Week 16 NFL Capsules

–Saturday games

Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7): Playoff football arrives early for AFC North rivals who’ve undergone major facelifts since Pittsburgh’s 16-10 win over the Bengals in Cincinnati on Nov. 26. The Steelers have lost three straight, temporarily remain without starting quarterback Kenny Pickett, benched his backup Mitch Trubisky, lost starting safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to a knee injury and their other starting safety — Damontae Kazee — was suspended. Cincinnati quarterback Jake Browning was making his first NFL start in that first meeting and generated just 222 yards of total offense, but Browning and the Bengals are back on their feet. They enter Week 16 with three straight wins, including a pair of overtime victories, and currently sit ahead of Pittsburgh and in playoff position in the packed AFC postseason picture. Browning has completed 76 percent of his passes since Week 12 and thrown for more than 1,000 yards in his first four NFL starts — the only NFL quarterback to do so since 1950. Steelers QB Mason Rudolph took over for Trubisky in last week’s loss to the Colts and will make his first start since 2021. The Steelers left the door “ajar” for Pickett if could return from ankle surgery to play, but he was officially ruled out on Thursday. While playoff probability metrics reveal odds of 64 percent to make the playoffs with a win this week, it’s not all roses and balloons for the Bengals, either. Cincinnati is without WR Ja’Marr Chase (shoulder).

Buffalo Bills (8-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-9): The Bills are desperate in their hunt for a playoff spot as one of five teams in the AFC with an 8-6 record, currently outside of the seven playoff spots in the conference and two games behind the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East. “Every game from here on out’s a playoff game for us,” Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen said. “That’s the mentality that we have. It’s essentially win or go home. We’ve got to be prepared for every punch the Chargers can throw at us.” The Bills have won consecutive games and coach Sean McDermott has cautioned his team all week about what can happen if preparation isn’t taken seriously. All is not well in L.A. The Chargers were loaded with bitter faces when they were annihilated 63-21 by the Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 14. It was such a poor performance that the club fired coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco. The Chargers have dropped five of their past six games, and their fortunes are low with star quarterback Justin Herbert done for the season after finger surgery on his throwing hand. Los Angeles will be without star receiver Keenan Allen (heel) for the second straight game. He didn’t practice all week and was ruled out Thursday. Allen has a league-high 108 receptions while accumulating 1,243 yards and seven touchdowns.

–Sunday games

Indianapolis Colts (8-6) at Atlanta Falcons (6-8): The clock is ticking on Falcons coach Arthur Smith. While Falcons owner Arthur Blank said this week he would wait until after the season to make a decision on Smith’s future with the team, a loss to the NFL-worst Panthers has him on alert. Atlanta quarterback Desmond Ridder connected on 12 of 20 passes for 152 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Even considering the rainy conditions, that wasn’t good enough, which is why Smith is making a QB change for the third time this year, ping-ponging back to Taylor Heinicke. A former Washington Commanders starter, Heinicke took over for Ridder prior to the Falcons’ Week 9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings and started a Week 10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals before Smith went back to Ridder. In Indianapolis, Gardner Minshew has gone 6-4 as the starter, including a 30-13 home win over Pittsburgh last week that made the Colts 5-1 in their past six games and forged a three-way tie in the division. The Colts have dominated the all-time series against Atlanta, posting 15 wins in 17 games.

Green Bay Packers (6-8) at Carolina Panthers (2-12): Spoilers as the season runs its course, the Panthers shoot for a two-game winning streak as playoff-minded G7 Plus Green Gummies Preis Bay arrives for Sunday afternoon’s game, with the Packers knowing another loss likely ends any postseason prayer they have left. “You’re being introduced to adversity and there’s two ways you’re going to respond to it,” Green Bay linebacker Quay Walker said. “You’re either going to lay down or you’re going to get up.” After a three-game winning streak that included victories against division leaders Detroit and Kansas City, the Packers suffered defeats to the New York Giants and Tampa Bay to put their postseason prospects in jeopardy. The Panthers secured their second victory of the season last week by topping visiting Atlanta 9-7, knocking the Falcons out of their share of first place in the NFC South. For Green Bay, a loss in Charlotte could be similarly devastating.

Cleveland Browns (9-5) at Houston Texans (8-6): Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud’s absence proved glaring for the Texans last week even in a 19-16 overtime win. The victory kept them in the thick of the AFC playoff picture in advance of their showdown with the visiting Browns on Sunday. But Stroud remains in concussion protocol, unlikely to play this week. Houston’s defense — operating without top rookie Will Anderson Jr. — helped pick up the slack with seven sacks. They’ll be asked to carry the load once more and face a Browns offensive line besieged by injuries. The Browns have gotten mileage from their veteran backup signal caller, the fourth QB to start for Cleveland in 2023, in Joe Flacco. He passed for 374 yards last week and has a security blanket with his own defense. The Browns are fifth in the AFC playoff picture and ascending behind a stifling defense that ranks first in yielding just 158.9 passing yards per game. One pressing challenge for the Browns: reversing a trend where their last three losses have been on the road.

Detroit Lions (10-4) at Minnesota Vikings (7-7): One more win and the Lions clinch their first division title in 30 years. The first-place Lions have three games remaining — two against the second-place Vikings. They’ll get their first shot at clinching the NFC North championship on Sunday afternoon, when they take on the Vikings in Minneapolis. “We control our own destiny as it pertains to winning the division, no matter what happens (elsewhere),” coach Dan Campbell said. “We win (Sunday) and we win the division. We’re in (the playoffs) and we get a home game. That’s right where I want to be.” Minnesota can remain in the chase for the division with a victory on Sunday and improve its chances of a wild card. They currently hold the sixth seed in the NFC. The Lions bounced back from a 28-13 road loss to Chicago on Dec. 10 with a resounding 42-17 victory over the Denver Broncos on Saturday night. Jared Goff tied his career high with five touchdown passes. Detroit didn’t commit a turnover against the ball-hawking Broncos after six giveaways in losses to Green Bay and Chicago. Goff has been intercepted 10 times and lost two fumbles this season but Campbell doesn’t want him to play tight. That’s true of the Vikings and their fourth starting QB this season, Nick Mullens, who is making his second consecutive start. Mullens threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns but also was intercepted twice in a 27-24 overtime loss to Cincinnati on Saturday. Vikings RB Ty Chandler is coming off a 132-yard rushing performance filling in for injured Alexander Mattison.

Washington Commanders (4-10) at New York Jets (5-9): Aaron Rodgers is on the active roster but joins Zach Wilson as a probable gameday inactive on Sunday. With that dose of truth, down goes one of the few intriguing storylines left for the only matchup in Week 16 between teams already eliminated from the NFL postseason as the Commanders come to New Jersey. Wilson remains in concussion protcol after being injured during New York’s 30-0 loss Sunday to the Miami Dolphins. Veteran Trevor Siemian steps in and becomes the fourth different QB to start for the Jets this season. The shutout loss to Miami included a season-low 103 total yards for the Jets with a combined four turnovers and six sacks from their quarterbacks. The Jets are gaining the fewest yards (255.1 per game) of any team in the league. But if there’s a defense they can thrive against, it’s a Commanders unit that has given up more yards (384.5) and points (30.2) per game than any team in the NFL. During their current five-game losing streak, opposing receivers running wide open have been a familiar sight for the Commanders, including last week in a 28-20 loss to the Rams when Cooper Kupp went uncovered on a 62-yard touchdown catch.

Seattle Seahawks (7-7) at Tennessee Titans (5-9): The way rookie quarterback Will Levis sees it, if he can walk onto the field Sunday, he wants to start. Levis suffered a sprained left ankle in overtime of the Titans’ 19-16 overtime loss at Houston last week, a defeat that officially eliminated Tennessee from playoff contention. Levis, the 33rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, is 3-5 as Tennessee’s starter since taking over for the injured Ryan Tannehill in mid-October. Levis was absent from practice on Thursday. Coach Mike Vrabel said Tannehill would start if Levis is unable to play with an ankle injury the coach said was very similar to the issue that first sent Tannehill to the bench eight weeks ago. The Titans, who are starting two rookies on the left side of their offensive line and are down to a third starter at right tackle, allowed seven sacks last week. RB Derrick Henry, a two-time NFL rushing champion, had his worst game as a pro with just 9 yards on 16 carries. The Seahawks expect QB Geno Smith to return from a groin injury after backup Drew Lock rallied them to a 20-17 victory against visiting Philadelphia on Monday night. Lock threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba with 28 seconds left to cap a 92-yard drive that breathed life into Seattle’s postseason chances. The Seahawks snapped a four-game losing streak last week and are among a bevy of teams with .500 records vying for the conference’s final two playoff berths.

Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7): Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence made a late push to make his 51st consecutive start after four days in concussion protocol and needed only final clearance to board the team charter to Tampa on Saturday. Winners of three in a row, the Buccaneers have the advantage of the holiday home game in hoping to deal a fifth straight loss to their Sunshine State neighbors. “Momentum is coming with winning,” Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said. “The urgency is there. We know we have to win out to get to the playoffs; that’s been our mindset since we played Carolina (a 21-18 win on Dec. 3). That’s our mindset this week, as well, against a good Jacksonville team.” Baker Mayfield was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 381 yards and four touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s 34-20 road victory over the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. While the Bucs’ winning ways have kept them tied with the New Orleans Saints atop the NFC South, the Jaguars’ slump has allowed the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans to pull even in the AFC South. Lawrence’s status was in question after he was placed in concussion protocol following last Sunday’s 23-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Lawrence has started every game since he was selected with the top overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. If he can’t start, veteran backup C.J. Beathard will.

Arizona Cardinals (3-11) at Chicago Bears (5-9): Chicago has won its last three games at Soldier Field, toppling the Las Vegas Raiders, Panthers and Lions, and the Bears are looking to bounce back after a 20-17 loss on the road last week against the Cleveland Browns. Big-picture plots include the future of QB Justin Fields. He has three more games to show Chicago’s front office and coaching staff why he deserves to keep the starting job heading into next season. Fields has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season, and he has rushed for 488 yards and a pair of scores. Arizona coach Jonathan Gannon said his team faced a tough task in stopping Fields. “Here’s what I know about him,” Gannon said. “He can make every throw on the field when it’s cold and rainy in Chicago, like it’s going to be. Wind doesn’t matter because he’s got a huge arm. He’s extremely mobile. He’s hard to tackle. His extension of plays is very productive.” Cardinals Kyler Murray is set to make his sixth start since returning from injury. The 26-year-old Murray has completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,075 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. He has rushed for 155 yards and three scores. Murray takes on a Bears’ pass defense torched for 374 yards by Joe Flacco and the Browns last week. The Cardinals’ top receiving target is tight end Trey McBride, who has 66 catches for 712 yards and two touchdowns. Wideout Marquise Brown has 51 catches for 574 yards and four touchdowns, but his status is in question because of a heel injury.

Dallas Cowboys (10-4) at Miami Dolphins (10-4): Dallas looks unbeatable at home. Taking the show on the road is proving to be more than the Cowboys can handle. Dallas is perfect in seven home games, but that level of play isn’t translating away from home. The Cowboys were pushed all over the field in the 31-10 loss to Buffalo and allowed 266 rushing yards. The nature of the beating disturbed Dallas coach Mike McCarthy. “That’s the message,” McCarthy said. “We play so well at home, and there’s just too big of a gap on the road, and we’re conscious of it. We got to be better than this.” Dallas was pummeled 42-10 by the host San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys’ other road losses are to the Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles. The Dolphins hold a two-game lead over the Bills in the AFC East but quarterback Tua Tagovailoa also is dealing with a narrative he doesn’t like. Though he has passed for 3,921 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, the talk is that Tagovailoa is performing with All-Pro level seasons from WR Tyreek Hill and RB Raheem Mostert. Hill missed last weekend’s 30-0 rout of the New York Jets with an ankle injury he sustained during a 28-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 11. Hill played less than half the game against the Titans and Tagovailoa didn’t have a touchdown pass. Hill leads the NFL with 1,542 yards and also has 97 catches and 12 TDs, and Mostert has scored 20 times. Cowboys wideout CeeDee Lamb is having a sensational season with 107 receptions for 1,306 yards and eight touchdowns. He needs nine catches to break the single-season franchise record set by Hall of Fame member Michael Irvin in 1995. Dallas had won the past four meetings against the Dolphins, the most recent being a 31-6 home victory in 2019.

New England Patriots (3-11) at Denver Broncos (7-7): The Patriots and Broncos are nearly 10 years removed from the final regular season meeting that pitted Tom Brady against Peyton Manning. New England won that game 43-21 on Nov. 2, 2014, behind four passing touchdowns from Brady. If Sunday night’s clash between Denver and the visiting Patriots proves anything, it might just be how much truly can change over the course of a decade. Both offenses have fallen far from the perch they sat atop nine years ago, with New England’s decline especially evident. The Patriots are averaging a league-worst 13.3 points per game following last Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Denver sported the least explosive offense of the 2022 campaign (16.9 points per game), but Sean Payton, in his first season as Broncos coach, has started to turn things around. A winner of six of its past eight games, the Broncos are averaging 21.7 points under Payton. Patriots coach Bill Belichick called QB Russell Wilson a “unique player.” He was relatively quiet against Detroit, completing 18 of 32 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. Wilson was also shown getting laid into by Payton on the sideline late in the third quarter after a Denver TD was nullified because of an offensive offside penalty. Payton said he is making sure no negative feelings from that altercation — or the loss itself — spill over into Sunday’s meeting with the Patriots.

–Monday games

Las Vegas Raiders (6-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-5): The Chiefs don’t resemble a formidable football team with three games remaining in the regular season. Last season’s MVP, Patrick Mahomes, insists there is still time to get into top form. Kansas City is just one victory away from clinching its eighth straight AFC West title as it enters a Monday contest against the Raiders. The Chiefs can clinch if they tie the Raiders and the Broncos lose to the Patriots on Sunday. “You always want to be playing your best football going into the playoffs,” Mahomes said. “Let’s put that complete game together. I think if we can do that and start getting better and better these last few games, we can get to the playoffs and be playing our best football. Then I think the AFC is wide open and we’ll be able to go out there and try to find a way to get to the Super Bowl.” Kansas City enters the weekend with the third-best record in the AFC behind the Baltimore Ravens (11-3) and the Miami Dolphins (10-4). Standing in their way is a Las Vegas squad that set a franchise record for points with a 63-21 steamrolling of the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 14 to start Week 15. Kansas City posted a 31-17 road win over the Raiders on Nov. 26 for their 18th victory in the past 21 meetings. Mahomes passed for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Las Vegas is well-rested and should be full of confidence after the wipeout of the Chargers that included a team-record 63 points. Las Vegas led 42-0 at halftime and scored the first 49 points. Rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell passed for 248 yards and a career-best four touchdowns, and the defense forced five Los Angeles turnovers.

New York Giants (5-9) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-4): The Eagles know what they want for Christmas: a three-game winning streak to erase their current three-game losing streak. The upcoming schedule offers two games with the rival Giants. Even though his Eagles are 0-3 this December, scoring fewer than 20 points in all three setbacks, coach Nick Sirianni said there’s no reason to panic. The team has not lost confidence in quarterback Jalen Hurts, whose 12 interceptions are twice his 2022 total. Since the start of November, Hurts has more rushing touchdowns (eight) than passing scores (six). Hurts (542 rushing yards) and D’Andre Swift (896 rushing yards, four TDs) will be facing a Giants defense that ranks 29th against the run, allowing 131.6 yards per game. A New York offense led by undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito squares off against a leaky Eagles defense that is allowing 24.4 points (26th in the NFL) and 255.4 passing yards (28th) per game. While Philadelphia’s losing streak continued with a 20-17 defeat at Seattle on Monday, DeVito and New York had a three-game winning streak snapped with Sunday’s 24-6 loss at New Orleans. DeVito has played at Las Vegas, Dallas, Washington and New Orleans since replacing the injured Daniel Jones in Week 9, but he hasn’t experienced anything like the reception awaiting him in the City of Brotherly Love. Asked if he enjoyed playing the role of villain, DeVito answered with his customary swagger. “It’s fun,” he said. “It’s part of the game. I like a hostile crowd.” The Eagles won’t have Pro Bowl left guard Landon Dickerson following thumb surgery, but right guard Cam Jurgens (pectoral) was a full participant Thursday after missing Monday’s loss in Seattle.

Baltimore Ravens (11-3) at San Francisco 49ers (11-3): A possible Super Bowl preview on Christmas night matches two primo MVP candidates. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is enjoying his best season since 2019, when he threw for 36 touchdowns and ran for 1,206 yards in an MVP season. His completion percentage is a career-high 66.3 percent. He has thrown for 17 touchdowns, and he has a chance to finish with 1,000 yards on the ground for the third time in his career. Baltimore’s defense wants to make teams one-dimensional, but San Francisco’s scheme consistently has avoided that trap. 49ers QB Brock Purdy has completed 69.8 percent of his attempts for 3,795 yards and a league-high 29 touchdowns with only seven interceptions to date this season, the general of a top-five offensive team in points, rushing yards and passing yards. He credits supporting star power such as RB Christian McCaffrey, who has a league-leading 1,292 rushing yards and 57 catches for 509 yards. McCaffrey accounted for 187 yards from scrimmage last week in a 45-29 win at Arizona that allowed San Francisco to clinch the NFC West title. He caught two of Purdy’s four touchdown passes. The Ravens have won five of seven meetings between the teams, including a 20-17 decision four years ago in Baltimore. The franchises’ most famous matchup was the Ravens’ 34-31 win in Super Bowl XLVII after the 2012 season.

–Field Level Media

Tinggalkan Komentar

Alamat email Anda tidak akan dipublikasikan. Ruas yang wajib ditandai *

Scroll to Top