AFC Week 17 in Review
AFC Week 17 In Review by Grant Poarch
Los Angeles Rams @ Baltimore Ravens
Once again, the Ravens lost a heartbreaker. Lamar Jackson missed another game to due injury, which caused Tyler Huntley to start at quarterback for the Ravens again this week.
Baltimore took advantage of an early Matt Stafford interceptions as they returned it for a score with two minutes to go in the first quarter. The Ravens relied heavily on the run game as they controlled the time of possession for most of the game. This allowed them to maintain their early lead even as the game began to go back and forth in the second half. Baltimore held the lead until 57 seconds left in the game when Odell Beckham Jr. caught the go ahead touchdown pass.
Baltimore dropped to 8-8 and are going to need a miracle in order to make the postseason. With Lamar Jackson being out, the Ravens never stood a chance to make the playoffs. However, when he is healthy next season, Baltimore will be a team to watch out for as long as they get some lineman on both sides of the ball in the draft. They currently have the 16th pick in the draft, and that seems to have been the sweet spot for those positions in the past few years.
Los Angeles moved up to 12-4 and are a win or an Arizona loss away from winning the NFC West. Next week, they are matched up against San Francisco while Arizona is matched up with Seattle. Despite having the tougher matchup of the two, the Rams should have no problem clinching their division. Should they win, they will be set up against the 7th seed in the playoffs which will most likely be New Orleans. This would be a compelling matchup for sure as it is the first playoff matchup between the Rams and Saints since the infamous no call in the 2018 NFC Championship game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New York Jets
This surprisingly good game was overshadowing by Antonio Brown’s antics. That says the least about it. Down 24-10 with three minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, Tampa desperately needed to get a score to start a rally to avoid an embarrassing loss. All of a sudden, the game stopped as all of the cameras showed a shirtless Antonio Brown running across the field. Everyone was watching stunned as he threw his gloves and other equipment into the stands. Fellow receiver Mike Evans tried stopping him before he went on the tirade, but it was unsuccessful. Brown may have stepped foot on a NFL field for the last time when he ran off into the locker room, and it is likely for the best. The story is that Coach Arians told Brown to go into the game and Brown refused. The alleged reason for the refusal is because Antonio Brown believed that he was too injured to go into the game. I really don’t believe anything that he says, so I don’t blame Coach Arians for going off on Brown and kicking him off the sidelines. Somehow, Brown’s contract with Tampa Bay has yet to be terminated.
New York got out to an early lead thanks to a Braxton Berrios touchdown run and he gave them the lead again early in the second quarter with a receiving touchdown. He was a problem for
Tampa Bay and has been for several other teams this season. Their late collapse, however, was the problem that the Jets had to worry about most.
The Jets were a step better than the Bucs from the beginning of the game up until the final minute. Not being better in the final minute was enough for the Bucs to win as Tom Brady lead a comeback drive topped off with a 33 yard strike to Cyril Grayson into the end zone to take the lead with just 15 seconds to go.
New York’s bad season got worse as they dropped to 4-12, but they showed signs of getting better. Although I’m not a Jets fan, I would like to hear some more J-E-T-S chants next season. With another productive draft in New York and a free agency acquisition or two, we just might hear those chants.
Tampa Bay keeps coasting through the regular season winning games effortlessly. They just seem to not care about the regular season, which is fine if you have Tom Brady. Hopefully, for the rest of us, the Bucs lose in the first round of the playoffs. We all know that isn’t going to happen, so congratulations to Tampa Bay on 12-4 and an unsurprisingly deep playoff run. How they will do that without Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown is a tough question, but I’m sure they will work things out.
Miami Dolphins @ Tennessee Titans
Miami’s magical win streak was snapped rudely by Tennessee in blowout fashion. The 34-3 win for the Titans gave them the AFC South crown for the second year in a row. That on top of the news that Derrick Henry will be returning off of IR this week shows that the Titans are destined to make a deep playoff run.
After a few back and forth punts in the first quarter, the Titans finally went down and scored a touchdown with a minute to go in the first quarter. They never looked back after going up 7-0 in the first quarter as they controlled every aspect of the game. Miami did not look like the team they were for the 7-game winning streak at all. They were awful on 3rd down, convering just 25% of their attempts. Tua also did not have a good game either, as he threw for less than 50% completions with no touchdowns and an interception to his name. The loss dropped the Dolphins to 8-8, and with that have eliminated themselves from the playoffs.
Running back Donta Foreman has been quite the impressive Henry placement. He had 26 carries for 132 yards and a score. Just imagine what will happen when King Henry returns. If he is healthy enough, he will play this week in order to clinch home field advantage. At 11-5, the Titans control their own destiny in terms of getting the top seed in the AFC. With Houston next on the schedule, the Titans should have no problem getting the first-round bye.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots
At this point you just have to feel bad for Trevor Lawrence. Tipped interceptions, a defense that can’t stop anyone, and a coaching change just adds up to the horrible season it has been for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
2-14 is good enough to be in the lead for the first overall pick in the draft, and it doesn’t get any easier next week. Indianapolis travels down to Jacksonville next weekend, but the Colts haven’t won in Jacksonville since 2014. Now, there isn’t any incentive for Jacksonville to win as they would likely give up the number one pick if they did. However, if they do win, an interesting scenario will occur if the unlikely happens.
If the Jaguars continue their recent success against the Colts at home, the Chargers and Raiders could both just take knees the entire game and both make it to the playoffs. The NFL is likely to step in and make sure that throwing the game like this doesn’t happen, but with how weird things have been in the past few years, don’t put it past you to see this happen.
New England played another solid game and are beginning to look like the old school Brady lead Patriots. Mac Jones played well again throwing for 227 and three scores, but that was the least of the Patriots success. Rhamondre Stevenson also played well as he rushed for 107 yards on just 19 carries for two scores. Beyond that, the defense was the star of the show. The Patriots defense intercepted Trevor Lawrence three times and also sacked him twice. Beyond that, none of the Jacksonville running backs totaled over 40 yards on the ground.
The dominance of the Patriots defense jumped the Patriots up to 10-6 and will likely play whoever the four seed is in the playoffs. The only way they can change that is if they win against the Dolphins and the Bills lose to the Jets. Considering that the Bills have the divisional crown to play for, they probably won’t lose to New York. Should both New England and Buffalo win, it is very possible that they would matchup for a third time in the first round of the playoffs. As an avid football fan, one could only hope that we would be lucky enough to get this matchup again.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Indianapolis Colts
The Raiders got it done again in a close game. Their win over the Colts was huge as they now control their own destiny to get into the playoffs. The Chargers are going to be a challenge for the Raiders, but there is another way that the Raiders could get in without beating the Chargers. Should the Colts lose next week to the Jags, then a tie between the Raiders and Chargers would mean that both of those clubs would make the postseason.
After receiving the opening kick, Vegas drove down the field using both the air and ground attacks and scored the first points of the game. Up 7-0, both teams traded field goals for the rest of the first half until the Colts’ last possession of the half.
Up 13-3 after a second Daniel Carlson field goal of the day, the ensuing kickoff was kicked out of bounds by Carlson. With 1:47 to go in the half, Indy was set up with good field position to go cut into the Raider lead. On 3rd and goal with just a few ticks left on the clock, the Colts had a decision to make. Do they take the easy field goal and cut the lead to seven or do they risk not scoring at all to score a touchdown to cut the lead down to three? Taking the risky route ending up working for the Colts in this situation as Jonathan Taylor scored a touchdown up the middle on the one-yard line with just one second to go.
This gave Indianapolis momentum into the second half as they scored on their first drive of the second half and got an interception off of Derek Carr on Vegas’ first possession of the second half. Defense showed itself as the teams stalled out for the rest of the 3rd quarter. With the start of the 4th quarter also came the takeover for the Raiders.
Vegas marched down the field on their opening 4th quarter drive to take the lead thanks to a Hunter Renfrow touchdown reception. Indy responded by taking nine minutes off the board and scoring a tying field goal. This gave the Raiders a two minute drill situation for the win, and with it their playoff lines were on the line. With 54 seconds to go, it appeared that Hunter Renfrow scored again on a 48 yard completion. However, the play was reviewed and the result was not upheld. The first down for the Raiders was still essentially the nail in the coffin for the Colts as they ran the clock out to set up what ended up being the game winning kick for Daniel Carlson.
Indianapolis fell to 9-7 and still control their playoff destiny. With a win against Jacksonville next Sunday, they will have punched their ticket to the dance. The Colts have proved to be a tough team, but if you can at least limit what Jonathan Taylor can do and have a decent corner or two, it should be no problem for the elite in the AFC to win against the Colts in the playoffs.
Las Vegas improved to 9-7, and Coach Rich Bisaccia deserves a lot of credit for keeping the team afloat. With a win against the Chargers next Sunday, they will be in the dance like Indianapolis. The Raiders are certainly capable of winning against Los Angeles, but beating Justin Herbert and the Chargers is never an easy task. Without a win against the Chargers, a tie is the only thing that can put Vegas into the playoffs, if the Colts somehow lose to the Jaguars.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Cincinnati Bengals
Two of the games best young quarterbacks squared off in a beautiful game of football. Kansas City came out on fire as they scored the games first two touchdowns thanks to two Patrick Mahomes’ passing touchdowns, going up 14-0. That was until the legendary LSU duo, Joe Burrow and Jamaar Chase, connected for a 72-yard strike and cut the lead to 14-7.
Darrel Williams had a response to that as he got a one-yard score on the ground. That was met with yet another Jamaar Chase touchdown, but again Darrel Williams scored on a one-yard run.
Going into halftime up 28-17, most people probably figured that the second half would be in control of the Chiefs. Those people were dead wrong as Joe Burrow threw for two second half touchdowns, one of which to Jamaar Chase for his 3rd score of the game. On top of that, Kansas City looked lethargic and could not find the end zone for the entire second half.
A couple of questionable calls on the last drive of the game benefitted the Bengals and helped them secure the AFC North crown for the first time since 2015. This week they are without Joe Burrow as we will be resting for the playoffs, but he is also resting a knee injury. At 10-6, the Bengals are currently the 3 seed in the playoffs, but are not locked into it. If they lose and the Bills win, Cincinnati will drop to the 4 seed.
The loss wasn’t only bad enough to drop their record to 11-5, but it also meant that with the Titans’ win, the Chiefs lost the number one seed in the AFC. They will need to win next week at Denver and have the Titans lose against Houston on the road in order to regain the one seed. Although this is unlikely, Kansas City still needs to go out there and try this week so they can hold on to the number two seed in the playoffs. Since Denver has nothing to play for except spoiler, Kansas City should ease into the playoffs as the number two seed.
Atlanta Falcons @ Buffalo Bills
This game started off weird, and it stayed that way throughout. The first score of the game came within just minutes as the Falcons scored off of a safety that could’ve been a touchdown if a lineman had just fallen on the ball. Josh Allen also was held in check as a passing throwing for three interceptions, but also scoring twice on the ground.
After the first quarter, Buffalo was up 14-2 thanks to Allen’s rushing touchdowns. It seemed as if Atlanta was not going to last long in the tundra, but that was not the case. Atlanta owned the second quarter 13-0 and went into the break up 15-14 off of two Younghoe Koo field goals, one as the first half expired.
Despite the lead only being one, Atlanta was bound to collapse after having it. Buffalo did not answer back until Devin Singletary broke into the end zone with a six-yard score with 5:56 to go in the 3rd quarter. Atlanta had no response the rest of the game, except for Matt Ryan taunting a defender after a touchdown that was calling back on the one-yard line. The Falcons then did not score, and Buffalo turned the stop into another touchdown for Devin Singletary.
Buffalo ended up holding on to the 29-15 lead and improving to 10-6. They are a win against the Jets, as if they would actually lose that, from clinching the AFC East. If Cincinnati loses along with their win, Buffalo will move up to the three seed. If not, and they stay in the four seed, it is very likely that the Bills will play the Patriots for the 3rd time this season.
Denver Broncos @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers took over in this divisional matchup from this beginning and shows how the wheels on the Broncos’ bus has fallen apart since the injury of Teddy Bridgewater.
Los Angeles took the lead quickly thanks to an Austin Ekeler score on the ground followed up by a Dustin Hopkins field goal for the Chargers and a Keenan Allen 8-yard touchdown reception. After a 61-yard field goal by Broncos’ kicker Brandon McManus as the first half expired, the second half was more of the same.
Continued domination lead to the 34-13 win for the Chargers. The win improved Los Angeles’ record to 9-7, and they now control their playoff destiny. Next week, they are matched up with
the Raiders. Las Vegas also needs a win to get into the playoffs, so this game will be one that the entire league has their eye on.
Denver fell to 7-9, and with that are done with the playoffs. Drew Lock is definitely not the answer for the Broncos going forward, but maybe Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson is. When you hear about the Denver Broncos this offseason, don’t be surprised if all the talk is surrounding the quarterback position. Besides, that’s been the talk for them since Peyton Manning retired.
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Speculation had been coming since Pittsburgh’s ending last year that Big Ben might be considering retirement. His game had been declining for the past few years, but he had never formally announced that he was going to retire. The beginning of the season this year proved to be evidence that maybe Big Ben should have hung it up at the end of last season. As the season progressed, Big Ben continued to show his age. All throughout the week the media made it out to seem that Monday Night would be the last game Big Ben played in Pittsburgh. The pregame and postgame tributes along with Big Ben officially saying that this was his last game in Pittsburgh was enough to make him, and many Steeler fans, literally cry.
Big Ben threw the ball 46 times in his final game in Pittsburgh. He had an extremely low yards per attempt, and was aided greatly by the run game. That is not to take away from Ben’s greatness, but when your running back has more carries than your quarterback has completions it is noteworthy.
Najee Harris rushed for 28 carries, 188 yards, and a score. The run game and the defense was good enough for Pittsburgh to control the game and win 26-14. It wasn’t pretty, but you have to be happy for Big Ben as he got to leave Heinz Field one last time as a winner.
Pittsburgh still needs a lot to happen to make the postseason. Three things need to happen. First, they must beat the Ravens. This matchup is always tough, and if Lamar Jackson comes back the Steelers will have their hands full. Second, the Jacksonville Jaguars must beat the Indianapolis Colts. If this is the only one of the three that goes in the Steelers favor, or if it does at all, I would be stunned. Last, the Chargers and Raiders have to end in a tie. Ties are extremely rare and the fact that both of these teams are also gunning for the last playoff spot means that they will put everything on the line to win. So, while it is near impossible for the Steelers to make the postseason, one can only hope that Big Ben gets one more invitation to the dance.