This past weekend, the final playoff spots were set. With that, we have obvious winners and losers, but the same can be said from games that seemed “meaningless” coming in. For the last time this regular season, let’s look at the winners and losers from Week 17.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles (Won 24-0 at WSH)
Heading into Sunday, the Eagles were in danger of being the first team since the 2012 Ravens to win the Super Bowl, and then not make the playoffs the following year. Now, thanks to a dominant win and a Vikings loss, the reigning champs are back in and are a dangerous team. A substantial amount of credit needs to go to the reigning Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles. Foles was outstanding once again, completing 28 of his 33 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, with a QB rating of 102.1. He was complemented by a ground game that ran for 129 yards, while his connection with Alshon Jeffrey (5-5 59 yards 1 TD) can best be described as lethal. The main reason for this, however, was a dominant defensive performance. Philadelphia held the Redskins to under 100 yards (89), didn’t allow a third down conversion, and had four sacks. Because of this, the defense was only on the field for 16 minutes, while the offense was on the field for 43. When that happens, it’s impossible to lose. The Eagles’ ability to win the time of possession by a significant margin makes them a scary team, and with the way Foles is playing, no one should want to play this team. Philadelphia is going to be very hard to eliminate in the playoffs, and their quest to go back to back will start in Chicago in the wildcard round. That’s going to be a very entertaining game.
Loser: New Orleans Saints (Lost 33-14 vs CAR)
With home field advantage locked up in the NFC, the Saints didn’t have anything to play for Sunday against the Panthers. Still, their performance, especially on defense, is worrisome. It was likely the Saints weren’t going to win from the start, as both Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara didn’t play. However, their absences should not overlook the fact that their defense gave up 374 yards of offense and 33 points. Facing a third string quarterback in Kyle Allen and a backup running back in Cameron Artis-Payne with their starters in for a majority of it, this was the time for the defense to breakout with a stellar performance. Instead, them allowing 228 passing yards to Allen and 56 yards plus a touchdown to Artis-Payne illustrate what I’ve seen from them all season- they are a liability. That liability needs to get fixed in a hurry, because it cause the Saints to quickly get eliminated in the playoffs. Plus, Teddy Bridgewater’s rough performance (118 passing yards) is also not encouraging considering many believe he is the next Saints quarterback after Drew Brees. Bridgewater was without several offensive starters, but it still would have been a much better situation for him and the organization regarding his status as a pending free agent if he had a better performance. The defense proving to be incapable of getting stops and Bridgewater’s struggles made what seemed to be a fun day of meaningless football for the Saints a frustrating one, and it was not the way the team wanted to end the regular season.
Winner: New England Patriots (Won 38-3 vs NYJ)
Thanks to their win against the Jets, the Patriots clinched a first round bye. However, they were double digit favorites and were expected by practically everyone to win. How they won, was what was so impressive. New England played a complete game. Their offense had 375 total yards, while Tom Brady (250 passing yards, 133.8 QB rating) had arguably his best game of the season. The rushing attack also averaged 4.4 yards a carry and had 131 rushing yards. This balance between the passing and running game makes New England’s offense tough to stop. On defense, the Patriots held the Jets to 31% on third down, sacked him four times, had a defensive touchdown, and forced three fumbles. If the defense is able to compliment Brady and the offense like this, it’s going to be mighty difficult to beat them. With a first round bye, the Patriots are almost a lock for the AFC Championship Game and could likely end up in the Super Bowl,
Loser: Minnesota Vikings (Lost 24-10 vs CHI)
Coming into the season, the Vikings were amongst the favorites to reach the Super Bowl. After Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Bears, Minnesota isn’t even in the playoffs. The Vikings were destroyed in every facet, and played with no urgency at all. They had just 164 total yards, went 1 for 11 on third down, while Kirk Cousins was sacked four times. Kirk Cousins (132 passing yards) once again faded in a big game, and he is well on his way to becoming an $84 million bust. It wasn’t as if the defense made things any easier for him and the offense, however. The Vikings allowed 332 total yards, 169 rushing yards, and allowed the Bears to convert 57% of their third downs. The Bears controlled the clock for 37 minutes, a testament to how putrid the offense was but also a knock on the defense for their subpar performance. Despite the fact that they were playing for much more than the Bears, who knew they were going to end up as the three seed, the Vikings couldn’t match the intensity of Chicago. That’s concerning, and while this shouldn’t fall on head coach Mike Zimmer, it’s clear this team can’t mesh together enough to make the playoffs. Changes need to made, especially on the offensive line, but one has to wonder if the Vikings are trapped with their $84 million man.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs (Won 35-3 vs OAK)
The Chiefs knew they were a win away from securing home field advantage in the AFC, and they didn’t waste anytime. The Chiefs built a 21-0 early in the 2nd quarter, and cruised to an easy victory over the rival Raiders. As always, Patrick Mahomes was brilliant. He had 281 yards, two touchdowns, and a QB rating of 109.9. He finishes the season with over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown passes, and is the clear MVP favorite. He is the face of the league’s most explosive offense, one that makes the Chiefs a difficult to team to beat, especially at home. What was extremely encouraging for Chiefs fans, was how their difference played. Kansas City allowed just three points, sacked Derek Carr three times, and never allowed the Raiders to get into the Red Zone. They also had two interceptions, including a pick six by Daniel Sorenson. If the defense plays this well in the playoffs, Kansas City will be unstoppable. This was a rare complete performance for the Chiefs, and a perfectly timed one right before the playoffs. It’s the type of performance that should scare anyone thinking of coming into Arrowhead to play these Chiefs.
Loser: Green Bay Packers (Lost 31-0 vs DET)
There may have been no way for the Packers to wrap up one of the worst seasons they’ve had in a long time than with this disaster of a game against the Lions. Not only did Green Bay get blown out, but Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion. Rodgers has dealt with several injuries over the past few seasons, and he should have been shut down as soon as the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention. Maybe they also should have rested their defense, because they failed to show up against a Lions team that has previously struggled to eclipse 17 points in a game. They allowed 402 total yards, 130 rushing yards, and also allowed the Lions to convert 50% of his third downs. Green Bay even allowed Detroit’s kicker Matt Prater to throw a touchdown pass, a symbol of how miserable of a performance this was by the Packers. When you get outgained by 227 total yards and 16 first downs by a inferior team, it’s clear that you quit. That’s what the Packers did, and the home crowd at Lambeau deserved better.