas City and humiliated the Chiefs. Andrew Luck led the Colts by going 26-37 for 241 yards with a touchdown while Alex Smith went 16-29 for 153 yards with 2 interceptions. As the lone bright spot for the Chiefs, Jamaal Charles ran 13 times for 106 yards and a touchdown. Indianapolis is still in the hunt for the 2nd seed. If the Colts win along with a Patriots and Bengals loss, the Colts will jump to #2. If the Colts win and either the Bengals or Patriots lose, the Colts move up to 3rd. If things stay as they are, they will keep the 4th seed. Kansas City has the #5 seed locked up.
Buffalo 19 (6)Miami 0 – Miami missed a golden opportunity to get a strong hold of the #6 seed by being shut out in Buffalo. The offense went nowhere as Buffalo outgained the Dolphins 390-103. For Buffalo, Thad Lewis went 15-25 for 193 yards with an interception. Fred Jackson also added 111 yards and the game’s lone touchdown on 19 carries. Ryan Tannehill went 10-27 for 82 yards. Former Miami and current Buffalo kicker Dan Carpenter kicked 4 field goals in the game. Miami is part of the convoluted 6th seed. To get in, the Dolphins would need to win and would need either the Bengals or Chargers to lose. Should Miami, San Diego, and Baltimore all win, Miami would take the final spot.
(8)San Diego 26 Oakland 13 – San Diego kept their playoffs hopes alive by defeating Oakland. Being the Raiders, Oakland used undisciplined play at key times to help San Diego win. For San Diego, Phillip Rivers went 19-29 for 201 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Ryan Mathews just missed the century mark by rushing 25 times for 99 yards and a touchdown. For Oakland, Matt McGloin went 20-36 for 206 yards with an interception. San Diego can clinch the last wild card with a win and both a Dolphins loss and a Ravens loss.
(9)Pittsburgh 38 (9)Green Bay 31 – In a wacky game on the fields of the frozen tundra, the Steelers took advantage of a late turnover and touchdown to defeat the Packers and keep their playoff hopes alive. Ben Roethlisberger finished 16-28 for 167 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception while Le’Veon Bell ran 26 times for 124 yards and a touchdown. For Green Bay, Matt Flynn went 21-39 for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception. That interception was a pick-six by Cortez Allen and turned out to be the difference in the game. While Pittsburgh is still in the playoff hunt, they need a lot of help. They would need to win next week and would need the following teams to lose: Dolphins, Ravens, and Chargers. Green Bay plays Chicago for the NFC North crown and the #4 seed.
(7)Arizona 17 (1)Seattle 10 – For the first time in his NFL career, Russell Wilson lost a home game. With Arizona’s defense playing exceptionally well, the Seahawks were unable to capitalize on mistakes and utilize their home field advantage and as a result, Arizona’s playoff hopes remain alive. Carson Palmer led Arizona by going 13-25 for 178 yards with a touchdown and 4 interceptions. Russell Wilson went 11-24 for 108 yards with a touchdown and an interception. As a team, Seattle failed to reach 200 yards of offense. With this win, Arizona is still on the outside looking in, but can clinch a wild card spot with a win and New Orleans Saints loss. New Orleans clinches a playoff spot with a win or an Arizona loss. If New Orleans wins and Carolina loses, the Saints win the NFC South.
(2)Carolina 17 (6)New Orleans 13 – In a battle for NFC South control, Carolina came out on top. Despite being outgained 365-222, Carolina scored with 0:23 left in the 4th to take the lead. Cam Newton finished 13-22 for 181 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Drew Brees finished 30-44 for 281 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions. While Carolina is the #2 seed for now, should they lose and New Orleans win next week, New Orleans would be the #2 seed and NFC South champion. As it currently stands, New Orleans is #5.
(3)Philadelphia 54 (4)Chicago 11 – This was not the way to go if you’re trying to get a playoff spot. It didn’t matter who was leading the attack as the Bears had no answer to the onslaught from the Eagles. Nick Foles finished 21-25 for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns LeSean McCoy had 133 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries. Bryce Brown ran 9 times for 115 yards and a touchdown. Even Chris Polk found the end zone as well. Jay Cutler went 20-35 for 222 yards with a touchdown and interception for the Bears. Chicago will play Green Bay next week. The winner will make the playoffs as the NFC North champion while the loser stays home. It’s the same deal with Philadelphia as they play Dallas next week for the NFC East. Philadelphia has the #3 seed to lose. Chicago could take it with a win and Philly loss while Dallas could take it with a win and Chicago loss.
(5)San Francisco 34 Atlanta 24 – This game was not short on last minute heroics as Atlanta fell 10 yards and a turnover short against San Francisco. In a back and forth game, it looked like San Francisco was going to pull it out until Atlanta scored and recovered the ensuing onside kick. The Falcons drove down to the 10 yard line when NaVorro Bowman intercepted Matt Ryan and took it 90 yards for the finishing touchdown. Colin Kaepernick finished 13-21 for 197 yards with a touchdown while Matt Ryan finished for yards with touchdowns and an interception. With this win, San Francisco clinches a playoff berth. What is still up for debate is which seed they will have. San Francisco is eligible to get the #1, #2, #5 or #6 seeds. Should the 49ers win next week, along with a Seattle loss and a Panthers loss, San Francisco will be the #1 seed. If they win and Seattle loses while Carolina wins, the 49ers become the #2 seed. San Francisco will hold on to #5 if the Saints lose next week at the minimum. If San Francisco loses to Arizona and New Orleans wins, the Niners take #6.
(8)Dallas 24 Washington 23 – Much maligned quarterback Tony Romo led the Cowboys on a late drive to beat Washington and keep their playoff hopes alive. Romo finished 17-27 for 226 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception while Washington’s Kirk Cousins went 21-36 for 197 yards with a touchdown and interception. Washington’s Pierre Garcon continued his hot season, hauling in 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. Garcon set a team record for receptions. At 8-7, the Cowboys cannot win a wild card spot, but are very much in the hunt for the NFC East crown. It will be winner-take-all next week against Philadelphia. If Dallas wins and Chicago wins, they will be #4, but if Chicago loses, Dallas will jump to #3.
New York Giants 23 (Eliminated)Detroit 20 (OT) – It took more than 60 minutes, but the New York Giants were able to rise up and end Detroit’s postseason bid by knocking them out of contention for the NFC North. The Lions were going to need help to get into the playoffs, but they had to win first. For New York, Eli Manning went 23-42 for 256 yards with a touchdown, interception and was even sacked for a safety. Matthew Stafford didn’t fare any better, finishing 25-42 for 222 yards with 2 interceptions. Surprisingly, Joique Bell was the receiver of choice, catching all 10 of the passes sent his way for 63 yards along with 91 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
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