Pittsburgh managed a pulse-pounding win in the opener, going 75 yards in 10 plays in the final two minutes to knock off the Ravens, 31-27, and in doing so knock Baltimore out of the playoffs while clinching the AFC North. Antonio Brown’s stretch was enough to get the ball across the plane of the goal line at the end of a four-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to secure the victory. Not including two spikes to stop the clock, Roethlisberger was 8-for-8 on the winning march. Not too shabby.
The New England Patriots moved closer to securing homefield advantage and another AFC team rescued its playoff hopes from jeopardy in thrilling fashion on Christmas Eve, but the Cleveland Browns may have produced the most memorable game of the day against the San Diego Chargers.
The Browns blocked one would-be game-tying field goal attempt in the fourth quarter and Chargers kicker Josh Lambo pushed another wide right as time expired, giving the previously 0-14 Browns their first victory of the season, 20-17. The win prevents Cleveland — a city that has enjoyed the recent successes of MLB’s Indians and NBA’s Cavaliers — from joining the Detroit Lions in NFL infamy as the only teams to go winless over a 16-game scheduled. Still, this doesn’t mean the Browns are, you know, good.
The win did come at a cost, the win now puts the San Francisco Niners in position to receive the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL draft should both teams finish with just one victory this season.
There were some other losses as well: quarterback Robert Griffin III was knocked from the game and diagnosed with a concussion. He was not the only signal caller to not finish the game Saturday.
In Oakland, with the Raiders comfortably ahead of the Indianapolis Colts, quarterback Derek Carr had to be helped off the field with a leg injury. He was eventually carted to the locker room and was replaced by Matt McGloin. From the looks of things on the CBS broadcast, Carr and the Raiders appeared to be in real trouble. After Oakland finished its 33-25 win, Coach Jack Del Rio confirmed the worst.
New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty battled through a chest injury to return to face the Patriots in Week 16, but was taken to the locker room after suffering an injury while making a tackle following a Patriots’ fumble recovery. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over for the Jets and continued their downward spiral, ultimately falling to the Patriots 41-3.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t finish the game either, but for very different reasons. With New England blowing out New York by 34, the Pats opted to rest their starter in the fourth quarter, bringing in backup Jimmy Garoppolo to finish the game. Garoppolo promptly led the Pats to another touchdown, capped by a run by LaGarrette Blount, his second rushing score of the day. With the win, Pats Coach Bill Belichick became the fifth coach in NFL history to reach the 200-win plateau with one team, joining luminaries George Halas, Curly Lambeau, Don Shula and Tom Landry.
Though the Patriots’ rout of the New York Jets was far from surprising, a blowout by the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars over the Tennessee Titans, 38-17, imperiled the Titans’ playoff hopes and set up a clinching scenario for the Houston Texans when they face the Cincinnati Bengals at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night. Worse for Tennessee, Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariota was carted off the field at the end of the third quarter with an air cast reportedly being applied to his right ankle. The Titans later announced that he is out with a fractured fibula.
Matt Cassel replaced him at quarterback and scored a touchdown on his second drive to trim Jacksonville’s lead to eight points. The Jags answered in surprising fashion, with Marqise Lee throwing the touchdown pass to quarterback Blake Bortles in a role reversal. The Jags missed the extra point, but on the ensuing Tennessee possession, Jalen Ramsey returned a Cassel interception for another Jacksonville score. Tennessee’s playoff chances are looking very dark at the moment.
And in Seattle, wide receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett made a sensational catch but in doing so suffered a gruesome leg injury that led to his being carted off the field late in the first half of the Seahawks’ game against Arizona. Lockett broke his leg on the play and Coach Pete Carroll said after the game — a 34-31 Seahawks loss — that it will require season-ending surgery. Take a deep breath before watching…
The Miami Dolphins nearly watched their playoff hopes take a big hit before a miraculous field goal at the end of regulation pushed their game against the Buffalo Bills to overtime and gave them another shot at victory, which they seized on a 27-yard field goal by Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks.
Franks hit a 55-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 31. It appeared as though Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan was attempting to call timeout just prior to the kick, but he did not get the call before the snap. The Dolphins’ win means a loss by the Denver Broncos Sunday night will put them into the playoffs with a wild-card berth.
Then there was the night game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans. In a contest that threatened to set back offensive football for decades, host Houston emerged with a 12-10 win when Bengals kicker (and former Texan) Randy Bullock pushed a 43-yard field goal attempt at the final gun. The win gave Houston its second straight AFC South title and eliminated the now Mariota-less Titans from the playoffs in the process.
In the NFC, three teams chasing playoff berths secured big wins.
The Packers remained in position to lock up at least a wild-card berth by beating the Minnesota Vikings, 38-25. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers three two touchdown passes to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, another to Davante Adams, a fourth to tight end Richard Rodgers and added a rushing touchdown of his own to set up a Week 17 clash with the Detroit Lions that could decide the NFC North. That would be contingent on a loss by the Lions on Monday night when they face the NFC-leading Dallas Cowboys.
Meanwhile, the Vikings, burned badly throughout the first half by Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson, have only themselves — or at least their secondary — to blame. It seems that instead of following Coach Mike Zimmer’s game plan to have cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadow Nelson, the defensive backs felt they knew better, and let whoever was on the same side as Nelson take him. Rhodes detailed the thought process himself in a postgame interview, but that didn’t change the fact that Nelson had seven of his nine catches, 145 of his 154 yards and both of his touchdowns in that first half. Strange days indeed for the Vikings.
The Falcons clinched the NFC South after downing the Carolina Panthers 33-16 and the Bucs lost 31-24 to the Saints in New Orleans. Atlanta is now the NFC’s No. 2 seed while the loss by Tampa also gives the NFC’s top wild-card spot to the New York Giants and will allow the Detroit Lions to clinch a playoff berth with a win in Dallas over the Cowboys on Monday night.
Currently on the outside of the playoff picture, the Washington Redskins kept their hopes alive with a win over the Chicago Bears, 41-21. The Redskins need help in order to reach the postseason.
The defensive lineman lashed out at his teammate following another dismal defeat. (Read More)
More tumult for the Vikings as the team’s defensive backs collectively turn on their coaches wishes. (Read More)
No one is hurt, though Minnesota’s odd season keeps getting weirder. (Read More)
The gift-giving has commenced among NFL teams, and the cognac, VR goggles and UTVs are being handed out by QBs and RBs alike. (Read More)
There are still serious questions around Eli Manning and New York’s offense. (Read More)
Where does everyone fall as the playoffs approach? (Read More)
Latest updates: 8:36 a.m.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, San Diego Chargers RB Melvin Gordon and Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson will both sit out Week 16, but Falcons WR Julio Jones is expected to suit up.
They will be joined by Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, who was reportedly determined to play after missing multiple games due to a hamstring tear. However the team has shut him down, pulling him from a team meeting to deliver the news. Just shy of 1,000 receiving yards for the season, the news apparently did not go over well with the wide receiver, according to ESPN. Redskins TE Jordan Reed will sit out with a shoulder injury, while Packers WR Randall Cobb and Jets RB Matt Forte will sit as well.
The following players entered the day listed as questionable, but played in the 1 p.m. games:
Bills TE Charles Clay (knee) and WR Sammy Watkins (foot), Vikings WR Stefon Diggs (hip), Jets WR Brandon Marshall (shoulder), Patriots TE Martellus Bennett (ankle) and QB Tom Brady (thigh).
In the later games, both of the Raiders’ top wide receivers — Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper — are listed as questionable, along with Cardinals receiver John Brown (illness). In the Sunday night game, not only is Green out, but running back Jeremy Hill is questionable with a knee injury, while Houston Texans RB Lamar Miller is out with an ankle injury.
Check back later for a full rundown of the day’s top fantasy developments from John Romero, but here are the Post’s top tips to help you set your lineup this week.
You can trust Todd Gurley this week. No, seriously. (Read More)
Which stars can you trust with the championship on the line? (Read More)
Philip Rivers looks like a smart play at quarterback. (Read More)
Can Amari Cooper return from the abyss? (Read More)
ATS Betting Tips/Picks
We wish you a merry pickmas. (Read More)
How the numbers say Week 16 should play out. (Read More)