Week 16 is all but in the books, and with most of the action already in the rear-view mirror we take a moment to look back and digest what we just saw.
The penultimate week of the NFL regular season featured more rookie wideouts making history, backup quarterbacks helping teams to fall out of the playoff picture and three division-deciding games being set up for the finales.
Without further ado, here are five takeaways from Week 16 in the NFL:
Three champions will be crowned Week 17
Week 17 may feature some duds for games, but three will be of the utmost importance.
Detroit vs. Green Bay, Carolina vs. Atlanta and Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh will all be played with division championships on the line. The Panthers-Falcons showdown will not only decide the NFC South, but determine which of the two teams will advance into the postseason.
The Lions and Packers enter Week 17 with 11-4 marks, and Detroit has reeled off four wins in a row. They now must travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers, who are 7-0 in their own building, but lost to Detroit 19-7 in Week 3.
The Steelers’ defense came up huge in its 20-12 win over Kansas City, and they’re guaranteed a spot in the playoffs now. But now they’re playing for an AFC North crown, which is the difference a home game or a road game.
OBJ is the clear-cut favorite of OROY
Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t get much love in this column week after week because the Giants have been a non-factor in the playoff race since October, but the outstanding rookie deserves some attention after cashing in yet another excellent performance Week 16 against St. Louis.
Beckham hauled in eight receptions for 148 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and in the process eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in his eighth game and set a Giants rookie receiving record with his 11th touchdown catch of the season.
Through 16 weeks, Beckham is tied for the most receiving touchdowns among NFL rookies over the past decade with 11, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans also has 11, a mark set by Mike Williams in 2010.
Philadelphia, Arizona struggle with backup quarterbacks
Apparently, Chip Kelly’s offensive system is not quarterback proof, and Mark Sanchez wasn’t unable to get the job done.
The Eagles, who raced off to a 5-1 start this season, now sit at 9-6 and about to spend January at home on the couch after losing to Washington Saturday. The Eagles have lost three in a row and are now 3-4 with Sanchez as their starter.
With the loss and Dallas’ 42-7 rout of Indianapolis, the Cowboys win the NFC East.
Seattle can do the same next week with a win after smacking Arizona a second time in the last month. The Seahawks went into the desert and spun circles around third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley to the tune of a 35-6 victory.
The Seahawks racked up 596 yards of total offense, a franchise-best mark, with Russell Wilson accounting for 427 (339 passing, 88 rushing). The win pins the Seahawks and Cardinals into a first-place tie atop the NFC West, and the defending champs holds the tiebreaker.
Sexy preseason pick, New Orleans, eliminated
For the second time in the last six years, the Saints were eliminated from playoff contention after a lackadaisical 30-14 loss at home to their arch-rival, Atlanta. With the loss, the Falcons earned a season sweep of the Saints and now take on Carolina in the regular-season finale with a playoff berth at stake.
New Orleans was among the popular preseason picks, not only in the NFC to overtake the Seahawks but for the Super Bowl as well. The offense was supposed to be much-improved with the addition of Brandin Cooks to go alongside Jimmy Graham and much-hyped second-year pro Kenny Stills, while the Cinderella defense of 2013 added top free agent Jairus Byrd to the mix.
Still, the Saints lost their Superdome-field advantage in 2014, and finished the year with five straight home losses. Injuries to Graham, Mark Ingram, Byrd and the offensive line took a toll, but the team disappointed on both sides of the ball.
There will be changes made in the Big Easy this offseason, whether it’s firing Rob Ryan or maybe even considering a change at head coach.
RGIII played himself back into the fold for 2015?
With Washington’s 27-24 upset over the defending NFC East champion Eagles Saturday, the signs point to both head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Robert Griffin III returning in 2015.
The organization endorsed Gruden as its coach earlier in the week, not to mention he’s just about to wrap up the first of a five-year deal with. The quarterback, however, that was a different story.
Griffin earned the Week 16 start after Colt McCoy’s season came to an end a week earlier in a loss to the Giants. The win apparently comes with merit, as the Washington Post suggests it should be enough for Griffin to earn another shot with Gruden next year.
The ironic part: Griffin completed a mere 16-of-23 passes for 220 yards with no touchdowns, and managed the game just as his coach wanted. The “nothing spectacular” approach translated into the team’s fourth win of the season.