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WalterFootball.com: NFL Game Recaps

January 3, 2020

Bengals 33, Browns 23 It appeared as though the Browns would run away with this game in the early stages of the afternoon when Baker Mayfield launched a 46-yard bomb to Damion Ratley. Cleveland went up 7-0 in a flash, and yet it was outscored by 17 the rest of the day. The result was an embarrassing, double-digit loss to a one-win team in what would end up being Freddie Kitchens’ final game as a head coach.

This is obviously for the best, so this loss will be beneificial for the long haul. Mayfield has regressed under Kitchens, and he was horrible in this game. He finished without completing half of his passes, going 12-of-27 for 279 yards, three touchdowns and a trio of interceptions. Mayfield’s worst pick came early when he stared down his receiver. This set up a quick touchdown for the Bengals, who established a seven-point lead and never looked back.

Mayfield’s numbers weren’t even that great, and yet he wasn’t even as good as his stats indicate. His receivers bailed him out with some outstanding catches. That was Ratley early, and then both Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, both of whom scored touchdowns. Landry snatched two balls for 82 yards, while Beckham secured three receptions for 81 yards. Beckham’s touchdown was an acrobatic reception that we’ve seen from him over the years. Perhaps it was a glimpse of things to come next year when he’s not dealing with a sports hernia. Nick Chubb had some early success, but between the deficit and Kitchens’ incmpetence, he didn’t get to run very much. Chubb finished with just 41 yards on 13 carries. Kareem Hunt (3 catches, 32 rec. yards) was barely a factor. Cincinnati’s ground attack was so much better. Joe Mixon, fully recovered from the South Beach stomach bug, had a monster afternoon, picking up 162 yards on 26 carries. He also found the end zone twice. In his final start in Cincinnati, Andy Dalton had a solid performance. He was 16-of-28 for 190 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The fans cheered for him and held up some nice signs, so it was a cool moment for Dalton, who will be replaced by Joe Burrow in April. Dalton’s leading receiver was Tyler Boyd, who caught five of his seven targets for 59 yards. John Ross (2-42) was next on the stat line.

Jets 13, Bills 6 I’m not going to spend lots of time recapping games in which teams sat their starters. This was one such contest for the most part. The Bills actually started Josh Allen and some significant players, and they paid the price for their stupidity.

Starting cornerback Levi Wallace was on the field for some reason, and his knee buckled on a play in the opening half. He left the game, so his status for next week’s playoff affair doesn’t look very optimistic. He’ll be missed if he’s out against DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller.

Josh Allen didn’t play a snap after the Wallace injury. He completed 3-of-5 passes for five yards, which makes me wonder why he was on the field to begin with. Had Allen suffered an injury, Sean McDermott would’ve been fired on the spot. Matt Barkley entered for Allen right after that, and he was predictably woeful. He was 18-of-35 for 232 yards, two interceptions and a lost fumble on a strip-sack when he held the ball forever in the pocket. He nearly was strip-sacked a second time, but replay review overturned the call. As for the Jets, Sam Darnold also had a poor outing. He went 23-of-36 for 199 yards, one touchdown and an interception off a deflection. He lost a fumble on a strip-sack. Like Barkley, he held the ball for an eternity in the pocket. Le’Veon Bell had another disappointing outing. He rushed for just 41 yards on 16 carries, while catching all five of his targets for 36 receiving yards. It’s become clear that Adam Gase has no idea how to utilize talent. Jamison Crowder caught Sam Darnold’s sole touchdown. He snatched eight balls for 66 yards. Robby Anderson (3-18) didn’t perform as well.

Packers 23, Lions 20 It seemed as though no one informed the Packers that this game meant something. Green Bay was set to secure a first-round bye – as well as home-field advantage with a San Francisco loss – with a simple win over the inept Lions, who have been dreadful down the stretch. And yet, the Packers tailed by two touchdowns heading into intermission. It seemed like they would lose to the Lions for most of the afternoon.

The Packers looked like they had a severe case of somnambulism throughout the afternoon, as they constantly made mistakes and played sloppily. It began when Jimmy Graham dropped a pass for what would’ve gone for 25 yards. The Packers then had a sequence where they had an offensive pass interference negate an Aaron Jones first-down catch; were flagged for having 12 men in the huddle; and then saw Aaron Rodgers throw behind Marquez Valdes-Scantling. All of this ruined a promising drive that entered Detroit territory, forcing the Packers to punt despite being on the cusp of field goal range.

The blunders continued in the second half. Rodgers overthrew both Tyler Ervin and Dvante Adams for touchdowns. Rodgers was then picked on an underthrown pass toward Jake Kumerow, and Kumerow returned the favor by committing offensive pass interference.

Despite all of this, the Packers somehow found a way to win. It began when David Blough threw a horrible interception that two Green Bay defenders could’ve caught. Danny Amendola made things worse with an unsportsmanlike penalty. All of this occurred when the Lions were up seven with a few minutes remaining. This gave the Packers the momentum they needed to tie this game and eventually prevail on an ensuing drive. Rodgers threw for 323 yards and two scores, but didn’t have a good game. As mentioned earlier, he missed several touchdowns. He didn’t get much help from his receivers, but Rodgers was a big disappointment. It didn’t help that he lost his center, Corey Linsley, to a back injury in the second quarter. Still, that doesn’t excuse going 27-of-55 and an interception against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. Allen Lazard caught the game-tying score, which was one of his four receptions for 69 yards. He trailed only Adams (7-93) on the stat sheet. Adams found the end zone as well. Aaron Jones didn’t score, but he hit the century mark on the dot on 25 carries. He also caught two passes for 43 receiving yards. Jones’ numbers would’ve been better had he not missed a couple of drives when someone stepped on his hand. The Lions, meanwhile, collectively rushed for more yards than Jones did. They split the workload between Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson. The former Johnson gained 53 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while Scarbrough mustered 42 yards on nine tries. The other Johnson actually led the Lions in rushing with 65 yards on just three tries. The Packers seemed to lack the energy to stop the Detroit running game. The Packers weren’t great against the pass either for at least the initial half of the afternoon. Kenny Golladay caught three passes for 72 yards in the opening half, but he was knocked out with a concussion. The Lions’ aerial attack sputtered after that. No other Detroit played logged more than 20 receiving yards. Blough was pedestrian in this contest, even if excluding the aforementioned pick. Blough went 12-of-29 for 122 yards and his interception. He caught a touchdown from Amendola on a trick play, but that was pretty much his only highlight of the afternoon.

Chiefs 31, Chargers 21 With the Patriots struggling against Miami, it seemed like the Chiefs would blow a golden opportunity to seize a first-round bye. They began the game sluggishly and even trailed in the third quarter, thanks to a Patrick Mahomes interception that was the result of a miscommunication between him and Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs were sleepwalking through the opening half, but made two huge plays following the Mahomes pick. The first was a kickoff return by Mecole Hardman, while the second was a Damien Williams 84-yard run in which the Chargers missed three tackles and what should’ve been a short gain. Williams escaped to sprint into the end zone to give the Chiefs an insurmountable 10-point lead. Despite the victory, Mahomes didn’t play very well. He had a horrible fantasy and mediocre real-life output, going 16-of-25 for 174 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned interception. The Chargers have improved their pass defense ever since Derwin James and some other players returned from injury, but much more was expected from Mahomes. Mahomes’ sole touchdown went to Demarcus Robinson, whose sole catch was a 24-yarder. It looked like it was Tyreek Hill at first glance, but Hill had to settle for being the team’s leading receiver with four grabs for 61 yards. No other Chief logged more than 30 receiving yards. Thanks to that 84-yard touchdown, Damien Williams rushed for 124 yards on 12 attempts. he also found the end zone twice. He only split the workload with Darwin Thompson (4-17). The Chargers, meanwhile, threw this game away. They had the lead in the second half, but not being able to tackle on the two big plays capsized their chances of pulling the upset. Otherwise, Philip Rivers did a solid job of moving the chains for most of the afternoon. Rivers went 31-of-46 for 281 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, though one of his picks was a desperation heave on fourth-and-long at the end of the game. His initial interception, however, was a terrible one, as Rivers just launched the ball up for grabs into the end zone just prior to halftime despite being in field goal range. Keenan Allen’s fantasy owners had to be upset to see their receiver finally have a terrific performance in Week 17. Allen caught nine of his 10 targets for 82 yards. Hunter Henry (5-42) also found the end zone, and he made a great catch over the middle of the field in between four defenders. Speaking of trips to the end zone, Melvin Gordon also scored, though he didn’t have much success as a rusher; he was limited to 46 yards on 14 carries, though he did some major work as a receiver out of the backfield, catching six of his seven targets for 76 yards. Austin Ekeler was even more involved in that regard, securing nine of the 11 balls thrown to him for 43 yards.

Bears 21, Vikings 19 As I wrote earlier, I’m not going to focus on the games where the starters didn’t play. This was the case in this contest, as Kirk Cousins and the rest of the Minnesota offense was kept out of action.

This was a sluggish affair, which had an 11-6 score at halftime. The Vikings made plenty of mistakes, including Mike Boone’s lost fumble following a 59-yard run and a Sean Mannion interception that bobbled off Boone’s hands. Boone was also tackled in the end zone for a safety.

Boone responded well, however, finishing with 148 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He wasn’t the only rusher who eclipsed the century mark, as David Montgomery tallied 113 yards and a touchdown on 23 attempts. His score was impressive, as he carried multiple players on his back for the 14-yard touchdown. Mitchell Trubisky didn’t make any glaring mistakes, but wasn’t very good either. He went 26-of-37 for 207 yards. He was at his worst in the red zone, which had been a running theme this year. His counterpart, Sean Mannion, was 12-of-21 for 126 yards and a pair of picks, though one wasn’t his fault. Receivers of note were Allen Robinson, who caught nine of his 12 targets for 71 yards, as well as Anthony Miller, who did nothing but catch a 5-yard pass because he suffered a shoulder injury.

Dolphins 27, Patriots 24 All the Patriots had to do to obtain a first-round bye was defeat the dreadful Dolphins at home. They already beat Miami 43-0 earlier in the year, and yet that was on the road. This should’ve been an easy victory, but it was apparent early that this wouldn’t be the case.

Following a Miami field goal, the Patriots gave the Dolphins a double-digit advantage when Tom Brady fired a horrible pass in between two offensive players. It’s unclear whom he was targeting, but a Miami defender snatched a pick-six. It was a throw you’d see from a raw rookie; not the best quarterback in NFL history.

The Patriots eventually rebounded and even took a 24-20 lead. There were just a couple of minutes remaining after that, so all they needed was to stop Ryan Fitzpatrick. Their defense had been stellar all year against inferior competition, but they came up short this time. Fitzpatrick marched down the field on a 75-play drive to give the Dolphins the improbable victory. It’s almost inexplicable, but the Patriots had no answer for DeVante Parker. Stephon Gilmore is the best cornerback in the NFL, yet he couldn’t defend him at all. Parker was a monster, hauling in eight of his 11 targets for 137 yards. He, Albert Wilson (5-59) and Isaiah Ford (7-54) all had strong statistical performances against a New England secondary that is supposed to be impenetrable. Wilson’s numbers would’ve been better had he not dropped three passes. Thanks to having some unstoppable receivers at his disposal, Fitzpatrick went 28-of-41 for 320 yards and a touchdown. He’ll return next year as the starter while the Dolphins presumably groom Tua Tagovailoa as he recovers from his injury. The one thing the Dolphins didn’t do well was run the ball, which wasn’t a surprise. Patrick Laird was restricted to just 21 yards on 11 carries, though he was able to save his fantasy day with four catches for 48 receiving yards. While the Patriots being unable to stop Parker, Wilson and Ford was shocking, it was even more surprising that Tom Brady struggled. The Dolphins have a dreadful defense that has allowed big performances to everyone they’ve played, including Baker Mayfield and Andy Dalton recently. And yet, Brady couldn’t even reach 225 passing yards. Brady was just 3-of-9 on third down, which is absolutely befuddling.

Brady finished 16-of-29 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned pick-six. He was better in the second half after going 5-of-12 for 92 yards and a pick prior to intermission. It’s no surprise that the Patriots made the appropriate adjustments at halftime, but they shouldn’t have even needed to, based on the lackluster competition. Part of the reason why Brady struggled so much was Julian Edelman’s poor health. Edelman was obviously reeling from his injuries, and he caught just three passes for 26 yards as a result. Mohamed Sanu (3-35) was also a disappointment. Atlanta stole a second-round pick from New England. Perhaps the Patriots would’ve had better offensive success had they involved James White more than they did. For some reason, White had just five touches, which is bizarre because he’s the best back on the New England roster. Sony Michel, who rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, didn’t have a bad game or anything, but he can’t do what White does as a receiver out of the backfield.

Falcons 28, Buccaneers 22 If you were to tell me that this game would follow the normal script of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers contest, I would’ve painted this exact picture. The Buccaneers trailed early, but eventually established a lead that they held for most of the afternoon. However, because of a trio of Matt Gay field goals, the Falcons were able to hang around and eventually tie the score with a field goal prior to the end of regulation.

This was just fine, however, because the Buccaneers won the coin toss and had first possession in overtime. All they needed to do was drive down the field against a mediocre defense. Instead, Jameis Winston stared down his receiver on the first snap of the extra session. Linebacker Deion Jones read Winston’s eyes easily and snatched an interception, which he ran back for a touchdown to win the game.

This was the typical game for Winston as well. He had some nice moments, especially on deep shots to Breshad Perriman. As a result, he became the eighth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards. Conversely, Winston’s game-losing pick-six was his 30th interception of the year. That meant that he became the first quarterback in league history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 picks in the same season.

Winston ultimately finished 13-of-24 for 201 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The Buccaneers easily could’ve won this game had Gay not whiffed on three field goals, and everything was spoiled with the pick-six at the end. Winston posted some great numbers in 2019, but the horrible ball security will need to be addressed. Perriman, meanwhile, continued his great play down the stretch. He was terrific, catching five of his eight targets for 134 yards and a touchdown. He was the only Buccaneer with more than 27 receiving yards. Winston wasn’t the only Tampa player who screwed up. Ronald Jones lost an early fumble that gave the Falcons a field goal. Still, Jones rushed for 106 yards on just 11 carries. Peyton Barber (6-10) was much more sluggish. The Falcons predictably couldn’t run on the Buccaneers’ elite run defense. Devonta Freeman was limited to 58 yards on 18 carries. Matt Ryan had to do all of the work, and he had a big second half. He went 30-of-51 for 313 yards and a touchdown. He saw lots of pressure from Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. Barrett broke Warren Sapp’s single-season record when he recorded a sack to reach 17.5 for the year. Pierre-Paul, meanwhile, returned a Ryan fumble for a touchdown. However, the Tampa pass rush disappeared toward the end of regulation, allowing Ryan to force overtime. Julio Jones was Tampa’s leading receiver with seven catches for 78 yards. Russell Gage (7-68) and Austin Hooper (7-45) weren’t too far behind.

Saints 42, Panthers 10
By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell
EDITOR’S NOTE: Forgive me if I’m jumping the gun, but I don’t think the Will Grier era is going to last very long.
The Saints wanted to win this game for playoff positioning and to enter the postseason on a sharp note. New Orleans blew out Carolina by halftime, with Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara putting the game out of reach. The good news for the Panthers is they didn’t worsen their draft position with a meaningless Week 17 win. The Saints took the opening drive and ripped off a series of double-digit gains to set up a 15-yard touchdown run for Kamara. After a quick punt for the Panthers, New Orleans was back to moving the ball in chunks, including a screen to Kamara to get well into Carolina territory. A 24-yard pass interference in the end zone led to Kamara scoring on a one-yard touchdown plunge.

Panthers rookie quarterback Will Grier started turning the ball over to open up a blowout. He fumbled a handoff away and then threw a short pick-six to A.J. Klein. A Cam Jordan sack knocked Grier out of the game with an injury, but at that point, the damage was done. Midway through the second quarter, Brees found Tre’Quan Smith (5-56-1) for a short touchdown pass, and then Jared Cook (2-44-1) made a superb spinning scoring reception from about 20 yards. A 28-yard pass to Christian McCaffrey was the key play to get the Panthers a field goal drive, and the Saints held a 35-3 lead at halftime.

The second half was all garbage time, but the New Orleans starters remained in the game until midway through the second half and continued the onslaught, with Brees finding Taysom Hill (1-45-1) for a touchdown. Carolina answered with a touchdown for McCaffrey to end the scoring. Brees was 19-of-30 for 253 yards with three touchdowns.
Kamara ran for 39 yards on eight carries, notching one touchdown.
Thomas had four receptions for 37 yards.
Grier was awful before his injury, completing only 1-of-8 passes. Kyle Allen was 25-of-41 for 295 yards with an interception.
McCaffrey ran for 26 yards on nine carries, picking up a touchdown, but had seven receptions for 72 yards to get over 1,000 yards receiving for the season.

Broncos 16, Raiders 15
By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell
EDITOR’S NOTE: I’d like to thank the Raiders for covering. I didn’t bet them, but their cover won me second place in an office pool for a cool $500. Thanks for the late touchdown!
The Raiders entered this game with hopes of an outside shot at making the playoffs, but the limitations of Derek Carr kept them getting a road win in Denver. Even if Oakland had won, it would not have mattered with the Titans winning in Houston, but the final game as “Oakland” ended with a disappointing loss.

Still, the Raiders are vastly improved in their second year under Jon Gruden and they have five picks in the top 100 next April, including two first-rounders. The Raiders’ future is bright in Las Vegas, and Denver also has some hope for 2020 with rookie quarterback Drew Lock going 4-1 in his five starts this year. The Raiders’ first drive went down the field, but Daniel Carlson missed a chip shot field goal that turned out to be a crushing miss. Oakland’s next possession produced points after tight end Darren Waller exploded down the field on a screen pass for a 76-yard gain, as this time, Carlson made the short field goal. Lock used Courtland Sutton to move the ball for a field goal to tie it.

Oakland moved down the field, but on fourth-and-goal from a foot away, the fullback was stuffed for no gain. The Raiders continued to leave points on the field, like when Marcel Ateman fumbled the ball near midfield with just a few minutes remaining in the second quarter. Lock made a few completions, and the NFL’s horrible officiating gifted a phantom pass-interference penalty in the end zone on Trayvon Mullen. Lock threw a short touchdown pass to Andrew Beck, and that gave Denver a 10-3 lead at halftime.

The Broncos added a field goal in the third quarter, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Brandon McManus hit a 51-yarder to put Denver up 16-3. Oakland finally got moving, but a drive stalled with Carr being too conservative on a few plays, so the Raiders settled for a field goal with nine minutes remaining. Royce Freeman fumbled the ball away near midfield three minutes later to keep the Raiders’ comeback hopes alive.

Carr finally went downfield and found Hunter Renfrow for a good gain. Renfrow had a nifty run and lateral to Ateman for some extra yardage for a gain of 48 yards. Once again, the Raiders settled for a field goal, but that made it 16-9 with just over three minutes remaining. The Raiders got the ball back, but Waller was unable to reel in an underthrown pass on a fourth down.

Denver head coach Vic Fangio made a terrible decision with just under two minutes remaining to go for a 57-yard field goal, and McManus missed it. That gave the Raiders the ball at their own 47-yard line with 1:41 remaining. Carr found Renfrow for a 28-yard pass, and on second-and-goal, Renfrow caught a 3-yard touchdown. Oakland went for the win with the two-point conversion, but Shelby Harris batted down the pass to clinch the Denver victory. Lock was 17-of-28 for 177 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions. He wasn’t impressive, but he avoided mistakes.
Phillip Lindsay ran for 53 yards on 18 carries.
Sutton had four receptions for 52 yards.
Carr moved the ball between the 20s, but he struggled in critical moments against Denver. He missed a wide-open Renfrow for a touchdown with an overthrow early in the game and later missed a touchdown with an underthrown ball. Carr was shy to push the ball downfield, settling for dump-offs when he had time in the pocket. In Carr’s defense, Oakland was playing with a lot of backups as Josh Jacobs was out along with his best wide receiver, Tyrell Williams. Carr finished completing 29-of-46 passes for 391 yards with a touchdowns and zero interceptions, but he didn’t play as well as the yardage total suggests.
DeAndre Washington ran for 77 yards on 17 carries.
Waller (6-107) and Renfrow (6-102-1) played well. If the Raiders add a true No. 1 wide receiver to go with them, Tyrell Williams and Josh Jacobs, perhaps that group of weapons could make up for Carr’s limitations.

Cowboys 47, Redskins 16 NFL teams that need to win in the final week of the regular season often lose, but that was not the case with Dallas. The Cowboys prevailed quite easily, though they managed to do so with lots of help from the Redskins.

Washington made numerous mistakes in this game, and it started early when Case Keenum fired an interception off his back foot. Adrian Peterson then lost a fumble in his own territory on the team’s next drive. This set up the Cowboys with a couple of scores. The Redskins also squandered some opportunities of their own, failing to kick a field goal on a fourth-and-4 in the red zone. Had the Redskins done so, this would’ve been a 20-13 affair at halftime. Instead, Dallas carried a double-digit lead into the break.

The Redskins’ defense did a decent job of limiting Dallas’ offense for the opening half, but things quickly fell apart as the evening progressed. Michael Gallup scored a second-half touchdown because of a horrible tackle, and that opened the floodgates. Dallas scored on nearly every possession following intermission, turning this close game into a blowout. The one primary take-away from this game, playoff ramifications aside, was the sudden health of Dak Prescott. The hobbled quarterback was woeful last week, but despite barely practicing leading up to this game, Prescott was stellar. He misfired on just 10 occasions, going 23-of-33 for 303 yards and four touchdowns. Granted, he was battling a secondary missing four starters, but his health was apparent. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, it doesn’t matter because the Eagles prevailed, which eliminated them from the playoffs. While Prescott was healthy, Amari Coper didn’t look as great. Cooper caught just four passes, but for 92 yards. This paled in comparison to Gallup’s line of five receptions for 98 yards and three touchdowns. Gallup’s emergence in the second half of the year is huge for the team’s outlook going forward. If Jerry Jones finds himself a real NFL coach, Gallup’s progression could be a catalyst for a potential playoff run next year. Ezekiel Elliott was a monster in this contest, trampling the Redskins’ defense for 122 yards and a touchdown on just 18 attempts. He also scored a second time on one of his three receptions. Elliott appeared to suffer an injury on a fourth-down conversion, but turned out to be OK after he was down briefly. Elliott predictably outgained Peterson, who had a solid afternoon outside of the fumble. He tallied 78 yards on 13 carries. Keenum didn’t play as well as his former Viking alumnus. He failed to complete half of his passes, going 18-of-37 for 206 yards, one touchdown and an interception despite the absence of Dallas’ top cornerback, Byron Jones. Keenum saw lots of pressure from Dallas’ front, so he didn’t have a chance on some instances. Washington’s only productive receiver was Steven Sims Jr., who caught five of his eight targets for 81 yards and a touchdown. He blazed for a 65-yard gain at one point, and he nearly ran into the end zone. It seems as though the Redskins want him to be their slot receiver next year. He and Terry McLaurin will make for a nice duo.

Jaguars 38, Colts 20 The Jaguars hadn’t tried hard for a full game since their bye, so leave it to them to finally put forth full effort in a meaningless Week 17 contest after it was announced that their head coach would be fired. Despite the news that Doug Marrone would be axed, the Jaguars came out energized against the Colts, demolishing them following an early deficit.

I never thought I’d write this, but the Colts had no answer for Gardner Minshew. The mustachioed quarterback had some poor accuracy on an early drive that began following a great punt return, but he improved as the evening progressed. He eventually caught fire, finishing 27-of-39 for 295 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Perhaps this will give the Jaguars some hope that Minshew can develop into a viable starting quarterback. For this to happen, Jacksonville will need to bolster its offensive line. Minshew impressively beat the Colts without the help of his stud running back, as Leonard Fournette was sidelined in this game. Ryquell Armstead started instead, and he was a monster as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught five of his nine targets for 52 yards and a receiving touchdown. He didn’t do much as a rusher, mustering just 33 yards on 10 carries. Aside from Armstead, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole caught Minshew’s touchdowns. Cole caught three passes for 67 yards, while Westbrook led the team with seven grabs for 72 yards. D.J. Chark (4-34) was a disappointment once again. As for the Colts, Jacoby Brissett once again looked injured, as he failed to complete half of his passes against a secondary missing its top two cornerbacks, Jalen Ramsey (traded) and A.J. Bouye (injured). Brissett went 12-of-25 for just 162 yards. He also lost a fumble on a scramble deep inside his territory. Yannick Ngakoue forced the fumble, and Calais Campbell scooped the ball up and returned it for six. Aside from better health, Brissett will need a viable second option to throw to. The only productive Indianapolis receiver in this game was T.Y. Hilton, who caught three balls for 72 yards. No other Colt logged more than 31 receiving yards. Marlon Mack was the most productive Colt, as he rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. It looked like Mack was due for a monstrous afternoon, but the Colts’ massive deficit ruined that possibility.

Ravens 28, Steelers 10 The Steelers are the only team that absolutely needed to win in Week 17 that managed to lose both straight up and against the spread. They were demolished by the now 14-2 Ravens, which would seem like a predictable outcome had Baltimore not sat all of its starters.

Lamar Jackson and company were sidelined, so Robert Griffin made the start. Despite this, Griffin was the best quarterback on the field, as Duck Hodges was absolutely atrocious. Hodges threw 25 times, yet failed to complete double-digit passes or reach the 100-yard plateau.

Hodges finished 9-of-25 for 95 yards and a lost fumble on a strip-sack. Again, this would’ve been predictable against the normal Ravens, but some of the Baltimore starting defenders were sidelined for rest purposes. The Steelers couldn’t do anything despite this, as Mason Rudolph suffered an injury last week. Ben Roethlisberger will return next year, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll play like his former self. James Conner was another Steeler who missed this game. He wasn’t missed very much, however, as Benny Snell matched what he could’ve produced. Snell rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Diontae Johnson led Pittsburgh in receiving with four catches for 54 yards. James Washington didn’t haul in a single pass, while JuJu Smith Schuster was limited to just two receptions for six yards. Going through the Ravens quickly, Robert Griffin went 11-of-21 for 96 yards and an interception. It wasn’t a surprise to see him struggle as a passer, but he did most of the damage as a scrambler, running eight times for 50 rushing yards. Gus Edwards handled the majority of the workload, tallying 130 yards on 21 carries. He was vultured by rookie Justice Hill, who dashed for 39 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts.

Titans 35, Texans 14 All the Titans needed to do in order to make the playoffs was to beat Houston’s backups. The Texans opted to sit their starters in this game because they were locked into the No. 4 seed. Despite this, Houston went up by a touchdown in the early stages of the afternoon. That, however, didn’t end up being sustainable, as the Titans outscored Houston the rest of the way, 35-7.

The Titans play football very physically, and one sequence in this contest epitomized that. Coming out of halftime, the Titans scored on a drive that featured 10 rushes on 10 plays. The Titans slammed the ball into the end zone, which gave them a double-digit lead over the Texans for the first time during the afternoon. Houston eventually trimmed the margin to seven again, but Derrick Henry took over and made sure his team would reach the postseason.

Henry was a monster, and Houston’s backup defenders refused to tackle him, especially late in the game. Henry rumbled for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. He clinched the league’s rushing title in the process. Ryan Tannehill was his usual, economic self. He went 13-of-20 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. One of his best throws fell incomplete; he launched a pretty touch pass along the sideline, but Tajae Sharpe dropped the ball. A.J. Brown had yet another long touchdown, scoring on a 51-yard play in the opening half. He ended up with four receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. Corey Davis (4-44) also appeared to score, but replay review showed that there was offensive pass interference. There’s not much to say about the Texans, who started A.J. McCarron at quarterback. McCarron went 21-of-36 for 225 yards and an interception, though he managed to score on a rushing touchdown. The announcers cited that Bill O’Brien talked up McCarron extensively to them, but McCarron looked like a mediocre backup quarterback.

Rams 31, Cardinals 24 It wasn’t clear if Kyler Murray would play this game following his hamstring injury in last week’s surprising victory at Seattle. Murray certainly had some bright moments in this game, but his mistakes derailed Arizona’s chances.

Murray’s blunders began when he lost a fumble in a 10-7 affair. This set up the Rams with an easy touchdown to go up 10. Murray later fumbled the shotgun snap in the opening half, then was picked on a high throw following intermission. These three give-aways allowed the Rams to establish a 31-17 lead before Brett Hundley, replacing Murray, scored a garbage-time touchdown to push most spreads.

Murray, who returned on the final drive, got Arizona to midfield, but that’s where the final possession stalled. He ended up 26-of-42 for 325 yards, two touchdowns, a pair of interceptions and the two lost fumbles. Conversely, Jared Goff ripped the Cardinals’ secondary to shreds. This type of opposing performance has been commonplace for Arizona, as the team desperately needs to bolster its linebacking corps and secondary this offseason.

Goff finished 29-of-45 for 319 yards and three touchdowns. There was speculation that Sean McVay would bench his starters late in a meaningless game, but that didn’t happen. Goff’s touchdowns went to Cooper Kupp (7-99), Tyler Higbee (8-84) and Robert Woods (7-67). It was nice to see Kupp bounce back from some mediocre performances. Higbee, meanwhile, continued to dominate. He’s been unstoppable to close out the year, so he should be one of the top fantasy tight ends for 2020. Todd Gurley didn’t get much help from his pedestrian offensive line, as he was limited to just 68 yards on 20 carries. It’s unclear why Gurley saw such a workload in a meaningless game. Those who used him in DFS were disappointed to see Malcolm Brown vulture a touchdown. Kenyan Drake, conversely, managed to find the end zone. He didn’t get to run very much because of the early and constant deficit, but he still racked up 60 yards on just 12 carries. He also caught three passes for 23 receiving yards. Christian Kirk tied Damiere Byrd for the most receptions by a Cardinal in this game with seven. Byrd outgained Kirk, 74-50, and also scored a touchdown. Byrd also had a deep reception negated by a ticky-tack penalty. Dan Arnold (4-76) secured Murray’s other score.

Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Larry Fitzgerald may have played his final game in the NFL. He ended up catching four of his seven targets for 45 yards.

Eagles 34, Giants 17 It was a simple scenario for the Eagles. All they had to do was beat the Giants, and they’d reach the playoffs. However, this proved to be easier said than done, despite what the score says. That’s because the already injury-ravaged Eagles saw more players leave the field. This included Miles Sanders, Brandon Graham, Brandon Brooks and Greg Ward, though the latter ultimately returned after an extended hiatus.

With so many injuries, the Eagles were up by just three in the fourth quarter. The Giants had possession, threatening to either tie or take the lead. However, Daniel Jones mishandled a shotgun snap, and Philadelphia recovered at the New York 1-yard line. Boston Scott turned the opportunity into a touchdown, effectively putting this game out of reach for the Giants with a 27-17 lead.

Speaking of Scott, he was tremendous in relief of Sanders. He scored thrice while rushing for 54 yards on 19 carries. He was at his best as a receiver out of the backfield, snatching four passes for 84 receiving yards. Jordan Howard was active, yet he didn’t even touch the ball even in the wake of Sanders’ injury because Scott was so incredible. Carson Wentz continued to will his team to victory despite the depleted supporting cast. Missing his top four receivers, best tight end and elite right tackle, Wentz was still able to go 23-of-40 for 289 yards and a touchdown. Wentz sole touchdown went to backup tight end Josh Perkins, who caught four passes for 50 yards. Perkins did well, though he was still outgained by Dallas Goedert (4-65). Ward, meanwhile, caught six passes for 43 yards despite missing a chunk of action. As for the Giants, Jones had severe problems with the Eagles’ pass rush for most of the afternoon. He went 28-of-47 for 301 yards, one touchdown and an interception to go along with the aforementioned lost fumble. He also scrambled thrice for 26 rushing yards. Golden Tate found the end zone on Jones’ lone touchdown throw, as he caught five passes for 68 yards. Tate was able to redeem himself following a drop in the opening half. The touchdown came after Sterling Shepard (5-39) dropped a pass as well. Darius Slayton, meanwhile, snatched four of his nine targets for 59 yards. Everyone trailed tight end Kaden Smith (8-98) in receiving. Saquon Barkley was stuffed for most of the game, but he finally broke free for a 68-yard touchdown run in the second half. He gained 92 yards and the score on 17 carries. He shockingly wasn’t used very much as a receiver out of the backfield; he caught three passes for 25 receiving yards, with most of that coming late in the game. The Eagles tend to struggle against pass-catching backs, so Pat Shurmur needs to be criticized for not being aware enough to exploit this obvious weakness. Shurmur will probably be fired anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.

49ers 26, Seahawks 21 The 49ers led this game by double digits for most of the night, but as the Seahawks are wont to do under Russell Wilson, they made the game very interesting at the very end. In fact, they drove into the red zone in the final minute to set up one of the most bizarre sequences we’ve seen all year.

It started when Wilson had Jacob Hollister open for a touchdown, but overthrew him because of pressure. Wilson vindicated himself with a fourth-down conversion to rookie receiver John Ursua, who was tackled inches shy of the goal line. Following a spike to stop the clock, which took longer than usual because George Fant was gassed, the Seahawks tried to run out Marshawn Lynch for a goal-line leap, but that took so long that Seattle was flagged for delay of game. The Seahawks had to try to reach the end zone from the 5-yard line, and it seemed like they would’ve had a chance to do so had Hollister not been blatantly interfered with in the end zone. Both NBC announcers were calling for a replay review, but none was forthcoming for some reason. Still, the Seahawks had one more shot. Wilson dropped back to pass on fourth down and connected with Hollister for the touchdown! Except, Hollister was actually a blade of grass shy of the goal line, allowing the 49ers to take over on downs.

Thanks to this sequence, the 49ers were able to claim the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Seahawks, meanwhile, will be No. 5, so they’ll have to travel to Philadelphia in the wild card round. Wilson got off to a slow start because he saw lots of pressure, but he became unstoppable in the second half. He went 25-of-40 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled eight times for 29 rushing yards. He was so close to throwing a third score aside from the aforementioned end-game sequences. He heaved a touchdown to David Moore at one point, but a Mike Iupati hold negated the score. Wilson’s touchdowns went to the usual subjects, D.K. Metcalf (6-81) and Tyler Lockett (6-51). Lockett, who drew an interference flag, suffered an injury in the second half, but was able to return to action. Lynch returned to the Seahawks after a couple of retirements. We saw nothing special from him in the opening half, but he broke free for a 15-yard gain following intermission. He also plunged into the end zone on a soaring leap. He finished with 34 yards on 12 carries, while Travis Homer tallied 62 yards on 10 attempts. The 49ers ran the ball extremely well, as Raheem Mostert was very difficult to tackle. Mostert gained 57 yards on 10 carries, and he scored twice. Jimmy Garoppolo had an extremely efficient game. He avoided mistaes and completed nearly all of his passes, going 18-of-22 for 285 yards. He did not hold the ball in the pocket for an eternity like he frequently did last week against the Rams. Both Deebo Samuel and George Kittle accounted for the majority of Garoppolo’s stats. Samuel caught all five of his targets for 102 yards, and he also scored a rushing touchdown. Kittle, meanwhile, was once again extremely difficult to bring down, as he secured all seven of his targets for 86 yards.

For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.

NFL Picks – Dec. 29 2020 NFL Mock Draft – Dec. 25 NFL Power Rankings – Nov. 24 2021 NFL Mock Draft – Nov. 9 2020 NBA Mock Draft – Sept. 27 Fantasy Football Rankings – Sept. 5

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