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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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Saturday and Sunday Wild Card Broadcast Information (All times listed are Eastern)

ATLANTA (11-5) at Los Angeles Rams (11-5), 8:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner, Scott Kaplan; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Atlanta), 82 (Los Angeles Rams); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Atlanta), 82 (Los Angeles Rams)

Tennessee (9-7) at Kansas City (10-6), 4:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN/ABC: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (Field reporter), Adam Schefter (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Dan Miller, Trent Green, Hub Arkush; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Tennessee), 82 (Kansas City); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Tennessee), 82 (Kansas City)

Buffalo (9-7) at Jacksonville (10-6), 1 p.m. on CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (Field reporter), Jay Feely (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Ian Eagle, Mike Mayock, Steve Tasker; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Buffalo), 82 (Jacksonville); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Buffalo), 82 (Jacksonville)

Carolina (11-5) at New Orleans (11-5), 4:30 p.m. on FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (Field reporter), Chris Myers (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Kugler, Dan Fouts; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Carolina), 82 (New Orleans); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Carolina), 82 (New Orleans)

Saturday and Sunday Officials
ATLANTA at Los Angeles Rams, 8:30 p.m. Saturday: Ed Hochuli
Tennessee at Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. Saturday: Jeff Triplette
Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1 p.m. Sunday: John Hussey
Carolina at New Orleans, 4:30 p.m. Sunday: Tony Corrente

Saturday and Sunday Odds (Home teams in Caps)

Saturday

Favorite           Spread  Underdog       O/U
KANSAS CITY        – 8     Tennessee      44 1/2
LOS ANGELES RAMS   – 6 1/2 Atlanta        49

Sunday

Favorite           Spread  Underdog       O/U
JACKSONVILLE       – 8     Buffalo        39 1/2
NEW ORLEANS        – 6 1/2 Carolina       48 1/2

Saturday and Sunday Injury Report

ATLANTA at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m. Saturday

ATLANTA – Atlanta reports no injuries

Los Angeles Rams
DOUBTFUL – WR Michael Thomas (Ankle)

Tennessee at Kansas City, 4:35 Saturday

Tennessee
OUT: RB DeMarco Murray (Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: G Quinton Spain (Back)

Kansas City
OUT: DB Phillip Gaines (Elbow)
DOUBTFUL: DE Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Tamba Hall (Knee), DE Jarvis Jenkins (Knee), WR Albert Wilson (Hamstring)

Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1 p.m. Sunday

Buffalo
OUT: CB Shareece Wright (Concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: RB LeSean McCoy (Ankle), LB Matt Milano (Hamstring), T Jordan Mills (Ankle), WR Deonte Thompson (Shoulder), QB Joe Webb (Ankle)

Jacksonville
QUESTIONABLE: WR Marquise Lee (Ankle), RB T.J. Yeldon (Illness)

Carolina at New Orleans, 4:35 p.m. Sunday

Carolina
QUESTIONABLE: WR Devin Funchess (Shoulder), T Matt Kalil (Illness), G Trai Turner (Concussion), QB Derek Anderson (Illness)

New Orleans
QUESTIONABLE: DT Trey Hendrickson (Ankle), T Terron Armstead (Thigh)

Saturday and Sunday Weather
ATLANTA at Los Angeles Rams, 8:30 p.m. Saturday: Mostly cloudy and 64 degrees
Tennessee at Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. Saturday: Mostly sunny and 29 degrees
Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1 p.m. Sunday: Mostly cloudy and 54 degrees
Carolina at New Orleans, 4:30 p.m. Sunday: Game indoors

Broadcast Information, Officials and Injury Report courtesy the National Football League; odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel

 

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 National Football League on Monday announced the opponents for all of the 2018 regular season contests. The opponents were determined by a scheduling formula that was created in 2002 when the NFL realigned the divisions and guarantees that all teams play each other on a regular, rotating basis.

Under the formula, every team plays 16 games as follows:

•Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).

•The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).

•The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).

•Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.

Beginning in 2010, a change was made to how teams are paired in the schedule rotation with the AFC and NFC West divisions.

The official 2018 regular season schedule, with playing dates and times, will be announced in the spring (PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER!). NFL Kickoff 2018 Weekend will begin on Thursday night, September 6, and the regular season will conclude on Sunday, December 30. Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia will be played on Sunday, February 3, 2019.

2018 OPPONENENTS

AFC EAST

1. New England   (13-3)
Home: Buffalo, Miami, New York Jets, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minnesota
Away: Buffalo, Miami, New York Jets, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tennessee

2. Buffalo  (9-7)
Home: Miami, New England, New York Jets, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee
Away: Miami, New England, New York Jets, Baltimore, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota

3. Miami (6-10)
Home: Buffalo, New England, New York Jets, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Oakland, Tennessee
Away: Buffalo, New England, New York Jets, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota

4.New York Jets (5-11)
Home: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England, Denver, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota
Away: Buffalo, Miami, New England Patriots, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonville, Tennessee

AFC NORTH

1. Pittsburgh  (13-3)
Home: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, New England
Away: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Oakland, Tampa Bay

2. Baltimore (9-7)
Home: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Denver, New Orleans, Oakland, Tampa Bay
Away: Cincinnati, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee

3. Cincinnati  (7-9)
Home: Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Denver, Miami, New Orleans, Oakland, Tampa Bay
Away: Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Carolina, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers

4. Cleveland (0-16)
Home: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets
Away: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Denver, Houston, New Orleans, Oakland, Tampa Bay

AFC SOUTH

1.Jacksonville  (10-6)
Home: Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, New England, New York Jets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Away: Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Buffalo, Dallas, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants

2. Tennessee (9-7)
Home: Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Baltimore, New England, New York Jets, Philadelphia, Washington
Away: Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Dallas, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami, New York Giants

3. Indianapolis  (4-12)
Home: Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dallas, Miami, New York Giants
Away: Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, New England, New York Jets, Oakland, Philadelphia, Washington

4. Houston (4-12)
Home: Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Buffalo, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, New York Giants
Away: Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Denver, New England, New York Jets, Philadelphia, Washington

AFC WEST

1. Kansas City (10-6)
Home: Denver, Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland, Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, San Francisco
Away: Denver, Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland, Cleveland, Los Angeles Rams, New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle

2.Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
Home: Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee
Away: Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh, Seattle

3. Oakland (6-10)
Home: Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh, Seattle
Away: Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, San Francisco

4. Denver (5-11)
Home: Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh, Seattle
Away: Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland, Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, New York Jets, San Francisco

NFC EAST

1. Philadelphia (13-3)
Home: Dallas, New York Giants, Washington, Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota
Away: Dallas, New York Giants, Washington, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Tennessee

2. Dallas  (9-7)
Home: New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Tennessee
Away: New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle

3. Washington (7-9)
Home: Dallas, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Carolina, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis
Away: Dallas, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Arizona, Jacksonville, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay, Tennessee

4. New York Giants (3-13)
Home: Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Tennessee
Away: Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, San Francisco

NFC NORTH

1.Minnesota (13-3)
Home: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Arizona, Buffalo, Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco
Away: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles Rams, New England, New York Jets, Philadelphia, Seattle

2. Detroit  (9-7)
Home: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Carolina, Los Angeles Rams, New England, New York Jets, Seattle
Away: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Arizona, Buffalo, Dallas, Miami, San Francisco

3. Green Bay  (7-9)
Home: Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Miami, San Francisco
Away: Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, Los Angeles Rams, New England, New York Jets, Seattle, Washington

4. Chicago (5-11)
Home: Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Los Angeles Rams, New England, New York Jets, Seattle, Tampa Bay
Away: Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Arizona, Buffalo, Miami, New York Giants, San Francisco

NFC SOUTH

1.New Orleans (11-5)
Home: Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Away: Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas, Minnesota, New York Giants

2. Carolina (11-5)
Home: Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, New York Giants, Seattle
Away: Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

3. Atlanta (10-6)
Home: Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, New York Giants
Away: Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

4. Tampa Bay  (5-11)
Home:  Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Washington
Away:  Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, New York Giants

NFC WEST

1. Los Angeles Rams  (11-5)
Home: Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, Green Bay, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, Philadelphia
Away: Arizona , San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New Orleans, Oakland

2. Seattle  (9-7)
Home: Arizona, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco, Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota
Away:  Arizona, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco, Carolina, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Oakland

3. Arizona (8-8)
Home: Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco , Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Oakland Raiders, Washington
Away: Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Green Bay, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota

4. San Francisco  (6-10)
Home: Arizona, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New York Giants, Oakland
Away: Arizona, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle, Green Bay, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, Tampa Bay

 

 

 

To no one’s suprise, the Cleveland Browns own the Number 1 pick of the 2018 National Football League Draft, which will be held April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Yes, for the second straight year, the Browns are on the clock.

The tentative order of the first round was announced Monday by the NFL, subject to the results of the playoffs.

The draft order is determined by the following procedures:

(A) The winner of the Super Bowl game shall select last and the loser of such game shall select next-to-last in all rounds, regardless of the record of such participating clubs in the regular season.

(B) The losers of the Conference Championship games shall select 29th and 30th in all rounds, according to the reverse order of their standing.

(C) The losers of the Divisional playoff games shall select in the 25th through 28th positions in all rounds, according to the reverse order of their standing.

(D) The losers of the Wild Card games shall select in the 21st through 24th positions in all rounds, according to the reverse order of their standing.

(E) Clubs not participating in the playoffs shall select in the first through 20th positions in all rounds, according to the reverse order of their standing.

If, after all the foregoing procedures have been applied, ties still exist in any grouping except (A) above, such ties shall be broken by figuring the aggregate won-lost-tied percentage of each involved club’s regular season opponents and awarding preferential selection order to the club which faced the schedule of teams with the lowest aggregate won-lost-tied percentage.

If ties still exist, the divisional or conference tie-breaking method, if applicable, shall be applied. If neither the divisional nor the conference tie-breaking methods are applicable, ties shall be broken by a coin flip.

Since Oakland and San Francisco have the same strength-of-schedule and neither the divisional nor the conference tie-breaker applies, the tie for the ninth and 10th positions will be determined by a coin flip.

The tie between Green Bay and Washington for the 13th and 14th position was broken by conference tie-breakers. Since both clubs had the same conference record (5-7), their win-loss-tie percentages in common games is applied. Since Washington (1-4) had a lower win-loss-tie percentage in common games than Green Bay (2-3), the Redskins are given priority in the Draft order.

The tie between Dallas and Detroit for the 19th and 20th position was broken by conference tie-breakers. Since Dallas (7-5) has a lower win-loss-tie percentage in conference games than Detroit (8-4), the Cowboys are given priority in the Draft order.

2018 FIRST ROUND DRAFT ORDER

#  Team (W-L, PCT.; OPPONENT W-L-T, Strength of Schedule)
1. Cleveland (0-16, .000; 133-123-0, .520)
2. New York Giants (3-13, .188; 136-120-0, .531)
3. Indianapolis (4-12, .250; 123-133, .480)
4. Houston (traded to Cleveland) (4-12, .250; 132-124, .516)
5. Denver (5-11, .313; 126-130, .492)
6. New York Jets (5-11, .313; 133-123, .520)
7. Tampa Bay (5-11, .313; 142-114, .555)
8. Chicago (5-11, .313; 143-113, .559)
9. Oakland (6-10, .375; 131-125, .512)^
9. San Francisco (6-10, .375; 131-125, .512)^
11. Miami (6-10, .375; 139-117, .543)
12. Cincinnati (7-9, .438; 119-137, .465)
13. Washington (7-9, .438; 138-111, .539)
14. Green Bay (7-9, .438; 138-111, .539)
15. Arizona (8-8, .500; 125-131, .488)
16. Baltimore (9-7, .563; 113-143, .441)
17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7, .563; 117-139, .457)
18. Seattle (9-7, .563; 126-130, .493)
19. Dallas (9-7, .563; 127-129, .496)
20. Detroit (9-7, .563; 127-129, .496)
21. Tennessee (9-7, .563; 111-145, .434)*
22. Buffalo (9-7, .563; 126-130, .492)*
23. Jacksonville (10-6, .625; 111-145, .434)*
24. Kansas City (traded to Buffalo) (10-6, .625; 122-134, .477)*
25. ATLANTA (10-6, .625; 139-117, .543)*
26. Los Angeles Rams (11-5, .688; 129-127, .504)*
27. New Orleans (11-5, .688; 137-119, .535)*
28. Carolina (11-5, .688; 138-118, .539)*
29. Pittsburgh (13-3, .813; 116-140, .453)*
30. Philadelphia (13-3, .813; 118-138, .461)*
31. New England (13-3, .813; 124-132, .484)*
32. Minnesota (13-3, .813; 126-130, .492)*

*- Subject to Playoffs
^- The ninth and 10th selections will be decided by coin flip

Sunday Broadcast Information (All times listed are Eastern)

Carolina at ATLANTA, 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 113 (Carolina), 82 (Atlanta); XM: 389 (Carolina), 82 (Atlanta)

Houston at Indianapolis, 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 706: Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 132 (Houston, 157 (Indianpolis); XM: 382 (Houston), 226 (Indianpois)

New York Jets at New England, 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 708: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 133 (New York Jets), 82 (New England); XM: 380 (New York Jets), 82 (New England)

Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 709: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta; SIRIUS: 119 (Cleveland), 93 (Pittsburgh); XM: 384 (Cleveland), 225 (Pittsburgh)

Green Bay at Detroit, 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Shannon Spake (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 112 (Green Bay), 137 (Detroit); XM: 381 (Green Bay), 227 (Detroit)

Chicago at Minnesota, 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 713: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 121 (Chicago), 83 (Minnesota); XM: 386 (Chicago), 83 (Minnesota)

Washington at New York Giants, 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 714: Sam Rosen, Matt Millen, Jennifer Hale (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 134 (Washington), 146 (New York Giants); XM: 383 (Washington), 228 (New York Giants)

Dallas at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 715: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 135 (Dallas), 81 (Philadelphia); XM: 385 (Dallas), 81 (Philadelphia)

Cincinnati at Baltimore, 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 705: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 134 (Cincinnati), 108 (Baltimore); XM: 383 (Cincinnati), 229 (Baltimore)

Buffalo at Miami, 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 707: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton; SIRIUS: 133 (Buffalo), 137 (Miami); XM: 380 (Buffalo), 227 (Miami)

Jacksonville at Tennessee, 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 710: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 135 (Jacksonville), 81 (Tennessee); XM: 385 (Jacksonville), 81 (Tennessee)

New Orleans at Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 716: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Peter Schrager (Field reporter)
SIRIUS: 119 (New Orleans), 93 (Tampa Bay); XM: 384 (New Orleans), 225 (Tampa Bay)

Kansas City at Denver, 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 717: Beth Mowins, Jay Feely; SIRIUS: 112 (Kansas City), 157 (Denver); XM: 381 (Kansas City), 226 (Denver)

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 718: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon; SIRIUS: 132 (Oakland), 136 (Los Angeles Chargers); XM: 382 (Oakland), 231 (Los Angeles Chargers)

San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 719: Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Jenny Taft (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 138 (San Francisco), 83 (Los Angeles Rams); XM: 387 (San Francsico), 83 (Los Angeles Rams)

Arizona at Seattle, 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 720: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin (Field reporter); SIRIUS: 145 (Arizona), 98 (Seattle); XM: 388 (Arizona), 230 (Seattle)

Sunday Officials
Carolina at ATLANTA, 4:25 p.m.: Bill Vinovich
Houston at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.: Gene Steratore
New York Jets at New England, 1 p.m.: Brad Allen
Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.: Jerome Boger
Green Bay at Detroit, 1 p.m.: Pete Morelli
Chicago at Minnesota, 1 p.m.: Craig Wrolstad
Washington at New York Giants, 1 p.m.: John Hussey
Dallas at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.: John Parry
Cincinnati at Baltimore, 4:25 p.m.: Ronald Torbert
Buffalo at Miami, 4:25 p.m.: Jeff Triplette
Jacksonville at Tennessee, 4:25 p.m.: Tony Corrente
New Orleans at Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m.: Walt Anderson
Kansas City at Denver, 4:25 p.m.: Clete Blakeman
Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.: Ed Hochuli
San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.: Terry McAulay
Arizona at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.: Walt Coleman

Sunday Odds (Home teams in CAPS)

Sunday’s Games
Favorite               Spread     Underdog          O/U
ATLANTA                –  3 1/2   Carolina          46
INDIANAPOLIS           –  3 1/2   Houston           41
NEW ENGLAND            – 15       New York Jets     45
PITTSBURGH             – 13       Cleveland         39 1/2
DETROIT                –  7       Green Bay         43
MINNESOTA              – 11       Chicago           39 1/2
Washington             –  3 1/2   NEW YORK GIANTS   38
TENNESSEE              –  5 1/2   Jacksonville      41
Buffalo                –  3       MIAMI             42 1/2
BALTIMORE              –  9 1/2   Cincinnati        40 1/2
Dallas                 –  2 1/2   PHILADELPHIA      41
New Orleans            –  7       TAMPA BAY         50 1/2
DENVER                 –  3 1/2   Kansas City       38
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS   –  7 1/2   Oakland           43 1/2
LOS ANGELES RAMS       –  4 1/2   San Francsico     45 1/2
SEATTLE                –  8       Arizona           38 1/2

Sunday Injury Report

Carolina at ATLANTA, 4:25 p.m.

Carolina
QUESTIONABLE: S Kurtis Coleman (Ankle), G Trai Turner (Concussion)

ATLANTA
OUT: Levine Toilolo (Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: C Alex Mack (Calf)

Green Bay at Detroit, 1 p.m.

Green Bay
OUT: WR Davante Adams (Concussion), G Jahri Evans (Knee), RB Aaron Jones (Knee), WR Jordy Nelson (Shoulder), LB Nicholas Perry (Ankle), TE Richard Rodgers (Shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Geronimo Allison (Illness), LB William Matthews (Hamstring) CB Damarious Randall (Knee)

Detroit
OUT: CB Nevin Lawson (Concussion)

Chicago at Minnesota, 1 p.m.

Chicago
DOUBTFUL: T Bobby Massie (Knee), G Josh Sitton (Ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: S DeAndre Houston-Carson (Back), TE Adam Shaheen (Chest)

Minnesota
OUT: CB Tramaine Brock (Foot), C Patrick Elflein (Shoulder), LS Kevin McDermott (Shoulder), DT Shamar Stephen (Ankle)

New York Jets at New England, 1 p.m.

New York Jets
OUT: T Brandon Shell (Concussion)
DOUBTFUL: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Ribs)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Matt Forte (Knee)

New England
OUT: DT Alan Branch (Knee), RB Michael Burkhead (Knee), RB Mike Gillislee (Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Chris Hogan (Shoulder), DE Eric Lee (Ankle), S Devin McCourty (Shoulder), WR Matt Slater (Hamstring), LB Kyle Van Noy (Calf), T LaAdrian Waddle (Ankle), RB James White (Ankle)

Washington at New York Giants, 1 p.m.

Washington
OUT: LB Orlando Anderson (Knee), LB Zach Brown (Illness), DT Evander Hood (Elbow)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Patrick Kerrigan (Calf), LB Martrell Spaight (Illness), WR Robert Davis (Concussion), WR Maurice Harris (Back), G Kyle Kalis (Ankle), TE Terrell McClain (Toe)

New York Giants
OUT: TE Evan Engram (Rib), WR Tavarres King (Concussion), WR Sterling Shepard (Neck)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Finger), T Ereck Flowers (Groin), T Bobby Hart (Ankle)

Dallas at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

Dallas
OUT: DE David Irving (Concussion), DE Benson Mayowa (Back)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Cole Beasley (Illness), RB Rob Smith (Back), DT Richard Ash (Shoulder), T La’el Collins (Back)

Philadelphia
OUT: DE Brandon Graham (Ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Jalen Mills (Ankle)

Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

Cleveland
OUT: RB Dan Vitale (Groin)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (Knee), S Derron Smith (Hip), CB Jamar Taylor (Foot)

Pittsburgh
OUT: WR Antonio Brown (Calf)
QUESTIONABLE: C LaShawn Pouncey (Hip)

Houston at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

Houston
OUT: G Jeffery Allen (Concussion), WR DeAndre Hopkins (Calf), RB Jordan Todman (Shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: T Kendall Lamm (Concussion), LB LaTroy Lewis (Shoulder)

Indianapolis
OUT: T Denzelle Good (Knee), DT Johnathan Hankins (Ankle), TE Jason Vander Lann (Concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Donte Moncrief (Ankle)

Cincinnati at Baltimore, 4:25 p.m.

Cincinnati
OUT: T Cedric Ogbuehi (Shoulder)
DOUBTFUL: LB Vontaze Burfict (Shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: CB William Jackson (Knee), RB Joe Mixon (Ankle)

Baltimore
DOUBTFUL: WR Jeremy Maclin (Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Mike Wallace (Knee), G Jermaine Eluemunor (Shoulder), T Austin Howard (Knee), DT Patrick Ricard (Neck), DT Brandon Williams (Back)

Buffalo at Miami, 4:25 p.m.

Buffalo
OUT: CB Shareece Wright (Concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: G Ryan Groy (Illness), WR Deonte Thompson (Back)

Miami
DOUBTFUL: T Laremy Tunsil (Ankle), QB Matt Moore (Foot), RB Damien Williams (Shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: S Michael Thomas (Not Injury Related), LB Neville Hewitt (Hamstring), WR DeVante Parker (Ankle), CB Alterraun Verner (Hamstring), DE Derek Wake (Illness), TE MarQueis Gray (Hip), DE Charles Harris (Thigh), S Tim McDonald (Shoulder)

New Orleans at Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m.

New Orleans
OUT: T Terron Armstead (Thigh), DE Collins Hendrickson (Ankle), TE Michael Hoomanawanui (Concussion)

Tampa Bay
DOUBTFUL: LB Devante Bond (Ankle), DE Robert Ayers (Shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Rod Godwin (Ankle), DE Ryan Russell (Shoulder), TE Cameron Brate (Hip), WR DeSean Jackson (Ankle)

Jacksonville at Tennessee, 4:25 p.m.

Jacksonville
OUT: WR Marqise Lee (Ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Abry Jones (Back), LB Blair Brown (Concussion), T Cameron Robinson (Abdomen)

Tennessee
OUT: RB DeMarco Murray (Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Logan Ryan (Ankle)

Kansas City at Denver, 4:25 p.m.

Kansas City
DOUBTFUL: DT Bennie Logan (Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Kenneth Acker (Illness), LB Tamba Hali (Knee), DE Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Illness), RB Charcandrick West (Illness), RB Akeem Hunt (Shoulder), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (Shoulder)

Denver
OUT: DE Zachariah Kerr (Ankle), WR Cody Latimer (Thigh), WR Emmanuel Sanders (Ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: T Donald Stephenson (Hand)

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.

Oakland
OUT: DT Treyvon Hester (Ankle)
DOUBTFUL: T Vadal Alexander (Concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: CB David Amerson (Foot), CB Dexter McDonald (Knee)

Los Angeles Chargers
QUESTIONABLE: RB Melvin Gordon (Ankle), DT Corey Liuget (Knee), T Russell Okung (Groin), LB Denzel Perryman (Hamstring)

San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.

San Francisco – San Francisco reported no injuries

Los Angeles Rams
DOUBTFUL: LB Mark Barron (Achilles)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Cooper Kupp (Knee)

Arizona at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.

Arizona
QUESTIONABLE: LB Joshua Bynes (Ankle), TE Troy Niklas (Ankle), RB Elijhaa Penny (Hand), G Earl Watford (Ankle), RB Kerwynn Williams (Quadricep)

Seattle
OUT: LB Donell Alexander (Concussion), DT Nazar Jones (Foot)
QUESTIONABLE: G Luke Joeckel (Foot), LB Bobby Wagner (Hamstring), TE Luke Wilson (Ankle)

Sunday Weather
Carolina at ATLANTA, 4:25 p.m.: Game indoors
Houston at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.: Game indoors
New York Jets at New England, 1 p.m.: Sunny and 14 degrees
Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.: Cloudy and 15 degrees
Green Bay at Detroit, 1 p.m.: Game indoors
Chicago at Minnesota, 1 p.m.: Game indoors
Washington at New York Giants, 1 p.m.: Sunny and 18 degrees
Dallas at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.: Partly cloudy and 20 degrees
Cincinnati at Baltimore, 4:25 p.m.: Mostly sunny and 23 degrees
Buffalo at Miami, 4:25 p.m.: Sunny and 72 degrees
Jacksonville at Tennessee, 4:25 p.m.: Partly cloudy and 25 degrees
New Orleans at Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m.: Sunny and 69 degrees
Kansas City at Denver, 4:25 p.m.: Sunny and 24 degrees
Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.: Sunny and 67 degrees
San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.: Sunny and 67 degrees
Arizona at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.: Sunny and 41 degrees

Broadcast information, officials and injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel

 

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.