Archives for category: Matt Ryan

And then there were eight. The NFL heads into the Divisional Playoffs with a slate of four key games on tap.

Among the final eight are the Eagles and Jaguars, who both completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Half of the remaining eight clubs – Eagles, Vikings, Saints and Jaguars – finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year. And with the addition of the Titans, five of the final eight clubs are new teams in this year’s playoff field.

It’s round 2.

The second season of the 2017 NFL season (also known as the playoffs) gets underway in earnest as the four teams that got byes in the first round will be at home. New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota return to play after a week off and now they know who they will play and when.

It’s Divisional Playoff time!

Like we said before, it’s not like the regular season where you lose this week you play next week.

Win this week, you’re in the championship round.

Lose and your next game is next year.

When the 2017 season got underway, 32 teams had hopes and dreams of winning the Lombardi Trophy. Now we’re down to eight teams and when the dust settles Sunday in Minneapolis, we’ll be down to the Final Four.

There are NO do-overs. Mistakes kill.

Bringing your A game is important to the teams that are still in the hunt is a good idea. In fact, it’s a GREAT idea.

For Kansas City, the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo and Carolina, they’ll have an entire off season to second-guess themselves as will their fan base. Let’s not forget the 20 teams that didn’t make the playoff party at all. They’ll be playing the “what if” game as well.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: FROM “WORST TO FIRST”: Philadelphia and Jacksonville both advanced to the Divisional Playoffs after completing “worst-to-first” turnarounds this season. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

In the previous 14 seasons, four teams that went from “worst-to-first” in their divisions have advanced to the conference championship game and two earned Super Bowl berths – the 2003 Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl XXXVIII) and the 2009 New Orleans Saints, who won Super Bowl XLIV.

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their divisions and advance to at least the conference championship game since 2003:

SEASON – TEAM (RECORD/PRIOR SEASON RECORD, ADVANCED TO)
2003 – Carolina (11-5/7-9, Super Bowl XXXVIII)
2004 – ATLANTA (11-5/5-11, NFC Championship)
2006 – New Orleans (10-6/3-13, NFC Championship)
2009 – New Orleans (13-3/8-8, Won Super Bowl XLIV)
2017 – Jacksonville (10-6/3-13, ???)
2017 – Philadelphia (13-3/7-9, ???)

Five of the remaining eight clubs – the Eagles, Saints and Vikings in the NFC and the Jaguars and Titans in the AFC – missed the postseason in 2016, marking the fifth time since 1990 – and the first since 2000 – that five teams advanced to the Divisional Playoffs after missing the postseason in the previous year.

The seasons which had five teams advance to the Divisional Playoffs after missing the postseason in the previous season since 1990:

SEASON – TEAMS TO ADVANCE TO DIVISIONAL ROUND WHO MISSED PLAYOFFS IN PREVIOUS SEASON
1990 – 5 (Cincinnati, Chicago, Los Angeles Raiders, Miami, Washington)
1992 – 5 (Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco)
1999 – 5 (Indianapolis, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2000 – 5 (Baltimore, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)
2017 – 5 (Jacksonville, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tennessee)

TOP BILLING: New England’s Bill Belichick has appeared in 36 postseason games as a head coach and has 26 career playoff wins, the most wins all-time by a head coach.

Belichick, who coaches against Tennessee on Saturday night, will surpass Pro Football Hall of Famers Tom Landry (36) and Don Shula (36) for the most postseason games as a head coach in league history.

The most postseason games as a head coach in NFL history:

HEAD COACH – TEAMS (PLAYOFF GAMES)
Bill Belichick – Cleveland and New England (36)
Tom Landry – Dallas (36)^
Don Shula – Baltimore Colts and Mimai (36)^
Joe Gibbs – Washington (24)^
Mike Holmgren – Green Bay and Seattle (24)
Chuck Noll – Pittsburgh (24)^
Andy Reid – Philadelphia and Kansas City (24)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

WHEN IT COUNTS: New England quarterback Tom Brady has 25 career postseason victories, the most playoff wins all-time by a starting quarterback, while Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is tied for sixth with 13 career postseason wins.

Roethlisberger, who plays against Jacksonville on Sunday, can tie Pro Football Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and John Elway and Peyton Manning for the third-most playoff victories by a starting quarterback in NFL history. Brady can also extend his NFL record on Saturday.

The starting quarterbacks with the most career playoff wins in NFL history:

QUARTERBACK – TEAMS (PLAYOFF WINS)
Tom Brady – New England (25)
Joe Montana – San Francisco and Kansas City (16)^
Terry Bradshaw – Pittsburgh (14)^
John Elway – Denver (14)^
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (14)
Brett Favre – Green Bay and Minnesota (13)^
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh (13)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: New England’s Tom Brady (40 years, 163 days old on Saturday) and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota (24 years, 75 days old) will face off in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday.

Brady and Mariota have an age difference of 16 years and 88 days, the largest age difference between opposing starting quarterbacks in a playoff game in NFL history. ​

The largest age differences between opposing starting quarterbacks in a postseason game:

DATE – OLDEST (TEAM)/YOUNGEST (TEAM)(AGE DIFFERENCE; RESULT)
January 13, 2018 – Tom Brady (New England)/Marcus Mariota (Tennessee)(16 years, 88 days; ???)
December 28, 1991 – Steve DeBerg (Kansas City)/Todd Marinovich (Los Angeles Raiders)(15 years, 166 days; Kansas City, 10-6)
December 31, 1972 – Earl Morrall (Miami)/Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh)(14 years, 108 days; Miami, 21-17)^
January 3, 2009 – Kurt Warner (Arizona)/Matt Ryan (Atlanta)(13 years, 329 days; Arizona, 30-24)^
December 24, 1972 – Earl Morrall (Miami)/Mike Phipps (Cleveland)(13 years, 186 days; Miami, 20-14)
^Morrall, Bradshaw and Warners are Pro Football Hall of Famers

MATTY ICE IN THE POSTSEASON: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed 21 of 30 passes (70 percent) for 218 yards and a touchdown for a 101.8 passer rating in the Falcons’ 26-13 win at the Los Angeles Rams on Wild Card Weekend.

Ryan, who plays at Philadelphia on Saturday, has recorded a passer rating of at least 100 in five consecutive postseason games, tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana (eight) has a longer such streak.

The most consecutive postseason games with a 100+ passer rating:

PLAYER – TEAM (SEASONS; CONSECUTIVE PLAYOFF GAMES WITH 100+ RATING)
Joe Montana – San Francisco (1988-1990; 8)^
Matt Ryan – ATLANTA (2012, 2016-17; 5)*
Joe Flacco – Baltimore (2012, 2014; 5)
Troy Aikman – Dallas (1992-93; 5)^
*Active streak
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Ryan has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in five consecutive postseason games and can tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman (six) for the longest streak in postseason annals.

The most consecutive postseason games with a 70+ completion percentage:

PLAYER – TEAM (SEASONS; CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 70+ COMPLETION PERCENTAGE)
Troy Aikman – Dallas (1992-94; 6)^
Matt Ryan – Atlanta (2012, 2016-17; 5)*
Warren Moon – Houston Oilers (1991-93; 4)^
Joe Montana – San Francisco (1989-1990; 4)^
*Active streak
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

BIG-GAME BREES: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 376 yards and two touchdowns for a 115.2 passer rating in the Saints’ 31-26 Wild Card Weekend win over Carolina.

Brees, who plays at Minnesota on Sunday, has thrown for at least 375 yards in four career postseason games and can tie Peyton Manning (five) for the most such games in NFL history.

The players with the most career postseason games with at least 375 passing yards:

PLAYER – TEAMS (PLAYOFF GAMES WITH 375+ PASS YARDS)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (5)
Drew Brees – New Orleans (4)
Kurt Warner – St. Louis, Arizona (4)^
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

HUSTLING HENRY: Tennessee running back DERRICK HENRY rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown in the Titans’ 22-21 win at Kansas City on Wild Card Weekend. Henry, who will appear in his second career postseason game on Saturday, can join some elite company with another strong performance.

The players with the most rushing yards in their first two postseason games:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS; RUSHING YARDS)
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh (2016; 337)
Arian Foster, Houston (2011; 285)
Duane Thomas, Dallas (1970; 278)
Terrell Davis, Denver (1996-97; 275)^
Eddie George, Tennessee (1999; 268)
Derrick Henry, Tennessee (2017; 156)*
*Entering second game
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

As was the case last week, every game this week and throughout the playoffs and the Super Bowl are automatically “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

Of the four matchups this weekend, two are rematches from the 2017 regular season (New Orleans at Minnesota – Week 1; Jacksonville at Pittsburgh – Week 5).

As for last week… 2-2 wasn’t great but it was better than nothing and for the season, we’re 156-105. Four games are in the books, four more are on the docket for this weekend. Here are the Saturday and Sunday picks for Divisional Playoff weekend.

ATLANTA (10-6) at Philadelphia (13-3), 4:35 p.m. Saturday on NBC. The 6th-seeded Falcons travel to the City of Brotherly Love to open the second round of the playoffs as they take on the top-seeded Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

Atlanta enters the contest with a 26-13 first round win over the Los Angeles Rams last Saturday night on the West Coast. The defending NFC champs used a pair of Matt Bryant field goals and a 3-yard run by DaVonta Freeman to take an early lead before the Rams stormed back in the second quarter as WR Cooper Kupp and QB Jarred Goff connected on a 14-yard strike and K Scott Ficken connected on a 35-yard field goal with 3 seconds left before intermission.

Leading 13-10 at the half, the Falcons proceeded to keep Los Angeles in check, holding the Rams to a fourth-quarter field goal by Ficken, using two more Bryant field goals and an 8-yard TD strike from Matt Ryan to WR Julio Jones to seal Los Angeles’ fate. Atlanta outrushed the Rams 124-115, with Rams RB Todd Gurley leading all rushers with 101 yards on 14 carries. Ryan threw for 218 for Atlanta, while Goff threw for 259 for Los Angeles (each man was sacked three times but did not throw an interception). Atlanta was 5 of 15 on third down but found success on fourth down, going 1 of 1 and kept the ball for 37:35, while the Rams were 5 of 14 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 22:25.

The Eagles limp into the post-season after their 6-0 loss to Dallas to close out the regular season. The two teams went scoreless for the first 45 minutes of action before Dallas’ Brice Butler and QB Dak Prescott connected on a 20-yard TD pass with 12:19 left in regulation. Philadelphia had one last chance to either tie things up or take the win at home but could do nothing to make that a possibilty. Dallas, who went 5 of 16 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs, outrushed the Eagles, who had already won the NFC East title, 129-70, as Ezekiel Elliott led all rushers with 103 yards. As for the Eagles, they were 2 of 11 on third down and 0 of 1 on fourth down tries in the loss in the city of Brotherly Love. Dallas ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 30:05, while the Eagles kept the pigskin for 29:55.

Atlanta had two players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: wide receiver Julio Jones and center Alex Mack, while the Eagles tied a franchise record with 13 wins (2004) and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the fourth time since 2002  and had six players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: guard Brandon Brooks, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, tight end Zach Ertz, safety Malcom Jenkins, tackle Lane Johnson and quarterback Carson Wentz.

As far as regular season games go, the Eagles lead the series 16-13-1 and have outscored Atlanta 652-562. In the post-season, the Eagles lead that series 2-1, outscoring Atlanta 60-50. Philly’s last regular season win over Atlanta came in 2016 in the City of Brotherly Love by a final of 24-16, while Atlanta’s last win in regular season action came in 2015 in the Big Peach by a 26-24 final.

Philly’s last win in the post-season against Atlanta came in 2004, as they were 27-10 winners in the NFC Championship Game in the City of Brotherly Love, while Atlanta’s last post-season win against Philly came in the Big Peach in 1978 at Fulton County Stadium by a 14-13 final in the Wild Card Round.

In that week 10 contest, the Eagles led 7-6 at the intermission before they pulled away from Atlanta in the second half. Atlanta led briefly at 15-13 with 13:15 left in the contest when Ryan and Taylor Gabriel connected on a 76-yard TD pass before the Eagles took the lead back for keeps when RB Ryan Matthews picked up his second TD and scored on a 5-yard run with 6:49 left. The Eagles were then successful on their two-point try and added a Caleb Sturgis field goal to take the win. Philadelphia outrushed Atlanta 208-48 and Matthews led all rushers with 109 yards in the contest. Ryan threw for 267 yards for Atlanta, while Eagles signal caller Carson Wentz threw for 231 yards (both were sacked twice and Ryan threw an interception). Atlanta on third down went 2 of 11 and held the ball for 21:50, while the Eagles ruled the clock and kept the ball for 38:10, going 5 of 14 on third down (both clubs were 0 of 1 on fourth down).

Philadelphia covered the 1-point spread in the week 10 matchup, winning by 8 but both clubs missed the 50 over/under, scoring only 40 points. This time around, the oddsmakers like the Falcons and they are favored by 3, with the over/under at 41 1/2. There’s a lot at stake here. The Falcons would like to play their next game in a dome, even if it’s not theirs, while the Eagles would like to stay in the great outdoors. Atlanta takes this one but expect the Eagles to make it closer than the 2 1/2.

Tennessee (9-7) at New England (13-3), 8:15 p.m. Saturday on CBS. Tennessee makes their way to Foxboro for a AFC Divisonal contest with the defending Super Bowl champions at Gillette Stadium.

The Titans scored 19 second half points unchallenged, erasing a 21-3 deficit at Arrowhead to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 in the AFC Wild Card game in the Show-Me State. Kansas City opened the scoring in the contest in the first quarter when rookie RB Kareem Hunt scored on a 1-yard run with 7:25 left in the first, then added a second TD in the quarter when TE Travis Kelce and QB Alex Smith connected on a 13-yard TD strike.

Tennessee ended Kansas City’s bid for a shutout when K Ryan Succop connected on a 49-yard field goal with 1:55 left before halftime. Trailing 17-3 at the intermission, things started to go the Titans’ way in the final 30 minutes when Marcus Mariota attempted a pass on third down deep in Chiefs’ territory that was blocked by Derrell Revis. The ball then fell into Mariota’s hands and he would run it back to the end zone for a 6-yard TD pass to himself. Tennessee would strike again with 14:08 left to play when Derrick Henry scored on a 35-yard TD run but the Titans missed the two-point conversion and then take the lead for good with 6:06 left when Mariota threw a TD pass to someone other than himself when he and WR Eric Decker connected on a 22-yard toss. Tennessee then proceeded to hold off the Chiefs and stopped a late Kansas City rally that would have given the home team the win. Mariota is the only player in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass to himself in a postseason game.

Henry ran for 156 yards to lead all rushers as the Titans outrushed Kansas City 202-69, sacking Smith (264 yards) four times, while Mariota threw for 205 yards for the road win. Tennessee went 8 of 13 on third down tries at Arrowhead Stadium, keeping the ball for 32:28, while the Chiefs, who held the ball for 27:32, went 4 of 11 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down.

The defending champions held the New York Jets to a pair of field goals in Foxboro as they came away 26-6 winners at Gillette Stadium to close out the regular season. New England led 21-3 at the break and held GangGreen in check in the final 30 minutes of play. New England outrushed the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! 147-40 and sacked Bryce Petty (232 yards) four times, including a sack for a safety, while Tom Brady threw for 190 yards with a pair of TDs. New England was 4 of 15 on third down and 1 of 1 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 34:49, while the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! were a dismal 0 of 12 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down and held on to the pigskin for 25:11.

The Pats in regular season play lead the series 23-15-1, outscoring Tennessee 993-778, which includes contests that were played when the Titans were in Houston and known as the Oilers and the Patriots played their home games at Fenway Park. Their last regular season meeting took place in 2015 in Foxboro and the Patriots were 33-16 winners, while Tennessee’s last regular season win came in the Music City in 2002 by a final of 24-7 at Nissan Stadium.

In the post-season, the series is even at 1-1 and the Titans have outscored New England 45-31. Both meetings took place in Foxboro and both were AFC Divisional Playoff contests. The Pats took a 17-14 win in 2003, while the Titans were 31-14 winners in 1978, when they were known as the Houston Oilers.

Tennessee had three players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, punter Brett Kern and tackle Taylor Lewan. The Patriots had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: Brady, fullback James Develin, tight end Rob Gronkowski and special teamer Matthew Slater.

Vegas likes the Patriots in this one, making them 13 1/2 point favorites with a 48 over/under. The 47 makes sense. The 13 1/2 is a little steep, even though this is a playoff game. Tennessee’s a lot better than people think they are but the Pats right now are kings of the NFL mountain. The Titans could make it closer than 13 1/2 but New England comes through in Foxboro to take the win.

Jacksonville (10-6) at Pittsburgh (13-3), 1:05 p.m. Sunday on CBS. They meet again in the Steel City. Jacksonville and Pittsburgh square off at Heinz Field in a week five rematch in Sunday’s AFC Divisonal Playoff action.

The Jaguars survived a scare from Buffalo last Sunday at EverBank Field, taking a 10-3 win over the Bills in the Sunshine State in the AFC Wild Card round. After a scoreless first quarter, the second quarter was a battle of field goals as Buffalo opened the scoring with a 31-yard field goal from Stephen Hauschka with 1:49 left before the half. Jacksonville then mounted their own drive, using a 6-play, 27-yard drive that used only 38 second of clock and the legs of starting QB Blake Bortles, who had two runs of 10 yards or more in that drive, to tie things up on a 44 yard field goal by Josh Lambo with two seconds left.

Taking the 3-3 tie into the locker room, the Jaguars took the lead for keeps with 42 seconds left in the third when Bortles and TE Ben Koyack connected on a 1-yard TD pass for the 10-3 lead. Things would stay that way into the fourth quarter and Buffalo threatened twice in the period to tie things up but could do nothing to change things and the Jaguars held off a final Bills’ rally when first they knocked QB Tyrod Taylor out of the contest with a head injury, which forced them to use backup QB Nathan Peterman for the final drive. Jacksonville then sealed Buffalo’s fate with 26 seconds left when CB Jalen Ramsey picked Peterman off. Jacksonville then ran out the clock and took the win at home.

Jacksonville outrushed Buffalo 155-130 and Bortles accounted for 88 of those yards to lead all rushers, while throwing for 87 yards passing. Taylor threw for 134 yards with a pair of sacks and an interception, while LeSean McCoy led Buffalo with 75 yards on the ground. Jacksonville was 2 of 12 on third down and held the ball for 27:23, while the Bills ruled the clock and held the pigskin for 32:37, going 7 of 18 on third down tries (both clubs were 1 of 1 on fourth down).

Pittsburgh comes back to action after they survived a 28-24 scare from Cleveland in the regular season finale for both clubs. The Steelers led 21-14 at the intermission at Heinz Field before Cleveland stormed back in the third quarter to make the contest closer than Steeler fans wanted, outscoring Pittsburgh 10-7 in the quarter (the teams played a scoreless fourth quarter). Pittsburgh outrushed Cleveland 124-102, with Steelers RB Sean Ridley leading everyone with 80 yards and a TD, while Landry Jones, who took over for Ben Roethlisberger, threw for 239 yards and a TD to rookie WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Steeler defense sacked DeShone Kizer (314 yards, 2 TDs) six times and picked him off once. Pittsburgh went 3 of 10 on third down tries, 0 of 2 on fourth down in snowy Pittsburgh (game time temp? 11 degrees with a wind chill of 5) and kept the ball for 29:05, while the Browns, who went 0 for the 2017 campaign, went 7 of 15 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 30:55.

The Jaguars had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Malik Jackson. The Steelers had an NFL-best eight players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: running back Le’Veon Bell, kicker Chris Boswell, wide receiver Brown, guard David de Castro, center Maurice Pouncey, Roethlisberger, linebacker Ryan Shazier and tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

In the post-season, they’ve met only once and the Jaguars won that contest, coming away 31-29 winners in the 2007 AFC Wild Card Game at Heinz Field.

Jacksonville and Pittsburgh met in week five in Pittsburgh and the Jaguars won 30-9. Jacksonville led 7-6 at halftime, then outscored the Steelers 23-3 in the final 30 minutes of play. Fournette ran for 181 yards and a pair of TDs, Jaguars outrushed Pittsburgh 231-70, picked off Roethlisberger (312 yards, 2 sacks) five times. Jacksonville was 6 of 12 on third down and kept the ball for 28:52, while the Steelers held the pigskin for 31:08, going 7 of 15 on third down conversions.

Although Jacksonville was an 8 1/2 point underdog in the week five contest in the Steel City, they covered the spread, winning by 21. Both clubs combined for 39 points, missing the 44 over/under by 5. In the revenge match, the Steelrs are once again favored, this time by 7 and the over/under’s 41. For Pittsburgh, it’s revenge; for Jacksonville, it’s a chance to prove that the first time was not a fluke. Revenge wins out. Steelers advance in the Steel City and covers the 7.

New Orleans (11-5) at Minnesota (13-3), 4:35 p.m. Sunday on FOX. Divisional weekend closes out in the Land of 10,000 Lakes as the Minnesota Vikings welcome the New Orleans Saints to US Bank Stadium.

The Saints survived a last-second scare from Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at home last Sunday in an NFC South rematch, taking a 31-26 win in the Big Easy. New Orleans took a 21-9 lead with them to the break before the Panthers roared back in the final 30 minutes of action, making it a 6-point contest with 4:09 left in regulation when Newton and TE Collin MCCaffery connected on a 58-yard TD pass. The Saints then got the ball back and got as far as Carolina’s 47 yard line before Drew Brees (349 yards, TD) was picked off by S Matt Adams, who brought the ball back to their 31 yard line. Carolina then proceeded to move the ball and got as close as the Saints’ 21 yard line, when Newton (349 yards, four sacks) was called for intentional ground, much to the anger and chagrin of Panther fans. Newton then threw an interception that was intended for WR Darren Funches and then ended Carolina’s hopes of avenging the two earlier losses when Newton was sacked by Vonn Bell. New Orleans ran out the clock and took the win at home.

Carolina actually outrushed New Orleans 107-51 and went 8 of 17 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down, while ruling the clock and keeping the ball for 33:49. The Saints on third down? 2 of 8. Fourth down? They were 0 of 1 and kept the ball for 26:11.

Minnesota returns from their bye week, shutting down Chicago 23-10 in the NFC North season finale. Minnesota led Da Bears 16-3 at the break and never looked back, sacking Mitch Trubisky (178 yards) in the end zone for a safety late in the second quarter. Vikings RB Latavius Murray set the tone in the contest, scoring a pair of TDs in the first half and WR Stefon Diggs chipped in with a catch from Case Keenum to send Vikings fans home happy. Minnesota outrushed Chicago 147-30 and Murray led all rushers with 111 yards and the two TDs on the ground, while Keenum threw for 189 yards in the win. The Vikings were 5 of 13 on third down and held on to the ball for 35:55, while Da Bears were a dismal 1 of 12 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 24:05.

New Orleans had six players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: Brees, running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, defensive end Cameron Jordan, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and wide receiver Thomas. The Vikings had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Adam Thielen.

They met in week one in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the Vikings were 29-19 winners at US Bank Stadium. Minnesota led 16-6 at the half and were never threatened, using four Kai Horbath field goals for the win. Minnesota outrushed New Orleans 129-60 in the contest that saw Adrian Peterson return to face his old team (Peterson was held to 18 yards rushing and traded to Arizona the following week), while rookie RB Dalvin Cook led all rushers with 127 yards, while Sam Bradford threw for 346 yards and three TDs, two to Diggs (Brees threw for 291 yards and a TD; both men were sacked once and neither threw an interception). The Vikings were 9 of 14 on third down tries in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and kept the ball for 31:16, while New Orleans kept the ball for 28:44, going 4 of 11 on third down (neither club had a fourth down try).

As far as the post season goes… they’ve met three times and the Vikings hold a 2-1 lead there, outscoring the Saints 106-57. The last time they met in post-season was in 2009 in the Big Easy in the NFC Championship Game, which was later known as “Bountygate” and the Saints were 31-28 overtime winners; as for Minnesota, their last playoff win over New Orleans came in the Twin Cities in 2000 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs by a final of 34-16.

Minnesota covered the 3-point spread in the Monday night opener with the 10-point win and the two teams covered the 48 over/under exactly (the Vikings were favored in that contest). In the last game of Divisional Weekend, the oddsmakers like the Vikings again, this time as 5 point favorites at US Bank Stadium and the over/under this time around is 46 1/2. Whoever wins this game will have the upper hand toward Super Bowl LII; as for the loser, they will have an entire year to think about what happened and what they could have done to prevent it. Vikings cover the 3 1/2 at home and wins in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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17 weeks of regular season football done.

Weeks of OTA’s, training camp, the draft, done.

After an exciting finish to the regular season, the NFL’s second season has arrived.

The NFL postseason begins with four games on Wild Card Weekend. Below is the Playoff schedule (All times Eastern)

Wild Card Round

Saturday, January 6
AFC – Tennessee at Kansas City, 4:35 p.m. on ESPN/ABC
NFC – ATLANTA at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m. on NBC

Sunday, January 7
AFC – Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1:05 p.m. on CBS
NFC – Carolina at New Orleans, 4:40 p.m. on FOX

Divisonal Round

Saturday, January 13
NFC: New Orleans/Carolina/Atlanta at Philadelphia, 4:35 p.m. on NBC
AFC: Kansas City/Tennessee/Buffalo at New England, 8:15 p.m. on CBS

Sunday, January 14
AFC: Jacksonville/Kansas City/Tennessee at Pittsburgh, 1:05 p.m. on CBS
NFC: Los Angeles Rams/New Orleans/Carolina at Minnesota, 4:40 p.m. on FOX

Championship Round
AFC: 3:05 p.m. on CBS
NFC: 6:40 p.m. on FOX

Week 17 came right down to the wire. Sunday’s excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition instituted in 2010. Three playoff berths (Atlanta, Buffalo and Tennessee) and one division (NFC South) were decided on the last day of the regular season.

The final 12 teams are now set. It doesn’t matter how you got here. All that matters is that you’re here. Here is the seeding for both the AFC and NFC.

AFC
1. New England (13-3, AFC East champion)
2. Pittsburgh (13-3, AFC North champion)
3. Jacksonville (10-6, AFC South champion)
4. Kansas City (10-6, AFC West champion)
5. Tennessee (9-7)
6. Buffalo (9-7)

NFC
1. Philadelphia (13-3, NFC East champion)
2. Minnesota (13-3, NFC North champion)
3. Los Angeles Rams (11-5, NFC West champion)
4. New Orleans (11-5, NFC South champion)
5. Carolina (11-5)
6. Atlanta (10-6)

The NFL playoffs, which conclude on February 4 with Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota on NBC at 6:30 p.m, begins this Saturday and Sunday with Wild Card Weekend.

The Eagles and Jaguars both completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Five of the eight division winners – Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints and Jaguars – finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year.

And there are eight new teams in this year’s playoff field – Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints and Panthers in the NFC and Jaguars, Titans and Bills in the AFC – which is tied for the most in a season (2003) since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990. Since 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

For 12 teams that are taking part in the 2017 NFL playoffs, it’s their second season. Forget what you did in the past. It’s what you do now. It’s a different season. In the regular season, you lose, you play next week. Here, it’s win and you advance; lose and your next game is next year.

While that’s going on, there are six coaching positions that are now open. The New York Giants, Arizona, Chicago Oakland, Indianapolis and Detroit have hung their “Now Hiring” signs out. Get those resumes ready.

Of the 12 teams that are in the post-season, Atlanta, New England, Pittsburgh and Kansas City are repeat customers from last year, while the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans, Carolina, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Minnesota return to the post-season, with the Bills breaking the longest drought, as they are in for the first time since the Clinton adminstration (1999).

SEVEN FROM SUNDAY IN WEEK 17: New England, who defeated the New York Jets, 26-6 clinched, the Number 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Pittsburgh, who won the AFC North, are the Number 2 seed in the AFC and will have a first-round bye.

Jacksonville, who won the AFC South, are the Number 3 seed and will host Buffalo in the Wild Card round at 1:05 p.m. Sunday afternoon on CBS. Buffalo, who defeated Miami 22-16, clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 1999.

Kansas City, who won the AFC West, are the Number 4 seed and will host Tennessee in the Wild Card round Saturday at 4:35 p.m. on ESPN/ABC. Tennessee clinched a playoff berth with a 15-10 win over Jacksonville Sunday afternoon in Nashville.

In the NFC, Philadelphia will enter the postseason as the Number 1 seed and have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Minnesota, who won the NFC North, clinched a first-round bye with a 23-10 win over Chicago and will be the number 2 seed.

The Los Angeles Rams, who won the NFC West, are the Number 3 seed and will host Atlanta in the Wild Card round Saturday evening at 8:15 p.m. on NBC. The Falcons clinched the number 6 seed and a playoff berth with a 22-10 win over Carolina Sunday in Atlanta.

New Orleans, despite losing at Tampa, won the NFC South division title and are the Number 4 seed and they will host Carolina in the Wild Card round Sunday at 4:40 p.m. on FOX.

•Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt had a 35-yard rushing touchdown on his only carry in the Chiefs’ win at Denver. Hunt finished the season with 1,327 rushing yards and is the second rookie not selected in the first round to lead his league in rushing yards in the common draft era (since 1967). Cincinnati’s Paul Robinson led the AFL with 1,023 rushing yards in 1968.

•New Orleans running backs Alvin Kamara (1,554) and Mark Ingram (1,540) became the first running back teammates in NFL history to each record at least 1,500 scrimmage yards in the same season. Kamara, who had 128 scrimmage yards with a rushing touchdown and returned four kickoffs for 155 yards, including a 106-yard touchdown in Sunday’s loss at Tampa Bay, finished the season with eight rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and one kickoff-return touchdown. He joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (1965) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff-return touchdown.

•New England quarterback Tom Brady passed for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ win over the New York Jets. Brady, who turned 40 years old earlier this year, finished the season with 4,577 passing yards and is the oldest player in NFL history to lead the league in passing yards. The previous record was held by Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton (38 years old), who led the NFL with 3,468 passing yards in 1978.

•Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith finished the season with 4,042 passing yards, five interceptions and a league-best 104.7 passer rating. Smith is the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 3,000 yards and throw fewer than 10 interceptions in five consecutive seasons. New England’s Tom Brady, who finished the season with an NFL-best 4,577 passing yards with eight interceptions, joined Smith as the only players to accomplish the feat in four consecutive seasons. Smith did not play in the Chiefs’ win at Denver Sunday afternoon.

•Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 317 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ win over Carolina in Atlanta. Ryan has 41,796 career passing yards and passed Peyton Manning (41,626) for the most passing yards by a player in his first 10 seasons in NFL history. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had five catches for 80 yards in Sunday’s victory. Jones, who has 9,054 career receiving yards, reached the 9,000-yard mark in his 95th game and is the fastest in NFL history to accomplish the feat. Pro Football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth held the previous record (98 games).

•Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown finished the season with an NFL-best 1,533 receiving yards. Brown, who also led the league in receiving yards (1,698) in 2014, is the first player in franchise history to lead the NFL in receiving yards multiple times. Brown has 582 receptions and 7,848 receiving yards over the past five seasons, the most in NFL history over any five-year span for both categories.

Pittsburgh rookie Ju Ju Smith-Schuester had nine catches for 143 yards with a touchdown and added 122 kickoff-return yards, including a 96-yard touchdown, in the Steelers’ 28-24 win over Cleveland at Heinz Field. Smith-Schuster, who turned 21 in November, finished the season with 1,157 all-purpose yards (917 receiving, 240 kickoff-return) and is the youngest player in NFL history to record 1,000 all-purpose yards in a season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: FROM WILD CARD ROUND TO SUPER BOWL: Winners in the Wild Card round have won the Super Bowl nine times. At least one Super Bowl participant in six of the past 12 years played a Wild Card game.

The Wild Card round participants to win the Super Bowl:

SEASON – TEAM (SUPER BOWL RESULT)
1980 – Oakland (Defeated Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV, 27-10)
1997 – Denver (Defeated Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII, 31-24)
2000 – Baltimore (Defeated New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, 34-7)
2005 – Pittsburgh (Defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL, 21-10)
2006 – Indianapolis (Defeated Chicago in Super Bowl XLI, 29-17)
2007 – New York Giants (Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14)
2010 – Green Bay (Defeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV, 31-25)
2011 – New York Giants (Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17)
2012 – Baltimore (Defeated San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31)

NEW YEAR, NEW TEAMS: Philadelphia (13-3, NFC East) and Jacksonville (10-6, AFC South) both completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Five of the eight division winners – Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints and Jaguars – finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year.

Eight new teams are in this year’s playoff field – Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints and Panthers in the NFC and Jaguars, Titans and Bills in the AFC – which is tied for the most in a season (2003) since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990. Since 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

Six of the eight new teams in the playoffs this year will play on Wild Card Weekend: Buffalo, Carolina, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans, and Tennessee.

The teams since 1990 to make the playoffs a season after failing to qualify:

SEASON – PLAYOFF TEAMS NOT IN PREVIOUS SEASON’S PLAYOFFS
1990 – 7 (Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles Raiders, Miami, New Orleans, Washington)
1991 – 5 (ATLANTA, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York Jets)
1992 – 6 (Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco)
1993 – 5 (Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Giants)
1994 – 5 (Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, New England, San Diego)
1995 – 4 (ATLANTA, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Philadelphia)
1996 – 5 (Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England)
1997 – 5 (Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, Tampa Bay)
1998 – 5 (Arizona, ATLANTA, Buffalo, Dallas, New York Jets)
1999 – 7 (Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2000 – 6 (Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)
2001 – 6 (Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)
2002 – 5 (ATLANTA, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Tennessee)
2003 – 8 (Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Seattle)
2004 – 5 (ATLANTA, Minnesota, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego)
2005 – 7 (Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Washington)
2006 – 7 (Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2007 – 6 (Green Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2008 – 7 (Arizona, ATLANTA, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia)
2009 – 6 (Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, New York Jets)
2010 – 5 (ATLANTA, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle)
2011 – 6 (Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New York Giants, San Francisco)
2012 – 4 (Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle, Washington)
2013 – 5 (Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2014 – 5 (Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh)
2015 – 4 (Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Washington)
2016 – 6 (ATLANTA, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York Giants, Oakland)
2017 – 8 (Buffalo, Carolina, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tennessee)

POSTSEASON QUARTERBACKS: Quarterbacks Drew Brees of New Orleans and Matt Ryan of Atlanta have enjoyed postseason success in their careers. They both rank among the leaders in many postseason passing categories, including passer rating, completion percentage and 300-yard games.

Ryan (102.4) and Brees (100.7) are two of only four quarterbacks in NFL history to have a passer rating of at least 100 in the postseason (minimum 150 attempts). The other two – Bart Starr (104.8) and Kurt Warner (102.8) – are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The quarterbacks with the highest career postseason passer rating (minimum 150 attempts):

QUARTERBACK (COMPLETIONS/ATTEMPS – YARDS; TD-INTERCEPTIONS, RATING)

Bart Starr (130/213 – 1,753; 15-3, 104.8)^
Kurt Warner (307/462 – 3,952; 31-14, 102.8)^
Matt Ryan (194/285 – 2,244; 18-7, 102.4)*
Drew Brees (306/464 – 3,539; 24-6, 100.7)*
Aaron Rodgers (378/595 – 4,458; 36-10, 99.4)
*Active in 2017 playoffs
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Ryan (68.1 percent) has the highest postseason completion percentage in NFL history (minimum 150 attempts) and Brees (65.9 percent) ranks fourth.

The quarterbacks with the highest career postseason completion percentage (minimum 150 attempts):

QUARTERBACK (COMPLETIONS/ATTEMPTS – PERCENTAGE)
Matt Ryan (194/285 – 68.1)*
Kurt Warner (307/462 – 66.5)^
Ken Anderson (110/166 – 66/3)
Drew Brees (306-464 – 65.9)*
Warren Moon (259-403 – 64.3)^
*Active in 2017 playoffs
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Brees has thrown for at least 300 yards in six postseason games in his career. With 300 passing yards against Carolina on Sunday, Brees would join Tom Brady (12) and Peyton Manning (nine) as the only quarterbacks to have at least seven 300-yard passing games in NFL postseason history.

The quarterbacks with the most 300-yard passing performances in NFL postseason history:

PLAYER – MOST 300-YARD PASSING GAMES IN POSTSEASON
Tom Brady – 12*
Peyton Manning – 9
Drew Brees – 6*
Joe Montana – 6^
Aaron Rodgers – 6
Kurt Warner – 6^
*Active in 2017 playoffs
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

NEW FACES: Several teams will feature a quarterback making his first career playoff start. Among those slated to start on Wild Card Weekend are Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota.

The players with the most passing yards in their first career postseason start:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON, ROUND – PASSING YARDS)
Kelly Holcomb, Cleveland (2002, AFC Wild Card – 429)
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (2009, NFC Wild Card – 423)
Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia (1988, NFC Divisional – 407)
Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams (1999, NFC Divisional – 391)^
Neil Lomax, St. Louis Cardinals (1982, NFC Wild Card – 385)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

SAFE SMITH: Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith passed for a career-high 4,042 yards with five interceptions in the regular season, his NFL-record fifth consecutive season with at least 3,000 passing yards and fewer than 10 interceptions.

Smith has made six career postseason starts, completing 132 of 220 passes (60 percent) for 1,481 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions for a 94.5 passer rating.

Smith’s 0.9 interception percentage is the lowest by a quarterback in postseason history (minimum 150 attempts). New Orleans’ DREW BREES ranks third all-time with a 1.3 interception percentage in the postseason (464 attempts, six interceptions).

The lowest career interception percentages in postseason history (minimum 150 attempts):

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (INTERCEPTION PERCENTAGE)
Alex Smith – San Francisco and Kansas City (0.9)*
Tony Romo – Dallas (1.1)
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (1.3)*
Bart Starr – Green Bay (1.4)^
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay (1.7)
*Active in 2017 postseason
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

ALL-AROUND ROOKIES: Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (1,782 scrimmage yards), New Orleans’ ALVIN KAMARA (1,554), Jacksonville’s LEONARD FOURNETTE (1,342) and Carolina’s Christian McCaffery (1,086) were the only rookies with 1,000+ scrimmage yards in 2017 and all four will take the field on Wild Card Weekend.

The rookies with the most scrimmage yards in a single postseason in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON, SCRIMMAGE YARDS)
Joseph Addai, Indianapolis (2006, 412)
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2000, 378)
Duane Thomas, Dallas (1970, 358)
Timmy Smith, Washington (1987, 351)
James Starks, Green Bay (2010, 330)

The rookies with the most scrimmage touchdowns in a single postseason in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON – SCRIMMAGE TOUCHDOWNS)
William Floyd, San Francisco (1994 – 5)
Norm Standlee, Chicago (1941 – 4)
Tony Dorsett, Dallas (1997 – 4)^
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2000 – 4)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

SCORING CHAMPS TO CONFERENCE CHAMPS: The Los Angeles Rams, who scored the fewest points in the league in 2016 (14 points per game), led the NFL averaging 29.9 points per game and became the second team in NFL history (1964-65 San Francisco) to lead the league in scoring after scoring the fewest points in the previous season. Three of the past four regular-season scoring champions – Atlanta (33.8 in 2016), Carolina (31.3 in 2015) and Denver (37.9 in 2013) – advanced to the Super Bowl.

The postseason results of the team with the highest scoring average in the regular season in the past five seasons:

TEAM – SEASON (REGULAR SEASON POINTS/GAME, PLAYOFF RESULT)
Denver – 2013 (37.9, Advanced to SB XLVIII)
Green Bay – 2014 (30.4, Advanced to NFC Championship)
Carolina – 2015 (31.3, Advanced to SB 50)
Atlanta – 2016 (33.8, Advanced to SB LI)
Los Angeles Rams – 2017 (29.9, ???)

New teams making the playoffs and winning divisions… consistent teams excelling once again… records falling… young players making their mark… and so much more.

The 2017 season had it all, including a fantastic finish.

Week 17 came right down to the wire as three playoff spots and one division title – the NFC South – were decided on the last day of the season. Sunday’s excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition instituted in 2010.

Philadelphia (NFC East) and Jacksonville (AFC South) both completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

Five of the eight divisions were won by a team that finished in third or fourth place in the division last year – Jacksonville (AFC South), the Los Angeles Rams (NFC West), Minnesota (NFC North), New Orleans (NFC South) and Philadelphia (NFC East).

Each of the 12 teams still in Super Bowl LII contention can look back at the eventful and unpredictable 2017 regular season and appreciate how challenging the road to the playoffs was.

Philadelphia (13-3) captured the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the first time since 2004, while New England, who finished atop the AFC with a 13-3 record, won their ninth consecutive AFC East title, extending their NFL-record streak. The Patriots are the only team in NFL history with at least 12 wins in eight consecutive seasons.

“We have to beat good teams no matter what. That’s what the playoffs are,” Eagles defensive end Chris Long told USA Today. “Thirteen wins is great, but we have to make it worth something. That means playing our best in the playoffs.”

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. Eight teams that missed the postseason in 2016 – Buffalo (9-7), Carolina (11-5), Jacksonville (10-6), Los Angeles Rams (11-5), Minnesota (13-3), New Orleans (11-5), Philadelphia (13-3) and Tennessee (9-7) – accomplished the feat this year, tied with the 2003 season for the most such teams since 1990.

“There are a lot of happy guys in that locker room, a lot of emotions running pretty wild, guys just happy to be a part of it,” said Bills head coach Sean McDermott after clinching the team’s first postseason berth since 1999. “This is a team; these guys play as a team. We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but we are very grateful for this opportunity and it’s a well-earned opportunity, and so my hat goes off to everyone involved.”

The NFL is never short on surprises, and that leads to the excitement we witnessed in 2017:

TERRIFIC TURNAROUNDS

•Philadelphia (NFC East) and Jacksonville (AFC South) both clinched respective division titles after finishing in last place in 2016. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their division since 2003:

SEASON – TEAM (RECORD, PRIOR SEASON RECORD)
2003 – Carolina (11-5, 7-9)
2003 – Kansas City (13-3, 8-8)*
2004 – ATLANTA (11-5, 5-11)
2004 – San Diego (12-4, 4-12)*
2005 – Chicago (11-5, 5-11)
2005 – New York Giants (11-5, 6-10)*
2005 – Tampa Bay (11-5, 5-11)
2006 – Baltimore (13-3, 6-10)*
2006 – New Orleans (10-6, 3-13)
2006 – Philadelphia (10-6, 6-10)
2007 – Tampa Bay (9-7, 4-12)
2008 – Miami (11-5, 1-15)
2009 – New Orleans (13-3, 8-8)**
2010 – Kansas City (10-6, 4-12)
2011 – Denver (8-8, 4-12)
2011 – Houston (10-6, 6-10)*
2012 – Washington (10-6, 5-11)
2013 – Carolina (12-4, 7-9)*
2013 – Philadelphia (10-6, 4-12)
2015 – Washington (9-7, 4-12)
2016 – Dallas (13-3, 4-12)
2017 – Jacksonville (10-6, 3-13) and Philadelphia (13-3, 7-9)
* Tied for last place
** Won Super Bowl

•Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

This season, eight teams – Buffalo, Carolina, Jacksonville, the Los Angeles Rams, Minneosta, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Tennessee – qualified for the playoffs after missing the postseason last year, tied with the 2003 season for the most such teams since 1990.

PASSING

•NFL QBs put together a historically proficient and prolific year in 2017.

The league-wide completion percentage (62.1) and passer rating (86.9) both rank as the fourth-highest totals in league history. The league-wide interception percentage of 2.5 percent was the third-lowest of any season in NFL history.

•Eight quarterbacks passed for at least 4,000 yards in 2017: New England’s Tom Brady (4,577), Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers (4,515), Detroit’s Matthew Stafford (4,446), New Orleans’ Drew Brees (4,334), Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (4,251), Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (4,095), Washington’s Kirk Cousins (4,093) and Kansas City’s Alex Smith (4,042).

Brees (4,334) extended his NFL-record streak to 12 consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards, while Stafford (4,446) and Ryan (4,095) each recorded their seventh consecutive season with 4,000+ passing yards, tied for second-longest streak in league annals.

Five quarterbacks finished the season with a passer rating of at least 100: Smith (104.7), Brees (103.9), Brady (102.8), Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz (101.9) and Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (100.5).

•New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees led the NFL with 386 completions this season and has 6,222 career completions, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE (6,300) and PEYTON MANNING (6,125) as the only players in NFL history with at least 6,000 completions. Brees reached the milestone in his 240th career game and is the fastest in NFL history to accomplish the feat (Manning, 259 games and Favre, 286). Brees completed 386 of 536 attempts this season for an NFL-record 72.0 completion percentage, surpassing SAM BRADFORD’s record of 71.6 percent set in 2016. Brees owns three of the top four single-season completion percentages in NFL history.

Brees, who has 70,445 career passing yards, joined Manning (71,940) and Favre (71,838) as the only players in league history with at least 70,000 career passing yards. Brees reached the milestone in his 248th career game and is the fastest in league history to accomplish the feat.

•New England quarterback Tom Brady, who turned 40 years old earlier this year, led the NFL with 4,577 passing yards and is the oldest player in NFL history to lead the league in passing yards. The previous record was held by Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton (38 years old), who led the NFL with 3,468 passing yards in 1978. Brady’s 4,577 passing yards and 32 touchdown passes in 2017 are both the most by a quarterback in a single season at the age of 40 or older. Brady has 66,159 career passing yards and became the fourth player in NFL history to reach 65,000 career passing yards, joining Peyton Manning (71,940), Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Farve (71,838) and Drew Brees (70,445).

Brady, who has won 89 career regular-season road starts, surpassed Manning (85) for the most regular-season road victories by a starting quarterback in NFL history. Brady had four games with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions in 2017. In 18 career seasons, Brady has 55 games with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions, surpassing Peyton Manning (51) for the most such performances in NFL history.

•The New York Giants’ Eli Manning (51,682), Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (51,065) and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers (50,348) each reached 50,000 career passing touchdowns during the season, becoming the seventh, eighth and ninth quarterbacks in NFL history, respectively, to reach the mark. Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger, who were all selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, are the first trio from the same draft class to each record 50,000 career passing yards. Rivers (4,171) and Roethlisberger (4,164) became the eighth and ninth players in league annals, respectively, to reach 4,000 career completions.

•Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (313) became the 11th player in NFL history to record 300 career touchdown passes and reached the mark on his 4,742nd career attempt, the fewest attempts at the time of a player’s 300th touchdown pass in NFL history.

•Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers ranked second in the NFL with 4,515 passing yards and reached the 3,500-yard mark for the 10th consecutive season (2008-17). Rivers is the third quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 3,500 yards in 10 consecutive seasons, joining Peyton Manning (13, 1998-2010) and Drew Brees (13, 2005-17).

•Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith finished the season with 4,042 passing yards, five interceptions and a league-best 104.7 passer rating. Smith is the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 3,000 yards and throw fewer than 10 interceptions in five consecutive seasons. New England’s Tom Brady, who finished the season with an NFL-best 4,577 passing yards with eight interceptions, joined Smith as the only players to accomplish the feat in four consecutive seasons.

•Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has 41,796 career passing yards and passed PEYTON MANNING (41,626) for the most passing yards by a player in his first 10 seasons in NFL history.

•Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson led the NFL with 34 touchdown passes and threw 19 fourth-quarter touchdowns, surpassing Eli Manning (15 in 2011) for the most in a single season in NFL history.

•Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz, who set a single-season franchise record with 33 touchdown passes, became the third quarterback in NFL history to have at least 25 touchdown passes (28) and five or fewer interceptions (five) through his team’s first 11 games, joining Tom Brady (2007, 2015, 2017) and Aaron Rodgers (2011, 2014).

•Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum posted a passer rating of at least 100 in four consecutive games from Weeks 10-13, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Farve (2009) and Daunte Culpepper (2000 and 2004) for the longest streak in franchise history.

•San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo won each of his five starts with the 49ers and is one of five quarterbacks since 1970 to win each of his first seven NFL starts.

RUSHING

•Several running backs enjoyed historic seasons in 2017:

Nine players registered at least 1,000 rushing yards this season – Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (1,327), Los Angeles Rams’ TODD GURLEY (1,305), Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (1,291), Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy (1,138), New Orleans’ Mark Ingram (1,124), Chicago’s Jordan Howard (1,122), Los Angeles Chargers’ Melvin Gordon (1,105), Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette (1,040) and Denver’s C.J. Anderson (1,007). Two players registered at least 10 rushing touchdowns in 2017 – Gurley (13) and Ingram (12).

•Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards and was the second rookie not selected in the first round to lead his league in rushing yards in the common draft era (since 1967). Cincinnati’s Paul Robinson led the AFL with 1,023 rushing yards in 1968. Hunt is the sixth rookie since 1970 to lead the league in rushing.

•Indianapolis running back Frank Gore (14,026) surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (13,259), Jerome Bettis (13,662) and LaDanian Tomlinson (13,684) to move into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. The only players with more career rushing yards are Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726), Barry Sanders (15,269) and Curtis Martin (14,101).

•Arizona running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 159 yards on a career-high 37 carries in Week 9. Peterson has 19 career games with at least 150 rushing yards and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (18) and Emmitt Smith (18) for the fourth-most games with at least 150 rushing yards in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers Barry Sanders (25), Jim Brown (22) and Walter Payton (20) have more such games in their careers. Peterson, at 32 years old, became the third-oldest player in NFL history with at least 150 rushing yards in a game, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famers John Riggins (35 years old) and John Henry Johnson (34 years old).

•Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy reached 10,000 career rushing yards on his 2,145th carry and became the fifth-fastest player in NFL history to achieve the milestone. The only players to reach 10,000 career rushing yards in fewer attempts are JIM BROWN (1,936), Adrian Peterson (2,004), Barry Sanders (2,020) and O.J. Simpson (2,085). Brown, Sanders and Simpson are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

RECEIVING

•Five players registered at least 100 receptions in 2017: Miami’s Jarvis Landry (112), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (109), New Orleans’ Michael Thomas (104), Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen (102) and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown  (101).

Six players recorded at least 1,200 receiving yards in 2017: Brown (1,533), Atlanta’s Julio Jones (1,444), Allen (1,393), Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins (1,378), Minnesota’s Adam Thielen (1,276) and Thomas (1,245). Three players had at least 10 touchdown catches in 2017: Hopkins (13), Green Bay’s Davante Adams (10) and Seattle’s Jimmy Graham (10).

•Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown led the NFL with 1,533 receiving yards and has 7,848 receiving yards since 2013, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison (7,594 from 1999-2003) for the most receiving yards by a player over any five-year span in NFL history. Brown, who has 582 receptions since 2013, also surpassed Harrison (563 from 1999-2003) for the most catches by a player over any five-year span in NFL history. Brown ranked fifth in the NFL with 101 catches and is the first player in league history with at least 100 catches in five consecutive seasons. Brown, who has 733 career catches since entering the league in 2010, reached 700 career receptions in the fewest games in NFL history (111).

•Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has 15,545 career receiving yards, moved into third place in NFL history in receiving yards. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (22,895) and Terrell Owens (15,934) have more career receiving yards in league history. Fitzgerald, who has played his entire career with Arizona, and Rice (19,247 with San Francisco) are the only players in NFL history to reach 15,000 career receiving yards with a single team. Fitzgerald, who was 34 years, 70 days old when he reached 15,000 receiving yards, became the second-youngest player in NFL history to accomplish the milestone, trailing only Rice (33 years, 72 days old).

Fitzgerald has five career seasons with at least 100 catches, tied for the second-most in NFL history behind Brandon Marshall (six). Fitzgerald, who recorded his 14th consecutive season with 50+ catches, tied Anquan Boldin (14 consecutive seasons from 2003-16) for the longest such streak to begin a career.

•Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry led the NFL with 112 catches and has 400 catches since entering the league in 2014, the most by a player in his first four seasons in NFL history. Landry had at least five receptions in all 16 of Miami’s games this season and joined Antonio Brown (2013, 2014), Pierre Garcon (2013) and Jimmy Smith (2001) as the only players in league annals to accomplish the feat. Landry, who entered the league as a second-round pick in 2014, is the only player in NFL history with at least 80 catches in each of his first four seasons.

•Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, who has 585 career receptions, reached 500 catches in his 80th career game, tying ANQUAN BOLDIN for the fewest games to reach the milestone in NFL history. Jones had 12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons’ Week 12 win against Tampa Bay in Atlanta. Jones has three career games with at least 250 receiving yards and is the only player in NFL history to have multiple 250+ yard receiving games.

•Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen recorded at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and a touchdown catch in Weeks 11-13 and became the first player in NFL histo​ry to have at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and a touchdown reception in three consecutive games.

•Dallas tight end Jason Witten (12,448 receiving yards) joined Tony Gonzalez (15,127) as the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 12,000 career receiving yards. Witten, who has spent the entirety of his 15 career seasons with the Cowboys, passed Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin (11,904) for the most career receiving yards in franchise history.

•Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has 114 career touchdown catches and passed Tony Gonzalez (111) for the most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history.

•Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski led all NFL tight ends with 1,084 receiving yards and joined Tony Gonzalez (four) and Jason Witten (four) as the only tight ends in NFL history with at least four seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards.

•Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green had 1,078 receiving yards this season and became the first player in NFL history with at least 950 receiving yards in each of his first seven seasons.

•New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. recorded his 300th career reception in his 45th career game and became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 300 career receptions (Anquan Boldin, 47 games).

•New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas ranked third in the NFL with a franchise-record 104 catches this season and has 196 catches since entering the league in 2016, the most by any player in his first two career seasons. Thomas, who had 92 catches as a rookie in 2016, joined Odell Beckham, Jr. as the only players in NFL history to record at least 90 receptions in each of their first two seasons.

•Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans had 1,001 receiving yards and has at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons. Evans joined Randy Moss (six) and A.J. Green (five) as the only players in NFL history with at least four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin a career.

VERSATILE PERFORMANCES

•Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley led the NFL with 2,093 scrimmage yards and 19 touchdowns (13 rushing, six receiving), becoming the third different player in NFL history to have at least 2,000 scrimmage yards, 10 rushing touchdowns and more than five touchdown catches in a single season. The other two players to accomplish the feat are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: O.J. Simpson (1975) and Marshall Faulk (2000 and 2001).

•Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell ranked second in the NFL with 1,946 scrimmage yards, the third-most in a single season in franchise history. Bell recorded 6,286 scrimmage yards in his first 50 career games, trailing only Edgerrin James (6,506) and Pro Football Hall of Famers LaDanian Tomlinson (6,425) and Eric Dickerson (6,294) for the most by a player in his first 50 games in NFL history.

•New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara (1,554) and Mark Ingram (1,540) became the first running back teammates in NFL history to each record at least 1,500 scrimmage yards in the same season.

•Indianapolis running back Frank Gore, who finished the season with 1,206 scrimmage yards (961 rushing, 245 receiving) is the only player in NFL history to record at least 1,200 scrimmage yards in 12 consecutive seasons. Gore (77 rushing, 17 receiving) became the sixth player in NFL history with at least 75 rushing touchdowns and 15 receiving touchdowns in his career, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Walter Payton and LaDanian Tomlinson.

•Kansas City wide receiver-return specialist Tyreek Hill led the NFL with six touchdowns of at least 50 yards (five receiving, one punt return). Since entering the league in 2016, Hill has 11 touchdowns of 50+ yards (five receiving, three punt return, two rushing and one kick return), tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (11) for the second-most in a player’s first two seasons in NFL history. Only Devin Hester (13) had more such touchdowns in his first two seasons.

•Chicago rookie running back Tarik Cohen became the first player since Terry Metcalf (1975) and the first rookie since Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (1965) to have a punt-return touchdown, rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and passing touchdown in a single season.

•Carolina quarterback Cam Newton recorded his sixth career game with at least three touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown in Week 4, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young, Drew Brees, Jack Kemp, Tobin Rote and Billy Wade for the most such games in NFL history. Newton, who threw four touchdown passes and rushed for 95 yards in Week 10, is the only quarterback in NFL history with two career games with at least four touchdown passes and 95 rushing yards.

Newton, who has 4,320 career rushing yards, became the fourth quarterback in NFL history with at least 4,000 rushing yards, joining Michael Vick (6,109), Randall Cunningham (4,928) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young (4,239). Newton has 54 career rushing touchdowns and is the only quarterback in NFL history with 50 rushing touchdowns.

•New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown, who turned 38 years old in July, became the third player in NFL history with at least two rushing touchdowns in a single game at the age of 38 or older.

•Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins had 4,093 passing yards and rushed for four touchdowns, becoming the only player in NFL history to have at least 4,000 passing yards and four rushing touchdowns in three consecutive seasons.

•Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas extended his consecutive snaps played streak to 10,363 before leaving the Browns’ Week 7 game against Tennessee with an injury.

KICKING

•There were 107 field goals of at least 50 yards converted in 2017, the most in a single season in NFL history.

•Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri scored 109 points in 2017 and has 2,487 career points, surpassing Gary Anderson (2,434) for the second-most points scored in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen (2,544) has more career points. Vinatieri is the only player in NFL history to score 100+ points in 20 different seasons.

Vinatieri has 24 game-winning field goals in the regular season in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime and 10 game-winners in overtime, both the most in NFL history.

•Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka and Detroit’s Matt Prater both converted four field goals of at least 55 yards in 2017, tied for the most in a single season in NFL history. Hauschka converted an NFL-record 13 consecutive 50+ yard field-goal attempts dating back to 2015.

•Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein converted all seven of his field-goal attempts and both of his PAT attempts in the team’s win at Dallas in Week 4. Zuerlein became the eighth player to make at least seven or more field goals in a single game, and his 23 total points scored are tied for the third-highest single-game total by a kicker in NFL history.

•San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould converted all 15 field-goal attempts from Weeks 13-15 and is the first player in NFL history to make at least 15 field goals over a three-game span. The three contests were at Chicago (week 13), at Houston (week 14) and at home against Tennessee (week 15) and the 49ers won all three contests.

•Oakland kicker Giorgio Tavecchio converted all four of his field-goal attempts in the Raiders’ victory at Tennessee on Kickoff Weekend. Tavecchio, who connected on two 52-yard field goals in the contest, became the first player in league history to make two field goals of at least 50 yards in his NFL debut.

DEFENSE

•With all that offense, defenses were heard from as well. Four of the top five NFL teams in scoring defense qualified for the playoffs – Minnesota (15.8), Jacksonville (16.8), Philadelphia (18.4) and New England (18.5). Those four clubs combined for a winning percentage of .766.

•Ten players recorded at least 12 sacks in 2017: Arizona’s Chandler Jones (17), Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell (14.5), Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence (14.5), Minnesota’s Everson Griffen (13), New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan (13), Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan (13), Los Angeles Chargers’ Joey Bosa (12.5), Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah (12), Pittsburgh’s Cameron Heyward (12) and Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue (12).

Eleven players had at least five interceptions this season: Tennessee’s Kevin Byard (eight), Detroit’s Darius Slay (eight), Jacksonville’s A.J. BOUYE (six), Baltimore’s Eric Weddle (six), Arizona’s Antoine Bethea (five), Los Angeles Chargers’ Tre Boston (five), Buffalo’s Micah Hyde (five), New Orleans’ Marshon Lattimore (five), Kansas City’s Marcus Peters (five), Buffalo’s Jordon Poyer (five) and Minnesota’s Harrison Smith (five).

•Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers had 11 sacks in 2017 and moved into fourth place on the NFL’s all-time sack list with 154.5 career sacks. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198) and Kevin Greene (160) have more.

Peppers is the fourth player in​ NFL history to have at least 10 seasons with 10+ sacks, joining Smith (13 seasons), White (12) and Greene (10). Peppers, at 37 years old, became the third player with at least 10 sacks in a single season at the age of 37 or older since the sack became an official statistic in 1982, joining Smith (10 sacks in 2000) and Greene (12 sacks in 1999).

•San Francisco linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who led the 49ers with 6.5 sacks this season, has 105.5 career sacks and is the fourth active player to record at least 100 career sacks.

•Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen recorded at least one sack in each of the Vikings’ first eight games this season and became the third player to record a sack in each of his team’s first eight games of a season since the individual sack became an official statistic in 1982, joining Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney (2009) and Robert Mathis (2005).

•Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones had a franchise-record 17 sacks in 2017 and has 40.5 sacks since 2015, the most in the NFL over the span.

•Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa recorded 19 sacks in his first 20 career games, the most sacks by a player in his first 20 games to begin a career since the individual sack became an official statistic in 1982.

•Tennessee safety Kevin Byard recorded five interceptions over a two-game span in Weeks 7 and 9 (Titans had a bye in Week 8), tied for the most by an NFL player in consecutive games since the 1970 merger. The week 7 contest was at Cleveland and Tennessee won in overtime and the week 9 contest was against Baltimore in Nashville, which Tennessee also won.

•Atlanta defensive end Adrian Claybord set a single-game franchise record with six sacks in the Falcons’ Week 10 game against Dallas, tied for the second-most in a game since the individual sack became an official statistic in 1982. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas (seven on November 11, 1990) had more sacks in a single game.

REMARKABLE ROOKIES

•​In 2017, rookies accumulated 22,219 yards from scrimmage, the second-most in a single season since 1970, excluding the 1987 season.

SEASON – MOST SCRIMMAGE YARDS BY ROOKIES*
2014 – 25,944
2017 – 25,787
2012 – 23,244
2013 – 22,651
2015 – 21,887
*Excludes 1987 season

Rookies also totaled 177 touchdowns this season, tied for the second-most in a single season since 1970, excluding the 1987 season.

SEASON – MOST TOUCHDOWNS BY ROOKIES*
2014 – 184
2017 – 177
2013 – 177
2010 – 163
2012 – 157
1983 – 157

*Excludes 1987 season

•Four rookies recorded at least 1,000 scrimmage yards this season: Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (1,782), New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara (1,554), Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette (1,342) and Carolina’s Chirstian McCaffery (1,086).

Four rookies had at least eight total touchdowns in 2017: Kamara (14), Hunt (11), Fournette (10) and Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuester (eight).

•Houston rookie quarterback DESHAUN WATSON threw 19 touchdown passes in his first seven games this season, the most by a player in his first seven games in NFL history, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (18).

Watson became the first rookie quarterback to throw at least three touchdown passes in four consecutive games (Weeks 4-8, Texans had a bye in Week 7) and his 16 touchdown passes from Weeks 4-8 were the most in league history by a rookie in any four-game span. In Week 8 at Seattle (Seattle won that contest), Watson became the first player in league annals with at least 400 passing yards (402), four touchdown passes (four) and 50 rushing yards (67) in a single game. (Week 4 was a win against Tennessee at home, week 5 was a Sunday night loss against Kansas City in Houston, week 6 was a win over Cleveland in Houston, week 7 was a bye week and week 8 was a loss at Seattle.)

•Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt scored a touchdown of at least 50 yards in three consecutive games to start his career, becoming the only player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. Hunt had at least 100 scrimmage yards in each of his first seven games this season and became the only rookie in NFL history with 100 or more scrimmage yards in each of his team’s first seven games of a season. Hunt became the only rookie in NFL history to have two games with at least 200 scrimmage yards, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown, accomplishing the feat in Weeks 1 and 15. (Kansas City beat New England in Foxboro in week one, then beat the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead in week 15)

•Jacksonville rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, in Week 5 at Pittsburgh. Fournette (22 years, 263 days old) became the youngest player in NFL history with a touchdown run of at least 90 yards and the fifth rookie in league annals with a 90+ yard rushing touchdown.
Fournette, who scored a touchdown in each of his first five games this season, became the fifth rookie to score at least one touchdown in each of his team’s first five games of a season.

•Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara had 826 receiving yards and 728 rushing yards and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Charlie Taylor (1964) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least 700 rushing yards and 700 receiving yards. Kamara, who had eight rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns this year, is the fourth rookie in NFL history with at least five rushing and five receiving touchdowns, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Doak Walker (1950), Taylor (1964) and Gale Sayers (1965). Kamara, who had a 106-yard kickoff-return touchdown in Week 17 at Tampa Bay, joined Sayers (1965) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff-return touchdown.

•New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara (81 catches, five receiving touchdowns) and Carolina’s Christian McCaffery (80 catches, five receiving touchdowns) are the only rookie running backs in NFL history with at least 80 receptions and five touchdown catches. Kamara (81) and McCaffrey (80) rank third and fourth among rookie running backs in NFL history, respectively, in receptions. The two will square off against each other Sunday in New Orleans in the NFC Wild Card game.

•Pittsburgh rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (20 years old) became the youngest player to score a touchdown in the NFL since 1964 (Chicago’s Andy Livingston) and the youngest NFL player to catch a touchdown pass since 1930 (Green Bay’s Arnie Herber). Smith-Schuster finished the season with 1,157 all-purpose yards (917 receiving, 240 kickoff-return) and is the youngest player in NFL history to record 1,000 all-purpose yards in a season.

•Cleveland rookie defensive end Myles Garrett, who was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, became the only player selected first overall to record multiple sacks in his NFL debut since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

•Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt had two sacks and an interception in the Steelers’ Kickoff Weekend win at Cleveland. Watt is the first player to record at least two sacks and an interception in an NFL debut on Kickoff Weekend since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

•New Orleans’ Marshon Lattimore (Weeks 14-16) and Indianapolis’ Malik Hooker (Weeks 2-4) both recorded an interception in three consecutive games. Lattimore led all rookies with five interceptions and tied with Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White for the rookie lead with 18 passes defensed.

•Philadelphia rookie kicker Jake Elliott converted a 61-yard game-winning field goal as time expired in the Eagles’ Week 3 win against the New York Giants. Elliott’s 61-yard field goal is the longest by a rookie in NFL history and tied for the third-longest game-ending field goal in league annals, trailing only Tom Dempsey (63 yards, November 8, 1970) and Matt Bryant (62, October 22, 2006).

After two weeks of going 11-5, we came back to Earth and went 8-8 and for the season, we’re 154-103. Still not bad but things could have been a lot better and because this is the post-season, every game that will be played will be designated “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

With all that in mind, here are Saturday and Sunday’s playoff games.

Tennessee (9-7) at Kansas City (10-6), 4:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN/ABC. The first contest of Wild Card Weekend takes place in the Show-Me State as the Kansas City Chiefs host the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead. Both clubs enter the contest with close wins under their belts.

Tennessee survived a 15-10 scare from Jacksonville last Sunday at Nissan Stadium in a contest that determined their playoff fate. After a scoreless first quarter, Tennessee took a 6-0 lead with 14:04 left before halftime when RB Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota connected on a 66-yard TD strike. Ryan Succop’s PAT try was blocked but he would make up for it, connecting on three field goals and after Jacksonville’s Josh Lambo put his team on the board with a 41-yard field goal with 10:14 before the intermission, the Titans took a 12-3 lead with them to the intermission. Succop would then add his third field goal of the day, a 38-yarder with 7:42 left in the third before the Jaguars would make things close when DE Yannick Ngakoue lived out a linesman’s dream and recovered a fumble and took it back 67 yards for a TD with 10:48 left in regulation. Jacksonville had a chance to take the lead and knock the Titans out of the playoff picture but their hope fell short when Blake Bortles was picked off by Kevin Byard, giving the Titans the ball and allowing them to run out the clock.

Tennessee outrushed Jacksonville 116-83 and rookie RB Leonard Fournette led all rushers with 69 yards, while Mariota led Tennessee with 60 yards. Mariota threw for 134 yards with a pair of sacks, while Bortles threw for 158 yards with a pair of sacks and a pair of interceptions. Jacksonville on third down went 6 of 16 and kept the ball for 26:33, while the Titans kept the pigskin for 33:27, going 3 of 16 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Kansas City took a 27-24 last second win at Denver last Sunday in the AFC West finale for both clubs. The Chiefs, who won back-to-back AFC West titles for the first time in their history, led 14-10 at the half at Sports Authority Field, before the Broncos stormed back late in the game to tie things up at 24-24 with 2:53 left in regulation when WR Demaryius Thomas and QB Paxton Lynch connected on a 6-yard TD pass. Kansas City then got the kickoff and used an 11-play, 67-yard drive that used all of the 2:53 left in the contest and gave the Chiefs the win when K Hank Butker sent a 30-yard field goal try through the uprights for the road win.

Both teams rushed for 110 yards in the AFC West affair in the Rocky Mountains, while Pat Mahomes, who took over for Alex Smith (rest), threw for 284 yards for Kansas City and Lynch threw for 254 yards for the Broncos (Lynch was sacked five times and threw a pair of interceptions, while Mahomes threw an interception and was sacked twice). Kansas City was 4 of 11 on third down (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 29:03 (including the final 2:53 of the contest), while the Broncos were 5 of 12 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down and actually ruled the clock, keeping the pigskin for 30:57.

The Chiefs not only lead the regular season series 27-22 and have outscored the Titans 1,049-884 (which includes games that were played when the Chiefs were in Dallas and known as the Texans and the Titans were known as the Houston Oilers), they are 2-0 in playoff games with Tennessee.

They last met last year in their last regular season contest and the Titans were 19-17 winners at Arrowhead in week 15. The Chiefs led 17-0 at the break and took that lead with them into the fourth quarter (the third quarter was scoreless) before the Titans outscored Kansas City 12-0 and took the win on a 53-yard field goal by Succop as time expired.

In that meeting, Kansas City outrushed Tennessee 158-148 and Smith threw for 163 yards, while Mariota threw for 241 yards (each had a sack and each threw an interception) at Arrowhead. The Chiefs on third down tries went 4 of 14 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down tries and held the ball for 29:25, while the Titans were 6 of 14 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 30:35, including the final seconds of the contest. Their last playoff meeting took place in 1993 in Houston and the Chiefs left the Lone Star State 28-20 winners in the AFC Divisional Playoff.

The Chiefs in that week 15 meeting at Arrowhead were favored by 5 1/2 and the Titans came away with the 2-point win on the road. Both teams missed the 42 1/2 over/under by combining for 36 points. The oddsmakers like the Chiefs as an 8-point favorite at home with a 44 1/2 over/under. The winner of this one gets a date with either Pittsburgh or New England next week. As for the loser? They’ll get a long plane ride home and have to clear out their lockers. Everything’s up to date in Kansas City and while the Titans will make this one close, the Chiefs prevail in the Show-Me State.

ATLANTA (11-5) at Los Angeles Rams (11-5), 8:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC. The defending NFC champs make their way to the Left COast for a face off with the Los Angeles Rams.

The Falcons took care of business at home last Sunday against Carolina, taking Cam Newton and the Panthers to task by a 22-10 final in the Big Peach. RB DeVonta Freeman and Matt Ryan opened the scoring in the contest as the Falcons took the opening drive and marched down field, using a 10-play, 75 yard drive that took 4:28 when they connected on a 19-yard TD pass. That lead would last for the entire first quarter and nearly all of the second when Carolina tied things up with a 4-yard TD pass from Newton to WR Darren Funchess with 50 seconds left. The two teams took a 7-7 tie with them to the locker room and Atlanta would take control in the second half, using five Matt Bryant field goals in the second half (Bryant’s longest field goal was 56 yards), while the Panthers were held to a 42-yard field goal by Graham Gano in the third quarter.

Carolina did outrush Atlanta 87-60 but Ryan outpaced Newton, throwing for 317 yards, with Newton throwing for 180 (Ryan was sacked once but did not throw an interception, while Newton was sacked twice and threw three interceptions). Atlanta on third down was 6 of 16 in the revenge game and kept the ball for 34:42, while the Panthers were 5 of 15, 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 25:18.

The Rams rested some of their starters against San Francisco in Los Angeles and the 49ers made them pay for that mistake, as San Francisco left the Coliseum with a 34-13 win. Trailing 20-6 at the intermission, the Rams were burned by two TD passes by Jimmy Garafalo (292 yards) and were held to 102 yards rushing, while the 49ers ran for 171 with Los Angeles QB Sean Manion, who took over for Jared Goff, threw for 169 yards with three sacks and no interceptions. Los Angeles was 5 of 15 on third donw, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 30:51, while the 49ers were 6 of 12 on third down, keeping the ball for 29:09.

They’ve met only once in the post-season and the Falcons were 47-17 winners in the Big Peach in the 2004 NFC Divisonal Playoff. As far as overall meetings go, the Rams lead the series 47-28-2 and have outscored the Falcons 1,810-1,321. Atlanta did win the last meeting between the two teams, coming away 42-14 winners in the Coliseum in week 14. Atlanta led 42-0 after 45 minutes of play (they led 21-0 at the half) and held the Rams to a pair of fourth-quarter TDs, one by Todd Gurley and the other by Goff, in a contest that would eventually cost Jeff Fisher his job. While the Rams did outrush Atlanta 104-66, Ryan threw for 237 yards and three TDs and Goff threw for 235 yards with a pair of sacks and three interceptions. Atlanta was 4 of 13 on third down on the West Coast and kept the ball for 27:08, while the Rams ruled the clock and held the pigskin for 32:52, going 6 of 14 on third down conversions.

In the week 14 contest on the Left Coast, the Falcons’ 28-point win was good enough to cover the 6-point spread and the 56 combined points were more than enough to cover the 45 over/under. This time, the Rams are the darlings of the boys and girls in Vegas and they’ve made them 6 1/2 point favorites with a 49 over/under. Both numbers make sense. The Rams are in the playoffs for the first time since they were in St. Louis in 2001, while the Falcons are the defending NFC champs. The Falcons are like Kathy Bates… they’re older and have more experience in the post-season and that will propel them into the next round. Atlanta pulls off the upset on the West Coast and covers the 6 1/2.

Buffalo (9-7) at Jacksonville (10-6), 1 p.m. on CBS. One team hasn’t been to the post-season since the Clinton administration. The other hasn’t been in a decade. They meet in northern Florida on Sunday afternoon as the Buffalo Bills return to the Sunshine State for an AFC Wild Card meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Buffalo backed their way into the post-season after they took care of Miami 22-16 at Hard Rock Stadium last Sunday in the Sunshine State. The Bills led 10-0 at the intermission in Miami Gardens, then led 19-3 at the end of the third quarter before the Dolphins managed to outscore them in the final 15 minutes of action 13-3. Miami made it a 6-point contest with 1:56 left in regulation when QB David Fales, who took over for Jay Culter, scored from a yard out. Miami then recovered the onside kick and were in business to end the hopes of the Bills and their fans but things changed for the better for Buffalo, as S Jordan Poyer picked off Fales, giving the Bills the ball back and running out the clock.

The contest had its moments of chippiness when Miami’s Jarvis Landry and Buffalo’s Ryan Groy exchanged punches in the final quarter of play. Both were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and Landry’s day was over, as he was asked by the officials to leave the contest with 6:21 after Landry scored on a 1-yard run. Buffalo outrushed Miami 126-93, despite losing RB LeSean McCoy (ankle) and Tyrod Taylor threw for 204 yards with a TD and four sacks, while Fales threw for 265 yards with a TD, a sack and an interception. The Bills on third down went 5 of 12 and kept the ball for 31:04, while the Dolphis kept the pigskin for 28:56, going 5 of 13 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth downs.

Then after their win over Miami, they waited in their locker room to see if they would make it into the post-season and got that much needed help from Cincinnati, who were trailing in Baltimore late before Andy Dalton and WR Tyler Boyd connected on a 49-yard TD pass with 44 seconds left to give the Bengals a 31-27. The Bengals then stopped Baltimore’s attempt to take the lead back, Cincinnati got the ball and the Bills got into the playoffs.

Jacksonville comes back to EverBank Field after their 15-10 loss to Tennesee in the Music City last Sunday. While the Jaguars already secured their playoff spot, for Tennessee, it was a contest at Nissan Stadium that determined their playoff fate. After a scoreless first quarter, Tennessee took a 6-0 lead with 14:04 left before halftime when RB Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota connected on a 66-yard TD strike. The Jaguars then blocked Ryan Succop’s PAT try but he would make up for it, connecting on three field goals and after Jacksonville’s Josh Lambo put his team on the board with a 41-yard field goal with 10:14 before the intermission, the Titans took a 12-3 lead with them to the intermission. Succop would then add his third field goal of the day, a 38-yarder with 7:42 left in the third before the Jaguars would make things close when DE Yannick Ngakoue lived out a linesman’s dream and recovered a fumble and took it back 67 yards for a TD with 10:48 left in regulation. Jacksonville had a chance to take the lead and knock the Titans out of the playoff picture but their hope fell short when Blake Bortles was picked off by Kevin Byard, giving the Titans the ball and allowing them to run out the clock.

Tennessee outrushed Jacksonville 116-83 and rookie RB Leonard Fournette led all rushers with 69 yards, while Mariota led Tennessee with 60 yards. Mariota threw for 134 yards with a pair of sacks, while Bortles threw for 158 yards with a pair of sacks and a pair of interceptions. Jacksonville on third down went 6 of 16 and kept the ball for 26:33, while the Titans kept the pigskin for 33:27, going 3 of 16 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Buffalo and Jacksonville have met only once in the post-season and it was in their very first meeting in 1996 in upstate New York and the Jaguars left what was then Rich Stadium with a 30-27 win in the AFC Wild Card game. Otherwise, the Bills lead the series 8-6, Buffalo has outscored Jacksonville 314-299 and were 28-21 winners in Orchard Park last year (Jacksonville’s last win over the Bills came in London in 2015, when they came away with a 34-31 win on the other side of the pond).

In that week 12 meeting along the shores of Lake Erie, the Bills trailed 7-6 at the half, then pulled away from Jacksonville in the final 30 minutes of play, scoring the game winner with 10:46 left in the contest when WR Josh Hunter and QB Tyrod Taylor connected on a 16-yard TD pass to send Bills fans home happy, if not warm (game time temperature? 42 degrees with a 35 degree wind chill). Jacksonville outrushed the Bills 183-153 and McCoy led all rushers with 103 yards and a pair of TDs, while Taylor threw for 166 yards with five sacks and Blaine Bortles throwing for 126 yards, with a pair of TDs and two sacks. Jacksonville was 8 of 15 on third down (they were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and the Jaguars ruled the clock and kept the ball for 33:35, while the Bills were 26:25 in time of possession, going 5 of 12 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

In the week 12 contest, Buffalo just missed the 7 1/2-point spread, winning by 7 but both teams covered the 45 1/2 over/under with 49 points. Jacksonville’s the favorite of the boys and girls in Vegas and they’re favored by 8 with a 39 1/2 over/under. Both of those numbers make a lot of sense. Both haven’t been in the post-season in a while, so things could very well be close. However, Jacksonville will keep their fan base happy and take this one in the Sunshine State, even though the Bills could make it closer than the 8.

Carolina (11-5) at New Orleans (11-5), 4:30 p.m. on FOX. Newton vs. Brees, Round 3. They’re back. This time, it’s for a chance to advance to the next round of the NFC playoffs. Both teams limp into the Big Easy with road losses under their belts to close out the 2017 regular season.

Cam Newton and the Panthers were taken to task at Atlanta, falling 22-10 in the Big Peach. RB DeVonta Freeman and Matt Ryan opened the scoring in the contest as the Falcons took the opening drive and marched down field, using a 10-play, 75 yard drive that took 4:28 when they connected on a 19-yard TD pass. That lead would last for the entire first quarter and nearly all of the second when Carolina tied things up with a 4-yard TD pass from Newton to WR Darren Funchess with 50 seconds left. The two teams took a 7-7 tie with them to the locker room and Atlanta would take control in the second half, using five Matt Bryant field goals in the second half (Bryant’s longest field goal was 56 yards), while the Panthers were held to a 42-yard field goal by Graham Gano in the third quarter.

While Carolina did outrush Atlanta 87-60, Ryan outpaced Newton, throwing for 317 yards, with Newton throwing for 180 (Ryan was sacked once but did not throw an interception, while Newton was sacked twice and threw three interceptions). Atlanta on third down was 6 of 16 in the revenge game and kept the ball for 34:42, while the Panthers were 5 of 15, 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 25:18.

New Orleans let a 24-23 lead at Tampa Bay get away from them as the Bucs roared back to take a 31-24 win at Raymond James Stadium. The Saints led 14-13 at the half and took a 17-13 into the start of the final 15 minutes of play before Tampa Bay took the lead for the first time with 14:04 left in regulation when S Isiah Johnson picked up a Saints’ fumble and returned it seven yards for a 20-17 lead. That lead would not last very long as New Orleans took the lead back when Drew Brees and WR Zach Line connected on a 3-yard TD pass with 7:07 left. Tampa Bay would chip away at the lead with a 42-yard field goal to make things a 1-point contest with 4:31 left to play, then take the lead back for good when Jameis Winston and WR Chris Goodwin connected on a 39-yard TD pass with nine seconds left. Winston and Mike Evans would then connect on the two-point conversion to make it a 7-point contest. New Orleans then got the kickoff and moved the ball to their 33-yard line but time ran out on the Saints and Tampa Bay took the win.

Tampa Bay outrushed New Orleans 110-92 and Brees threw for 245 yards, while Winston threw for 363 yards in the rematch (both men threw a TD pass, Winston threw three interceptions) for the Buccaneers. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down tries at Raymond James Stadium; the Saints were 6 of 12 (0 of 1 on fourth down), while Tampa Bay went 13 of 18 (the Bucs were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and time was on the side of Tampa Bay, who held on to the ball for 31:33 to New Orleans’ 28:27.

The teams will meet in the postseason for the first time but they met twice in regular season play. New Orleans swept the season series this year, winning 34-13 at Carolina in Week 3 (September 24) and 31-21 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 13 (December 3).

In the week three contest in Charlotte, the Saints took a 17-6 lead with them to the intermission at Bank of America Stadium and never looked back, as Brees threw three TDs in the game in the Tar Heel State. New Orleans outrushed Carolina 149-132, Brees threw for 220 yards with no interceptions, while Newton struggled, throwing for 167 yards with four sacks and three interceptions. Both teams were 50 percent on third down tries (New Orleans was 6 of 12, Carolina was 7 of 14) and New Orleans ruled the clock and kept the ball for 31:09 to Carolina’s 28:51.

New Orleans pulled the sweep in front of the home folkes in the Big Easy in week 13, taking the 10-point NFC South win over their rivals. This time, it was the Kamara/Ingram show as the two scored three rushing TDs (Kamara with two) and Brees threw for 269 yards, while Newton had a little better outing, throwing for 183 yards and a pair of TDs (each QB was sacked twice and did not throw an interception), connecting with Christian McCafferty and Darren Funchess on both tosses. The Saints again outrushed Carolina, this time tallying 148 yards (Ingram led all rushers with 85 yards), while Carolina tallied 112, with Newton accounting for 51 of those yards. As well as both teams did on third down in the first meetings, such was not the case in the second contest, as Carolina was 3 of 10 on third down tries (the Panthers were 0 of 2 on fourth down), while the Saints were 6 of 15 but found success on fourth down, going 1 of 1. Time was once again the BFF of the Saints, as they kept the ball for 33:21, while the Panthers held the pigskin for 26:39.

In the week three contest in the Tar Heel State, the Panthers were favored by 6 and the Saints covered the spread, winning by 21. The two clubs combined for 47 points, barely missing the 48 over/under. As for the second meeting, which took place in week 13, the oddsmakers in Vegas liked the Saints as 4 1/2-point favorites and they did kept the boys and girls in Vegas happy, winning by 10 in the Big Easy and both teams covered the 48 over/under with 52 points. The Saints are favored again, this time by 6 1/2 and the over/under is 48 1/2. Both numbers make sense. Both teams have QBs that can light up scoreboards. This time, it’s for a chance to move on to the Divisonal Round that starts next Saturday and that’s for the winner. The loser? They’ll have an entire offseason to think things through as they’re clearing thelr lockers and getting ready for OTAs and the draft. They say the third time’s the charm. That’s not going to be the case for New Orleans. Cam and the Panthers get revenge for the two losses and comes out of the Big Easy with the upset and could cover the 6 1/2 in the process.

 

The end is near.

The 2017 NFL regular season comes to an end and for those teams that will not be in the post-season, it’s a chance to regroup, evaluate where they are as a team, where they need to be and the talent that they have on the field and on their coaching staffs. This coming Sunday could be a chance to ruin playoff chances for those teams that still have a shot.

For those that are moving on, their journey starts Janaury 6th with the AFC and NFC Wild Card games as they march to Minneapolis and Super Bowl LII on February 4th. For those 12 teams, it’s their second season and things are a little different.

Win. Advance.

Lose. Kickoff is next year.

It’s a concept that is so easy even a five-year old could figure it out.

SEVEN FROM SUNDAY IN WEEK 16: New England has already won the AFC East and defeated Buffalo 37-16, secured a first-round bye with Sunday’s win combined with Jacksonville’s loss at San Francisco.

The Los Angeles Rams, who defeated Tennessee 27-23 in Nashville, clinched the NFC West division title for the first time since 2003.

Kansas City, who knocked off Miami 29-13 at Arrowhead, secured the AFC West division title for the second consecutive season.

Jacksonvile, who had already clinched a playoff berth, locked up the AFC South division title with Tennessee’s loss to the Rams. It marks Jacksonville’s first division title since 1999 (AFC Central).

New Orleans, who defeated Atlanta 23-13 and the Carolina, who knocked off Tampa Bay 22-19, both clinched a playoff berth.

Philadelphia, who defeated Oakland Monday night, have already won the NFC East and secured a first-round bye and earned themselves home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Pittsburgh defeated Houston Monday afternoon, clinched a first-round bye with the win. The Steelers have have already won the AFC North division title.

New England improved to 12-3 with today’s win over Buffalo. The Patriots have won at least 12 games in eight consecutive seasons (2010-17), surpassing the 2003-09 Indianapolis Colts for the longest such streak in NFL history.

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley had 118 rushing yards, 158 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in the Rams’ win at Tennessee. Gurley is the third player in NFL history to have at least 100 rushing yards and 150 receiving yards in a single game, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Ollie Matson (1954) and Herschel Walker (1986).

Gurley, who has 2,093 scrimmage yards, 13 rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns this season, is the third different player in NFL history to have at least 2,000 scrimmage yards, 10 rushing touchdowns and more than five touchdown catches in a single season. The other two players to accomplish the feat are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: O.J. Simpson (1975) and Marshall Faulk (2000 and 2001).

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 239 yards and a touchdown in the Saints’ win over Atlanta. Brees has 70,200 career passing yards and joined Peyton Manning (71,940) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Farve (71,838) as the only players in NFL history to reach 70,000 passing yards. Brees reached the milestone in his 248th career game and is the fastest in league history to accomplish the feat.

Brees, who has 4,089 passing yards this season, reached 4,000 passing yards for a 12th consecutive season, extending his NFL record.

Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith threw a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill had 109 receiving yards and rookie running back Kareem Hunt rushed for a score in the Chiefs’ win against Miami.

The Chiefs are the second team in NFL history with a 4,000-yard passer (Smith, 4,042), 1,000-yard rusher (Hunt, 1,292) and both a wide receiver (Hill, 1,183) and tight end (Kelce, 1,038) with at least 1,000 receiving yards each in a single season.

The 1981 San Diego Chargers – with Pro Football Hall of Famers Dan Fouts (4,802 passing yards), Charlie Joiner (1,188 receiving yards) and Kellen Winslow (1,075 receiving yards) and Chuck Muncie (1,144 rushing yards) – are the only other team to accomplish the feat.

Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals’ 23-0 win against the New York Giants in Glendale. This season, Fitzgerald has 101 catches for 1,101 yards and six touchdowns.

Fitzgerald has five seasons with at least 100 catches, tied for the second-most in NFL history. Only Brandon Marshall (six) has more such seasons.

Fitzgerald has nine seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards, tied for the third-most in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (14) and Randy Moss (10) have more such seasons.

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen had five catches for 63 yards and added an interception in the team’s 14-7 win at the New York Jets. Allen, who has 93 catches for 1,260 yards this season, is the first player in NFL history to record at least 90 catches and an interception in the same season. He is also the third player in NFL history to have at least 1,000 receiving yards and an interception in the same season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Hutson (1942) and Randy Moss (2009).

THE WEEK THAT WAS WEEK 16: TERRIFIC TURNAROUNDS: Jacksonville clinched the AFC South division title and joined the Philadelphia (NFC East, home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs) as teams to go from “worst-to-first” this season. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

If Carolina, who has already clinched a playoff berth, wins the NFC South, 2017 would tie the 2005 and 2006 seasons for the most such “worst-to-first” clubs in NFL history.

Carolina (playoff berth), the Los Angeles Rams (NFC West), Minnesota (NFC North) and New Orleans (playoff berth) have clinched at least a playoff berth. All four teams finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year and missed the postseason.

Entering Week 17, five of the eight divisions have a team either in or tied for first place that finished in third or fourth place in the division last season.

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. This season, six teams – Carolina, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans and Philadelphia – have all qualified for the playoffs after missing the postseason last year.

This weekend, four clubs – Baltimore, Buffalo, the Los Angeles Changers and Tennessee – are vying for the final two playoff spots in the AFC. In total, eight teams will clinch a playoff spot after not qualifying for the postseason in 2016, tied with the 2003 season for the most such teams since 1990.

The teams since 1990 to make the playoffs a season after failing to qualify:

SEASON – PLAYOFF TEAMS NOT IN PREVIOUS SEASON’S PLAYOFFS
1990 – 7 (Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles Raiders, Miami, New Orleans, Washington)
1991 – 5 (ATLANTA, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York Jets)
1992 – 6 (Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco)
1993 – 5 (Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Giants)
1994 – 5 (Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, New England, San Diego)
1995 – 4 (ATLANTA, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Philadelphia)
1996 – 5 (Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England)
1997 – 5 (Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, Tampa Bay)
1998 – 5 (Arizona, ATLANTA, Buffalo, Dallas, New York Jets)
1999 – 7 (Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2000 – 6 (Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)
2001 – 6 (Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)
2002 – 5 (ATLANTA, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Tennessee)
2003 – 8 (Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Seattle)
2004 – 5 (ATLANTA, Minnesota, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego)
2005 – 7 (Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Washington)
2006 – 7 (Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2007 – 6 (Green Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2008 – 7 (Arizona, ATLANTA, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia)
2009 – 6 (Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, New York Jets)
2010 – 5 (ATLANTA, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle)
2011 – 6 (Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New York Giants, San Francisco)
2012 – 4 (Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle, Washington)
2013 – 5 (Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2014 – 5 (Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh)
2015 – 4 (Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Washington)
2016 – 6 (ATLANTA, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York Giants, Oakland)
2017 – 8 (Carolina, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia)*

*Two of Baltimore, Buffalo, Los Angeles Chargers & Tennessee will qualify for the playoffs after missing the postseason in 2016

GURLEY DOES IT ALL: Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley totaled a career-high 276 scrimmage yards (158 receiving yards, 118 rushing yards) and had two touchdown receptions in the team’s 27-23 win over Tennessee in Week 16.

Gurley is the third player in NFL history to have at least 100 rushing yards and 150 receiving yards in a single game, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Ollie Matson (November 28, 1954) and Herschel Walker (December 14, 1986).

The players with at least 100 rushing yards and 150 receiving yards in a single game in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (DATE; RUSHING YARDS/RECEIVING YARDS)
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (December 24, 2017; 118/158)
Herschel Walker, Dallas (December 14, 1986; 122/170)
Ollie Matson, Chicago Cardinals (November 28, 1954; 115/161)^
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Gurley, who has 2,093 scrimmage yards, 13 rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns this season, is the third different player in NFL history to have at least 2,000 scrimmage yards, 10 rushing touchdowns and more than five touchdown catches in a single season. The other two players to accomplish the feat are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: O.J. Simpson (1975) and Marshall Faulk (2000 and 2001).

The players with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards, 10 rushing touchdowns and more than five touchdown catches in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(SCRIMMAGE YARDS/RUSHING TDS/RECIEVEING TDS)
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (2017) (2,093/13/6)*
Marshall Faulk, St. Louis Rams (2001) (2,147/12/9)^
Marshall Faulk, St. Louis Rams (2000) (2,189/18/8)^
O.J. Simpson, Buffalo (1975) (2,243/16/7)^
*Through Week 16
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

PROLIFIC PASSERS: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 239 yards and a touchdown in the Saints’ 23-13 win over Atlanta last week.

Brees, who has 70,200 career passing yards, joined Peyton Manning (71,940) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre (71,838) as the only players in NFL history with at least 70,000 career passing yards.

PLAYER – TEAMS (CCAREER PASSING YARDS)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (71,940)
Brett Favre – Green Bay, New York Jets and Minnesota (71,838)^
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (70,200)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Brees, who ranks fifth in the NFL with 4,089 passing yards, extended his NFL-record streak to 12 consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards.

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, who leads the NFC with 4,123 passing yards, surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the seventh consecutive season, the second-longest streak in NFL history.

The quarterbacks with the most consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (SEASONS)(SEASONS WITH 4,000+ PASS YARDS)
Drew Brees – New Orleans (2006-17)(12)*
Matthew Stafford – Detroit (2011-17)(7)*
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis (1999-2004)(6)
Matt Ryan – ATLANTA (2011-16)(6)*
*Active streak (Ryan has 3,778 yards in 2017)

Ryan, who has 3,778 passing yards this season, has recorded at least 4,000 passing yards in each of the past six seasons and can extend his streak to seven consecutive seasons with 222 passing yards against Carolina in Week 17.

PHENOMENAL FITZ: Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had nine receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals’ 23-0 win over the New York Giants in Week 16.

Fitzgerald, who ties for second in the league with 101 receptions, has five career seasons with at least 100 catches, tied for the second-most in NFL history. Only Brandon Marshall (six) has more such seasons.

The players with the most 100-catch seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (SEASONS WITH 100+ RECEPTIONS)
Brandon Marshall – Denver, Chicago and New York Jets (6)
Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh (5)
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona (5)
Andre Johnson – Houston (5)
Wes Welker – New England (5)

Fitzgerald, who ranks fourth in the NFC with 1,101 receiving yards, registered his ninth season with at least 1,000 receiving yards, tied for the third-most in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (14) and RANDY MOSS (10) have more such seasons.

The players with the most seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (SEASONS WITH 1,000+ REC. YARDS)
Jerry Rice – San Francisco and Oakland (14)^^
Randy Moss – Minnesota, Oakland and New England (10)
Tim Brown – Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (9)^
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona (9)
Terrell Owens – San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas (9)
Jimmy Smith – Jacksonville (9)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

LUCKY NUMBER 13: Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith passed for 304 yards and a touchdown in the Chiefs’ 29-13 victory over Miami last week.

Smith, a 13-year NFL veteran, has a career-high 4,024 passing yards and is the third quarterback in NFL history to reach 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career in his 13th season or later.

The players to record their first season with at least 4,000 passing yards in their 13th career season or later:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(EXPERIENCE – PASSING YARDS)
Alex Smith, Kansas City (2017)(13 – 4,024)*
Rich Gannon, Oakland (2002)(14 – 4,689)
Steve Beuerlein, Carolina (1999)(13 – 4,436)
*Through Week 16

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WEEK 17: TERRIFIC TURNAROUNDS: Carolna – who enters the weekend with an 11-4 record and play at Atlanta on Sunday – have clinched a playoff berth and can win the NFC South division title with a win combined with a New Orleans loss at Tampa Bay.

If the Panthers win the NFC South, they would join Philadelphia (NFC East) and Jacksonville (AFC South) as teams to go from “worst-to-first” this season. With three “worst-to-first” teams, 2017 would tie the 2005 and 2006 seasons for the most such clubs in NFL history. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

The Panthers (playoff berth), Los Angeles Rams (NFC West), Minnesota (NFC North) and New Orleans (playoff berth) have clinched at least a playoff berth. All four teams finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year and missed the postseason.

With either Carolina or New Orleans winning the NFC South, five of the eight divisions will be won by a team that finished in third or fourth place in the division last season.

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. This season, six teams – Carolina, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans and Philadelphia – have all qualified for the playoffs after missing the postseason last year.

This weekend, four clubs who missed the postseason in 2016 – Baltimore, Buffalo, the Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee – are vying for the final two playoff spots in the AFC. In total, eight teams will clinch a playoff spot after not qualifying for the postseason in 2016, tied with the 2003 season for the most such teams since 1990.

The teams since 1990 to make the playoffs a season after failing to qualify:

SEASON – PLAYOFF TEAMS NOT IN PREVIOUS SEASON’S PLAYOFFS
1990 – 7 (Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles Raiders, Miami, New Orleans, Washington)
1991 – 5 (ATLANTA, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York Jets)
1992 – 6 (Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco)
1993 – 5 (Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Giants)
1994 – 5 (Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, New England, San Diego)
1995 – 4 (ATLANTA, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Philadelphia)
1996 – 5 (Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England)
1997 – 5 (Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, Tampa Bay)
1998 – 5 (Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Dallas, New York Jets)
1999 – 7 (Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2000 – 6 (Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)
2001 – 6 (Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)
2002 – 5 (ATLANTA, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Tennessee)
2003 – 8 (Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Seattle)
2004 – 5 (ATLANTA, Minnesota, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego)
2005 – 7 (Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Washington)
2006 – 7 (Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2007 – 6 (Green Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2008 – 7 (Arizona, ATLANTA, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia)
2009 – 6 (Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, New York Jets)
2010 – 5 (ATLANTA, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle)
2011 – 6 (Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New York Giants, San Francisco)
2012 – 4 (Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle, Washington)
2013 – 5 (Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2014 – 5 (Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh)
2015 – 4 (Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Washington)
2016 – 6 (ATLANTA, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York Giants, Oakland)
2017 – 8 (Carolina, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia)*

*Two of Baltimore, Buffalo, Los Angeles Chargers & Tennessee will qualify for the playoffs after missing the postseason in 2016

SHINING STEELERS: Entering Week 17, Pittsburgh Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown leads the NFL with 1,533 receiving yards and Steelers Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell ranks third in the league with 1,291 rushing yards, only 14 yards behind the league-leader Todd Gurley (1,305).

The Steelers are looking to join the 1999 Indianapolis Colts and the 1991 Dallas Cowboys as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to finish the year with the league’s leading rusher and receiver.

The teams to finish a season with the league’s leading rusher and receiver in the Super Bowl era:

TEAM – SEASON (RUSHER – RUSHING YARDS)(RECEIVER – RECIEVING YARDS)
Indianapolis – 1999 (Edgerrin James – 1,553)(Marvin Harrison – 1,663)^
Dallas – 1991 (Emmitt Smith – 1,563)(Michael Irvin – 1,523)^
Pittsburgh – 2017 (Le’Veon Bell – 1,291)(Antonio Brown – 1,533)*
*Through Week 16
^Harrison, Smith and Irvin are Pro Football Hall of Famers

LARRY LEGEND: Arizona Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald ties for second in the NFL with 101 catches and has recorded at least one reception in 210 consecutive games.

Fitzgerald, who plays at Seattle on Sunday, can tie Tony Gonzalez (211) for the second-longest streak of consecutive games with a catch in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (274) has a longer such streak in league annals.

The players to record at least one catch in the most consecutive games in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAMS (SEASONS, MOST CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH A CATCH)
Jerry Rice, San Francisco and Oakland (1985-2004, 274)^
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City and Atlanta (2000-2013, 211)
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona (2004-Present, 210)*
*Active streak
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Fitzgerald, who ranks eighth in NFL history with 110 career touchdown catches, can tie Gonzalez (111) for seventh-most touchdown receptions in league annals.

The players with the most touchdown catches in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (TOUCHDOWN CATCHES)
Jerry Rice – San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle (197)^
Randy Moss – Minnesota, Oakland, New England, Tennessee and San Francisco (156)
Terrell Owens – San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati (153)
Cris Carter – Philadelphia, Minnesota and Miami (130)^
Marvin Harrison – Indianapolis (128)^
Antonio Gates – San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (114)*
Tony Gonzalez – Kansas City and Atlanta (111)
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona (110)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

PRECISION PASSER: New Orleans Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees has completed 364 of 506 passes for a league-leading 71.9 completion percentage this season.

Brees, who plays at Tampa Bay on Sunday, can surpass SAM BRADFORD (71.6 percent in 2016) for the highest single-season completion percentage in NFL history. Entering the season, Brees held two of the top three single-season completion percentages in league annals.

The quarterbacks with the highest single-season completion percentages in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(COMPLETIONS-ATTEMPTS, COMPLETION PERCENTAGE)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (2017)(364-506, 71.9)*
Sam Bradford, Minnesota (2016)(395-552, 71.6)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (2011)(468-657, 71.2)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (2009)(363-514, 70.6)
*Through Week 16

GURLEY DOES IT ALL: Los Angeles Rams Pro Bowl running back TODD GURLEY leads the NFL with 2,093 scrimmage yards (1,305 rushing, 788 receiving) and 19 total touchdowns this season.

Gurley, who plays against San Francisco on Sunday, can become the second player in NFL history with at least 1,300 rushing yards, 800 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns in a season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (2000). Faulk was named the Associated Press Most Valuable Player that season.

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(RUSHING YARDS)(RECEIVING YARDS)(TOTAL TDS)
Marshall Faulk, St. Louis (2000)(1,359)(830)(26)^
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (2017)(1,305)(788)(19)*
*Through Week 16
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

STREAKING STARS: Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith has a career-high 4,042 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes with five interceptions this season.

Smith has thrown for at least 3,000 yards and had fewer than 10 interceptions in each of the past four seasons and can become the first quarterback in NFL history to accomplish the feat in five consecutive seasons.

New England quarterback Tom Brady, who leads the NFL with 4,387 passing yards and has 30 touchdown passes with eight interceptions this season, can record his fourth consecutive season with at least 3,000 passing yards and fewer than 10 interceptions.

The quarterbacks with the most consecutive seasons with at least 3,000 passing yards and fewer than 10 interceptions:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS, CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH 3,000+ PASS YARDS AND FEWER THAN 10 INTERCEPTIONS)
Alex Smith, Kansas City (2013-16, 4)*
Tom Brady, New England (2014-16, 3)*
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (2014-16, 3)
Russell Wilson, Seattle (2013-15, 3)
*Active streak

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PHENOM: Houston Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins leads the NFL with 13 touchdown receptions, ranks second with 1,378 receiving yards and is fifth with 96 catches this season.

Hopkins, who plays at Indianapolis on Sunday, can become the fourth player in NFL history to record at least 100 catches, 1,500 receiving yards and 15 touchdown catches in a single season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice (1995) and Marvin Harrison (2001) and Randy Moss (2003).

The players in NFL history with at least 100 catches, 1,500 receiving yards and 15 touchdown catches in a single season:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON; RECEPTIONS – RECEIVING YARDS, TD CATCHES)

Jerry Rice, San Francisco (1995; 122 – 1,848, 15)^
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (2001; 109 – 1,524, 15)^
Randy Moss, Minnesota (2003; 111 – 1,632, 17)
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston (2017; 96 – 1,378, 13)*
*Through Week 16
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

SENSATIONAL SOPHOMORE: New Orleans Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas ranks fourth in the NFL with 98 catches this season and is one of two players in league annals (Odell Beckham, Jr.) with 90+ catches in each of his first two seasons.

With five catches at Tampa Bay on Sunday, Thomas, who has 190 catches since entering the league in 2016, can surpass Jarvis Landry (194) for the most catches by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history.

The players with the most catches in their first two seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS, RECEPTIONS IN 1ST 2 SEASONS)
Jarvis Landry, Miami (2014-15, 194)
Michael Thomas, New Orleans (2016-17, 190)*
Odell Beckham, Jr., New York Giants (2014-15, 187)
*In second season

ROOKIES ON A ROLL: New Orleans Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara and Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey are tied for the league-lead among rookies with 75 catches each.

Kamara and McCaffrey can become the second pair of rookies in NFL history to each record 80 catches in the same season, joining Odell Beckham, Jr. (91 catches) and Jarvis Landry (84) in 2014.

With five catches each on Sunday, Kamara and McCaffrey can join Reggie Bush (88 catches in 2006) and Earl Cooper (83 in 1980) as the only rookie running backs in NFL history with at least 80 catches.

The rookie running backs with the most receptions in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON – RECEPTIONS)
Reggie Bush, New Orleans (2006 – 88)
Earl Cooper, San Francisco (1980 – 83)
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans (2017 – 75)*
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina (2017 – 75)*
Terry Kirby, Miami (1993 – 75)
*Through Week 16

ELECTRIC EVANS: Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans leads the Buccaneers with 946 receiving yards this season.

Evans, who plays against New Orleans on Sunday, can join Randy Moss and A.J. Green as the only players in NFL history with at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first four seasons. Moss accomplished the feat in each of his first six seasons in the NFL while Green had five such seasons to begin his career.

The players with the most consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards to start their careers:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS, CONSECUTIVE 1,000+ RECEIVING YARD SEASONS TO BEGIN CAREER)

Randy Moss, Minnesota (1998-2003, 6)
A.J. Green, Cincinnati (2011-15, 5)
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay (2014-16, 3)*
*Has 946 receiving yards in fourth season

In case you didn’t look at the schedule when it came out in April, week 17 is all divisional games and all are rematches. There are no secrets hid, as the Book of Common Prayer says in Rite one and there is no Monday night game in week 17.

Week 17 gets underway in Indy as the Colts host the Texans and concludes in the Pacific Northwest as the Seattle Seahawks welcome Arizona to the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks. Since this is the final week of the regular season, as a combined Christmas/New Year’s gift, we’re going to make every game this Sunday “DRILL WORTHY!” (yes, you read that right. All 16 games, including the Browns) (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

That’s it in a nutshell. At the end of the day on Sunday, 12 teams will have playoff spots sealed up and the top two teams in the AFC and NFC will get byes and play in the Divisonal Round. For the other 20 teams that will not be going, they’ll be cleaing out the lockers, assessing what they had for this season and what they need and there may be some coaching changes as well. The playoffs start January 6 and end in Minneapolis with Super Bowl LII on February 3.

Nine of the 12 playoff teams have been determined. Seven of the eight divisions have been clinched. And there’s still plenty to play for in Week 17.

In the AFC, four teams have already punched their ticket to the postseason by winning their division: New England (12-3, AFC East), Pittsburgh (12-3, AFC North), Jacksonville (10-5, AFC South) and Kansas City (9-6, AFC West). The Patriots have clinched a first-round bye and can secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win or a Pittsburgh loss. The Steelers, who have locked up a first-round bye, can earn the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win combined with a New England loss.

Four teams are battling for the AFC’s two Wild Card spots: Baltimore (9-6), Tennessee (8-7), Los Angeles Chargers (8-7) and Buffalo (8-7). The Ravens and Titans are in control for their postseason berths and can each clinch with a win.

In the NFC, five teams have locked up playoff spots, including three division winners: Philadelphia (13-2, NFC East), Minnesota (12-3, NFC North), Los Angeles Rams (11-4, NFC West), New Orleans (11-4) and Carolina (11-4). The Eagles have secured home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Vikings can earn the conference’s other first-round bye with a win or a Carolina loss or a win by either New Orleans or the Rams. The Saints are in control in the NFC South and can lock up the division title with a win or a Carolina loss. The Panthers can win the NFC South with a win combined with a New Orleans loss. Carolina can also secure a first-round bye with a win combined with losses by New Orleans, Minnesota and the Rams.

Two teams remain alive for the NFC’s final playoff berth: Atlanta (9-6) and Seattle (9-6). The Falcons, who defeated the Seahawks 34-31 in Week 11, can clinch a playoff spot with a win or Seattle loss. The Seahawks can qualify for the postseason with a win combined with an Atlanta loss.

The Eagles and Jaguars have both completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. If the Panthers win the NFC South, 2017 would tie the 2005 and 2006 seasons for the most such “worst-to-first” clubs in NFL history.

In case you’ve been asleep, here are some playoff scenarios for week 17. Some of these are simple, others could cause more confusion than a mouse in a burlesque show (apologies to Foghorn Leghorn!). Here are the week 17 scenarios.

AFC

CLINCHED: New England – AFC East division title and first-round bye; Pittsburgh – AFC North division title and first-round bye
Jacksonville – AFC South division title; Kansas City – AFC West division title

New England vs. New York Jets (5-10), 1 p.m.

New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) New England win OR

2) Pittsburgh loss OR

3) New England tie + Pittsburgh tie

Pittsburgh (12-3) vs. Cleveland (0-15), 1 p.m.

Pittsburgh clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) Pittsburgh win + New England loss or tie OR

2) Pittsburgh tie + New England loss

Baltimore (9-6) vs. Cincinnati (6-9), 4:25 p.m.

Baltimore clinches a playoff berth with:

1) Baltimore win or tie OR

2) Buffalo loss or tie OR

3) Tennessee loss or tie

Tennessee (8-7) vs. Jacksonville (10-5), 4:25 p.m.

Tennessee clinches a playoff berth with:

1) Tennessee win OR

2) Tennessee tie + Buffalo loss or tie + Los Angeles Chargers loss or tie OR

3) Buffalo loss + Los Angeles Chargers loss

Los Angeles Chargers (8-7) vs. Oakland (6-9), 4:25 p.m.

Los Angeles Chargers clinches a playoff berth with:

1) Los Angeles Chargers win + Tennessee loss or tie + Buffalo loss or tie OR

2) Los Angeles Chargers win + Tennessee loss or tie + Baltimore win or tie OR

3) Los Angeles Chargers tie + Tennessee loss + Buffalo loss or tie

Buffalo (8-7) (at Miami (6-9), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Buffalo clinches a playoff berth with:

1) Buffalo win + Baltimore loss OR

2) Buffalo win + Los Angeles Chargers loss or tie + Tennessee loss or tie OR

3) Buffalo tie + Los Angeles Chargers loss + Tennessee loss

NFC

CLINCHED: Philadelphia – NFC East division title and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs; Minnesota – NFC North division title
Los Angeles Rams – NFC West division title; New Orleans – playoff berth; Carolina – playoff berth

Minnesota (12-3) vs. Chicago (5-10), 1 p.m.

Minnesota clinches a first-round bye with:

1) Minnesota win or tie OR

2) Carolina loss or tie OR

3) New Orleans win OR

4) Los Angeles Rams win

New Orleans (11-4) at Tampa Bay (4-11), 4:25 p.m.

New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:

1) New Orleans win OR

2) Carolina loss OR

3) NO tie + Carolina tie

Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (9-6), 4:25 p.m.

Carolina clinches NFC South division title with:

1) Carolina win + NO loss or tie OR

2) Carolina tie + NO loss

Carolina clinches a first-round bye with:

1) Carolina win + NO loss or tie + Minnesota loss + Los Angeles Rams loss or tie

ATLANTA (9-6) vs. Carolina (11-4), 4:25 p.m.

Atlanta clinches a playoff berth with:

1) Atlanta win OR

2) Seattle loss OR

3) Atlanta tie + Seattle tie

Seattle (9-6) vs. Arizona (7-8), 4:25 p.m.

Seattle clinches a playoff berth with:

1) Seattle win + Atlanta loss or tie OR

2) Seattle tie + Atlanta loss

Next week, it’s a totally diferent mindset and a totally different season.

Win. Move on.

Lose. Your next game’s kickoff is next year.

As for last week, we went 11-5 again (which wasn’t bad) and for the season, we’re 146-95.

Everything this week is on a Sunday and there are no Sunday or Monday night games on the docket, so when the Arizona-Seattle game comes to an end, the 2017 regular season comes to an end and the curtain will fall. The season comes to an end and for 20 teams that don’t make the post-season, they’ll be clearing out their lockers and teams will make changes in their coaching staffs and preparing for the draft. With that in mind, here are the week 17 picks.

Carolina (11-4) at ATLANTA (9-6), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711. Cam Newton vs. Matt Ryan, Round 2. This time, it’s Carolina that will make the trip down I-85 for an important NFC South meeting that could decide the fates of both clubs. Both clubs won the division the last two seasons and look to make their mark in the post-season.

Carolina comes into the late-afternoon contest after they took care of Tampa Bay 22-19 in Charlotte last Sunday. The Panthers led Tampa Bay and Jameis Winston 12-9 at the half in the battle of former Heisman QBs before the Bucs took a 16-12 lead with 10:27 left in the third when Winston and WR Bobo Wilson relived their FSU days and connected on a 18-yard TD pass in the contest. After Carolina’s Graham Gano pulled his club to within one with a 30-yard field goal at the 4:49 mark of the third quarter, Patrick Murray would put Tampa Bay back to a four-point lead with a 26-yard field with 14:57 left in regulation. That lead would stay that way until Newton engineered a 10-play, 59-yard drive that took 2:25 of clock, staring with three minutes left after Murray missed a 51-yard field goal and ended with Newton scoring on a three-yard TD run with 39 seconds left.

Carolina then had their fans crossing their fingers and holding their breaths as the Bucs got the ball back but took victory away from the Bucs as they would fumble and Julius Peppers would recover the ball at Tampa Bay’s 18-yard line. At than point, Winston was not a happy camper and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, making the penalty a half-the-distance foul and put the ball on the 9-yard line, where Carolina ran out the clock. Carolina outrushed Tampa Bay 115-66 and Newton threw for 160 with an interception, while Winston threw for 367 yards and a TD (Newton was sacked twice, while Winston was sacked six times). Carolina on third down tries went 4 of 13 but went 1 of 1 on fourth down at Bank of America Stadium and kept the ball for 30:30, while the Bucs were 6 of 11 third down wise, keeping the ball for 29:30.

Atlanta could never get on track against New Orleans last Sunday in the Big Easy, falling to the Saints 23-13. NeW Orleans led 13-0 at the intermission before the Falcons finally got on the board with 9:34 left in the third on a 37-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with 9:34. The Falcons later on thought they finally got into the end zone when Ryan and WR Julio Jones conntected on what they thought was a 5-yard TD pass but it would be later reversed after it was determined that Jones did not break the plain. Atlanta then got the ball on New Orleans’ 1-yard line but could not get into the end zone. After a second Bryant field goal, Tevin Coleman and Ryan connected on a 14-yard strike with 2:40 left in the contest to make it a 10-point affair. New Orleans then ran the clock out and took the win, avenging their week 15 loss in the Big Peach. Neither club breached the 100-yard rushing barrier and the Saints outrushed Atlanta 86-67 and Ryan threw for 288 yards and was sacked five times and picked off once, while Drew Brees threw for 239 yards and an interception with a sack (each man threw a TD pass). Atlanta went 2 of 13 on third down, 2 of 3 on fourth down and held the ball for 26:12, while the Saints ruled the clock and held the ball for 33:48, going 3 of 13 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Carolina and Atlanta met in Charlotte in week nine and the Panthers held on for a 20-17 win at Bank of America Stadium. Atlanta led 10-7 going into halftime before Newton gave Carolina the lead for good, scoring on a 5-yard run with 23 seconds left. Leading 14-10 at the half, Carolina added two more Gano field goals in the third quarter before the Falcons made it a 7-point contest with 3:25 left when Coleman and Ryan connected on a 19-yard TD pass but that would as close as Atlanta would get. Carolina outrushed the defending NFC champs 201-53 and Newton threw for 137 yards and a sack, while Ryan threw for 313 yards with the two TDs and an interception, while being sacked twice. Carolina on third down? The Panthers were 4 of 13 (they were 1 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 32:52, while the Falcons were 4 of 12 on third down (0 of 3 on fourth down) and held the pigskin for 27:08.

Atlanta was favored by 2 in the week nine contest in the Tar Heel State and Carolina covered, winning by 3. The 42 over/under was untouched, as both clubs accounted for 37 points in the first meeting. The oddsmakers like the Falcons again, this time as 3 1/2 point favorites and the over/under’s 46. Both numbers make a lot of sense. Carolina would like to ruin the Falcons’ party, while the Falcons would like nothing more than to defend their NFC title. The Dirty Birds will get their wish. Falcons cover the 3 1/2 and win in the Big Peach.

Houston (4-11) at Indianapolis (3-12), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 706. A pair of AFC South cellar-dwellers meet in the Hoosier State in the season finale as the Texans take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Texans wound up on Pittsburgh’s naughty list Christmas Day afternoon and dropped a 34-6 decision to the Steelers at NRG Stadium. Pittsburgh, leading from start to finish, led 20-0 at the intermission and held the Texans to a 3-yard TD pass from T.J. Yates to DeAndre Hopkins with 12:30 left in the contest. Pittsburgh, who got a first-round bye with the win, got 226 yards of passing from Ben Roethlisberger with a pair of TDs, while the Steeler defense held T.J. Yates in check, holding him to 83 yards with six sacks and an interception. Houston did outrush Pittsburgh 176-104, with Houston’s Alfred Blue leading the way with 108 yards. The struggling Texans were 3 of 12 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs at NRG Stadium and kept the ball for 29:04, while the Steelers, led by LeVeon Bell’s 69 yards rushing (TD), kept the ball for 30:56, going 7 of 12 on third down conversions in the Lone Star State.

Indianapolis almost damaged Baltimore’s playoff hopes but the Ravens prevailed in Charm City, coming away 23-16 winners last Saturday afternoon. Baltimore led 13-7 at the half at M&T Bank Stadium before the Colts managed to keep things close, thanks to three second half field goals by Adam Vinatieri and held off a late Colts rally in the final minutes of the contest. Baltimore outrushed Indy 103-93 and Joe Flacco threw for 237 yards and a pair of TDs, while Jacoby Brissett threw for 215 yards and a TD (Brissett was sacked twice, Flacco was sacked once and neither threw an interception). Baltimore was 6 of 14 on third down tries (the Ravens were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 35:48, while the Colts were 24:12 in time of possession, going 5 of 13 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down.

They met in week nine in the Lone Star State and the Colts prevailed 20-14 at NRG Stadium in that contest. WR T.Y. Hilton scored on a pair of Brissett TD passes as the Colts led 10-7 at the half and took control in the contest. Houston did outrush Indy 94-92 but Brissett threw for 308 yards and the two TD passes, while Tom Savage threw for for 219 yards and a TD to Hopkins (Brissett was sacked three times, while Savage was sacked twice). Both clubs were 4 of 14 on third down tries, the Texans were 0 of 1 on fourth down and Houston kept the ball for 29:01, while the Colts ruled the clock and held the ball for 30:59.

Houston was a 7-point favorite in the week nine contest at NRG Stadium and the Colts came away with the win but only by 6 points. As for the 45 1/2 over/under? It was safe, as both teams combined for only 39 points. The Colts are favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under’s 41. You might want to take a pass on this one and watch that “Mythbusters” marathon on Science Channel. This could very well be Chuck Pagano’s last game but the Colts will make it a good one. Indy covers the 3 1/2 back home again in Indiana and takes the win.

New York Jets (5-10) at New England (12-3), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 708. A pair of AFL/AFC East rivals meet again, this tim in Foxboro as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots welcome the New York Jets to Gillette Stadium in the regular season finale.

The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! saw the Los Angeles Chargers improve their slim playoff chances last Sunday at Met Life Stadium, coming out on the short end of a 14-7 loss. After a scoreless first quarter, GangGreen trailed 7-0 at the half when Philip Rivers and TE Antonio Gates connected on a 3-yard TD pass halfway through the second quarter. NeW York would tie things up at 7-7 with 10:00 left in the third when Bilal Powell ran 57 yards yards untouched for his team’s firat and only score of the contest. The Bolts would take the lead back and for good in the third quarter when RB Melvin Gordon scored from one yard out with 4:57 left. GangGreen outrushed Los Angeles 197-89, with Powell leading everyone with 145 yards, while Rivers threw for 290 yards and Bryce Petty threw for 119 yards for the Jets. New York on third down tries at Met Life Stadium went 3 of 14 (they were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 27:02, while the Chargers held the ball for 32:58, going 5 of 16 on third down conversions.

The Pats and Brady took care of Buffalo 37-16 at Gillette Stadium last Sunday afternoon. Erasing a 3-0 deficit after the first 15 minutes, New England went to work and took a 13-13 tie with them to the intermision, then proceeded to outscore the Bills 24-3 in the final 30 minutes of action. New England outrushed Buffalo 193-84 and Pats RB Dion Lewis led all rushers with 129 yards on the ground, while Brady threw for 224 yards and a pair of TDs, connecting with Lewis and All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski on the two tosses. As for the Bills, Tyrod Taylor threw for 281 yards but was sacked six times in the loss. New England was 5 of 11 on third down (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 31:44, while the Bills, who kept the pigskin for 28:16, went 8 of 17 on third down, 0 of 2 on fourth down tries in eastern Massachusetts.

New England and GangGreen went into halftime tied at 14-14 before the Pats pulled away and took a 24-17 win at Met Life Stadium in week six. Brady (257 yards) and Gronkowski connected on a pair of TDs in the game as the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! would pull to within seven with 3:40 on a 28-yard field goal by Chris Catanzaro but could come no closer as the Pats ran out the clock and took the win. New England outrushed GangGreen 118-74, while Josh McGown threw for 354 yards with a pair of TDs and a pair of interceptions. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down conversions (the Pats were 7 of 13, the Jets were 9 of 17 and 1 of 3 on fourth down) and the clock was on the side of the Jets, who held the ball for 33:40, while the Pats kept it for 26:20.

In the week six contest in upstate New Jersey, New England came away 7-point winners, missing the 9 1/2-point spread. The 47 1/2 over/under was untouched, as both teams merged for only 41 points. The odds makers New England a 15 point favorite in Foxboro and the over/under’s 45. The 45 makes sense. The 15 is a bit steep. GangGreen’s played some decent football and while they’re not going to the post-season, they’re not 15 points bad. New England wins this one but expect the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! to make life hard for Brady and the Pats in Foxboro.

Cleveland (0-15) at Pittsburgh (12-3), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 709. The winless Browns travel to the Steel City for a Sunday afternoon date with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

Heartbreak continued for Browns fans last Sunday along the shore of Lake Michigan as they lost to Chicago 20-3 at Solider Field. Cleveland trailed 6-3 at the half, thanks to a 48-yard field goal by Zeke Gonzalez with one second left before the intermission, then saw Da Bears pull away from Cleveland in the second half, getting rushing TDs from Jordan Howard, who already had one TD and Mitch Trubisky in the second half to put the contest away. Chicago outrushed Cleveland 97-75 and DeShon Kizer threw for 182 yards with a pair of interceptions, while Trubisky threw for 193 yards and five sacks. Cleveland was 4 of 13 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs in the Windy City, keeping the ball for 26:46, while Da Bears kept the ball in hibernation for 33:14, going 7 of 16 on third down and 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Pittsburgh put Houston on their naughty list Christmas Day afternoon as they took care of the Texans 34-6 at NRG Stadium. Pittsburgh, who already won the AFC North, led from start to finish, taking a 20-0 lead at the intermission and held the Texans to a 3-yard TD pass from T.J. Yates to DeAndre Hopkins with 12:30 left in the contest. Pittsburgh, who got a first-round bye with the win, got 226 yards of passing from Ben Roethlisberger with a pair of TDs, while the Steeler defense held T.J. Yates in check, holding him to 83 yards with six sacks and an interception. Houston did outrush Pittsburgh 176-104, with Houston’s Alfred Blue leading the way with 108 yards. The struggling Texans were 3 of 12 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs at NRG Stadium and kept the ball for 29:04, while the Steelers, led by LeVeon Bell’s 69 yards rushing (TD), kept the ball for 30:56, going 7 of 12 on third down conversions in the Lone Star State.

The two clubs opened the 2017 campaign along the shores of Lake Erie and the Steelers were 21-18 winners at FirstEnergy Field. Pittsburgh led 14-7 at the half, then held off the Browns in the final 30 minutes of action as Cleveland would pull to within 3 with 3:36 left in the contest when Kizer and WR Corey Coleman connected on a 3-yard TD strike. Cleveland would come no closer and failed on their onside kick attempt, allowing the Steelers to take the ball and run out the clock. The Browns did manage to outrush Pittsburgh 57-35 but Roethlisberger threw for 263 yards and a pair of TDs to TE Jesse James, while Kizer threw for 222 yards with seven sacks.

Pittsburgh, favored by 9 1/2 in the season opener, won by 3 along the shores of Lake Erie and the 46 1/2 over/under was intact, as both clubs combined for 39 points. Pittsburgh’s favored again, this time by 13 and the over/under’s 39 1/2. The Browns are just bad and Browns coach Hugh Jackson made a promise that if his team goes 0 for the season, he’d jump in Lake Erie. Pittsburgh may not cover the 13 but they take the win in the Steel City and Jackson takes the plunge.

Green Bay (7-8) at Detroit (8-7), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712. A pair of NFC North teams that saw their playoff hopes come crashing down meet in the Motor City as Green Bay travels to Detroit to face off against the Detroit Lions.

With their playoff hopes dashed last Monday night by Atlanta in Tampa Bay, Green Bay watched Minnesota score all of their 16 points unchallenged last Saturday night at Lambeau as the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers were shut out 16-0 in the land of beer, cheese and Bratwurst. WR Stefon Diggs scored the game’s only TD when he caught a 4-yard TD pass from Case Keenum with 56 seconds left in the opening frame, then got a pair of Kai Horbath field goals in the final 30 minutes of action to seal Green Bay’s fate. Green Bay did manage to outrush the Purple Gang 113-112 and Keenum threw for 139 yards, while Brett Hundley threw for 130 yards and a pair of interceptions. Both clubs were 4 of 15 on third down and the Packers were 0 of 4 on fourth down tries and the Vikings ruled the clock, holding the ball for 31:37 to Green Bay’s 28:23.

Detroit saw their playoff hopes die in Cincinnati last Sunday afternoon after their 26-17 loss to Andy Dalton and the Bengals along the shores of the Ohio River. The Lions let a 7-6 halftime lead get away from them as the Bengals pulled away in the final 30 minutes of action, outscoring Detroit 20-10 in that time. Cincy outrushed Detroit 142-87, Giovani Bernard ran for 116 yards and a TD and Dalton threw for 238 yards, while Matthew Stafford threw for 203 yards (both men threw a TD and an interception, Dalton was sacked three times, while Stafford was sacked twice). The Bengals were 7 of 14 on third down and held the ball for 32:29, while Detroit on third down was 6 of 15 (they were 1 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 27:31.

Detroit and Green Bay met at Lambeau in week nine and the Lions left the land of cheese, beer and Bratwurst 30-17 winners. The Lions led 14-3 at the intermission and took control from that point onward. Green Bay did outrush Detroit 78-64 and Stafford threw for 361 yards and a pair of TDs, while Hundley threw for 245 yards with a pair of sacks (Hundley did have a rushing TD in the contest). Green Bay went 2 of 9 on third down, 0 of 2 on fourth down and held the ball for 23:05, while the Lions were 8 of 13 on third down conversions, keepin the ball for 36:55.

In the week nine contest at Lambeau, the Lions were favored by 2 1/2 and covered the spread, winning by 13 and both clubs covered the 43 1/2 over/under, scoring 47 points. Detroit’s favored again, this time by 7 with a 43 over/under. Green Bay’s looking for revenge and they’ll get it. Packers cover the 7 and win in the Motor City.

Chicago (5-10) at Minnesota (12-3), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 713. Chicago travels to the Twin Cities for an NFC North matchup with the Minnesota Vikings in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Da Bears gave Clevland fans even more heartache last Sunday at snowy Soldier Field, coming away 20-3 winners in the Windy City. Chicago led 6-3 at the half, then pulled away from Cleveland in the second half, getting rushing TDs from Jordan Howard, who already had one TD and Mitch Trubisky in the second half to put the contest away. Chicago outrushed Cleveland 97-75 and DeShon Kizer threw for 182 yards with a pair of interceptions, while Trubisky threw for 193 yards and five sacks. Cleveland was 4 of 13 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs in the Windy City, keeping the ball for 26:46, while Da Bears kept the ball in hibernation for 33:14, going 7 of 16 on third down and 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Minnesota scored all of their 16 points against Green Bay unchallenged last Saturday night at Lambeau as they shut out the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers 16-0 in the land of beer, cheese and Bratwurst. WR Stefon Diggs scored the game’s only TD when he caught a 4-yard TD pass from Case Keenum with 56 seconds left in the opening frame, then got a pair of Kai Horbath field goals in the final 30 minutes of action to seal Green Bay’s fate. Green Bay did manage to outrush the Purple Gang 113-112 and Keenum threw for 139 yards, while Brett Hundley threw for 130 yards and a pair of interceptions. Both clubs were 4 of 15 on third down and the Packers were 0 of 4 on fourth down tries and the Vikings ruled the clock, holding the ball for 31:37 to Green Bay’s 28:23.

Da Bears and Minnesota met in the Windy City in week five and the Vikings were 20-17 winners. After taking a score of 3-2 that resembled a Twins-White Sox game (Minnesota had the lead), Minnesota and Chicago played a close second half but the Vikings prevailed in the final 30 minutes of action to take the win. Minnesota outrushed Chicago 159-115 and after taking over for Sam Bradford, Keenum threw for 140 yards, while Trubisky threw for 128 yards (each had a TD pass). Chicago was 3 of 12 on third down (Da Bears were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 28:36, while the Vikings ruled the clock and held on to the pigskin for 31:24, going 6 of 15 on third down.

In the week five contest in the Windy City on a Monday night, the Vikings were 2 1/2-point favorites and won by 3. Both teams barely missed the 40 over/under, as they combined for 37 points. Minnesota’s favored by 11 1/2 in the rematch and the over/under’s 39 1/2. Da Bears at times have played some decent football this year and while they’re going to miss the playoffs again, they’ll give the Vikings all they can handle to help John Fox keep his job but Minnesota prevails at home and takes the win, even though they’re not going to cover the 11 1/2.

Washington (7-8) at New York Giants (2-13), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 714. Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins travel to upstate New Jersey for an early afternoon meeting with Eli Manning and the New York Giants at Met Life Stadium.

The Redskins moved to within one game of the .500 mark after they defeated Denver 27-11 at FedEx Field in the home finale in Landover. Cousins threw three TDs passes in the contest as Washington erased a 3-0 first quarter deficit, led 10-3 at the intermission and proceeded to corral the Broncos in the second half. While the Broncos outrushed Washington 159-87, Cousins threw for 299 yards and the three TDs, while Brock Osweiler threw for 193 yards and four sacks (each threw an interception). Washington was 5 of 13 on third down tries in northern Maryland and kept the ball for 29:33, while Denver ruled the clock and held on to the ball for 30:27, going 5 of 17 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down.

The dismal and somewhat disappointing season for the Giants continued in the desert last Sunday as New York and Eli were shutout by the Desert Angry Birds 23-0 in Glendale. Held to 43 yards rushing, the Giants saw Arizona score all of their points in the contest unchallenged and trailed 10-0 at the half, while rushing for 74 yards of their own. Manning threw for 263 yards with a pair of sacks and a pair of interceptions, while Arizona’s Drew Stanton threw for 209 yards and a pair of TDs, connecting with All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald on one of those tosses. The Giants on third down were a somewhat dismal 1 of 14 on third down and 1 of 4 on fourth down in the desert, keeping the ball for 26:47, while the Desert Angry Birds were 5 of 14 on third down, keeping the pigskin for 33:13.

They met in Landover in week 12 and Washington came away 20-10 winners at FedEX Field. Washington broke a 10-10 tie after three quarters of play (the teams were tied 3-3 at the half) and scored their final 10 points in the fourth quarter without a challenge from the Giants. Washington’s Samaje Perine led all rushers with 100 yards, as the Redskins outrushed the Giants 122-84 and Cousins threw for 242 yards and a pair of TDs with six sacks, while Manning threw for 113 yards with four sacks (each man threw an interception). Washington was 4 of 15 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down and held the ball for 34:37, while the Giants kept the ball for 25:23, going 2 of 14 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down.

Washington covered the 7-point spread in the week 12 contest that was played on Thanksgiving night but the 44 over/under was safe as both teams combined for 30 points. Washington’s favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under’s 38. Both numbers make sense. The Giants have been football’s answer to Mrs. Fletcher (and we’re not talking the character on “Murder, She Wrote”). Redskins fans have been singing “Hail To The Redskins” the last two weeks after their wins. Better warm up those pipes, kids. “Hail To The Redskins!” Washington covers the 3 1/2 and takes the win in upstate New Jersey.

Dallas (8-7) at Philadelphia (13-2), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 715. The Cowboys limp into the City of Brotherly Love, hoping to do some damage to the Eagles’ march to the playoffs.

Dallas saw their playoff hopes come to an end in Arlington last Sunday afternoon as they would fall to Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks 21-12. Dallas took a 9-7 halftime lead with them to the intermission before Seattle woke up and took control of things in the second half to take a win in what some called an elimination game. Seattle got TDs from CB Josh Coleman (interception) and WR Doug Baldwin (TD pass from Russell Wilson) in the second half as they held the Cowboys to four Dan Bailey field goals and Ezekiel Elliot to 97 yards rushing. Dallas would have made the contest a 3-point affair late in the game but Bailey missed a pair of key field goals that could have made things closer. Dallas outrushed Seattle 128-76 and Dak Prescott threw for 182 yards, while Wilson threw for 93 yards with two TDs (Wilson connected with TE Jimmy Graham for the other TD strike). Dallas was 6 of 13 on third down (1 of 1 on fourth down and held on to the ball for 32:50, while Seattle kept the ball for 27:10, going 4 of 11 on third down.

The Eagles clinched home field advantage last Monday night as they defeated Oakland 19-10 in the City of Brotherly Love. After going to the half tied at 7-7, Oakland took a 10-7 lead on a 25-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio with 10:50 left in the third. That would be the last time Oaklahd would lead, as the Eagles got a pair of Josh Elliott field goals and closed things out when DE Derek Barnett lived a linesman’s dream and returned a Raiders’ fumble 23 yards for a game-ending TD. While the Eagles were held to 78 yards rushing and Oakland ran for 137 (Marshawn Lynch led all rushers with 95 yards), Philadelphia managed to force Oakland to turn the ball over five times, including the final turnover of the contest and Nick Foles threw for 163 yards, while Derek Carr threw for 140 (each threw a TD pass, Carr was picked off twice, Foles was picked off once). While the Eagles went 1 of 14 on third down tries, there were successful on fourth down tries, going 2 of 2 and kept the ball for 25:39, while the Raiders were 34:21 in time of possession, going 3 of 13 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

Dallas and Philadelphia squared off in Arlington in week 11 and the Eagles took control of things AT&T Stadium, after they trailed 9-6 at the break. The Eagles then went on to score 30 second half points unchallenged to take the 37-9 NFC East win in the Lone Star State. Philly outrushed Dallas 215-112 and Carson Wentz threw for 168 yards and a pair of TDs, while Prescott threw for 145 yards with three interceptions and four sacks in the Sunday night contest. Philly was 5 of 14 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 29:29, while the Cowboys were 3 of 14, 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs, with the Cowboys keeping the ball for 30:31.

Philadelphia covered the 4-point spread in the contest that took place the Sunday before Thanksgiving, winning by 28 but both clubs missed the 48 1/2 over/under, scoring 46 points. Dallas is favored by 2 in the City of Brotherly Love and the over/under’s 41. The Eagles rule the NFC East and they’ve got a bye in the first round, while the Cowboys want to make things harder for them. Eagles soar in the City of Brotherly Love and cover the 2 with the win at home.

Jacksonville (10-5) at Tennessee (8-7), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 710. Jacksonville travels to the Music City for a rematch with the Tennesee Titans in a contest that could decide the fate of the host team. Both teams enter Sunday’s contest with losses under their belts.

The Jaguars, who won the AFC South title with Tennessee’s loss to the Rams, went into the half in their contest tied with San Francisco at 16-16, only to see the 49ers break the tie and take a 44-33 win at Levis’ Stadium in Santa Clara last Sunday. Blake Bortles threw for 382 yards and a pair of TDs but was picked off twice, as Jacksonville was outrushed by the resurging 49ers 131-92, while the 49ers Jimmy Garaffalo threw for 242 yards with a pair of passing TDs and had a rushing TD of his own. San Francisco, who led 23-19 after three quarters of play, only needed to keep the ball for 29:11 while going 10 of 15 on third down tries. Jacksonville went 5 of 13 on third down, 2 of 2 on fourth down and ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 30:49.

Tennessee’s hopes of winning the AFC South title were dashes as the Los Angeles Rams left Nissan Stadium with the NFC West crown and a 27-23 win in Nashville last Sunday. Tennessee was outscored by the Rams 14-13 in the second half, as they broke a 13-13 tie at the intermission to take the win and the divisional title for the first time since 2003 when they were in St. Louis. Los Angeles outrushed Tennessee 116-97 and Todd Gurley led all rushers with 118 yards, catching a pair of Jared Goff TD passes in the win. Goff threw for 301 yards and four TDs in the win, while Tennessee Marcus Mariota threw for 275 yards with a sack and an interception. The Rams were 6 of 14 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 30:04, while Tennessee went 29:56 in time of possession, going 3 of 12 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

The Titans flexed some muscle in Jacksonville in their week two meeting at EverBank Field, taking a 37-16 win in the Sunshine State. Tennessee led 6-3 at the break, then broke away from the Jaguars in the final 30 minutes of action, outscoring the Jaguars 31-13 in that frame. Tennessee outrushed Jacksonville 179-99, Mariota threw for 215 yards and Blake Bortles threw for 223 yards (each man threw a TD pass, Mariota was sacked once and threw an interception, while Bortles was sacked twice and threw a pair of picks). Both clubs were 6 of 13 on third down in the home opener for Jacksonville, who kept the ball for 29:14, while the Titans held the pigskin for 30:46.

In the week two contest in the Sunshine State, the Titans covered the 1 1/2-point spread, winning by 21 and both clubs covered the 48 1/2 over/under by tallying 53 points. The Titans are favored by 5 1/2 in the rematch and the over/under’s 41. Jacksonville is set as the 3 seed in the AFC, while Tennessee is trying to crash the party. Jaguars get their revenge on Tennessee in the Music City and cover the 5 1/2 on the road.

Buffalo (8-7) at Miami (6-9), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 707. A pair of AFC East foes meet in the Sunshine State as Miami hopes to ruin Buffalo’s playoff chances as they host the Bills at Hard Rock Stadium. Both teams enter the AFC East finale with road losses under their belts.

Buffalo’s playoff hopes took a hit at New England a the Bills fell to Tom Brady and the Pats 37-16 at Gillette Stadium last Sunday afternoon. Erasing a 3-0 deficit after the first 15 minutes, New England went to work and took a 13-13 tie with them to the intermision, then proceeded to outscore the Bills 24-3 in the final 30 minutes of action. New England outrushed Buffalo 193-84 and Pats RB Dion Lewis led all rushers with 129 yards on the ground, while Brady threw for 224 yards and a pair of TDs, connecting with Lewis and All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski on the two tosses. As for the Bills, Tyrod Taylor threw for 281 yards but was sacked six times in the loss. New England was 5 of 11 on third down (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 31:44, while the Bills, who kept the pigskin for 28:16, went 8 of 17 on third down, 0 of 2 on fourth down tries in eastern Massachusetts.

Miami would watch Kansas City take the AFC West as they lost to the Chiefs 29-13 at Arrowhead. The Dolphins trailed 17-13 at the intermission in the Show-Me State before the Chiefs scored their final nine points of the contest without a challenge, thanks to three Hank Butker in the final 30 minutes of action. Kansas City outrushed Miami 103-59 and Alex Smith threw for 304 yards, while Miami’s 286 (both men threw a TD pass without an interception, while Smith was sacked once). Miami was 0 of 8 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs and held on to the ball for 22:07, while Kansas City held on to the ball for 37:53, going 8 of 16 on third down.

They met two weeks ago in upstate New York and the Bills escacped with a 24-16 win in Orchard Park. Trailing 21-6 after the first 30 minutes of action, the Dolphins would eventually pull to within eight with 39 seconds left in regulation when K Chris Parkey connected on a 23-yard field goal to make it 24-16. Miami then tried the onside kick and failed, allowing the Bills to recover the ball and run out the clock. Buffalo outrushed Miami 116-100 and LeSean McCoy scored a pair of TDs in the contest, one rushing and one on a 16-yard TD pass from Tyrod Taylor in the second quarter. Taylor threw for 224 yards and the lone TD pass, while Jay Cutler threw for 274 yards but was picked off three times and sacked three times. Miami went 5 of 16 on third down (they were 1 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 32:25, while the Bills possessed the pigskin for 27:35, going 7 of 15, 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

The Bills covered the 3 1/2-point spread last week in upstate New York, winning by 8 but both teams barely missed the 42 over/under by 2 points. In the Sunshine State rematch, the Bills are favored by 3 and the over/under’s 42 1/2. The Dolphins figure if they can’t go to the playoffs, Buffalo’s not going either. Misery loves company and the Dolphins take revenge on the Bills and cover the 3 with the win at home.

Cincinnati (6-9) at Baltimore (9-6), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 705. If nothing else, Cincinnati comes to Charm City to face off against the Ravens for a chance to do some damage to Baltimore’s playoff plans.

Cincinnati put an end to Detroit’s playoff hopes last Sunday afternoon as they came away 26-17 winners along the shores of the Ohio River. The Lions let a 7-6 halftime lead get away from them as the Bengals pulled away in the final 30 minutes of action, outscoring Detroit 20-10 in that time. Cincy outrushed Detroit 142-87, Giovani Bernard ran for 116 yards and a TD and Dalton threw for 238 yards, while Matthew Stafford threw for 203 yards (both men threw a TD and an interception, Andy Dalton was sacked three times, while Stafford was sacked twice). The Bengals were 7 of 14 on third down and held the ball for 32:29, while Detroit on third down was 6 of 15 (they were 1 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 27:31.

The Ravens kept their playoff hopes alive in Charm City, coming away 23-16 winners last Saturday afternoon against Indianapolis. Baltimore led 13-7 at the half at M&T Bank Stadium before the Colts managed to keep things close, thanks to three second half field goals by Adam Vinatieri and held off a late Colts rally in the final minutes of the contest. Baltimore outrushed Indy 103-93 and Joe Flacco threw for 237 yards and a pair of TDs, while Jacoby Brissett threw for 215 yards and a TD (Brissett was sacked twice, Flacco was sacked once and neither threw an interception). Baltimore was 6 of 14 on third down tries (the Ravens were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 35:48, while the Colts were 24:12 in time of possession, going 5 of 13 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down.

Cincinnati and Baltimore opened the 2017 campaign at Paul Brown Stadium and the Ravens scored all 20 of their points unchallenged, shutting out the Bengals 20-0. Baltimore led 17-0 at the break and never looked back to take the season opener. Cincy was outrushed 157-77 and Dalton threw for 170 yards with five sacks and four interceptions, while Flacco threw for 121 yards and a TD. The Ravens on third down went 6 of 14 and kept the ball for 34 minutes, while the Bengals held the pigskin for 26 minutes, going 4 of 13 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down.

Although they were the underdogs, the Ravens covered the 3-point spread, winning by 20 but both teams missed the 42 over/under, tallying only 20 points. The odds makers like Baltimore again, this time as 9 1/2 point favorites and the over/under coming in at 40 1/2. History has a way of repeating itself and that will be the case for the Ravens. They may or may not make the post-season but they’ll make life miserable for Marvin Lewis in what could be his last game in Cincy. Ravens may not cover the 9 1/2 but they’ll take the win.

New Orleans (11-4) at Tampa Bay (4-11), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 716. Drew Brees vs. Jameis Winston. They meet in the Sunshine State in a late afternoon affair as the Saints travel to Tampa Bay for a showdown with the Bucaneers.

Brees and the Saints manhandled Atlanta 23-13 in the Big Easy last Sunday. NeW Orleans led 13-0 at the intermission before the Falcons finally got on the board with 9:34 left in the third on a 37-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with 9:34. The Falcons later on thought they finally got into the end zone when Ryan and WR Julio Jones conntected on what they thought was a 5-yard TD pass but it would be later reversed after it was determined that Jones did not break the plain. Atlanta then got the ball on New Orleans’ 1-yard line but could not get into the end zone. After a second Bryant field goal, Tevin Coleman and Ryan connected on a 14-yard strike with 2:40 left in the contest to make it a 10-point affair. New Orleans then ran the clock out and took the win, avenging their week 15 loss in the Big Peach. Neither club breached the 100-yard rushing barrier and the Saints outrushed Atlanta 86-67 and Ryan threw for 288 yards and was sacked five times and picked off once, while Drew Brees threw for 239 yards and an interception with a sack (each man threw a TD pass). Atlanta went 2 of 13 on third down, 2 of 3 on fourth down and held the ball for 26:12, while the Saints ruled the clock and held the ball for 33:48, going 3 of 13 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Tampa Bay fans had their hearts broken as they lost to Carolina 22-19 in Charlotte last Sunday. The Panthers led Tampa Bay and Jameis Winston 12-9 at the half in the battle of former Heisman QBs before the Bucs took a 16-12 lead with 10:27 left in the third when Winston and WR Bobo Wilson relived their FSU days and connected on a 18-yard TD pass in the contest. After Carolina’s Graham Gano pulled his club to within one with a 30-yard field goal at the 4:49 mark of the third quarter, Patrick Murray would put Tampa Bay back to a four-point lead with a 26-yard field with 14:57 left in regulation. That lead would stay that way until Newton engineered a 10-play, 59-yard drive that took 2:25 of clock, staring with three minutes left after Murray missed a 51-yard field goal and ended with Newton scoring on a three-yard TD run with 39 seconds left.

Tampa Bay fans had their hopes of an upset snatched away from them faster than a kid going after a Christmas cookie as the Bucs got the ball back on the ensuing kick off, only to see Winston fumble and Julius Peppers recover the ball at Tampa Bay’s 18-yard line. At than point, Winston was not a happy camper and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, making the penalty a half-the-distance foul and put the ball on the 9-yard line, where Carolina ran out the clock. Carolina outrushed Tampa Bay 115-66 and Newton threw for 160 with an interception, while Winston threw for 367 yards and a TD (Newton was sacked twice, while Winston was sacked six times). Carolina on third down tries went 4 of 13 but went 1 of 1 on fourth down at Bank of America Stadium and kept the ball for 30:30, while the Bucs were 6 of 11 third down wise, keeping the ball for 29:30.

They met in week nine in the Big Easy and the Saints took a 16-3 lead with them to the intermission and came away 30-10 winners. Brees threw for 263 yards and a pair of TDs, while Winston tallied 67 yards of passing before leaving the contest in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had 68 yards and a TD pass (both Winston and Fitzpatrick were sacked twice)) in a contest that saw things get chippy when there was some pushing and shoving going on on the Tampa Bay sideline. New Orleans went 7 of 13 on third down and kept the ball for 32:18, while the Bucs, who held the ball for 27:42, went 4 of 13 on third down.

In the week nine contest in the Big Easy, New Orleans covered the 7-point spread, winning by 20 and both teams missed the 52 over/under, scoring only 40 points. New Orleans is favored by 7 and the over/under’s 50 1/2. This one’s for all the chips in the NFC South and Tampa Bay would like nothing more than to turn the tables on the Saints. Tampa Bay wins this one in an upset and could cover the 7 in the process.

Kansas City (9-6) at Denver (5-10), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 717. Kansas City travels westward to Mile High for an late afternoon contest with the Denver Broncos in an AFC West game that means nothing to either club.

Kansas City took the AFC West as they took down Miami 29-13 at Arrowhead. The Dolphins trailed 17-13 at the intermission in the Show-Me State, then watched the Chiefs score their final nine points of the contest without a challenge, thanks to three Harrison Butker in the final 30 minutes of action. Kansas City outrushed Miami 103-59 and Alex Smith threw for 304 yards, while Miami’s 286 (both men threw a TD pass without an interception, while Smith was sacked once). Miami was 0 of 8 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs and held on to the ball for 22:07, while Kansas City held on to the ball for 37:53, going 8 of 16 on third down. Smith will take a break this week and Patrick Mahomes will start under center for Kansas City.

Denver was taken to task by Washington 27-11 at FedEx Field in Landover. Redskins QB Kirk Cousins threw three TDs passes in the contest as Washington erased a 3-0 first quarter deficit, led 10-3 at the intermission and proceeded to corral the Broncos in the second half. While the Broncos outrushed Washington 159-87, Cousins threw for 299 yards and the three TDs, while Brock Osweiler threw for 193 yards and four sacks (each threw an interception). Washington was 5 of 13 on third down tries in northern Maryland and kept the ball for 29:33, while Denver ruled the clock and held on to the ball for 30:27, going 5 of 17 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down.

Meeting in Arrowhead on a Monday night in week eight, the Chiefs were 29-19 winners in the first meeting. Although Denver outscored the Chiefs 16-9 in the final 30 minutes of play, Kansas City led 17-3 at the break and held off the Broncos for the win. While Denver outrushed Kansas City 177-79, Alex Smith burned Denver for 202 yards, while Trevor Siemian threw for 196 for Denver (both men threw a TD pass, Smith connecting with TE Travis Kelce; Siemian threw three intercaptions with three sacks). Denver was 5 of 13 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 31:23, while the Chiefs, who were 2 of 12 on third down, held the ball for 28:37.

In the Monday night contest at Arrowhead, the Chiefs won by 10, allowing them to cover the 7 1/2-point spread and the 43 over/under was also covered, as both clubs tallied 48 points. Denver’s favored by 3 1/2 in the Mile High City and the over/under’s 38. Both numbers make a lot of sense. The Chiefs are repeating as AFC West champs for the first time in history and will play at home in the first round as the four seed, while the Broncos want to derail the KC train. Chiefs pull the upset and takes the win in the Mile High City.

Oakland (6-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (8-7), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 718. Oakland makes their way down I-5 for an AFC West matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers in hope of damaging the Chargers’ playoff hopes at StubHub Center.

Oakland watched Philadelphia clinch home field advantage last Monday night as they defeated Oakland 19-10 in the City of Brotherly Love. After going to the half tied at 7-7, Oakland took a 10-7 lead on a 25-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio with 10:50 left in the third. That would be the last time Oaklahd would lead, as the Eagles got a pair of Josh Elliott field goals and closed things out when DE Derek Barnett lived a linesman’s dream and returned a Raiders’ fumble 23 yards for a game-ending TD. While the Eagles were held to 78 yards rushing and Oakland ran for 137 (Marshawn Lynch led all rushers with 95 yards), Philadelphia managed to force Oakland to turn the ball over five times, including the final turnover of the contest and Nick Foles threw for 163 yards, while Derek Carr threw for 140 (each threw a TD pass, Carr was picked off twice, Foles was picked off once). While the Eagles went 1 of 14 on third down tries, there were successful on fourth down tries, going 2 of 2 and kept the ball for 25:39, while the Raiders were 34:21 in time of possession, going 3 of 13 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

The Chargers improved their slim playoff chances last Sunday at Met Life Stadium, coming away from upstate New Jersey with a 14-7 win at Met Lief Stadium. After both clubs had a scoreless first quarter, GangGreen trailed 7-0 at the half when Philip Rivers and TE Antonio Gates connected on a 3-yard TD pass halfway through the second quarter. NeW York would tie things up at 7-7 with 10:00 left in the third when Bilal Powell ran 57 yards yards untouched for his team’s firat and only score of the contest. The Bolts would take the lead back and for good in the third quarter when RB Melvin Gordon scored from one yard out with 4:57 left. GangGreen outrushed Los Angeles 197-89, with Powell leading everyone with 145 yards, while Rivers threw for 290 yards and Bryce Petty threw for 119 yards for the Jets. New York on third down tries at Met Life Stadium went 3 of 14 (they were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 27:02, while the Chargers held the ball for 32:58, going 5 of 16 on third down conversions.

They met in Oakland in week six and the Bolts left Oakland with a 17-16 come-from-behind win as Nick Novak connected on a 32-yard field goal as time expired. The Silver and Black took a 10-3 lead into the final 15 minutes of play (they led by that score at the half and the two teams went scoreless in the third quarter) before Los Angeles came away 1-point winners at the end of the contest. Oakland outrushed Los Angeles 109-90 and Carr threw for 171 yards, while Rivers threw for 268 yards in the AFC West showdown in northern California (each threw a TD pass and was sacked once, with Carr throwing two interceptions). Third down tries? Los Angeles was 6 of 14, Oakland was 6 of 12 (the Chargers were 1 of 2 on fourth down, Oakland went 0 for 1) and the Chargers ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 32:03 to Oakland’s 27:57.

In the week six contest, Oakland was favored by 3 1/2 at home and the Chargers came away 1-point winners and the 53 1/2 over/under stayed untouched as both teams merged for 33 points. The Chargers are favored by 7 1/2 in Tinseltown and the over/under’s 43 1/2. Oakland’s out of the playoff hunt, while the Chargers are holding on for dear life and hope. Chargers may not cover the 7 1/2 or make the post-season but they’ll make their fans happy and take the win over Oakland at home.

San Francisco (5-10) at Los Angeles Rams (11-4), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 719. An improved San Francisco 49ers team makes its way down I-5 to face off against the Los Angeles Rams in Tinseltown. Both teams took huge wins last win in Sunday’s action, the 49ers winning at home in wine country, while the Rams were victors in the Music City.

San Francisco erased a 16-16 tie with Jacksonville and came away with a 44-33 win at Levis’ Stadium in Santa Clara last Sunday. Blake Bortles threw for 382 yards and a pair of TDs but was picked off twice, as Jacksonville was outrushed by the resurging 49ers 131-92, while the 49ers Jimmy Garaffalo threw for 242 yards with a pair of passing TDs and had a rushing TD of his own. San Francisco, who led 23-19 after three quarters of play, only needed to keep the ball for 29:11 while going 10 of 15 on third down tries. Jacksonville went 5 of 13 on third down, 2 of 2 on fourth down and ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 30:49.

The Rams ended Tennessee’s hope of winning the AFC South title and claimed the NFC West crown with a 27-23 win in Nashville last Sunday. Outscoring the Titans 14-13 in the second half, the Rams broke a 13-13 tie at the intermission to take the win and the divisional title for the first time since 2003 when they were in St. Louis. Los Angeles outrushed Tennessee 116-97 and Todd Gurley led all rushers with 118 yards, catching a pair of Jared Goff TD passes in the win. Goff threw for 301 yards and four TDs in the win, while Tennessee Marcus Mariota threw for 275 yards with a sack and an interception. The Rams were 6 of 14 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 30:04, while Tennessee went 29:56 in time of possession, going 3 of 12 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

Los Angeles survived a 41-39 nailbiter at Levis Stadium in week three to take the win over their instate and NFC West rivals in the first meeting. The Rams led 24-13 at the intermission in the Thursday night contest but would be outscored by San Francisco 26-17 in the final 30 minutes of action to make things close. Gurley ran for 113 yards and had three TDs in the contest, while the 49ers Carlos Hyde accounted for two rushing TDs in the loss (Hyde ran for 84 yards), as the Rams outrushed San Francisco 126-133 in the win. Goff threw for 292 yards with three TDs, connecting with Gurley on one and WR Sammy Watkins on the other two, while Blaine Hoyer threw for 332 yards with a pair of TDs, four sacks and an interception. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down tries in the Thursday night contest; the Rams were 8 of 12, San Francisco went 9 of 18 (the 49ers were 2 of 3 on fourth down) and time favored the 49ers, who held on to the ball for 30:17, while the Rams kept it for 29:43.

The 49ers were favored by 3 in the week three contest in wine country but the Rams were only able to win by two in that first meeting. Both teams combined for 80 points, allowing them to shatter the 40 1/2 over/under. The Rams are favored this time an the odds makers like them as 4 1/2 point favorites with a 45 1/2 over/under. The 49ers have actually played some decent football of late but that comes to an end. Rams cover the 4 1/2 and takes the win at home.

Arizona (7-8) at Seattle (9-6), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 720. A pair of NFC West rivals meet in the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks as Seattle hosts Arizona at Century Link Field in the final game of the week 17 docket.

New York and Eli Manning were shutout by the Desert Angry Birds 23-0 in Glendale. Arizona held the Giants to 43 yards rushing, as the Giants saw Arizona score all of their points in the contest unchallenged and trailed 10-0 at the half, while rushing for 74 yards of their own. Manning threw for 263 yards with a pair of sacks and a pair of interceptions, while Arizona’s Drew Stanton threw for 209 yards and a pair of TDs, connecting with All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald on one of those tosses. The Giants on third down were a somewhat dismal 1 of 14 on third down and 1 of 4 on fourth down in the desert, keeping the ball for 26:47, while the Desert Angry Birds were 5 of 14 on third down, keeping the pigskin for 33:13.

Seattle kept their slim playoff hopes alive and ended Dallas’ hopes in Arlington, taking a 21-12 win out of Arlington in the process. Dallas took a 9-7 halftime lead with them to the intermission before Seattle woke up and took control of things in the second half to take a win in what some called an elimination game. Seattle got TDs from CB Josh Coleman (interception) and WR Doug Baldwin (TD pass from Russell Wilson) in the second half as they held the Cowboys to four Dan Bailey field goals and Ezekiel Elliot to 97 yards rushing. Dallas would have made the contest a 3-point affair late in the game but Bailey missed a pair of key field goals that could have made things closer. Dallas outrushed Seattle 128-76 and Dak Prescott threw for 182 yards, while Wilson threw for 93 yards with two TDs (Wilson connected with TE Jimmy Graham for the other TD strike). Dallas was 6 of 13 on third down (1 of 1 on fourth down and held on to the ball for 32:50, while Seattle kept the ball for 27:10, going 4 of 11 on third down.

They met in the desert in week 10 at University of Phoenix Stadium and the Seahawks were 22-16 winners on a Thursday night. Seattle led 15-7 at the half, then held off a late Arizona rally to take the win. Seattle outrushed the Desert Angry Birds 75-34 and Wilson threw for 238 yards and a pair of TDs to Graham, while Arizona’s Drew Stanton threw for 273 yards and a TD (wilson was sacked five times, while Stanton was sacked twice; neither threw an interception). Seattle was 3 of 13 on third down tries in the desert and held on to the ball for 30:53, while the Desert Angry Birds were 6 of 15 on third down, 1 of 3 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 29:07.

While Seattle covered the 6-point spread in the desert with the 6-point win, both clubs missed the 41 1/2 over/under with 38 points. The powers that be like Seattle again, this time as 8 point favorites and the over/under’s 38 1/2. Seattle will have one eye on their game and one eye on the Carolina-Atlanta game. Arizona makes it closer than the 8 but Seattle prevails in the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks.

PLAYOFFS! PLAYOFFS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Three more spots have been filled in the NFL post-season party.

Jacksonville, Minnesota and New England got their dance cards punched last Sunday (Jacksonville won a playoff spot after their win over Houston at EverBank Field, while New England won the AFC East and the Vikings took the NFC North). They join Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as being playoff bound.

There’s still room at the party, there are seven spots left in the post-season. For those teams that were eliminated, there’s still a chance to ruin someone else’s party, spiking their egg-nog, if you will.

Two more weeks of regular season football. When that ends, the outcomes will be different. Unlike the regular season, it’s you lose, your next game is next week. You lose, your next game is next year. You win, you advance. It’s so simple even a first-grader gets it.

For those teams that were eliminated, there’s selecting a new head coach and general manager, if they choose that route, then prepare for the draft and the upcoming 2018 season, which gets underway on Thursday, September 6th. Mark those calendars now.

SEVEN FROM SUNDAY: The Philadelphia Eagles, already clinching the NFC East, defeated the New York Giants 34-29 to secure a first-round bye. The Eagles have started 12-2 or better for the second time in franchise history (13-1 in 2004).

The Minnesota Vikings, who knocked off Cincinnati 34-7, locked up the NFC North division title. It marks the second division title for the Vikings in the past three seasons.

The New England Patriots, who defeated Pittsburgh 27-24, secured the AFC East division title. It marks the ninth consecutive division title for the Patriots (2009-17), the longest streak in NFL history.

The Jacksonville Jaguars defeated Houston 45-7 at EverBank Field and clinched a playoff berth. It marks the Jaguars’ first playoff berth since 2007.

•New England quarterback Tom Brady passed for 298 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots’ win at Pittsburgh. Brady (five Super Bowl wins) and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger (two) have combined for seven Super Bowl victories, the most by opposing starting quarterbacks in a game in NFL history.

•Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles, making his first start of the season, threw four touchdown passes in the Eagles’ win over the Giants. Last week, Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz threw four touchdown passes against the Los Angeles Rams before leaving with a knee injury.

The Eagles are the first team since the 2011 Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn, Weeks 16-17) to have different starting quarterbacks throw at least four touchdown passes in back-to-back weeks. It is also the first time in franchise history that different Eagles starting quarterbacks have accomplished the feat in consecutive weeks. Philadelphia’s Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz each had a touchdown catch in the victory. Jeffery (nine touchdown catches), Agholor (eight) and Ertz (eight) each have at least eight touchdown catches this season.

The Eagles are the fourth team in NFL history to have at least three players with eight or more receiving touchdowns through their team’s first 14 games of a season, joining the 1961 Houston Oilers, 2004 Indianapolis Colts and 2013 Denver Broncos.

Buffalo running back Le Sean McCoy rushed for 50 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Bills’ 24-16 win over Miami. McCoy reached 10,000 career rushing yards on his 2,145th carry and became the fifth-fastest player in NFL history to achieve the milestone. The only players to reach 10,000 career rushing yards in fewer attempts are Jim Brown (1,936), Adrian Peterson (2,004), Barry Sanders (2,020) and O.J. Simpson (2,085). Brown, Sanders and Simpson are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

•Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley rushed for 152 yards with three touchdowns and added three catches for 28 yards with a touchdown in the team’s 42-7 win at Seattle. Gurley joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (October 20, 2002) as the only Rams in franchise history to have at least 150 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown in a single game.

•New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas had nine catches for 93 yards and a touchdown in the Saints’ 31-19 win over the New York Jets. Thomas, who had 92 catches as a rookie last season, has a career-high 94 receptions this year. He joins Odell Beckham, Jr. as the only players in NFL history to record at least 90 receptions in each of their first two seasons. Beckham accomplished the feat in each of his first three seasons (2014-16).

•Carolina quarterback Cam Newton threw four touchdown passes and rushed for 58 yards in the Panthers’ 31-24 victory against Green Bay. Newton, who leads all quarterbacks with 643 rushing yards this year, has four career seasons with at least 600 rushing yards, tied with Michael Vick (four) for the most such seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.

Panthers running back Christian McCaffery had six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown in the win. McCaffrey, who has 73 catches and five receiving touchdowns this season, is the only rookie running back in NFL history with at least 70 receptions and five touchdown catches.

Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers recorded a half-sack on fourth-and-14 with 5:46 remaining in the fourth quarter in today’s victory. Peppers, who has 10 sacks this season, is the fourth player in NFL history to have at least 10 seasons with 10+ sacks, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (13 seasons), Reggie White (12) and Kevin Greene (10).

2017 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 16

AFC

CLINCHED: New England – AFC East division title

Pittsburgh – AFC North division title

Jacksonville – Playoff berth

New England (11-3) vs. Buffalo (8-6), Sunday

New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) New England win + Pittsburgh loss + Jacksonville loss or tie

New England clinches a first-round bye with:

1) New England win + Pittsburgh loss OR

2) New England win + Jacksonville loss or tie OR

3) New England tie + Jacksonville loss

Pittsburgh (11-3) at Houston (4-10), Monday

Pittsburgh clinches a first-round bye with:

1) Pittsburgh win + Jacksonville loss or tie OR

2) Pittsburgh tie + Jacksonville loss

Jacksonville (10-4) at San Francisco (4-10), Sunday

Jacksonville clinches AFC South division title with:

1) Jacksonville win or tie OR

2) Tennseeee loss or tie

Kansas City (8-6) vs. Miami (6-8), Sunday

Kansas City clinches AFC West division title with:

1) Kansas City win OR

2) Los Angeles Chargers loss OR

3) Kansas City tie + LAC tie

Tennessee (8-6) vs. Los Angeles Rams (10-4), Sunday

Tennessee clinches a playoff berth with:

1) Tennessee win + Baltimore loss + Buffalo loss

NFC

CLINCHED: Philadelphia – NFC East division title and first-round bye

Minnesota – NFC North division title

Philadelphia (12-2) vs. Oakland (6-8), Monday night

Philadelphia clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) Philadelphia win OR

2) Minnesota loss OR

3) Philadelphia tie + Minnesota tie

Los Angeles Rams (10-4) at Tennessee (8-6), Sunday

Los Angeles Rams clinch NFC West division title with:

1) Los Angeles Rams win or tie OR

2) Seattle loss or tie

Los Angeles Rams clinch a playoff berth with:

1) Detroit loss or tie + Carolina loss + Atlanta loss

New Orleans (10-4) vs. Atlanta (9-5), Sunday

New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:

1) New Orleans win + Carolina loss

New Orleans clinches a playoff berth with:

1) New Orleans win or tie OR

2) Dallas-Seattle tie

Carolina (10-4) vs. Tampa Bay (4-10), Sunday

Carolina clinches a playoff berth with:

1) Carolina win or tie OR

2) Dallas-Seattle tie

Atlanta (9-5) at New Orleans (10-4), Sunday

Atlanta clinches a playoff berth with:

1) Atlanta win OR

2) Atlanta tie + Dallas-Seattle tie + Detroit loss or tie (Atlanta has the tiebreakers head to head with Dallas, Seattle and Detroit)

THE WEEK THAT WAS WEEK 15

TERRIFIC TURNAROUNDS: Philadelphia (NFC East, first-round bye), Minnesota (NFC North) and Jacksonville (playoff berth) have clinched at least a playoff berth. All three teams finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year and missed the postseason.

Entering Week 16, five of the eight divisions have a team either in or tied for first place that finished in third or fourth place in the division last season.

This weekend, four clubs – Carolina, the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans and Tennessee – have a chance to join Philadelphia, Minnesota and Jacksonville as teams who clinched a playoff spot after not qualifying for the postseason in 2016.

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

KANDID KAMARA: New Orleans rookie running back Alvin Kamara had 89 scrimmage yards (45 receiving, 44 rushing) and a receiving touchdown in the Saints’ 31-19 win over the New York Jets last week.

Kamara, who has seven rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns this year, is the fourth rookie in NFL history with at least five rushing and five receiving touchdowns, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Doak Walker (1950), Charley Taylor (1964) and Gale Sayers (1965).

The rookies with at least five rushing and five receiving touchdowns in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON) (RUSHING TOUCHDOWN)(RECIEVEING TOUCHDOWNS)
Doak Walker, Detroit (1950) (5)(6)^
Charley Taylor, Washington (1964) (5)(5)^
Gale Sayers, Chicago (1965)(14)(6)^
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans (2017)(7)(5)*
*Through Week 15
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

BIG GAME HUNTING: Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt had 206 scrimmage yards (155 rushing, 51 receiving), one rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in the Chiefs’ 30-13 win against the Los Angeles Chargers last week.

Hunt, who had 246 scrimmage yards (148 rushing, 98 receiving), one rushing touchdown and two receiving touchdowns in Week 1, is the only rookie in NFL history to have two games with at least 200 scrimmage yards, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown.

RISING ROOKIES: Through the first 15 weeks of the season, rookies have accumulated 22,219 yards from scrimmage, the second-most through Week 15 since 1970, excluding the 1987 season.

The seasons with the most yards from scrimmage by rookies through Week 15 since 1970 (excluding the 1987 season):

SEASON – MOST SCRIMMAGE YARDS BY ROOKIES THROUGH WEEK 15*
2014 – 22,229
2017 – 22,219
2013 – 19,771
2012 – 19,523
2015 – 19,086
*Excludes 1987 season

The rookies with the most scrimmage yards in 2017:

PLAYER, TEAM (SCRIMMAGE YARDS)
Kareem Hunt, Kansas City (1,641)
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans (1,336)
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville (1,136)
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina (974)
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams (804)

Rookies have also totaled 157 touchdowns through Week 15, the second-most through the first 15 weeks of a season since 1970, excluding the 1987 season.

The seasons with the most touchdowns by rookies through Week 15 since 1970 (excluding 1987 season):

SEASON – MOST TOUCHDOWNS BY ROOKIES THROUGH WEEK 15*
2014 – 160
2017 – 157
2013 – 154
1983 – 142
2010 – 135
*Excludes 1987 season

The rookies with the most touchdowns in 2017:

PLAYER, TEAM (TOTAL TOUCHDOWNS)
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans (12)
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville (9)
Kareem Hunt, Kansas City (9)
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina (7)
Many tied with 6

MARVELOUS MC COY: Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy rushed for 50 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Bills’ 24-16 win over Miami in Week 15.

McCoy reached 10,000 career rushing yards on his 2,145th carry, becoming the fifth-fastest player in NFL history to achieve the milestone. The only players to reach 10,000 career rushing yards in fewer attempts are Jim Brown (1,936), Adrian Peterson (2,004), Barry Sanders (2,020) and O.J. Simpson (2,085). Brown, Sanders and Simpson are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The players with the fewest attempts to reach 10,000 rushing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (FEWEST ATTEMPTS TO REACH 10,000 RUSHING YARDS)
Jim Brown – Cleveland (1,936)^
Adrian Peterson – Minnesota (2,004)
Barry Sanders – Detroit (2,020)^
O.J. Simpson – Buffalo (2,085)^
LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia and Buffalo (2,145)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

GRON-K: New England tight end Rob Gronkowski had nine receptions for 168 yards in the Patriots’ 27-24 win at Pittsburgh in Week 15.

Gronkowski, who leads all NFL tight ends with 1,017 receiving yards, reached 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth time in his career. Gronkowski tied Tony Gonzalez (four) and Jason Witten (four) for the most seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards among tight ends in NFL history.

The tight ends with the most 1,000+ receiving yard seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS WITH 1,000+ RECEIVING YARDS)
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City (4)
Rob Gronkowski, New England (4)*
Jason Witten, Dallas (4)*
Todd Christensen, Los Angeles Raiders (3)
Greg Olsen, Carolina (3)*
Shannon Sharpe, Denver (3)^
Kellen Winslow, San Diego (3)^
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

FOOTBALL IS FAMILY: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning passed for 434 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s Week 15 loss to Philadelphia.

Manning’s first touchdown pass of the day, the 336th of his career, gave the Manning family 1,000 total combined regular-season touchdown passes over their careers. Eli’s brother, Peyton, threw 539 touchdown passes in his 17-year career, the most in NFL history. Their father, Archie, recorded 125 touchdown passes during his 14-year career.

PLAYER – TEAM (CAREER TD PASSES)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (539)
Eli Manning – New York Giants (338)*
Archie Manning – New Orleans, Houston Oilers and Minnesota (125)
Total – 1,002
*Active

TOSS IT TO THOMAS: New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas had nine receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown in the Saints’ win against the Jets.

Thomas, who had 92 catches as a rookie last season, has a career-high 94 receptions in 14 games this year. He joins Odell Beckham, Jr. as the only players in NFL history to have at least 90 catches in each of their first two NFL seasons. Beckham (2014-16) reached 90+ receptions in each of his first three NFL seasons.

The players to record at least 90 catches in each of their first two seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON-RECEPTIONS)
Michael Thomas, New Orleans (2016-82)(2017-94)*
Odell Beckham, Jr., New York Giants (2014-91)(2015-96)(2016-101)
*Through Week 15

BLOCK PARTY: Philadelphia rookie defensive end Derek Barnett blocked a PAT, linebacker KAMU GRUGIER-HILL blocked a punt and safety MALCOLM JENKINS blocked a field goal in the Eagles’ 34-29 win over the Giants in Week 15.

The Eagles are the first team since the 1979 Minnesota Vikings (November 25, 23-22 win at Tampa Bay) to block all three types of kicks in a win.

GOOD AS GOULD: San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould converted all six field-goal attempts, including the game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired, in the 49ers’ 25-23 win over the Titans last week.

Gould, who made five field goals at Chicago in Week 13 and four at Houston in Week 14, is the first player in NFL history to make at least 15 field goals over a three-game span.

The most made field goals over a three-game span in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS)(WEEKS)(FIELD GOALS MADE)
Robbie Gould, San Francisco (2017)(13-15)(15)
Neil Rackers, Arizona (2005)(2-4)(14)
Olindo Mare, Miami (1989)(4-6)(14)
John Carney, San Diego (1992-93)(16-17, 1)(14)
Jim Turner, New York Jets (1968)(9-11)(14)
Gino Cappelletti, Boston Patriots (1964)(2-4)(14)

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WEEK 16:

TERRIFIC TURNAROUNDS: Philadelphia (NFC East, first-round bye), Minnesota (NFC North) and Jacksonville (playoff berth) have clinched at least a playoff berth. All three teams finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year and missed the postseason.

Entering Week 16, five of the eight divisions have a team either in or tied for first place that finished in third or fourth place in the division last season.

This weekend, four clubs – Carolina, the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans and Tennessee – have a chance to join Philadelphia, Minnesota and Jacksonville as teams who clinched a playoff spot after not qualifying for the postseason in 2016.

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

Jacksonville can secure the AFC South division this weekend with a win or a Tennessee loss and join Philadelphia as teams to go from “worst-to-first” this season.

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their division since 2003:

SEASON – TEAM (RECORD, PRIOR SEASON RECORD)
2003 – Carolina (11-5, 7-9)
2003 – Kansas City (13-3, 8-8)**
2004 – ATLANTA (11-5, 5-11)
2004 – San Diego (12-4, 4-12)**
2005 – Chicago (11-5, 5-11)
2005 – New York Giants (11-5, 6-10)**
2005 – Tampa Bay (11-5, 5-11)
2006 – Baltimore (13-3, 6-10)**
2006 – New Orleans (10-6, 3-13)
2006 – Philadelphia (10-6, 6-10)
2007 – Tampa Bay (9-7, 4-12)
2008 – Miami (11-5, 1-15)
2009 – New Orleans (13-3, 8-8)***
2010 – Kansas City (10-6, 4-12)
2011 – Denver (8-8, 4-12)
2011 – Houston (10-6, 6-10)**
2012 – Washington (10-6, 5-11)
2013 – Carolina (12-4, 7-9)**
2013 – Philadelphia (10-6, 4-12)
2015 – Washington (9-7, 4-12)
2016 – Dallas (13-3, 4-12)
2017 – Philadelphia (12-2, 7-9)*
2017 – Jacksonville (10-4, 3-13)*
* Through Week 15
** Tied for last place
*** Won Super Bowl

THE BELL TOLLS: Pittsburgh Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell, who leads the NFL with 1,849 scrimmage yards this season, has 7,899 scrimmage yards in 61 career games.

Bell, who plays at Houston on Monday, can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (64 games) for the fewest games to reach 8,000 scrimmage yards in NFL history.

The players to reach 8,000 career scrimmage yards in the fewest games in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (FEWEST GAMES TO 8,000 SCRIMMAGE YARDS)
Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams (64)^
Edgerrin James, Indianapolis (65)
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (65)^
Jim Brown, Cleveland (67)^
Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders (68)^
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh (61)*
*Has 7,899 career scrimmage yards
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

JONES-ING FOR MORE: Atlanta Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones ranks third in the NFL with 1,215 receiving yards this season.

With 85 yards on Sunday at New Orleans, Jones will record his fourth consecutive season with at least 1,300 receiving yards, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison and Demaryius Thomas for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Only TORRY HOLT (six) from 2000-05 has a longer streak in league annals.

The players with the most consecutive seasons with at least 1,300 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS) (MOST CONSECUTIVE 1,300 RECEIVING YARD SEASONS)
Torry Holt, (St. Louis Rams, 2000-2005) (6)
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (1999-2002) (4)^
Demaryius Thomas, Denver (2012-2015) (4)
Julio Jones, ATLANTA (2014-2016) (3)*
*Has 1,215 rec. yards through Week 15
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

KEEP IT 100: Arizona Pro Bowl wide receiver LARRY FITZGERALD ranks second in the NFC with 92 receptions this season.

With eight receptions against the New York Giants on Sunday, Fitzgerald will record his fifth career season with at least 100 receptions, tying ANTONIO BROWN, ANDRE JOHNSON and WES WELKER for the second-most 100-catch seasons in NFL history.

Brown, who leads the NFL with 101 receptions this season, reached the 100-catch mark for the fifth time and trails only BRANDON MARSHALL (six) for the most such seasons all-time.

The players with the most 100-catch seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (SEASONS WITH 100+ RECEPTIONS)
Brandon Marshall – Denver, Chicago and New York Jets (6)
Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh (5)
Andre Johnson – Houston (5)
Wes Welker – New England (5)
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona (4)*
Marvin Harrison – Indianapolis (4)^
Jerry Rice –  San Francisco (4)^
Reggie Wayne – Indianapolis (4)
*Has 92 receptions through Week 15
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

CLIMBING THE CHARTS: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning ranks seventh in NFL history with 51,287 career passing yards.

With 189 passing yards at Arizona on Sunday, Manning would pass Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway (51,475) for the sixth-most passing yards in NFL history.

The players with the most passing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (CAREER PASSING YARDS)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (71,940)
Brett Favre – Green Bay, New York Jets and Minnesota (71,838)^
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (69,961)*
Tom Brady – New England (65,745)*
Dan Marino, Miami (61,361)^
John Elway, Denver (51,475)^
Eli Manning – New York Giants (51,287)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Fame

New Orleans Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, who plays against Atlanta on Sunday, has 69,961 career passing yards and needs 39 yards to join Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre (71,838) and Peyton Manning (71,940) as the only players in NFL history with at least 70,000 career passing yards.

PLAYER – TEAMS (CAREER PASSING YARDS)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (71,940)
Brett Favre – Green Bay, New York Jets and Minnesota (71,838)^
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (69,961)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Fame

ACE OF THE STAFF: Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, who plays at Cincinnati on Sunday, has thrown at least 25 pass attempts and completed 75 percent or better of his passes in each of his past three games. He can join Tom Brady (2007) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with four consecutive games with at least 25 pass attempts and a 75 or better completion percentage.

The players with the most consecutive games with at least 25 pass attempts and a 75 or better completion percentage in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAM (SEASON; WEEKS)(CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 25+ PASSES AND 75% COMPLETION PERCENTAGE)
Tom Brady – New England (2007; 1-4)(4)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit (2017; 13-15) (3)*
*Active streak

PROLIFIC PASSERS: Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford ranks third in the NFL with 3,920 passing yards and New Orleans Pro Bowl quarterback DREW BREES ranks fourth in the league with 3,850 passing yards.

With 80 passing yards this weekend, Stafford will reach 4,000 passing yards for the seventh consecutive season and surpass Peyton Manning (six seasons, 1999-2004) and Matt Ryan (six, 2011-16) for the second-longest streak in NFL history.

Ryan, who has 3,490 passing yards this season, has recorded at least 4,000 passing yards in each of the past six seasons and can extend his streak to seven consecutive seasons with 510 passing yards over the next two weeks.

Brees needs 150 passing yards to extend his NFL-record streak to 12 consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards.

The quarterbacks with the most consecutive seasons of at least 4,000 passing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (SEASONS) (SEASONS WITH 4,000+ PASSING YARDS)
Drew Brees – New Orleans (2006-16) (11)*
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis (1999-2004) (6)
Matt Ryan – ATLANTA (2011-16) (6)*
Matthew Stafford – Detroit (2011-16) (6)*
*Active streak

LIGHTS, KAMARA, ACTION: New Orleans Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara leads all NFL rookies and ties for second in the league with 12 total touchdowns this season.

With a touchdown reception on Sunday, Kamara, who has seven rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns, can join Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (1965) as the only rookies in NFL history with at least six rushing and six receiving touchdowns.

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON, RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS/RECEIVING TOUCHDOWNS)
Gale Sayers, Chicago (1965, 14/6)^
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans (2017, 7/5)*
*Through Week 15
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

GO THE DISTANCE: Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill had a 64-yard touchdown catch in the Chiefs’ Week 15 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Since entering the league in 2016, Hill has 11 career touchdowns of at least 50 yards.

With a 50+ yard touchdown on Sunday against Miami, Hill would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (11) for the second-most touchdowns of at least 50 yards in a player’s first two seasons in NFL history. Only Devin Hester (13) had more such touchdowns in his first two seasons.

The players with the most touchdowns of at least 50 yards in their first two seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (50+ YARD TOUCHDOWNS IN 1ST 2 SEASONS)
Devin Hester, Chicago (13)
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City (11)*
Gale Sayers, Chicago (11)^
*In second season
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

 

Week 16 got underway in Baltimore as the Ravens edged Indianapolis 23-16 Saturday afternoon and the Saturday action finished in Green Bay as the Packers were shutout by Minnesota 16-0 at chilly Lambeau Field. Action in week 16 continues on Sunday with a near full slate of contests and the Sunday action concludes in Dallas when the Dallas Cowboys welcome the Seattle Seahawks to AT&T Stadium on Christmas Eve afternoon. The next-to-last week of the season concludes with a pair of Christmas games when the Steelers travels to Houston to face the Texans and the Eagles host the Oakland Raiders in the final Monday night contest of the season.

Time is running out. With two weeks to go in the NFL regular season, it’s time for teams to make their final playoff push.

Through the first 15 weeks, five postseason berths have been clinched. Philadelphia (NFC East, first-round bye), Minnesota (NFC North), New England (AFC East) and Pittsburgh (AFC North) have each won its division. Jacksonville has secured a playoff berth. And with two weeks left in the regular season, there are still 19 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl LII.

In the AFC, New England (11-3, clinched AFC East) can secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage. Pittsburgh (11-3, clinched AFC North) can lock up a first-round bye. Jacksonville (10-4, clinched playoff berth) can win the AFC South. Kansas City (8-6) can clinch the AFC West. And Tennessee (8-6) can secure a playoff berth.

In the NFC, Philadelphia (12-2, clinched NFC East and first-round bye) can lock up home-field advantage. Minnesota (11-3, clinched NFC North) can secure a first-round bye. The Los Angeles Rams (10-4) can clinch the NFC West or a playoff berth. New Orleans (10-4) can lock up the NFC South or a playoff berth and Carolina (10-4) and Atlanta (9-5) can each clinch a playoff berth.

By winning the NFC East, the Eagles have completed a “worst-to-first” turnaround and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Both the Jaguars (lead AFC South by two games) and Panthers (tied for NFC South lead) are either in or tied for first place entering Week 16 and can join the Eagles as teams making a “worst-to-first” turnaround. If both Jacksonville and Carolina match Philadelphia as teams accomplishing the feat, 2017 would tie the 2005 and 2006 seasons for the most such “worst-to-first” clubs in NFL history.

As for last week… 11-5 is pretty good and for the season, 135-90. That’s not bad and there’s still a lot of football left, including the playoffs (PLAYOFFS! PLAYOFFS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?). Here are the Sunday and Monday picks for week 16 (be sure to leave milk and cookies for Santa and hay for the reindeer… we hear he likes Chocolate chip).

ATLANTA (9-5) at New Orleans (10-4), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712. Matt Ryan.

Drew Brees.

They meet again and this time, it’s Peach Pie squaring off against Gumbo as the Falcons travel to the Big Easy for an important NFC South matchup for both clubs.

Atlanta erased a 7-7 tie at the end of the first quarter at Tampa Bay and came away 24-21 winners last Monday evening at Raymond James Stadium. The defending NFC champs took a 17-7 lead with them to the locker room and held off two Tampa Bay rallies as the Bucs pulled to within 7 with 4:07 left in regulation when Jameis Winston and WR Adam Humphries connected on a 16-yard TD pass. Tampa Bay then had a chance to tie the contest up with five seconds left but saw their playoff hopes come to an end when Pat Murray’s 54 yard field goal sailed wide right, giving Atlanta the win and sweeping the series in the process. Atlanta outrushed Tampa Bay 201-84 and DeVonta Freeman led the way with 126 yards and a 32-yard TD run that all but sealed the deal for the Falcons, while Ryan threw for 212 yards and a TD, with Winston throwing for 299 yards and three TDs. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down, as the Falcons were 9 of 15, while Tampa Bay was 4 of 8 (neither team went for it on fourth down) and time was on the side of Atlanta, who kept the ball for 33:15 to Tampa Bay’s 26:45.

New Orleans ended the New York Jets’ hopes of a playoff spot as they came away 31-19 winners in the Superdome last Sunday. New Orleans led 17-10 at the half before the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! pulled to within 5 with 1:51 left in the contest when Bryce Petty (who took over for Josh McCown) connected on a 2-yard TD pass but missed the two-point conversion. GangGreen then tried an onside kick, which New Orleans recovered and it would be Mark Ingram that would seal the Jets’ fate with a 50-yard run with 93 seconds left in regulation to take the win when he scored his second TD of the day. New Orleans outrushed the Jets 131-124 and Brees threw for 285 yards and a pair of TDs, one to RB Alvin Kamara, who returned from a concussion he suffered against Atlanta, while Petty threw for 179 yards with a TD and a pair of interceptions. New Orleans was 3 of 10 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 29:10, while the Jets actually ruled the clock and kept the ball for 30:50, going 5 of 15 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down tries in the Big Easy.

The meeting in the Big Easy is a rematch of the week 14 contest in Atlanta that saw the Falcons take a 20-17 win in the Big Peach. New Orleans broke a 10-10 tie at the intermission and took a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter before Atlanta would score their last 10 points of the contest unchallenged in that quarter. While Ryan did throw three interceptions, he did manage to throw for 221 yards and connect with WR Mohammed Sanu on an 8-yard TD strike with 9:55 left in the contest. Matt Bryant then added a 52-yard field goal with 3:49 left to play to take the lead back for good.

Atlanta then held off a late New Orleans rally in the closing minutes of the game when Brees (271 yards, two TDs) was picked off by LB Deion Jones in the end zone. The Falcons then secured the win after Sean Payton was penalized for being on the field, which moved the ball up and allowed Atlanta to run out the clock. Atlanta outrushed New Orleans 132-50, with Falcons RB DeVonta Freeman leading the way with 91 yards and a TD and the Falcons went 7 of 12 on third down conversions at Mercedes Benz Stadium, keeping the ball for 34:41, while New Orleans held the ball for 25:19, going 3 of 10 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down.

In the week 14 contest on a Thursday night, New Orleans was favored by 1 and the Falcons covered, winning by 3. The 52 1/2 over/under was untouched, as both teams combined for 37 total points. The odds makers this time like the Saints again, this time as 5 1/2 point favorites with a 52 over/under. There is a lot at stake here, which makes this one “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

History has a way of repeating itself. For the Falcons, all they have to do is run the table and they repeat as NFC South champs. The Saints are trying to be “Grinches” and stop their plans and take the NFC South for themselves. Sorry, Saints fans. you’re about to get a lump of coal in your stocking. Falcons complete the sweep and cover the 5 1/2 in the Big Easy.

Cleveland (0-14) at Chicago (4-10), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 705. It’s the NFL’s version of the “Pit of Misery” as the winless Cleveland Browns travel to the Windy City for a Christmas Eve afternoon contest with Chicago at Soldier Field. Both teams are coming off losses

The winless Cleveland Browns’ season continued into a tailspin last Sunday along the shores of Lake Erie as they came out on the short end of a 27-10 loss to Baltimore at at First Energy Field. Baltimore led 17-10 at the half, then pulled away from the Browns and scored their final 10 points of the contest unchallenged. Although the Browns outrushed Baltimore 130-97, Joe Flacco burned the Browns for 288 yards and a TD to TE Benjamin Watson, while Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer threw for 146 yards with a pair of sacks and a pair of interceptions. The Ravens on third down conversions went 7 of 16 and kept the ball for 36:48, while the Browns were 5 of 14, holding the pigskin for 23:12 (both clubs were 0 of 1 on fourth down tries).

Da Bears were outmanned by Detroit last Saturday at Ford Field as the Lions took them to task, coming away on the short end of a 20-10 loss in the Motor City. Chicago trailed 13-3 at the intermission and could never really get on track in the NFC North rematch, as the Lions outrushed them 91-43 and picked off Mitch Trubisky (314 yards, TD) three times. For Detroit, Matt Stafford suffered no ill effects from the hand injury he suffered in Baltimore, throwing for 237 yards and a pair of TDs in the win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Chicago on third down went 5 of 12 (Da Bears were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 30:55, while the Lions went 6 of 13 on third down, holding the ball for 29:05.

Chicago’s favored by 6 1/2 and the over/under’s 38 1/2. You might want to take a pass on this one and watch that “Grumpy Cat” movie on Lifetime. Chicago covers the 6 1/2 and wins in the Windy City.

Miami (6-8) at Kansas City (8-6), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 706. A pair of old AFL/AFC rivals meet in the Show-Me State as the Kansas City Chiefs host the struggling Miami Dolphins at Arrowhead.

Miami saw their playoff hopes damaged in Orchard Park as they fell to Buffalo 24-16. Although they trailed 21-6 at the half, Miami managed to outscore the Bills 10-3 in the final 30 minutes of play, pulling to within 8 with 39 seconds left when Chris Parkey connected on a 26-yard field goal. Miami then managed to get the ball back thanks to a successful onside kick but turned the ball over one play later when Jay Cutler’s pass was picked off by Tre’Davious White. The Bills got the ball back, ran out the clock and took the win. Buffalo outrushed Miami 116-100 and LeSean McCoy scored a pair of TDs in the contest (one on a 4-yard run in the first quarter, the other coming from a 16 yard TD pass from Tyrod Taylor). Cutler threw for 274 yards but was sacked three times and picked off three times, while Taylor threw for 224 yards and the lone TD toss. Miami on third down tries went 5 of 16 (they were 1 of 2 on fourth down) and actually ruled the clock as they kept the ball for 32:25, while the Bills were 27:35 in time of possession, going 7 of 15 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down.

Kansas City all but secured their chance of winning the AFC West title after their 30-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers Saturday night at Arrowhead. The Chiefs led 13-6 at the half, trailed 13-10 with 9:20 left in the third, then took the lead back for keeps with 2:07 left in the quarter when Kareem Hunt and Alex Smtih connected on a 3-yard TD pass. After Heath Butker connected on a pair of field goals for Kansas City, Hunt sealed the Chargers’ fate with a 5-yard run with 3:57 left in regulation. Kansas City outrushed Los Angeles 174-98, with Hunt leading the way with 155 yards. Smith threw for 231 yards and a pair of TDs, while the Kansas City defense picked off Philip Rivers (227 yards) three times (he had a TD pass to TE Antonio Gates in the contest), taking the ball away four times. The Chiefs were 6 of 14 on third down tries (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 33:21, while the Chargers, who held the pigskin for 26:39, went 4 of 11, 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

The series between these two AFC foes is even at 13-13 (which includes games that were played at Swope Field and the Orange Bowl), the Chiefs have outscored Miami 538-501 and Kansas City won the last meeting in the series, taking a 34-15 win in the Sunshine State in 2014, while the Dolphins were 31-3 winners in 2011 at Arrowhead. Kansas City’s favored by 10 at Arrowhead and the over/under’s 43 1/2. The Chiefs are starting to get their groove back, while the Dolphins are looking to cause chaos in the AFC West. Groove wins this one. Miami makes it closer than the 10 but the Chiefs pull themselves closer to the AFC West title with the win at Arrowhead.

Buffalo (8-6) at New England (11-3), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 707. The defending Super Bowl champs return to Foxboro for an AFC East matchup with the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.

Buffalo put a dent in Miami’s playoff hopes as they held off the Dolphins 24-16 at New Era Stadium. Buffalo led 21-6 at the half, before Miami managed to outscore the Bills 10-3 in the final 30 minutes of play, pulling to within 8 with 39 seconds left when Chris Parkey connected on a 26-yard field goal. The Dolphins then found new life and managed to get the ball back thanks to a successful onside kick but Buffalo forced a turn over one play later when Jay Cutler’s pass was picked off by Tre’Davious White. The Bills got the ball back, ran out the clock and took the win. Buffalo outrushed Miami 116-100 and LeSean McCoy scored a pair of TDs in the contest (one on a 4-yard run in the first quarter, the other coming from a 16 yard TD pass from Tyrod Taylor). Cutler threw for 274 yards but was sacked three times and picked off three times, while Taylor threw for 224 yards and the lone TD toss. Miami on third down tries went 5 of 16 (they were 1 of 2 on fourth down) and actually ruled the clock as they kept the ball for 32:25, while the Bills were 27:35 in time of possession, going 7 of 15 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down.

Brady and the Pats erased a 17-10 deficit against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers and left Heinz Field with a 27-24 win last Sunday to clinch the AFC East title. The Steelers led 24-19 with 56 seconds left in regulation when New England’s Deion Lewis scored on an 8-yard run and took the lead when Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski, coming off his one-game suspension, hooked up on the two-point try to take the 3-point lead. Steelers fans had their hopes dashed twice in the contest. Pittsburgh got the ball back and marched downfield, getting as close as New England’s 10-yard line when Ben Roethlisberger and TE Jesse James connected on what they thought would be the game-winning score. The play was reviewed and the call was changed from catch to no catch. After that, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey caught a short pass to New England’s 7-yard line and the Steelers scrambled to the line without any times and Roethlisberger threw a pass into the endzone that was deflected and picked off by Duron Harmon. New England ran out the clock and took the win.

Pittsburgh outrushed New England 143-77, with LeVeon Bell leading all rushers with 117 yards, while Roethlisbeger threw for 281 yards and a TD. Pittsburgh also lost the services of All-Pro WR Antonio Brown, who had 24 yards on two catches before leaving the contest with a torn calf muscle (Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster had 114 yards on six catches for the Steelers), while Brady threw for 298 yards and a TD (both were sacked twice and both threw an interception). Pittsburgh on third down went 10 of 16 and kept the ball for 35:07, while the Pats were 24:53 in time of possession, going 3 of 9 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down at Heinz Field.

They met in week 13 along the shores of Lake Erie in upstate New York and the Pats were 23-3 winners in that meeting. New England held Buffalo to a 49-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka with 3:05 left before the intermssion and got a pair of rushing TDs in the second half by RB Rex Burkhead to seal Buffalo’s fate. While the Pats outrushed Buffalo 191-183, Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy led all rushers with 93 yards, while Brady threw for 258 yards despite getting sacked four times. The Pats on third down conversions went 5 of 12 (the Bills were 5 of 13, 0 of 3 on fourth down) and ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 34:01 to Buffalo’s 25:59.

In the week 13 contest in Orchard Park, New England covered the 8 1/2-point spread, winning by 20 but neither club touched the 46 over/under, scoring only 26 points. This time, the Pats are favored by 11 1/2 and the over/under is 47. Buffalo’s wanting to go to the playoffs for the first time since the Clinton adminstration, while the Pats look to stay home for as long as they’re in the playoffs. New England wins this one but expect Buffalo to make things closer than 11 1/2.

Los Angeles Chargers (7-7) at New York Jets (5-9), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 708. A pair of struggling AFC meet in upstate New Jersey as the New York Jets host the Los Angeles Chargers at Met Life Stadium.

The Chargers saw their hopes of winning the AFC West get damaged by Kansas City last Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium, falling 30-13 to the Chiefs. The Chiefs led 13-6 at the half before the Chargers would take the lead for the first and only time of the contest when Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates connected on a 10-yard TD strike with 9:20 left in the third, then watched the Chiefs take the lead back for keeps with 2:07 left in the quarter when Kareem Hunt and Alex Smtih connected on a 3-yard TD pass. After Heath Butker connected on a pair of field goals for Kansas City, Hunt sealed the Chargers’ fate with a 5-yard run with 3:57 left in regulation. Kansas City outrushed Los Angeles 174-98, with Hunt leading the way with 155 yards. Smith threw for 231 yards and a pair of TDs, while the Kansas City defense picked off Philip Rivers (227 yards) three times (he had a TD pass to TE Antonio Gates in the contest), taking the ball away four times. The Chiefs were 6 of 14 on third down tries (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 33:21, while the Chargers, who held the pigskin for 26:39, went 4 of 11, 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

New York’s hopes of a playoff spot were ground as the Jets were 31-19 losers in New Orleans to the Saints at Superdome last Sunday. GangGreen trailed 17-10 at the half before they would pull themselves to within 5 with 1:51 left in the contest when Bryce Petty (who took over for Josh McCown) connected on a 2-yard TD pass but missed the two-point conversion. GangGreen then tried an onside kick, which New Orleans recovered and it would be Mark Ingram that would seal the Jets’ fate with a 50-yard run with 93 seconds left in regulation to take the win when he scored his second TD of the day. New Orleans outrushed the Jets 131-124 and Brees threw for 285 yards and a pair of TDs, one to RB Alvin Kamara, who returned from a concussion he suffered against Atlanta, while Petty threw for 179 yards with a TD and a pair of interceptions. New Orleans was 3 of 10 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 29:10, while the Jets actually ruled the clock and kept the ball for 30:50, going 5 of 15 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down tries in the Big Easy.

Including games that were played at Shea and Qualcomm Stadiums and when the Jets were known as the Titans, the Chargers lead the series 21-12-1, they have outscored GangGreen 982-698 and won the last two meetings in the series, including a 24-0 win in 2014 at Qualcomm, while the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!’ last win over the Chargers came in 2011 in the Meadowlands by a final of 27-21.

The Chargers are favored by 7 and the over/under’s 42 1/2. While this one is not exactly “DRILL WORTHY,” it’s worth watching as both teams have had decent seasons if not great seasons. The Chargers may not cover the 7 but they take the win in upstate New Jersey.

Denver (5-9) at Washington (6-8), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 709. A pair of teams that once met in a Super Bowl meet in Landover as the Redskins and Broncos, both out of the playoff picture, meet at FedEx Field on Christmas Eve afternoon.

Denver erased a 7-3 halftime lead against Indianapolis last Thursday night and took control of things at Lucas Oil Stadium, outscoring the Colts 18-3 in the final 30 minutes of play, taking a 25-13 win out of the Hoosier State in the process. Denver’s C.J. Anderson ran amok, leading all rushers with 158 yards in the contest, as his team outrushed Indy 213-70, while Brock Osweiler, who took over for Trevor Siemian (Siemian left the contest with an injury), threw for 194 yards and a pair of TDs (Indy’s Jacoby Brissett threw for 158 yards with no TDs or interceptions but had a sack). Denver on third down tries went 7 of 15 (they were 1 of 3 on fourth down tries) and ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 36:51, while the Colts kept the pigskin for 23:09, going 6 of 13, 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

While the Redskins saw their playoff hopes vanish, they made sure that Arizona didn’t leave Landover with a victory as they held off the Cardinals 20-15 at FedEx Field. Washington led 14-9 at the half and held Arizona in check the rest of the way. The Desert Angry Birds would eventually pull themselves to within 2 with 13:37 left in the third on a 34-yard field goal by Pat Dawson before the Redskins took control of things in the contest. While Arizona outrushed Washington 141-31, Kirk Cousins threw for 196 yards and a pair of TDs, while Arizona Blaine Gabbard threw for 189 yards with five sacks and an interception. The Redskins were 1 of 9 on third down and kept the ball for 23:44, while Arizona kept the pigskin for 36:16, going 4 of 19 on third down and 2 of 3 on fourth down.

Denver leads the series 7-5, Washington has outscored the Broncos 271-243 and the Broncos were 45-21 winners in their last meeting at Mile High Stadium in 2013, while Washington’s last win came in 2009 by a final of 27-17. The odds makers like the ‘Skins as 3 1/2 point favorites with a 41 over/under. Redskins fans got to sing “Hail to the Redskins” last week, instead of “Hell, it’s the Redskins.” They’ll get to sing “Hail” again this time. Washington covers the 3 1/2 in Landover and takes the win.

Tampa Bay (4-10) at Carolina (10-4), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 710. It’s round two of a pair of former Heisman QBs as Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers host Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay pulled even with Atlanta at Raymond James Stadium last Monday, going into the second quarter tied at 7-7 tie, only to see their slim playoff hopes melt like a sunburned snowman, as the Faclons were 24-21 winners. The defending NFC champs took a 17-7 lead with them to the locker room and held off two Tampa Bay rallies as the Bucs pulled to within 7 with 4:07 left in regulation when Winston and WR Adam Humphries connected on a 16-yard TD pass. Tampa Bay then had a chance to tie the contest up with five seconds left but saw their playoff hopes come to an end when Pat Murray’s 54 yard field goal sailed wide right, giving Atlanta the win and sweeping the series in the process. Atlanta outrushed Tampa Bay 201-84 and DeVonta Freeman led the way with 126 yards and a 32-yard TD run that all but sealed the deal for the Falcons, while Ryan threw for 212 yards and a TD, with Winston throwing for 299 yards and three TDs. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down, as the Falcons were 9 of 15, while Tampa Bay was 4 of 8 (neither team went for it on fourth down) and time was on the side of Atlanta, who kept the ball for 33:15 to Tampa Bay’s 26:45.

Newton and Carolina held off the return of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 31-24 at Bank of America Stadium last Sunday afternoon. After ewton threw a 7-yard TD pass to Christian McCaffery to open the scoring in the contest. Rodgers threw his first of three TD passes of the afternoon as time expired in the first quarter when he and WR DaVonte Adams connected on a 13-yard TD strike to tie things up. Green Bay would eventually take a 14-10 into the intermission when Rodgers and RB Randall Cobb hooked up on a 33 yard TD strike before Carolina took control of things, outscoring the Packers 21-10 in the final 30 minutes of play. Green Bay would eventually pull to within a touchdown with 2:43 left in the contest when WR Richard Rodgers caught a 24-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay then recovered the onside kick and got the ball as far as the Panthers’ 38-yard line when Geronimo Allison caught a 10-yard pass from Rodgers but fumbled the ball, which Carolina promptly recovered. Carolina then ran the clock out and took the win at home.

They met in the Sunshine State in week eight and the Bucs were held ot a 41-yard field goal by Patrick Murray to fall to Carolina 17-3 at Raymond James Stadium. Carolina led 10-0 at the intermission and never looked back, holding the Bucs to 85 yards rushing (the Panthers ran for 100 yards) and sacking Winston (210 yards) three times and picking him off twice, while Newton threw for 154 yards and a TD (Newton threw an interception in the contest). Carolina was 8 of 17 on third down and kept the pigskin for 32:11, while Tampa Bay was 2 of 12 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 27:49.

In the week eight affair on Florida’s west coast, the Bucs were favored by 2 1/2 and the Panthers covered, winning by 14 but neither club touched the 44 over/under, as both tallied only 20 points. This time, the Panthers are favored by 9 1/2 and the over/under’s 46 1/2. The Bucs would love nothing more than to ruin Carolina’s playoff party, while Caroline would like nothing more than to put Tampa Bay out of their misery. Tampa Bay makes this one interesting but Carolina’s finer and sweeps the series with the win.

Detroit (8-6) at Cincinnati (5-9), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711. It’s a battle for the Litter Box as the Cincinnati Bengals host Detriot with the Lions fighting for a playoff spot in the NFC, while the Bengals look to play the role of spoiler.

Detroit officially knocked Chicago out of the post-season party last Saturday at Ford Field as they took Da Bears to task, winning 20-10 in the Motor City. Detroit led from start to finish and took a 13-3 lead at the intermission in the NFC North rematch, outrushing Chicago 91-43 and picking off Mitch Trubisky (314 yards, TD) three times. For Detroit, Matt Stafford suffered no ill effects from the hand injury he suffered in Baltimore, throwing for 237 yards and a pair of TDs in the win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Chicago on third down went 5 of 12 (Da Bears were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 30:55, while the Lions went 6 of 13 on third down, holding the ball for 29:05.

Cincinnati found themselves out of the playoffs and saw Minnesota clinch the NFC North title with a 38-7 loss against the Vikings at US Bank Stadium. The Vikings shut out Cincinnati for the first three quarters as they scored their first 27 points unchallenged (they led 20-0 at the half), then held the Bengals to a 6-yard run by HB Giovanni Bernard with 6:22 left in the contest, when the game was all but settled. Minnesota outrushed the Bengals 124-46 and sacked Andy Dalton three times and picked him off twice, while Case Keenum threw for 236 yards and a pair of TDs, connecting with WR Sean Diggs and TE Kyle Rudolph on both tosses. Minnesota was 4 of 12 on third down tries in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, while keeping the ball for 35:52. As for the Bengals? They were a somewhat dismal 1 of 13 on third down, went 1 of 3 on fourth down and held the ball for 24:08.

Cincinnati leads the series 8-3, which includes contests that took place at the Silverdome, Riverfront and Tiger Stadiums, they have outscored Detroit 274-222 and have won the last five meetings, including taking a 27-24 win in the Motor City in 2013, while Detroit’s last win came in Cincinnati in 1992 by a final of 19-13. Detroit’s favored by 5 in Cincy and the over/under’s 43. Both numbers make a lot of sense. Cincinnati is not going to the post-season, while the Lions are hoping that they have a spot at the post-season party. If nothing else, things could get a little catty in Cincy. Lions cover the 5 and win along the shores of the Ohio River.

Los Angeles Rams (10-4) at Tennessee (8-6), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 713. Hollywood meets Dollywood as the Los Angeles Rams travel to the Music City for a showdown at Nissan Stadium with Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans.

The Rams got revenge on Seattle last Sunday in the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks, taking down the Seahawks 42-7 at CenturyLink Field. Los Angeles scored the first 40 points of the game unchallenged, leading 34-0 at halftime and 40-0 lat in the third quarter before Seattle ended the Rams’ dreams of a shutout when Russell Wilson and TE Luke Willson hooked up on a 26-yard toss with 87 seconds left in the period. Los Angeles then put Seahawks fans out of their misery when Wilson was sacked in the endzone for a safety. Seattle was outrushed by the Rams 244-78 and Todd Gurley led everyone with 152 rushing yards and three TDs, the longest being 57 yards with 28 seconds left before the half. Wilson threw for 142 yards and the lone TD but was sacked seven times, while Jared Goff threw for 120 yards and a pair of TDs (one toss going to Gurley, the other going to WR Robert Woods). The Rams went 6 of 16 on third down (1 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 36:46, while the Seahawks, who lost three of their last five games, kept the pigskin for 23:14 and went 4 of 14 on third down conversions in the Paciifc Northwest.

The Titans checked themselves into the Heartbreak Hotel after their 25-23 loss to San Francisco last Sunday in Santa Clara with a game-winning field goal as time expired. San Francisco led 16-10 at the intermission before allowing the Titans to storm back in the second half, outscoring the 49ers 10-9. Tennessee led 23-22 with 67 seconds lefr thanks to a 50-yard field goal by Ryan Succop before San Francisco went to work to take the win, using a 7-play, 48-yard drive that took all of the 67 seconds and ended with Gould’s 45-yard effort. Tennessee managed to outrush San Francisco 90-51 but 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 381 yards and a TD, while Marcus Mariota threw for 341 yards and a pair of TDs. Both clubs were 50 percent on third down tries (Tennessee was 6 of 12, San Francisco was 7 of 14) and the Titans were 1 of 1 on fourth down, holding the ball for 27:25, while the 49ers ruled the clock and held the pigskin for 32:35.

Including games in St. Louis and Houston, when the Titans were known as the Oilers, Los Angeles leads the series 6-5, while the Titans have outscored the Rams 247-229, taking wins in the last two meetings, including a 28-21 win in St. Louis in 2013, while the Rams were 31-27 winners in the Gateway City in 2005. The Rams are favored by 6 1/2 in the Music City and the over/under’s 48 1/2. Both numbers make sense. Both clubs are looking for an invite to the playoff party in two weeks. The Titans are trying to catch Jacksonville in the AFC South, while the Rams want to remain as king of the mountain in the NFC  West. Rams take a huge step toward winning the NFC West and wins in Music City, covering the 6 1/2.

Jacksonville (10-4) at San Francisco (4-10), 4:05 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. A pair of improving teams meet in wine country as Jacksonville travels to Santa Clara for a late-afternoon contest with the San Francisco 49ers.

The Jaguars advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 when they took Houston to the woodshed last Sunday in Jacksonville, taking a 45-7 win over the Texans at EverBank Field. Jacksonville clawed their way to a 31-0 lead at the break and held the Texans to a third quarter TD with 8:12 left in that quarter when Tyler Yates and WR DeAndre Hopkins connected on a 25-yard strike. Jacksonville outrushed Houston 138-87 and sacked Yates (128 yards) four times and picked him off once. Jacksonville, led by Blake Bortles’ 326 yards of passing (three TDs), went 3 of 10 on third down tries and kept the ball for 33:18, while the struggling Texans kept the pigskin for 26:42 and went 4 of 16 on third down tries in the Sunshine State.

Robbie Gould sent 49ers fans home happy after their 25-23 win over Tennessee last Sunday in Santa Clara with a game-winning field goal as time expired. San Francisco, who doubled their win total from 2016 (they were 2-14) led 16-10 at the intermission before allowing the Titans to storm back in the second half, outscoring the 49ers 10-9. Tennessee led 23-22 with 67 seconds lefr thanks to a 50-yard field goal by Ryan Succop before San Francisco went to work to take the win, using a 7-play, 48-yard drive that took all of the 67 seconds and ended with Gould’s 45-yard effort. Tennessee managed to outrush San Francisco 90-51 but 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 381 yards and a TD, while Marcus Mariota threw for 341 yards and a pair of TDs. Both clubs were 50 percent on third down tries (Tennessee was 6 of 12, San Francisco was 7 of 14) and the Titans were 1 of 1 on fourth down, holding the ball for 27:25, while the 49ers ruled the clock and held the pigskin for 32:35.

They’ve only met four times and the series is even at 2-2. San Francisco has outscored the Jaguars 74-64 and the 49ers have won the last two meetings, including a 42-10 win in 2013 in London, while the Jaguars’ last win came in the Sunshine State by a final of 10-9 in 2005. Jacksonville’s favored by 4 1/2 and the over/under is 42 1/2. San Francisco’s played some pretty decent football of late, while the Jaguars want to make history and at least host one playoff game in the Sunshine State. Jacksonville covers the 4 1/2 in wine country and takes the win.

New York Giants (2-12) at Arizona (6-8), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 715. A pair of teams that will not make the playoff party meet in the desert as Eli Manning and the New York Giants travel to Glendale for a late afternoon contest with the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Both teams enter the contest with losses on the East coast under their belts.

After leading Philadelphia 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, Philly took a 21-20 at the intermisison, outscored the Giants 13-6 in the final 30 minutes of action and then held off a late New York rally that would have given interim head coach Steve Spagnola the win at home and took the win when Eagles K Josh Elliott connected on a 20-yard field goal with 3:56 left in the contest, dropping a 34-29 NFC East decision to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Philadelphia outrushed the Giants 108-75 and Nick Foles, who took over for Carson Wentz (knee), threw for 237 yards and three TDs, while Manning, in his second contest after he was benched, threw for 434 yards and four TDs (each man was sacked once and Manning threw an interception). The Eagles were 6 of 13 on third down tries in the Meadowlands and kept the ball for 30:53, while the Giants held the ball for 29:07, going 10 of 18 on third down tries (both clubs were 0 of 1 on fourth down).

Arizona’s playoff hopes were crushed in Landover by the Redskins as Washington came away 20-15 winners at FedEx Field. Washington led 14-9 at the half and held Arizona in check the rest of the way. The Desert Angry Birds would eventually pull themselves to within 2 with 13:37 left in the third on a 34-yard field goal by Pat Dawson before the Redskins took control of things in the contest. While Arizona outrushed Washington 141-31, Kirk Cousins threw for 196 yards and a pair of TDs, while Arizona Blaine Gabbard threw for 189 yards with five sacks and an interception. The Redskins were 1 of 9 on third down and kept the ball for 23:44, while Arizona kept the pigskin for 36:16, going 4 of 19 on third down and 2 of 3 on fourth down.

Including games that were played at Yankee Stadium and New Haven when the Giants played in those stadiums and games played in Chicago and St. Louis when the Cardinals called those cities home, the Giants lead the series 80-43-2 and have outscored the Desert Angry Birds 2,760-2,151. Arizona won the last meeting with Big Blue, taking a 25-14 win in 2014 in the Meadowlands, while New York’s last win came in the desert in 2011 by a final of 31-27. Arizona’s favored by 4 1/2 in the desert and the over/under’s 40. Take a pass on this one and make that last-minute trip to get that ugly sweater for your cousin Larry. Arizona puts Giants fans a little closer out of their misery and wins at home, covering the 4 1/2 in the process.

Seattle (8-6) at Dallas (8-6), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 716. It’s basically an elimination game in the Lone Star State as the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys meet in a game of football “Survivor,” with the winner still having some playoff hope, while the loser is done for the year.

Seattle found themselves being taken to task by the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday in the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks, as the Rams took down the Seahawks 42-7 at CenturyLink Field. Los Angeles took control of things early and scored the first 40 points of the game unchallenged, leading 34-0 at halftime and 40-0 lat in the third quarter before Seattle ended the Rams’ dreams of a shutout when Russell Wilson and TE Luke Willson hooked up on a 26-yard toss with 87 seconds left in the period. Los Angeles then put Seahawks fans out of their misery when Wilson was sacked in the endzone for a safety. Seattle was outrushed by the Rams 244-78 and Todd Gurley led everyone with 152 rushing yards and three TDs, the longest being 57 yards with 28 seconds left before the half. Wilson threw for 142 yards and the lone TD but was sacked seven times, while Jared Goff threw for 120 yards and a pair of TDs (one toss going to Gurley, the other going to WR Robert Woods). The Rams went 6 of 16 on third down (1 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 36:46, while the Seahawks, who lost three of their last five games, kept the pigskin for 23:14 and went 4 of 14 on third down conversions in the Paciifc Northwest.

Dallas, who gets RB Ezekiel Elliott back from his 6-game suspension, led Oakland 10-0 at the half last Sunday night on the West Coast, then survived a late Raiders rally and escaped northern California with a 20-17 win. Oakland rallied in the second half and managed to tie things up at 17-17 with 10:35 left in regulation when Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree connected on a 2-yard TD pass. Later in the quarter, the Cowboys used an 11-play, 69-yard drive that took 4:46 to take the lead back when K Dan Bailey connected on a 19-yard field goal with 1:44 left. The Raiders were not about to go away, got the ball back and got as close as the Cowboys’ 8-yard line, when Carr tried to run the ball in to take the lead with 39 seconds left but fumbled the pigskin through the endzone, giving Dallas the ball back on their 20-yard line. Dallas then ran out the clock and took the win. Dallas outrushed Oakland 126-122 and Dak Prescott threw for 212 yards and had a rushing TD in the contest, while Carr threw for 171 yards and the two TDs tosses to Crabtree. Dallas was 2 of 10 on third down tries but was successful on fourth down, going 2 of 2 and kept the ball for 32:20, while the Silver and Black went 8 of 15 on third down, keeping the ball for 27:40.

Dallas leads the series 10-6 and they have outscored Seattle 399-283. Seattle did come away with a win in their last meeting with Dallas in the Lone Star State, coming away 13-12 winners in 2015, while Dallas won in the Pacific Northwest in 2014 by a final of 30-23.

The boys and girls in Vegas like the Cowboys as 4 1/2 point favorites in the Lone Star State and the over/under’s 47. The winner’s hopes are still alive and will get more hope in their stocking. As for the loser? They’ll get knocked out of the playoffs and a lump of coal in their stockings. Both are trying to catch Atlanta for that last playoff spot (Atlanta has the tiebreaker with both teams) and both know they’re on the football naughty list. Seahawks get themselves off the list and pulls the upset in the Lone Star State.

Pittsburgh (11-3) at Houston (4-10), 4:30 p.m. Monday on NBC and NFL Network. It’s the first of two Christmas Day games as the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Houston to face off against the struggling Texans at NRG Stadium.

Pittsburgh comes into the Christmas Day contest in less-than Jolly mood after blowing a 17-10 lead against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and came up on the short end of a 27-24 loss at Heinz Field last Sunday. The Steelers led 24-19 with 56 seconds left in regulation when New England’s Deion Lewis scored on an 8-yard run and took the lead when Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski, coming off his one-game suspension, hooked up on the two-point try to take the 3-point lead. Steelers fans had their hopes dashed twice in the contest. Pittsburgh got the ball back and marched downfield, getting as close as New England’s 10-yard line when Ben Roethlisberger and TE Jesse James connected on what they thought would be the game-winning score. The play was reviewed and the call was changed from catch to no catch. After that, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey caught a short pass to New England’s 7-yard line and the Steelers scrambled to the line without any times and Roethlisberger threw a pass into the endzone that was deflected and picked off by Duron Harmon. New England ran out the clock and took the win.

Pittsburgh outrushed New England 143-77, with LeVeon Bell leading all rushers with 117 yards, while Roethlisbeger threw for 281 yards and a TD. Pittsburgh also lost the services of All-Pro WR Antonio Brown, who had 24 yards on two catches before leaving the contest with a torn calf muscle (Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster had 114 yards on six catches for the Steelers), while Brady threw for 298 yards and a TD (both were sacked twice and both threw an interception). Pittsburgh on third down went 10 of 16 and kept the ball for 35:07, while the Pats were 24:53 in time of possession, going 3 of 9 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down at Heinz Field.

The dismal season for the Texans continued in the Sunshine State as Jacksonville took them to task last Sunday at EverBank Field, dropping a 45-7 AFC South decision. Houston had a problem and trailed Jacksonville 31-0 lead at the break, as the Jaguars held the Texans to a third quarter TD with 8:12 left in that quarter when Tyler Yates and WR DeAndre Hopkins connected on a 25-yard strike. Jacksonville outrushed Houston 138-87 and sacked Yates (128 yards) four times and picked him off once. Jacksonville, led by Blake Bortles’ 326 yards of passing (three TDs), went 3 of 10 on third down tries and kept the ball for 33:18, while the struggling Texans kept the pigskin for 26:42 and went 4 of 16 on third down tries in the Sunshine State.

The Steelers lead the series 3-2, Pittsburgh has outscored Houston 111-88 and won their last meeting with the Texans, coming away 30-23 winners in the Steel City in 2014, while the Texans were 17-10 winners in 2011 at then-Reliant Stadium.  Pittsburgh’s favored by 10 and the over/under’s 44. The 44 makes sense. The 10 is a little high. While the Texans have at times played some pretty good football, they’re not the same without Watt or Watson. Pittsburgh takes the win but expect Houston to give the Steelers a hard time in the Lone Star State.

Oakland (6-8) at Philadelphia (12-2), 8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN. The final Monday night game of the season takes place on Christmas Night in the City of Brotherly Love as Philadelphia hosts the Oakland Raiders at Lincoln Financial Field.

Oakland trailed Dallas 10-0 at the half last Sunday night on the West Coast, then rallied to even things up, only to see their playoff hopes wither away as the Cowboys survived a late Raiders rally, taking a 20-17 loss. Oakland rallied in the second half and managed to tie things up at 17-17 with 10:35 left in regulation when Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree connected on a 2-yard TD pass. Later in the quarter, the Cowboys used an 11-play, 69-yard drive that took 4:46 to take the lead back when K Dan Bailey connected on a 19-yard field goal with 1:44 left. The Raiders were not about to go away, got the ball back and got as close as the Cowboys’ 8-yard line, when Carr tried to run the ball in to take the lead with 39 seconds left but fumbled the pigskin through the endzone, giving Dallas the ball back on their 20-yard line. Dallas then ran out the clock and took the win. Dallas outrushed Oakland 126-122 and Dak Prescott threw for 212. yards and had a rushing TD in the contest, while Carr threw for 171 yards and the two TDs tosses to Crabtree. Dallas was 2 of 10 on third down tries but was successful on fourth down, going 2 of 2 and kept the ball for 32:20, while the Silver and Black went 8 of 15 on third down, keeping the ball for 27:40.

The Eagles have an NFL-best 12-2 record and have already clinched the NFC East and a first-round bye and got that bye thanks to a 34-29 win over the New York Giants at Met Life Stadium last Sunday. After erasing a 14-7 deficit at the end of the first quarter, Philly took a 21-20 at the intermisison, outscored the Giants 13-6 in the final 30 minutes of action and then held off a late New York rally that would have given interim head coach Steve Spagnola the win at home and took the win when Eagles K Josh Elliott connected on a 20-yard field goal with 3:56 left in the contest. Philadelphia outrushed the Giants 108-75 and Nick Foles, who took over for Carson Wentz (knee), threw for 237 yards and three TDs, while Eli Manning, in his second contest after he was benched, threw for 434 yards and four TDs (each man was sacked once and Manning threw an interception). The Eagles were 6 of 13 on third down tries in the Meadowlands and kept the ball for 30:53, while the Giants held the ball for 29:07, going 10 of 18 on third down tries (both clubs were 0 of 1 on fourth down).

While the Eagles lead the series 6-5 (which includes games that were played in Los Angeles when the Raiders called that city home), the Raiders have outscored the Eagles 232-209. Philly won the last meeting with the Silver and Black in 2013, taking a 49-20 win in Oakland, while the Raiders were 13-9 winners in Oakland in 2009. The Eagles are favored by 9 and the over/under is 47 1/2. Both numbers make sense. While the Eagles have a Monday night win under their belts this year, taking Washington to task in week seven at home, Oakland is 38-27-1 under the primetime lights and won their only meeting last year. The Raiders are all but out of the post-season, while the Eagles want to stay home for the post-season. There’s no place like home for the playoffs and the Eagles can cancel that trip to the airport. Philly covers the 9 like cheese on a cheesesteak sandwich and takes the win at home.

 

Two spots have been clinched.

Ten more remain and some could be clinched this weekend.

Sunday action in week 15 gets underway. While Washington (5-8), Tampa Bay (4-9), Chicago (4-9), San Francsico (3-10), New York Giants (2-11), Houston (4-9), Denver (4-9), Indianapolis (3-10) and Cleveland (0-13) will not be invited to the post-seaosn party, other teams are hoping that their invite are in the mail.

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the suspense continues to build as teams make their final playoff push. Twenty-three teams remain in contention for a trip to Super Bowl LII.

So as we approach the final three weeks of the regular season, there are still 10 playoff berths up for grabs.

The Steelers will host the New England Patriots (10-3) at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon at 4:25 p.m. on CBS in a showdown between the teams with the best records in the AFC. Pittsburgh will clinch a first-round bye with a win and the Steelers will also secure the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win combined with a Jacksonville loss. The Patriots will lock up the AFC East with a win or a Buffalo loss. New England will clinch a playoff berth with a Baltimore loss. The Jaguars (9-4), who lead the AFC South by one game over Tennessee (8-5), will secure a playoff berth with a win against Houston. There are also various scenarios for Jacksonville to advance to the postseason this week even if the Jaguars lose.

The Eagles will secure a first-round bye with a win and will claim home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win combined with a Minnesota loss. By winning the NFC East, Philadelphia has completed a “worst-to-first” turnaround and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. The Vikings (10-3) will lock up the NFC North with a victory or losses by both Detroit and Green Bay. There are also various scenarios for Minnesota to advance to the postseason this week even if the Vikings lose. The Los Angeles Rams (9-4) can clinch a playoff berth with a win combined with losses by Atlanta, Detroit, Green Bay and New Orleans.

SEVEN FROM SUNDAY: The Philadelphia Eagles improved to 11-2 and clinched the NFC East division title with a 43-35 victory at the Los Angeles Rams. The Eagles, who finished in last place in the division in 2016, completed a “worst-to-first” turnaround. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

The Rams and Eagles entered the Sunday game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with each averaging 30.1 points per game, tied for the highest mark in the NFL this season. Today’s contest was the second matchup in December or later between two teams averaging at least 30 points per game since the 1970 merger. The only other instance since 1970 took place on December 11, 1983 between Washington and Dallas.

•Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passed for 319 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s 30-13 win over Washington. Rivers has 3,611 passing yards this season and reached the 3,500-yard mark for the 10th consecutive season (2008-17).

Rivers is the third quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 3,500 yards in 10 consecutive seasons, joining Peyton Manning (13, 1998-2010) and Drew Brees (13, 2005-17).

•Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had a 62-yard run to the Minnesota eight-yard line to set up the game-winning touchdown in the Panthers’ 31-24 win over the Vikings in Charlotte. Newton, who had a 69-yard run in Week 10, is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have multiple 60+ yard rushes in a single season.

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, who scored the game-winning touchdown on a one-yard run with 1:47 remaining in the game, rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. He is the second player in franchise history (Tim Biakabutuka, October 3, 1999) to rush for at least 100 yards and three touchdowns on fewer than 20 carries.

•Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had 44 receiving yards in the Cardinals’ 12-7 win over Tennessee in Glendale. Fitzgerald has 15,311 career receiving yards and surpassed Randy Moss (15,292) to move into third place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards list. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (22,895) and Terrell Owens (15,934) have more career receiving yards in league history.

•Chicago running back Jordan Howard rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears’ 33-7 win at Cincinnati. Howard, who rushed for 1,313 yards as a rookie last year, has 1,032 rushing yards this season. He is the first player in franchise history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons.

Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky passed for 271 yards with a touchdown and added a four-yard touchdown run in today’s win. He is the first rookie quarterback in team history with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in a single game since Jim McMahon in 1982 (December 5, 1982).

•Green Bay defeated Cleveland 27-21 in overtime. Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams had two touchdown catches – a one-yard score with 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the game-winning 25-yarder in overtime – in the win.

The Packers, who won on a 20-yard touchdown run by rookie Aaron Jones in overtime last week against Tampa Bay at Lambeau Field, have scored a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in overtime in the same season for the first time in franchise history.

Green Bay has won back-to-back games in overtime for the first time in team annals.

•Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt had 138 scrimmage yards (116 rushing, 22 receiving) and a rushing touchdown in the Chiefs’ 26-15 win against Oakland at Arrowhead.

Hunt, who has 1,435 scrimmage yards (1,046 rushing, 389 receiving) this season, is the second rookie in franchise history with at least 1,400 scrimmage yards, joining Abner Haynes (1,451 scrimmage yards in 1960).

The Keystone State will be well-respresented in the post as both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh clinched division titles last Sunday. The Eagles were the first team from Pennyslvania to clinch when they won the NFC East by beating the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday afternoon on the West Coast, while the Steelers followed suit Sunday with their 1-point win over Baltimore at Heinz Field.

While those dance cards have been punched, there are still other teams that could very well make the post-season dance this weekend. Some of these scenarios are easy, others could cause more confusion than a mouse in a burlesque show (apologies to Foghorn Leghorn!). Here are the week 15 scenarios.

2017 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 15

AFC

CLINCHED: Pittsburgh – AFC North division title

New England (10-3) at Pittsburgh (11-2)

Pittsburgh clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1. Pittsburgh win + Jacksonville loss or tie​

Pittsburgh clinches a first-round bye with:
1. Pittsburgh win OR
2. Pittsburgh tie + Jacksonville loss

New England (10-3) at Pittsburgh (11-2)

New England clinches AFC East division title with:
1. New England win or tie OR
2. Buffalo loss or tie

New England clinches a playoff berth with:
1. Baltimore loss or tie

Houston (4-9) at Jacksonville (9-4)

Jacksonville clinches a playoff berth with:
1. Jacksonville win OR

2. Jacksonville tie + Buffalo loss or tie OR

3.Jacksonville tie + Baltimore loss or tie OR

4. Buffalo loss + Baltimore loss  OR

5. Baltimore loss + Kansas City-Los Angeles Chargers game does not end in tie

NFC

CLINCHED: Philadelphia – NFC East division title

Philadelphia (11-2) at New York Giants (2-11)

Philadelphia clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1. Philadelphia win + Minnesota loss

Philadelphia clinches a first-round bye with:

1. Philadelphia win  OR
2. Philadelphia tie + Los Angeles Rams loss or tie + New Orleans loss or tie + Carolina loss or tie

Cincinnati (5-8) at Minnnesota (10-3)

Minnesota clinches NFC North division title with:

1. Minnesota win or tie OR

2. Detroit loss or tie + Green Bay loss or tie

Minnesota clinches a playoff berth with:
1. Seattle loss + Atlanta loss + New Orleans loss OR
2. Seattle loss + Atlanta loss + Carolina loss OR
3. Seattle loss + Atlanta loss + Detroit loss or tie OR
4. Seattle loss + Atlanta tie + New Orleans loss + Detroit loss or tie OR
5. Seattle loss + Atlanta tie + NNew Orleans loss + Carolina loss

Los Angeles Rams (9-4) at Seattle (8-5)

Los Angeles Rams clinch a playoff berth with:

1. Los Angeles Rams win + Detroit loss or tie + Green Bay loss or tie + New Orleans loss + Atlanta loss

THE WEEK THAT WAS – WEEK 14

TERRIFIC TURNAROUND: Philadelphia defeated the Los Angeles Rams 43-35 last week to clinch the NFC East title for the first time since 2013.

The Eagles, who finished in last place in the division in 2016, completed a “worst-to-first” turnaround. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Of the 45 teams in league history to go from “worst-to-first,” 22 of them have done so in the past 15 years (2003-17), including an NFL-record three such teams in 2005 and 2006.

Entering Week 15, six of eight divisions have a team in or tied for first place that finished in third place or worse in its division last year. Three other teams who finished in last place in 2016 – Carolina, Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Chargers – are currently in or tied for first place. If all three of those teams join the Eagles as division champions, it would mark the most “worst-to-first” turnaround teams in a single season in NFL history.

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their division since 2003:

SEASON – TEAM (RECORD; PRIOR SEASON RECORD)
2003 – Carolina (11-5; 7-9)
2003 – Kansas City (13-3; 8-8)**
2004 – Atlanta (11-5; 5-11)
2004 – San Diego (12-4; 4-12)
2005 – Chicago (11-5; 5-11)
2005 – New York Giants (11-5; 6-10)**
2005 – Tampa Bay (11-5; 5-11)
2006 – Baltimore (13-3; 6-10)**
2006 – New Orleans (10-6; 3-13)
2006 – Philadelphia (10-6; 6-10)
2007 – Tampa Bay (9-7; 4-12)
2008 – Miami (11-5; 1-15)
2009 – New Orleans (13-3; 8-8)***
2010 – Kansas City (10-6; 4-12)
2011 – Denver (8-8; 4-12)
2011 – Houston (10-6; 6-10)**
2012 – Washington (10-6; 5-11)
2013 – Carolina (12-4; 7-9)**
2013 – Philadelphia (10-6; 4-12)
2015 – Washington (9-7; 4-12)
2016 – Dallas (13-3; 4-12)
2017 – Philadelphia (11-2; 7-9)*
* Through Week 14
** Tied for last place
*** Won Super Bowl

The Eagles and Rams entered Week 14 with records of 10-2 and 9-3, respectively, and tied for the league lead in points per game (30.1). The two teams combined for 78 points on Sunday, marking the highest scoring game in NFL history between two teams who each entered the game with a record at least six games above .500.

STELLAR STEELERS: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 44 of 66 passes (66.7 percent) for 506 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 99.7 passer rating in the Steelers’ 39-38 win over Baltimore in Week 14.

Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 500 yards three times in his career, having also accomplished the feat on October 26, 2014 (522 yards vs. Indianapolis) and December 20, 2009 (503 vs. Green Bay). New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is the only other player with multiple career 500-yard passing games.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown had 11 receptions for 213 yards and running back Le’Veon Bell had 125 scrimmage yards (77 receiving, 48 rushing) with three touchdowns in Week 14. Bell, who leads the league with 1,684 scrimmage yards, and Brown, who leads the NFL with 1,509 receiving yards, are the first pair of teammates in NFL history with at least 1,500 scrimmage yards each through their team’s first 13 games of a season.

Brown has six games with at least 10 catches and 100 receiving yards this season, tied for the second-most in a single season in NFL history. Only Andre Johnson (seven in 2008) had more such games in a season.

The players with the most games with at least 10 catches and 100 receiving yards in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(GAMES WITH 10+ CATCHES AND 100+ RECEIVING YARDS IN SINGLE SEASON)
Andre Johnson, Houston (2008)(7)
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (2017)(6)*
Calvin Johnson, Detroit (2012)(6)
Wes Welker, New England (2009)(6)
*Through Week 14

PACKERS PERFORM UNDER PRESSURE: Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams had two touchdown catches – a one-yard score with 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the game-winning 25-yarder in overtime – in the Packers’ 27-21 win at Cleveland.

Adams became the fourth player in NFL history (including the postseason) to score a touchdown in both the final minute of the fourth quarter and in overtime and the first since New England’s James White accomplished the feat in Super Bowl LI.

The players to score a touchdown in both the final minute of the fourth quarter and in overtime in a single game in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (DATE)
Davante Adams, Green Bay (December 10, 2017)
James White, New England (February 5, 2017)*
Terrell Owens, San Francisco (October 14, 2001)
Wesley Walker, New York Jets (September 21, 1986)
*Super Bowl LI

The Packers, who won on a 20-yard touchdown run by rookie Aaron Jones in overtime in Week 13, have won back-to-back games in overtime for the first time in team history. Green Bay has also joined the 2001 Chicago Bears as the only teams in NFL history to score an overtime touchdown in consecutive games.

TEAM, SEASON (WEEK – OVERTIME TD)(WEEK – OVERTIME TD)
Green Bay, 2017 (13 – Aaron Jones 20-yard run)(14 – Davante Adams 25-yard catch)
Chicago, 2001 (7 – Mike Brown 33-yard INT return)(8 – Mike Brown 16-yard INT return)

RIVERS RUNS THROUGH DEFENSES: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passed for 319 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 114.9 passer rating in the team’s 30-13 win over Washington last week.

Rivers, who ranks fourth in the NFL with 3,611 passing yards, has at least 3,500 passing yards in 10 consecutive seasons and joined Peyton Manning (13, 1998-2010) and Drew Brees (13, 2005-17) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to accomplish the feat.

The quarterbacks with at least 3,500 passing yards in 10+ consecutive seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (SEASONS)(CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH 3,500 PASS YARDS)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis (1998-2010)(13)
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (2005-2017)(13)*
Philip Rivers – San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (2008-2017)(10)*
*Active streak

WONDERFUL WILSON: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to wide receivers Paul Richardson (61 yards) and Tyler Lockett (74 yards) in the Seahawks’ loss at Jacksonville in Week 14.

Wilson is the first quarterback with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes of at least 60 yards in a single game since Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner connected with Torry Holt (85 yards) and Isaac Bruce (66) on September 24, 2000.

Wilson has 17 fourth-quarter touchdown passes this season and surpassed Eli Manning (15 in 2011) for the most in a single season in NFL history.

The players with the most fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(4TH QUARTER TD PASSES)
Russell Wilson, Seattle (2017)(17)*
Eli Manning, New York Giants (2011)(15)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (2016)(14)
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville (2015)(14)
Peyton Manning, Denver (2013)(14)
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (2002)(14)
Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts (1959)(14)^
*Through Week 14
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

MAGNIFICENT MC COY: Buffalo running back Le Sean McCoy rushed for 156 yards, including the game-winning 21-yard touchdown in overtime, in the Bill’s 13-7 win against Indianapolis last week in upstate New York.

McCoy, who has 10 career games with at least 150 rushing yards, joined Arizona’s Adrian Peterson (19) as the only active players with at least 10 such games in their careers.

The active players with the most career games with at least 150 rushing yards:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (CAREER GAMES WITH 150+ RUSH YARDS)
Adrian Peterson – Minnesota, New Orleans and Arizona (19)
LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia and Buffalo (10)
Jamaal Charles – Kansas City and Denver (9)

CLUTCH KICKER: Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell converted the game-winning 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ Week 14 win over Baltimore.

Boswell, who made game-winning field goals as time expired in the fourth quarter in both Weeks 12 and 13, is the first kicker since the 1970 merger to make a game-winning field goal with under one minute remaining in the fourth quarter in three consecutive games.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – WEEK 15

STELLAR STEELER: Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown has 9,886 receiving yards in his eight-year NFL career.

Brown, who will play in his 115th career game on Sunday against New England, can tie Calvin Johnson (115) for the fewest games to reach 10,000 receiving yards in NFL history when the Steelers square off against New England in Pittsburgh.

The players to reach 10,000 career receiving yards in the fewest games in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (FEWEST GAMES TO 10,000 RECIEVING YARDS)
Calvin Johnson, Detroit (115)
Torry Holt, St. Louis (116)
Lance Alworth, San Diego (120)^
Jerry Rice, San Francisco (121)^
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (122)^
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (114)*
*Has 9,886 career receiving yards
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Brown, who leads the NFL with 1,509 receiving yards and ties for second with nine touchdown receptions, can become the first player in NFL history with at least 1,600 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches in three different seasons, breaking a tie with Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison. Brown also accomplished the feat in 2014 and 2015.

With a touchdown catch on Sunday, Brown will record his fourth consecutive season with at least 1,200 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth and Randy Moss for the third-longest streak in NFL history.

The players with the most consecutive seasons with at least 1,200 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS)(MOST CONSECUTIVE 1,200 RECIEVING YARD AND 10 TD SEASONS)
Jerry Rice, San Francisco (1989-1995)(7)^
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (1999-2003)(5)^
Lance Alworth, San Diego (1963-1966)(4)^
Randy Moss, Minnesota (1998-2001)(4)
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (2014-2016)(3)*
*Has 1,509 rec. yards and nine TD catches through Week 14
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

CATCH ME IF YOU CAM: Carolina’s Cam Newton leads all NFL quarterbacks with 585 rushing yards this season.

Newton, who plays against Green Bay on Sunday, can tie Michael Vick (four) for the most seasons with at least 600 rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history. Newton also accomplished the feat in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

The quarterbacks with the most seasons of at least 600 rushing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER (TEAMS)(SEASONS WITH 600+ RUSHING YARDS)
Michael Vick (Atlanta and Philadelphia)(4)
Cam Newton (Carolina)(3)*
Randall Cunningham (Philadelphia)(3)
*Has 585 rushing yards through Week 14

PULVERIZING PEPPERS: Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers has 9.5 sacks this season and is closing in on his 10th career season with at least 10 sacks.

Peppers can join Pro Football Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (13), Reggie White (12) and Kevin Greene (10) as the only players in NFL history to have at least 10 seasons with 10+ sacks.

The players with the most seasons with at least 10 sacks in NFL history:

PLAYER (TEAMS)(SEASONS WITH 10+ SACKS)
Bruce Smith Buffalo and Washington (13)^
Reggie White (Philadelphia and Green Bay) (12)^
Kevin Greene (Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh, Carolina and San Francisco) (10)^
Julius Peppers (Carolina, Chicago and Green Bay) (9)*
*Has 9.5 sacks through Week 14
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

WONDERFUL WILSON: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson ranks second in the NFL with 29 touchdown passes and is second among NFL quarterbacks with 482 rushing yards.

Wilson, who plays against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, can become the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 30 touchdown passes and 500 rushing yards in multiple seasons, having also accomplished the feat in 2015. Randall Cunningham and Cam Newton are the only other quarterbacks to reach the marks in a single season.

The players with at least 30 touchdown passes and 500 rushing yards in a season in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(TD PASSES)(RUSHING YARDS)
Cam Newton, Carolina (2015)(35)(636)
Russell Wilson, Seattle (2015)(34)(553)
Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia (1990)(30)(942)
Russell Wilson, Seattle (2017)(29)(482)*
*Through Week 14

BURSTING ON THE SCENE: New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas, who had 92 receptions as a rookie last year, ranks second in the NFC with 85 catches this season.

Thomas, who faces the New York Jets this week, needs five receptions to join Odell Beckham, Jr. as the only players in NFL history to have at least 90 catches in each of their first two NFL seasons. Beckham (2014-16) reached 90+ receptions in each of his first three NFL seasons.

BREES FOR 70K: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees ranks third in NFL history with 69,680 career passing yards.

Brees, who plays against the New York Jets on Sunday, needs 320 yards to join Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre (71,838 passing yards) and Peyton Manning (71,940) as the only players in NFL history with at least 70,000 career passing yards.

The players with 70,000 career passing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER (TEAMS)(CAREER PASS YARDS)
Peyton Manning (Indianapolis and Denver)(71,940)
Brett Favre (Green Bay, New York Jets and Minnesota)(71,838)^
Drew Brees (San Diego and New Orleans)(69,680)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Brees, who will be playing in his 247th career game, would reach the milestone in the fewest games played.

The players to reach 70,000 career passing yards in the fewest games played:

PLAYER (TEAMS)(GAMES TO 70,000 CAREER PASS YARDS)
Peyton Manning (Indianapolis and Denver)(258)
Brett Favre (Green Bay, New York Jets and Minnesota)(293)^
Drew Brees (San Diego and New Orleans)(246)*
*Has 69,680 career passing yards
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Week 15 got underway Thursday night as the Broncos defeated the Indianapolis Colts 25-13 in the Hoosier State, while the Lions met Chicago in the Motor City Saturday afternoon and beat Da Bears 20-10 at Ford Field and the Chargers held off the Los Angeles Chargers 30-13 at Arrowhead Saturday night in the Show-Me State. The action continues Sunday as there are six rematches with Sunday play concluding on the West Coast in northern California as the Raiders host Dallas in a Sunday night primetime contest at 8:30 on NBC and week 15 play concludes when Atlanta and Tampa Bay meet in the Sunshine State in a week 12 rematch on Monday night at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

As for last week? Another 9-7 week. Not bad. For the season? 124-85. Here are the Sunday and Monday picks for week 15.

Miami (6-7) at Buffalo (7-6), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 705. A pair of contending AFC East rivals, chasing New England, meet in upstate New York, as Buffalo hosts the Miami Dolphins at New Era Stadium. Both won their contests last week in their home ballparks.

The Dolphins delayed New England’s plans to clinch the AFC East last Monday night with a 27-20 win over Tom Brady and the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Miami led 13-10 at the break, then held off a late New England second half rally to take the win in the Sunshine State. Miami’s Kenyan Drake led all rushers with 114 yards in the Monday night affair, as his team outrushed New England 120-25, while Jay Cutler threw for 263 yards with three TDs (Brady threw for 233 yards with a TD, while he was sacked twice and picked off twice). Miami was 4 of 14 on third down (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 36:09, while the Pats were 0 of 11 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 23:51.

Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy ran for 156 yards and the game winning TD in overtime as the Bills defeated Indianapolis 13-7 at snowy New Era Stadium last Sunday. The Bills led 7-0 at the break, then saw the Colts tie things up with 76 seconds left in regulation when TE Jack Doyle and QB Jacoby Brissett connected on a 3-yard TD strike, sending the contest into overtime. Buffalo won the toss in overtime but failed to score in their first possession and the Colts did likewise when they had the ball in the overtime. The Bills then got the ball back after a Colts punt with 2:25 left in the extra period and they wasted little time to take the win, using a five-play, 65-yard drive that took 52 seconds, sending their fans home happy if not warm when LeSean McCoy dashed through the snow and scored from 21 yards out to take the win. Buffalo rushed for 227 yards, while the Colts tallied 163 in the overtime loss. Brisset threw for 65 yards while Nick Peterman threw for 57. The Colts went 4 of 16 on third down, 3 of 4 on fourth down and held the ball for 36:02, while Buffalo kept the pigskin for 32:25, going 10 of 18 on third down and 0 of 1 on fourth down.

Miami leads the series 59-42-1, have outscored the Bills 2,189-1,953 and swept last year’s AFC East meetings (Buffalo’s last win in the series came in 2015 when they swept the series that season.)

The first meeting? Week seven in the Sunshine State. Miami erased a 10-6 halftime deficit at Hard Rock Stadium and came away with a 28-25 in the process. Miami, who outrushed Buffalo 256-67 with Joseph Ajayi leading the way with 214 yards, held off a late Bills’ rally in the fourth quarter when Reggie Bush scored from a yard out with 14 seconds left. Ryan Tannehill threw for 204 yards for Miami, while Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor threw for 221 yards (each threw a TD pass, Taylor was sacked four times, while Tannehill was sacked once and each did not throw an interception). Buffalo on third down went 3 of 13 and kept the ball for 22:58, while the Dolphins kept the ball for 37:02, going 5 of 12 on third down.

Round two… week 16 in upstate New York. Miami swept the series with the Bills, taking a 34-31 overtime win on Christmas Eve afternoon. Dolphins K Andrew Franks sent the contest into overtime with a 55-yard field goal with six seconds left in regulation (they led 14-7 at the half), then acted in a Grinch-like manner as Franks connected on a 27-yard field goal with 47 seconds left in the overtime. Buffalo did outrush Miami 272-261 but once again, Ajayi was the star of the show, rushing for 206 yards, while Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy ran for 128 (each had a rushing TD in the game). Taylor threw for 329 yards and three TDs in the effort for Buffalo, while Matt Moore, who took over for Tannehill, threw for 233 yards and a pair of TDs. Miami on third down tries? 5 of 12. Buffalo on third down? 8 of 18 (the Bills were 0 of 2 on fourth down) and the clock was the ally of Miami, who held the pigskin for 33:40 to Buffalo’s 40:33.

Buffalo was favored by 3 in the week seven contest in the Sunshine State and the Dolphins won by three, covering the spread. Both clubs covered the 45 over/under, scoring 53 points. Buffalo was favored by three again in the week 16 contest in upstate New York and once again, Miami covered the spread and won by three. The 42 over/under? As was the case in the first meeting, both clubs covered that, this time combining for 65 points. The oddsmakers in Vegas like the Bills as 3 1/2 point favorites and the over/under is 39. Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot, both are trying to catch New England in the AFC East. The winner puts themselves a little closer to their goal, while the loser will find themselves in a hole. Miami pulls the upset on the road in upstate New York and takes the win, covering the 3 1/2/

Green Bay (7-6) at Carolina (9-4), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 710. A pair of teams in the chase for a playoff spot meet in Charlotte as Carolina hosts Green Bay at Bank of America Stadium. The contest could very well mark the return of Aaron Rodgers to the Packers’ lineup after he broke his collarbone at Minnesota.

Green Bay trailed 21-7 after three quarters of play at First Energy Field in Cleveland, then rallied to score their final 20 points of the contest unchallenged to win 27-21 in overtime, while giving the Browns their 13th loss of the season. The Browns let a 121-yard rushing day from Isaiah Crowell get away from them as Green Bay rallied in the fourth to tie the contest up on a one-yard run by rookie RB Davante Adams with 17 seconds left. Cleveland would get the ball to start the overtime but rookie QB DeShone Kizer’s pass was picked off by Josh Jones and the Browns’ best chance for a win came to an end at their 42 yard line. That would be all that Green Bay would need in the extra period, using a 6-play, 42-yard drive that took all of 3:23 when Adams and Brett Hundley connected on a 25-yard TD pass to end the contest. Cleveland outrushed Green Bay 136-85 and Kizer threw for 214 yards with three interceptions, while Hundley threw for 265 yards (each man threw three TDs). Cleveland was 7 of 13 on third down tries in the overtime and kept the ball for 28:38, while Green Bay held the pigskin for 36:17, going 8 of 16 on third down and 2 of 3 on fourth down.

Carolina held off a late Minnesota rally and took a 31-24 win over the Vikings last Sunday afternoon. The Cam Newton-led Panthers led 24-13 at the end of three quarters before Minnesota roared back in the fourth, pulling to within three when WR Adam Theilen (6 catches for 105 yards) and QB Case Keenum connected on a 52-yard TD pass with 5:36 left to play after they picked Newton off and then tied the contest when K Kyle Horbath connected on a 27-yard field goal with 3:07 left in regulation. Carolina would not be outdone and used a 5-play, 75-yard drive that used 80 seconds of clock to take the lead back and for good when RB Jonathan Stewart scored from one yard out with 1:47 left. The Panthers then held off the late Viking rally that would have at best sent the contest into overtime. Stewart rushed for 103 yards and the game-winning score, as Carolina outrushed Minnesota 216-100 and Newton threw for 137 yards and a TD, while Keenum threw for 280 yards but was sacked six times and picked off twice. Carolina was 5 of 15 on third down conversions and held on to the ball for 31:18, while the Vikings, who held the ball for 28:42, went 7 of 15 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down.

Green Bay leads the series 8-5 and the Pack has outscored Carolina 370-300. Carolina won the last meeting between the teams and that took place in 2015 in Charlotte by a final of 37-29, while Green Bay’s last win came in 2014 at Lambeau, with the Packers taking a 38-17 win in the land of beer, cheese and Bratwurst. Carolina’s favored by 3 and the over/under’s 45. Two pretty decent teams with two pretty good qb’s. While this one’s not “DRILL WORTHY,” it’s worth your time. Carolina makes this one close but Packers prevail on the road and pull the upset.

Baltimore (7-6) at Cleveland (0-13), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 706. Baltimore limps into Cleveland after their loss to Pittsburgh to take on a winless Cleveland Browns team along the shores of Lake Erie.

Baltimore let a 31-20 lead at the end of the third quarter get away from them in Pittsburgh as the Steelers clinched the AFC North with 39-38 comeback win last Sunday night at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh led 20-14 at the half before the Ravens struck in the third quarter, holing an 11-point lead before the Steelers took the lead back for keeps with 42 second left when Chris Boswell connected on a 46-yard field goal, then held off a late Ravens rally to take the win. Baltimore outrushed Pittsburgh 152-59, with Ravens RB Alex Collins leading all rushers with 120 yards and a TD, while Le’Veon Bell ran for 48 yards and a pair of TDs for the Steelers. However, Roethlisberger ruled the air, as he passed for 506 yards and a pair TDs, while Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards (each threw a pair of TDs). Baltimore was 4 of 10 on third down tries and kept the ball for 26:10, while the Steelers went 12 of 18 on third down tries last Sunday night, ruling the clock and kept the ball for 33:50.

Cleveland led Green Bay 21-7 after three quarters of play at First Energy Field, only to see the Packers score their final 20 points of the contest unchallenged and dropped a 27-21 overtime decision for their 13th loss of the season. The Browns let a 121-yard rushing day from Isaiah Crowell get away from them as Green Bay rallied in the fourth to tie the contest up on a one-yard run by rookie RB Davante Adams with 17 seconds left. The one bright spot for the Browns was the return of WR Josh Gordon, who came back from his two-year suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and caught his first touchdown pass since Week 15 of 2013 vs Bears. It had been 1,456 days since his last touchdown. Jason Campbell was the last QB to throw a Pass TD to Gordon.Cleveland would get the ball to start the overtime but rookie QB DeShone Kizer’s pass was picked off by Josh Jones and the Browns’ best chance for a win came to an end at their 42 yard line. That would be all that Green Bay would need in the extra period, using a 6-play, 42-yard drive that took all of 3:23 when Adams and Brett Hundley connected on a 25-yard TD pass to end the contest. Cleveland outrushed Green Bay 136-85 and Kizer threw for 214 yards with three interceptions, while Hundley threw for 265 yards (each man threw three TDs). Cleveland was 7 of 13 on third down tries in the overtime and kept the ball for 28:38, while Green Bay held the pigskin for 36:17, going 8 of 16 on third down and 2 of 3 on fourth down. The Browns have now gone 0-13 for the 13th straight season.

It’s a rematch of a week two affair in Baltimore that saw the Ravens win 24-10 in Charm City. in that contest, the Ravens led 21-7 at the half and held the Browns in check in the second half. Baltimore outrushed Cleveland 136-93, Flacco threw for 217 yards and a pair of TDs, while Kizer struggled in the meeting, throwing for 182 yards with three interceptions (both QBs were sacked twice). Baltimore went 4 of 11 on third down tries and held the ball for 33:24, while the Browns were 26:36 in time of possession, going 2 of 12 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down.

Baltimore was favored by 7 1/2 in the week two contest in Charm City and covered the spread, winning by 14 and both clubs combined for 34 points, missing the 43 1/2 over/under. This time, the Ravens are favored by 7 and the over/under is 40. Baltimore wants to get to the playoffs. Browns fans want the season to be over. Ravens will put Cleveland and their fans a little closer out of their misery and take this one on the road and cover the 7 in the process.

Houston (4-9) at Jacksonville (9-4), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 707. The struggling Houston Texans make their way east along I-10 to square off against AFC South rival Jacksonville in the Sunshine State in north Florida.

The Texans trailed San Francisco 13-9 at the half at NRG Stadium last Sunday, then saw the 49ers pull away from them as they fell to San Francisco 26-16. Houston also lost the services of QB Tom Savage after he was knocked out of the contest with a concussion late in the first half. T.J. Yates then took over for Savage in the contest and gets the start against Jacksonville Sunday. San Francisco outrushed Houston 102-90 and Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 334 yards and a TD, while Yates threw for 175 yards and a pair of TDs (Savage threw for 63 yards with a pair of sacks before leaving the contest with the injury). The Texans were 3 of 13 on third down (1 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 25:11, while the 49ers ruled the clock, holding the ball for 34:49, going 2 of 11 on third down in the win.

Jackonsville held off a late Seattle rally in their contest with the Seahawks and came out on top 30-24 victors at EverBank Field. After taking a 3-0 lead with them to the intermission, the first-place Jaguars proceeded to outscore the Seahawks 27-24 in a second half that turned into a slugfest. Jacksonville, who assured themselves of a winning season for the first time since 2007, outrushed Seattle 156-141, with Jaguar RB Leonard Fournette leading the way with 101 yards of his own, while Blake Bortles (268) and Russell Wilson (271) each threw for over 200 yards in the late Sunday afternoon afffair (Bortles threw a pair of TDs, while Wilson tallied three). Seattle went 2 of 9 on third down tries (they were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 26:59, while the Jaguars ruled the clock and held the pigskin for 33:01, going 4 of 12 on third down.

This is a rematch of a meeting that the two clubs had in week one and the Jaguars held Houston to a 4-yard TD pass from DeShaun Watkins to WR Andre Hopkins in the third quarter to take the 29-7 win in the Lone Star State. Jacksonville led 19-0 at the intermission before Houston put an end to Jacksonville’s shutout bid with 3:11 left in the third. The Jaguars outscored Houston 155-93, with Fournette tallying 100 yards of rushing in his NFL debut. Bortles threw for 125 yards without a sack or interception and had a TD pass, while Watson threw for 102 yards with a TD but was sacked four times. Jacksonville was 3 of 12 on third down tries in the season opener (the Jaguars were 1 of 1 on fourth down tries) and kept the ball for 30:05, while the Texans were 5 of 12 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the pigskin for 29:55.

In the season opener in the Lone Star State, Houston was favored by 5 and Jacksonville covered the spread, winning by 22 at NRG Stadium. The two clubs barely missed the 39 1/2 over/under, tallying 36 points. This time, Jacksonville’s favored by 10 1/2 in the Sunshine State and the over/under’s 39. Granted, the Texans don’t have J.J. Watt, they don’t have Watson or Savage but they’re not 10 1/2 points bad. Jacksonville wins this one but expect the Texans to make things closer than the 10 1/2.

Cincinnati (5-8) at Minnesota (10-3), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 708. One struggling to stay in the hunt, the other’s trying to win a division. Minnesota returns home to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals at US Bank Stadium.

Cincinnati took a first-quarter lead on a 14-yard TD pass from Andy Dalton to Brandon LaFell and came away on the short end of a loss 33-7 to Chicago last Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Da Bears took a 7-0 lead to open the scoring in the contest when Jordan Howard scored from 21 yards out. After LaFell gave the Bengals a brief 7-6 lead with 2:15 left in the first, Da Bears would go on to score their next 27 points of the game unchallenged, taking a 12-7 lead with them to the intermission. Chicago ran amok on the ground, tallying 232 yards, with Howard accounting for 147 yards and a pair of TDs, while holding the Bengals to 70 yards rushing, while Mitch Trubinsky threw for 271 yards and Andy Dalton throwing for 141 yards and an interception for the Bengals (each QB was sacked twice and threw a TD pass). Chicago was 4 of 11 on third down (Da Bears were 1 of 2 on fourth down) and ruled the clock, as they kept the ball for 38:09, while the Bengals were 21:51 as far as time of possession was concerned, going 3 of 12, 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

Minnesota’s bid to win the NFC North stalled as they saw a late rally fall short in Charlotte and fell to the Carolina Panthers 31-24 last Sunday afternoon. Minnesota trailed 24-13 at the end of three quarters before the Purple Gang roared back in the fourth, pulling to within three when WR Adam Theilen (6 catches for 105 yards) and QB Case Keenum connected on a 52-yard TD pass with 5:36 left to play after they picked Newton off and then tied the contest when K Kyle Horbath connected on a 27-yard field goal with 3:07 left in regulation. Carolina would not be outdone, restored order in front of the home crowd and used a 5-play, 75-yard drive that used 80 seconds of clock to take the lead back and for good when RB Jonathan Stewart scored from one yard out with 1:47 left. The Panthers then held off the late Viking rally that would have at best sent the contest into overtime. Stewart rushed for 103 yards and the game-winning score, as Carolina outrushed Minnesota 216-100 and Newton threw for 137 yards and a TD, while Keenum threw for 280 yards but was sacked six times and picked off twice. Carolina was 5 of 15 on third down conversions and held on to the ball for 31:18, while the Vikings, who held the ball for 28:42, went 7 of 15 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down.

The series? Even at 6-6. Minnesota has outscored the Bengals 253-236 and the Vikings have outscored Cincinnati 253-236. The Bengals were victorious in their last meeting, which took place in Cincinnati in 2013, taking a 42-14 final, while the Vikings’ last win over Cincinnati came in 2009 in the Twin Cities by a final of 30-10. The Vikings are favored by 10 1/2 and the over/under is 42. The 42? Makes sense. The 10 1/2? That’s a little steep. Granted, the Bengals have not exactly been world beaters and they’re not 10 1/2 points bad. Still, there’s not much at stake for the Bengals, while the Vikings look to take over as kings of the NFC North mountain. While the Vikings will win, expect things to be closer than 10 1/2.

New York Jets (5-8) at New Orleans (9-4), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 709. The struggling New York Jets make their way to the Bayou for a meeting with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Both clubs lost their games last week on the road.

Denver pitched a shutout against the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! last Sunday in the Mile High City as the Broncos blanked them 23-0. Denver led 13-0 at the break and took control of things in the shutout loss, scoring all of their points unchallenged and losing QB Josh McCown to a broken right hand. Denver outrushed GangGreen 84-59 and McCown threw for 46 yards with four sacks and an interception before leaving the contest with the injury. Denver’s Trevor Siemian threw for 200 yards in the contest, connecting with WR Demaryius Thomas for a TD pass and the Broncos were 7 of 17 on third down tries (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 37:35, while GangGreen went 3 of 13 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down, keeping the pigskin for 22:25.

New Orleans saw a last gasp rally fall short in Atlanta as they lost to the Falcons 20-17 last Thursday night in the Big Peach. After the Falcons and Saints took a 10-10 tie with them to the intermission, New Orleans led 17-10 at the end of the third quarter, only to see Atlanta erase that lead, with the Falcons scoring their final 10 points of the contest in the fourth quarter unchallenged. Atlanta’s Mohammed Sanu and Ryan connected on an 8-yard TD strike with 9:55 left in the contest tied things up and Matt Bryant gave the defending NFC champs the lead for keeps with a 52-yard field goal with 3:49 left in regulation. Atlanta then held off a late New Orleans rally when LB Deion Jones picked off Drew Brees in the end zone and gave the ball back to the Falcons. After Saints coach Sean Payton was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct when he entered the field, Atlanta was able to run out the clock and take the win at home. Atlanta outrushed New Orleans 152-50 and Ryan threw for 221 yards, despite throwing three interceptions, while Brees threw a pair of TDs and was good for 271 yards. Atlanta went 7 of 12 on third down conversions at Mercedes Benz Stadium and kept the ball for 34:41, while the Saints, who kept the ball for 25:19, went 3 of 10 on third down and 1 of 1 on fourth down.

The series? Tied 6-6 and the Saints have outscored GangGreen 237-198. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! won the last meeting with New Orleans, coming away 26-20 winners in the Meadowlands in 2013, while the Saints were 24-10 winners in the Big Easy in 2009. New Orleans is favored by 15 in the Big Easy and the over/under 47. The 47 is reasonable. The 15 is a little steep. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! at times have played some decent football but not great football, while the Saints are trying to knock Atlanta from the top of the NFC South mountain. GangGreen will make this closer than 15 but New Orleans will take the win at home.

Philadelphia (11-2) at New York Giants (2-11), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711. They met in Philly the first time and they meet in the Meadowlands this time. Philadelphia makes their way down I-95 for an NFC East meeting with Eli Manning and the New York Giants at Met Life Stadium.

The Eagles return from their West Coast trip with a 43-35 win over the Los Angeles Rams last week. Leading 24-14 at the half, Philadelphia held off the Rams in the second half after the Rams took a 28-24 lead with 10:07 left in the third quarter after Blake Countess blocked a punt and returned it 16 yards for a score. While the win allowed the Eagles to clinch the NFC East title, it was costly as they lost starting QB Carson Wentz to a knee injury. Wentz, who threw for 291 yards and four TDs, will be lost for the season and Nick Foles will take his spot the rest of the way. Philadelphia outrushed Los Angeles 139-109 and sacked Rams QB Jared Goff twice, although he threw for 199 yards and a pair of TDs, while Todd Gurley led all rushers with 96 yards and a pair of TDs. The Eagles were 8 of 20 on third down (they went 2 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 39:12, while the Rams were 20:48 in time of possession, going 2 of 7 on third down tries.

In the return of Manning to the lineup and the debut of Steve Spagnola as interim head coach after Bob McAdoo’s firing last week, the Giants saw Dallas erase a 10-10 tie at the half and dropped a 30-10 decision at Met Life Stadium last Sunday. Dallas outrushed Big Blue 122-102 and Prescott threw for 332 yards with three TDs (Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Rod Smith) and no interceptions, while Manning threw for 228 yards with a pair of interceptions, one going to LB Sean Lee to put an end to a late Giants rally. Dallas was 7 of 14 on third down tries in the Meadowlands and kept the ball for 27:07, while the Giants in their 20-point loss at home ruled the clock and held the ball for 32:53, going 6 of 16 on third down tries.

They met in the City of Brotherly Love in week three and the Eagles took care of the Giants, taking Big Blue 27-24 at Lincoln Financial Field. Philly led 14-0 after three quarters (the teams were scoreless after one and the Eagles led 7-0 at the half) before the Giants would outscore the Eagles 24-13 in the final 15 minutes of action. Wentz (176 yards) and TE Zach Ertz connected on a 3-yard TD pass in the third quarter, while Manning (366 yards) connected with Odell Beckham Jr. on two TDs strikes and Sterling Shepard on the other. The Giants would lead 24-21 with 3:08 left in regulation before the home team would rely on the foot of K Josh Elliot, connecting on a 46-yard field goal with 51 seconds left and then sending Eagles fans home happy with a 61-yard try as time expired. Philadelphia outrushed the Giants 193-49 and kept the ball for 37:32, going 5 of 14 on third down (2 of 3 on fourth down), while the Giants were 3 of 10, 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs, keeping the pigskin for 22:28.

In the week three contest, the Eagles were favored by 6 at Lincoln Financial Field but won by only 3 but both clubs covered the 48 1/2 over/under with 51 points. Philadelphia’s favored by 7 1/2 in upstate New Jersey and the over/under this time is 40. Both numbers make sense. The Eagles have already clinched the East and want to be home for the playoffs. The Giants want to see a dismal season come to an end. Giants fans may want to take a pass on this one and watch that “Law and Order SVU” marathon on USA (Stabler getting in the face of a suspect is pretty cool!) Big Blue will make it close but the Eagles prevail in the Meadowlands.

Arizona (6-7) at Washington (5-8), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712. The Desert Angry Birds travel to Landover as the Arizona Cardinals take on the struggling Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

Although they were held to four Pat Dawson field goals, Arizona still managed to take a 12-7 win over Tennessee last Sunday afternoon in the desert. Tennessee’s Derek Henry scored the contest’s only TD, a 6-yard run in the second quarter (the teams were scoreless after the first quarter) when the Titans opened the scoring in the game. After that, Arizona erased that lead at the half and scored all 12 of their points unchallenged in the game, pulling themselves to within a game of the .500 mark. Arizona outrushed Tennessee 136-65 and picked off Marcus Mariota (159 yards) twice and sacked him three times, while Blaine Gabbert threw for 178 yards with eight sacks. Arizona was 3 of 14 on third down tries and kept the ball for 33:49, while the Titans were 26:11 in time of possession, going 4 of 12, 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

Washington was taken to the woodshed last Sunday at Stub Hub Center, falling to the Los Angeles Chargers 30-13, trailing 23-6 at the half. Washington was outrushed by the Chargers 174-65 and saw Philip Rivers throw for 319 yards and a pair of TDs, while ‘Skins QB Kirk Cousins threw for 151 yards with a TD, an interception and two sacks. The Chargers were 6 of 15 on third down conversions and held the ball for 35:20, while Washington was 2 of 12 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 24:40.

Including games that took place in Boston when the Redskins were known as the Braves and the Cardinals were first in Chicago and then St. Louis, Washington leads the series 74-46-2 and they’ve outscored Arizona 2,710-2,285. However… the Desert Angry Birds have won the last two meetings, taking a 31-23 win in the desert last year (Washington’s last win in the series came in 2011 in Landover by a final of 22-21).

They met in week 13 in Glendale and Arizona led 10-6 at the break, then saw Washington take a 20-17 lead with 66 seconds left in the third before the home team roared back in the final 15 minutes of play, using a pair of Carson Palmer TD passes to take the win. Neither club breached the 100-yard rushing barrier and Arizona barely outrushed Washington 88-87 in the contest at University of Phoenix Stadium, with Palmer throwing for 300 yards and three TDs, while Cousins threw for 271 yards with a TD but was sacked twice and picked off once. Arizona went 10 of 16 on third down (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 33:46, while the Redskins were 5 of 11 on third downs, keeping the ball for 26:14.

The Desert Angry Birds were favored by 2 1/2 in Glendale in the week 13 contest and won by 8 to cover the spread. As for the 49 1/2 over/under? Covered, as both clubs tallied 54 points. Washington is favored by 4 1/2 at Landover and the over/under’s 43 1/2. Last week, Redskins fans were saying “Hell, it’s the Redskins!” This week, it’s “HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!” Washington covers the 4 1/2 and takes the win at home in Landover.

Los Angeles Rams (9-4) at Seattle (8-5), 4:05 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 713. Separated by 1,137 miles along I-5, they meet again and the stakes could not be higher. Los Angeles makes its way northward to the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks for an NFC West showdown with the Seattle Seahawks. Both teams are coming into the Sunday contest with losses under their belts.

Los Angeles let a 28-24 lead in the third quarter get away from them against Philadelphia last Sunday, losing to the Eagles 43-35 last week at the Coliseum. The Rams trailed 24-14 at the half, then took the four-point lead with 10:07 left when Blake Countess blocked a punt and returned it 16 yards for a score. While the win allowed the Eagles to clinch the NFC East title, it was costly for the visitors as they lost starting QB Carson Wentz to a knee injury. Wentz, who threw for 291 yards and four TDs, will be lost for the season and Nick Foles will take his spot the rest of the way. Philadelphia outrushed Los Angeles 139-109 and sacked Rams QB Jared Goff twice, although he threw for 199 yards and a pair of TDs, while Todd Gurley led all rushers with 96 yards and a pair of TDs. The Eagles were 8 of 20 on third down (they went 2 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 39:12, while the Rams were 20:48 in time of possession, going 2 of 7 on third down tries.

A late Seattle rally against Jacksonville fell short as the Jaguars held off the Seahawks 30-24 at EverBank Field last Sunday afternoon. After taking a 3-0 lead with them to the intermission, the first-place Jaguars proceeded to outscore the Seahawks 27-24 in a second half that turned into a slugfest. Jacksonville outrushed Seattle 156-141, with Jaguar RB Leonard Fournette leading the way with 101 yards of his own, while Blake Bortles (268) and Russell Wilson (271) each threw for over 200 yards in the late Sunday afternoon afffair (Bortles threw a pair of TDs, while Wilson tallied three). Seattle went 2 of 9 on third down tries (they were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 26:59, while the Jaguars ruled the clock and held the pigskin for 33:01, going 4 of 12 on third down.

The Sunday afternoon contest in the Pacific Northwest is a rematch of a week five contest in Los Angeles and the Seahawks came away 16-10 winners. Breaking a 10-10 tie at the half, Seattle used a pair of Blair Walsh field goals to score their last six points of the contest without a challenge. The Rams outrushed Seattle 100-62, with Gurley leading the way with 43 yards, while Wilson threw for 198 yards with a TD pass to Jimmy Graham. Seattle went 8 of 17 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 31:16, while the Rams were 8 of 15 on third down (0 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 28:44.

In the week five contest in Los Angeles, the Rams were favored by 2 1/2 and Seattle covered the spread with their 6-point win. Both teams combined for 26 points, which missed the 46 1/2 over/under. In the rematch in the Pacific Northwest, the Seahawks are the darlings of Vegas as 1 1/2 point favorites on Sunday afternoon and the over/under’s 48. Both numbers make sense and both would like to be NFC West champs. There can only be one winner. Seattle has had the Rams’ number of late and that trend continues. Seattle covers the 1 and wins in the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks.

New England (11-2) at Pittsburgh (10-3), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. Tom Brady. Ben Roethlisberger.

Their teams are separated by a game for the top position in the AFC playoff race.

They meet again.

A pair of AFC teams looking to lock up the top spot in the AFC playoff race meet in the Steel City Pittsburgh hosts New England in a late afternoon contest at Heinz Field.

New England’s plans to clinch the AFC East last Monday night were put on hold as Miami edged them by a 27-20 margin over Tom Brady and the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Miami led 13-10 at the break, then held off a late New England second half rally to take the win in the Sunshine State. Miami’s Kenyan Drake led all rushers with 114 yards in the Monday night affair, as his team outrushed New England 120-25, while Jay Cutler threw for 263 yards with three TDs (Brady threw for 233 yards with a TD, while he was sacked twice and picked off twice). Miami was 4 of 14 on third down (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 36:09, while the Pats were 0 of 11 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 23:51.

The Steelers have clinched the AFC North and have won eight consecutive games, including last week’s 39-38 comeback win against Baltimore. Pittsburgh chipped away at a 31-20 deficit at the end of the third quarter (they led 20-14 at the half), took the lead back for keeps with 42 second left when Chris Boswell connected on a 46-yard field goal, then held off a late Ravens rally to take the win. Pittsburgh found themselves outrushed by Baltimore 152-59, with Ravens RB Alex Collins leading all rushers with 120 yards and a TD, while Le’Veon Bell ran for 48 yards and a pair of TDs for the Steelers. However, Roethlisberger ruled the air, as he passed for 506 yards and a pair TDs, while Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards (each threw a pair of TDs). Baltimore was 4 of 10 on third down tries and kept the ball for 26:10, while the Steelers went 12 of 18 on third down tries last Sunday night, ruling the clock and kept the ball for 33:50.

Pittsburgh leads the series 14-11 and the Steelers have outscored New England 580-547. However… the Pats have won the last three meetings, won their meeting last year in Pittsburgh and won a meeting in the AFC Championship game last year in Foxboro (Pittsburgh’s last win over the Pats came in 2011 in the Steel City by a final of 25-17).

The first meeting took place at Heinz Field in week seven and New England took control of things, coming away 27-16 winners. New England led 14-10 at the half, outrushed Pittsburgh 140-94 (with LeGarett Blount leading the way with 127 yards and a pair of TDS) and Brady threw for 222 yards and a pair of TDs, while Roethlisberger threw for 281 yards and a TD. New England went 7 of 12 on third down and kept the ball for 27:31, while the Steelers ruled the clock and kept the pigskin for 32:29, going 5 of 16 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down.

They met again, this time in the AFC Championship game in Foxboro and once again, the Pats prevailed and punched their dance card to Super Bowl LI for a meeting with Atlanta, taking down the Steelers 36-17. New England led 17-9 at the half, then pulled away from the Steelers in the final 30 minutes of play, outscoring them 19-8 in that time frame. It was not much of a rushing contest, as neither breached the 100 yard barrier but New England outrushed Pittsburgh 57-54 and Brady threw for 384 yards and three TDs, while Roethlisberger threw for 314 with a TD and an interception. Both clubs did well on third down conversions in Foxboro, as the Pats were 11 of 17 and held the ball for 31:26, while the Steelers were 9 of 15 (they were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 28:34.

New England covered the 7-point spread in the week seven contest in Pittsburgh, winning by 11 on the road but both clubs combined for 43 points, barely missing the 45 1/2 over/under. The Pats in the AFC championship game were favored by 6 and covered, winning by 19 and this time, both teams covered the over/under (which was 51) with 53 total points. The oddsmakers like New England, this time as a 2 1/2 point favorite with a 53 1/2 over/under. Since this one’s for the one seed in the AFC, not making this one “DRILL WORTHY” would not do this contest justice. (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

The winner? They get the top spot and home field in the AFC playoff race. The loser? They’ll probably be the number two seed, which in of itself isn’t bad. Pittsburgh would like to get revenge on Brady and the Pats for the two losses last year, while the Pats would like to be king of the mountain in the AFC. Both the spread and over/under make sense. The Steelers are on a tear and they’ll stay that way. Pittsburgh covers the 2 1/2 and takes the win at home over Brady and the Pats.

Tennessee (8-5) at San Francisco (3-10), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 715. One team is in the playoff hunt, the other is trying to get through the season. The Tennessee Titans travel to Santa Clara for a late afternoon contest with the San Francisco 49ers at Levis’ Stadium.

Despite holding Arizona to four Pat Dawson field goals, the Cardinals still managed to take a 12-7 win over Tennessee last Sunday afternoon in the desert. Tennessee’s Derek Henry scored the contest’s only TD, a 6-yard run in the second quarter (the teams were scoreless after the first quarter) when the Titans opened the scoring in the game. After that, Arizona erased that lead at the half and scored all 12 of their points unchallenged in the game, pulling themselves to within a game of the .500 mark. Arizona outrushed Tennessee 136-65 and picked off Mariota (159 yards) twice and sacked him three times, while Blaine Gabbert threw for 178 yards with eight sacks. Arizona was 3 of 14 on third down tries and kept the ball for 33:49, while the Titans were 26:11 in time of possession, going 4 of 12, 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

San Francisco led Houston 13-9 at the half at NRG Stadium last Sunday, then pulled away from the Texans as they took care of Houston 26-16 at NRG Stadium. San Francisco knocked out Houston QB Tom Savage with a concussion late in the first half, forcing the Texans to put T.J. Yates in his place. San Francisco outrushed Houston 102-90 and Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 334 yards and a TD, while Yates threw for 175 yards and a pair of TDs (Savage threw for 63 yards with a pair of sacks before leaving the contest with the injury). The Texans were 3 of 13 on third down (1 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 25:11, while the 49ers ruled the clock, holding the ball for 34:49, going 2 of 11 on third down in the win.

Including contests that were played in Houston when the Titans were known as the Oilers and the 49ers played their home games at Keezar Stadium and Candlestick Park, San Francisco lead the series 8-5 and have outscored Tennessee 296-260. San Francisco won the last meeting with the Titans, taking a 31-17 win in the Music City in 2013, while Tennessee were 34-27 winners in 2009 in San Francisco. San Francisco’s favored by 2 and the over/under’s 44 1/2. Tennessee’s trying to catch Jacksonville in the AFC South, while the 49ers are trying to keep their heads above water. Tennesse covers the 2 and wins in Santa Clara.

Dallas (7-6) at Oakland (6-7), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. Dak Prescott vs. Derek Carr. A pair of contending teams with young QBs meet in nothern California as Dallas travels to Oakland for a Sunday night meeting with the Silver and Black.

Dallas erased a 10-10 tie against the New York Giants at Met Life Stadium last Sunday as the Cowboys ruined the return of Eli Manning to the lineup and interim head coach Steve Spagnola’s debut by leaving upstate New Jersey with a 30-10 NFC East win. Dallas outrushed Big Blue 122-102 and Prescott threw for 332 yards with three TDs (Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Rod Smith) and no interceptions, while Manning threw for 228 yards with a pair of interceptions, one going to LB Sean Lee to put an end to a late Giants rally. Dallas was 7 of 14 on third down tries in the Meadowlands and kept the ball for 27:07, while the Giants in their 20-point loss at home ruled the clock and held the ball for 32:53, going 6 of 16 on third down tries.

Oakland saw Kansas City get revenge for their one-point loss in northern California in week seven, seeing the Chiefs come away 26-15 winners at Arrowhead last Sunday. Oakland trailed 16-0 at half, then 26-0 going into the fourth quarter before the Raiders scored their only points in that period unchallenged. Kansas City outrushed their AFC West rivals 165-70, rookie RB Kareem Hunt led all rushers with 116 yards and Alex Smith threw for 268 yards, despite being sacked four times and picked off once, while the Chiefs’ defense forced three turnovers, forcing a Raiders fumble and picking off Derek Carr (211 yards) twice, sacking him three times. Both teams were 5 of 13 on third down tries at Arrowhead (the Raiders were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and time was the BFF of Kansas City, who held the ball for 36:40 to Oakland’s 23:20.

The Raiders lead the series 6-5 (which includes games that were played in Los Angeles), while Dallas has outscored the Silver and Black 256-222 and they have won the last two meetings in the series (both in the Lone Star State), with Dallas’ last win coming in 2013 by a final of 31-24, while Oakland’s last win also came in Dallas, as the Raiders were 19-13 winners in 2005.

Dallas is favored by 3 and the over/under is 45 1/2. Both clubs have playoff hopes and would like to be part of the playoff party. Dallas will take this one on the road but expect the Raiders to make things closer than the 3 points.

ATLANTA (8-5) at Tampa Bay (4-9), 8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN. Peaches vs. Orange Juice, Round 2. The defending NFC champs make their way to the Sunshine State for a Monday night meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to close out action in week 15.

The Falcons held off a late New Orleans rally and took a 20-17 win over the Saints last Thursday night in the Big Peach. After the Falcons and Saints took a 10-10 tie with them to the intermission, Atlanta erased a 17-10 deficit at the end of three quarters, scoring their final 10 points of the contest in the fourth quarter unchallenged. Mohammed Sanu and Ryan connected on an 8-yard TD strike with 9:55 left in the contest and Matt Bryant gave the defending NFC champs the lead for keeps with a 52-yard field goal with 3:49 left in regulation. Atlanta then held off a late New Orleans rally when LB Deion Jones picked off Drew Brees in the end zone and gave the ball back to the Falcons. After Saints coach Sean Payton was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct when he entered the field, Atlanta was able to run out the clock and take the win at home. Atlanta outrushed New Orleans 152-50 and Ryan threw for 221 yards, despite throwing three interceptions, while Brees threw a pair of TDs and was good for 271 yards. Atlanta went 7 of 12 on third down conversions at Mercedes Benz Stadium and kept the ball for 34:41, while the Saints, who kept the ball for 25:19, went 3 of 10 on third down and 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Tampa Bay let Detroit off the hook last Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, coming out on the short end of a 24-21 loss to the Lions in the Sunshine State. Detroit led 14-7 at the half and took a 21-7 lead with them into the final 15 minutes of action before Tampa Bay managed to storm back and tie the contest with 8:05 left in regulation when QB Jameis Winston allowed OT Leonard Wester to live a linesman’s dream when he caught a 2-yard TD toss. After Tampa Bay punted the ball back to Detroit with 2:54 left in regulation, the Lions made their way down the field from their 23 yard line, using a 9-play drive that used 49 yards of real estate and 2:34 of clock, ending when Detroit K Matt Prater connected on a 46-yard field goal with 26 seconds left to play. The Bucs, without a time out, would get the ball back on the kick off with 15 seconds left but Winston was sacked by DE Ezekiel Ansah, ending the game and ending Tampa’s hopes for the win. In a twist of irony, Tampa Bay outrushed Detroit 133-53 and Winston threw for 285 yards and a pair of TDs, while Matthew Stafford threw for 381 yards and a TD, even though he was picked off twice. The Lions on third down conversions went 5 of 11 and kept the ball for 29:47, while Tampa Bay was 4 of 8 o third down and ruled the clock, holding the ball for 30:13.
They met in week 12 in the Big Peach and the Falcons were 34-20 winners at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta led 20-6 at the intermission and never lost control of things in the contest that Winston missed because of a shoulder injury. Julio Jones caught a pair of TD passes and Tevin Coleman ran for a pair of TDs (Jones caught one pass from RB Mohammed Sanu, the other from Ryan, as Jones tallied 253 yards in the air, while Ryan tallied 317 yards passing. Atlanta outrushed Tampa Bay 148-94 and Ryan Fitzpatrick, Winston’s replacement, threw for 283 yards in the loss. The Falcons on third down tries went 11 of 14 and ruled the clock as they kept the ball for 30:06, while the Buccaneers went 4 of 11 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 29:54.

In the week 12 contest in the Big Peach that took place the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the Falcons were favored by 8 1/2 and covered the spread winning by 14. The two teams combined for 54 points, allowing them to cover the 48 over/under. Atlanta has already played one Monday night game, taking a 34-31 win over Seattle in week 11, while the Bucs are 11-9 on MNF. (this is also Atlanta’s third game in prime time this year; the Falcons won in Seattle) Atlanta’s favored by 6 1/2 in the Monday night rematch and the over/under’s 48. Both numbers make sense. The last time Atlanta swept Tampa Bay was in the 2014 season, when they took wins in both the Peach State and the Sunshine State that year. While the Bucs may not make the post-season, they would like nothing more than to end Atlanta’s hopes of repeating as NFC South champs. You might want to consider taping “Scorpion” this week. Falcon fans can rest easy and take their brooms out. Atlanta wins in the Sunshine State, even though Tampa Bay will make it closer than the 6 1/2.

It’s getting close to the end.

For the teams that are struggling, the end cannot come soon enough. For those that are in contention, they are hoping that their end will be in Minneapolis when Super Bowl 52 is over.

There are only four games remaining in the regular season to decide who advances to the playoffs for a shot at a trip to Super Bowl LII in Minnesota. As the NFL enters the final quarter of the regular season, there are 22 teams either in or within two games of a playoff spot.

Entering Week 14, no teams have clinched a playoff berth, so there’s still some hope. Four teams – Minnesota, New England, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – can clinch a division title this week. Three others – Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans – can secure a playoff berth. Pittsburgh can also clinch a playoff berth with a Buffalo loss.

In the AFC, New England (10-2) can lock up the AFC East with a win or a Buffalo loss. Pittsburgh (10-2) can secure the AFC North title with a victory over Baltimore. Pittsburgh can also clinch a playoff berth before the team plays on Sunday night with a Buffalo loss. Jacksonville (8-4) has a chance to secure a playoff berth with a win combined with other scenarios.

In the NFC, the Eagles (10-2) can secure the NFC East with a win or a Dallas loss. It would complete a “worst-to-first” turnaround for Philadelphia, which finished last in the division in 2016 and this would be the 14th season in the past 15 years in which at least one team won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place. The Vikings (10-2) can lock up the NFC North with a victory or losses by both Detroit and Green Bay. The Rams (9-3) and Saints (9-3) each have an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with a win combined with other scenarios.

SEVEN FROM SUNDAY IN WEEK 13: New England defeated Buffalo 23-3 and improved to 10-2. The Patriots have won at least 10 games in 15 consecutive seasons, the second-longest streak in NFL history (16, San Francisco, 1983-1998).

New England quarterback Tom Brady passed for 258 yards in today’s win and became the fourth player in NFL history to reach 65,000 career passing yards (65,214), joining Peyton Manning (71,940), Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Farve (71,838) and Drew Brees (69,409).

In his career, Brady has won 55 games in December, the most by a starting quarterback in any calendar month in NFL history.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees completed 25 of 34 passes (73.5 percent) for 269 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a 106.1 passer rating in the Saints’ 31-21 win over Carolina. Brees has 6,127 career completions and surpassed Peyton Manning (6,125) for the second-most completions in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Farve (6,300) has more career completions.

Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara had 126 scrimmage yards – 66 receiving and 60 rushing – in Sunday’s win against the Panthers. This season, Kamara has 614 receiving yards and 606 rushing yards and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Charley Taylor (1964) and Billy Sims (1980) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least 600 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards.

New Orleans running backs Kamara (126 scrimmage yards with two touchdowns) and Mark Ingram (122 scrimmage yards with a touchdown) combined for 248 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns. It marked the fifth consecutive game in which Kamara and Ingram combined for 200+ scrimmage yards.

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen had 10 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 19-10 win over Cleveland. Allen is the first player in NFL history to have at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and a touchdown reception in three consecutive games.

Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had 10 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals’ loss against the Los Angeles Rams. Fitzgerald has 1,207 career catches and became the third player in NFL history to reach 1,200 receptions, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (1,549) and Tony Gonzalez (1,325). Fitzgerald, who played in his 214th career game, is the fastest player in NFL history to reach the milestone (Rice, 221 games and Gonzalez, 247).

Fitzgerald has 82 receptions this season, his 10th career season with at least 75 catches. Only Rice (13) has more such seasons in NFL history.

Fitzgerald has 15,267 career receiving yards and surpassed Isaac Bruce (15,208) to move into fourth place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards list.

Indianapolis running back Frank Gore rushed for 61 yards in the Colts’ loss at Jacksonville. Gore, who has 13,697 career rushing yards, moved into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famers La Dainian Tomlinson (13,684) and Jerome Bettis (13,662). The only players with more career rushing yards are Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726), Barry Sanders (15,269) and Curtis Martin (14,101).

•Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum completed 25 of 30 passes (83.3 percent) for 227 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 120.4 passer rating in the Vikings’ 14-9 win at Atlanta.

Keenum, who had a 114 passer rating in three November games and was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month, has posted a passer rating of at least 100 in four consecutive games, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Farve (2009) and Daunte Culpepper (2000 and 2004) for the longest streak in franchise history.

•New York Jets wide receivers Jermaine Kearse (157 yards) and Robby Anderson (107) each had at least 100 receiving yards in the team’s 38-31 win over Kansas City.

Last week against Carolina, Anderson (146 yards) and Kearse (105) also had 100-yard receiving games. The duo is the first set of Jets teammates to each have at least 100 receiving yards in consecutive games since 1967 (Weeks 16-17) when Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Maynard and George Sauer accomplished the feat for New York.

•Green Bay rookie running back Aaron Jones rushed for the game-winning 20-yard touchdown with 5:59 remaining in overtime of the Packers’ 26-20 win over Tampa Bay. Green Bay has played 41 overtime games in franchise history (including the postseason) and Jones is only the second Packers player all-time to score a rushing touchdown in overtime (Jim Hargrove, October 18, 1987).

Chicago rookie running back Tarik Cohen had a 61-yard punt-return touchdown in the Bears’ loss against San Francisco. Cohen is the first player since Terry Metcalf (1975) and the first rookie since Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (1965) to have a punt-return touchdown, rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and passing touchdown in a single season.

There are playoff scenarios this week and resevations to the post-season party could be RSVP’d this weekend. Here are the scenarios for week 14 (this could cause more confusion than a mouse in a burlesque show… apologies to Foghorn Leghorn!)

AFC

New England (10-2) at Miami (5-7), Monday night

New England clinches AFC East division with:
1.New England win or tie OR
2.Buffalo loss or tie

Baltimore (7-5) at Pittsburgh (10-2), Sunday night

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division with:

1.PIT win or tie

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff berth with:

1.Buffalo loss or tie

Jacksonville (8-4) vs. Seattle (8-4), Sunday

Jacksonville clinches a playoff berth with:

1.Jacksonville win + Buffalo loss + Miami loss or tie + New York Jets loss or tie + Los Angeles Chargers loss or tie + Oakland-Kansas City game does not end in a tie

 

NFC

Philadelphia at (10-2) at Los Angeles Rams (9-3), Sunday

Philadelphia clinches NFC East division with:

1.Philadelphia win or tie  OR

​2.Dallas loss or tie

Minnesota (10-2) at Carolina (8-4), Sunday

Minnesota clinches NFC North division with:

1.Minnesota win or tie OR

2.Detroit loss or tie + Green Bay loss or tie

Los Angeles Rams (9-3) vs. Philadelphia (10-2), Sunday

Los Angeles Rams clinch a playoff berth with:

1) Los Angeles Rams win + Detroit loss or tie + Green Bay loss or tie + Dallas loss or tie + Carolina loss + Atlanta loss

THE WEEK THAT WAS WEEK 13: LIVING LEGENDS: Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Indianapolis running back Frank Gore continue to etch their names in the NFL record book.

Fitzgerald led the Cardinals with 10 receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown in their Week 13 loss. He has 1,207 career catches and became the third player in NFL history to reach 1,200 receptions, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (1,549) and Tony Gonzalez (1,325).

Fitzgerald, who played in his 214th career game, is the fastest player in NFL history to reach the milestone (Rice, 221 games and Gonzalez, 247).

The players with the most career receptions in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (CAREER RECEPTIONS)(GAMES TO REACH 1,200 CATCHES)

Jerry Rice – San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle (1,549)(221)^
Tony Gonzalez – Kansas City and Atlanta (1,325)(247)
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona (1,207(214)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Fitzgerald has 15,267 career receiving yards and surpassed Isaac Bruce (15,208) to move into fourth place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards list.

The players with the most career receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (CAREER RECEIVING YARDS)
Jerry Rice – San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle (22,895)^
Terrell Owens – San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati (15,934)
Randy Moss – Minnesota, Oakland, New England, Tennessee and San Francisco (15,292)
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona (15,267)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Gore rushed for 61 yards in the Colts’ Week 13 loss and has 13,697 career rushing yards. He surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famers La Dainian Tomlinson (13,684) and Jerome Bettis (13,662) to move into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

The players with the most career rushing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (CAREER RUSHING YARDS)
Emmitt Smith – Dallas and Arizona (18,355)^
Walter Payton – Chicago (16,726)^
Barry Sanders – Detroit (15,269)^
Curtis Martin – New England and New York Jets (14,101)^
Frank Gore – San Francisco and Indianapolis (13,697)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

RECORD-SETTING RECEIVER: Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown had eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers’ 23-20 win at Cincinnati on Monday Night Football last week.

Brown, who has 569 receptions since 2013, surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison (563 from 1999-2003) for the most catches by a player over any five-year span in NFL history.

The most receptions by a player over any five-year span in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS)(RECEPTIONS)
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (2013-17)(569)*
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (1999-2003)(563)^
*In fifth season of span
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Brown, who has 7,611 receiving yards since 2013, also surpassed Harrison (7,594 from 1999-2003) for the most receiving yards by a player over any five-year span in NFL history.

The most receiving yards by a player over any five-year span in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS)(RECEIVING YARDS)
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (2013-17)(7,611)*
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (1999-2003)(7,594)^
*In fifth season of span
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

LEGENDARY LANDRY: Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry ranks third in the NFL with 80 receptions this season.

Landry, who entered the NFL as a second-round draft pick in 2014, is the only player in NFL history to have at least 80 receptions in each of his first four seasons.

CLUTCH WILSON: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes, including one in the fourth quarter, in the Seahawks’ 24-10 win over Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football last week in the Pacific Northwest.

Wilson has 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes this season, tied with Eli Manning (15 in 2011) for the most in a single season.

The players with the most fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(4TH QUARTER TD PASSES)
Russell Wilson, Seattle (2017)(15)*
Eli Manning, New York Giants (2011)(15)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (2016)(14)
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville (2015)(14)
Peyton Manning, Denver (2013)(14)
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (2002)(14)
Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts (1959)(14)^
*Through Week 13
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

JETS SOARING: New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown completed 26 of 36 passes (72.2 percent) for 331 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a 109.8 passer rating and rushed for two touchdowns in the team’s 38-31 win over Kansas City last week.

McCown, who turned 38 years old in July, became the third player in NFL history with at least two rushing touchdowns in a single game at the age of 38 or older.

The players with at least two rushing touchdowns in a single game at the age of 38 or older:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(AGE)(RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS)
Josh McCown, New York Jets (2017)(38)(2)
Doug Flutie, San Diego (2003)(41)(2)
Jim Thorpe, Canton Bulldogs (1926)(38)(2)^
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

DOMINANT DUMERVIL: San Francisco linebacker Elvis Dumervil recorded a sack in the 49ers’ 15-14 win at Chicago last week. Dumervil ranks fourth among active players with 104.5 career sacks.

Dumervil’s sack of Chicago rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on Sunday marked the 50th different quarterback he has sacked in his 12-year NFL career. Dumervil is the fourth active player to have at least a half-sack against 50 different quarterbacks in his career.

The active players with at least a half-sack against 50 different quarterbacks:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (NUMBER OF QUARTERBACKS SACKED
Julius Peppers – Carolina, Chicago and Green Bay (74)
Terrell Suggs – Baltimore (69)
Dwight Freeney – Indianapolis, San Diego, Arizona, Atlanta, Seattle and Detroit (63)
Elvis Dumervil – Denver, Baltimore and San Francisco (50)

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – WEEK 14

TERRIFIC TURNAROUND: The Philadelphia Eagles lead the NFC East and are tied for the best record in the NFL at 10-2. The Eagles, who finished in last place in the division with a 7-9 record in 2016, can clinch the NFC East on Sunday with a win at the Los Angeles Rams or a loss by Dallas.

It would mark the 14th season in the past 15 years that at least one team won its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place. In fact, of the 44 teams in league history to go from “worst-to-first,” 21 of them have done so in the past 14 years (2003-16), including an NFL-record three such teams in 2005 and 2006.

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their division since 2003:

SEASON, TEAM (RECORD)(PRIOR SEASON RECORD) _
2003, Carolina (11-5)(7-9)
2003, Kansas City (13-3)(8-8)**
2004, Atlanta (11-5)(5-11)
2004, San Diego (12-4)(4-12)**
2005, Chicago (11-5)(5-11)
2005, New York Giants (11-5)(6-10)**
2005, Tampa Bay (11-5)(5-11)
2006, Baltimore (13-3)(6-10)**
2006, New Orleans (10-6)(3-13)
2006, Philadelphia (10-6)(6-10)
2007, Tampa Bay (9-7)(4-12)
2008, Miami (11-5)(1-15)
2009, New Orleans (13-3)(8-8)***
2010, Kansas City (10-6)(4-12)
2011, Denver (8-8)(4-12)
2011, Houston Texans (10-6)(6-10)**
2012, Washington (10-6)(5-11)
2013, Carolina (12-4)(7-9)**
2013, Philadelphia (10-6)(4-12)
2015, Washington (9-7)(4-12)
2016, Dallas (13-3)(4-12)
2017, Philadelphia (10-2)*(7-9)
* Through Week 13
** Tied for last place
*** Won Super Bowl

THE CLIMB CONTINUES: Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has 15,267 receiving yards in his 14-year career.

With 26 receiving yards on Sunday against Tennessee, Fitzgerald will surpass Randy Moss (15,292) for the third-most receiving yards in NFL history.

The players with the most receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAM(S)(CAREER RECEIVING YARDS)
Jerry Rice – San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle (22,895)^
Terrell Owens – San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati (15,934)
Randy Moss – Minnesota, Oakland, New England, Tennessee and San Francisco (15,292)
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona (15,267)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

CENTENNIAL BROWN: Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown leads the NFL with 88 receptions this season.

Brown, who plays against Baltimore on Sunday night, can become the first player in NFL history with at least 100 catches in five consecutive seasons. Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison (1999-2002) is the only other player to accomplish the feat in four consecutive seasons.

The players with the most consecutive 100-catch seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS)(MOST CONSECUTIVE 100-CATCH SEASONS)
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (2013-16)(4)*
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (1999-2002)(4)^
*Has 88 catches through Week 13
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

SIXTH AND SEVENTH SEASON SUCCESSES: Indianapolis wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has 791 receiving yards and four touchdown catches this season.

Hilton, who plays at Buffalo on Sunday, can join Gary Clark (1985-92) and Randy Moss (1998-2003) as the only players in NFL history to have at least 850 receiving yards and five touchdown catches in each of their first six seasons to start a career.

The players with the most consecutive seasons with at least 850 receiving yards and five touchdown catches to begin their career:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS)(CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH 850+ REC. YARDS AND 5+ TDS TO BEGIN CAREER)
Gary Clark, Washington (1985-92)(8)
Randy Moss, Minnesota (1998-2003)(6)
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis (2012-16)(5)*
*Has 791 rec. yards and four TDs in sixth season

Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green ties for fifth in the AFC with 886 receiving yards. Green, who plays against Chicago on Sunday, can become the first player in NFL history with at least 950 receiving yards in each of his first seven seasons. Green and Randy Moss are the only players to accomplish the feat in each of their first six NFL seasons.

The players with the most consecutive seasons with at least 950 receiving yards to begin their career:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS)(CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH 950+ RECIEVEING YARDS TO BEGIN CAREER)
A.J. Green, Cincinnati (2011-16)(6)*
Randy Moss, Minnesota (1998-2003)(6)
*Has 886 recieving yards in seventh season

ALL-PURPOSE ALL-STARS: Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell (1,559 scrimmage yards) and Los Angeles Rams running back TODD GURLEY (1,502) rank first and second in the NFL in scrimmage yards.

Bell (1,057 rushing yards and 502 receiving yards) and Gurley (939 and 563) can become the seventh and eighth players in NFL history with at least 1,100 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards in their team’s first 13 games of a season. They would become the first pair of players to accomplish the feat in the same season.

Bell can put himself in some pretty good company and join Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (1998 and 1999) as the only players to accomplish the feat twice. In 2014, Bell had 1,231 rushing yards and 693 receiving yards in the Steelers’ first 13 games of the season.

The players with 1,100+ rushing yards and 600+ receiving yards in their team’s first 13 games to start a season in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(RUSH YARDS/RECIEVEING YARDS)
Marshall Faulk, Indianapolis (1998)(1,113/823)^
Marshall Faulk, St. Louis Rams (1999)(1,180/720)^
Priest Holmes, Kansas City (2002)(1,454/650)
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (2006)(1,109/680)
Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia (2007)(1,110/642)
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh (2014)(1,231/693)
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh (2017)(1,057/502)*
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (2017)(939/563)*
*Through 12 games
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Week 14 began Thursday night when Atlanta defeated New Orleans 20-17 in the Big Peach in a key NFC South matchup and concludes in prime time on Sunday night as the Steelers host Baltimore at 8:30 p.m. on NBC and the action wraps up on Monday night in Miami as the Dolphins host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots Monday night at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

There are only four games remaining in the regular season to decide who advances to the playoffs for a shot at a trip to Super Bowl LII in Minnesota. As the NFL enters the final quarter of the regular season, there are 22 teams either in or within two games of a playoff spot.

Entering Week 14, no teams have clinched a playoff berth, so there’s still some hope. Four teams – Minnesota, New England, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – can clinch a division title this week. Three others – Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans – can secure a playoff berth. Pittsburgh can also clinch a playoff berth with a Buffalo loss.

In the AFC, New England (10-2) can lock up the AFC East with a win or a Buffalo loss. Pittsburgh (10-2) can secure the AFC North title with a victory over Baltimore. Pittsburgh can also clinch a playoff berth before the team plays on Sunday night with a Buffalo loss. Jacksonville (8-4) has a chance to secure a playoff berth with a win combined with other scenarios.

In the NFC, the Eagles (10-2) can secure the NFC East with a win or a Dallas loss. It would complete a “worst-to-first” turnaround for Philadelphia, which finished last in the division in 2016 and this would be the 14th season in the past 15 years in which at least one team won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place. The Vikings (10-2) can lock up the NFC North with a victory or losses by both Detroit and Green Bay. The Rams (9-3) and Saints (9-3) each have an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with a win combined with other scenarios.

Week 14 began Thursday night when Atlanta hosted New Orleans in the Big Peach in a key NFC South matchup and concludes in prime time on Sunday night as the Steelers host Baltimore at 8:30 p.m. on NBC and the action wraps up on Monday night in Miami as the Dolphins host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots Monday night at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

As for last week, it was a pretty good week as we went 9-7 for the week,

As for last week, it was a pretty good week as we went 9-7 for the week, for the year, we’re 115-78. There’s a lot off football left on the docket. With that, here are the Sunday and Monday games for week 14.

Indianapolis (3-9) at Buffalo (6-6), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 705. The struggling Indianapolis Colts travel to upstate New York for a Sunday afternoon AFC contest with the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park. Both teams enter the intra-conference game at New Era Stadium with losses under their belts.

The Colts dropped a 30-10 decision to Jacksonville last Sunday in the Sunshine State at EverBank Field. Indy trailed the Jaguars, tied for first in the AFC South with Tennessee, trailed 16-3 at the half, then saw the Jaguars pull away, outscoring the Colts 14-7 in the second half. While the Colts did outrush Jacksonville 141-96, Jacksonville made life miserable for Jacboy Brissett (174 yards, TD), sacking him four times and picking him off twice, while Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles threw for 309 yards and a pair of TDs. The Colts were 5 of 15 on third down conversions in the Sunshine State but found success on fourth down, going 4 of 4 on fourth down and held the ball for 26:13, while Jacksonville went 9 of 15 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the pigskin for 33:47.

New England held Buffalo to a 49-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka in the second quarter and took Buffalo to task, taking down the Bills 23-3 at New Era Stadium. The Bills trailed 9-3 at the half in upstate New York before New England pulled away in the final 30 minutes of action. New England outrushed Buffalo 191-183 and Tom Brady burned the Bills for 258 yards, while Tyrod Taylor threw for only 65 yards with three sacks before leaving the contest with a knee injury. Buffalo went 5 of 13, 0 of 3 on third and fourt down tries and kept the ball for 25:59, while New England, who ruled the clock and kept the ball for 34:01, went 5 of 12 on third down conversions.

Buffalo leads the series 36-31-1 (which includes games that were played in Baltimore and at old War Memorial Stadium) and the Bills have outscored the Colts 1,417-1,312. Buffalo came away 27-14 winners in upstate New York in 2015 in their last meeting, while Indy’s last win over the Bills came in 2012 in Indy by a final of 20-13. Buffalo’s favored by 3 and the over/under is 46. The Bills circle the wagon and take this one in upstate New York and cover the 3.

Minnesota (10-2) at Carolina (8-4), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 706. Case Keenum vs. Cam Newton. A pair of future Hall of Fame QBs meet in the Tar Heel State as Carolina hosts the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium.

Minnesota held Atlanta without a TD for the first time since they were shutout at Carolina in 2015, scoring only three Matt Bryant field goals to come away 14-9 winenrs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last Sunday. The Vikings led 7-6 at the half, then saw the Falcons take a 9-7 lead with 11:57 left in the third and took that lead into the fourth quarter, when Minnesota took the lead back for keeps when Keenum (227 yards, two sack) and TE Kyle Rudolph connected on a 6-yard TD pass to open play in the fourth quarter. Minnesota outrushed Atlanta 105-102 and held Matt Ryan to 173 yards in the air in the win. Atlanta on third down was a somewhat dismal 1 of 10 (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 25:58, while the Vikings went 6 of 12, keeping the pigskin for 34:02.

Carolina and Newton dropped a 31-21 decision to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday afternoon in the Big Easy. Carolina trailed 21-14 at the intermission before the Saints pulled away in the second half to take the win. Carolina made it a 10-point contest with 3:57 left in regulation when Newton (183 yards) and WR Devin Funchess connected on a 24-yard TD pass (it was the second TD pass of the day for Newton; he had connected with WR Christian McCaffrey in the first half to pull the Panthers to within seven). Carolina then tried an onside kick which they thought was successful but Funchess’ effort to keep the ball failed after the Saints challenged the call. New Orleans won the challenge and took control after that. New Orleans outrushed Carolina 148-112 and it was the Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara show as Ingram ran for 85 yards and TD, while Kamara chipped in with 60 yards and a pair of rushing TDs of his own and Brees threw for 269 yards in the contest in the Big Easy without being intercepted. New Orleans was 6 of 15 on third down conversions in the rematch (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 33:21, while the Panthers were 3 of 10 on third down, 0 of 2 on fourth down and held on to the pigskin for 26:39.

Minnesota leads the series 8-5, while Carolina has outscored the Vikings 254-236. The Vikings won the last meeting, which took place last year in the Tar Heel State, taking a 27-10 win in Charlotte. The week three contest at Bank of America Stadium saw Minnesota erase a 10-8 halftime lead and shutout the Panthers in the final 30 minutes of play 14-0. Carolina outrushed Minnesota 105-58 but Newton was sacked eight times and picked off three times while throwing for 262 yards. Minnesota on third down went 3 of 12 and kept the ball for 25:08, while Carolina, despite the loss, ruled the clock and held the pigskin for 34:52, going 6 of 16 on third down, 0 of 2 on fourth down.

Carolina was favored by 7 in the week three affair at Bank of America Stadium and the Vikings covered the spread, winning by 17. As for the 43 over/under? It was untouched as both teams merged for 37 points. Minnesota’s favored by 3 on the road and the over/under’s 41. Minnesota’s trying to keep pace with the Eagles for the top spot in the NFC, while the Panthers look to restore some order in the NFC South. Minnesota pulls the upset in the Tar Heel State and covers the 3 with the win in Charlotte.

Chicago (3-9) at Cincinnati (5-7), 1 p.m. on FOX. Chicago travels to Cincinnati for an NFC-AFC showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals along the shores of the Ohio River. Both teams took losses last week at home and both are trying to catch the leaders in theri respective divisions.

Da Bears let a 14-12 lead get away from them against San Francisco at Soldier Field as the 49ers roared back to take a 15-14 win in the final seconds of the contest in the Windy City. Chicago led 14-9 at the break before the 49ers took control in the second half, scring their last six points of the game unchallenged. Robbie Gould, who kicked for Chicago, came back to haunt his old team in the final seconds of the contest when he sent a 24-yard try through the uprights with four seconds left to play. Da Bears were outrushed 110-62 and Matt Trubinsbky threw for 102 yards, while San Francisco’s Jimmy Graffalo threw for 293 (each was sacked twice and Garaffalo threw an interception). Chicago was 5 of 10 on third down tries and held the ball for 21:13, while San Francisco kept the pigskin for 38:47, going 10 of 18 on third downs.

Cincinnati pulled defeat from the jaws of victory as the Steelers completed the sweep of the series, taking a 23-20 win in Cincinnati last Monday night. The Bengals took a 17-3 with them to the intermission before Pittsburgh roared back in the second half, outscoring the Bengals 20-3 in the final 30 minutes of action. The contest had some scary moments as Steelers LB Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal injury that stopped the contest and sent him to the hospital with a neck injury (Shazier did not suffer any further injuries and was able to move his arms and legs) in the second quarter. Then, halfway through the fourth quarter, things got somewhat chippy as Steelers WR JuJu Schuster-Smith was flagged for taunting afte a hit in the contest (he would later be suspended by the league for his action) and also in the contest, Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict, who Steeler fans despise, was knocked out of the contest and taken off the field as well. Pittsburgh would eventually tie the contest up when Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown connected on a 6-yard TD strike to tie things up and then take the win in the closing seconds as Chris Boswell conntected on a 38-yard field goal as time expired. In all that chippiness and confusion, the Bengals outrushed Pittsburgh 130-92 and Andy Dalton threw for 234 yards and a pair of TD tosses to WR A.J. Green, while Roethlisberger threw for 290 yards and a pair of TDs as well (connecting with Brown and LeVeon Bell). Cincinnati on third down went 7 of 14 and the Bengals held the ball for 30:11, while the Steelers were 4 of 12 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 29:49.

Cincinnati holds a 6-4 lead in the series and the Bengals have outscored Chicago 188-181. Da Bears won the last meeting, taking a 24-21 win in the Windy City in 2013, while Cincy’s last win came at home in 2009 by a fnial of 45-10. The Bengals are favored by 7 and the over/under comes in at 39 1/2. Da Bears are actually better than 3-9 and would love nothing more than to ruin someone’s playoff hopes. The Bengals are looking to survive and perhaps take a Wild Card spot. Bengals win this one but expect Da Bears to make it closer than the 7.

Green Bay (6-6) at Cleveland (0-12), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 709. The contending Green Bay Packers travel to Cleveland for a Sunday afternoon contest with the winless Browns along the shores of Lake Erie.

The Packers needed overtime to take a 26-20 win over Tampa Bay last Sunday at Lambeau. Green Bay led 17-10 at the intermission, before Tampa Bay took the lead back with 6:02 left in regulation when Jameis Winston and TE Cameron Brate connected on an 11-yard TD pass. Green Bay then proceeded to tie things up with 2:01 left when K Mason Crosby kicked a 22-yard field goal, setting the score at 20-20 at the end of regulation. Green Bay won the toss to start overtime and wasted very little if any time, as the Packers used an 8-play, 72-yard drive that used 4:01 of clock to send their fans home happy when RB Aaron Jones scored on a 20-yard romp, giving the Packers the win in the land of cheese, beer and Bratwurst. The contest between the Bays was a rushing fan’s dream, as the Packers outrushed Tampa Bay 199-165 (Green Bay’s Jamaal Williams led all rushers with 113 yards and a TD, while Tampa Bay was paced by Payton Barber’s 102) and Winston threw for 270 yards and a pair of TDs with seven sacks and Brett Hundley threw for 84 yards for Green Bay. The Bucs on third down tries went 9 of 16 and kept the ball for 37:17, while the Packers were 5 of 12 on third down, keeping the ball for 26:44, including the overtime.

Cleveland reamined winless in the 2017 campaign after their 19-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on the West Coast Last Sunday afternoon. The Chargers led 9-7 at the intermission, thanks to three Todd Coons field goals, including a 22-yarder that gave them the lead with :00 left on the clock (Cleveland had led 7-6 with 1:55 left befroe the intermission when Browns QB DeShone Kizer and TE David Njoku connected on a 28-yard TD strike). Los Angeles would go on to outscore Cleveland 10-3 in the second half, as Philip Rivers and WR Keenan Allen would score the Chargers’ only TD with 10:35 left in the third. While neither team breached the 100-yard barrier, the Chargers did outrush Cleveland 94-89 and Rivers threw for 344 yards, while Kizer threw for 215. The Chargers were 8 of 15 on third down tries (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 34:57, while the Browns kept the pigskin for 34:57, going 5 of 11 on third down and 0 of 1 on fourth down.

Green Bay leads the series 11-7, the Packers have outscored Cleveland 429-334 and Green Bay has won the last two meetings, taking a 31-13 win at Lambeau in 2013, while Cleveland’s last win over Green Bay came in 2005, when the Browns walked out of Lambeau with a 26-24 win. Green Bay’s favored by 3 and the over/under is 40 1/2. Green Bay wins along the shores of Lake Erie and covers the 3.

San Francisco (2-10) at Houston (4-8), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 710. A pair of struggling teams meet in the Lone Star State as San Francisco travels to Houston for a meeting with the Texans in Houston.

The 49ers erased a 14-12 deficit against Chicago last Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field as the 49ers roared back to take a 15-14 win in the final seconds of the contest in the Windy City. San Francisco trailed 14-9 at the break before the 49ers took control in the second half, scring their last six points of the game unchallenged. Robbie Gould, who kicked for Chicago, came back to haunt his old team in the final seconds of the contest when he sent a 24-yard try through the uprights with four seconds left to play. Da Bears were outrushed 110-62 and Matt Trubinsbky threw for 102 yards, while San Francisco’s Jimmy Graffalo threw for 293 (each was sacked twice and Garaffalo threw an interception). Chicago was 5 of 10 on third down tries and held the ball for 21:13, while San Francisco kept the pigskin for 38:47, going 10 of 18 on third downs.

Houston saw Tennessee break a 10-10 tie at the half and came out on the short end of a 24-13 final against the Titans at Nissan Stadium last Sunday. Tennessee outrushed the Texans 198-53, as Titans’ RB Derrick Henry ran for 109 yards and a TD, while Houston’s Tom Savage threw for 365 yards and a TD but was sacked four times (Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota threw for 150 yards and a TD for the Titans). The Texans on third down were 8 of 16 and actually ruled the clock, as theu held the ball for 33:49, while the Titans were 5 of 11 on third down, holding the ball for 26:11 (both clubs were 1 of 1 on fourth down).

San Francisco leads the series 2-1 and the 49ers have outscored Houston 75-44. Houston’s lone win in the series came in 2009 in the Lone Star State by a final of 24-21, while San Francisco’s last win came on the West Coast, as the 49ers were 34-3 winners in 2013. Houston’s favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under’s 42 1/2. Houston’s looking to at the very least get a Wild Card spot, while the 49ers would like nothing more than to put an end to that plan. Take a pass on this one and watch that “Law and Order:SVU” marathon on USA (Olivia Benson’s really sexy when she’s questioning a suspect!) Houston not only covers the 2 1/2, they take the win at home in the Lone Star State.

Oakland (6-6) at Kansas City (6-6), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 707. They meet again.

They still don’t like each other.

Don’t expect Christmas greetings or Facebook friend requests.

It’s round two of an old-fashioned AFL/AFC West matchup as the Raiders and Chiefs, in a three-way tie for first in the AFC West with the Los Angeles Chargers, renew their rivalry as the venue changes from northern California to the Show Me State.

Oakland comes Eastward with a 24-17 win over the New York Giants last Sunday in Oakland. The Silver and Black led the Giants, who had Geno Smith (212 yards, TD, three sacks) under center (they had benched Eli Manning) 10-7 after three quarters of play before they took control of things in the final quarter, shutting out the G-men in that period. Oakland outrushed the Giants 119-65 and Marshawn Lynch ran for 101 yards and a TD, while David Carr threw for 287 and a TD. Oakland on third down went 6 of 15 on third down (1 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 31:19, while the Giants were 28:41 in time of possession, going 5 of 14 on third down.

The Chiefs, in that three-way tie with the Raiders and Chargers, lost their second game in Met Life Stadium, dropping a 38-31 decision against the New York Jets last Sunday. Kansas City trailed 21-17 at the half, then managed to tie the contest at 24-24 when Chiefs QB Alex Smith connected with WR Tyreek Hill on a 29-yard TD pass with 5:13 left in the third. Afte the Jets reclaimed the lead, Smith and Hill would take the lead for their first and only time, connecting on a 40-yard pass with 9:13. The Jets then proceeded to use a 14-play, 75-yard drive that used 6:58 of clock to reclaim the lead for keeps when QB Josh McCown scored on a 1-yard TD run. The Jets then went for two and at first were stopped by the Chiefs. There were two problems. First, Kansas City’s Stephen Nelson was flagged for holding (which was declined). Then, they added insult to injury when CB Marcus Peters threw an official’s flag into the stands, drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty and the ire of head coach Andy Reid (who later suspended Peters for his actions without pay last Wednesday). Peters then left the field and came back but did not re-enter the contest and after the Jets try for two was succesful, the Chiefs got the ball back and got as far as New York’s 19-yard line, where three Smith passes fell short of their mark. New York outrushed Kansas City 157-112 and Smtih threw for 366 yards and four TDs, connecting with TE Travis Kelce on the other two TD tosses, while McCown threw for 331 yards and a TD pass to RB Matt Forte. Kansas City was 3 of 8 on third down tries in the Meadowlans (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for a mere 17:11, while the Jets were ball hogs, keeping the ball for 42:49, going 13 of 20 on third down and 1 of 1 on on fourth down.

It’s a week seven rematch that saw the Silver and Black come from behind to win 31-30. Kansas City led 20-14 at the half and took a 30-24 lead into the final minutes of regulation when Oakland stormed back to win the contest but not without some controversy in the waining seconds. First, Carr threw what Raider fans had thought was a TD to TE Jared Cook. The replay officials reversed the call on the field, saying that Cook did not break the plane of the goal line. Carr then connected with Michael Crabtree for a second TD (or so Raider fans though), only to have their hearts broken when Crabtree was called for pass interference. Then after two Chiefs penalties, the Raiders found the promised land when Carr and Crabtree connected on a 2-yard TD strike as the clock struck :00. As was the case for all scoring plays, it was reviewed and upheld and the Raiders took the win. Kansas City outrushed Oakland 94-88 in a contest that saw RB Marshawn Lynch ejected for making contact with an official during the contest. Carr threw for 417 yards, while Smith threw for 342 (each man threw three TD passes) in the Thursday night affair on the West Coast. Kansas City was 8 of 15 on third down conversions and held the ball for 30:36, while the Raiders were 6 of 13 on third down tries (1 of 1 on fourth down) and the Silver and Black kept the ball for 29:24.

The Chiefs were 3-point favorites in the week seven contest on the West Coast and the Raiders came away with a 1-point win. As for the 47 over/under? That was taken care of, as both clubs combined for 61 points. This time, the Chiefs are favored by 4 and the over/under is 47 1/2. For these two teams, it’s football’s answer to musical chairs and as long as the music plays, they have a chance. When the music stops, it becomes chaos. The Raiders would like to prove that the first meeting was not a fluke, the Chiefs would like nothing more than to erase the memories of losing five of their last six contests. Kansas City restores order, covers the 4 and takes the win at Arrowhead.

Dallas (6-6) at New York Giants (2-10), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711. One team still doesn’t have Ezekiel Elliott. The other will have a future Hall of Famer back under center and a interim head coach on the sidelines. Dallas makes their way to the Meadowland for an NFC East showdown with the NeW York Giants.

Dallas made it a sweep of their series with Washington, taking down the Redskins 38-14 in Arlington last Thursday night. After a scoreless first quarter, the Cowboys took a 17-7 lead with them to the locker room at the half and took control from there, breaking their three-game losing streak in the process. Dallas outrushed Washington 182-56 and Albert Morris did his best Ezekiel Elliott impression, leading all rushers with 127 yards and a TD, while Prescott threw for 102 and a pair of TDs, connecting with WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Whitten on both tosses. Washington’s Kirk Cousins threw for 251 yards and a pair of TDs but Dallas made life for him somewhat miserable, sacking him four times and picking him off twice. Dallas went 7 of 14 on third down and kept the ball for 32:28; as for Washington, they held the ball for 27:32, going 6 of 14 on third down tries (both clubs went 0 of 1 on fourth down).

Steve Spagnola takes over for Bob McAdoo after he was fired and Manning returns under center after he was benched in favor of Geno Smith as they fell to the Oakland Raiders 24-17 last Sunday in Oakland. The Silver and Black led the Giants, who had Geno Smith (212 yards, TD, three sacks) under center (they had benched Manning) 10-7 after three quarters of play before they took control of things in the final quarter, shutting out the G-men in that period. Oakland outrushed the Giants 119-65 and Marshawn Lynch ran for 101 yards and a TD, while David Carr threw for 287 and a TD. Oakland on third down went 6 of 15 on third down (1 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 31:19, while the Giants were 28:41 in time of possession, going 5 of 14 on third down.

They met in Arlington in week one and with Elliott in the lineup, the Cowboys took a 13-0 lead at the break and won 19-3. Dallas held the Giants to a 25 yard field goal by Alex Rosas in the third quarter, while Dan Bailey kicked four field goals in the game, with the only TD coming in the second quarter when Prescott (268 yards) and TE Jason Witten connected on a 12-yard toss. Dallas outrushed the Giants 129-35, with Elliott leading the way with 104 yards on the ground. Manning threw for 220 yards in the loss, was sacked twice and picked off once. Dallas on third down went 8 of 15 and held the ball for 34:14, while the Giants, who kept the pigskin for 25:46, went 4 of 12 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Dallas was favored by 4 1/2 in the week one contest in the Meadowlands and won by 16. Neither team touched the 48 over/under, as they combined for 22 points. This time, the Cowboys are favored by 5 and the over/under’s 42. Both numbers make sense. Dallas is trying to make the post-season party, while the Giants are trying to get through the season. Dak vs. Eli. Giants make this one close but Cowboys pull off the sweep and take the win in upstate New Jersey.

Detroit (6-6) at Tampa Bay (4-8), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712. Tampa Bay faces another former NFC North rival as Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions come to the Sunshine State for an afternoon contest at Raymond James Stadium.

The Lions pulled to within seven against Baltimore in Charm City last Sunday, only to see the Ravens pull away and take a 44-20 win last Sunday. Detroit trailed 20-0 at the half and pulled to within 7 at 20-13 after three quarters of play before the Ravens took control of the contest in the fourth quarter. Detroit narrowed the gap with 2:15 left in the third quarter when rookie RB Tion Green scored on a 6-yard run. Baltimore then took control of things from that point, outscoring Detroit 24-7 in the final 15 minutes of action. Detroit was outrushed 101-78 and Stafford threw for 292 yards and a TD while being sacked three times and throwing an interception (Stafford would leave the contest with a bruised throwing hand). Baltimore’s Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards for the Ravens, with a pair of TD and no sacks or interceptions at M&T Bank Stadium. Detroit went 4 of 13 on third down and actually ruled the clock, as they kept the ball for 30:09, while the Ravens were 29:51 in time of possession, going 5 of 12 on third down tries.

Tampa Bay dropped a 26-20 overtime decision at Green Bay last Sunday at Lambeau. Green Bay led 17-10 at the intermission, before Tampa Bay took the lead back with 6:02 left in regulation when Winston and TE Cameron Brate connected on an 11-yard TD pass. Green Bay then proceeded to tie things up with 2:01 left when K Mason Crosby kicked a 22-yard field goal, setting the score at 20-20 at the end of regulation. Green Bay won the toss to start overtime and wasted very little if any time, as the Packers used an 8-play, 72-yard drive that used 4:01 of clock to send their fans home happy when RB Aaron Jones scored on a 20-yard romp, giving the Packers the win in the land of cheese, beer and Bratwurst. The contest between the Bays was a rushing fan’s dream, as the Packers outrushed Tampa Bay 199-165 (Green Bay’s Jamaal Williams led all rushers with 113 yards and a TD, while Tampa Bay was paced by Payton Barber’s 102) and Winston threw for 270 yards and a pair of TDs with seven sacks and Brett Hundley threw for 84 yards for Green Bay. The Bucs on third down tries went 9 of 16 and kept the ball for 37:17, while the Packers were 5 of 12 on third down, keeping the ball for 26:44, including the overtime.

Detroit leads the series 30-26 and the Lions have outscored Tampa Bay 1,199-977. Detroit came away 34-17 winners in the Motor City in the last meeting between the clubs, while Tampa Bay’s last win over Detroit also came in the Motor City, as the Bucs walked away with a 24-21 win in 2013. The Lions are favored by 2 and the over/under’s 38 1/2. Tampa Bay could make this contest interesting but Detroit prevails and covers the 2 in the Sunshine State.

New York Jets (5-7) at Denver (3-9), 4:05 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. Two old AFL rivals meet in the Mile High City as Denver hosts the New York Jets in the Rocky Mountains.

The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! gave Kansas City their second loss in Met Life Stadium, as GangGreen came survived a scare by the Chiefs and came away 38-31 winners last Sunday. Kansas City trailed 21-17 at the half, then managed to tie the contest at 24-24 when Chiefs QB Alex Smith connected with WR Tyreek Hill on a 29-yard TD pass with 5:13 left in the third. Afte the Jets reclaimed the lead, Smith and Hill would take the lead for their first and only time, connecting on a 40-yard pass with 9:13. The Jets then proceeded to use a 14-play, 75-yard drive that used 6:58 of clock to reclaim the lead for keeps when QB Josh McCown scored on a 1-yard TD run. The Jets then went for two and at first were stopped by the Chiefs. There were two problems. First, Kansas City’s Stephen Nelson was flagged for holding (which was declined). Then, they added insult to injury when CB Marcus Peters threw an official’s flag into the stands, drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty and the ire of head coach Andy Reid (who later suspended Peters for his actions without pay last Wednesday). Peters then left the field and came back but did not re-enter the contest and after the Jets try for two was succesful, the Chiefs got the ball back and got as far as New York’s 19-yard line, where three Smith passes fell short of their mark. New York outrushed Kansas City 157-112 and Smtih threw for 366 yards and four TDs, connecting with TE Travis Kelce on the other two TD tosses, while McCown threw for 331 yards and a TD pass to RB Matt Forte. Kansas City was 3 of 8 on third down tries in the Meadowlans (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for a mere 17:11, while the Jets were ball hogs, keeping the ball for 42:49, going 13 of 20 on third down and 1 of 1 on on fourth down.

Denver continues their somewhat dismal season after their 35-9 loss at Miami last Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. Denver trailed the Dolphins led 16-0 at the half, then saw the Dolphins take control of the contest early. Miami outrushed Denver 145-103, with Dolphins RB Keyon Drake leading the way with 120 yards and a TD, while Jay Cutler threw for 235 yards and three TDs, with Denver’s Trevor Siemian throwing for 300 yards with three sacks and three interceptions. Miami on third down went 4 of 15 and kept the ball for 34:22, while the Broncos went 1 of 13 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down ahd held on to the pigskin for 25:238.

Including games that took place when the Jets were known as the Titans and the Broncos played their home games in Mile High Stadium, Denver leads the series 18-15-1 and have outscored GangGreen 831-731. Denver won the last meeting, which took place in 2014 in the Meadowlands by a final of 31-17, while New York’s last win came in 2010 in the Mile High City by a final of 24-20.

The J-E-T-S! JETSJ! JETS! JETS! are favored by 1 and the over/under’s 41. New York’s looking for a wild card spot, the Broncos are just trying to get through the 2017 campaign. GangGreen covers the 1 and takes the win in the Rockies.

Washington (5-7) at Los Angeles Chargers (6-6), 4:05 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 715. A pair of contending teams in the playoff hunt meet in Los Angeles as Washington travels to the West Coast to take on Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Washington found themselves trailing Dallas 17-7 at the half last Thursday night in Arlington and came out on the short end of a 38-14 loss in NFC East action in the Lone Star State. After a scoreless first quarter, the Cowboys took that 17-7 lead with them to the locker room at the half and took control from there, breaking their three-game losing streak in the process. Dallas outrushed Washington 182-56 and Albert Morris did his best Ezekiel Elliott impression, leading all rushers with 127 yards and a TD, while Prescott threw for 102 and a pair of TDs, connecting with WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Whitten on both tosses. Washington’s Kirk Cousins threw for 251 yards and a pair of TDs but Dallas made life for him somewhat miserable, sacking him four times and picking him off twice. Dallas went 7 of 14 on third down and kept the ball for 32:28; as for Washington, they held the ball for 27:32, going 6 of 14 on third down tries (both clubs went 0 of 1 on fourth down).

The Chargers put themselves in a 3-way tie for first in the AFC West and kept Cleveland winless in the 2017 campaign after their 19-10 over the Browns on the West Coast Last Sunday afternoon. The Chargers used three Todd Coons field goals to lead 9-7 at the intermission, including a 22-yarder that gave them the lead with :00 left on the clock, this coming after Cleveland had led 7-6 with 1:55 left befroe the intermission when Browns QB DeShone Kizer and TE David Njoku connected on a 28-yard TD strike. Los Angeles would go on to outscore Cleveland 10-3 in the second half, as Rivers and WR Keenan Allen would score the Chargers’ only TD with 10:35 left in the third. While neither team breached the 100-yard barrier, the Chargers did outrush Cleveland 94-89 and Rivers threw for 344 yards, while Kizer threw for 215. The Chargers were 8 of 15 on third down tries (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 34:57, while the Browns kept the pigskin for 34:57, going 5 of 11 on third down and 0 of 1 on fourth down.

Washington leads the series 7-3 (which includes contests that took place in San Diego) and the Redskins have outscored the Chargers 255-209. Washington needed overtime in Landover to take a 30-24 win in 2013, while the Chargers’ last win came in 2009 at Qualcomm by a final of 23-20. The oddsmakers like the Chargers as 6 point favorites at home and the over/under’s 46. Both numbers make a lot of sense. While this one’s not “DRILL WORTHY!” it’s worth watching. Hail to the Redskins? Not this week. Washington fans will be saying “Hell, it’s the Redskins!” Chargers may not cover the 6 but they take the win on the West Coast.

Tennessee (8-4) at Arizona (5-7), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 713. Marcus Mariota and the Tennesee Titans make their way to the desert for a late afternoon meeting with the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale.

Tennessee broke a 10-10 tie at the half with Houston and came away 24-13 winners over the Texans last Sunday in the Music City at Nissan Stadium last Sunday. Tennessee outrushed the Texans 198-53, as Titans’ RB Derrick Henry ran for 109 yards and a TD, while Houston’s Tom Savage threw for 365 yards and a TD but was sacked four times (Mariota threw for 150 yards and a TD for the Titans). The Texans on third down were 8 of 16 and actually ruled the clock, as theu held the ball for 33:49, while the Titans were 5 of 11 on third down, holding the ball for 26:11 (both clubs were 1 of 1 on fourth down).

Arizona struggled against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday in Glendale and came away on the short end of a 32-16 NFC West loss in Glendale. The Desert Angry Birds trailed led 19-13 at the break and were held in check in the final 30 minutes of action. Arizona did manage to outrush Los Angeles 118-90, while Goff threw for 220 yards and a pair of TDs in the rematch. Arizona’s Blaine Gabbert threw for 221 yards in the desert but was sacked six times and picked off twice in the loss. Los Angeles went 3 of 11 on third down tries (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 28:58, while the Cardinals were ball hogs, holding the pigskin for 31:02, going 7 of 15 on third down tries.

Including games that took place in Houston when the Titans were known as the Oilers and the Cardinals were based in St. Louis, Arizona leads the series 6-4 and the Desert Angry Birds have outscored the Titans 247-219. They last meet in the Music City in 2013 and the Cardinals needed overtime to win 37-34 in that matchup, while Tennessee’s last win in the series came in 2009 (also in Nashville), with the Titans 20-17 victors. Tennessee’s favored by 3 and the over/under is 44. Tennesee’s in the hunt for the AFC South title, while the Desert Angry Birds are looking to make their mark in the NFC West. Tennesee takes the win in Glendale but expect the Desert Angry Birds to make things closer than the 3.

Seattle (8-4) at Jacksonville (8-4), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 716. Contenders Seattle and Jacksonville meet in north Florida for a late Sunday afternoon kickoff at EverBank Field. Both teams took wins last week to improve their positioning in their march for the post-season.

Seattle ended Philadelphia’s nine-game win streak come to an end in Seattle last Sunday night as the Seahawks took Philly to task and came away 24-10 winners in the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks. Seattle led 10-3 at the intermission, then stopped an early Eagles’ drive when Carson Wentz fumbled and the ball went through the end zone for a touchback. Seattle got the ball back and took control thereafter. Seattle outrushed Philadelphia 101-98 and Wentz threw for 348 yards and a TD (Wentz was sacked three times and picked off once), while Russell Wilson threw for 227 yards and three TDs, connecting with TE Jimmy Graham on one of the passes. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down tries; Philadelphia went 8 of 16, Seattle went 6 of 12 (the Eagles were 2 of 4 on fourth down) and time was on the side of the Eagles, who held the ball for 31:54 to Seattle’s 28:06.

Tied for first with Tennessee in the AFC South, Jacksonville manhandled the Indianapolis Colts at Ever Bank Field last Sunday, taking a 30-10 win in the Sunshine State. Jacksonville took a 16-3 lead at the break, then pulled away from the Colts, outscoring them 14-7 in the second half. While the Colts did outrush Jacksonville 141-96, Jacksonville made life miserable for Jacboy Brissett (174 yards, TD), sacking him four times and picking him off twice, while Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles threw for 309 yards and a pair of TDs. The Colts were 5 of 15 on third down conversions in the Sunshine State but found success on fourth down, going 4 of 4 on fourth down and held the ball for 26:13, while Jacksonville went 9 of 15 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the pigskin for 33:47.

The Seahawks lead the series 5-2, they’ve outscored Jacksonville 212-129 and they’ve won the last two meetings, including coming away 45-17 winners in the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks in 2013, while the Jaguars’ last win in the series came in 2005 in the Sunshine State by a final of 26-14. Jacksonville’s favored by 3 and the over/under is 39. Both numbers make sense and both teams have played some really great football of late and both could very well make the playoffs. Seattle makes it interesting but Jacksonville covers the 3 at home and takes the win.

Philadelphia (10-2) at Los Angeles Rams (9-3), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV . The future of NFL QB’s comes full circle in Los Angeles as Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles conclude their West Coast trip, making their way down I-5 for a meeting with Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams. It’s also the battle of two first-place teams in the NFC.

Philadelphia, which has won nine of its past 10 games, can clinch the NFC East with a win or a Dallas loss. It would complete a “worst-to-first” turnaround for the Eagles, who finished last in the division in 2016. This would be the 14th season in the past 15 years in which at least one team won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place. The Eagles saw their nine-game win streak come to an end in Seattle last Sunday night as the Seahawks took Philly to task and came away 24-10 winners in the land of Grunge, Salmon and Starbucks. The Eagles trailed 10-3 at the intermission and marched downfield to start the second half but saw that drive stall when Wentz fumbled and the ball went through the end zone for a touchback. Seattle got the ball back and took control thereafter. Seattle outrushed Philadelphia 101-98 and Wentz threw for 348 yards and a TD (Wentz was sacked three times and picked off once), while Russell Wilson threw for 227 yards and three TDs, connecting with TE Jimmy Graham on one of the passes. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down tries; Philadelphia went 8 of 16, Seattle went 6 of 12 (the Eagles were 2 of 4 on fourth down) and time was on the side of the Eagles, who held the ball for 31:54 to Seattle’s 28:06.

The Rams, who have won six of their past seven games, lead the NFC West and can clinch a playoff berth this weekend with a win combined with other scenarios. Los Angeles put themselves one step closer to the NFC West title as they took care of Arizona 32-16 in Glendale. The Rams led 19-13 and held the Desert Angry Birds in check in the final 30 minutes of action. Arizona did manage to outrush Los Angeles 118-90, while Goff threw for 220 yards and a pair of TDs in the rematch. Arizona’s Blaine Gabbert threw for 221 yards in the desert but was sacked six times and picked off twice in the loss. Los Angeles went 3 of 11 on third down tries (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 28:58, while the Cardinals were ball hogs, holding the pigskin for 31:02, going 7 of 15 on third down tries.

Including games that were played in Cleveland and St. Louis (when the Rams were located in those cities; there was one game in the series that was played in Colorado Springs, with the Rams winning 35-13 in 1935), the Eagles lead the series 19-17-1 and the Rams have outscored the Eagles 734-725. They last met in 2014 in the City of Brotherly Love and the Eagles were 34-28 winners (Philadelphia has won the last four contests), while the Rams’ last win over the Eagles came in 2014 in St. Louis by a final of 20-7.

The Rams are favored by 2 and the over/under on the West Coast is 50 1/2. These two could meet in the NFC playoffs and this could very well be a preview of those playoffs. Rams cover the 2 on the West Coast and takes the win.

Baltimore (7-5) at Pittsburgh (10-2), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. They meet again, this time in the Steel City.

Flacco.

Roethlisberger.

The AFC North picture could get a little clearer Sunday evening when the Steelers and Ravens meet at Heinz Field. Both teams are coming into Sunday night’s contest with wins under their belts from last week’s action.

Baltimore saw Detroit pull to within seven late in the fourth quarter in Charm City last Sunday, then pull away from the Lions to and take a 44-20 win last Sunday. Baltimore led 20-0 at the half, then saw Detroit score their 13 points in the second quarter unchallenged before taking control of things in the final 15 minutes. Detroit narrowed the gap with 2:15 left in the third quarter when rookie RB Tion Green scored on a 6-yard run. Baltimore then took control of things from that point, outscoring Detroit 24-7 in the final 15 minutes of action. Detroit was outrushed 101-78 and Stafford threw for 292 yards and a TD while being sacked three times and throwing an interception (Stafford would leave the contest with a bruised throwing hand). Baltimore’s Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards for the Ravens, with a pair of TD and no sacks or interceptions at M&T Bank Stadium. Detroit went 4 of 13 on third down and actually ruled the clock, as they kept the ball for 30:09, while the Ravens were 29:51 in time of possession, going 5 of 12 on third down tries.

Pittsburgh completed their sweep of AFC North foe Cincinnati, taking a 23-20 win in Cincinnati last Monday night. In a contest that saw seven personal foul penalties and a lot of chippiness, the Steelers trailed 17-3 they roared back in the second half, outscoring the Bengals 20-3 in the final 30 minutes of action. The contest had some scary moments as Steelers LB Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal injury that stopped the contest and sent him to the hospital with a neck injury (Shazier did not suffer any further injuries and was able to move his arms and legs) in the second quarter. Then, halfway through the fourth quarter, things got somewhat chippy as Steelers WR JuJu Schuster-Smith was flagged for taunting afte a hit in the contest (he would later be suspended by the league for his action after his appeal was denied and will miss the Sunday contest in the Steel City) and also in the contest, Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict, who Steeler fans despise, was knocked out of the contest and taken off the field as well. Pittsburgh would eventually tie the contest up when Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown connected on a 6-yard TD strike to tie things up and then take the win in the closing seconds as Chris Boswell conntected on a 38-yard field goal as time expired. In all that chippiness and confusion, the Bengals outrushed Pittsburgh 130-92 and Andy Dalton threw for 234 yards and a pair of TD tosses to WR A.J. Green, while Roethlisberger threw for 290 yards and a pair of TDs as well (connecting with Brown and LeVeon Bell). Cincinnati on third down went 7 of 14 and the Bengals held the ball for 30:11, while the Steelers were 4 of 12 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 29:49.

They met in week four in Charm City and the Steelers took Baltimore to task, taking a 26-9 win at M&T Bank Stadium. Pittsburgh led 16-0 at the break and got TDs from RB LeVeon Bell and WR JuJu Smith-Schuseter to take the win on the road. Pittsburgh outrushed Baltimore 173-82, Bell led all rushers with 144 yards and a pair of TDs and Roethlisberger threw for 216 yards, while Flacco threw for 235 yards (each man threw a TD pass, Roethlisberger was sacked once and threw an interception, while Flacco threw a pair of interceptions while being sacked four times). Pittsburgh was 7 of 15 on third down conversions and held the ball for 35:29, while the Ravens were 5 of 13 on third down (0 of 2 on fourth down) and held the ball for 24:31.

Pittsburgh won by 17 in the week four contest, allowing the Steelers to cover the 3 point spread. However, neither club covered the 44 over/under, as Pittsburgh and Baltimore combined for 35 points. The boys and girls in Vegas like the Steelers and they’ve made them 7 point favorites and the over/under’s 41. Saying that this one’s not “DRILL WORHTY” is like saying Frosty was not a snowman. (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

Both teams are playoff contenders. Pittsburgh’s looking to stay the one seed in the AFC, while the Ravens want to be part of the playoff picture. Baltimore wants revenge, Pittsburgh wants to sweep. Whip out the Terrible Towels. Steelers complete the sweep and win at home, covering the 7.

New England (10-2) at Miami (5-7), 8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN. Week 14 concludes in the Sunshine State at Tom Brady and the Gronk-less Pats travel to Miami for a Monday night AFC East contest at Hard Rock Stadium.

The defending Super Bowl champs (who will be without TE Rob Gronkowski for this contest after his late hit in Buffalo last Sunday) held Buffalo to a 49-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka in the second quarter and took down the Bills 23-3 at New Era Stadium. The Bills trailed 9-3 at the half in upstate New York before New England pulled away in the final 30 minutes of action. New England outrushed Buffalo 191-183 and Tom Brady burned the Bills for 258 yards, while Tyrod Taylor threw for only 65 yards with three sacks before leaving the contest with a knee injury. Buffalo went 5 of 13, 0 of 3 on third and fourt down tries and kept the ball for 25:59, while New England, who ruled the clock and kept the ball for 34:01, went 5 of 12 on third down conversions.

Miami manhandled Denver last Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, coming away 35-9 winners over the Broncos in the Sunshine State. The Dolphins led 16-0 at the half, taking control of the contest early. Miami outrushed Denver 145-103, with Dolphins RB Keyon Drake leading the way with 120 yards and a TD, while Jay Cutler threw for 235 yards and three TDs, with Denver’s Trevor Siemian throwing for 300 yards with three sacks and three interceptions. Miami on third down went 4 of 15 and kept the ball for 34:22, while the Broncos went 1 of 13 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down ahd held on to the pigskin for 25:238.

It’s a rematch of their week 12 meeting in Foxboro that saw Brady and the Pats take a 17-10 lead at the break and came away 35-17 winners at Gillette Stadium. New England outrushed Miami 196-67 in the contest and Brady threw four TD passes in the contest, two of them to Gronkowski and RB Dion Lewis led all rushers with 112 yards. Miami was 2 of 11 on third down (2 of 3 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 27:19, while the Pats were 5 of 12 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down and ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 32:41.

Miami has already played a Monday night contest, losing at Carolina 45-21 in week 10. As for New England, suprisingly, the Pats are 24-24 on MNF and won their last meeting last year. In the week 12 meeting in Foxboro, New England was favored by 16 and covered, wining by 18. As for the 47 1/2 over/under? Both teams took care of that, combining for 52 points. New England’s favored by 11 and the over/under’s 47. New England can win the East with the victory on Monday night, while the Dolphins would like to delay that party. This one’s worth watching, so you might want to tape “Scorpion” this week. The Pats may not cover the 11 but they take the win in the Sunshine State on Monday night.

New Orleans (9-3) at ATLANTA (7-5), 8:25 p.m. on NBC, NFL Network and Amazon Prime. They came into the league at the same time. They don’t like each other. One city’s hosted an Olympics, the other’s hosts Mardi Gras. It’s Peach Pie vs. Gumbo as NeW Orleans travels to Atlanta for an important NFC contest to open play in week 14.

The Saints swept their series with Carolina Sunday afternoon in the Big Easy, as New Orleans came away 31-21 winners over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Carolina trailed 21-14 at the intermission before the Saints pulled away in the second half to take the win. Carolina made it a 10-point contest with 3:57 left in regulation when Newton (183 yards) and WR Devin Funchess connected on a 24-yard TD pass (it was the second TD pass of the day for Newton; he had connected with WR Christian McCaffrey in the first half to pull the Panthers to within seven). Carolina then tried an onside kick which they thought was successful but Funchess’ effort to keep the ball failed after the Saints challenged the call. New Orleans won the challenge and took control after that. New Orleans outrushed Carolina 148-112 and it was the Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara show as Ingram ran for 85 yards and TD, while Kamara chipped in with 60 yards and a pair of rushing TDs of his own and Brees threw for 269 yards in the contest in the Big Easy without being intercepted. New Orleans was 6 of 15 on third down conversions in the rematch (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 33:21, while the Panthers were 3 of 10 on third down, 0 of 2 on fourth down and held on to the pigskin for 26:39.

Atlanta was held without a TD for the first time since they were shutout at Carolina in 2015, scoring only three Matt Bryant field goals to fall to Minnesota 14-9 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta trailed 7-6 at the half, then took a 9-7 lead with 11:57 left in the third and took that lead into the fourth quarter, when Minnesota took the lead back for keeps when Vikings QB Case Keenum (227 yards, two sack) and TE Kyle Rudolph connected on a 6-yard TD pass to open play in the fourth quarter. Minnesota outrushed Atlanta 105-102 and held Matt Ryan to 173 yards in the air in the win. Atlanta on third down was a somewhat dismal 1 of 10 (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 25:58, while the Vikings went 6 of 12, keeping the pigskin for 34:02.

They’ve met 95 times since joining the National Football League, the Falcons lead the series 50-45 and Atlanta has outscored the Saints 2,113-1,985. They met last year and Atlanta swept the series, taking wins in the Big Peach and the Big Easy (New Orleans’ last win in the series came in 2015, when they swept the series that year).

Round 1… week 3… the Big Easy. Atlanta broke a 7-7 first quarter tie, took a 28-17 at the intermission and left the Mercedes Benz Superdome with a 45-21 under their belts. Ryan (240 yards) threw a pair of TDs, while Brees (376 yards, interception) threw three TD passes in the Monday night affair that celebrated the 10th anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina almost destoryed it. (Each man was sacked twice) Atlanta outrushed New Orelans 217-115, with Falcons RB DeVonta Freeman leading all rushers with 152 yards. The Falcons on third down tries went 5 of 11 but found success on fourth down, going 2 of 2 and the Falcons kept the ball for 27:26, while the Saints ruled the clock and held the ball for 32:34, going 7 of 13 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down.

That was round one. There’s a sequel to the series, you know.

They met again in the Big Peach in week 17 to close out the season. Winning the NFC South the week before in Charlotte, the Falcons sealed the deal and swept the series, coming away 38-32 winners in the final regular season game in the Georgia Dome. Leading 35-13 at the half, the Falcons held off a late New Orleans rally that would have ruined things for the Falcons. Ryan (331 yards) threw four TD passes in the contest, while Brees (350 yards) threw two fourth quarter TDs in the contest. As was the case in the first meeting, Atlanta outrushed New Orleans, this time tallying 142 yards to New Orleans’ 132. Ingram led all rushers with 103 yards on the ground, while Freeman tallied 96 (each had a rushing TD in the contest). The Falcons on third down in the rematch went 6 of 11 and kept the ball for 29:45, while the Saints were 7 of 16 on third down, 3 of 3 on fourth down and kept the ball for 30:15.

New Orleans was favored by 3 in the week 3 Monday night contest and the Falcons covered the spread, winning by 13. Both teams scored a combined 66 points, covering the 54. In the season finale, the Falcons were favored by 7 but barely won by 6. The two clubs easily took care of the 55 1/2 over/under, combining for 70 points.

In the Thursday night matchup in the Big Peach, the Saints are favored by 1 and the over/under’s 53 1/2. Atlanta would like nothing more than to catch the Saints (who they will play in New Orleans in two weeks) and rule the NFC South again. As for the Saints, they’re on top of the NFC South and want to stay there. Someone’s going to cover the 1 and that someone will be Atlanta. The Falcons prevail in the Big Peach and let the Saints know they rule the roost.

Broadcast Information: 8:25 p.m. on NBC, NFL Network and Amazon Prime: Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, Heather Cox (Field reporter): NATIONAL RADIO: Westwood One: Ian Eagle, Tony Boselli; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 81 (New Orleans), 83 (Atlanta); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 81 (New Orleans), 83 (Atlanta)

Referee: Clete Blakeman

Injury Report

New Orleans
OUT: G Andrus Peat (Groin)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Mark Ingram (Toe), T Terron Armstead (Thigh), DE Collins Hendrickson (Knee), CB Marshon Lattimore (Ankle), S Marcus Williams (Groin)

Atlanta
OUT: G Andrew Levitre (Triceps), TE Eric Saubert (Back)

Weather: Game Indoors; if roof is open, Cloudy with a 60 percent chance of rain and 43 degrees

Broadcast information, officials and injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel