Week 16 gave us plenty of gifts right before Christmas including playoff clinching performances, records being set, quarterback controversies and of course a little Tim Tebow. Like always, it was fun to watch and even more exciting for those lucky enough to be in fantasy championship games.
The Falcons became the first team in the league to reach 13 wins as they got the best of the not-so-mighty Lions, 31-18, to open the week on Thursday/Saturday/Monday Night Football. While their performance was certainly appreciated in Atlanta, it was probably overshadowed around the rest of the country as Calvin Johnson broke the 17-year receiving yards record previously held by Jerry Rice with 11 catches for 225 yards on the night. He surpassed Rice’s record of 1,848 yards and now has 1,892 with one game to go and a real shot at becoming the first ever 2,000-yard receiver. On top of that, Megatron also set NFL records with his eighth straight game of 100-plus receiving yards and fourth straight with 10-plus catches. Matthew Stafford set an NFL record for the most passing yards in a game (443) without throwing a touchdown.
Atlanta did clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the win. Their two big targets, Roddy White and Julio Jones combined for 15 catches, 224 yards and three touchdowns. White had 100-plus yards and two TD catches in the 1st half alone – the second time he’s done that in his career. Jones now has at least five catches in five straight games and has a touchdown catch in four out of five. Matt Ryan continued his dominance at home as he threw four TD passes and set a new career-high with 31 on the year, tying the Falcons single-season record. He completed his first 12 passes of the game and dating back to last week, had completed 22 straight – a Falcons record – while also tying another career-high with the four touchdown passes. With one reception, Tony Gonzalez has caught a ball in 194 straight games. The Falcons improved to 13-2 and the Lions fell to a disappointing 4-11.
Steven Jackson entered Sunday’s game against the Bucs needing 91 yards for his eighth straight 1,000-yard season, but only got 81 as the Rams won the game 28-13. Rookie Janoris Jenkins returned another interception for a touchdown – his third of the year, which tied the rookie record set back in 1981. Josh Freeman tied the Bucs’ career record for TD throws with 77, but also threw four interceptions in his second consecutive game. He also now holds the Bucs’ single season passing yards record with 3,843 through Sunday. Sam Bradford was not sacked at all for the first time in 31 games. St. Louis improved to 7-7-1 and Tampa fell to 6-9 with their fifth straight loss.
Greg McElroy made the first start of his NFL career as the Jets hosted the Chargers in a battle of disappointing AFC teams. It was the first time since 2009 that Mark Sanchez had not started a game for New York and they looked pretty good on offense to start, driving for two early Shonn Greene touchdown runs. San Diego would come back, however, behind two touchdown passes from Philp Rivers, including one to Antonio Gates, who now stands alone as the Chargers’ all-time leader in touchdown catches with 82, and hand the Jets the loss, 27-17. San Diego sacked McElroy 11 times in the win – the most by a team since 2007. McElroy was the second quarterback since the merger to be sacked 11 times in his first start. The Jets fell to 6-9 and Chargers improved to 6-9 with the win.
Tom Brady was picked off on two of three 1st quarter possessions in a quarter dominated by the Jags as New England got off to its second straight slow start. Brady did throw a touchdown pass late in the half for his 47th consecutive game. Jacksonville managed to score its first opening drive touchdown this season and their first in 25 games as Chad Henne found Justin Blackmon for a three-yard score to cap off a five-plus minute drive to start the game. Their 202 1st quarter yards set a franchise record. New England found a way to win, however, improving to 11-4 and 9-1 all-time vs. Jacksonville. Patrick Chung picked Henne off in the endzone on the final play of the game and New England held on, 23-16. The Patriots need 54 points in their final game of the season to set the NFL record for most points in a season. New England became just the second team in NFL history to reach 400 1st downs in a season. Wes Welker caught his first touchdown in three weeks and now has at least one reception in 109 consecutive games. He also broke the all-time record for the most 10-reception games with the 18th of his career as he finished with 10 for 88 and the score. Bill Belichick improved to 46-8 as a head coach in December. Jacksonville fell to 2-13. New England has an outside shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC in Week 17.
Dez Bryant came into Sunday’s game against the Saints with a touchdown catch in six straight games and extended that streak quickly on a 58-yard pass from Tony Romo in the 2nd quarter. He is the first Cowboy since Terrell Owens in 2007 to catch a touchdown in seven straight games. It was his first touchdown catch in the 1st half of a game this year. He would catch another 58-yarder before the half ended, giving him five catches for 145 yards in the first two quarters. Drew Brees became the first QB ever to reach 4,500 yards passing for three consecutive years in his ninth career 400-yard game with 261 in the 1st half and finished with 446 on the day. Jason Witten became just the second player in team history with a 100-catch season and only the third tight end to ever do it. He broke the all-time record for receptions in a season by a tight end with his 103rd. A 14-point deficit with four minutes to go wasn’t too big of a task as Romo led the Cowboys back to tie the game up with 15 seconds left with a 19-yard pass to Miles Austin on 4th & 10. An overtime field goal by Garrett Hartley nullified the comeback bid, however, as New Orleans beat the Cowboys for the seventh time in eight games, 34-31. Brees and Romo each threw for 400-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns as the game featured two quarterbacks who accomplished that for just the fifth time in NFL history. Romo broke his own Cowboys’ record for the most passing yards in a season. The Cowboys fell to 8-7, but will play for the NFC East title next week against Washington and the Saints improved to 7-8.
The Bengals took on the Steelers with a chance to clinch back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since 1981-82, but would have to get past Ben Roethlisberger, who had beaten them 13 times coming into the game. With a last-second field goal from Josh Brown following a Roethlisberger interception, Cincinnati held on to beat their division rivals and clinch a playoff berth with the 13-10 win. The loss dropped Pittsburgh below .500 (7-8) and eliminated them from playoff contention. Shaun Suisham made just one of three kicks on the day and missed his first 50-plus yarder in 31 attempts. Roethlisberger’s 7.1 QBR was his lowest in three years. Cincinnati’s 14 yards rushing was the second-lowest total in franchise history. Cincinnati improved to 9-6 and has won six of seven heading into the season’s final week.
Reggie Bush scored three touchdowns to lead the Dolphins past the Bills, 24-10. It was his first multi-TD game since Week 2 of this year. Miami got the win despite just 119 yards passing from Ryan Tannehill. C.J. Spiller rushed for more than 100 yards for the fifth time this season. Buffalo’s 11 penalties for 93 yards hurt their struggling offense on the day, as they scored less than 11 points for the third time this year. They have now lost four of five since beating Miami in Week 11 and fell to 5-10, while the Dolphins improved to 7-8 on the year.
The Colts will be returning to the playoffs following a 20-13 win over Kansas City that secured them a wild card berth. Andrew Luck broke the NFL record for most passing yards by a rookie as his 205 yards passed the mark of 4,051 set by Cam Newton last year and got him to 4,183 on the season in the win over the 2-13 Chiefs. They needed Luck’s seventh game-winning drive of the year to do it though and that ties the record for the most such drives in a season. Indy became just the second team to ever win 10-plus games the season after losing 14-plus as they improved to 10-5 on the year. Jamaal Charles scored on an 86-yard run to give him three scores of more than 80 yards on the season, just the third player to ever do that. He set the Chiefs record with three 200-yard games as he finished with 226 on the day. Luck became just the fifth rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win 10 games. With five catches and a touchdown, Reggie Wayne now has 63 straight games with at least three receptions, adding to his NFL record.
The Redskins came into their game against the Eagles with a five-game win streak, controlling their own destiny in the NFC East and with Robert Griffin III back at quarterback after missing a game. They held on to top the Eagles, 27-20, and have now won six straight games – their longest winning streak since 1996. Philly has lost 11 games in a season for the first time since 1999 – Andy Reid‘s first season with the team. RG3 was 4-for-4 for 161 yards and three touchdowns on throws 21-plus yards downfield against the Eagles this season. Rookie kicker Kai Forbath has made the first 17 kicks of his career, the longest streak since 1970. Griffin ran for less than 10 yards for just the third time this season, but improved to 1-2 in such games. With a win against Dallas next Sunday night, the Redskins would return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Nick Foles broke his hand in the game and will not play in the season finale, perhaps opening the door back up for Michael Vick. Washington improved to 9-6 and Philly fell to 4-11.
As Adrian Peterson closed in on another prestigious record, Vikings‘ rookie kicker Blair Walsh set one of his own with his ninth field goal of 50-plus yards on the season. Peterson gained 86 yards on the day and sits 207 shy of Eric Dickerson‘s all-time single-season record with one to go. With his first catch of the day, Houston’s Andre Johnson reached 800 for his career in the second-fewest games ever (137), but his team fell to 12-3 with the 23-6 loss. J.J. Watt moved closer to the single-season sack record as he picked up another to bring his season total to 20.5 on the year with one game remaining. The record is 22.5. Arian Foster‘s 15 rushing yards were his lowest since the 2010 season. Houston needs a win in the final week against Indianapolis to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC and Minnesota, at 9-6, needs a win to get in as a wild card team. The Texans are just the second team since 1950 to not score a touchdown in a home game that they came into with 10 or more wins.
With a chance to build on their win last week, the Titans took on the Packers, who were fresh off of clinching the NFC North title last week. Let’s just say the Packers played pretty well. Aaron Rodgers threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns as Green Bay embarrassed Tennessee with a 55-7 win and improved to 11-4 on the year while the Titans fell to 5-10. Their 55 points were the most scored by the team since 1983. Green Bay won its final regular season home game for the eighth straight year and 20th out of 21 seasons. The Packers would clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first round bye with a win in their finale against the Vikings next week.
The Ravens looked to break their three-game winning streak with the Bengals coming up hot on their tails as they took on the defending champs at home. A dominating performance led to a 33-14 win and their second straight AFC North title while improving to 10-5. The Giants‘ offense has been repulsive the past two weeks, scoring just 14 points in the two games combined and the combination of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks put up just three catches for 21 yards (all Cruz) and no touchdowns. On 3rd down, Baltimore went 11-for-18 while New York was just 2-for-10, including no conversions until four minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The Ravens out-gained the Giants by 347 total yards (533-186). Joe Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns while running for a third in the Super Bowl XXXV rematch. The Giants would need another win on the season’s last day and some help to have a chance at getting back to the Super Bowl this year as they sit at 8-7. Flacco has won 10 games in all but one of his five NFL seasons.
For the second straight week, Sebastian Janikowski was responsible for all of the Raiders‘ points, but this time, his two field goals weren’t enough to beat the Panthers as they fell 17-6. Oakland fell to 4-11 with its seventh loss in eight games and Carolina improved to 6-9 with its third straight win. After losing Carson Palmer to injury, Oakland dug really deep into the legendary quarterbacks of college football and used Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor – neither of whom could help their offense. They had just 47 yards rushing in the game after 203 last week. Luke Kuechly continued his impressive rookie season for Carolina, making 13 tackles and breaking up two passes.
Denver kept rolling at home with a 34-12 win over the Browns behind 339 yards and three touchdowns from Peyton Manning including two by Eric Decker. Trent Richardson broke the Browns’ rookie record for rushing yards in a season as he now has 950 through 15 games, but injured his foot in the loss and his status for next week appears to be in serious question. Von Miller set the Denver record for most sacks in a season as he now has 17.5 on the year. They have now won 10 games in a row for the first time since 1998 and have also won 10 straight against Cleveland. Manning improved to 6-0 in his career against the Browns. Denver improved to 12-3 and still has a shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while Cleveland fell to 5-10 and has long since been eliminated from any hope of playoff contention this year. The Broncos became just the fourth team to ever win 10 straight games all by seven or more points.
Brandon Marshall set the Bears‘ record for receiving yards in a season as he hauled in six passes for 68 more yards and a touchdown in the team’s 28-13 win over the Cardinals. Marshall has 1,466 receiving yards through 16 games. As of right now, however, the Bears find themselves in the seventh spot in the NFC, leaving them needing a win and help in the final week of the season if they are to avoid becoming the second team since 1990 to miss the playoffs following a 7-1 start. Charles Tillman returned his third interception of the year for a touchdown and the Bears now have eight as a team – one shy of the NFL single-season record with one to play. Ryan Lindley now has at least one turnover in every game he has played in this season and has thrown more touchdowns to opposing defenders (four) than he has thrown to his own receivers (zero). Larry Fitzgerald went over 100 yards receiving for the first time since Week 3.
The red hot Seahawks took on the 49ers with the division still up for grabs Sunday night and, like they have with their last two opponents, completely dominated them. They have scored 150 points in their last three games while only giving up 30 as they manhandled the 49ers, 42-13. After getting out to a 21-0 lead, a San Francisco field goal ended a run of 100 straight points scored by the Seahawks at home. Should they have scored eight more points, they would have become the first team in NFL history to score 50 or more in three straight games. So close. Only one team in NFL history has scored more points in a three-game span. Seattle clinched a playoff berth with the win and Russell Wilson became the sixth rookie quarterback (and second this week) to ever win 10 games. His four TD’s Sunday night give him 25 for the year – one shy of the all-time record by a rookie.
Three quarterbacks threw for 400 yards over the weekend: Stafford, Romo and Brees, who was the only one to do it in a win.
The AFC playoff teams are now set, but the seeding is still to be determined in the final week of play. The teams advancing to the postseason are the Texans, Broncos, Patriots, Ravens, Colts and Bengals. All of them, with the exception of Indy, were there last year.
In the NFC, the Falcons, Packers, 49ers and Seahawks are the only teams to have clinched playoff appearances through 16 weeks. The Vikings, Bears, Redskins, Cowboys and Giants are five teams in the hunt for two spots.
Some information taken from ESPN Stats & Info.
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