Week 16 was either a great week or a crushing week for certain teams. While teams like the Ravens and Colts improved their playoff chances with big wins, teams like the Steelers and the Dolphins suffered tough losses that may cost them the playoffs. With that, we have plenty of winners and losers. Let’s go over them.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens (Won 22-10 at LAC)
If there was a definition of a must-win game, a picture of the Ravens’ Saturday affair with the Chargers should come up. A loss would’ve eliminated them from wildcard contention with the Titans and Colts winning, while it also would’ve kept them a 0.5 game out of the division and would’ve had them relying on the Bengals to pull off an improbable upset victory in Pittsburgh. Now, Baltimore is able to control their destiny, thanks to an extremely impressive win on the road. Facing one of the league’s premier offenses, the Ravens defense was faced with a tough test. It’s safe to say they aced it. They held the Chargers to 196 total yards, sacked Phillip Rivers four times, and forced three turnovers. At times, what seemed to be unstoppable offense looked clueless, which proves how dominant this Ravens defense is. As dominant as the defense is, the offense compliments it perfectly. Lamar Jackson had his best game so far in his rookie season, passing for 204 yards and a touchdown, while adding another 39 yards on the ground. Once again, Baltimore easily exceeded 100 rushing yards, rushing for 159 as a team behind an outstanding performance by Gus Edwards (92 rushing yards, 6.6 yards per carry). This rushing offense allows the Ravens to constantly win the time of possession battle, making it even more difficult for opposing offenses to score against this scary defense. With a win on Sunday against the Browns, Baltimore wins the AFC North over the Steelers. They may be playing these same Chargers in Baltimore in the wildcard round, and that alone should give Phillip Rivers nightmares.
Loser: Pittsburgh Steelers (Lost 31-28 at NO)
Speaking of the Steelers, their inexcusable collapse against the Saints may have just cost them the playoffs. It’s unclear what else Pittsburgh needed to do. They outgained New Orleans 429-370, won the time of possession battle, and had more first downs. In fact, they even had a 28-24 lead deep in Saints territory. What followed next was a typical Steelers collapse. Pittsburgh’s offense dominated for most of the game, but their last three possessions resulted in a Stevan Ridley fumble, a failed fake punt, and a Juju Smith Schuster fumble in field goal range down 3. With the game on the line, Pittsburgh went away from Jaylen Samuels, even tough he was averaging 4.4 yards per carry. That and the fake punt are prime examples of how poorly coached the Steelers are. The failed fake punt is inexcusable; why are you trusting a fullback to gain five yards over your offense that had been on fire or your defense that shut the Saints down in the second half to make one final stop? Speaking of that defense, Keith Butler continues to set them up to fail, as he continues to put linebackers in man coverage against slot receivers. Unfortunately for the Steelers, New Orleans abused that matchup with Michael Thomas, one of the game’s premier receivers, who ended up with 11 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. It’s not that Pittsburgh is not talented. In fact, they may be the most talented team in the NFL. The fact that they’ll likely miss the playoffs show how awful they’re coached. At the very least, both coordinators need to fired. In reality though, head coach Mike Tomlin also needs to be on his way out. The Steelers need to save this team before they end up wasting the rest of Ben Roethlisberger’s career.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks (Won 38-31 vs KC)
Despite everyone doubting them from the beginning, the Seahawks have made the playoffs. Seattle was picked by many to be the bottom feeders of their division and even by some to be the bottom feeders of the NFC, but here they are defeating a team that will likely get the #1 seed in the AFC. As always, Russell Wilson was terrific. He threw for 317 yards, three touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 127.2. Add in 210 yards from the league’s best rushing attack, and Seattle had 464 total yards. They also dominated time of possession, as they usually do, possessing the ball for around 11 more minutes than the Chiefs. While the defense allowed 419 total yards, they forced a critical fumble and did just enough to give Wilson a chance to work his magic. With Wilson playing the way he is and with how well this team is coached by Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have established as the team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they even found their way into the Super Bowl.
Loser: Miami Dolphins (Lost 17-7 vs JAX)
If there was any hope that the Dolphins would sneak into the playoffs, that hope has been destroyed. With Miami’s embarrassing loss the awful Jaguars at home, the Dolphins are now eliminated from the playoffs. There couldn’t have been a more symbolic way for Miami to go out. This team has been confusing from the beginning, winning close games against teams like the Bears and Patriots but also suffering blowouts that make them look like a clueless team. It seems as the latter finally get the best of them, as the Dolphins failed to show up against a Jacksonville team that had won just one game since Week 4 coming in. They also lost miserable at home, where they had previously dominated. This whole team is inconsistent, and all starts with their quarterback. For years, Ryan Tannehill has had the talent, but he’s never been able to put it together. His performance on Sunday reminded Dolphins fans why he’s not their answer at the game’s most important position. Tannehill had just 146 passing yards, threw a pick six, and had a mediocre quarterback rating of 82.8. Miami had just 183 yards total as a team. Their defense played alright, only accounting for ten points. Still, they allowed 139 rushing yards to an offense that may be the league’s worst. The Dolphins need to get younger on both sides of the ball, and quickly. That starts with a change under center; Tannehill has run out of chances to prove himself now at 30 years old. In fact, Miami may be best off tearing it down and starting over from scratch, trading away several of their veterans as well as firing head coach Adam Gase.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams (Won 31-9 at ARI)
After suffering tough rough losses, the Rams were desperate to get back on track. While beating the previously 3-11 Cardinals was expected, how they did was important. After struggling mightily over the past three weeks, Jared Goff went back to being his usual fabulous self. He completed 79% of his passes for 216 yards and a touchdown with a 118.1 quarterback rating. He was complemented by a terrific rushing attack, which for once wasn’t led by Todd Gurley, who was sidelined with a knee injury. That allowed recently signed CJ Anderson to rush for 167 yards and a touchdown, while averaging 8.4 yards per carry. It was clear Gurley was playing injured, which forced the Rams to rely on Goff, who had to throw 50 times the previous two times. Now back to a more manageable 24 pass attempts, Goff was outstanding, and Los Angeles was able to put up 461 total yards as a result. Even though they were playing arguably one of the worst offenses of all times, it was encouraging for Rams fans to see their defense put together a dominant performance. They held Arizona to 263 total yards and 18% on third down conversions, while Aaron Donald added on another 3 sacks. The Rams’ stars went back to performing at superstar levels, and when that happens, they are nearly unstoppable. Los Angeles is just one home win against a 49ers team that is winless on the road from clinching a first round bye, something they desperately need.
Loser: Houston Texans (Lost 32-30 at PHI)
In a game that they needed to win, the Texans suffered as heartbreaking of a loss as you can have. After coming back from 13 points to take a 30-29 lead late in the fourth quarter, all they needed was for their talented defense to stop Nick Foles. Instead, Foles did what he did to that defense all game long, he broke them. Foles, who had 471 passing yards, led Philadelphia into field goal range, where Jake Elliot made the game winning 35 yard field goal. Houston’s defense was supposed to be a strength, but it was a liability on Sunday, allowing 519 total yards. Deshaun Watson is doing everything he can, but behind a poor offensive line that allowed another four sacks and a secondary that has looked oblivious as of late, there is only so much they can do. Houston likely cost themselves a first round bye from this loss, something they needed badly. Now, they’ll have to take on either the Titans or Colts in the wildcard round just to play the Patriots in New England, and that’s assuming they win next week against the Jaguars to secure the division. At this point, we can’t even be sure that will happen.