Christmas Eve NFL Liveblog: Surging Bengals Battle Patriots

Bengals WR Tee Higgins
Bengals WR Tee Higgins
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 16 - 'Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the league
All the big teams were dealing with short-week fatigue
So pour yourself a big old glass of eggnog
And settle in to follow this special liveblog!

I hope everyone's staying warm from the storm that's pounding the northeast this weekend.  I've flown out to Buffalo for this week's blog where I can confirm that yes, it's very, very cold.  The combination of the weather and the quarterback injuries throughout the league has caused projected point totals to drop right along with the mercury, with snow games (or, at least, high-wind games) expected in a half-dozen matchups today. So, in other words, it's perfect football weather, even if it's the wrong day of the week for some professional football action.

And, because we're live, you can participate in the discussion as well! Join in on the conversation -- either in the comment section in this article, on Twitter by tagging @FBOutsiders or @BryKno, or on our brand new Discord server, where some of your favorite writers will be hanging out and reacting live. Questions, comments, and particularly clever quips will find their way into the liveblog proper as we have a running conversation throughout gameday.

It's a slightly diluted schedule this week, with three games being saved for a special Christmas Day triple-header.  Of course, we strive to be inclusive here, so we should note that the Broncos-Rams game, which should just last three hours, will instead feel like it will last eight entire nights!  But, before that, we have a full slate for you today, including!

Early Window

  • Atlanta Falcons (+6.5) @ Baltimore Ravens
  • Buffalo Bills (-8) @ Chicago Bears
  • Cincinnati Bengals (-3) @ New England Patriots
  • Detroit Lions (-2.5) @ Carolina Panthers
  • Houston Texans (+3) @ Tennessee Titans
  • New York Giants (+4) @ Minnesota Vikings
  • New Orleans Saints (+3) @ Cleveland Browns
  • Seattle Seahawks (+10) @ Kansas City Chiefs

Late Window

  • Washington Commanders (+7) @ San Francisco 49ers
  • Philadelphia Eagles (+4.5) @ Dallas Cowboys

We close out the night with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception -- an occasion which has become a bit more somber with the passing of Franco Harris this week.  The Discord server will cover that, but until then, grab some hot chocolate and let the games begin!

Friday Evening: Early Window Storylines

Due to the Jalen Hurts' injury and the inevitability of the Eagles winning not just the division but the bye week, the Bengals-Patriots showdown gets the headline and the picture for this week. Don't count Cincinnati out for the bye week in the AFC -- they've weathered the storm of their brutal end-of-season schedule, have a win over Kansas City, and can do the same to Buffalo next week. But first, they must get past the Patriots, who are smoking and sputtering their way to the finish line. How do they pick themselves up after the all-time boner of an ending to the Raiders game?  With the Pats likely needing two wins in their last three games -- and facing a devilish Bengals - Dolphins -  Bills finish -- New England needs some magic to revive their playoff chances.  Well, 'tis the season...

The Chiefs are also in the thick of that bye week race at the moment, but right now, they'd just settle for playing like the Kansas City Chiefs. They've been floundering a little over the past month, at least, by the standards they set for themselves. They lost to the Bengals, nearly let the Broncos come back on them, and only beat the Texans on the last play of the game. They need to get things in gear if they want to make noise in the postseason, and that can start this week against a Seahawks team that has fallen sharply since their trip to Germany earlier this year.  There's still plenty of time for Seattle to right the ship and make the playoffs, but they need to start playing like the team that rocketed out to an early divisional lead, even if they don't necessarily need to win this week.

The Lions-Panthers game is the biggest for playoff odds, by our numbers, which makes sense. Both teams are trailing in their respective playoff races, but are coming on strong down the stretch and are trying to sneak their way in with strong finishes to their season.  This isn't quite an elimination game, as both the NFC wildcard and NFC South races are complicated enough that there are reasonable paths to success for either Detroit or Carolina even with a loss this week. But in terms of sheer playoff leverage, it doesn't get bigger than this.

We mentioned the Bengals trying to win the bye week -- but first, they must win the division. The Ravens might have a thing or two to say about that, but they continue to be without Lamar Jackson; Tyler Huntley will make his third straight start.  That's almost as many as Desmond Ridder, who gets his second start for a Falcons team mostly playing out the stretch, but still with one eye on the mess that is the NFC South race.  

Elsewhere, the Browns and Saints play in one of the weather games of the week -- gusts of 50 MPH are expected as Cleveland is hit with the bomb cyclone.  The Bills will look to clinch the AFC East in similarly frigid conditions against the Bears.  Vikings-Giants may well be a first-round playoff preview. And the Titans prepare for life after Ryan Tannehill against the suddenly feisty Texans.

Saturday Evening: Playoffs?!

We're getting down to brass tacks in a number of scenarios.

The Jaguars win over the Jets on Thursday almost guarantees we'll get Titans-Jaguars as our Sunday Night game in Week 18.  That game will be for the AFC South title unless the Titans win out and the Jaguars lose to the Texans next week.  Color me skeptical.

The other prime candidate? The Ravens-Bengals matchup, would could conceivably be for the AFC North title.  That's less guaranteed; it only happens in 26 of 32 scenarios. But with Ryan Tannehill out for the year, it would likely be the better matchup on paper, as long as it ends up mattering.

Other games have huge potential playoff swings.  The biggest one today, as previously mentioned, is Lions-Panthers.  The Lions go to 55% to make the playoffs with a win, and fall to 16% with a loss.  The Panthers are in rougher shape, but see a similarly large gap -- 22% with a win, 7% with a loss.  That's a lot of playoff leverage for a game between two teams currently on the outside looking in! There may not be room for all four cat teams to make the postseason, and this catfight will tell us a lot about who will be the odd one out.

Your relevant scenarios remaining for this week!

Clinching Scenarios

  • Philadelphia can clinch the bye week with a win.
  • Dallas can clinch a top-five seed with a win and a Giants loss
  • Dallas can clinch a top-six seed with a win or a Commanders loss
  • N.Y. Giants can clinch a top-six seed with a win and losses by the Commanders, Lions and Seahawks
  • N.Y. Giants can clinch a playoff berth with a win and losses by just two of the Commanders, Lions and Seahawks.
  • Buffalo can clinch the AFC East (and a top-three seed) with a win or a Dolphins loss
  • Buffalo can clinch a top-five seed with a win, or a Dolphins loss, or losses by the Ravens and Patriots plus three of the Chargers(x3), Broncos (x2), Panthers (x2), Steelers, Texans, Buccaneers, Saints or Seahawks.  Strength of victory scenarios be crazy.
  • L.A. Chargers can clinch a playoff berth with a win and losses by the Patriots and Raiders
  • Cincinnati can clinch a top-five seed with a win and a Chargers loss
  • Cincinnati can clinch a top-six seed with a win.  They already clinched a playoff berth this week when the Jets fell.
  • Baltimore can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Dolphins or Patriots loss.  They can also clinch with losses by the Patriots, Titans, Browns, Raiders and Colts.

Elimination Scenarios

  • Dallas can be eliminated from the NFC East with a loss.
  • N.Y. Giants can be eliminated from the #5 Seed with a loss and a Cowboys win.
  • Washington can be eliminated from the #5 Seed with a loss or a Cowboys win.
  • Washington can be eliminated from a top-six seed with a loss and a Giants win.
  • Minnesota can be eliminated from the bye week with a loss or an Eagles win.
  • Detroit can be eliminated from the #6 Seed with a loss and a Giants win.
  • Green Bay can be eliminated from the #6 Seed with a loss or a Giants win.
  • Green Bay can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss and a Commanders win.
  • San Francisco can be eliminated from the bye week with a loss or an Eagles win.
  • Seattle can be eliminated from the #6 Seed with a loss and a Giants win.
  • New Orleans can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss and a Buccaneers win.
  • Atlanta can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss and wins by either the Buccaneers or both the Panthers and Saints.
  • Miami can be eliminated from the AFC East with a loss or a Bills win.
  • New England can be eliminated from the #5 Seed with a loss and a win by either the Chargers or Ravens.
  • New England can be eliminated from a top-six seed with a loss, a Chargers win, and either a Ravens or Saints win.
  • N.Y. Jets can be eliminated from the #5 Seed with a win by the Chargers or both the Patriots and Dolphins
  • N.Y. Jets can be eliminated from a top-six seed with either wins by the Chargers and one of the Ravens or Saints, or wins by the Patriots, Dolphins, and either the Chargers or Ravens.  It's complicated.
  • N.Y. Jets can be eliminated from the playoffs with wins by the Patriots, Chargers, Dolphins and either the Ravens or Saints.
  • Las Vegas can be eliminated from a top-six seed with a loss and a win from one of the Patriots, Chargers or Dolphins
  • Las Vegas can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss, a Chargers win and either a Patriots or Dolphins win.
  • Baltimore can be eliminated from the bye week with a loss or a Buffalo win.
  • Baltimore can be eliminated from a top-two seed with a loss and a Chiefs win.
  • Cleveland can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss, or wins by the Chargers, Ravens and Dolphins
  • Pittsburgh can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss or wins by the Chargers and Dolphins

Quite a bit!  We'll clear some chaff today and have shorter scenarios in the future.

11:01 AM: It's Really Cold, You Guys

The temperature is frigid, as the country has been slammed by a winter storm.  Eight different games today are going to be played with sub-freezing temperatures -- an NFL record.   Cleveland, Chicago, Tennessee, New England, Kansas City, Baltimore, Carolina and Pittsburgh are all shivering.  Expect low scoring around the league.

Especially in Cleveland.  With the wind chill, it's at -11 degrees there.  Even without it, the 11-degree weather will be the coldest game in Saints history.  Add in 30 MPH wins, and any offense that happens is a minor miracle.  Expect lots of Taysom Hill today, as both teams dig deep, deep, deep into their playbook to figure out some way of moving the football.

Oh, and while we're on the subject -- the mayor of Nashville asked for the Titans game to be delayed due to rolling blackouts to handle the storm.  That seems like it's not going to be a thing; the request came just hours before kickoff and people were already out tailgating at the stadium. But it's something to keep an eye on.

11:39 AM: Early Window Active

The Saints are going to be missing a couple members in the secondary today, with both Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Maye being ruled inactive. Honestly, the wind and cold temperatures might be enough to squash any passing attack New Orleans might face -- and I'd be tempted to miss the game too rather than get out there in Cleveland's weather!

Other key inactives include Chicago WR Chase Claypool, Ravens RB Kenyan Drake and LB David Ojbao. We don't know any inactives for the Tennessee game yet; which may be an indication that we may get a delay or a postponement after all.

12:02 PM: Texans at Titans

Delay of game, on the weather.  One hour penalty; repeat kickoff.

Because of power issues due to the weather, the Texans-Titans matchup will kickoff at 2:02 Eastern; an hour's delay. This is all very last minute; it seems like this could have been agreed to a day or two ago.  It's not like the weather situation was surprising.  But, it is what it is, and so we'll have the end of this game overlapping with the kickoffs in the late window.

We should also note that this game is almost completely meaningless. The Titans' season comes down to the Week 18 game with the Jaguars in nearly every possible scenario.  A lot of hassle to get this one going for very little in the way of meaning.

12:34 PM: 'Tis the Season

We're half an hour from kickoff. You can kill that time by listening to A Philly Special Christmas, the Christmas album released by the Eagles' offensive line.  And you know? As far as novelty Christmas records go, this is far from the worst.

Jordan Mailata has some pipes on him.

1:08 PM: Lions at Panthers

The Lions' run defense is in typical form, by which I mean Carolina is running all over them.  Chuba Hubbard had three runs for 70 yards on the opening drive, with massive holes opening up all over the place.  At the goal line, the Panthers ran the option with Sam Darnold and Raheem Blackshear which, I mean, sure.  Why not.  Whatever works, right?

7-0 Panthers, early.

1:10 PM: Bengals at Patriots

The Patriots are still alive, and control their own fate. Win out, and they're in the playoffs! One suggestion, however, is to maybe not give Tee Higgins a massive cushion at the goal line.  Just a suggestion.

The extra point is missed, so it's just a 6-0 Bengals lead, but that was too easy.

1:12 PM: Bills at Bears

The Bears take the opening kickoff and march down the field, thanks to some uncharacteristic holes in the Buffalo defense.  David Montgomery bursts through a massive hole to run 28 yards to the goal line and, a few plays later, Dante Pettis gets entirely lost in the coverage.  Easy pitch and catch, and a touchdown.

7-0 Bears, early.

1:17 PM: Lions at Bears

No defense required in this one -- my kind of football on a day which promises to be low-scoring overall.  The Lions respond to the Panthers' opening drive touchdown with one of their own, highlighted by a big 40-yard leaping grab by D.J. Chark downfield. Brandon Zylstra gets loose in the end zone for the score a few plays later.

We're tied at 7.  Back and forth we go...

1:19 PM: Seahawks at Chiefs

After an exchange of three-and-out punts, the Chiefs are the first team to find offense in this one.  With Seattle playing soft to stop Mahomes, the Chiefs open with plenty of Isaiah Pacheco, pounding his way for 5+ yards per carry. And as soon as Seattle steps forward to stop that, Mahomes finds his receivers underneath. 63 yards in nine plays, capped off by a Kadarous Toney touchdown on a catch he totally had the whole way, guys.

7-0, Chiefs.

1:23 PM: Bills at Bears

Maybe this won't be a poor offensive day, after all.  After the Bears marched down the field on the Buffalo defense, Josh Allen and company return the favor going the other way.  Gabe Davis caps the drive off with a 19-yard reception in the back of the end zone.

The extra point is missed, and the Bears still lead 7-6.

1:25 PM: Bengals at Patriots

OK, the Patriots may be in trouble.  They go three-and-out, and Cincinnati again goes right down the field, with only very minor resistance. Joe Burrow is 9-for-9 with a pair of touchdown passes now.  This may get ugly early.

But the Bengals miss the extra point again, and so it's only a 12-0 lead.  That's kind of strange...

1:33 PM: Giants at Vikings

The battle of "how do they keep winning?!" has been thrilling to this point, opening up with four straight punts.  New York was winning the field position game, but Kirk Cousins and the Vikings did what they've been doing for most of the year -- playing safe, mistake-free ball, and moving down the field in short chunks. Oh, and hitting Justin Jefferson -- he passed Randy Moss for the franchise record in receiving yards.  Next stop, Calvin Johnson's single-season record?  Perhaps the Giants were worried about that, too, as they forget entirely about covering T.J. Hockenson.

7-0, Vikings.

1:44 PM: Saints at Browns

The brutal weather can be blamed for some of the slow start in this one, with five punts starting the day.  The first drive that doesn't end in a punt?  This Andy Dalton tip-drill pick, with Grant Delpit being Johnny on the Spot.

The short field results in a Cleveland touchdown, and the Browns take a 7-0 lead.

1:47 PM: Lions at Panthers

The Lions run defense is getting ripped absolutely to shreds. Carolina has rushed 12 times.  They have 164 yards, as it's just huge gain after huge gain.  There's some option work down by the goal line, too, that Detroit seems to not be able to handle. This time, Darnold ends up keeping it himself as he gets into the end zone.

14-7, Panthers, midway through the second.

2:00 PM: Seahawks at Chiefs

Seattle dodged a bullet, as Geno Smith looks to be fine after going down and having to be helped off the field early. Now, all they have to worry about is the fact they're getting run off the field.  They have just 18 net yards; the Chiefs have 138. That seems less than ideal. Kansas City doesn't look like they're playing down to their opponent this week, with Mahomes throwing his second touchdown of the day.

14-0 Chiefs, and the Seahawks need to get out of neutral right now.

2:04 PM: Giants at Vikings

The Giants have finally arrived at the football game!  After opening the day with a couple punts and a fumble, the Giants have finally managed to put together a drive -- just 69 yards in 10 plays, but you take what you can get. Daniel Jones hits Isaiah Hodges for the score, and the Giants are back in this one.

10-7, Minnesota.

2:06 PM: Falcons at Ravens

The Ravens just had a wide receiver score touchdown. That hadn't happened since week three.  Hey, better late than never, right?

The Ravens take a 14-0 lead, as the Falcons have failed on multiple fourth downs.

2:14 PM: Lions at Panthers

Stop me if you've heard this one: the Panthers are running all over the Lions. 240 yards, and we're not even at halftime yet. Goodness.  This time, it was D'onta Foreman punching it in.

21-7 Carolina.  Wow. The record is 423 yards; Carolina could get there.

2:19 PM: Texans at Titans

Stop me if you've heard this one: Derrick Henry is running all over the Texans.  Henry's already over 55 yards -- and remember, this game just started.

7-0 Titans, early.

2:29 PM: Bengals at Patriots

This one is over before halftime, as Cincinnati takes a 22-0 lead.  Joe Burrow has 28 completions already, as the Bengals have been marching up and down the field almost at will; one red zone interception is the only black mark on Cincinnati's ledger.  The Bengals have 303 total yards; the Patriots just 70. 

Bengals-Bills next week is huge for bye week news, which may be all Cinci  is worried about at this point.

2:33 PM: Texans at Titans

This is how you draw it up, Texans-style!

7-7, as we're still in the first quarter.

2:41 PM: Bills at Bears

Buffalo wins the division with a win, but they've been struggling with the Bears. They've been driving the ball well, but a costly red zone interception and a missed field goal gave Chicago the halftime lead.  They went in the locker room, regrouped, and looked much better to start the second half.  They take the opening drive 86 yards in 8 plays, with Allen just picking apart the Chicago defense before Devin Singletary burst it around left end for 33 yards and the score.

14-10, Buffalo.

2:44 PM: Saints at Browns

Taysom Hill has been getting a lot of work today -- six carries for 51 yards, and a lot of blocking.  With the weather being what it is, expect to see him a lot more, too.  He was the primary quarterback for much of the Saints' drive to open the second half, punching the ball into the end zone himself to cap it off.

We're tied at 10!

2:48 PM: Lions at Panthers

If you were to tell me Carolina was to win this game? I'd have believed you; that seems entirely possible. If you were to tell me it was going to be a massive blowout? That would have been shocking. And yet, here we are.  31-7, now with Detroit's passing defense also crumbling.

Moore gets to cap off the drive with a touchdown on the next play, and this one is over.

2:52 PM: Bills at Bears

Buffalo is feeling a lot better about things now, after that awkward first half.  The defense forced a David Montgomery fumble on the ensuing Chicago drive and then, after Josh Allen decided to try to throw across the field and nearly was picked off, they turn back to the ground game, with Jared Cook turning in Buffalo's second long rushing touchdown of the quarter.

Bills now up 21-10; not over yet, but feeling much better for Buffalo.

3:03 PM: Seahawks at Chiefs

Vince Verhei: Holy cow, Pete Carroll just went for it on fourth-and-1, outside of field goal range! Down 14 points in the second half, he turns down the opportunity to punt, and Geno Smith converts with a sneak. That sets up a fourth-and-4, and he’s going for it again! It’s a completion short of the sticks, but there’s a flag for pass interference … against Seattle. Oh goodness. THAT is a bad fourth-down play, when you have to cheat just to fail.

3:04 PM: Saints at Browns

That's 17 straight points now for New Orleans, as Cleveland keeps either punting or turning the ball over.

The Saints aren't going to waste THAT short field position, with Kamara punching it into the end zone for the score.  17-10, New Orleans.

3:15 PM: Bengals at Patriots

The Pats have, at least, managed to grab a couple interceptions today.

New England now just a couple defensive scores away from being back in this one.

3:17 PM: Giants at Vikings

Incredible concentration by T.J. Hockenson, pulling this one despite essentially perfect coverage from the Giants defenders.

The lead flips back once again, as the Vikings climb back to 17-13.

3:28 PM: Giants at Vikings

The Giants march down the field and look to match, but no!  Daniel Jones makes the big mistake the Vikings have been waiting for.

This is how the Vikings win football games; and now they're just trying to take control.

3:33 PM: Lions at Panthers

Cale Clinton: Coming in late to the 1 PM slate, catching the last bit of DET-CAR. Listen, I get it, he’s got two 100-yard rushers, they’re not asking much of him, I get it, but indulge me: imagine if the Jets got this version of Darnold over Zach Wilson? Carolina is second in the league with a 49.9% offensive passing DVOA since Darnold took over in Week 12. Jets are 12th over that span, but that’s folding in all three Mike White games. He’s got a career high in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and QBR (it’s 47.2, but hey that’s progress!). He’s also yet to throw an interception this season, a thing he’s done about once a game each of the last 3 years. Also, if you slide min. QB plays on RBSDM all the way down to 50, Darnold leads the league in CPOE with 6.8. No Jets QB has a positive CPOE (White leads the team with -2.8, Wilson has a -5.6).

3:41 PM: Seahawks at Chiefs

Kansas City has put this one away, because Patrick Mahomes is made of magic.

Vince Verhei: Travis Kelce rips off 20- and 52-yard catches on back-to-back snaps. It appears Patrick Mahomes just ran for a touchdown on third-and-goal, but it’s very close … no, he kept his hand on the ground in bounds, that’s a score. Chiefs just iced this one, up 24-3 with less than five minutes to go..

3:45 PM: Texans at Titans

Malik Willis hasn't been asked to do much today -- just eight pass attempts and four rushes -- but he just gave the Titans a nice highlight with a run where he simply refused to go down.

The first touchdown of his career gives the Titans a 14-10 lead.

3:49 PM: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Within about 15 seconds, we had:

  • Josh Allen, running around end to give the Bills a 28-13 lead, and essentially end this one.
  • Justin Jefferson catching a touchdown, giving the Vikings a 24-16 lead with 3 minutes left in the game
  • The Browns, coming up short at the goal line, losing to the Saints 17-10 and being eliminated from the postseason.

3:56 PM: Giants at Vikings

We're not done here just yet!  Down eight, the Giants march down field.  Faced with a fourth down, they hand it to Saquon Barkley, who punches up the middle and races 27 yards for the score!  But that's not enough by itself, they need the two--and Jones finds Daniel Bellinger in the back of the end zone!  We have a tie football game with 2:01 to play!

4:04 PM: Deep Breaths

The Patriots, now down just four, are driving.  Meanwhile, the Vikings are rushing to the line to try to get a shot at a super-long field goal or a hail mary to win in regulation...

4:07 PM: Giants at Vikings

After wasting basically all of the two minutes, the Vikings are forced to line up for a 61-yard game winning field goal...

...Which they make.  Of course they do!  They can't keep getting away with this!

4:12 PM: Bengals at Patriots

The Patriots had marched down into the red zone, but Rhamondre Stevenson fumbles!  Von Bell punches the ball out, the Bengals fall on top of it, and it looks like Cincinnati is going to escape. That is far closer than it had any right to be.

4:27 PM: Texans at Titans

Vince Verhei: Didn’t the Titans game start late? How is it already almost over? Well, Davis Mills just went 4-of-4 for 69 yards and a touchdown on that last drive to put Houston ahead. 19-14. Texans go for two, but Mills overthrows his receiver and it’s incomplete. Titans will have 2:52 to answer.

Yeah, we didn't spend much time on this one today.

4:37 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

The battle for the NFC East is a little disappointing with Jalen Hurts out, but the Eagles are not a one-person team.  And the first quarterback to make a mistake in this one isn't Gardner Minshew -- it's Dak Prescott.

Prescott has thrown a dozen interceptions this season, despite missing the first chunk of the season, and Philadelphia takes an early 10-0 lead.

4:51 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

The Cowboys bounce back nicely from the Prescott interception.  Excluding that pick-six, he's 7-for-7 for 54 yards, plus 23 more on the ground; not a bad quarter with the one glaring exception.  Dallas drives 75 yards in 14 plays, with Zeke Elliott punching it in to cap it off.

10-7 Eagles, still in the first quarter.

4:56 PM: Commanders at 49ers

Both teams are aggressive in this one, going for it on 4th and short in the red zone.  Both are stuffed, as the defenses have come to play -- impressive stands for both teams.

And then, despite being pinned back at their own 1, the 49ers kick into gear.  Don't have time to make Deebo from scratch? Store-bought is fine, as Ray-Ray McCloud takes the handoff and races into the end zone.

7-0 49ers.

5:07 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

Gardner Minshew helps Dallas out, throwing an interception of his own to match Dak's.  It isn't a pick six, but the end result ends up being the same.  With the help of an illegal contact penalty on fourth down, Dallas moves downfield. And then, CeeDee Lamb gets lost in the secondary...

Cowboys come all the way back to take the lead 14-10.

5:16 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

Jalen Hurts? Gardner Minshew? Doesn't matter.  The Eagles Sneak That Always Works always works when the Eagles sneak.

Nice bounceback from Minshew and company, as the Eagles get back out to a 17-14 lead.

5:18 PM: Commanders at 49ers

Some serious bobble luck for the Commanders, and Washington capitalizes.  First, Brock Purdy has his pass to Juwan Jennings juggled and tipped up in the air, right into the hands of the defense for an interception.

Then, Jahan Dotson makes a great juggling reception to move the Commanders into scoring range, where he finishes the drive off by catching the touchdown in the back of the end zone.  And so, we're tied at seven!

5:26 PM: NFC South Race

The Falcons' loss knocked them out of contention here, but wins by the Panthers and Saints means that this is still a three-team race down the stretch. It's still the Buccaneers' race to lose, but I have little doubt that Tampa could lose it.

The Saints, still alive entering Week 17.  Whoda thunkit.

5:34 PM: AFC North Race

We're getting down to brass tacks here between the Bengals and the Ravens.

Whether we see Lamar Jackson or not in the regular season probably depends on how confident the Ravens are they can beat the Steelers without him. I could see him coming back for the division championship, should things come to it!

5:40 PM: AFC South Race

That's not to say Week 17 is entirely meaningless, as both teams are still in the bottom of the wildcard race.  They'd need significant chaos for that to happen, however; it may be better to rest as much as possible for a guaranteed shot at the playoffs.

5:42 PM: Commanders at 49ers

Who's the idiot who said that Brock Purdy doesn't have a strong arm? Oh. It was me.  I'm the idiot.

Also, maybe don't let George Kittle get five yards behind the defense? Just an idea.  14-7, 49ers.

6:05 PM: Commanders at 49ers

The Commanders go for in on fourth and inches deep in their own territory...and come up a chainlink short. That's two 4th-and-shorts they've come up short on; they need to steal the Eagles' sneak.

And on the very next play, somehow, the Commanders forget that George Kittle exists again, leaving him wide open.

That's 21-7.  It's not quite ballgame yet, but the Commanders need an instant response.

6:11 PM: Commanders at 49ers

And the Commanders get an instant response, so we're not done here yet!

Terry McLaurin comes down, bracketed by cornerbacks, inside the five. And then the Commanders let him finish the drive off with a touchdown, so it's 21-14 and we're not done yet!

6:14 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

This is about as well as you can design a fourth-down play.

A.J. Brown leaves the field, and the Eagles bring in the beef.  Another sneak?  A short-yardage run? No, Minshew hits a wide-open DeVonta Smith for a touchdown and a 10-point lead.

6:32 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

And we are tied! After Minshew and Boston Scott botch an exchange, the Cowboys take over in Philly territory.  From there, Prescott finds Michael Gallup...

Nice footwork, stays in bounds, and we're knotted up at 27.

6:49 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

An excellent response drive from Philadelphia, including four consecutive third-down conversions.  Minshew and Smith were clicking on that drive, including the eventual touchdown.

34-27, Eagles, but the Cowboys are driving...

6:55 PM: Commanders at 49ers

Carson Wentz is back! Replacing the ineffective Heinicke, he leads an...eventful drive down the field, with two or three plays coming inches from being intercepted. But the Commanders dodge all the bullets, and eventually Wentz hits Curtis Samuel for the touchdown!  Don't call this one over just yet!

The two-point conversion fails, as does the ensuing onside kick, and the 49ers hold on to a 30-20 lead.

6:59 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

This game, man. It's fantastic.  Just your average, run-of-the-mill 3rd-and-30 conversion.

Prescott hits Lamb again in the end zone, and we're knotted at 34 with 5:44 remaining.  This is a fantastic back-and-forth.

7:08 PM: Commanders at 49ers

Vince Verhei: Kyle Shanahan doesn’t go for it often … unless he has a 10-point lead and he’s in the red zone and there’s less than 3 minutes to go, I guess.

And, indeed, the 49ers convert fourth down, CMC scores on the next play, and we're done here.

7:11 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

Philly stiffens up and holds Philadelphia to a field goal.  That gives them a 37-34 lead, buy Philly gets the ball back with two minutes and change.  Plenty of time...

But they fumble immediately!  That's the fourth turnover of the game, and Dallas has the ball once more.  Philly's got to hold them to another field goal attempt now.

7:19 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

And the Eagles do, in fact, hold! It's the most dangerous play in football, the field goal that takes you from a three-point lead to a six-point lead late.  With 1:41 remaining and one time out, do the Eagles have a comeback in them?

7:28 PM: Eagles at Cowboys

No!  They do not!  Philadelphia quickly moves the ball inside the red zone, but that's where things sputter out.  The Cowboys escape 40-34, and the division remains in play!

And that'll do it for us for today! Some of us will be in the Discord for the nightcap, but for the rest of us, have a very happy holidays and good night!


43 comments, Last at 25 Dec 2022, 9:22pm

#1 by rh1no // Dec 24, 2022 - 2:58am

The script to victory over the Bengals this season is written around one simple concept: beat up Burrow. In their 4 losses, the Bengals have given up 21 sacks. In their 10 wins, they've surrendered just 19.

New England linebackers Matt Judon and Josh Uche have combined for 25 sacks, anchoring a defense that ranks #2 in DVOA. The weather in Foxborough is projected to be a frigid 19 degrees at kickoff, with severe winds making it a very difficult day to pass the pigskin.

The Patriots have a chance at pulling off the upset if they can get to the quarterback, shut down the run, and limit Cinicnnati's possessions. New England's defense is more than capabale of doing all that, but I'm not confident that Matt Patricia's offense will be able to capitalize; they rank #25 in DVOA, and are likely to experience their own challenges moving the ball.

I expect an ugly start to the game, with the Bengals making adjustments at halftime, wearing down New England's defense, and pulling away late.

Points: 2

#5 by KnotMe // Dec 24, 2022 - 9:45am

There is like 0 chance the Patriots win this game. They lack the talent to beat good teams that don't beat themselves(i.e. the Jets) but are well coached enough to beat up on bad ones. 

Points: 0

#13 by rh1no // Dec 24, 2022 - 2:32pm

Judon and Uche both have sacks. Pressure forced Burrow into an interception. La'el Collins went out with an injury. MacPherson missed two kicks. It's definitely been an ugly first half. I was right.

And yet, Cincinnati is firmly in control of this game, up three scores. You were more right!

EDIT: Uhhhhhhh...

Points: 0

#36 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Dec 25, 2022 - 10:39am

The Patriots 'are well coached but lack talent' literally could not be more wrong. 

They are one of the most poorly coached teams in the league outside their defense. This is almost exactly the same offensive personnel that was a top 10 offense last year - with a different coach trying to run a different offensive scheme. 



Points: 2

#2 by Geronamaker // Dec 24, 2022 - 7:30am

I look for the Dolphins to blow out the Packers early, thus aggravating Aaron Rodger’s strained ego. Jordan Love will come on in the second half and show some comeback moxie before tossing a boneheaded red zone pick over the middle late.

Miami hangs on for a 34-31 win but the winds of change in Green Bay continue blowing at bomb cyclone force while the close loss seems enough to convince Rodgers Stans he only requires an extended offseason meditation regime atop Machu Picchu to regain MVP status in yet another wasted season in 2023.

Points: -1

#16 by Cythammer // Dec 24, 2022 - 4:44pm

Yet another wasted season? What are you on about? The Packers have had very few of those in the past three decades, thanks to having a HOFer at QB nearly all that time.

Points: 0

#3 by Geronamaker // Dec 24, 2022 - 7:30am

At least that’s what I asked Santa for Christmas the other day at the mall

Points: 0

#4 by apocalipstick // Dec 24, 2022 - 8:50am

The Ciefs will not beat the Bengals, at least not consistently, as long as Spagnuolo is DC. A philosophy that emphasizes leaving mediocre DBs on islands against the league's deepest receiving corps as the blitz doesn't get home is a recipe for disaster.

Points: 0

#26 by Rufus R. Jones // Dec 24, 2022 - 10:15pm

You provide wisdom on what they should not do, but offer nothing on what they should do. What do you suggest?

Points: 0

#27 by apocalipstick // Dec 24, 2022 - 10:21pm

It would require Spagnuolo to change/modify his attitude, and that's not going to happen. Without a change in philosophy and/or a draft that emphasizes defense (and pans out), I'm not sure what could be done, although a less high-risk approach might help.

Points: 1

#44 by OmahaChiefs13 // Dec 25, 2022 - 8:49pm

Why is offering something on what they should do a requirement? We're's perfectly OK to point out the things that aren't working, and let the people making some pretty serious money to do it solution the fixes.

That said, one suggestion is for Spagnuolo to use his safeties like safeties with meaningful bracket coverage more often.

We have D-line issues this year (again)....we're simply not a team that's going to create a ton of pressure without blitzing, pass rush win rates notwithstanding. So a scheme like Spagnuolo's that has a lot of diverse pressure packages is helpful from that standpoint.

But it doesn't take watching very many KC games to understand that there is a lot of space for Spagnuolo to call his shots a little bit better...somewhat fewer blitzes, some zone blitzing, some zone replacements instead of just "send more dudes", and so forth. And maybe most important, make adjustments for the opponent when appropriate....both in-game and opponent-to-opponent.

Spags' scheme has one gear....we're mostly just left hoping our opponent is one against whom it's effective, because against those opponents, it can be very effective.

The Bengals are not one of those teams.

Points: 0

#45 by Rufus R. Jones // Dec 25, 2022 - 9:21pm

That's vague. What coverages should they run? What does somewhat fewer blitzes mean? What % of man are they playing behind blitzes and what % of zone? What does "meaningful bracket coverage" mean? Bracket who? When? Make adjustments- what adjustments? When? Are you just eyeballing this, or are you basing it on something tangible? We can question whatever we want. But if we say they should not be doing something, or are doing something too much, we need to be able to justify our contention. And if we don't like the schemes they are using, we need to offer valid suggestions. Your suggestions don't really seem grounded in anything.

Points: 0

#33 by Run dmc // Dec 25, 2022 - 9:47am

This is a silly take while being true. I don't think any team can consistently beat the Bills, Bengals, 49ers, Eagles or the Chiefs. I would argue it is the Chiefs offense that is more to blame for losing 3 in a row to the Bengals. While they were out gained in 2 of the 3 contests but they could have won any or all of these 3-point games:

Game 1: Had a TD return for a touchdown not been called back for an irrelevant (to the play) hold the Chiefs they would have been up 35 - 17 at the half and would have likely held on for the victory.

Game 2: Had they scored a TD on the last play of the half to go up 28 - 10 at the half they would again have likely held on to win the AFC Championship.

Game 3: Mahomes had the ball at midfield down 3 with 6 minutes left. The offense was only able to garner a 50 yard FG try that missed.

In the last half and OT of these games the chiefs scored 20 points in 6+ quarters of play. Credit the Bengals Defense first and foremost for making critical adjustments and shutting down the high powered Chiefs offense in all of these wins.

Yes KC has a shaky defense. They have Patrick Mahomes. It is a salary cap league. They invested in defense this year. Last year they had to invest in the O-Line as both their tackles got old at the same time.

Spags as won 2 Super Bowls as DC. His defenses seem to get better as the season progresses - this would appear be a hallmark of a good coach.

Are his defenses perfect? Of course not. The pass rush can't get home with just 4 consistently, so Spags has to scheme, against a smart QB like Burrow sometimes it doesn't look pretty. He works with the talent he is given. The Chiefs put more assets into the offense - which is smart seeing as they have Patrick Mahomes and offense is more consistent year-to-year.

The LA Rams limited the Bengals to 305 yards in the Super Bowl. The Bengals racked up 317 yards (in regulation) against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.

Points: 0

#6 by mehnsrea // Dec 24, 2022 - 10:36am

I cannot believe that the Giants can conceivably clinch a playoff spot today. Where are all the typical mainstream articles on the Giants being the worst playoff team of all time? All I read is Vikings this, Vikings that.

Points: 3

#22 by thok // Dec 24, 2022 - 5:38pm

By mainstream logic, the Giants aren't the worst playoff team this year.  Even just going by DVOA and ignoring the Vikings, the Chargers are slightly worse than the Giants through this week.

Points: 1

#10 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 24, 2022 - 1:21pm

@Panthers is the kind of game the Lions lose.

Points: 4

#11 by Joey-Harringto… // Dec 24, 2022 - 1:37pm

The Lions are good at building up your expectations so it’ll be an extra gut punch when they revert back the Same Old Lions.

Points: 1

#12 by Joey-Harringto… // Dec 24, 2022 - 2:25pm

Yep, the last time the Lions had playoff aspirations was 2017, and in week 16 they laid an egg against a 5-9 Bengals team.  Looks like history repeating itself.

Points: 0

#14 by BigRichie // Dec 24, 2022 - 3:25pm

Working, thus can't watch any games. So are the Pats again doing dink pass after dink pass to the wide outs? From the boxscore, sure looks like it.

Points: 1

#37 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Dec 25, 2022 - 10:51am

Same shit, different week.  Dink and dunk and running into the line for 2 quarters, get 20 points behind, then actually start trying to move the ball and do it with no trouble.  

Then of course some offensive player who knows the coaching sucks tries to make something happen and they lose. 

This is a good team with some competent offensive coaching, and they've wasted an entire season of an elite defense because of BB's refusal to can Patricia when it's been obvious since preseason that he had no idea what the hell he was doing. 


Points: 2

#15 by Joey-Harringto… // Dec 24, 2022 - 4:10pm

Vikings win the most 2022 Vikings game ever.

Points: 4

#31 by BlueStarDude // Dec 25, 2022 - 8:01am

They set a new "most 2022 Vikings game ever" every week it seems!

Points: 1

#17 by Tutenkharnage // Dec 24, 2022 - 4:46pm

How the hell did Rhamondre Stevenson not get ruled stopped on forward progress before he lost the ball? Defenders literally drove him back two or three yards. 

Points: 0

#18 by young curmudgeon // Dec 24, 2022 - 4:57pm

"They can't keep getting away with this!"  It's beginning to feel like statistics, evaluations, and analysis are taking a back seat to fate, destiny, and karma/predestination/kismet.  I actually feel sorry for Viking fans like Will Allen, who can't even enjoy their team having a great record because of the tension of waiting for the other shoe to tall. (Yes, there are too many trite phrases in my comment.)

Points: 4

#30 by riri // Dec 25, 2022 - 4:18am

In the regular season, the Vikings are no more cursed than any other team. They can even get lucky like this year! The playoffs on the other hand...

Points: 0

#19 by Eggolas // Dec 24, 2022 - 5:17pm

Common question asked in the business world: what could change your prediction?

Ignoring for the moment the possibility of any future regression, what is it about the Vikings’ success that might change DVOA?

Points: -1

#21 by Tutenkharnage // Dec 24, 2022 - 5:37pm

Nothing. The Vikings are the exception, not the rule. They’re not a good team, so if a system designed to measure good teams says they’re lucky rather than good, that’s a pretty good indicator that said system is working. 

Points: -1

#23 by rh1no // Dec 24, 2022 - 8:01pm

Even traditional metrics don't favor the Vikings; they have a +5 point differential against the 17th hardest schedule in a 32 team league. If you comb through every season in NFL history, you will find that teams that play weak schedules and can't outscore their opponents don't usually win a lot of football games.

Should we stop looking at point differential and strength of schedule to understand which teams are good just because the 2022 Vikings defy thousands of data points? No, of course not. Not even if they win the Super Bowl. This is a random event, and random events are what make the sport fun to watch, like David Tyree's helmet catch or Nick Foles' playoff hot streak.

Think about it this way ... should we stop judging wide receivers by receiving yards and receptions just because David Tyree has a Super Bowl ring and Randy Moss doesn't? Does David Tyree's one successful moment make him better than Terrell Owens, Megatron, or Cris Carter? Of course not. Those guys were all incredible receivers who made spectacular plays week in and week out for YEARS. Sometimes great receivers don't win a Super Bowl. Sometimes backups come up big.

In my line of business, we look at the complete data set and make decisions based on overall trends, not on outliers. We get better returns that way.

Points: 1

#39 by Eggolas // Dec 25, 2022 - 12:27pm

DVOA is an attempt to quantify expected outcomes as evidenced by its expected wins column. Clearly, the Vikings this year are not susceptible to that predictive phase of DVOA. The question that the FO gnomes should be asking themselves is whether there is something in their definitions and terms that is causing DVOA to completely miss the Vikings winning record.

Now, it is entirely possible that they feel their system is flawless and that luck is the reason 100% for the Vikings record. But, that does not sound like a data system company to me.

One possibility is that DVOA has a problem with "garbage time" stats. At what point does that program begin to discount and perhaps mostly ignore yardage per play. Is it based on point differential, point differential versus time left, etc.? Moreover, taking the Vikings 33 point comeback, at what point does DVOA exit "garbage time" in its calculations? Does DVOA weight 4th quarter performance heavier than the previous three quarters? After all, there is still time after each of the other three quarters, but except for OT, 4th quarter performance is often determinative.

Anyway, these are questions for FO data gnomes. Meanwhile, enjoy the sport.

Points: -2

#40 by coltsandrew // Dec 25, 2022 - 1:08pm

It's important to remember that DVOA doesn't exist to predict [the Vikings] season outcomes but rather [every NFL teams] outcomes. If your model accurately predicts 31 out of 32 teams' outcomes, that's a good model. If the only way to correctly model the outlier team is alter the model to such an extent that it gets 1 team right and 31 teams wrong, well now you have a dreadful model.


More to the point, though, do you really believe that the Vikings are good enough to, say, win a wildcard game than beat, say, the 49ers on the road then the Eagles on the road, then beat the top AFC team? The basic conclusion to draw from DVOA is that the Vikings don't really belong in the playoffs and shouldn't have a winning record. Obviously the model whiffed on the latter, but do you really think it's that far-fetched to say that the Vikings will not go far in the playoffs? It might be true that DVOA underrates the Vikings, but the critique still doesn't answer the question of how should the Vikings be rated.

Points: 2

#20 by BigRichie // Dec 24, 2022 - 5:24pm

The Mahomes touchdown is actually what's wrong with the Chiefs': Just idiotic situational football.

Just run the stupid football 3 times. If no TD kick the short field goal for the 3 points and now 3 score lead and give your defense 2-3 less plays in which someone can get hurt. Minimize your chances of a turnover, which is the sole thing that keeps the Seahawks in the game.

Nahhh. Chiefs gotta go play action. (and have Mahomes extend himself and stretch out to make it work)

(no, I have neither the Chief running back nor Chief kicker in fantasy [fair question, tho'])

Points: 0

#24 by Stendhal1 // Dec 24, 2022 - 8:52pm

Re:  the Titans:  perhaps firing the person responsible for bringing most of the players to the team for doing a bad job in that task sends a bad message to said players.

Points: 0

#32 by ImNewAroundThe… // Dec 25, 2022 - 9:23am

Idk if it does but it is funny they're 0-3 since firing him and have NOW slipped to .500 and below.

But I guess this was his fault to from what TN fans tell me. 

Points: 0

#25 by whocares4 // Dec 24, 2022 - 9:40pm

The Eagles have the kind of C+ Mike Zimmer type coaching (and D+ defensive gameplanning) that cause teams to fizzle in the playoffs. No one should have any confidence about them winning even a single playoff game.

Gannon's playcalling and inability to adjust after Maddox went down was as bad as you will ever see. An almost inconceivably bizarre, migraine-inducing series of decisions in this game as far as the defense was concerned. Sirianni makes puzzling/suboptimal decisions as a coach constantly. Just no confidence in this team. Absolutely stacked roster with mediocre-to-bad coaching. (Save for the blessed Jeff Stoutland.)

They feel like paper tigers.

Points: -1

#28 by rh1no // Dec 24, 2022 - 11:32pm

I haven't watched a lot of the Eagles this year, so I'll trust you on the playcalling and decision-making. However, I think that calling them paper tigers after a close loss to a division foe while starting their backup quarterback seems like an overreaction. I mean, theyre 13-2!

It's true that they've feasted on a weak slate of opponents, but good teams put bad teams away, and the Eagles have done that all season long. There have been more 1 score games in 2022 than any other year in NFL history, and the Eagles have 7 wins of 2+ scores ... more than any other team in the league except for the 49ers. SF will be be a tough challenge for you, but they'll be a tough challenge for everyone. You'll see them in the conference championship.

Points: 2

#34 by occams_pointed… // Dec 25, 2022 - 10:24am

The 49ers seem on a coarse that could bring us the first Super Bowl champion Mr Irrelevant 

Points: 1

#35 by rh1no // Dec 25, 2022 - 10:28am

That would be wild. If they make it to the SB, I'm sure the announcers will remind us of that trivia fact every 30 seconds.

Points: 1

#29 by Romodini // Dec 25, 2022 - 1:27am

Sirianni is a smug, prancing hype-man, and I stopped taking Gannon seriously after learning that Vic Fangio was giving advice behind the scenes. Your OC seems to pretty good though.

I'm surprised no one has hired Stoutland away for a head coaching or OC job.

Points: -1

#42 by whocares4 // Dec 25, 2022 - 5:13pm

Sirianni does strange things in high leverage situations and frequently makes decisions that have you pulling your hair out but somehow work out for him. Gannon is abysmal when all he needs to be is mediocre. They're both massively unlikable as people, which never helps anything. 

Agreed on the OC. 

Points: 0

#41 by coltsandrew // Dec 25, 2022 - 1:14pm

I don't think Philly is a paper tiger, but they do have flaws that a good team can exploit. Other teams have flaws that any team can exploit, but good teams have the sort of flaws that only other good teams have the skill to beat. I wouldn't necessarily bet on Philly to play on the super bowl, but by the same token I wouldn't bet on their playoff opponents either.

Points: 1

#43 by whocares4 // Dec 25, 2022 - 5:17pm

My point about the Eagles isn't that they're bad - they have the best top-to-bottom roster in the NFL I think. They should be something like 13-2 based on their schedule. My point is that in the playoffs, their primary weakness (coaching) is going to be something other good teams can consistently exploit. (Not simply in a "good teams win some and lose some against other good teams" kinda way but in a Marty Schottenheimer kinda way.)

I think it's faaaar more likely that in 4 years commentators are asking "Can Sirianni make it out of the divisional round?" than "Can Sirianni win another Superbowl." But Gannon leaving might be enough of a change for Sirianni to be ok. I think Sirianni is like a C+ Bill O-Brien type coach and Gannon is a D+ type coordinator. Again, Gannon just needs to be mediocre, not actively bad and the roster will do the rest.

Points: 0

#38 by andrew // Dec 25, 2022 - 10:58am

"Philly stiffens up and holds Philadelphia to a field goal."   that sounds like something bad teams do.  (I know it was meant to be Dallas).

Points: 1

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