The magic number during Week 13 was nine. Nine games were decided by one touchdown or less. NFL kickers also managed to miss nine extra point attempts. As for the postseason, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. However, with four weeks left, Cleveland is the only team that has been mathematically eliminated. There is a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East and somehow, someway the Cowboys have managed to stay alive in the race for a playoff berth.
The Jets moved into the 6th AFC playoff spot by winning the in-state rivalry game against the Giants 23-20. Jets’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had his first 300 yard game (390 passing yards, 2 TDs) of the season and the Giants do what bad teams do; costly penalties and missed field goals late in the game. With upcoming games against the Titans and Cowboys, the Jets are in primed position to make a playoff run.
The Bills beat Houston 30-21 in what was essential a switch in the playoff standings. Tyrod Taylor (3 passing touchdowns) connected with Charles Clay for a 40 yard touchdown pass with under two minutes to seal the win. Buffalo’s next three games come against NFC East opponents (Eagles, Redskins, Giants) while Houston gets the Patriots and Colts. The Dolphins beat the Ravens 15-13 to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. For Baltimore, it was the 8th loss by one score or less, which has got to be an NFL record right?
Cincinnati’s offense stayed red-hot by scoring more than 3o points for the second consecutive week en route to a 37-3 win over Cleveland. The Bengals rushed for 144 yards and Andy Dalton finished with a QBR of 93.1 in the win. Cincinnati also moved into first place in the AFC. Marcus Mariota led Tennessee to a 42-39 win over the Jaguars. Mariota threw three touchdown passes and rushed for another (112 rushing yards) and outdueled Blake Bortles in the win. The Brock Osweiler bandwagon is picking up steam as the 4th year signal-caller led Denver to its 3rd straight win. Osweiler is getting the attention, but Denver seems to have figured out how to run the ball (134 total rushing yards) and the defense is back to its’ stingy ways. Staying in the AFC West, Kansas City picked up an important road win by downing its division rival Oakland 34-20. Alex Smith catches a ton of flak from Chiefs faithful, but the reality is he has not thrown an interception in nine games (only 3 on the season) which is remarkable. Pittsburgh racked up over 600 yards of total offense in a 45-10 thrashing of the Colts. The Steelers are currently on the outside looking into the playoffs, but with that offense, they can beat anybody. Lastly, the Colts continue to hold the tie-breaker over the Texans.
Green Bay and Detroit started the week in epic fashion with the Packers pulling of a 27-23 road win on the final play of the game. It was a tale of two halves as Detroit dominated the first thirty minutes, while Green Bay took control the final thirty minutes. Trailing by 20 points, Green Bay scored 14 points in less than two minutes seconds to make the game close. Then Aaron Rodgers, who entered the game sporting the worst two-game completion percentage (49%) in his career, made the play of the game.
On the final play of the game, Rodgers reared back and let loose the highest pass ever and hit the other Rodgers, Richard, for the 61 yard game winning touchdown pass. The win moved Green Bay into 1st place in the NFC North. For Detroit, it looks like the last nail in the coffin for what has turned out to be a disappointing season. Carson Palmer (356 passing yards, 2 TDs) stayed red-hot as the Arizona Cardinals knocked off the St. Louis Rams 27-3. The Rams have now lost five straight and some fans are calling for changes to be made internally.
Speaking of five straight losses, Atlanta continued its’ free fall losing to Tampa Bay 23-19. With the win, Tampa stayed hot on the heels of a playoff berth. Seattle went on the road and completely obliterated the Minnesota Vikings 38-7. Seattle has now won three straight games and the defense (which didn’t allow a touchdown) seems to be peaking at the right time. This is starting to look like a dangerous first round opponent. The Chicago Bears lost a must win game against the hapless 49ers 26-20. At 5-7, Chicago dropped to 11th in the NFC playoff picture. Carolina found itself down 14 points early in the 2nd quarter, but managed to escape the Big Easy with a 41-38 win. Cam Newton was brilliant in the comeback tossing 5 TDs, collecting 300 yards passing and rushing for 49 yards. What more does Super Cam need to convince voters that he is the MVP this year?
One week after getting embarrassed on Thanksgiving, the Eagles may have saved Chip Kelley’s job with a 35-28 win over the Patriots. At 5-7, the Eagles moved into a three-way tie atop the NFC East. For the Patriots, the injuries are starting to take a toll. Washington vs. Dallas was a complete bleh game until the final 2 minutes. Washington’s DeSean Jackson fumbled a punt return deep in Cowboy territory with 1:30 left in the 4th quarter. Dallas’ Darren McFadden takes the first snap after the fumble and rushes for 9 yards, but goes out-of-bounds to stop the clock. He then rushes up the middle for a touchdown to give Dallas a 15-9 lead, but Washington didn’t burn any timeouts. On the ensuing kickoff, the Redskins returned the kick 41 yards; add in a 15 yard facemask penalty, and Washington had the ball at the Dallas 43. A few plays later, Jackson found redemption by catching a 28 yards TD pass from Kirk Cousins to tie the game. Dallas returned the kickoff 40 yards, again aided by a penalty, to set up Dan Bailey’s 54 yard game winning field goal.
Whew! The game was the 7th Monday night game in a row decided by 8 pts or less, the longest streak of one possession games in NFL since 1974. The Cowboys (3-2 vs NFC East, 1-6 outside division) moved within one game of the NFC East lead.
- Steelers’ Ben Roethisberger – 24/39, 364 passing yards, 4 TDs in a win over the Indianapolis Colts.
- Packers’ Richard Rodgers – 8 catches, 146 yards and one long TD catch in a win over Detroit Lions
- Panthers’ Cam Newton – 28/41, 331 yards, (49 rushing), 5 TDs in a win over New Orleans Saints
Honorable Mention: Allen Robinson (10 catches 153 yards, 3 TDS), Blake Bortles (24/36, 322, 5 TDS), Marcus Mariota (380 total yards, 3 TDs), Javorius Allen (170 total yards, 12 catches, 1 TD), Antonio Brown (8 catches, 192 total yards, 3 TDs).
- Rams’ Nick Foles – 15/35, 146 yards, 1 INT in a loss to Arizona Cardinals
- Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater – 17/28, 118 yards, 1 INT in a loss to Seattle Seahawks
- Giants’ Rashard Jennings – 14 rushing yards, 3 dropped passes in a loss to the New York Jets.