8:44 P.M. EASTERN TIME.
Week 16 of the NFL began on Christmas Day with a tremendous performance by the New Orleans Saints and Alvin Kamara, who became the second man in the league’s history to rush for six touchdowns in one game. The Saints also took control of NFC South with a victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
On Saturday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers inflicted a heavy defeat on the Detroit Lions, their first since 2005. Subsequently, the San Francisco 49ers overthrew the Arizona Cardinals and lost control of their fate in the playoffs.
All this, and much more, is the NFL’s biggest hit of week 16.
Excellent performance: Ryan Fitzpatrick 9 of 13 for 182 yards, TD in the fourth quarter; 34 yards mary hail with Mack Hollins in the winning drive.
Brian Flores doesn’t care about the usual quarterback or the long-term consequences. He does what he wants to do and gives his team the best chance to win, no matter what, as debutant Tua Tagovailoa showed in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 26-25 victory over the Raiders in the fourth quarter on Sunday night. Tagovailoa remains in the starting line-up, but Flores has ventured to the quaternary bench for the second time, showing that the sophomore coach is confident that he knows how his team will react. Today the dolphins are knocking on the door of their first qualifier since 2016. Win next Sunday against Buffalo, and they’re in it. — Cameron Wolfe
Next race: at the Bills (13.00 hours ET, Sunday 3 January).
The way the Raiders were officially eliminated from the playoffs was very appropriate. Damon Arnett’s reports are swollen. Terrible face mask punishment at the same game by Arden Key. And although the Dolphins on the 25-metre line started with 19 seconds left on the clock and didn’t use a time-out, they suddenly ended up in the end zone to win the game, and the Raiders made a toast. In fact, after a 6-3 start the Raiders lost five of their six games and probably should have lost to the Jets. The Raiders are 7-8 after 7-9 this year and going to Denver next week. Derek Carr scored well and the Raiders had a chance to win, but he was clearly out of sync as Las Vegas was in third place 0-10. What a depressing second half of the season for Las Vegas…. Paul Gutierrez…
Next race: in the Broncos (16.25 ET, Sunday 3 January).
Exceptional performer: 49 players running behind Jeff Wilson Jr., 183 meter run, 1 TD landing.
If you didn’t believe in quarterback Robert Saleh’s candidacy, you have to believe in it now. Without Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Jimmy Ward, Yakiski Pie and Javon Kinlaw, to name a few, Salehs group has found a way to help Kyler Murray and the company win. Saleh’s defense has been plagued by injuries throughout the season and has managed to keep the 49ers in most games despite multiple offensive reversals in recent weeks. A victory would damage the project in San Francisco, but would only strengthen Mr. Saleh’s case for an available mentor position in the coming weeks. – Nick Wagoner.
Next game: against the Seahawks (16:25, Sunday 3 January).
The Cardinals’ hopes for the play-offs are beginning to fade after the loss of Saturday to the 49ers. Arizona only had to win and the cardinals would determine their fate in the play-offs. Instead, they have lost and must now rely on the Chicago Bears, who have lost their last two games, to reach the post-season for the first time since 2015. — Josh Weinfuss.
Next race: in the Rams (16.25 ET, Sunday 3 January).
Excellent performance: Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, 348 passing yards, 4 TD, 0 INT
Brady helped end the second longest NFL playoff drought in history by throwing four touchdown passes and leading the Detroit Lions to their first playoff, helping Tampa Bay win their first playoff since 2007. Brady, who made his 300th appearance 20 years ago on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, the city where his career began, led a team record with five TD points in the first half before making way for Blaine Gabbert in the second half, with the team totalling 588 yards on offense. This is just the beginning. When we started, our goal, especially this year, was just to get into the dance, said coach Bruce Arians. And now, 11 games to win. And look where we are and where we’re going, look who we’re playing. Very, very proud. — Jenna Lane.
Next game: Against the Falcons (1 p.m. Eastern Time, Sunday 3 January).
What can I say? It was a terrible loss for the Detroit Lions in terms of points scored (47-7), yards allowed (588) and health (Matthew Stafford missed every set except one with a right ankle injury). And that’s with a team that doesn’t have a head coach, defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and secondary coach, who all had to stay in close contact because of the COVID-19 protocols. It was one of the worst losses in the history of the franchise – and the worst home loss of the Super Bowl era. The problem was the offence, where we could not stay on the field, said the receiver coach/active head coach Robert Prince. And defense, we couldn’t get off the field. — Michael Rothstein
Next match: against the Vikings (13:00 Eastern time, Sunday 3 January).
Excellent performance: Saints walk behind Alvin Kamara, 155 yards walk, 6 TD walk.
Friday’s victory over the Vikings was a powerful reminder that saints can win in many different ways. This time it was Camara’s six NFL courses and 264 yards in total (the second highest number since 1986 in New Orleans). It was a great day when the receiving corps and the defense of the Saints were plagued by injuries and they played for a short week. The Saints (11-4) still have an outside shot at the top of the NFC. However, they now have an extra break until week 17, with a chance to recover and peak in January. — Mike Triplett
Next game: Panthers (1 p.m. Eastern time, Sunday 3 January).
It’s the worst defense the Vikings have had in seven seasons under Mike Zimmer, and it will take much longer than expected to rebuild it. With the return of Anthony Barr and Daniel Hunter, injured, and Michael Pierce, retired, things should go better in 2021. The Vikings still need a review of their line of defense, especially three tackles, after this unit generated only one rush on Drew Brees and the third lowest rush rate (23.2%) of any team this season. If you look at last year’s playoff game and you look at the guys who played in that game and the guys who played today, it’s very different,” Zimmer said. — Courtney Cronin
Next game: The Lions (13:00 p.m. Eastern time, Sunday 3 January).