NFL Game Recaps: Week 18, 2023

C.J. Stroud




NFL Game Recaps of previous weeks and seasons can be found via links at the bottom of the page.


Steelers 17, Ravens 10
  • For a while, it seemed as though the Steelers would choke under pressure against a team resting most of its starters, including Lamar Jackson. Pittsburgh established a quick, 7-0 lead, but eventually allowed a tying score. They had a chance to expand their lead, but committed multiple turnovers in field goal range. The first was a Jaylen Warren lost fumble that occurred after Pittsburgh’s defense forced a fumble. The second was a Mason Rudolph lost fumble on a strip-sack just before halftime.

    The Steelers finally got their act together following intermission. Conversely, the Ravens made a crucial blunder themselves. After the Steelers took a 14-7 lead, Gus Edwards coughed up the ball, which allowed Pittsburgh to kick a field goal to go up two scores, effectively icing the game.

  • Pittsburgh’s first touchdown came on the ground. Najee Harris once again dominated with 112 yards and a score on 26 carries. He also caught all five of his targets for 21 receiving yards. Warren also chipped in with five receptions (17 yards), but didn’t do as much as a runner, finishing with 33 yards on nine attempts.

    The second Steeler score came aerially, as Rudolph threw a strike to Diontae Johnson on a slant, and Johnson did the rest with a 71-yard score. Johnson’s four receptions went for 89 yards, while George Pickens didn’t log a single target.

  • Speaking of Rudolph, the third-string quarterback continued to perform above expectations as a solid game manager. He lost a fumble and nearly was picked when he stared down his receiver, but he played a perfect game otherwise in the pouring rain. Rudolph went 18-of-20 for 152 yards and a touchdown.

  • As mentioned, Baltimore sat its starters. Tyler Huntley had a pedestrian performance, going 15-of-28 for 146 yards and a touchdown to Isaiah Likely (2-31). Likely finished second on the team in receiving behind Nelson Agholor (5-39).

    Huntley also scrambled eight times for 40 rushing yards. He was close to the team rushing lead, which was owned by Edwards (10-48).

  • Though the Steelers won this game, they’re not a lock to make the playoffs. They’ll need either Jacksonville or Buffalo to lose to qualify. Furthermore, T.J. Watt suffered a knee injury in the second half. Pittsburgh won’t stand a chance without him.


  • Texans 23, Colts 19
  • The winner of this game would qualify for the playoffs. The loser would be eliminated from postseason contention. In a battle with so much on the line, the team that won was the one that utilized its star players in big moments.

    This was a 17-17 tie in the fourth quarter when C.J. Stroud engineered a touchdown drive. He connected with Dalton Schultz for a 17-yard gain on second-and-long, then found Nico Collins while under heavy pressure. Stroud followed that up by firing a deep pass to Collins to set up first-and-goal. Devin Singletary delivered with a touchdown. The extra point was missed, so the Colts had a chance to win on the ensuing possession.

    Indianapolis featured Jonathan Taylor heavily on that next drive. Between Taylor’s runs and a 28-yard reception by Josh Downs, the Colts moved into the red zone. However, they were stuck with a fourth-and-1. They drained the play clock to potentially draw the Texans offsides, so when that didn’t work, they wasted one of their timeouts. Head coach Shane Steichen had extra time to think about the most crucial play of the season. What he came up with was bizarre. He removed Taylor from the game and inserted someone named Tyler Goodson, who didn’t have a single touch all night. He called for a Gardner Minshew pass to Goodson, but Goodson predictably dropped the ball, which clinched the victory for Houston.

    The Colts aren’t starved for talent. They have Taylor, Michael Pittman, Downs, and Zack Moss. Why Steichen went to some practice squad scrub named Gibson in the clutch defies logic, and it’s a horrific decision he’ll be criticized for until he has some playoff success.

  • Taylor was having a great game, so it’s unclear why he didn’t get the target instead. He rushed for 188 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. He also caught two passes for eight receiving yards.

  • Pittman, conversely, was underwhelming. He caught three passes on the opening drive, but had two receptions the rest of the way, finishing with five grabs for 44 yards. He was second on the team in receiving behind Downs (3-48), but it’s unclear why he was barely used after the initial possession. It’s like Steichen and Minshew inexplicably forgot he existed, as they were going against a defense that recently surrendered nearly 300 receiving yards to Amari Cooper.

  • Speaking of Minshew, he went 13-of-24 for 141 yards. He didn’t come through in the clutch, but he can’t really be blamed for Goodson’s drop. However, it was clear that he was the inferior quarterback in this game. Stroud went 20-of-26 for 264 yards and two touchdowns despite missing Tank Dell, Noah Brown, and Robert Woods.

  • With most of Stroud’s receiving corps sidelined, Collins had a monstrous game. He caught all nine of his targets for 195 yards and a touchdown. Dalton Schultz (5-42) was the only other Texan with more than nine receiving yards.

  • Singletary wasn’t having a great game against Indianapolis’ improved ground defense, but he scored a touchdown at the end. He rushed for 63 yards on 24 carries.


  • Titans 28, Jaguars 20
  • This was so simple for the Jaguars. All they needed to do was beat the Titans to win the division. A loss would eliminate them from the playoffs. Surely, they would be able to defeat a beleaguered Tennessee squad that was blown out by the Texans the prior week.

    Well, as the saying goes, “That’s why they play the games.” The Titans were able to open up a lead on the Jaguars when Tyjae Spears did a great job to avoid defenders on a screen pass. The defense then obtained some take-aways with a couple of Trevor Lawrence interceptions. The first was the result of a bobble by Evan Engram. The second occurred when Lawrence and Zay Jones had a miscommunication. Tennessee was able to establish leads of 21-10 prior to halftime.

    Tennessee’s lead ballooned to 28-13 in the fourth quarter, but Lawrence was able to cut the margin to eight with a touchdown pass. That’s all Lawrence could do, however, as he failed to convert a first down by coming up shy, and he then overshot a wide-open Calvin Ridley on another play to end the game.

  • Lawrence had a solid stat line, going 29-of-43 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned two interceptions. However, much of what he did occurred in garbage time, and it was evident that he was not 100 percent. This was evident when he threw a 1-yard pass on a fourth-and-6 play. He also seemed completely out of rhythm with his receivers.

  • Speaking of those receivers, Ridley led the way with six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Engram also scored. He reeled in 10 of his 13 targets for 79 yards and a touchdown to make up for his gaffe.

  • It was no surprise to see Travis Etienne struggle to run. Etienne mustered only 57 yards on 16 carries, but he was able to catch five passes for 30 receiving yards.

  • There was a shocking element regarding one of the running games, and that was Derrick Henry’s dominance. The Jaguars are often stout versus the run, but that was no evident in this contest, as Henry rumbled for 153 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts. Spears, who had 66 total yards, scored twice.

  • Ryan Tannehill played a mostly clean game, going 17-of-26 for 168 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The pick was the result of Tannehill not seeing the safety.

  • DeAndre Hopkins paced Tennessee in receiving. He caught seven of his 10 targets for 46 yards and a touchdown.


  • Bengals 31, Browns 14
  • The Browns sat their starters, so this was supposed to be an easy victory for the Bengals. Things didn’t look like they’d trend that way on the opening drive when Jake Browning threw an interception on a slight overthrow that bounced off Tyler Boyd’s hands. However, just one quarter later, the Bengals were up 21-0. Browning sliced through Cleveland’s reserves with ease, while the Cincinnati Jeff Driskel-led offense couldn’t produce anything. By the time the score was 21-0, the Browns had zero net yards.

  • Browning finished 18-of-24 for 156 yards, three touchdowns and the interception. He could have posted a better stat line, but Boyd dropped a deep pass that could have gone for another score.

  • Browning’s top receiver wasn’t Ja’Marr Chase (4-19) or Boyd (1-4). It was rookie Charlie Jones, who caught three balls for 49 yards. Andrei Iosivas hauled in five passes for 36 yards and wo touchdowns.

  • Joe Mixon had a big fantasy performance. He rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries, and he also caught a touchdown pass on his only reception, a 6-yarder.

  • As for Cleveland, David Bell caught two touchdowns in garbage time to go along with four catches for 68 yards. Pierre Strong rushed for 65 yards on 14 carries.

  • Driskel finished 13-of-26 for 166 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. One pick was an ugly floater, while the second was the result of Driskel being hit as he threw. Driskel also scrambled for 33 yards on seven carries.


  • Buccaneers 9, Panthers 0
  • Like the Jaguars, the Buccaneers were tasked with winning a game to claim their division. A loss would eliminate them. Thus, all the pressure was on them versus a 2-14 Panthers team that had nothing to lose.

    Tampa Bay prevailed, but this contest easily could have gone against them. The Panthers failed to score, but they had two touchdowns nullified by replay review and an illegal formation penalty. Had D.J. Chark not fumbled inches shy of the goal line and a player not lined up incorrectly, the Panthers would have pulled the upset.

    This near-Carolina win was made possible by Baker Mayfield’s struggles. Mayfield was dreadful in this game, as he was hindered by a rib injury and some sort of leg malady that caused him to limp frequently. Mayfield finished 20-of-32 for 137 yards. He had Mike Evans open for a deep touchdown, but underthrew him. He also had a potential pick that was dropped by Jaycee Horn.

  • Mayfield’s counterpart, Bryce Young, was somehow worse. Young was robbed of a touchdown to Chark, but he finished 11-of-18 for 94 yards. He took bad sacks, including one that moved his team out of field goal range, and he was nearly picked-six on a horrible throw. Young also lost a fumble on a strip-sack near midfield in the middle of the fourth quarter, which effectively clinched the victory for the Buccaneers.

  • Thanks to the inept quarterbacking from both teams, no receiver in this game stood out. Evans caught just three of his eight targets for 22 yards. Chris Godwin (6-51) led the Buccaneers in receiving. Adam Thielen closed out his year with two grabs for 12 yards.

  • Chuba Hubbard was the leading rusher in this game. He gained 83 yards on 23 carries. He also caught two passes for nine receiving yards. Rachaad White, meanwhile, dashed for 75 yards on 19 attempts. He added four catches for 18 receiving yards.


  • Jets 17, Patriots 3
  • With no playoff implications involved, the winner of this game would actually be the loser, as their draft positioning would take a hit. The Jets ended up prevailing, meaning the Patriots will benefit long term.

    If there’s a silver lining to this Pyrrhic victory, it’s that Breece Hall continued to dominate. Resembling Marshall Faulk of late with insane receiving numbers, Hall was dominant as a rusher in this contest. He tallied 178 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He also caught two passes for 12 receiving yards. Remarkably, he accounted for all but 77 yards of the Jets offense.

  • The other dynamic play-maker in this game, Garrett Wilson, was limited by poor quarterbacking and the snowy and windy conditions. Wilson caught two passes for 34 receiving yards. He was the only New York player with more than 16 receiving yards.

  • Trevor Siemian was limited by the weather and Bill Belichick’s defense. He went 8-of-20 for 70 yards. He was outgained by Bailey Zappe, who was 12-of-30 for 88 yards and two interceptions.

  • Zappe mostly checked the ball down to Ezekiel Elliott. The veteran back caught five passes for 27 receiving yards, with only one other Patriot logging multiple receptions (Demario Douglas, 2-13). Elliott didn’t do much on the ground, rushing for 54 yards on 13 carries.


  • Saints 48, Falcons 17
  • Believe it or not, this was a close game for the majority of the afternoon. The 48-17 result may say otherwise, but the Falcons led 14-7 and were locked in a 17-17 tie at halftime. Things began to unravel for Atlanta in the third quarter. This was when Desmond Ridder threw an interception as a result of not seeing Alontae Taylor. The Falcons also had a horrible failure of events at the goal line when down 31-17. They foolishly used Cordarrelle Patterson on a third-and-goal play, which failed. On the ensuing snap, Ridder had Bijan Robinson wide open in the end zone, but he took too long to throw the ball, opting to pat it a couple of times instead. This delay allowed the Saints to break up the pass.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, Ridder ended up dropping a shotgun snap on an ensuing possession. The Saints turned all of these turnovers, hence the lopsided result.

  • Ridder had a solid stat line, going 22-of-30 for 291 yards, two touchdown and an interception. Numbers can be misleading, however, and that’s the case in this instance. Ridder was absolutely dreadful in key moments, so the Falcons will need to upgrade him this offseason. They can draft a quarterback or trade for Justin Fields.

  • Ridder’s counterpart was much better. Derek Carr was nearly flawless, going 22-of-28 for 264 yards and four touchdowns. His scores went to three different players, with rookie A.T. Perry (3-53) scoring twice. Carr’s other touchdowns went to Rashid Shaheed (3-65), who led the Saints in receiving, and Chris Olave (3-56), who dealt with tough coverage in this contest.

  • Carr was tasked with doing more than usual in this contest because Alvin Kamara was sidelined. Kendre Miller and Jamaal Williams shared the workload. Williams started, but Miller outgained him, 73-26, on one fewer carry (14 vs. 13). Both players scored touchdowns.

  • Bijan Robinson was outgained by a wide margin by Miller, mustering only 28 yards on 11 carries. However, thanks to a 71-yard reception on a short toss, he was able to eclipse 100 receiving yards. He caught seven balls for 103 yards and a score.

  • Excluding Robinson, the Falcons were led in receiving by Scotty Miller (2-66). Drake London finished with four catches for 41 yards. Kyle Pitts (2-27) was vultured by Jonnu Smith (3-29).


  • Lions 30, Vikings 20
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

  • EDITOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Lions, who suffered a big loss with Sam LaPorta, just so they could improve from the No. 3 seed to the No. 3 seed.

  • A week ago, the Lions beat the Cowboys in Dallas, but were robbed by official Brad Allen screwing up which offensive lineman reported as tackle eligible. Detroit still had an outside shot of landing the No. 2 seed in the NFC, but the team needed help for that to happen from two late afternoon games. It may have been costly for the Lions to have gone for the win, depending on the severities of injuries to star rookie tight end Sam LaPorta and punt return ace Kalif Raymond, but the Lions did not want rust to develop as they headed into the postseason. As a result, Detroit controlled this game from start to finish to win its 12th of the season and limited Minnesota’s 2023 season to 7-10.


  • The Lions came out in nearly dominant fashion in the first quarter after Raymond had a 42-yard punt return to get the ball near midfield. Jared Goff hit two passes to Amon-Ra St. Brown for 47 yards to set up an easy touchdown toss to LaPorta (5-29-1). The next Detroit possession saw Goff loft a 41-yard pass to Raymond, which set up a short rushing touchdown for Jahmyr Gibbs. A missed extra point had the Lions up 13-0 by the start of the second quarter.

    Minnesota responded with Nick Mullens converting a third-and-30 via a pass to Johnny Mundt. Some passes to Justin Jefferson set up a field goal drive that cut Detroit’s lead to 10. Late in the first half, Minnesota got moving with two completions to Jefferson to get across midfield. The Vikings settled for a field goal to make the score 13-6 at halftime.

    In the third quarter, the Detroit defense produced a fourth-down stop. The Lions got moving thanks to Goff converting a fourth down with a 20-yard completion to Donovan Peoples-Jones. A Vikings pass interference in the end zone set up a rushing touchdown from David Montgomery that put Detroit up 20-6. At the end of third quarter, the Vikings went for a fourth-and-1 on which Justin Jefferson beat Kindle Vildor for a 38-yard touchdown to make the score 20-13 entering the fourth quarter.

    The Lions quickly erased that tightened margin when Goff hit St. Brown deep and he exploded down the field for a 70-yard touchdown. Minnesota scored a few plays later with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Addison. That made things 27-20 Lions early in the fourth quarter.

    A great block by Gibbs set up Goff to hit James Mitchell for 24 yards, and the Lions turned that possession into a field goal to go up 30-20. Cam Sutton and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson intercepted Mullens on Minnesota’s final two possessions to clinch the win for Detroit.


  • Goff completed 23-of-32 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns.


  • Montgomery (10-40-1) and Gibbs (13-30-1) finished off their strong seasons.


  • St. Brown caught seven passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.


  • Mullens completed 30-of-44 passes for 396 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.


  • Ty Chandler ran for 69 yards on 12 carries.


  • Jefferson caught 12 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown.



  • Cowboys 38, Redskins 10
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

  • EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m not sure why the Cowboys kept in their starters so late in the game, but that was Mike McCarthy doing Mike McCarthy things.

  • Dallas needed a win in Washington to clinch the NFC East, and a win would also secure the No. 2 seed thanks to official Brad Allen gifting the Cowboys an undeserved win over the Lions in Week 17. It was close for a time in the first half before eventually Dallas pulled away.

    Reports were out that Washington head coach Ron Rivera is due to be fired come Monday morning, so this could have been his final game as a NFL head coach on what was his 62nd birthday. This was a forgettable game for Rivera, but Washington clinched the No. 2-overall pick of the 2024 NFL Draft by losing.


  • Washington had a promising drive to open the game, getting into Dallas territory before a fourth-and-1 was stuffed for a loss to negate the possession. The Cowboys quickly went down the field with chunk completions to Brandin Cooks (6-39-1), CeeDee Lamb, and a superb leaping grab by Tony Pollard. Those set up a short passing touchdown to Jalen Tolbert. Promptly, Jourdan Lewis stripped Brian Robinson Jr. of the ball, and Lewis recovered the loose ball. However, Brandon Aubrey had a 32-yard field goal blocked, with the Redskins returning the punt 66 yards to the Dallas 20. On fourth-and-goal, Sam Howell connected with Robinson to tie the game at 7-7.

    On the ensuing drive, Washington rookie Quan Martin intercepted a tipped pass to set up his offense around midfield. The Redskins turned that turnover into a field goal to go up 10-7. Dallas took the lead with a drive led by Pollard, who ended up pounding the ball into the end zone from a yard out. Howell then had a drive going before getting hit as he threw by Demarcus Lawrence. That resulted in a fluttering pass that Donovan Wilson picked off. A checkdown from Dak Prescott to Rico Dowdle went for 32 yards, and Prescott soon hit Lamb for a few completions, including a short touchdown toss that made the score 21-10 heading into halftime.

    Dallas opened up a big lead at the start of the third quarter, marching down the field and finishing the drive with another touchdown strike from Prescott to Lamb. The Cowboys’ Peyton Hendershot blocked a punt a bit later to set up Dallas inside the Washington 10, and the blowout was on. Prescott hit Cooks from a few yards out to extend the Dallas lead to 35-10. At the end of the third, Daron Bland brought in his ninth interception of the year, cutting in front of Terry McLaurin at the Dallas 10-yard line to effectively end all hope for Washington.


  • Prescott completed 31-of-36 passes for 279 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.


  • Pollard ran for 70 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.


  • Lamb caught 13 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.


  • Howell completed 19-of-27 passes for 153 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.


  • Robinson Jr. had nine carries for 25 yards. He also totaled three catches for 10 yards and a touchdown.


  • McLaurin caught six passes for 56 yards.



  • Giants 27, Eagles 10
  • Though the Eagles fell behind the Cowboys in the divisional race, they had a golden opportunity to rest their players before the postseason. There was a small chance that they’d be able to overtake Dallas, but it was so miniscule that it was wiser to rest everyone and not risk injury. The Eagles coaching staff didn’t get the memo, and they paid the price. A.J. Brown suffered a knee injury, and if that wasn’t enough, Jalen Hurts dislocated his finger. In the end, the Eagles weren’t even competitive with the Giants in a humiliating defeat.

  • Hurts was able to return to the game after dislocating his finger, but he didn’t last very long. He lofted a ball up for grabs into double coverage and then was promptly removed for Marcus Mariota. Hurts had a dreadful performance, going 7-of-16 for 55 yards and the pick.

    Brown, meanwhile, was not able to return to action. He caught only one pass for nine yards. With DeVonta Smith also injured, Philadelphia’s top receiver might be Quez Watkins, who caught eight balls for 93 yards and a touchdown in this game.

  • As for the Giants, they had a strong performance out of Tyrod Taylor. The veteran quarterback went 23-of-32 for 297 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He also picked up 38 rushing yards on eight scrambles.

  • Taylor threw to Darius Slayton more than anyone else. Slayton caught five of his seven targets for 62 yards and a touchdown. He was outgained only by Wan’Dale Robinson, who snatched five balls for 85 yards.

  • Saquon Barkley didn’t have a ton of yardage, but he managed to score twice. Barkley rushed for 46 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 18 carries, and he also caught two balls for 51 receiving yards.

  • The Eagles were led on the ground with Kenneth Gainwell, who rushed for 62 yards on seven carries. D’Andre Swift, who was sidelined with an illness, will need to be a greater part of the offense if the receivers are out of action.


  • Seahawks 21, Cardinals 20
  • The Seahawks were eliminated from the postseason as they were playing this game, yet a lot was still riding on Matt Prater’s field goal attempt at the very end. With a win, the Cardinals would have ruined their draft positioning, which would make it very difficult for them to land Marvin Harrison Jr. Also, the Cardinals would have gone over the win total had Prater connected. Luckily for those who wanted to see Arizona lose, Prater whiffed from 51.

    The Cardinals were in a position to win because of some brilliance from James Conner. The veteran back has been tremendous of late, and that continued to be the case. He rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. He also caught four passes for 54 receiving yards.

    Kyler Murray, meanwhile, also had a strong performance. He went 22-of-30 for 262 yards and a touchdown. He chipped in with 33 rushing yards on five scrambles as well. Reports were released that the Cardinals have been impressed with Murray’s recovery and will be using him as their starting quarterback once again next year.

  • Geno Smith wasn’t as good as Murray, but more was expected from him in this easy matchup. He went 16-of-28 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Like Murray, Smith picked up decent rushing yardage (28 yards) on three scrambles.

  • Smith’s touchdowns went to Tyler Lockett (2-71) and Will Dissly (3-46), who was replacing an injured Noah Fant. Lockett, meanwhile, continued to outperform D.K. Metcalf in games against Arizona. Metcalf reeled in just one of his six targets for 10 yards.

  • Kenneth Walker also disappointed in a very easy matchup. He rushed for 78 yards on 17 carries, and he caught only one pass for three receiving yards.

  • Rounding out the skill players, Michael Wilson led all skill players in receiving with six catches for 95 yards. Trey McBride (3-34) finished his strong season with a touchdown.


  • Chiefs 13, Chargers 12
  • This was a completely worthless game between the Chiefs, who rested their starters, and Chargers, who were missing many key players due to injury. The Chargers were in a position to go up a touchdown toward the end, but Austin Ekeler was stuffed at the goal line. The Chargers, down 10-9, kicked a field goal to go up 12-10. Blaine Gabbert, however, came through in the clutch with a 25-yard scramble to move into field goal range. Harrison Butker connected from 41 yards in the final minute to give Kansas City the victory.

  • There were only a few players of note:

    – Ekeler continued to be woeful with just 11 yards on 10 carries. He caught seven passes, but for only 38 receiving yards.

    – Donald Parham Jr. led the Chargers in receiving with five catches for 83 yards. Joshua Palmer was next with six grabs for 44 yards.

    – Mecole Hardman paced the Chiefs in receiving with six receptions for 77 yards.


  • Rams 21, 49ers 20
  • Both teams sat their starters in this game, so this was all about Carson Wentz auditioning for a job somewhere next season. Wentz performed well by all accounts, going 17-of-24 for 163 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was also a big-time producer on the ground, scrambling 17 times for 56 rushing yards and another score. Granted, this was against backups, but Wentz didn’t have Cooper Kupp available for him either. He was able to throw to Puka Nacua for a bit, but only until Nacua finished his business.

    Nacua’s business, by the way, was achieving the all-time rookie receptions record. Nacua needed four to get there, and he was able to achieve that feat, hauling in those four balls for 41 yards and a touchdown. Nacua finished the year with 105 catches.

  • Other than Wentz and Nacua, there was not much interest from the other players. Here are the few other highlights:

    – Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel played a bit before taking a seat. Aiyuk (3-25) and Samuel (2-21) were limited in their numbers. It’s unclear why they even played.

    – Sam Darnold went 16-of-26 for 189 yards and a touchdown to go along with seven scrambles for 19 rushing yards and a second touchdown. He missed out on a deep completion when Ray-Ray McCloud (3-22) dropped a pass downfield.

    – Elijah Mitchell was the primary back for the 49ers. He rushed for 52 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

    – Rookie tight end Davis Allen caught four balls for 25 yards. He played very well in other start as well.


  • Packers 17, Bears 9
  • There were four teams in must-win situations that were battling opponents that were eliminated from the playoffs in Week 18. Of the four, the Packers were the only team that didn’t choke. The Jaguars lost to the Titans, while the Buccaneers and Seahawks performed very poorly but were rescued by the incompetence of their opposition. By contrast, Green Bay dominated its opponent.

    “No Cookie” Jordan Love was incredible in this game. Love endured some very rocky moments throughout his first year as a starter, but finished on an extremely high note. He torched the Bears mercilessly, constantly coming up with big plays, especially on third down. The third-down execution was the deciding factor in this game, with Love converting 7-of-10 attempts. He misfired on just five occasions, going 27-of-32 for 316 yards and two touchdowns. His only blemish was losing a fumble around midfield on a broken play.

    While Love thrived on third down, Justin Fields struggled in such situations, converting 3-of-11 tries. Fields constantly took sacks on third down, as Green Bay’s dominance over him continued. Fields went 11-of-16 for 148 yards. The Packers bottled him up as a runner, limiting him to just 27 rushing yards on eight scrambles.

  • Aaron Jones had another big performance. He rushed for 111 yards on 22 carries, and he caught all five of his targets for 30 receiving yards. The Bears needed one more possession at the end of the game, but they couldn’t take Jones to get their defense off the field.

  • Jones finished fifth on the Packers in receiving. Jayden Reed led the way with four receptions for 112 yards despite not being 100 percent. Dontayvion Wicks hauled in two touchdowns to go along with six receptions for 61 yards. Bo Melton continued to thrive with five grabs for 62 yards.

  • While Green Bay’s receivers thrived, only D.J. Moore was able to shine for the Bears. Moore caught four passes for 64 yards. He and Cole Kmet (3-41) were the only Bears with more than 18 receiving yards.

  • The Bears got very little out of their running game. Khalil Herbert found no running room, tallying just 27 yards on eight carries.


  • Raiders 27, Broncos 14
  • The Raiders have been playing hard for interim head coach Antonio Pierce throughout the second half of the year, and that continued to be the case in the finale. They dominated the Broncos, outgaining them by about 100 yards in a 13-point victory.

    Zamir White was expected to have a big performance against a Denver defense that has struggled against the run all season. While White crossed the century mark – 25 carries, 112 yards – it was like pulling teeth at the end of the game, as the Broncos weren’t yielding anything to the young back.

    Instead, it was Aidan O’Connell who moved the chains with some big third-down conversions. O’Connell, who helped the Raiders convert 7-of-13 third downs, went 20-of-31 for 244 yards and two touchdowns in a matchup against a highly ranked Raiders defense.

  • O’Connell’s two touchdowns went to the usual suspects. Jakobi Meyers caught three passes for 61 yards, and he also scored once more on a 5-yard run. Davante Adams reeled in five receptions for 46 yards. While Meyers and Adams scored the touchdowns, neither led the Raiders in receiving. Tre Tucker did so, reeling in all five of his targets for 79 yards.

  • As for the Broncos, Jarrett Stidham went 20-of-34 for 272 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Stidham never had a chance, as the Raiders constantly swarmed him and sacked him five times.

  • Making matters worse for Stidham, Courtland Sutton, who had one catch for two yards, left the game early with an injury. That would explain why Brandon Johnson led the team in receiving with four receptions for 88 yards. Jerry Jeudy was next with three receptions for 79 yards and a score.

  • Javonte Williams also had a big day as a receiver. He caught seven passes for 43 receiving yards. He didn’t do much as a rusher – nine carries, 32 yards – but he managed to find the end zone once.


  • Bills 21, Dolphins 14
  • The Bills secured a playoff spot even before the game began, but they were aiming to win the division with a victory over the Bills. It didn’t look like that would come to fruition in the opening half, however, as Josh Allen constantly self-destructed with mistakes. Allen threw two interceptions prior to intermission, with both give-aways occurring on throws into the end zone. He forced the issue the first time, then heaved a horrible pass way across his body over the middle of the field. Allen also overshot Stefon Diggs for a deep touchdown and lost a fumble on a strip-sack in field goal range.

    Making matters worse, the Bills also saw James Cook drop a touchdown. Adding injury to insult, some key players like Gabe Davis, Rasul Douglas and Dion Dawkins exited with injuries. The Dolphins looked like they would prevail, as they took a 14-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

    Allen, however, redeemed himself in the final frame. He made some big throws and was able to scramble for a 15-yard gain on a crucial third-and-13. With Allen’s improved play, as well as a punt return touchdown by Deonte Hardy, the Bills managed to prevail to claim the No. 2 seed.

  • It was a tale of two halves for Allen. He finished 30-of-38 for 359 yards, two touchdowns and the pair of interceptions. He also scrambled 15 times for 67 rushing yards.

  • Allen lost Davis in the early going, so he had no choice but to lean on Diggs, who expressed frustration at certain points in this game. Diggs caught seven passes for 87 yards, but could have enjoyed a much better performance had Allen hit him with the aforementioned deep strike. Diggs trailed only Khalil Shakir (6-105) in the box score. Dalton Kincaid added seven receptions for 84 yards.

  • Cook, who dropped a touchdown, didn’t find much running room. He was limited to 36 yards on 13 carries. He caught three passes, but for only 16 receiving yards.

  • The Dolphins got more out of their running backs. De’Von Achane rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown on just 10 attempts. Jeff Wilson Jr. added 45 yards on nine tries.

  • Tua Tagovailoa had a chance to tie at the end of regulation, but forced a bad throw that was picked. Tagovailoa went 17-of-27 for 173 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His other pick was an erran deep shot in the early stages of the evening.

  • With Jaylen Waddle out, Tyreek Hill easily led the Dolphins in receiving with seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. No other Dolphin accumulated more than 30 receiving yards.


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



    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22


    2024 NFL Mock Draft - Feb. 21


    Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19


    NFL Picks - Feb. 12








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