Sunday NFL Liveblog: Packers Fight Vikings to Stay Alive

Packers RB Aaron Jones, RB AJ Dillon and TE Tyler Davis
Packers RB Aaron Jones, RB AJ Dillon and TE Tyler Davis
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 17 - As we enter the final two weeks of the season, the playoff picture is in a sort of halfway state between clarity and massive chaos.

On the side of clarity, we know nine playoff teams already -- the Bills, Chiefs, Bengals, Ravens and Chargers have all clinched spots in the AFC, while the Vikings, 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys are going in the NFC.  While no individual seed has been locked up yet, it would take minor miracles to avoid, say, Philadelphia winning the bye week, or Dallas travelling to the NFC South winner in the wildcard round. You can make a decent guess today just who will be going where in two weeks, at least at the top of the standings.

On the side of chaos, only eight teams have officially been eliminated from the postseason.  That leaves 15 teams currently not in the playoffs but eligible to be, fighting over just five remaining slots.  And most of those aren't crazy long-shot hopes, either -- a dozen teams have legitimate paths to the postseason without requiring huge upsets or massive amounts of results to go their way. If you like teams still having hope this late into the year, thank the seventh seed -- the expanded playoffs are keeping the realistic hopes of the Lions, Packers, Seahawks, Patriots and Jets alive into the new year.

It's moving week in the NFL, with clinching and elimination scenarios abounding.  It's time for teams to jockey for position, giving them a chance at extending their season next week. Who will get 2023 off on the right foot, and who will faceplant? 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. 

While no game this Sunday features two teams with winning records, there are a lot of matchups that matter. Only one game is irrelevant for playoff positioning, which is rare for this late in the season.  Our full schedule includes:

Early Window

  • Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) @ Houston Texans
  • Denver Broncos (+12.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs
  • Arizona Cardinals (+6) @ Atlanta Falcons
  • Chicago Bears (+6) @ Detroit Lions
  • Miami Dolphins (+2.5) @ New England Patriots
  • Indianapolis Colts (+5.5) @ New York Giants
  • New Orleans Saints (+5.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles
  • Carolina Panthers (+3.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Cleveland Browns (+2) @ Washington Commanders

Late Window

  • San Francisco 49ers (-10) @ Las Vegas Raiders
  • New York Jets (-1.5) @ Seattle Seahawks
  • Minnesota Vikings (+3) @ Green Bay Packers
  • Los Angeles Rams (+6.5) @ Los Angeles Chargers

The nightcap is the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Baltimore Ravens, which was an odd choice to flex to Sunday Night. Better than the Rams-Chargers game that was there before, but there were probably better options. Either way, we'll hand things over to the FO Discord server for that one. But until then, let the games begin!

Saturday Night: Early Window Storylines

It's a rather back-loaded window this week, but that's not to say there's nothing of interest in the early window of games.  Take the Dolphins-Patriots matchup, for instance -- an elimination game for New England, and very nearly a clinching game for Miami (they'd need a Jets loss as well to fully punch their ticket). Neither team is coming in at exactly full strength, either. Tua Tagovailoa is once again in concussion protocol, meaning Teddy Bridgewater will take over and hopefully not be injured on the first drive this time around. He'll be going against a Patriots secondary that is basically down to picking lucky fans in the stands to play cornerback at this point. Turnovers doomed the Patriots in their first matchup -- an interception and two fumbles, one returned for a score, helped throttle the New England offense and was the first cloud of smoke over their 2022 season. They'll have to move the ball better than that if they want to be relevant next week.

The Commanders are in an interesting spot -- they're the only team that can either clinch or be eliminated this week, though the smart money has neither happening on Sunday. They are currently sitting in the seventh seed, but they're just a half-game up on the Seahawks, Lions and Packers, at least one of whom will get to eight wins.  That means Washington needs at least one more win to get into the playoffs, and with the Cowboys coming to town for the season finale, beating the already-eliminated Browns seems beyond crucial. So it's a good thing they're turning to -- let me check my notes here -- Carson Wentz? Oh geez, that doesn't bode well at all.

Elsewhere, the Eagles can clinch the NFC's bye week if they take down the Saints; Jacksonville looks for wild card insurance as they take on the Texans; new Broncos head coach Jerry Rosburg faces trial by fire against the Chiefs; the Buccaneers look to clinch the NFC South by beating the Panthers; the Lions fight to stay relevant against the not-relevant Bears; the Giants look to clinch a playoff berth by beating the Colts, and the Falcons and Cardinals play out their string.

Saturday Night: Playoffs?!

Maybe you're a fan of one of the eight eliminated teams. Or maybe you are, like a true connoisseur, attracted to chaos, confusion and uncertainty.  For fans of that nature, we've worked out the results that will lead to the most exciting Week 18, with as much on the line as physically possible.  We got off to a good start on Thursday, with the Cowboys beating the Titans, leaving Dallas alive in both the NFC East and bye week races. With that in mind, we add...

Saints d. Eagles and 49ers d. Raiders

This keeps three teams alive for the top seed in the NFC. The Eagles would still clinch with a win, but a loss in Week 18would open up the door -- the 49ers would then be able to clinch the bye week with a win, and the Cowboys would be able to take the NFC East win a win of their own (and pass the 49ers if they should slip up, as well). This does sadly eliminate the Raiders, but their chances were long enough anyway that we can afford to lose them.  The Saints win also would keep them alive for their division, assuming...

Panthers d. Buccaneers

Tampa Bay clinches the NFC South with a win this week, so of course we do not want that.  With the Panthers and Saints both winning, Carolina would clinch the division with a Week 18 win; Tampa Bay would clinch it if they won and Carolina lost, and New Orleans would squeak in if both Carolina and Tampa fell.

Colts d. Giants, Commanders d. Browns, Lions d. Bears and Packers d. Vikings

This creates the most chaos in the NFC wildcard race -- the Giants and Commanders at 8.5 wins, and the Lions and Packers at 8 wins each.  The winner of Green Bay-Detroit in Week 18 would be at nine wins then, needing just one of the Giants or Commanders to fall to tougher NFC East competition. That makes it essentially a playoff game, and nearly guaranteed to be flexed out to next Saturday.  Good times, that.  The Seahawks could also be in contention here, but we'll sadly eliminate them so we can have...

Jets d. Seahawks and Patriots d. Dolphins (and maybe Steelers d. Ravens and Jaguars d. Texans)

The Jets and Patriots winning would put second-place in the AFC East as a three-way tie at 8-8. The Jets and Dolphins play each other in Week 18 so one of them will (presumably) have nine wins, but the Patriots would have the tiebreaker over both if they could knock off the Bills.  The Steelers and Jaguars winning would also put them at eight wins a piece, but the Steelers would need a Dolphins-Jets tie to get the #7 seed in this scenario, while the Jaguars would need the Jets to lose to stay in wildcard contention.  Either way, they're solid backup options for chaos should the AFC East not live up to form.  Of course, the Ravens losing would hurt their seeding hopes, so we also want...

Bills d. Bengals, Chiefs d. Broncos and Chargers d. Rams

This eliminates the Bengals from the bye week race, but keeps that unclaimed with the Bills and Chiefs tied at 13 wins apiece.  It also means the Bengals-Ravens game in Week 18 is for the AFC North title, and means the Chargers could steal the fifth seed away from Cincinnati if they win and the Bengals lose.  Los Angeles would be able to guarantee a matchup against the Titans-Jaguars winner if they beat the Broncos, while the Ravens and Bengals would be playing for home field advantage in a wildcard round rematch.  Fun!

That just leaves the Cardinals-Falcons game, which...you know? Let your heart take you where it may for that one.

Clinching Scenarios

  • Philadelphia can clinch the bye week with a win
     
  • N.Y. Giants can clinch the #6 Seed with a win, or losses by the Commanders, Lions, Packers and Seahawks
  • N.Y. Giants can clinch a playoff berth with a win, or losses by the Commanders and Seahawks, or one of those two and both the Packers and Lions.
     
  • Washington can clinch a playoff berth with a win and losses by the Lions, Packers and Seahawks
     
  • Minnesota can clinch a top-two seed with a win and a 49ers loss
     
  • Tampa Bay can clinch the NFC South (and the #4 seed) with a win
     
  • Buffalo can clinch the bye week with a win and a Chiefs loss
  • Buffalo can clinch a top-two seed with a win
     
  • Miami can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Jets loss
     
  • Kansas City can clinch a top-two seed with a win and a Bengals loss
     
  • L.A. Chargers can clinch a top-six seed with a win or a Dolphins loss
     
  • Cincinnati can clinch the AFC North (and a top-three seed) with a win and a Ravens loss
  • Cincinnati can clinch a top-five seed with a win or a Chargers loss
     
  • Baltimore can clinch a top-five seed with a win and a Chargers loss
  • Baltimore can clinch a top-six seed with a win or a Dolphins loss

Elimination Scenarios

  • Dallas can be locked into the #5 Seed if the Eagles win
     
  • Washington can be eliminated from the #6 Seed with a loss or a Giants win
  • Washington can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss and wins by the Packers and Lions
     
  • 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 or a Giants win
  • Detroit can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss and a Commanders 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 either a Lions or Commanders win.
     
  • San Francisco can be eliminated from the bye week with a loss or an Eagles win
  • San Francisco can be eliminated from a top-two seed with a loss and a Vikings win
     
  • Seattle can be eliminated from the #6 Seed with a loss or a Giants win
  • Seattle can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss and either a Commanders win or wins by both the Lions and Packers
     
  • Carolina can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss
     
  • New Orleans can be eliminated from the NFC South with a loss or a Buccaneers win
  • New Orleans can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss, or a Buccaneers win and either a Commanders win or wins by both the Lions and Packers
     
  • Miami can be eliminated from the #5 Seed with a loss or a Baltimore win
  • Miami can be eliminated from a top-six seed with a loss
     
  • New England can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss
     
  • N.Y. Jets can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss
     
  • Kansas City can be eliminated from the bye week with a loss and a Buffalo win
     
  • L.A. Chargers can be eliminated from the #5 Seed with a loss and a Ravens win
     
  • Las Vegas can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss, or a win by either the Jets or Dolphins
     
  • Cincinnati can be eliminated from the bye week with a loss
  • Cincinnati can be eliminated from a top-two seed with a loss and a Chiefs win
     
  • Baltimore can be eliminated from the #2 Seed with a loss or a Chiefs win
  • Baltimore can be eliminated from the AFC North with a loss and a Bengals win
     
  • Pittsburgh can be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss or a Dolphins win

Good luck to everyone!

11:05 AM: Saints at Eagles

Kind of a weird situation in Philadelphia this year. 

A win for the Eagles clinches the division title and the bye week -- fairly standard stuff at this point in the season. A little unusual to do both simultaneously, but the Cowboys have applied enough pressure to make things at least a little interesting atop the card.

No, the interesting thing is that they can do it against the Saints, who traded their first-round pick to Philadelphia as part of the trade-up for Trevor Penning.  So a win not only helps the Eagles for this season; it helps them for next season, too, by boosting their first-round draft pick.  That could climb as high as eighth if everything broke Philadelphia's way today, and could even theoretically still end up in the top three. That might be a little too much to hope for, but a win today would nearly guarantee the Eagles get a top-10 draft pick next season. Not a bad deal when you're 13-2.

They'll have to do it without Jalen Hurts, who is not expected to play today but is expected to be available for Week 18. Just how much work he'll get probably depends on whether or not the Eagles lock up the bye week today...

11:34 AM: Early Window Inactives

The Dolphins will be down big this week. Not only are they missing Tua Tagovailoa with his third concussion of the year; they'll also be down Bradley Chubb, Xavien Howard and Terron Armstead. Not an ideal lineup for a team looking to clinch a playoff berth with a win.

As mentioned before, Eagles QB Jalen Hurts is also out this week, as are Cardinals QB Colt McCoy and WR DeAndre Hopkins, Denver TE Greg Dulcich, Patriots TE Jonnu Smith and CBs Jalen Mills, Marcus Jones and Jack Jones.

12:06 PM: Quarterbacks!

Two quarterbacks are getting their first starts of the season today: David Blough gets the start in Arizona and Jarrett Stidham in Las Vegas.  They will be the 63rd and 64th starting quarterbacks in the league this year, which gets us close to a record.

2007 also saw 64 quarterbacks start, as a wave of injuries forced backups in across the league. But the record stays with 1987. Due to the strike and the replacement players that year, the NFL started 87 different players at quarterback that year, a record that may never be broken.  Here's hoping it's not, at any rate.

12:39 PM: The Battle for Los Angeles

The Rams and Chargers are playing at SoFi today. The Chargers are the home team, so they get all the benefit of their workout facilities and locker room and everything.  The Rams? They get their own locker room, too, but they do have a problem: there's not enough parking at the stadium for both teams to be 'home' at the same time. So the Rams had to spend the night in a hotel, and are bussing to and from the game.

...Look, it's a slow morning without a lot of breaking news happening; this is the level of detail we dive into.  Let's kick off some football, already.

1:08 PM: Panthers at Buccaneers

Carolina must win this game if they want to stay alive in the playoffs, but they control their fate if they do win. Suffice to say, it's a little bit big. And Sam Darnold, currently experiencing one of his hot streaks as Carolina has stayed in contention, continues that on the opening drive.  He goes 4-for-4 on the opening drive, hitting Tommy Tremble on a legitimately pretty pass to find the end zone right off the bat.

Tampa has been floundering recently, and now they offer no resistance as they go down 7-0 early.  Uh-oh.

1:12 PM: Bears at Lions

The Bears are eliminated, so they can do nonsense like this -- a direct snap to a tight end and a flip to the quarterback for a run. Sure!  Why not.

Bears take an early 7-0 lead a few plays later, but I'm mostly highlighting the nonsense there.

1:13 PM: Broncos at Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes starts the game 6-for-6 for 55 yards.  One of those six completions? To himself; he caught a tipped pass at midfield and managed to scoot downfield for six yards. Because sure. Why not. He's Patrick Mahomes. Isaiah Pacheco punches things in to give the Chiefs an early lead.

An early 6-0 lead, mind you. The Chiefs have not had the best kicking this season; something to keep an eye on.

1:15 PM: Jaguars at Texans

Credit to the Texans for being aggressive, going for it on fourth and 1 from midfield. It didn't work, but hey, at least they're trying.

The Jaguars, too, are trying -- while this game is meaningless for them for the division, there's the chance they could back into a wildcard with a win today, so might as well try, right? JaMychal Hasty runs into the end zone for the early 7-0 lead.

Texans looking good for that #1 draft pick.

1:22 PM: Bears at Lions

The Lions march right back down the field to answer Chicago's first score, with plenty of deep passing in play -- Jared Goff hit Amon-Ra St. Brown on a 30-yard gain 3rd-and-4, and then picked up 30 more on a DPI in the end zone.  Goff ends up hitting Brock Wright to finish things off.

Lions tie it, 7-7.

1:25 PM: Saints at Eagles

Potentially huge news early in this one, as Josh Sweat goes down and stays down for a long time on the Saints' first drive. He had to be slowly carted off the field, and it looked season-ending this late in the year.  That would be terrible news for Philly's defense; sure, they have plenty of pass rushers, but Sweat has been one of the best in the league.

Adding insult to injury, Taysom Hill's tough running lets the Saints score first.

Saints take an early 7-0 lead.

1:27 PM: Dolphins at Patriots

The Patriots hold the Tua-less Dolphins to a punt on their first drive -- it looked like they actually forced a turnover, but a questionable forward progress call meant Miami got away with just punting.  No worries -- the patented super-effective Patriots offense marches down the field 81 yards in 10 plays.  They even manage to succeed in the red zone; we talked on the Data Show this week about their struggles there and how that was likely to revert somewhat towards the mean, and, true to form, Mac Jones hits Tyquan Thornton for an early lead.

7-0 Patriots.

1:33 PM: Cardinals at Falcons

Hey! This game is happening, too!  It counts for football purposes!

The Cardinals managed to get a field goal on their first drive, but then Atlanta pulls off a 16-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown. That's hard to do! Hard to keep the ball for that many plays and that few yards. Impressive, in a weird way.  Tyler Allgeier punches it in to finish the drive.

7-3 Falcons in this meaningless game.

1:40 PM: Colts at Giants

A New York win puts them into the playoffs this week, but the Colts got on the board first.  Held out of the end zone, mind you, but still -- trailing to Jeff Saturday's team isn't ideal. The Giants get things right on their second drive, though, thanks to a lot of Saquon Barkley running.  Daniel Jones hits Richie James in the end zone on third down to take the lead.

Giants up 7-3, which would have them in the playoffs as things currently stand.

1:43 PM: Bears at Lions

Justin Fields is running wild, up to 105 rushing yards in the first quarter alone.  Of course, rushing yards aren't points, and because Chicago stalled out in the red zone, the Lions' counter-punch drive allows them to actually take the lead. D'Andre Swift runs off end and finds the end zone to give Detroit their first lead.

Lions 14, Bears 10.

1:46 PM: Dolphins at Patriots

Interesting sequence early in this drive.  The Dolphins line up to go on 4th and 1, but call a timeout.  Then they line up again, but get flagged for a false start.  That switches things to a punt, but the Patriots run into the kicker, setting up the Dolphins to line up for 4th-and-1 again, this time converting it and keeping the drive alive.  Phew.

The drive ends in a Taysom Hill run/reception thing, which appears to be ruled an official rushing touchdown.

7-7, early in the second.

1:47 PM: Cardinals at Falcons

It's David Blough, that's his name, that name again is David Blough.

Cardinals 10, Falcons 7.

1:56 PM: Jaguars at Texans

No drive in this one had gone more than 50 yards; the Jaguars' first touchdown came after Houston failed on fourth down in their own end. Travis Etienne says enough with that, and decides to go 50+ himself.

14-0 Jaguars early in the second quarter.

1:57 PM: Panthers at Buccaneers

Man, it sure doesn't feel like the Buccaneers are the ones that are win-and-in, does it?  Their first moderately successful drive of the day ends in a missed field goal, and Sam Darnold keeps shredding this Buccaneers defense -- up to 8-for-11 for 112 yards and a pair of scores.

Vince Verhei: Key sequence in Tampa Bay: Bucs have a fourth-and-1 just across midfield and convert on a Tom Brady sneak. However, they move backwards from there and miss a 53-yard field goal on fourth-and-11, so the Panthers get the ball in better field position than they would have had if they had stuffed Brady on the sneak. Starting in Bucs territory, they convert a fourth-and-3 with a quick out to DJ Moore, and then second-half MVP Sam Darnold finds Moore in the corner of the end zone to put Carolina up 14-0.

2:00 PM: Colts at Giants

The Giants marching their way to a playoff berth.  They just scored again, thanes to Daniel Jones making plays with his arms AND his legs, marching the Giants right back down the field. He hits Hodgins this time to cap it off.

14-0 Giants, late in the second.

2:03 PM: Jaguars at Texans

Before the dust settles from the long Etienne run, Davis Mills...well, there's a reason the Texans are likely going to use a first-round pick on a quarterback.

21-0, Jaguars.

2:04 PM: Broncos at Chiefs

Welcome, Russell!  This is called the "end zone".  I know you haven't seen much of it this year, so I thought I could refresh your memory.

A Mahomes interception and a fumbled punt return means help the Broncos to a 10-6 lead.  Chaos warning?

2:08 PM: Bears at Lions

For all Justin Fields' rushing heroics, he has just 33 passing yards at this point in time, mostly because he keeps getting driven into the turf. The Lions have four first-half sacks, and Detroit keeps turning that good field position into points. This time, it's Goff hitting Brock Wright for his second touchdown of the day.

Lions up 21-10 in a must-win game.

2:10 PM: Cardinals at Falcons

Hey, the game may not matter, but blocked punts are fun, right!

That becomes a Falcons touchdown, and it's 14-10 Atlanta.

2:11 PM: Colts at Giants

Nick Foles may also not be the answer.

21-3 Giants, and while it's not technically over, do YOU trust the Colts to do anything here? Because I don't.

2:12 PM: Browns at Commanders

21 plays.  96 yards.  I take everything I said about long drives back; this was about as long as you can possibly go.  It takes the Commanders until fourth down, but Carson Wentz manages to dive across the goal line to finally, FINALLY, end this one.

Commanders take a 7-3 lead.

2:13 PM: Panthers at Buccaneers

Hey, Tom Brady and Mike Evans realized the play on the same team! That's always good to see in Week 17.

This is what we were expecting all year from Tampa, one of our early Super Bowl favorites.  Instead, they find themselves still down 14-7.

2:15 PM: Broncos at Chiefs

Normal service resumed here.  Mahomes and the Chiefs just waltz down the field against the Broncos defense, ending in a Jet McKinnon touchdown. That was too easy.

13-10 Chiefs, as Kansas City continues to play with their food.

2:28 PM: Panthers at Buccaneers

That long Mike Evans touchdown? That put him over 1,000 yards receiving for the ninth straight year. Only Jerry Rice (naturally) has a longer streak, up at 11.  An impressive level of consistency there, being able to pull that off even in a down season.

We're at half, with the Panthers up 14-10.  The Panthers' ensuing drive fumbled the ball back to Tampa on a botched snap, but the Buccaneers opted to kick on 4th-and-1 inside the five.  Some home crowd boos there, but at least the Buccaneers are a little bit back in this one.

2:39 PM: Jets at Seahawks

No, this game hasn't started yet, but we had to share this.

I can't remember a team dragging one of their former players as much as the Seahawks seem to enjoy dunking on Russell Wilson this year.

2:41 PM: Browns at Commanders

After nearly 35 minutes, the Browns had zero completions to wide receivers. Well, now they have one, and it was a doozy.

That gives the Browns the lead, 10-7, in a game that means nothing to them but everything to Washington.

2:44 PM: Bears at Lions

The Lions needed to win this one, and I think they've done enough to do that.  They have 164 net passing yards to the Bears' seven. And now the running game is clicking, too.

Detroit is up 31-10, early in the third quarter, and you would have to think that will be enough.

Vince Verhei: Detroit’s first drive of the second half, Swift runs for 35 yards on third-and-18. One snap later, Jameson Williams takes an end around down the right sideline for a gain of 40. Jamaal Williams finishes the drive with a goal-line touchdown. That’s a 75-yard drive with 84 yards of rushing (Goff was sacked once) as tackling remains optional for the Bears defense.

2:50 PM: Colts at Giants

Alright, check the Giants box off; they're in the playoffs.  Nick Foles is out, the Colts are floundering, and Daniel Jones is running free.

That's 31-3 Giants, and we're just draining clock now.

2:51 PM: Jaguars at Texans

And while we're calling games over, the Jaguars now have a 28-0 lead after scoring on their first drive of the second half.

Trevor Lawrence hasn't had a great day, but that drive should give them some confidence, and make them feel comfortable pulling him and the rest of their starters to rest up for the AFC South title.

2:56 PM: Dolphins at Patriots

We've been off this game for a bit, because not a lot has been actually happening.  After exchanging first-quarter touchdowns, we've had six punts, a missed field goal, and the end of the half. The Dolphins are too hurt to operate at full strength; the Patriots are too led by Matt Patricia to do anything in return.  But, after an the Dolphins slowly moved the line of scrimmage forwards in an exchange of punts, they finally got things going. A big pass play to Jaylen Waddle got them into range to score and then this was...well, maybe not how you draw it up, but effective notwithstanding.

Dolphins up 14-7.

3:02 PM: Browns at Commanders

It's not game over just yet, but Washington needs to be panicking at this point in time.  They let up another big play to Amari Cooper on the exact same design that burned them for the touchdown earlier, and then both David Njoku and Donovan Peoples-Jones caught big passes to set up and finish the drive.

Cleveland is now up 17-7 as the third quarter ends.

3:08 PM: Saints at Eagles

A.J. Brown was visibly frustrated with the Philadelphia offensive performance to this point. Cameras caught him speaking forcefully to his teammates on the sideline -- not a fight, but an attempted wakeup call.  It worked.

That's what Brown can do for you, but the Saints are still up 13-10.

3:09 PM: Broncos at Chiefs

Sound the upset alerts, because the Broncos have retaken the lead!  The Chiefs have just six yards of offense in the second half, and Russ release a vintage Russ toss to Albert Okwuegbuam for the score.

Maybe it was all Nathaniel Hackett.  Broncos 17, Chiefs 13, midway through the third.

3:12 PM: Dolphins at Patriots

Offense not working? Why not trust your defense!

Kyle Dugger weaved his way through eight different Dolphins defenders on his way to the end zone there, and the Patriots, with their backs against the wall, take a...uh, 16-14 lead, because Nick Folk missed the PAT.  THAT could be huge.

Oh, and stop me if you've heard this one: the Dolphins quarterback is hurt. Teddy Bridgewater was hurt on the runback, and Skyler Thompson is in.  Yikes.

3:17 PM: Browns at Commanders

Carl Yedor: Washington hits a field goal to make it 17-10 early in the 4th quarter here in DC. Washington has had a miserable time trying to move the ball today despite a strong effort from Brian Robinson, but I guess that shouldn't be a surprise with Carson Wentz at quarterback. Cleveland's offense has been sputtering away for the most part, but they have hit on a handful of big plays that have enabled them to put up those 17 points so far.

With Dallas winning early in the week and Philadelphia currently trailing the Saints, it is looking more and more like Dallas is going to have something to play for next week, making this game against the Browns even more important for the Commanders.

3:17 PM: Panthers at Buccaneers

The Panthers haven't really done anything on offense since about the 8:00 mark of the second quarter -- a punt, an end of the half, and two turnovers.  But they have finally shaken themselves off to start the fourth quarter, extending their lead on this pass from Darnold to Shi Smith.

That's 21-10, and while there's plenty of time for the Buccaneers to respond, all that time messing around with field goals in the red zone rather than blowing Carolina out is coming back to haunt them.

3:24 PM: Panthers at Buccaneers

Where has this deep connection between Brady and Evans BEEN all this year?

That would have been nice many times before this!  That knocks things back to a one-score game, but the two-point conversion fails and the Panthers still hold a 21-16 lead, early in the fourth.

3:25 PM: Browns at Commanders

Count this one as a Commanders loss, as they have let Amari Cooper get wide open multiple times -- three receptions, 106 yards and two touchdowns. This one probably ends this one, which is great news for everyone else in the wildcard race.

Washington's now in real danger of being eliminated this week; they'll need the Vikings to win or they're done before Week 18 even begins.

3:27 PM: Broncos at Chiefs

Stop playing with your food, Chiefs, and end this one.

Chiefs re-take the lead 20-17, and now we will see if their defense is physically capable of stopping anything.

3:34 PM: Broncos at Chiefs

The Chiefs defense is, in fact, physically capable of stopping anything.  Broncos country, let's ride.

The Chiefs convert a few plays later, and it's 27-17 -- maybe not quite over yet, but much, much more comfortable.

3:38 PM: Saints at Eagles

We didn't know if Marshawn Lattimore was going to play in this one. The Saints are very happy that he is.

As are, mind you, the Cowboys, 49ers and Vikings, salivating over that bye week.  It's 20-10 and last gasp time for the Eagles... 

3:40 PM: Panthers at Buccaneers

We're stuck on replay!  It's yet ANOTHER long pass from Brady to Evans; they've been saving it all for this one!

The Buccaneers take a 24-21 lead, and remember -- this will clinch the division if they win.  Huge swing here.

3:47 PM: Dolphins at Patriots

It looks like the Patriots will be playing meaningful Week 18 football!  Jakobi Meyers jumps about 12 feet in the air for this.

That gives the Patriots a 23-14 lead, which should  be enough to hold on.  They'll have a win-and-in scenario next week against Buffalo!

3:50 PM: Broncos at Chiefs

Well, don't call this one over quite yet...

It's 27-24 Chiefs with 6 minutes and change left, and this could still go a number of ways...

4:00 PM: Panthers at Buccaneers

Carolina has the ball, with one more chance to win.  How's that going to go?

Nope.  Buccaneers score a few plays later, take a 30-21 lead, and are going to win the NFC South.

4:06 PM: Late Window Storylines

It looks like the Raiders career of Derek Carr is over. He's been benched and, in fact, has gone home -- it'll be Jarrett Stidham piloting the Raiders the rest of the way.  Oddly enough, this happened before Las Vegas was officially eliminated, though if Miami wins in the early window they'll be knocked out before they get out of the first quarter here. It hasn't gone over well with everyone, with Davante Adams stating outright this week that he would not have signed with the Raiders if Carr hadn't been at quarterback. So that's a storyline to watch as the Raiders try to not get obliterated by the 49ers.

The Jets-Seahawks game is the closest thing we had to an elimination game entering this week, so that's exciting.  The Jets are out with a loss; the Seahawks needed either a Washington win or Detroit and Green Bay wins to send them on their way out of the postseason.  Geno Smith has a chance to knock out his old team in a bit of revenge, but the Jets do get Mike White back for this one.  Loser (maybe) goes home!

The Packers are on a three-game win streak, and they've needed each and every one of those wins to remain at the fringes of the wildcard race. Their challenge this week? A Vikings team that simply seems unable to lose, rolling 20s, hitting their last outs on the river and letting their luck ride throughout the season.  The Packers are favored by Vegas, by DVOA, by common sense, by everything except the actual win-loss record. So expect the Vikings to pull off some kind of nonsense to win this one. I've got my money on an interception on a two-point conversion, returned for the winning points.

The Chargers and Rams are also playing, perhaps to determine who has fewer fans in the Los Angeles area.

4:08 PM: Jets at Seahawks

This game starts with a bang. The first play from scrimmage is a 60-yard Kenneth Walker run right up the gut, the Jets just parting in front of him.  Two plays later, Geno Smith hits Colby Parkinson for a touchdown.

Very, very early 7-0 lead for Seattle.

4:11 PM: 49ers at Raiders

It's Jarrett Stidham season!  Stidham, the 64th starting quarterback of the year, goes 3-for-3 on the Raiders first drive, hitting Darren Waller for a score.  THAT was unexpected.

Raiders take an early 7-0 lead.

4:20 PM: 49ers at Raiders

Slightly less unexpected -- the 49ers marching right down the field.  I'm still not sure Christian McCaffrey is worth the entire middle of a draft; I am sure he's very, very fun to watch.

Brock Purdy finds Brandon Aiyuk two plays later, and were back tied at 7.

4:36 PM: AFC Bye Week

It's hard to overstate how big the Bengals-Bills game on Monday will be.

Hey, Ravens!  You're still hanging around.  That's fun.

4:40 PM: Vikings at Packers

So, this has been a pretty eventful first five minutes.  The Packers' first drive ended in a blocked punt, with the Vikings getting the ball at the Green Bay one.  And what should be a guaranteed score ends up with Minnesota actually going backwards, opting to kick a field goal for the early 3-0 lead from the two yard line.  Well, I suppose it is at least a lead -- that won't evaporate, say, on the ensuing kickoff, will it?

7-3 Packers, early.

4:49 PM: Jets at Seahawks

Vince Verhei: Seahawks close the first quarter with a scramble-dump off to DeeJay Dallas for 41 yards. That sets up Smith’s touchdown … Tyler Mabry? Who the hell is Tyler Mabry? Well, anyway, Seattle leads 17-3.

A reminder that this is an elimination game for the Jets, and they seem, uh, more than happy to be eliminated.

4:53 PM: 49ers at Raiders

Brock Purdy chants are breaking out in Vegas.  To be fair, this drive has been more George Kittle making big catches, but the kid keeps dealing with everything people can throw at him, and just keeps throwing touchdown passes. He's started this one 7-for-9 with two touchdowns...and only 38 yards.   His legend is larger than his impact, but this is plenty fun while it lasts.

14-10, 49ers.

4:57 PM: Vikings at Packers

This gams is bonkers.  We have yet to have a first down.  We HAVE had a blocked punt, a kick return touchdown, a loss or 16 on 4th and 1, and now, well, this.

The Packers winning with special teams and defense.  Just like we all had beforehand, right?  To be fair, this seems fairly normal and sedate for a Vikings game, so far...

4:58 PM: Rams at Chargers

The Battle of Los Angeles!  Has been, uh, kind of sleepy to start, but that's fine.  After an exchange of punts, the Rams got on the board first, kicking a field goal on 4th-and-goal from the five.  As punishment for the cowardice, the Chargers then go 75 yards in just five plays, including two big Mike Williams grabs, and finishing with this Austin Ekeler touchdown.

7-3, Chargers, early in the second.

5:11 PM: Rams at Chargers

Cale Clinton: Austin Ekeler becomes the fourth player ever to have a season with 100 rushing attempts and 100 receptions, joining Matt Forte, Christian McCaffrey (2x), and LaDainian Tomlinson. He’ll likely finish with the fewest rushing attempts in such a season (at 183 coming into today, lowest is 219 by 2018 CMC)

Not a bad list of names to be on there for Ekeler.  And he gets to celebrate with his second touchdown of the day, too, as he gets into daylight and ain't no one catching him.

Chargers have a 14-3 lead.

5:24 PM: Catching Up

Some slight technical issues, but we're back!  Let's see what we've missed.

...Oh, hell, Davante Adams, that's amazing.

By comparison, Malcom Brown's touchdown is downright boring, but hey, they count for the same number of points!

Let's get back to live action, shall we?

5:39 PM: Jets at Seahawks

Vince Verhei: Seahawks just called a timeout with six seconds left in the half, when the Jets had the football, just so Pete Carroll could scream at the refs a little more about what he thought was a missed false start right before that. Then Seattle closes the half with a sack-fumble. It’s a 17-6 margin, and the one thing we haven’t talked about is the rookie corners, who have both been stellar. I don’t remember Sauce Gardner being thrown at, let alone giving up a completion, but the play-by-play does credit him with a pair of passes defenses. And Tariq Woolen, I think, has given up just one completion, a third-down conversion on one of New York’s field goal drives. He’s still Seattle’s leading tackler though.

5:40 PM: Vikings at Packers

I know it's tempting fate to say this about a Minnesota Vikings game in the Year of Our Lord 2023, but I think the Packers have this. 

It's 24-3, Green Bay.  Green Bay is outgaining Minnesota 5.6 yards per play to 3.5.  The Viking have already turned the ball over multiple times. They look terrible -- and they're the worse team to begin with.  Surely, this time, he says, the Vikings won't pull out some nonsense.  Surely.

5:50 PM: 49ers at Raiders

This is a legitimately impressive play by Jarret Stidham.  The Raiders motion to empty, forcing the 49ers to back out of pressure.  Stidham then buys time, rolling out, giving Davante Adams the chance to break free down field.  Stidham stands his ground, knows he's going to take a hit, delivers the ball...

Raiders up 24-14, early in the third quarter. Well, we've been waiting to see Brock Purdy play from behind...

6:01 PM: 49ers at Raiders

The 49ers come back the way they always do -- short passes fueled by YAC, and a flotilla of blockers paving the way. Also, "give the ball to Christian McCaffrey" remains a good play.

The Raiders still have the lead, 24-21, and we'll see if the 49ers defense has ANY answers for Jarret Stidham.

6:03 PM: Rams at Chargers

Someone let Mike Williams know that you're still allowed to catch the ball with two hands in 2023.

This leads to a Gerald Everett touchdown a few plays later, and the Chargers are out to a 24-10 lead.  Not done yet, but looking good for Los Angeles.  Uh, the Chargers, that is.

6:06 PM: Jets at Seahawks

Vince Verhei: Pete Carroll’s aggression from last week has lasted. Fourth-and-1 in long field goal range, Geno converts on a sneak. They end up kicking a field goal anyway after Sauce breaks up a pass to DK Metcalf in the end zone. Metcalf has only one catch for 3 yards today. Seattle’s lead grows to 20-6.

6:22 PM: 49ers at Raiders

Brock Purdy has played well above his station to this point. But sometimes, seventh-round picks are seventh-round picks for a reason, and arm strength was one of the big drawbacks to Purdy coming in...

The Raiders are still up 24-21 as we end the third quarter.

6:35 PM: Rams at Chargers

And let it be known that the Battle of Los Angeles went to San Diego, as opposed to St. Louis.  The Chargers have opened up a three-score lead, thanks to plenty of work from Austin Ekeler and more than a few highlight-reel grabs from Mike Williams. Donald Parham converts third-and-goal, and this one should be over.

31-10, Chargers. 12:12 won't be enough for a comeback, methinks.

6:53 PM 49ers at Raiders

Win or lose, this has been a very impressive performance from Jarret Stidham.  And his receivers are balling, too.

The Raiders drive stalls, and they have to kick a 57-yard field goal to tie things back up at 27 with 4:08 left.  Time for someone to step up...

7:00 PM: 49ers at Raiders

Maybe the 49ers should have traded more mid-round picks for Christian McCaffrey.  Look at this -- the hesitation for the block, the acceleration, running over the guy.  Wow.

The 49ers score the next play and are up 34-27. But did they leave Jarett Stidham too much time?!

7:12 PM: 49ers at Raiders

Was this a catch? I don't know.  Was it cool as hell? Yes.  Yes it was.

The Raiders get a DPI after this and then punch the ball in, and we're tied at 34.  But did they leave Brock Purdy too much time?!

7:19 PM: 49ers at Raiders

The Raiders DID in fact leave Brock Purdy too much time, and the 49ers march right down the field.  They get set for a 41-yard field goal...

...And Robbie Gould misses it!  We're going to overtime!  Bonus football in Vegas!

7:30 PM: 49ers at Raiders

I had to quickly track down, uh, alternative means of watching this one. But the 49ers defense makes the big play. 

Nick Bosa shoves a tackle back into Stidham's face; he lofts one wobbling into the air, and Tashon Gipson comes down and returns it inside the five!

That sets up Gould for a redemption chip shot, and there just is no doubt. 49ers win, 37-34.  An escape on New Year's Day!

And I'mma gonna go collapse.  We'll see you in the Discord for the nightcap!

Comments

31 comments, Last at 02 Jan 2023, 11:30am

#1 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 01, 2023 - 1:26pm

Sam Darnold is going to start a home playoff game, isn't he?

Points: 1

#14 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 01, 2023 - 3:56pm

Never mind, he woke up and remembered that he's Sam Darnold.

Points: 1

#19 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 01, 2023 - 5:03pm

Darnold didn't really seem to be the problem.

Points: 1

#2 by whocares4 // Jan 01, 2023 - 1:32pm

Anyone who defends Jonathan Gannon is a moron. Mediocre offensive coordinators can clown him. All his success is built on the roster and injury luck. The plan just can't be to let a second team in a row put their best WR in the slot and have him smoke Josiah Scott over and over. Sit back in a zone and allow an inconcievable completion percentage. Have formations pull Reddick off the line and force him to drop into coverage. Just awful stupidity.

Points: 0

#6 by whocares4 // Jan 01, 2023 - 1:52pm

Dalton has started 8/8. If you don't watch the Eagles regularly, I don't think you understand how infuriating it is to watch Gannon's scheme allow this to happen over and over. It seems crazy to say "allow opposing QBs an exceptionally high completion percentage" is something that happens by design... but this shit happens by design!

Points: 0

#3 by Ben // Jan 01, 2023 - 1:33pm

Colts have 4th and 1 at the Giants 5. Line up to go for it, call a time out then kick the field goal. 

Who needs coaching experience, amirite?

Points: 2

#4 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 01, 2023 - 1:44pm

But at least Jeff Saturday "won't be afraid because of analytics", or something.

Points: 1

#5 by whocares4 // Jan 01, 2023 - 1:47pm

The Eagles have a mediocre-to-bad head coach, a good offensive coordinator and an awful defensive coordinator. They have the best top-to-bottom roster in the NFL and (up until these past two weeks) incredible injury luck. It's very hard to judge how far they can go in the playoffs with coaching being such a problem. If they were healthier, they'd probably be fine. But they're a clownshow today.

Points: 1

#7 by mehnsrea // Jan 01, 2023 - 2:36pm

Something about Darryl Johnstown’s commentary makes it even worse. Try muting for Merril and report back.

Points: 1

#8 by whocares4 // Jan 01, 2023 - 3:04pm

Yeah, he's so bad today I actually thought it was Schlereth for a minute.

Points: 1

#9 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 01, 2023 - 3:38pm

The Bears are losing 38-10 deep in the 4th quarter and are still letting Justin fields drop back behind a terrible offensive line to get clobbered over and over again.  Time to get him out of there.

Points: 2

#10 by whocares4 // Jan 01, 2023 - 3:39pm

Eagles are going to lose their last 3 and end up in the wildcard. What does that kind of collapse mean for a team? They were 13-1, it's unreal.

Points: 1

#15 by thok // Jan 01, 2023 - 3:59pm

Fortunately, the Giants don't have anything to play for next week, and are likely to rest their starters against the Eagles.  (I appreciate the weirdness that the sixth seed is the one who doesn't have anything to play for next week.)

Points: 3

#17 by whocares4 // Jan 01, 2023 - 4:36pm

After the way they played today (and the impact of losing Lane Johnson) I don't think the Eagles should be confident about beating backups.

Points: 1

#11 by johonny12 // Jan 01, 2023 - 3:46pm

Mike McDaniels just Adam Gase with glasses. 

Points: 2

#16 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 01, 2023 - 4:04pm

Sooo, Carson Wentz's career as a starter is over, right?

Points: 2

#21 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 01, 2023 - 5:09pm

The ST DVOA is going to be fascinating for the GB/MIN game.

Points: 1

#22 by Moridin // Jan 01, 2023 - 6:04pm

Vikings game is very likely going the way of the Dallas game. Not going to fuel a comeback with a (more) broken offensive line

Points: 0

#23 by rh1no // Jan 01, 2023 - 6:54pm

Does this mean we get a week off of Vikings fans coming into the DVOA comment section smugly demanding to know why DVOA fails to account for their team's greatness? 

Points: 3

#24 by vrao81 // Jan 01, 2023 - 7:54pm

Vikings looking more and more like facing a 1st round beat down by #6 seed giants.

Points: 1

#25 by RickD // Jan 01, 2023 - 10:11pm

It's a shame they're unlikely to finish with the #2 seed.  They could get another shot at the Packers!  

Points: 2

#26 by Moridin // Jan 01, 2023 - 11:45pm

Well, the 2ish that were acting like that. The rest of us never disagreed with DVOA thinking the Vikings were the luckiest team going, and would certainly be unlikely to continue, but were having a lot of fun with them being overachievers. Hopefully they can at least be entertaining rather than curb stomped in playoffs.

Points: 3

#27 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jan 02, 2023 - 1:43am

Yep Even those 2ish have been generally reasonable. Way more subdued than the loud element of Packers fans have been the last 3ish years and the Packers were never negative DVOA with a winning record, they were just often ranked behind teams they had beat so there was a lot of bitching about that. The reasonable among us never could quiet them. At least some of the Vikings fans have calmed down in the face of Will Allen and other longtime FO members Vikings fans.

Points: 3

#31 by rh1no // Jan 02, 2023 - 11:30am

I've been having a lot of fun watching the Vikings this season. Hell, how can anyone be a fan of football and NOT have fun watching Minnesota's weekly "Comeback of the Century" performances?

Enjoy the ride!

Points: 3

#28 by KnotMe // Jan 02, 2023 - 2:11am

3:47 PM: Dolphins at Patriots

Dunno about anyone else but the video link here is wrong for me. I know the Bucs kept replaying the sane TD but it bled all the way back to Bradys former team.  Need some video fast markup!

 

 

Points: 0

#29 by KnotMe // Jan 02, 2023 - 2:11am

Bad double post, not Purdy

 

 

Points: 0

#30 by DGL // Jan 02, 2023 - 10:30am

The nightcap is the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Baltimore Ravens, which was an odd choice to flex to Sunday Night. Better than the Rams-Chargers game that was there before, but there were probably better options.

Respect for refraining from any ex post facto editing...

Points: 1

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