Week 17 rundown

Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports

Lions (11-5) 19

Cowboys (11-5) 20

The Lions came back down 20-13 with less than two minutes to go only to be beaten by the referees in Dallas. Detroit found themselves down a touchdown after a late interception by Jared Goff resulted in a 43-yard Brandon Aubrey field goal with just 1:41 remaining. Goff responded brilliantly on the ensuing drive, connecting with Laporta and St. Brown repeatedly as he marched the Lions quickly down the field eventually finding Amon Ra near the goal line where he made the catch and dove in for the score. In typical Dan Campbell fashion, the Lions went for 2 and for a moment it looked like they had stolen victory in Dallas with a trick play that featured a wide open touchdown catch by left tackle Taylor Decker, but they were called back by the referees on an ineligible man downfield penalty on Decker.  The Lions tried for 2 twice more after an offsides penalty on Micah Parsons, and a wobbly dropped pass by Detroit tight end James Mitchell and lost by one.  But, the controversy is over the ineligible man downfield call.  Decker says he checked in as eligible, the referee Brad Allen claims that it was backup tackle Dan Skipper who reported eligible. On the telecast you can clearly see both Decker and Skipper walking up to Allen before the play and saying something to him, and Allen has been less than convincing in his explanations since. Roger Godell and the NFL sided with the Lions as well, suspending Allen and the whole referee crew from Saturday from participating in this year’s playoffs.  The loss really hurts for Detroit, who still had an outside chance at securing the top seed in the NFC with a win. For Dallas, Cedee Lamb was incredible –  finishing with 227 yards and touchdown, setting new franchise single-season records in both receptions and receiving yards in the process. His record-breaking day was capped by an electrifying 92-yard touchdown catch as Dak Preskcott evaded a sack in his own end zone before throwing it deep downfield for Lamb, who beat the defense and taunted Lions defenders as he jogged in for the score.  Both teams are now 11-5 heading into the final week of the regular season. Dallas has a date against the Commanders in Washington while the Lions will face the Vikings at home to end their regular season.

Eric Christian Smith/AP Photo

Titans (5-11) 3

Texans (9-7) 26

CJ Stroud threw for 213 yards and a touchdown in his return from a concussion, leading the Texans to a 26-3 win over the Titans. “The time is now,” Stroud said. “It’s not next year.  It’s not the year after that.  It’s right now.  We have the opportunity to control our own destiny so I’m excited to do that.” A victory next week at Indianapolis will secure a playoff berth for Houston after winning just three games last season. The Texans, Colts, and Jaguars all won on Sunday to make them all 9-7 as we head into the final week of the regular season.  For the Titans, they scored their only points on a 53-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired in the second quarter.  The Texans had a 17-point lead at halftime with some help from a touchdown on defense after Sheldon Rankins returned a fumble by rookie quarterback Will Levis in the second Quarter. Levis injured his foot on the play and Ryan Tannehill took over.  He threw for 168 yards but couldn’t get the Titans in the end zone as Tennessee fell to Houston for the second time in three weeks. “We’ve just got to do better at doing our job all around,” Tannehill said.  “If it’s blocking, then blocking.  If it’s catching, catching.  If it’s throwing, throwing.  Whatever the case may be, we just got to do a better job of doing our job.”  Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said he doesn’t think the injury to levis is “too serious” but he’d know more Monday.

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Falcons (7-9) 17

Bears (7-9) 37

Justin Fields threw for 268 yards with a touchdown pass and a rushing TD in what could be his final home game for Chicago, and the Bears dealt Atlanta’s postseason hopes a big blow, beating the Falcons 37-17 on a snowy Sunday afternoon.  DJ Moore finished with nine catches for 159 yards and a touchdown, and Khalil Herbert ran for 124 yards and a score.  The Falcons struggled to get going on offense after setting a season high in scoring last week in a 29-10 win over Indianapolis.  They finished with 307 yards, a week after gaining 406.  Taylor Heinicke, making his second straight start with Desmond Ridder benched, threw for 163 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. He scrambled for a 24-yard TD early in the fourth quarter but departed near the end of the game after his left ankle flared up.  Ridder came in and threw a late pick.  “You want to go out there and try to win, try to execute plays, and it sucks that sometimes we can’t pull through,” receiver Drake London said.  “We’ve been trying for a while now and I mean we just got to keep on going and try to make the best of the situation right now.”  After the game, Fields certainly sounded like he felt it might be his last game in chicago…. “I will definitely remember this game for the rest of my life – just the atmosphere, the fans, the chants, the snow,” he said.  “I don’t like snow as a quarterback but looking back on it it was great. But yeah, the spirit of the fans, the game, playing the hometown team, the hometown team where I’m from, beating them, so it was good”  The playoff hopes are dead for Chicago, but the Falcons still hold out hope at a divisional title in the woeful NFC South.  They can win the division if they beat the Saints in New Orleans next weekend and the Bucs lose to the Panthers in Charlotte.  It’s fairly long odds, but not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Todd Olszewskie/Getty Images

Dolphins (11-5) 19

Ravens (13-3) 56

The Ravens demolished the Dolphins to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and Lamar Jackson added to his MVP resume with a five-touchdown performance, in the 56-19 victory over Miami. Jackson finished 18-of-21 for 321 yards and 5 touchdowns ending with a perfect 158.3 passer rating, while Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed 22-of-38 passes for 237 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Tua exited late in the fourth quarter with a left shoulder injury and did not return. Bad turned to worse when Pro Bowl outside linebacker Bradley Chubb was carted off with a leg injury in the fourth quarter as well. The Dolphins just had no answer for Jackson.  While the Ravens ripped off three touchdowns in a row to end the first half, Miami countered with a punt, a field goal and an interception. Jackson’s 35-yard touchdown to Likely with 1:24 left in the first half felt like the Turning point.  The Ravens were facing a fourth and 7, and a stop by the Dolphins would have provided them the chance to make it a one-score game again just before the half.  Instead, Baltimore went up 35-13, essentially icing the game by the break. Lamar became just the fifth player in NFL history to have three career games with a perfect passer rating, minimum 15 pass attempts, joining Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner and future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.  Jackson was literally perfect, and that was the difference. The Ravens will play host to the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers to close out the regular season in a game with zero playoff implications while the Dolphins will return home to face the Buffalo Bills in a winner-takes-all battle for the AFC East division title!

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Saints (8-8) 23

Buccaneers (8-8) 13

In a game with plenty of divisional and playoff implications, Derek Carr and the Saints took down the Bucs 23-13 – climbing back into a first place tie with Tampa Bay in the NFC South. The Bucs missed out on an opportunity to clinch their third straight division title, sputtering most of the game offensively.  Baker Mayfield went 22-of-33 passing with 309 yards and two touchdowns but also threw two interceptions. He was outshined by Derek Carr’s turnover free 197 yard, two touchdown performance.  The saints defense pressured Mayfield all game and forced two fumbles to go with the picks.  New Orleans led 17-0 at halftime, running twice as many plays (38 to Tampa Bay’s 19) and outgaining the Bucs 202 yards to 44 up to that point.  After turning the ball over just two times over their month-long surge, the Bucs lost the turnover battle 4-0 on Sunday.  “It doesn’t matter who we played today. Good team, bad team, a college team, high school team, we wouldn’t have won,” Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles Said.  The Bucs can still repeat as division champions by winning at last-place Carolina in next weekend’s regular-season finale. Still, if the Bucs lose to the Panthers, the division crown goes to the winner of the Saints and Atlanta Falcons (7-9) showdown in New Orleans.

Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP Photo

Patriots (4-12) 21

Bills (10-6) 27

Josh Allen ran for two touchdowns, cornerback Rasul Douglas returned one of his two interceptions for a score and the Buffalo Bills maintained their clear path to the playoffs with a 27-21 win over the Patriots on Sunday.  The three-time division champion Bills (10-6) now prepare for a season-ending showdown at Miami (11-5) next weekend that will decide the AFC East title.  Buffalo has already defeated the Dolphins this year, and Miami blew a chance at clinching the division title with their loss to Baltimore on Sunday. Allen Converted three third-down opportunities on Buffalo’s drive to run out the final 5:02.  He capped the time-consuming drive by lowering his shoulder on a 4-yard run on third and 3 from the Patriots 16.  New England performed to their identity – stout on defense and sloppy on offense, committing four turnovers.  The Patriots are in jeopardy of finishing with the fewest wins in a season over coach Bill Belichick’s tenure, which he opened with a 5-11 record in 2000.  The Bills blitzing defense was just too much for Bailey Zappe who had more interceptions (three) than the Patriots had first downs (two) over New England’s first six possessions.  For Buffalo, Allen scored his team-leading 15th rushing touchdown, one short of matching the team’s single season record set by O.J. Simpson in 1975. The Patriots will close out the year by hosting the New York Jets next week, while the Bills square off in the winner-takes-all showdown against the Dolphins in Miami.

Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

Cardinals (4-12) 35

Eagles (11-5) 31

The Arizona Cardinals got down early but came back to stun the Eagles 35-31 in Philly!  The Eagles took a comfortable 21-6 lead into halftime on Sunday – thanks in part to a 99-yard pick 6 from Sydney Brown in the second quarter – and seemed poised to run away with the game.  But in the third quarter Murray and the Cardinals finally took off.  They opened the second half with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that Murray capped with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Michael Carter.  Then after forcing a three-and-out to get the ball back right away, Murray mounted another drive and hit James Conner – who made a ridiculous grab after Murray had to scramble in the pocket for a second touchdown. The 2-point conversion that followed tied the game, leading to a chorus of boos from Eagles fans. Hurts responded right away in the fourth quarter and hit Dallas Geodert for a 9-yard touchdown to take the lead right away again.  But the Cardinals were able to respond and tie it up after Murray found Michael Wilson on a fourth down for a 4-yard touchdown on the next drive.  The Cardinals went for the onside kick following that touchdown with more than five minutes left and failed.  The Eagles had great field position, but Arizona forced them into settling for a 43-yard Jake Elliot field goal that made the score 21-18 but left the window open for Murray’s march to victory.  Kyler Murray, with Arizona down by three points in the final minutes, led the Cardinals storming down the field on a game-winning drive.  He hit Greg Dortch on back-back passes for a combined 46 yards, which put the Cardinals at the 5-yard line. Two plays later, James Connor punched in a 2-yard run that gave the Cardinals the four-point win.  Murray finished 25-of-31 passing with three touchdowns and an interception.  Conner had 128 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and Dortch had 82 yards on seven receptions.  Hurts went 18-of-23 for 167 yards and had three touchdowns and an interception.  The Eagles not only blew a 15-point lead on Sunday, they also blew their shot at a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs – the loss means that the 49ers clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the coveted first-round bye.  They will wrap up their regular season against the Giants next weekend while the Cardinals return home to face the Seahawks in their season finale. 

Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

Panthers (2-14) 0

Jaguars (9-7) 26

The Jacksonville Jaguars upended the Carolina Panthers, 26-0, at EverBank Stadium on Sunday to improve to 9-7 on the season. With the victory the Jaguars remain in first place in the AFC South and are assured of being able to clinch a second division title with a victory at Tennessee next weekend.  Josh Allen set Jacksonville’s single-season franchise sacks record at 16.5 with a three-sack performance that helped end the Jaguars four-game losing streak.  “We got the job done,” Allen said.  Quarterback C.J. Beathard, making his first start for the Jaguars and his 13th in seven NFL seasons, completed 17-of-24 passes for 178 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions.  Trevor Lawrence missed the first start of his three-year NFL career with a sprained AC joint.  “He played Smart, he played tough,” Coach Pederson said of Beathard. “He ran the offense”.  Travis Etienne scored twice, including the longest run of his professional career (62 yards), and ran for 102 yards in the game.  Evan Engram caught 6 passes for 60 yards as well and Brandon McManus made 4 field goals for the Jaguars.   The Panthers continued the bleakest season of any team this year with the befitting in-division shutout. They only managed 124 yards of offense in the game and went 1/13 on third down.  Bryce Young was 19-of-32 passing with 112 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception.  The Panthers were just brutal on offense and could not move the ball all game. It got so bad, that Panthers Owner David Tepper threw a drink  on a Jaguars fan who was heckling the owner in his suite.  The Panthers will finally cry mercy on this season next Sunday at home in Charlotte against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who can win their third straight division title by beating Carolina. The Jaguars will go on the road to square off against the Tennesee Titans in Nashville to wrap up their regular season.

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