Week 15 of the 2016 NFL season saw a host of teams drop out of the playoff race, while the Patriots became the first team to seal a first-round bye this year. The Raiders, Cowboys and Seahawks are also assured of a playoff place come January.
Thursday Night Football
(4-10) Los Angeles Rams 3 – 24 Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)
The Seahawks first win over the Rams in four attempts was enough for them to clinch the NFC West title, and a home game in January. Russell Wilson threw 3TD (Willson, Baldwin, Lockett) as the Seahawks completely blew the Rams away, with the visitors only managing a solitary FG in the game. LA only managed 183 yards of offense in the game, as their struggles with the ball continue. They are now eliminated from the race for the playoffs.
Saturday Night Football
(9-5) Miami Dolphins 34 – 13 New York Jets (4-10)
The first Saturday Night Football of the season saw Matt Moore have a career day. His first game as Ryan Tannehill’s replacement was easily the best of his career. The backup QB threw 4TD, including two to Dion Sims (Stills, Landry), as the Dolphins secured their first winning season this decade. The opposite backup QB, Bryce Petty, opened the scoring with a TD throw to Robby Anderson, but 2 INTs killed their offence. The Dolphins now sit in the #6 spot in the AFC.
(8-6) Green Bay Packers 30 – 27 Chicago Bears (3-11)
A Mason Crosby FG as time expired won the game for the Packers, after Aaron Rodgers found Jordy Nelson on a 60-yard gain. Rodgers did not throw for a TD in the game, as the Green Bay rushing game did the work. Ty Montgomery, who started the season as a WR, ran in for two scores, while Christine Michael also got a TD on the ground. Matt Barkley threw 2 TD (Bellamy, Jeffery) but he also threw 3 INTs in the game, as he continues in place of Jay Cutler. With the win, the Packers are now just a game off the playoff places.
(9-5) Pittsburgh Steelers 24 – 20 Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1)
Chris Boswell kicked a franchise-record tying 6 FGs for the Steelers on Sunday night, as they defeated the Bengals in the big AFC North rivalry. Ben Roethlisberger threw a TD to Eli Rogers in the fourth quarter to give the Steelers the lead, which they held on to. Earlier, both Andy Dalton and Jeremy Hill has ran in for TD scores for Cincinnati, but the defeat sees them miss out on the playoffs for the first time in six years. Pittsburgh are the #3 seed in the AFC.
(0-14) Cleveland Browns 13 – 33 Buffalo Bills (7-7)
The Browns are now just two games away from an 0-16 year, after another convincing defeat in Buffalo. LeSean McCoy ran in for two TD scores, with Mike Gillislee also scoring on the ground for the hosts. Tyrod Taylor threw a TD pass to Charles Clay to compound the misery for the winless Browns. RG3 did score a TD with his feet, but that was it for Cleveland, who could become the second team to go without a win through a 16 game season (Detroit 2008).
(8-6) Tennessee Titans 19 – 17 Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
Arrowhead Stadium had temperatures of -16 degrees Celsius during Sunday’s game, and in the conditions, both QBs struggled. It took a Ryan Succop FG from 53yds as time expired to give the Titans the W to keep them in the playoff hunt. The Chiefs took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter through TD runs from Tyreek Hill and Alex Smith. Derrick Henry then scored two TDs for Tennessee who came back to win. They are just one game off the playoff places, while the Chiefs drop from the #2 seed to the #5 seed.
(9-5) Detroit Lions 6 – 17 New York Giants (10-4)
The biggest game of the weekend saw another one-handed catch from Odell Beckham Jr. That grab was one of Eli Manning’s 2 TD throws, with Sterling Shepard coming down with the other early in the first quarter. The Giants D has come up big in the last two weeks, holding two of the best offences to 7 (Dallas) and 6 points (Detroit) respectively. The win keeps them in the #5 seed in the NFC, while the Lions are the #3 seed, atop the NFC North.
(5-9) Philadelphia Eagles 26 – 27 Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
The Ravens stopped a 2-point conversion with just four seconds left to claim victory over a resurgent Eagles team. Joe Flacco had earlier thrown two TD scores (Aiken, Smith), before Kenneth Dixon scored a rushing TD to give Baltimore a ten-point lead. The Eagles then came back, scoring nine points in the final two minutes, and then chose to go for 2 instead of the game-tying PAT. With nothing to lose, it was a gutsy call, but the Ravens held on to the win to keep them in the playoff race.
(2-12) Jacksonville Jaguars 20 – 21 Houston Texans (8-6)
Brock Osweiler became a $72m substitute on Sunday, as he was benched after throwing 2 INTs early on. Tom Savage came in to the game and led the Texans to victory, throwing for 260yds. Marqise Lee returned a kickoff 100yds to give the Jags a twelve point lead, but Houston came back, with Lamar Miller rushing for a score with less than three minutes to go, giving the Texans the W. Houston are the #4 seed in the AFC, but are level with the Titans at the top of the AFC South.
The news then broke on Monday, that the Jacksonville Jaguars had relieved Gus Bradley of his coaching duties with the team.
(7-7) Indianapolis Colts 34 – 6 Minnesota Vikings (7-7)
Arguably the biggest shock of the weekend, the Colts ran up 34 points against the best defence in the NFL. Once again the Vikings had nothing on offense, but that has been a running theme in 2016. Robert Turbin rushed for two TDs for the Colts, while Andrew Luck threw 2 TD passes (Swoope, Dorsett). The defeat effectively knocks the Vikings out of the playoff hunt, while the Colts are just a game behind in the AFC South.
(6-8) New Orleans Saints 48 – 41 Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1)
Offense v Offense is how to describe this one, as 89 points were scored in what is the season’s highest scoring game. Drew Brees came off the back of two games without a TD to throw for four in this one, with Brandin Cooks catching two TD passes (Cadet, Thomas). Tim Hightower ran in for two TD scores in a final quarter which saw 5 TDs. David Johnson scored two rushing TDs and continued his record for most 100+yd from scrimmage games (14), and Carson Palmer threw two TDs (Nelson, Brown) but it was the Saints who came out on top.
(1-13) San Francisco 49ers 13 – 41 Atlanta Falcons (9-5)
Devonta Freeman scored 3 TDs on the night, as the Falcons hit 40 points for the 5th time this season. The league’s leading offence carried on their form to clinch their first winning season since 2012. As well as Freeman’s 3 rushing scores, Matt Ryan threw 2 TD passes (Gabriel, Hooper). The 49ers’ problems continue, with all 13 points coming in the second quarter. Colin Kaepernick threw both TD scores (Celek, Streater) but they never looked like challenging Atlanta and have now lost 13 straight. The Falcons are the #3 seed in the NFC.
(12-2) New England Patriots 16 – 3 Denver Broncos (8-6)
The Patriots got a rare win in Denver to carry on their dominance in the 2016 season, and to clinch the AFC East. The repeat of last year’s AFC Championship was hardly a cracker, but LeGarrette Blount’s 15th rushing TD of the year was enough to secure victory for New England. Three FGs from Stephen Gostkowski added to the scoreline. For the Broncos, they could not find the end zone, with Trevor Siemian throwing an INT on the day. The Pats have their division title, and they have also clinched a first-round bye, the first team to do so in 2016.
(11-3) Oakland Raiders 19 – 16 San Diego Chargers (5-9)
The Raiders clinched their first playoff berth since 2002 with a victory over their AFC West rivals, San Diego, on Sunday night. Stephen Janikowski was the man, kicking a FG with less than three minutes left to secure the victory, one of four for him on the night. Earlier, Derek Carr had found Michael Crabtree for a TD, while Philip Rivers threw two TD scores (Benjamin, Henry). The win moves Oakland back to the top of the AFC West, and they can clinch the division next week.
Sunday Night Football
(8-6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 – 26 Dallas Cowboys (12-2)
Three Dan Bailey FGs in the final quarter saw the Cowboys bounce back from last week’s defeat to take control of the #1 seed in the NFC once again. Both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott rushed in for scores in the second quarter for the Cowboys, in a topsy turvy game. The third quarter belonged to the Bucs, with Jameis Winston throwing two TDs (Humphries, Brate), to take the lead after three, 20-17. However, Dallas came back, and are now 12-2, knowing one more win would clinch a first-round bye. The Bucs are still in the race, sitting in the #6 seed in the NFC.
Monday Night Football
(6-8) Carolina Panthers 26 – 15 Washington Redskins (7-6-1)
The final game of the weekend saw Josh Norman play against his old team, less than a year after leaving. He didn’t have a happy night, though, as the Panthers took charge in Washington. Cam Newton threw 2 TDs (Ginn, Tolbert), as Carolina took a 14 point lead with a quarter to go. Kirk Cousins threw an INT and coughed up a fumble with gave away the game. Now the Redskins’ playoff hopes lie in the results of other teams.
Division: NE (12-2), OAK (11-3), PIT (9-5), HOU (8-6)
Wild Card: KC (10-4), MIA (9-5)
In the Hunt: BAL (8-6), TEN (8-6), DEN (8-6), BUF (7-7), IND (7-7)
Division: DAL (12-2), SEA (9-4-1), ATL (9-5), DET (9-5)
Wild Card: NYG (10-4), TB (8-6)
In the Hunt: GB (8-6), WAS (7-6-1), MIN (7-7), NO (6-8), CAR (6-8)
Week 16 sees Saturday football, as Christmas Eve takes the majority of games next weekend. Included in those games is the NFC North battle between Minnesota and Green Bay at Lambeau Field while Christmas Day sees a divisional double header. Baltimore travel to Pittsburgh, knowing a win would move them back above the Steelers in the AFC North. After that, KC host Denver, with the Broncos needing a victory to stay in the playoff hunt, while a Chiefs win would clinch playoff football. Boxing Day then sees Detroit travel to Dallas, where the Cowboys can clinch a first-round bye.