Week 16 has ended, and the season’s final two games are crucial for a few remaining teams that have neither clinched nor been eliminated from the playoffs. The next couple of games will determine who wins division titles, who is seeded in the playoffs, and who has home field advantages. Week 17, let’s go!!
Bucs vs. Cardinals
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Arizona Cardinals 19-16 in overtime on Christmas Day. Tom Brady looked frustrated as he has all season because he missed simple throws and did not have time to push the ball down the field. Despite Brady’s setbacks, he was able to execute in the fourth quarter and in overtime. However, the Bucs sustained another injury to the offensive line when Luke Wells went down with a knee injury. The injuries to the offensive line have been the source of Brady’s problems. Having good protection will be the key to next Sunday’s game which is set as the NFC South Championship. The Bucs offense struggled in the first half with the score tied 6-6 at halftime against the 23rd defense in the NFL; this should have been the wake-up call the Bucs needed. However, the struggles continued in the third quarter with the Bucs relying on the stellar play of their defense. In the fourth quarter, the Bucs came alive after they trailed by ten early on when Cardinals James Conner scored a 22-yard touchdown run with 10:47 left in the fourth. The Bucs responded when Brady connected with Rachaad White on a 3-yard touchdown pass, where the score was upped 16-13 with 8:03 left in the fourth. Bucs William Gholston had the most significant play of the night that saved Tampa when he jumped on a loose ball, a fumbled pitch from Cardinals rookie Keontay Ingram. The Bucs drove down the field in perfect field goal range, tying the game 16-16 sending the game into overtime. Brady’s play during overtime was huge as he completed all six passes for 69 yards to put Tampa in position for the sudden death win when Ryan Succop hit a 40-yard field goal for the final score 19-16. The Christmas night win was a great present for Bucs fans however, there is a great deal of work that needs to be adjusted if the Bucs want to win this upcoming Sunday, January 1st against the Carolina Panthers and clinch the NFC South.
49ers vs. Commanders
The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Washington Commanders 37-20 on Saturday. The 49ers are in the race for the number two seed in the NFC as Brock Purdy has won all three of his starts which puts pressure on the Minnesota Vikings. The 49ers capitalized on their eighth straight win as Purdy continued to get the ball on target to his teammates which allowed long touchdown passes to be completed. Brocky Purdy has joined Hall of Famer Kurt Warner as one of the only quarterbacks to win three straight games while also throwing multiple touchdowns. Purdy stated, “I still have that same fire and drive as before when I wasn’t playing. I want to go in and I want to prove to my teammates and earn the respect of every play, every snap, every drive.” On the other hand, the Commanders Saturday replaced their starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke when late in the fourth quarter he threw an interception and had a loss of a fumble. Head Coach Ron Rivera said he was not sure which quarterback will be starting in the upcoming week. The Commanders did their best to come back late in the game but were beaten by the 49ers when bad plays and interceptions were on the line.
Packers vs. Dolphins
The Green Bay Packers came alive after halftime to retrieve their 7-point deficit against the Dolphins that were locked in 20-13. The Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander explained the switch up after defensive coach Jerry Gray yelled at them. Alexander explained that they needed to play better and that’s what they did with the second-half results. In the second half of Sunday’s game, Green Bay intercepted Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa three times in the fourth quarter to make a remarkable comeback that the Packers desperately needed to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Packers are looking to make the playoffs after their 4-8 season start. The Dolphins had a chance to take the lead after trailing by six, but Tua threw his third interception and a pick with six minutes left that set the Packers up for a field goal where they took the lead 26-20.
Panthers vs. Lions
The Carolina Panthers ran past the Detroit Lions Saturday with a 37-23 win as they are fighting for the NFC South division title. The Panthers bounced back from their disappointing loss against the Steelers in week 15. Panthers running back D’Onta Foreman ran for a career-high of 165 yards and a touchdown where the Panthers racked up a franchise-record 320 yards on the ground after dominating the Lions. The Panthers had seven runs of 20 yards against a Lions defense that had allowed 84 yards over the last five weeks. Panthers running backs Foreman and Hubbard both exceeded 100 yards in the first half where the Panthers built their 24-7 lead. Carolina can clinch their first division title for the first time since 2015 if they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints. The Lions will be fighting for the NFC’s final wildcard spot in their upcoming game against the Washington Commanders.
Cowboys vs. Eagles
The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles who have the best record in the NFL Saturday 40-34. The Eagles had four turnovers in the final five minutes where they opted for their chance to clinch the NFC’s top seed. Without the starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts the Eagles were just not the same. Second-string quarterback Gardner Minshew had two scoring passes and a touchdown run while filling in for Hurts, but his second interception created an advantage for the Cowboys. In the final seconds, Minshew had the Eagles 19 yards from a potential touchdown, but his desperate throw into the red zone was not even close to a receiver. In the next two weeks, a win or loss by the Eagles and the Cowboys will determine who has a home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.