The Tuesday Touchdown
Well Week 16 is in the books and we are now only one week from the hallowed ground of the playoffs. Entering the penultimate week, only three teams had secured their division and everything was still to play for. Could the Bills upset the Patriots and challenge for the East? Could someone take control of the highly contested NFC West? And who would get the advantage in the race for the final AFC wildcard spot? At the other end of the table there was a good chance we would know by the end of Week 16 who is officially on the clock for the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. In the end we got another exciting week of football, with dramatic fourth quarter action and the odd Christmas blowout as well. Let’s dive in with a quick review of Week 16 of the 2019 NFL season.
Houston Texans 23-20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In a week where the Buccaneers declared that Jameis Winston would be their starter for the 2020 how did he repay their faith?
On the opening drive he threw an interception, which was returned for a touchdown. Then on his very next drive he threw another interception, which again was returned for a touchdown. In a small ounce of fortune for Winston the touchdown was brought back for a penalty but the interception still stood. He ended the game with four interceptions and only one touchdown pass.
However due to a lacklustre performance from the Texans offense the Buccaneers were tied at 17 at the half. The second half ended with a battle between the kickers, as Ka’imi Fairbairn won that battle and with it won the Texans the AFC South. See you in the playoffs Houston.
As for Tampa and their erratic QB, the offseason will be a happy sight.
Buffalo Bills 17 - 24 New England Patriots
With a chance to pile the pressure on the Patriots and upset the division, the Bills started the game by forcing a fumble on the Pats opening drive and things were looking good. That would however, be the only turnover the Bills could muster and unfortunately for them the Patriots offence did enough to secure the AFC East division for the 11th straight year.
At least the Bills, and specifically John Brown, were able to do what no one else has done this season and score a 53 yard touchdown whilst being lined up against Gilmore. Josh Allen’s stock is continually rising and other than the human highlight reel Lamar Jackson, he has been the best quarterback from the 2018 draft.
However, despite all of that the Patriots go marching into the playoffs and are more than likely heading for a bye. Meanwhile, the Bills will be joining them in January via the wildcard route, and may yet even get a shot at revenge.
Los Angeles Rams 31 - 34 San Francisco 49ers
The Rams headed to Levi’s Stadium knowing that they needed to win to have any shot at making the playoffs, and not be another team to go from the pinnacle of the Super Bowl to the pit of no football in January. The San Francisco 49ers on the other hand are chasing that number one seed and a win here would set them up in great fashion for the Week 17 decider with the Seattle Seahawks.
The Rams started off brilliantly and up until Jared Goff threw a heartbreaking interception at the end of the second quarter, which was returned for a touchdown, the highly rated 49ers defense had no answer for Goff and his elite receivers. Even in the third quarter the Rams were the only team able to find the end zone. Unfortunately, that was something they couldn’t do in the fourth quarter, which would prove fatal. With one quarter to go the Rams held a 28-24 lead and the playoffs were in reach. 15 minutes later and all they could manage was one field goal and a three and out.
The 49ers however, finished off a nice drive with a touchdown pass to their excellent tight end George Kittle and then on the final drive of the game Christmas magic arrived early for Jimmy G. On the final drive of the game Jimmy G got sacked on the first play and quickly found himself in a tough 3rd and 16 situation. Fortunately, he found Bourne open for an 18 yard gain and they went marching on. Two plays later and again he found himself at 3rd and 16. This time the Rams secondary disappeared and Emmanuel Sanders found himself wide open for a 46 yard gain. That left Robbie Gould with the chance to be the hero, which he gladly took.
The Rams are bow done for the season and the 49ers are still in the battle for the number one seed.
New York Giants 41 - 35 Washington Redskins
In a game that had absolutely no consequences other than positions in next year’s draft, we were treated to an offensive cracker.
The first five drives in this game ended with touchdowns, and by the half the Giants had a 28-14 lead. Where was this sort of offense earlier in the season? The second half was more of the same but this time round it was the Washington Redskins piling the points on. The Giants offense disappeared in the fourth quarter and the Redskins put up 14 unanswered points to force overtime.
The Giants managed to right the ship and marched straight down the field to score the touchdown for the win. However, all this does is give the Redskins the edge in the race for Chase Young.
Saquon Barkley went off in this game in a way that we haven’t seen this year. He finished with 189 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to go with 90 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. The Giants will be hoping he takes that into next year and they can develop more around him.
New Orleans Saints 38 - 28 Tennessee Titans
Even though they are in the race for the final AFC wildcard spot, this game wasn’t an all or nothing clash for the Titans.
Depending on the Steelers result the Titans could afford to lose this game and still be in control of their playoff destiny. They did not start with that mindset and shot out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. That start was largely unexpected without their terrifying running back Derrick Henry.
However, it was only a matter of time until Drew Brees and his Saints found their feet and five drives later the Saints had a 24-14 lead. Ryan Tannehill kept the Titans in it and got his team back to within three at one point. Unfortunately, for Tennessee, an untimely fumble combined with Brees and his record breaking wide receiver Michael Thomas, ended all hopes with a two yard touchdown pass late in the fourth.
The Saints stay in the hunt for the number one seed in the NFC, while the Titans need to win in Week 17 to ensure they will be playing in January. Michael Thomas also set a new record for number of receptions in a single season with 145, surpassing the 143 set by Marvin Harrison in 2002. Should he be in the MVP race?
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 - 16 New York Jets
All they had to do to get into the playoffs and pull of the most incredible feat of the season was beat the mediocre Jets and get a win against a Ravens team that would be resting players. Surely the Steelers offense could at least beat the Jets? Nope. Yet another disastrous offensive display that saw Duck Hodges start, get replaced by Rudolph after he threw two interceptions, only to then have to come back into the game as Rudolph got injured.
However despite all that the Steelers defense led by stud linebacker T.J. Watt gave this team a chance. Late in the game JuJu Smith Schuster had a shot for a touchdown grab to win the game but couldn’t haul it in. A nothing game for the Jets other than beating a potential playoff team. Pittsburgh have it all to do in Week 17 needing to beat the Ravens and hope the Texans beat the Titans. I know my fingers will be crossed, this defense deserves the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals 35 - 38 Miami Dolphins
Another game with no consequences other than position in the draft. Surely the number one pick is the only positive thing to take from this season for the Cincinnati Bengals? You would think that being down 35-12 at the start of the fourth quarter the Bengals would just call it a day and settle for the number one pick.
That was not the case and the Bengals found a new lease of life. They reeled off 23 unanswered points, including an onside recovery and two 2 point conversions, to finish the fourth quarter tied at 35. Just like the Giants earlier the Dolphins righted the ship and got the win in overtime. Both teams are done for the year but the Bengals are now officially on the clock for the 2020 draft.
Carolina Panthers 6 - 38 Indianapolis Colts
The Panthers are done for the year and that was pretty evident in this one as the Colts completely blew them away. At the half the Colts were up 21-3 and the Panthers and their dynamic running back could do absolutely nothing about it. The second half didn’t go much better and the Panthers could only muster another field goal in a lacklustre offensive performance. The Colts put on a great display in all three areas with three rushing touchdowns, three interceptions and two punts returned for a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Colts, it’s not enough to keep them in the playoff hunt and they are done for the year, but an impressive performance nonetheless.
Baltimore Ravens 31 - 15 Cleveland Browns
The Ravens haven’t lost in ten games and that last loss was a blowout loss to the Cleveland Browns. This time round the Browns were still in the playoff hunt, but needed a win, and the Ravens had a chance to secure the number one spot in the AFC. The dynamic all flashing offense of the Ravens knew what they needed to get done.
It was rather surprising then that it took till the end of the second quarter for Lamar Jackson to find the end zone. He then kicked on and found the end zone again minutes later. This gave the Ravens the lead, as despite their offenses uncharacteristically slow start, their defense held the Browns to a measly six points in the first half.
The second half was all Baltimore and before long the number one seed was secured, and the Browns were done for the year. Jackson had another game with over 100 rushing yards to go with 238 through the air and 3 passing touchdowns, seemingly securing the MVP title.
Jacksonville Jaguars 12 - 24 Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones has come to life when there is nothing to play for. This game had literally no meaning to it and Jones ended the game with 166 yards on only 10 receptions. The Jaguars as a team only managed 188 receiving yards. Jones may not have found the end zone but certainly put up big numbers as the Falcons came out on top. Jacksonville have a decision to make at the quarterback position as Gardner Minshew looked pretty average in this one, only completing 13 of 31 passes. Big decisions loom in the off season for both these teams.
Oakland Raiders 24 - 17 Los Angeles Chargers
Still with a very slim shot at the playoffs the Oakland Raiders needed numerous results to go their way and not least of all they needed a win.
The Chargers opened up with a quick three and out. Four plays later the Raiders had a touchdown. After that the game went on a run of eight punts and very little action. Then in a complete contrast to the previous eight drives the next four drives ended with two touchdowns for each team. The game finished with three field goals, and the Raiders held on for a big win, to keep alive their slim shot at the postseason.
Phillip Rivers may be done as a Charger but what a servant to that team he has been. If things go his way and Jon Gruden gets his team to the playoffs then this has been an incredible year for him and his beloved Raiders.
Detroit Lions 17 - 27 Denver Broncos
Yet another game this week with absolutely no playoff implications. Two rookie quarterbacks playing each other and it was the Bronco who had the edge. Drew Lock continued his impressive start in Denver and ended the game with another touchdown pass. This game however, was won by the running game of Denver. Phillip Lindsay had a big game, finishing with 109 rushing yards and a score. After starting the season strong, and being undefeated through three games, the Lions have stumbled badly and lost eight straight. Matt Patricia will be praying Matthew Stafford comes back next year as another bad season for Patricia means he could be looking for a new job in 2021.
Arizona Cardinals 27 - 13 Seattle Seahawks
In a game that meant nothing for the Cardinals, and a whole lot for the Seahawks, surely Pete Carroll and his mob would get the job done at their own ground? A win in this one and the Seahawks would be in control of their own fate.
The Seahawks found pay dirt on their opening drive of the game, but after that it was tough sledding. A field goal at the end of third for Seattle helped narrow the gap to a 10-point deficit, but the running backs for Arizona combined for 166 yards and two scores, with Kenyan Drake having himself a day.
In a hotly contested NFC West the Cardinals will need to continue with performances like this next year if they are to have any hope against the 49ers, Rams and Seahawks. Seattle now have a big Week 17 matchup against their divisional rivals for the division title and potentially the number one seed.
Dallas Cowboys 9 - 17 Philadelphia Eagles
The NFC East should just be binned and forgotten about. We are on the cusp of Week 17 and there is one team with a winning record, the 8-7 Eagles. In a game where the Cowboys and their highly paid offense could seal the division and punch their ticket to the playoffs all they could muster up was three field goals. In a vital 3rd and 1 situation with the leagues highest paid running back at your disposal they left him on the sideline? That should be the final nail in Jason Garrett’s coffin.
Still despite all of this the Cowboys have a shot at the division title if results go their way in Week 17. However, do any teams from this division really deserve to be playing in January? That’s not my decision to make but it does make you question the current format when this division has a combined record of 22-38. Whoever ends up playing in January likely won’t be there for long.
Kansas City Chiefs 26 - 3 Chicago Bears
In the last few years the KC offense has been one of the best in the league, and it has led them to the playoffs but not the Super Bowl. This year though they have amassed an impressive 11-4 record, and a lot of that can be put on their much improved defense. I know the Chicago Bears haven’t exactly torn up the league on offense this year but still the Chiefs held them to a measly three points.
On top of that, the Bears’ defense had absolutely no answer to the Chiefs passing game. This is one of the best defenses in the league, and the Chiefs made them look worse than average. The Chiefs are finding form at the best time of the year, and are still in the hunt for the second seed in the AFC.
Green Bay Packers 23 - 10 Minnesota Vikings
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and Kirk Cousins losing on Monday Night Football. Even a home game in Week 16 with the division still up for grabs and still Cousins couldn’t get a much needed win.
Cousins did set a record by becoming the first quarterback to lose nine straight Monday night games. Even with Aaron Rodgers having a slightly off day the Packers’ run game and defense stepped up and sealed the NFC North. Aaron Jones finished the game with 154 rush yards and two touchdowns.
What do they say about defenses? They win championships, and the Packers defense have held teams to under 15 points in four straight games. December and January football is all about establishing the run and solid defense. Well, the Packers certainly have that. In a highly contested NFC, the Packers could be in with a real shot at the Super Bowl. The Vikings have punched their ticket and will now have to settle for a wildcard spot.
Image credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports