NFL Week 16 Recap — The Panthers Lost & Upsets Ruled the Day
Three big upsets of Super Bowl hopefuls highlighted the results of Week 16 of the 2015 NFL season. Here’s a recap of this week’s action:
The Panthers Are No Longer Perfect
The 1972 Miami Dolphins can relax: the 2015 Carolina Panthers will not match their undefeated NFL season. Matt Ryan threw for 306 yards and one touchdown — a 70-yard toss hauled in by a leaping Julio Jones in the third quarter — and the Atlanta Falcons beat the visiting Carolina Panthers, 20-13, on Sunday.
Carolina (14-1) began its final drive with 90 seconds left, but Cam Newton fumbled on the second play of the series to assure the defeat. The victory allowed Atlanta (8-7) to temporarily remain in the playoff chase, but they were eliminated from contention when the Vikings won on Sunday night.
Newton passed for 142 yards and ran for 46 yards, including a touchdown, but the Panthers didn’t play like the Super Bowl contenders they have become this season.
The Jets & Ravens Pulled Off Big Upsets, Too
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker on the first drive of overtime, and the New York Jets beat the New England Patriots, 26-20. New England (12-3) won the overtime coin toss, but special teams captain Matthew Slater inexplicably elected to kick to New York (10-5), who made the AFC East champs pay for the gaffe with the game-winning TD.
As a result of the upset win, the Jets only need to beat the Bills next week to clinch a playoff berth. The defending Super Bowl-champion Patriots can still clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating the Dolphins next Sunday.
Ryan Mallet threw for a career-high 274 yards and a touchdown, and the Baltimore Ravens shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-17, on Sunday. The loss gave Cincinnati the AFC North title.
Pittsburgh (9-6) lost their second game of the season to their struggling rival, but they remained in the hunt for an AFC playoff berth. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for just 215 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions — nowhere near the offensive output he and his team of Super Bowl hopefuls have delivered over the past two months.
Baltimore (5-10) came into the game on a three-game losing streak.
The Packers & Vikings Will Duel For The NFC North Title Next Sunday
Adrian Peterson ran for 104 yards and a touchdown and the Minnesota Vikings romped over the New York Giants, 49-17, on Sunday night. Minnesota (10-5) clinched the final NFC playoff spot with the victory. They’ll travel to Green Bay next Sunday night to face the Packers for the NFC North title.
Jerick McKinnon added 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings, who intercepted Eli Manning three times, including one that Harrison Smith returned for a score in the second quarter.
New York (6-9) was eliminated from playoff contention when Washington beat Philadelphia on Saturday night.
Cory Redding and Jerraud Powers each returned a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter, and the Arizona Cardinals routed the Green Bay Packers, 38-8, on Sunday. Carson Palmer threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for Arizona (13-2), which clinched a first-round bye with the victory.
Green Bay (10-5) could have clinched the NFC North title with a win and a Minnesota loss, but they’ll now have to beat the Vikings at home next week to host a wild card round playoff game the weekend of Jan. 9-10.
The Redskins & Chiefs Clinched Playoff Spots
Kirk Cousins passed for 365 yards and four touchdowns, and the Washington Redskins beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-24, on Saturday night to win the NFC East title. Washington (8-7) won its third consecutive game and will host a playoff game in the wild card round on the weekend of Jan. 9-10.
DeAngelo Hall returned DeMarco Murray's fumble 17 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to all but seal the loss for Philadelphia (6-9). If the Eagles had been able to win their final two games, they would have reigned over the mediocre division. Instead, they watched a team clinch a division title on their home field for the second consecutive week; the Cardinals wrapped up the NFC West last Sunday.
Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Cleveland Browns, 17-13, on Sunday to extend their winning streak to nine games. Kansas City (10-5) clinched a playoff berth when Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore just minutes after the Chiefs won their game.
Cleveland (3-12) rallied from a 17-3 halftime deficit, but Johnny Manziel didn’t have enough time to complete the comeback. The Browns remained tied with the Titans for the NFL’s worst record.
The Chiefs can still win the AFC West, pending the Broncos’ game against the Bengals on Monday night and Week 17’s contests.
The AFC South Title Will Be Decided In Week 17
Both the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts won in Week 16, meaning Week 17's intra-divisional games will decide the champion of the AFC's weakest division.
Brandon Weeden threw two touchdowns and ran for another score, and the Houston Texans blew out the Tennessee Titans, 34-6, on Sunday. Houston (8-7) can clinch the AFC South title by beating Jacksonville at home next Sunday. Tennessee (3-12) remained tied with Cleveland for the league’s worst record.
Third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst relieved an injured Matt Hasselbeck, and the Indianapolis Colts beat the Miami Dolphins, 18-12, on Sunday. Miami (5-10) had a chance to win the game, but the Dolphins final drive stalled inside the Colts’ 5-yard line with less than a minute to play.
Indianapolis (7-8) remained barely alive in the AFC South race thanks to the win. To make the playoffs, the Colts must beat the Titans next week and have the Jags upset the Texans. No word if first-string quarterback Andrew Luck might return from injury for the regular season's final game.
Thursday, December 24
Oakland 23, San Diego 20 (OT)
Sunday, December 27
Detroit 32, San Francisco 17
Buffalo 16, Dallas 6
Chicago 26, Tampa Bay 21
New Orleans 38, Jacksonville 27
St. Louis 23, Seattle 17