The NFL regular season officially came to an end. A couple of teams blew golden opportunities to win playoff berths, while several others took advantage of their chances. With the playoffs set for twelve teams, the rest of the league will get ready for offseason preparations. As always, major upheaval has already begun in Cleveland. Let the playoffs begin!
New York had to win in Buffalo to seal a berth in the postseason, but the Jets came up a little short, falling 22-17. Ryan Fitzpatrick squandered a chance to advance by throwing three late interceptions in the loss. The Jets finish the season at 10-6 and should be primed to make a fun in the AFC East next season. New England let the #1 seed slip through their fingers after an uninspired 20-10 loss at Miami. The good news for the Pats is 1). Brady avoided a major injury after a vicious hit from Ndamukong Suh; 2). They clinched the #2 seed which will give the team a much-needed break to get everyone healthy. For Miami, the win was bittersweet in an overall disappointing season.
The Ravens, who have battled as many injuries as any NFL team, saw their season mercifully end with a 24-16 loss to Cincinnati. The Bengals enter the playoffs as the 3rd seed and will face division rival Pittsburgh in the first round. QB AJ McCarron passed for 160 yards and 2 TDs, an overall solid performance. But if Cincinnati wants any chance to break the playoff curse, they desperately need a healthy Andy Dalton at the helm. With the AFC being wide-open as it’s ever been, Dalton can make the difference of being another one-and-done or AFC Champs. Pittsburgh held off the Browns to sneak into the AFC playoffs. With a 17-9 lead entering the 4th quarter, Ben Roethlisberger (349 yards, 3 TDs) lead the Steelers on game clinching touchdown drives with under 6 minutes left. The Steelers will now face a Bengals team that is good against the run possibly without its best, healthy running back DeAngelo Williams.
Cleveland fired their general manager and head coach after the loss which leads to speculation on whether or not the team will retain All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas. Houston grabbed the 4th seed in the AFC by taking apart the Jaguars 30-6. Brian Hoyer returned from injury to lead the Texans to the win. Jacksonville finished the season at 5-11, but Blake Bortles and the offense showed enough promise that provides high-hope going into next season. The Kansas City Chiefs won their 10th game in a row and in the process earned the 5th seed. The Chiefs will travel to Houston on Saturday in what is likely a game that KC can definitely win. Peyton Manning made a relief appearance to lead the Broncos to a win and the #1 seed. Coach Gary Kubiak made the switch in the 3rd quarter and now we have a quarterback controversy in Denver.
New Orleans dropped the Atlanta Falcons, 20-17. After starting 5-0, the Falcons lost 7 out of its final 9 games to finish 8-8. For what it’s worth, Julio Jones did rack up the second most receiving yards in a season (1,871). The Saints finished the 2015-16 campaign at 7-9. Washington beat the lowly Cowboys 34-23 in Dallas. Kirk Cousins (176 yards, 3 TDs, 80% completion, and a 99.8 QBR) was fantastic for the third week in a row and seems to be peaking at the right time. The Redskins will host the Packers on Sunday in what should be an exciting game.
One week after firing Chip Kelly, the Eagles played inspired football against the Giants and finished the season with a 35-30 win. There is speculation that this may have been Tom Coughlin’s final game as the Giants head coach. Carolina finished off its perfect season with a 38-10 beat down of Tampa Bay, this grants the Panthers home-field throughout the entire NFC playoffs. Detroit capped off a disappointing season with a 24-20 win in Chicago. The Lions won 6 out-of-8 after a tumultuous start to the season. If this was Matthew Stafford (298 yards, 3 TDs) and Calvin Johnson’s (10 catches, 137 yards, 1 TD) last game together, they definitely went out with a bang. Seattle routed the Cardinals 36-6 and enter the playoffs as winners of 6 out-of-their last 7. The Seahawks now travel to Minnesota while NFC West champion Arizona secured the #2 seed and a bye. Minnesota beat the Packers on Sunday night football to win the NFC North and the #3 seed in the playoffs. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (6.4 QBR) tried his best to give the game away, but the rushing attack (151 yards and 5.6 yards/carry) and defense (5 sacks, 11 QB hits) were able to bail him out. Green Bay may have lucked out in the loss because going to Washington instead of a home game against Seattle just sounds better. Regardless, the Packers haven’t looked good the past two weeks (routed 38-8 at Arizona last week), so it might not matter who Green Bay plays.
Week 17’s Top Performances
- Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown– 13 catches, 187 yards, 1 TD in a win over Cleveland.
- Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz – 9 catches, 152 yards in a win over New York Giants.
- Denver’s Ronnie Hillman – 15 carries, 117 yards, 1 TD in a win over San Diego.
Honorable Mention: Kellen Moore (435 passing yards, 4 TDs), Rashad Jennings (170 rushing yards, 1 TD), Terrance Williams (173 yards receiving), Calvin Johnson (10 catches, 137 yards, 1 TD), Kirk Cousins (99.8 QBR, 155.1 Rating).
- New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick – 16/37, 181 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTS in a loss to Buffalo.
- Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater – 10/19, 99 yards, 1 INT in a win over Green Bay.
- New England’s Tom Brady – 12/21, 134 yards, in a loss to Miami.