This was a bizarre game, as it looked like the Dolphins were completely lifeless. They surrendered a pair of long third-down conversions in the early going. One was a third-and-16 in which Josh Allen avoided a heavy rush and found an open player. This set up an Allen sneak touchdown. Two Ryan Tannehill interceptions later, LeSean McCoy picked up a third-and-8 versus a lazy-looking Miami defense. The Bills were up 14-0 and looked like they were in full control of this game.
That all changed when the Dolphins were set up in great field position as a result of an Allen sack. They scored on the Philly Special, with Tannehill catching a touchdown. The Bills then gave Miami another seven points, as Allen telegraphed a pick-six right to Reshad Jones. Suddenly, this was a tie game even though the Bills had outgained the Dolphins, 152-107, by halftime.
The Dolphins saw their tie quickly disappear. In fact, they were outscored 28-3 in the second half. Tannehill made more mistakes, while Allen had more great runs. With the game in a blowout by the end, the Bills were able to call a pass for their long-time nose tackle, Kyle Williams. He caught the ball, and the Buffalo sideline erupted in glee. Williams will be in the Bills' Ring of Honor in the future.
Speaking of the future, it's mixed on Allen. He had a terrific stat line, going 17-of-26 for 224 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He was once again prolific on the ground, scrambling nine times for 95 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Allen threw some nice passes, but his pick-six was horrible. He also threw behind Zay Jones on a slant in the red zone, prompting the announcer to highlight some of Allen's weaknesses. Allen has immense upside, but he needs better coaching to develop as a passer.
While Allen missed Jones in the red zone, Jones still had an awesome fantasy stat line. Recommended as a Draft Kings play this week, Jones lived up to his potential, catching six of his nine targets for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Jones is a former second-round pick, so like Allen, he has potential. He's not a No. 1 receiver, but he could be a solid second option for Allen going forward.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Robert Foster (4-21) didn't have the best yardage numbers, but he scored as well. Tight end Jason Croom (2-32) was a slight disappointment.
McCoy also found the end zone, though he had just 26 yards on 10 carries. He was actually outgained by Chris Ivory (14-45).
As for the Dolphins, Tannehill had a comedy of errors in this game. He began by throwing an interception on a soft toss right to linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. He was picked again on a telegraphed pass. He was strip-sacked twice as well. Tannehill, who went 18-of-31 for 147 yards and the four turnovers, is almost certainly not going to be back in Miami next year.
Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake split the workload evenly. Drake gained 43 yards on 11 carries, while catching all five of his targets for 52 yards. Ballage, meanwhile, logged 47 yards on 12 attempts.
Drake led the Dolphins in receiving. Next was Kenny Stills, who snatched three of his seven targets for 27 yards.
There was a fight in the second half of this game, prompted by dirty Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso trying to take off Allen's head on a slide. Alonso and Bills tackle Jordan Mills were ejected.
Lions 31, Packers 0
The Packers have been a poorly coached team for a long time, and that has continued with interim head coach/scarecrow Joe Philbin. I've called Philbin a scarecrow because he has no brain, and that's been evident the past two weeks by his decision to start Aaron Rodgers in meaningless games. Rodgers is so brittle and not even 100 percent, so it was an obvious mistake to play him and risk his status for 2019.
Rodgers had an incredible game last week with a comeback that buried poor Jets +3 bettors - i.e. me - but he was knocked out early in this contest with a concussion. It may not be a torn ACL or Achilles, but concussions are tricky. Concussions can be overcome easily sometimes, but they can also ruin careers. Chances are this doesn't affect Rodgers' status for 2019, but you never know with brain injuries. The fact of the matter is that the Packers were extremely foolish to use Rodgers in the final two weeks, and they may have paid the price.
Rodgers finished 3-of-5 for 26 yards. DeShone Kizer took over after that, and he looked like the completely helpless quarterback we saw struggle with the Browns last year. Kizer failed to complete half of his passes, going 16-of-35 for 132 yards and an interception. He nearly had a second pick, but linebacker Jarrad Davis dropped a ball thrown right to him. The Packers are extremely poorly coached, so it's not a surprise that they've failed to develop him.
Thanks to Kizer's incompetence, no Packer receiver had more than 43 receiving yards, and only one - Marquez Valdes-Scantling (3-43) - had more than 27.
Kizer, sadly, led the Packers in rushing. He scrambled four times for 40 yards. Jamaal Williams was completely bottled up, as the Lions didn't have to respect the pass with Rodgers hurt. Williams mustered only four yards on eight carries.
The Lions, meanwhile, had an easy time moving the chains against a lifeless Green Bay defense that looked completely worn out following last week's overtime victory over the Jets. Matthew Stafford, injured back and all, went 20-of-32 for 266 yards and two touchdowns. There was a third passing touchdown, which was a fake field goal. Matt Prater threw the aerial score, then kicked the extra point.
With the top three Detroit receivers out of the lineup, someone named Brandon Powell led the team with 103 receiving yards on six catches. Andy Jones (6-50) was next.
The Lions continued to give LeGarrette Blount way too many carries. Blount was given 11 opportunities, yet mustered only 15 yards. A smart coaching staff would've given up on Blount already. The silver lining is that Detroit gave Zach Zenner (21-93) more tries. Zenner scored a touchdown.
Texans 20, Jaguars 3
The Jaguars may have lost this game by multiple touchdowns, but they tried hard. They had lots of energy in this game and kept it close for the majority of this game. They even had an early lead as a result of a Houston muffed punt. It was 3-3 for a while, but the Jaguars just did themselves in with killer mistakes. Most notably was a Dede Westbrook muffed punt where he effectively did a swan dive toward the ball. This gave the Texans the momentum they needed to put Jacksonville away.
Another horrible mistake by Jacksonville occurred by the defense. Down just seven, Myles Jack had an interception on a ball thrown right to him. Jack dropped the ball, which popped into the arms of DeAndre Hopkins. This set up a Lamar Miller touchdown to put the Texans up 17-3. Meanwhile, the errors continued in the second half, as Blake Bortles had a wide-open Westbrook for a touchdown. No one was even near Westbrook, yet Bortles overthrew him. The Texans scored again soon after to give themselves an insurmountable 20-3 advantage.
Watson finished 25-of-35 for 234 yards. He had a better running day, scrambling 13 times for 66 rushing yards and a touchdown. The numbers look good, but Watson had two potential interceptions that were dropped. He also took six sacks and many more hits. The offensive line is going to be Houston's downfall in the playoffs.
More than half of Watson's passing yardage went to Hopkins. He secured 12 of his 16 targets for 147 yards. He was the only Texan with more than 33 receiving yards. DeAndre Carter (4-33) and Vyncint Smith (3-28) were next on the list. Smith made a great catch along the sideline, but then proceeded to drop his next target.
Miller didn't have as much rushing yardage as Watson, but he managed to score a touchdown. He gained 56 yards on 17 attempts. D'Onta Foreman was inactive.
As for the Jaguars, this was Bortles' final game for that franchise. He was miserable, going 15-of-28 for 107 yards and an interception. Bortles' pick was a helpless floater thrown up for grabs. As mentioned, he missed a potential touchdown to Westbrook. He also skipped a pass to an open receiver on third down. Bortles should get another chance, but he should stop partying and start watching film if he wants to stay in the league.
Sadly, Bortles led the Jaguars in rushing with four scrambles for 15 yards. Carlos Hyde (10-13) was a dud as a replacement for the injured Leonard Fournette.
Jacksonville's leading receiver was Keelan Cole (4-45), another disappointing player. Westbrook (3-10) had an inefficient day, though he should've scored a long touchdown.
Patriots 38, Jets 3
It looked like the Patriots were going to have another sluggish game when James White dropped a pass on third down during the opening drive. Yet, that was the only first-half possession in which New England didn't score until there was 30 seconds remaining in regulation. Tom Brady shredded the hapless Jets defense with ease, establishing a 21-3 lead by halftime. The Patriots picked up another touchdown on a Sam Darnold strip-sack as he was moving up in the pocket. The 28-3 advantage was way too much for the Jets to overcome.
This game was not competitive at all. Save for a few drives, the Patriots basically did whatever they wanted to. The breaking point for the Jets was when the game was 14-3. The Patriots recovered an Elijah McGuire fumble, beginning their drive at the Jets' 9-yard line as a result. Brady missed an open Chris Hogan in the end zone by a mile, then threw the ball away on third down to bring out the field goal unit. However, Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson was called for roughing the passer because he pushed Brady late. With a new set of downs, Brady threw a touchdown to Phillip Dorsett to make it an 18-point game.
Brady finished 24-of-33 for 250 yards and four touchdowns. He was mostly sharp, but had a couple of egregious misses. As mentioned, he sailed a pass way over Hogan's head for a touchdown. There was also a sketchy drive in the third quarter when Brady heaved a deep shot to see Jets cornerback Buster Skrine drop a potential interception. Brady, on the next play, missed Julian Edelman on another long toss. This was an unusual sequence, however, as the Patriots were nearly flawless otherwise.
Speaking of Edelman, that misfire was the only target he didn't catch. He led the Patriots in receiving with five grabs for 69 yards and a touchdown. Hogan (6-64) was next, but he could've had a much better day. Rob Gronkowski (2-24) did nothing again, though he had a long gain wiped out by penalty.
Sony Michel gained 50 yards on 14 carries. He could've scored a touchdown, but Rex Burkhead vultured an aerial score in the first half.
As for the Jets, Sam Darnold became the latest rookie quarterback to lose in Foxboro. No first-year quarterback has ever won there versus Bill Belichick, so it wasn't a surprise to see him struggle. Darnold finished 16-of-28 for 167 yards. He was also strip-sixed. Darnold nearly threw a touchdown, but Robby Anderson dropped the ball in the end zone.
Speaking of Anderson, Belichick erased him in the first meeting. He did the same thing in this contest, as Anderson secured just three of his eight targets for 24 yards. Deontay Burnett, who played with Darnold at USC, led the Jets with five catches for 73 yards.
McGuire had a rough afternoon. In addition to his crucial fumble, he was limited to just 41 yards on 18 carries.
Panthers 33, Saints 14
There's no point in spending lots of time on this game. Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara sat out for the Saints, while Christian McCaffrey saw action on just one drive. Thus, it was a battle of Teddy Bridgewater-Mark Ingram and Kyle Allen-Cameron Artis-Payne backfields.
Oddly enough, Allen outplayed Bridgewater. Allen completed all four of his passes last week in brief relief of an injured Taylor Heinicke. He parlayed that into a solid performance against the Saints. Allen went 16-of-27 for 228 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was a beautiful 53-yard bomb to Curtis Samuel. Allen also showed some running prowess, picking up a third-and-10 with an 11-yard run, setting up his own rushing score.
Bridgewater, meanwhile, didn't have much of a chance. The Saints were playing with just one starting offensive lineman, so he was pressured heavily all afternoon. As a result, Bridgewater went just 14-of-22 for 118 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Mark Ingram and Michael Thomas played for the Saints, which was strange. Ingram saw a half of action, picking up 28 yards on five carries before ceding work to Dwayne Washington, who looked more motivated to play. Washington accumulated 106 yards on 11 carries.
As for McCaffrey, he was given four carries, which he turned into 18 yards. He also caught a 22-yard pass. He exited after just one drive. Cameron Artis-Payne (16-56) handled most of the workload after that. He also scored a touchdown.
As mentioned, Thomas was on the field for the Saints. He actually played into the fourth quarter, as the Saints wanted him to break the single-season receiving yards record for the franchise, which he did. Thomas hauled in five balls for only 29 yards. Tre'Quan Smith (3-30) caught a touchdown.
Carolina's receiving corps, meanwhile, saw D.J. Moore lead the way with four grabs for 81 yards. Samuel (2-72) and Ian Thomas (5-61) both snared touchdowns. Thomas has been great to close out the year, so the Panthers won't miss Greg Olsen when he retires.
Cowboys 36, Giants 35
Jason Garrett is a genius coach. Most NFL coaches would sit their quarterbacks in a meaningless game, such as this one. With the Cowboys locked into the No. 5 seed, it was obvious that Dallas should sit Dak Prescott and all of the other starters. But don't tell that to Garrett. He's a former NFL Head Coach of the Year award winner, so he knows better than everyone else. Garrett played his quarterback throughout the entire game. Sure, Garrett exposed Prescott to hits, but Garrett is a great head coach. If Prescott got hurt, it would've been OK because at least the Cowboys put forth full effort against a horrible Giants team in a contest that meant absolutely nothing.
I'm obviously being facetious. Garrett should've been fired years ago. He's the worst head coach in the NFL. He's utterly clueless for exposing Prescott to hits in this game. Prescott was sacked several times, and any one of those plays could've led to an injury. Because of Garrett's utter recklessness, Cooper Rush may have had to start next week's playoff affair.
Luckily for the Cowboys, disaster didn't strike. However, despite playing Prescott and Amari Cooper the entire game, Dallas looked like it was going to lose. The Cowboys, down seven, drove into Giants territory. They had a fourth-and-15, and after escaping some pressure, Prescott heaved the ball into the end zone. Cole Beasley caught the ball, but he was ruled out of bounds. Replay review, however, showed that Beasley's knee hit inbounds before he fell out of play. The Cowboys converted the two-point conversion, giving themselves the win. They celebrated like they won the Super Bowl, putting their utter stupidity on full display.
It's possible that the Cowboys thought they needed to win this game to get into the playoffs. That's the only explanation for why Prescott played the entire game. Prescott posted some pretty numbers - 27-of-44, 387 yards, four touchdowns - but missed some routine throws. More importantly, he took four sacks. He could've been injured, so the Cowboys are very fortunate that nothing bad happened.
Three of Prescott's touchdowns went to Blake Jarwin. He hauled in seven of his eight targets for 119 yards. Perhaps this is a sign that Jarwin could be a solid option at tight end next year.
Elsewhere in the Dallas receiving corps, Beasley snatched all six of his targets for 94 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Cooper, conversely, barely did anything, catching five balls for 31 yards. Don't put this on Cooper; Prescott had Cooper open for a big gain, but threw behind him.
With Elliott out, Rod Smith handled most of the workload. He didn't do much with his 12 carries (35 yards), but he scored a touchdown.
As for the Giants, Eli Manning threw a killer interception in the red zone in the early going. He moved the chains well throughout the afternoon, however, going 24-of-41 for 301 yards, two touchdowns and the pick.
Saquon Barkley was stellar once again. He gained 109 yards and a touchdown on just 17 carries. He also caught four passes for 33 receiving yards. Unfortunately for his DFS owners, Barkley had a touchdown vultured by Wayne Gallman.
Manning's touchdowns went to Evan Engram (5-81) and Cody Latimer (4-72). Latimer made two spectacular one-handed catches in this game, but dropped a ball on fourth down of the final drive to ruin a potential upset that would've knocked the Cowboys out of the imaginary playoffs.
This was a meaningless game for the playoff race as both teams were eliminated weeks ago. However, this NFC South tilt had meaning to Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht, who were hoping to save their jobs, so getting a win to close out the year meant something to Tampa Bay. The Bucs fell short though and ended 2018 with a record of 5-11. The Buccaneers should fire Koetter and Licht, but thus far, only Koetter has gotten the ax and it appears that Licht will survive to pick the new head coach. This is another in a long line of mistakes from the incompetent Glazers. For more on the state of the Bucs franchise, check out this edition of Monday Morning Draft.
The Falcons' staff is not on the hot seat, so losing this game actually would have been good for the Falcons to help improve their positioning for the 2019 NFL Draft, but the opposite result happened as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones just overwhelmed the weak Buccaneers defense and out-gunned an effective Jameis Winston.
The Bucs struck first late in the first quarter as Jameis Winston used a variety of weapons to move down the field. The drive started with a 19-yard completion to Mike Evans and ended with Evans making a beautiful catch along sideline for a 19-yard score. Winston continued to play well and led a field goal drive on the next drive. Winston then found Chris Godwin (6-114-2) streaking into the end zone for a 30-yard score. That put the Bucs up 17-0, but Atlanta woke up in the final seconds as Ryan moved his team down the field before finding Jones for a 19-yard touchdown. At the half, the Bucs were up 17-7.
Ryan continued to move the ball down the field to open the third quarter, and Atlanta emptied the playbook near the goal line with a quarterback throwback to Mohamed Sanu, who threw a touchdown pass to Ryan. Tampa Bay responded with a 33-yard screen to Evans that set up a field goal from Cairo Santos. Matt Bryant later hit a field against his former team, and Atlanta cut the Bucs' lead to 20-17. Winston had a pass to Evans deflected that Damontae Kazee snatched for his seventh interception of the year. Tevin Coleman then put Atlanta on top with a 23-yard touchdown run to give the Falcons a 24-20 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Jones ran a great route for a 37-yard gain at the start of the fourth quarter. The Falcons converted another third down, and then Calvin Ridley was left wide open in busted coverage for a 7-yard touchdown. Winston didn't pack it in though, and he found Cameron Brate (2-39) for a big conversion before finding Evans for a 10-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Tampa Bay down 31-26.
Ryan made a rare mistake when he threw a pass off the mark in response to pressure, and it was picked off by Andrew Adams to set up the Buccaneers in Atlanta territory. A pass to Adam Humphries set up a short touchdown pass Chris Godwin and a 32-31 lead after the two-point conversion failed. Of course, the Bucs' defense could only hope that Ryan or a teammate would make another mistake as they were incapable of stopping the Falcons from moving the ball. Atlanta got into midway into Tampa Bay territory with less than two minutes remaining and then started to kneel and kill the clock since the Bucs were out of timeouts. On the final play, Matt Bryant made a 37-yard field goal to win the game for the Falcons. If Mark Dominik hadn't cut Bryant, the Bucs would have avoided almost a decade of kicking woes, including trading into the second round for Ricky Aguayo.
Ryan was 31-of-44 for 378 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, plus caught a touchdown pass. Julio Jones caught nine passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Coleman ran for 45 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.
Winston was 22-of-35 for 345 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He played well, and the Bucs should hold onto him for the 2019 season.
Evans caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Raiders shouldn't have even shown up to this game. Seriously, why did they go? They won their farewell game versus Denver. They didn't care about this.
The end result is both teams got what they needed in this game. Kansas City clinched the AFC West crown and the top seed in the playoffs by blowing out the Raiders. Oakland protected its draft standing with the loss. For more on what the Raiders could do with their three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, check out today's overreaction mock draft to lead off the draft season.
The Chiefs had some good luck on the first drive of the game, as Pat Mahomes threw a terrible pass right to the hands of Tahir Whitehead, but the Oakland linebacker dropped the easy interception. A few plays later, Mahomes found a streaking Tyreek Hill for a 67-yard touchdown. The Raiders then had a hilarious play for football follies when Derek Carr threw a pass to Jared Cook, who had his back turned and was just standing still about eight yards past the line of scrimmage. The ball floated to Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen, who returned it 55 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
The turnover fest continued when Justin Houston stripped Carr and recovered the fumble near midfield. Whitehead soon dropped another interception, and the Chiefs took advantage of the extra chance to move the ball down for a short rushing touchdown by Damien Williams. A few minutes later, Reggie Ragland picked off Carr and returned the interception 67 yards before Kolton Miller tackled him inside the five. The Raiders' defense came up with a goal-line stand and stopped Kansas City on fourth-and-goal. Oakland responded with a drive to set up a 50-yard field goal. Gareon Conley picked off Mahomes on the ensuing position, and the Chiefs took a 21-3 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, Mahomes threw a laser to Demarcus Robinson for an 89-yard touchdown after the defender fell down. That play put Mahomes over 5,000 yards passing for the season. The blowout was complete early in the fourth quarter when Hill darted into end zone on a 15-yard run.
Mahomes completed 14-of-24 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He played worse than the numbers illustrate, as he had two interceptions dropped and made some risky throws. Mahomes needs to do a better job of protecting the football in the playoffs.
Damien Williams ran for 51 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown.
Hill led the Chiefs in receiving with five receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Carr completed 24-of-33 for 185 yards and two interceptions. Jordy Nelson led the Raiders in receiving with 78 yards on nine receptions.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Don't feel sorry for the Steelers. They did not deserve to make it to the playoffs after the monstrous dump they took in this game.
The Steelers came into this game as two-touchdown favorites with the playoffs on the line, but they just barely rose to the occasion, squeaking out a three-point win. Unfortunately for them, they also needed the Cleveland Browns to beat the Baltimore Ravens, and the Browns came up just short. In reality, the most exciting part of this game was watching Baker Mayfield almost upset the Ravens in Baltimore after the Steelers had secured the win.
The Bengals, on the other hand, had no aspirations for postseason play, but they raged against the dying of the light until the very end; however, with an array of injuries to key players, they came into the season finale severely undermanned. Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and recently Tyler Boyd, were all out, and it showed offensively, as backup Jeff Driskel only complete 50 percent of his passes for 95 yards and was sacked four times.
Neither team could move the ball well, as both teams punted on their first two possessions. The Bengals struck first, when Shawn Williams intercepted Ben Roethlisberger over the middle on an ill-advised pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster, which Williams then returned for a 58-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The two teams traded field goals on their last two possessions before halftime to make it 10-3 Bengals at the break. Neither team could do anything on offense, but the Steelers should have been able to muster more against a Bengals defense that has allowed the fifth-most passing yards and the fourth-most rushing yards in the league, while the Steelers have gained the fourth-most total yards in the league.
The Steelers' poor showing was partially due to the absence of their top receiver Antonio Brown. His knee injury kept him out, and in turn, the Bengals could focus on Smith-Schuster, which paid off with their pick-six.
Pittsburgh didn't score its lone touchdown until deep into the third quarter when Roethlisberger hit rookie James Washington for a 47-yard reception, which helped set up an 11-yard catch-and-run touchdown for Smith-Schuster, tying the game up at 10 apiece. Before that quick-hitting drive, the Steelers had seven possessions, with five ending in punts, one in a pick-six and another in a field goal.
The Bengals' offense never really got going, but Joe Mixon was able to put together some nice runs to keep his team from completely falling off the offensive map. He ran the ball 13 times for 105 yards, including a nice 51-yard scamper on which he made people miss and broke multiple tackles. That run set up the Bengals' final score, as they kicked a field goal, tying it up at 13 with six minutes left in the game.
Roethlisberger took the next possession and moved his team into field goal range with help from big plays by James Conner and Washington, and an impressive third-down conversion by Eli Rogers. Newly acquired kicker Matt McCrane, who had already hit 39- and 47-yard field goals, drilled the game winner from 35 yards. The Bengals had two minutes left to make some noise, but a quick false start and lack of offensive weapons doomed the Bengals, as they turned the ball over on downs.
In the end, it was all for naught, as the Steelers couldn't get in the back door to win the AFC North. Brown's absence hurt their offense, but this team always seems to play down to their competition and up as well. Losing to the Raiders in Week 14 inevitably cost them a playoff berth, but it could have just as easily been this week against the Bengals. It's hard not to put blame on the head coach when it comes to teams playing down to their competition, and even though I doubt they do it, the Steelers should seriously consider replacing Mike Tomlin.
As for the Bengals, they should have moved on from Marvin Lewis by now. They can blame a lot on injuries this year, but they weren't going to be in the Super Bowl hunt even if they hadn't lost key players. Lewis now has three losing seasons in a row and can no longer hang his hat on staying competitive.
Both these teams will watch as the Ravens head to the playoffs with a rookie quarterback, and next year, they'll need to account for the Browns, who surged in the second half under rookie Baker Mayfield.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It'll be interesting to see how Lamar Jackson plays against a team that has already seen him. We'll find out next Sunday!
Baker Mayfield versus Lamar Jackson could produce some phenomenal games for many years to come, and Chapter One of that saga had a lot riding on it. Baltimore had to get a win in order to clinch the AFC North after the Steelers beat the Bengals. Mayfield put together the better game than Jackson as a passer, but the Ravens rookie made enough plays to support the No. 1 defense in the league, and Jackson had better ball security than the Browns rookie. Regardless of this outcome, both franchises have reasons to feel very optimistic about their futures with these talented young quarterbacks.
The initial possession ended quickly on the Browns' first pass when Mayfield threw off the mark, and it was picked off by Jimmy Smith. Jackson then used his rookie tight ends to move inside the 25, and Baltimore scored first with a field goal. Cleveland responded with a 38-yard pass to Antonio Callaway (4-79-1), and then Mayfield found former Raven Breshad Perriman (3-45-1) wide open for a 28-yard touchdown.
Baltimore responded by moving the ball down the field, and Jackson took off on a zone-read run for a 25-yard touchdown. Gus Edwards and Kenny Dixon then powered over the Browns' defense on the next possession. The drive ended with Jackson adding his second rushing touchdown from a few yards out to put Baltimore up 17-7. The Ravens got set up for more points when Dixon ripped off a 37-yard run, but they settled for a field goal.
Both rookie quarterbacks had turnovers late in the second quarter, as Mayfield had a pass deflected and Jimmy Smith made a tremendous diving interception, and then Jackson fumbled the ball away trying to extend it over the goal line. Mayfield then found Rashard Higgins for a 40-yard gain just seconds prior to halftime, but the Browns missed another field goal, letting the Ravens take a 20-7 lead into the locker room.
Mayfield found Jarvis Landry wide open for a 48-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Baltimore responded with another Justin Tucker field goal. Mayfield then hit David Njoku (3-62) deep downfield for 42 yards. That set up a field goal to cut the Ravens' lead to 24-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Jackson soon hit rookie tight end Hayden Hurst for a gain of about 30 yards to midfield. Jackson also made a pretty play to move the ball to a first-and-goal, but the drive settled for another field goal. Cleveland quickly answered with a 33-yard completion to Higgins (4-86). Mayfield threw a short touchdown to Callaway, and Cleveland was done 24-26 with about three and a half minutes remaining.
Cleveland's defense got a stop and got the ball back with roughly two minutes remaining. Mayfield moved the ball past midfield and was creeping up on a field goal range. The Steelers were watching on the jumbotron at Heinz Field, pulling for the Browns to get a win that would put Pittsburgh in the playoffs, but the Steelers' hopes were dashed on a fourth-and-10 when Mayfield was intercepted by C.J. Mosley. The No. 1 defense in the league made the play in crunch time to earn a home postseason game against the Chargers.
Mayfield completed 23-of-42 passes for 376 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Landry led the Browns with 102 yards on five receptions with a touchdown.
Nick Chubb was held to 24 yards on nine carries.
Lamar Jackson was 14-of-24 for 179 yards. He ran for 90 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns.
Dixon (12-117) and Edwards (12-76) ran well against the weak Browns defense.
Eagles 24, Redskins 0
The Eagles are going to the playoffs! They needed to win this game and see the Vikings lose to the Bears, and that's exactly what happened.
This may have been a Pyrrhic victory, however. Nick Foles suffered an injury late in the game when he took a big hit to the chest. The Eagles believe Foles will be available for the playoffs, as they've diagnosed him with bruised ribs. Still, if Foles isn't 100 percent, that'll be a big problem for the Eagles, as they'll battle the best defense in the NFL with a hobbled signal-caller.
Prior to the injury, Foles played very well. He did a great job with his accuracy, keeping drives going. The Eagles completely controlled the clock, winning time of possession, 43:19-16:41. They achieved way more first downs, 25-8, and they converted 8-of-14 third downs.
This was all on Foles with his precise throws. Foles misfired on just five occasions, going 28-of-31 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The pick was Foles' sole mistake, as he made an overthrow in the red zone. However, he bounced back with a tremendous performance otherwise against a Redskin team that didn't look like it wanted to be there.
Both Alshon Jeffery (5-59) and Nelson Agholor (5-40) scored. Agholor found the end zone twice. Shockingly, Zach Ertz (3-15) barely did anything.
The Eagles, as usual, had a bunch of running backs sharing the workload. Wendell Smallwood (12-53), Josh Adams (11-50) and Darren Sproles (7-24) all contributed.
As for the Redskins, they couldn't sustain drives because Josh Johnson was abysmal. Johnson is smart and mobile, but his accuracy has always been an issue for him, and that festered in this contest. Johnson failed to complete half of his passes, going 12-of-27 for only 91 yards and an interception. He was also strip-sacked.
The Redskins also couldn't run the ball. Chris Thompson led the team in rushing with 10 yards on two attempts. Adrian Peterson was given four carries, yet couldn't muster a single positive yard.
Thanks to depressed passing numbers, only one Redskin had more than 15 receiving yards. That was Josh Doctson (2-33).
Bears 24, Vikings 10
When the Vikings gave Kirk Cousins an unprecedented fully guaranteed contract worth $84 million, I imagine they thought they would at least emerge as a playoff team in 2018. That, however, was not meant to be. The Redskins believed that Cousins was not worth a long-term deal worth lots of money because they had seen Cousins choke in big games repeatedly throughout his career. Cousins was back to his old choking habits in this contest. All the Vikings had to do to make the playoffs was prevail against a Chicago team that had nothing to play for once the Rams went up big, and yet they couldn't even do that.
The Cousins choking extravaganza was prevalent on third down. This game was packed with third-down miscues, and it began instantly. Cousins overthrew Stefon Diggs on the initial third down. He was sacked on the next third down. He followed that up with a 2-yard pass on a third-and-5. He was then sacked on a third-and-12, nearly resulting in a safety. The Vikings finally converted a third down with six minutes remaining in the second quarter on a Dalvin Cook run, prompting a sarcastic cheer from the crowd. The problem? The Bears were up 13-0 already.
The Vikings continued to struggle. They finished with just that one third-down conversion. Cousins saw lots of pressure and struggled with his accuracy when he wasn't tossing helpless checkdowns. He and Adam Thielen even got into a heated exchange at one point. It was an ugly look for the Vikings, who are in deep trouble because of Cousins' contract moving forward.
Cousins finished 20-of-33 for only 132 yards and a touchdown. Redskins team president Bruce Allen knew exactly what he was doing by letting Cousins go. The Vikings took the bait and fell into a trap. They'll have to rebuild soon after Cousins causes everyone to be fired.
Only one Viking receiver logged more than 38 receiving yards. That was Diggs, who caught eight of his 10 targets for 47 yards and a touchdown. Thielen (3-38) was visibly frustrated the entire afternoon. It looks like he misses his old buddy, Case Keenum.
Minnesota couldn't run the ball effectively against Chicago's stalwart defense. Dalvin Cook mustered just 39 yards on 11 carries.
It was unclear if the Bears would keep their starters on the field the entire game, as they would be stuck with the No. 3 seed no matter what if the Rams beat the 49ers. Sure enough, Chicago kept its starters on the field even when it was evident that the Rams would win. New head coach Matt Nagy may not have been checking the scores, which seemed like a big mistake. Nagy risked injury needlessly, and he saw one of his receivers, Anthony Miller, get hurt on a non-contact play.
Luckily for the Bears, Mitchell Trubisky survived. Trubisky played well, going 18-of-26 for 163 yards. He didn't scramble very much, running thrice for 16 rushing yards. He'll need to use his legs more often in the playoffs.
With Allen Robinson out and Miller hurt, Taylor Gabriel led the way with four catches for 61 yards. Trey Burton (5-33) was next on the stat sheet.
Jordan Howard bulldozed the Vikings, who didn't look like they had the heart to stop the run. Howard accumulated 109 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Tarik Cohen (5-24) also scored.
Chargers 23, Broncos 9
The Chargers had a chance to get home-field advantage in the AFC had they won and the Chiefs lost. It didn't look like the Chargers believed Kansas City could drop a game to Oakland, based on their play in this affair.
San Angeles was extremely sloppy through the afternoon. Philip Rivers had two early interceptions, including one where he tried to fit the ball into tight coverage after his teammates recovered an onside kick attempt. Travis Benjamin dropped a potential touchdown as well. Then, following a Case Keenum interception, Chargers safety Jaleel Addae lateraled senselessly. The ball didn't hit the teammate, so it was ruled a fumble. These mistakes kept the Broncos alive, and it was only a 7-3 game in the third quarter when Broncos receiver Tim Patrick lost a fumble. This set up a Mike Williams touchdown to put this game away.
The Chargers prevailed by a couple of touchdowns, but there was some concern at the end when Melvin Gordon suffered an injury. It isn't clear what the status is on Gordon, who rushed for 42 yards on 10 carries, but the Chargers will definitely need him next week versus the Ravens.
Rivers didn't have a great game. He was responsible for two early picks and couldn't top 200 passing yards against a poor Denver secondary. Rivers finished 14-of-24 for 176 yards, one two touchdown and his turnovers. It's worth noting that Rivers was better in the second half - 7-of-9, 92 yards, one touchdown following intermission - but he'll need to perform better against Baltimore's top-five pass defense.
Mike Williams led the Chargers in receiving, as he caught five balls for 65 yards and a touchdown. Williams was one of just four Chargers to log receptions. The others were Keenan Allen (4-64), Gordon (3-24) and Tyrell Williams (2-23).
As for the Broncos, Keenum posted better number than Rivers, but did so because of garbage time. He finished 31-of-48 for 292 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick occurred when he tried to fit the ball into a tight window that closed quickly. Keenum had a late touchdown that appeared to get the back-door cover, but Keenum hilariously tossed a pick-two on the two-point conversion try, which turned out to be the front-door cover for the Chargers. Keenum's not very good, and he's been exposed with a weaker supporting cast in Denver.
Keenum's favorite receiver continued to be DaeSean Hamilton, as the Denver quarterback loves throwing to the slot. Hamilton hauled in five of his eight targets for 49 yards. Patrick (4-48) was next on the receiving list, while Courtland Sutton (1-25) struggled.
With Phillip Lindsay out, Royce Freeman handled most of the workload. He gained 60 yards on 17 carries and also caught eight of his 10 targets for 43 receiving yards.
Rams 48, 49ers 32
Nick Mullens is a great guy. He was kind enough to give the Rams a Christmas present. He gift-wrapped a victory and a first-round bye to the Rams on the final week of the regular season.
The 49ers had no chance to win this game because of their early turnovers. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk began the affair by fumbling on the opening drive when reaching for a first down. This set up a first-and-goal for the Rams. Mullens threw an interception on the next drive, as he was hit upon release. This gave the Rams another first-and-goal, which was converted into a second touchdown. Mullens had two more picks after that. One was a throw up for grabs into the end zone toward George Kittle, which was tipped and picked. The next was a pick-six on a telegraphed throw.
Because of these four turnovers, the Rams were up 31-10 at halftime. At that point in the game, yardage was even, and the 49ers were outgaining the Rams by nearly a yard per play. Los Angeles had barely done anything, but St. Nick Mullens delivered a beautiful present.
Jared Goff threw four touchdowns, but had a nondescript day otherwise, going 15-of-26 for 199 yards. Goff has struggled down the stretch, as better defenses have rattled him. Speaking of which, left tackle Andrew Whitworth was knocked out of this game with a knee injury. It's unclear what his status will be for the divisional round of the playoffs, though it's fortunate for the Rams that they'll have two weeks for Whitworth to recover.
Goff's four scores went to Brandin Cooks (5-62) and Josh Reynolds (4-55), who caught two each. Meanwhile, Robert Woods (2-24) was a massive disappointment.
Todd Gurley was out, so C.J. Anderson handled the majority of the workload once again. Like last week, Anderson was stellar, dashing for 132 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Back to the 49ers, Mullens posted a decent stat line - 23-of-33, 282 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions - but all of that came in garbage time. More than half of his yards and two of his touchdowns were accounted for following intermission, whereas his three picks all occurred prior to halftime.
Mullens nearly had a fourth touchdown, but missed George Kittle. It was a great day for Kittle, who caught nine passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Kittle broke the single-season receiving yardage record for a tight end, previously held by Rob Gronkowski.
Mullens' other two scores were thrown to Kendrick Bourne (5-59) and Richie James (3-32). Bourne stepped up in the wake of Dante Pettis' injury, as expected.
Something that wasn't expected: Alfred Morris rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries. Jeff Wilson Jr. was expected to handle the majority of the workload. He began by rushing for nine yards on his first three carries, but was knocked out of the game with an injury.
Seahawks 27, Cardinals 24
This game was not competitive. The Seahawks won by just three, but they generated about 100 more net yards than the Cardinals and averaged 1.7 more yards per play. The Cardinals could barely do anything offensively. They were just as awful as always. Yet, they only lost by three. How did this happen, you ask?
Special teams. Of the Cardinals' 24 points, 18 came on special teams. It began when the Seahawks, up 14-3, had a blocked punt in the second quarter. This set up a quick touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals then had a great punt return to set up a field goal. Seattle's miserable luck on fourth down continued in the second half, when a blocked punt was actually returned for six. Arizona converted the two-point conversion. Had it not been for those three special-teams plays, the score of this game likely would've been 24-6, as Seattle's final field goal would not have been needed.
While special teams were a complete disaster, the same could've been said of Russell Wilson's pass protection. Wilson took six sacks in this game, which is inexcusable considering that the Cardinals have just one viable pass rusher. Wilson, as a result, had a poor statistical afternoon, going 12-of-21 for only `152 yards, one touchdown and an interception where a defender jumped the route.
Only one Seahawk accumulated more than 27 receiving yards. That was Tyler Lockett, who caught only two passes. Lockett made them count though, tallying 66 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin (2-27) had trouble getting open versus Patrick Peterson, as usual.
The Cardinals are woeful against the run, so it's no surprise that Chris Carson easily moved the chains on the ground. Carson gained 122 yards and a touchdown on just 19 carries. Mike Davis (7-44) also scored, while Rashaad Penny (4 carries, 6 yards) wasn't part of the game plan.
As for the Cardinals' offense, it was a dismal end to Josh Rosen's rookie campaign. He barely completed half of his passes, going 18-of-34 for only 149 yards and a touchdown, thanks to the short field following a Seattle special-teams gaffe. Rosen also lost a fumble on a strip-sack to set up a Seattle score. Like Wilson, Rosen took six sacks. Rosen has easily been the worst rookie quarterback this year, but we can't make a proper evaluation of him because he's playing behind the worst offensive line in the NFL.
The horrid offensive line continued to adversely affect David Johnson. The former Pro Bowler was limited to just 62 yards on 17 carries. Like Rosen, Johnson will stand to benefit from an improved blocking unit next year.
Fitzgerald was the player who caught Rosen's sole touchdown, as he reeled in four of his nine targets for 36 yards and a touchdown. He nearly made a spectacular catch in the second half, but replay review incorrectly ruled the pass incomplete. Meanwhile, Chad Williams (5-51) was the only player who finished ahead of Fitzgerald on the receiving chart.
Colts 33, Titans 17
The winner of this game would claim the sixth seed in the AFC playoff pool, but it was clear that the Titans were going to have a difficult time to prevail before kickoff. That's because Marcus Mariota was ruled out. The extremely injury-prone Mariota hurt his elbow last week versus Washington. Blaine Gabbert was able to lead the team to a victory over the Redskins, but the Colts are far better than Washington. That was apparent in this contest, as the Colts were up by double digits for most of the evening.
In fact, this would've been an utter blowout if the Colts didn't make some mistakes to let the Titans back into the game. They were up 14-0 when Andrew Luck panicked under pressure and threw a pick-six. Marlon Mack fumbled in the red zone soon after. Had Luck not tossed the interception and Mack preserved at least three points, it would've been 20-3 at halftime. Instead, it was 17-10, but it didn't end up mattering because Gabbert proved to be atrocious.
Luck finished 24-of-35 for 285 yards, three touchdowns and the pick-six. His interception was a rare mistake, as Luck was mostly sharp otherwise. He converted a clutch fourth-and-2 early on with a slant to Nyheim Hines, setting up a touchdown to Eric Ebron. Luck generated 24 first downs and did a great job of controlling the clock, as Indianapolis won the time of possession, 40:13-19:47. Luck's other blunder was a possible second pick, but a Titan defender dropped the ball.
Luck's touchdowns went to Dontrelle Inman (5-77) and Ebron (4-60). Hilton didn't find the end zone, but he had a 43-yard reception at one point where he blew by some defenders. However, Hilton, who caught two balls for 61 yards, didn't appear to be fully healthy, as he was limping around at times throughout the evening.
Mack had the aforementioned fumble in the red zone. He had a great game otherwise though, tallying 119 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. He appeared to have a touchdown vultured by Jordan Wilkins (3-18), but that score was called back because of a nonsense formation penalty.
The Titans, meanwhile, could barely do anything with Gabbert, scoring just one offensive touchdown. Gabbert was a train wreck. His first pass was behind a receiver. He was then nearly picked on a downfield shot. He later had Dion Lewis open for a basic third-down conversion, but sailed the throw. And to top it off, Gabbert heaved a pass late across his body that was intercepted.
Gabbert finished 18-of-29 for 165 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Titans need to bring in a better backup than Gabbert because Mariota is almost guaranteed to miss several games in 2019.
Derrick Henry did what he could, but was battling a tough run defense. Still, he picked up 93 yards on just 16 carries. Henry would've ideally gotten more work, but the Titans were always trailing.
Only one Titan had more than 26 receiving yards. That was Corey Davis (5-48). Luke Stocker (1-22) caught Gabbert's sole touchdown.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.