Lessons, large questions for each recreation

Welcome to Week 16 of the 2022 NFL season and a vacation weekend of soccer.

On Thursday, the Jacksonville Jaguars continued their quest for the AFC South title by beating the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. on Saturday, the Buffalo Payments received their third straight AFC East title with a overcome the Chicago Bears mixed with a New England Patriots loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. And with a win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Baltimore Ravens secured a playoff bid. The Minnesota Vikings received one other one-score recreation — their NFL-record eleventh of the season — and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs proved an excessive amount of for the Seattle Seahawks.

The late Saturday contests noticed the Dallas Cowboys keep alive within the NFC East with a comeback victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers win their eighth straight by besting the Washington Commanders. Within the Saturday evening recreation, the Las Vegas Raiders allowed one other result in slip away, because the Pittsburgh Steelers honored the late Franco Harris with a late rally on a frigid evening within the Metal Metropolis. Sunday obtained rolling with a giant comeback win for the Inexperienced Bay Packers over the Miami Dolphins by way of three late-game interceptions.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the most important takeaways and lingering questions off this week’s matchups and sit up for what’s subsequent. Let’s get to it.

Leap to a matchup:

JAX-NYJ | BUF-CHI | NO-CLE
SEA-KC | NYG-MIN | CIN-NE
DET-CAR | ATL-BAL | HOU-TEN
WSH-SF | PHI-DAL | LV-PIT
GB-MIA

Packers

What to know: Perhaps the Packers’ protection is not as dangerous as everybody thought. After permitting 20 factors within the first half and letting Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throw the ball wherever he needed, coordinator Joe Barry’s unit lastly figured issues out. The Packers got here up with interceptions on three straight drives within the fourth quarter — by Jaire Alexander, De’Vondre Campbell and the clincher by Rasul Douglas — to assist pull off a comeback win and hold their playoff possibilities very a lot alive. They nonetheless have to win their final two video games — each at house in opposition to the Vikings and Lions — and get a little bit assist, however the vibe round this workforce has fully modified previously month. From 4-8 and seemingly going nowhere, the Packers at the moment are 7-8 and seemingly a special workforce than they have been even a month in the past.

What occurs if receiver Christian Watson’s hip damage retains him out? Watson was en route to a different large recreation on Sunday with six catches within the first half earlier than a hip damage ended his day. It did not appear to hamper the Packers within the second half. Fellow rookie Romeo Doubs appears like he is prepared for a much bigger position. Plus, tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan each made large performs within the second half. — Rob Demovsky

Subsequent recreation: vs. Vikings (Sunday, Jan. 1, 4:25 p.m. ET)


Dolphins

What to know: It is a workforce recreation, however Tagovailoa goes to shoulder many of the blame for this loss — that is what occurs once you throw three interceptions within the fourth quarter. Tagovailoa mentioned his second interception was the results of poor communication, however the different two have been simply poor throws. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel referred to as the efficiency “uncharacteristic,” and Tagovailoa’s physique of labor in 2022 backs up that assertion. Nonetheless, his play when it mattered most Sunday value the Dolphins a win. It is troublesome to beat a number of turnovers, and Miami has now misplaced 5 of the six video games during which it has turned the ball over a number of instances.

Are the Dolphins too reliant on explosive performs? Jaylen Waddle’s 84-yard landing and Tyreek Hill’s 52-yard reception have been nice — however Miami did not maintain any scoring drives with out the help of both an explosive play or constructive beginning area place. It is a microcosm of the Dolphins’ play throughout their four-game shedding streak, throughout which they’ve put collectively two landing drives with out an explosive play. These kinds of performs are completely a part of the sport and have to be accounted for, however opponents will fortunately give up these in the event that they know you are incapable of sustaining a drive in any other case. The Dolphins have two weeks to determine how to take action, or they threat limping into the playoffs — or lacking them altogether. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Subsequent recreation: at Patriots (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

Steelers

What to know: On an emotional evening when the Steelers retired Franco Harris’ No. 32 jersey days after the legendary working again’s dying, Pittsburgh matched the magnitude of the second. Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett had hassle transferring the ball constantly however went 10 performs and 76 yards for the successful landing, culminating with a 14-yard catch by George Pickens within the ultimate minute. The Steelers picked off Derek Carr 3 times, together with on Las Vegas’ ultimate drive, to maintain their slim playoff hopes alive.

Might one other successful season actually be within the playing cards? Sitting at 3-7 after a loss to the Bengals on Nov. 20, the notion of coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers avoiding their first shedding season collectively appeared extremely unlikely. With 4 wins of their previous 5 video games, the likelihood is not such a protracted shot. Pittsburgh (7-8) will likely be an underdog on the Ravens subsequent week, however Baltimore is dealing with continued uncertainty at quarterback, and the rivals performed a 16-14 barn burner two weeks in the past. Clear that hurdle and an 8-8 Pittsburgh workforce would want solely to defeat the last-place Browns (6-9) at house to get to 9-8 — and perhaps even sneak into the playoffs if it obtained numerous assist. — ESPN employees

Subsequent recreation: at Ravens (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)


Raiders

What to know: Certain, the Raiders technically stay alive within the playoff race at 6-9, however a Dolphins win or tie Sunday in opposition to the Packers coupled with a Chargers win or tie Monday evening in opposition to the Colts will get rid of Las Vegas from the postseason chase. Blowing one other seven-plus-point halftime lead — the Raiders’ document fifth such lack of the season — was the nail within the proverbial coffin.

When may it’s time to hit the reset button, then? As quickly because the Raiders are formally eradicated. And sure, which may imply Las Vegas seeing what it has in Jarrett Stidham at quarterback, after Derek Carr was picked off 3 times within the second half at Pittsburgh. With so many rumors floating round that Las Vegas has already determined to maneuver on from the franchise’s all-time passing chief, it would behoove the Raiders to get a soar begin, as sensitive and delicate because it may be. — Paul Gutierrez

Subsequent recreation: vs. 49ers (Sunday, Jan. 1, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Cowboys

What to know: The Cowboys have been capable of overcome two 10-point deficits to maintain their slim division title hopes alive. A protection that was picked aside — the Eagles didn’t punt — got here up with back-to-back takeaways late within the fourth quarter. The Cowboys are 11-4 and will likely be no worse than the fifth seed within the postseason, however they will want the Eagles to lose out to have any aspirations of a division crown. A 3rd assembly between these groups within the playoffs can be one thing else.

Can the Cowboys discover their go rush? The Cowboys have to if they’ll do something within the playoffs. They recorded 4 sacks of Jalen Hurts after they met in October and had a minimum of three in 9 of their first 11 video games — however Dallas had one sack the earlier two weeks and nil on Saturday. Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong should determine one thing out as a result of the secondary, which has been hit by accidents, cannot maintain up eternally. When the Cowboys introduced strain in opposition to Gardner Minshew, they did not get house. — Todd Archer

Subsequent recreation: at Titans (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

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The Cowboys get a fumble and a fourth-down cease late within the fourth quarter to clinch the win over the Eagles.


Eagles

What to know: The Eagles let a golden alternative slip away. They held the lead over Dallas for almost all of the sport and had an opportunity to safe the division and the No. 1 total seed within the NFC playoffs earlier than being derailed by pricey turnovers down the stretch. The excellent news is that they have two extra regular-season video games and have to win one to lock up the highest playoff place within the NFC. Their house recreation on New 12 months’s Day in opposition to the Saints simply obtained a complete lot extra fascinating.

Will quarterback Jalen Hurts play in opposition to New Orleans? Hurts’ standing for Week 17 in opposition to the Saints was unsure coming into Saturday, league sources advised ESPN’s Adam Schefter, as Hurts recovers from what medical doctors are calling a sternoclavicular (SC) joint sprain in his throwing shoulder. The Eagles needed to see how this weekend performed out within the NFC playoff race and the way Hurts’ shoulder responds to relaxation and therapy earlier than figuring out whether or not the MVP candidate can play. Nonetheless needing a win to safe the highest seed within the playoffs, there will likely be loads of intrigue round Hurts’ availability. — Tim McManus

Subsequent recreation: vs. Saints (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

49ers

What to know: The Niners can do no worse than the No. 3 seed within the NFC playoffs, however they mentioned they will not take their foot off the gasoline as a result of the No. 2 seed is in attain. Whereas the 49ers did not get assist from the Vikings on Saturday, they’re a recreation behind them for the second spot and have to tie Minnesota within the standings to presumably host a minimum of two postseason video games. So long as that is the case, anticipate San Francisco to maintain pushing.

Is Nick Bosa the front-runner for Defensive Participant of the 12 months? If he is not, he needs to be. Bosa added two extra sacks and a compelled fumble Saturday to get to a career-high 17.5 sacks on the season, tied for second most in franchise historical past. Nothing in opposition to Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons, who is also having an excellent season, however Bosa has been probably the most constantly dominant power on the perfect protection within the NFL. — Nick Wagoner

Subsequent recreation: at Raiders (Sunday, Jan. 1, 4:05 p.m. ET)


Commanders

What to know: Washington’s offense moved the ball below quarterback Taylor Heinicke, however the pink zone points and turnovers over the previous three video games have killed them. That is why Carson Wentz changed Heinicke on Saturday, and it is why the Commanders seemingly will keep on with Wentz over the ultimate two video games. The 49ers blitzed Wentz usually, however he made faster choices and knew the place to go together with the ball. If he’s certainly extra comfy, his arm can open up the sector for a Commanders offense needing a jolt.

How does this loss impression Washington’s playoff possibilities? No hurt, no foul. With Detroit and Seattle shedding, the Commanders stay within the seventh and ultimate playoff spot. They should win their ultimate two video games — at house in opposition to Cleveland and Dallas — to remain within the postseason. The Browns have been eradicated from the playoffs and wrestle versus the run, whereas the Cowboys may find yourself resting their starters. Washington should take benefit; if not, it turns into a wasted season. — John Keim

Subsequent recreation: vs. Browns (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

Texans

What to know: The Texans earned their second win by containing Derrick Henry. The final time the Texans confronted Henry, he ran for 219 yards en path to a 17-10 win in Week 8. However throughout their second matchup, the Texans’ run protection contained Henry, though the uncooked numbers may say in any other case. Henry completed with 126 yards speeding on 23 carries, however exterior of a 48-yard landing run, the Texans held him to three.5 yards per rush on each different carry. General, the Texans’ protection held the Titans to 14 factors and 272 yards and compelled three turnovers. It was one of many workforce’s greatest defensive performances of the yr.

With how the Texans have appeared previously three video games, does that take the warmth off coach Lovie Smith? The Texans have performed the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas Metropolis Chiefs and Titans right down to the wire. These groups are competing for playoff spots, and the Texans had an opportunity to win all three of these video games and closed the deal in opposition to the Titans. The workforce hasn’t stop on Lovie Smith though it has misplaced 12 of 15 video games. Will that assist save Smith’s job? The workforce is displaying life, and it is believable it might carry this momentum into the 2023 season. — DJ Bien-Aime

Subsequent recreation: vs. Jaguars (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)


Titans

What to know: Denico Autry’s worth was proved past the stat sheet, as he had two quarterback pressures that just about generated two interceptions. Autry additionally had go breakups on the line of scrimmage on performs that would have gone for giant beneficial properties if the Texans quarterback was capable of get the passes off. Regardless of lacking the previous 4 video games, Autry leads the Titans in sacks after getting his eighth of the season. However ultimately, the Titans’ go protection faltered after a Derrick Henry fumble within the fourth quarter. Davis Mills accomplished all 4 of his go makes an attempt for 69 yards, together with the game-sealing landing.

Can the Titans be anticipated to problem the Jaguars for the AFC South title? The Titans’ offense has proven little to no life over the previous 5 video games, even with the Jaguars quickly closing the hole atop the AFC South. The second-half scoring woes have been a theme all season and it resurfaced Saturday. Tennessee was averaging a league-worst 5.5-point common within the second half coming into this week. The seek for contributions from the broad receiver place appears to be mission unimaginable. The Titans have not had a pass-catcher submit 100 receiving yards in 5 video games. In the meantime, Jacksonville has a three-game win streak and took over sole possession of the AFC South. — Turron Davenport

Subsequent recreation: vs. Cowboys (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Bengals

What to know: The Bengals survived an enormous intestine examine in a win over the New England Patriots. Cincinnati was getting ready to blowing a 22-0 lead earlier than the protection intervened. Bengals security Vonn Bell compelled a fumble that Cincinnati recovered, which allowed the Bengals to keep away from the second-biggest blown lead in franchise historical past. Cincinnati stays inside hanging distance of the No. 1 seed within the AFC, however for the second straight week, it received regardless of an inconsistent effort.

Ought to the run recreation be a priority? After stretch in the midst of the season, Cincinnati’s run recreation has sputtered the previous two weeks. Towards New England, the Bengals averaged 3.0 yards per speeding try. Cincinnati’s floor struggles additionally prevented it from with the ability to ice the sport away as issues obtained shut. It is part of the offense that must be higher because the Bengals put together for a postseason run. — Ben Child

Subsequent recreation: vs. Payments (Monday, Jan. 2, 8:15 p.m. ET)


Patriots

What to know: What a dagger — for the second week in a row. The Patriots had roared again from a 22-0 halftime deficit and appeared primed to go forward when working again Rhamondre Stevenson misplaced a fumble on the Bengals’ 8-yard line with 55 seconds remaining. At 7-8, the Patriots are nonetheless technically alive for the playoffs, however what hope is there after they hold taking pictures themselves within the foot?

What are coach Invoice Belichick’s plans with the offense? There are two video games remaining, however the whole lot appears secondary to how Belichick plans to handle the offense within the large image. The Patriots had 70 whole yards of offense at halftime, and whereas there have been indicators of life within the second half, this isn’t a sustainable system. So it is a stability between doing no matter it takes to win the ultimate two video games (house in opposition to Miami, on the highway in opposition to Buffalo) to remain alive but additionally acknowledging the offense wants a serious repair. — Mike Reiss

Subsequent recreation: vs. Dolphins (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

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The Patriots’ try at getting back from a 22-0 deficit falls quick because the Bengals maintain on for the win.

Vikings

What to know: What? You thought an in depth recreation involving the Vikings would finish some other method? Minnesota is now 11-0 in one-possession video games after Greg Joseph’s 61-yard area objective received this one on the buzzer. The win gave the Vikings their twelfth victory of the season, solely the second time a Vikings workforce has received a minimum of 12 previously 13 years. This win was particularly notable given the stakes: The Giants have been taking part in to clinch a postseason spot, whereas the Vikings are taking part in for playoff seeding. Talking of seeding, the Vikings will keep their lead over the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC’s No. 2 seed.

Ought to we return to being concerned in regards to the Vikings’ protection? The Giants’ underpowered offense rolled for 445 yards, together with 334 by way of the air from quarterback Daniel Jones, a reminder the Vikings have hardly mounted their season-long defensive struggles. However like a lot of their earlier video games, the Vikings mitigated the harm with two takeaways — a compelled fumble by linebacker Brian Asamoah II and an interception by cornerback Patrick Peterson. Their particular groups additionally blocked a punt, giving the offense a brief area to attain a landing, however the defensive issues stay. — Kevin Seifert

Subsequent recreation: at Packers (Sunday, Jan. 1, 4:25 p.m. ET)


Giants

What to know: This was a missed alternative. The Giants had a playoff berth of their grasp within the fourth quarter. However Cor’Dale Flott let an interception slip by way of his fingers, Daniel Jones threw an interception, Richie James had an important drop they usually had a punt blocked with below 5 minutes remaining. These are the sorts of performs that playoff groups cannot make. All of it added as much as a loss on a 61-yard area objective as time expired.

Is subsequent week vs. Indianapolis a must-win recreation? Just about. The Giants host the Indianapolis Colts on New 12 months’s Day. On paper, that is the best of their remaining video games. New York can be taking part in with fireplace if it went into their finale needing to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Giants would a lot fairly win subsequent week in entrance of their house followers and never depart something doubtful. — Jordan Raanan

Subsequent recreation: vs. Colts (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

Saints

What to know: The Saints did not make it straightforward on a brutally chilly day, however they did hold their playoff hopes alive, enhancing to 6-9 with a win over Cleveland. After attempting to do the whole lot however use Taysom Hill for many of the first half, they lastly capitalized on working Hill — who had 9 carries for 54 yards and a landing — and a late interception by Deshaun Watson to squeak out a win within the parts.

Can the Saints maintain their momentum in opposition to the Eagles subsequent week? The Saints received back-to-back video games for the primary time all season and stayed alive within the NFC South race. However their largest problem comes subsequent week in Philadelphia. The Saints could possibly be dealing with the Eagles with out quarterback Jalen Hurts. A win in Philly would additionally go a good distance for first-year head coach Dennis Allen, who wasn’t capable of generate momentum for many of the season. — Katherine Terrell

Subsequent recreation: at Eagles (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)


Browns

What to know: The Browns have been eradicated from the playoff dialog after quarterback Deshaun Watson’s would-be game-tying TD drive got here up quick. From the Saints’ 15-yard line, Watson had two potential TD passes bounce off the fingers of Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Njoku. However then Watson took a sack on fourth down, sealing a second straight shedding season in Cleveland.

What now for the Browns? Cleveland now has no shot to make the playoffs, rendering the ultimate two video games on the highway in opposition to Washington and Pittsburgh meaningless. Getting extra recreation reps for Watson will likely be Cleveland’s precedence. After that, the Browns will likely be taking part in for pleasure of their ultimate two video games for a second consecutive yr. — Jake Trotter

Subsequent recreation: at Commanders (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

Payments

What to know: The Payments’ protection had a powerful efficiency, limiting the Bears’ league-leading speeding assault (got here into Week 16 averaging 186.9 yards per recreation) to 91 yards and getting out of powerful conditions with restricted factors allowed. After permitting 188 yards on the bottom to the Dolphins final week, the Payments’ protection gave up 3.0 yards per carry. It was an necessary check for a protection that has struggled in opposition to the run at instances. With the win, the Payments clinch the AFC East.

Can Josh Allen curtail the questionable choices which have led to turnovers? Allen threw his first interceptions since Thanksgiving, ending with two on the day — his fifth multi-interception recreation. A league-high 4 of his interceptions have been thrown into the top zone. Too usually, Allen is not connecting with the open receiver in the midst of the sector, as a substitute in search of the massive play downfield and attempting to get the ball to sure receivers. Poor choices in opposition to higher defenses will have an effect because the Payments march towards the postseason. — Alaina Getzenberg

Subsequent recreation: at Bengals (Monday, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET)


Bears

What to know: The Bears could not run the ball, nor might they stifle Buffalo’s speeding assault. Devin Singletary (106 speeding yards, TD) and James Prepare dinner (99 speeding yards, TD) carved by way of Chicago’s protection, with the Payments speeding for 254 yards (8.2 yards per rush) as a workforce. Offensively, Justin Fields posed no menace throwing (3.6 yards per go try, excluding a 44-yard go to Velus Jones Jr.) or working the ball. One week after turning into the third quarterback in NFL historical past to hurry for 1,000 yards in a season, Fields rushed seven instances for 11 yards.

How can the Bears struggle offensive regression? The Bears had three takeaways (two interceptions and a fumble restoration) for the second straight week however scored three factors off turnovers. Chicago had two drives that started in Buffalo territory on the 38- and 18-yard strains, respectively, and settled for area objectives as a substitute of touchdowns. After placing collectively a gap drive that resulted in 74 yards and 4 first downs, the Bears had 12 straight drives during which they might not generate a number of first downs. Averaging 3.7 yards per play is not any recipe for successful video games. — Courtney Cronin

Subsequent recreation: at Lions (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

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Josh Allen rushes round defenders to increase the Payments’ lead within the fourth quarter.

Panthers

What to know: The system for the Panthers (6-9) to win the NFC South is easy: run. They reestablished their dominance up entrance after being restricted to 21 yards on the bottom in opposition to the Pittsburgh Steelers, speeding for franchise data of 321 yards, 240 within the first half. In addition they had a team-record 571 whole yards. They’ve received three of their previous 4, and in every they’ve 185 yards or extra speeding. This units up a showdown subsequent week at Tampa Bay (6-8) for management of the South. Win that one and the next week at New Orleans, and Carolina wins the division.

Can Carolina sustain the bottom dominance in opposition to Tampa Bay? Most likely. Carolina rushed for 173 yards in a 21-3 win in opposition to the Bucs earlier this season. Tampa Bay ranks solely seventeenth in opposition to the run and gave up 209 yards a number of weeks in the past in opposition to San Francisco. There’s actually no cause to suppose the Panthers cannot hold this up the final two video games. They’d 145 yards speeding in opposition to the Saints, who rank twenty third in opposition to the frenzy, earlier this yr. — David Newton

Subsequent recreation: at Bucs (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)


Lions

What to know: The Lions’ run protection was atrocious. Detroit entered as one of many hottest groups within the league, successful six of their previous seven video games, however could not modify to the Carolina speeding assault — permitting the Panthers to set a franchise document of 240 speeding yards within the first half and 320 total. Carolina additionally set a franchise document for many whole yards with 570. One silver lining was Shane Zylstra’s three receiving touchdowns, together with one late within the fourth quarter to slim the deficit to 34-20.

How necessary is a powerful end? The Lions laid an egg in opposition to the Panthers; there is no denying it. However on a constructive be aware, they’ve completed greater than many thought they might this season and have a 13% probability to achieve the postseason, in accordance with ESPN Analytics. However even when the Lions do not make the playoffs, they should be higher than they have been Saturday during the last two video games to construct on constructive momentum heading into the offseason. — Eric Woodyard

Subsequent recreation: vs. Bears (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

Chiefs

What to know: That is the form of recreation the Chiefs have not performed fairly often lately however have to repeat going ahead, notably within the playoffs in opposition to higher competitors. They did not commit a turnover for the primary time in 10 video games, did not miss any area objectives or PATs and dedicated few penalties aside from on a Seahawks area objective drive within the second quarter. The Chiefs had been serving to their opponents with their very own errors however cleaned up some key areas in opposition to Seattle.

Does Harrison Butker’s good day imply he is over his droop? Butker made all three of his PATs and his solely area objective try, but it surely’s untimely to say all is nice with the Chiefs’ kicking recreation. He will likely be requested to make kicks harder than three PATs and a 47-yard area objective. It is a begin, although, and may give him and the Chiefs some confidence going ahead. — Adam Teicher

Subsequent recreation: vs. Broncos (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

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Patrick Mahomes finds the nook and dives for the pylon to increase the Chiefs’ lead.


Seahawks

What to know: It has been all too evident in the course of the Seahawks’ latest slide how badly they should improve the entrance seven of their protection and the inside of their O-line. That was once more apparent as they suffered their fifth loss in six video games. The story wasn’t Patrick Mahomes lighting up their protection. It was how way more time he had within the pocket than Geno Smith. The Seahawks’ inept run protection tightened up, however their lone sack of Mahomes got here late within the third quarter they usually completed with three QB hits. On offense, they should get higher at guard and middle.

Are the Seahawks’ playoff hopes useless? They do not seem like a workforce able to making noise within the playoffs, however their hopes of sneaking in are very a lot alive. In keeping with ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index, their possibilities of incomes one of many NFC’s two wild-card berths dropped from 35% to 30% with this loss. They’re nonetheless on the Commanders’ and Giants’ heels and have two winnable video games remaining, at house in opposition to the Jets and Rams. They’d get a giant enhance if Tyler Lockett can return this week from his hand surgical procedure and if Ryan Neal can get again from his knee damage. Neal’s absence left the Seahawks right down to their third choices at sturdy security, making for a brutal matchup in opposition to Travis Kelce. That plus the climate — at 12 levels, it was the second-coldest recreation in Seahawks historical past — meant this was a recreation they would not have received even after they have been rolling at 6-3. — Brady Henderson

Subsequent recreation: vs. Jets (Sunday, Jan. 1, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Ravens

What to know: The Ravens are within the playoffs regardless of one other tough recreation for the Lamar Jackson-less offense. Baltimore secured a postseason berth for the fourth time in 5 years, however the offense continues to sputter with backup quarterback Tyler Huntley. Baltimore can run the ball with the perfect of them, however this offense cannot end its drives. The offensive gamers are visibly annoyed when strolling off the sector. The Ravens have been 1-of-4 contained in the 20-yard line in opposition to a Falcons protection that ranked twenty second within the pink zone, which is why this wasn’t a blowout. In three video games with out Jackson, Baltimore has managed two touchdowns.

When is Lamar Jackson returning? Jackson missed his third straight recreation due to a sprained knee after many thought he can be again for this contest. Ravens coach John Harbaugh hasn’t given any replace on Jackson after initially saying he was “week-to-week” earlier this month. This was anticipated to be a one- to three-week damage, which implies Jackson needs to be prepared quickly. It might present a lift for this slumping offense if he might return to the follow area for the primary time since getting harm on Dec. 4. If the Ravens are going to make a run within the postseason, they want Jackson wholesome and on the prime of his recreation. — Jamison Hensley

Subsequent recreation: vs. Steelers (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)


Falcons

What to know: The Falcons’ postseason hopes have been potential as a result of they play in a nasty division. However the actuality for Atlanta is that if the whole lot is not good, it is going to wrestle to win, and that is not a shock for a workforce within the midst of a rebuild. There are gamers to be ok with, notably cornerstones in defensive sort out Grady Jarrett, cornerback A.J. Terrell and offensive guard Chris Lindstrom, together with rookie broad receiver Drake London and working again Tyler Allgeier. However it is a workforce with a protracted solution to go for sustained success. This season has proven it.

The place did Desmond Ridder present enchancment? Begin No. 2 went higher for Ridder — though it was one other gradual starting, with a tough first two drives that included a fumbled snap and a nasty sack taken. As soon as the quarterback discovered the rhythm of the sport, there have been indicators of potential. He as soon as once more had a powerful reference to London — his most focused pass-catcher (9 targets, seven catches, 96 yards) — and whereas there have been some off-target throws, Ridder usually put his receiver in positions to make performs. Ridder additionally confirmed he might make throws all around the area and once more did not have operational points. There are numerous questions, however there was some tangible progress in a 22 of 33, 218-yard day with no touchdowns and no interceptions. — Michael Rothstein

Subsequent recreation: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)

Thursday

Jaguars

What to know: The Jaguars have snapped numerous streaks this season — most notably a 20-game shedding streak to NFC groups and an 18-game highway shedding streak — they usually added one other one to the record Thursday evening. This was the Jaguars’ first victory in a highway prime-time recreation within the common season since beating Pittsburgh in Three Rivers Stadium on Nov. 19, 2000. That it was an unpleasant win within the rain and wind is irrelevant. “You find a way to win, and that’s bottom line,” receiver Christian Kirk mentioned.

Are the Jaguars headed for the AFC South title? It positive appears that method. They’re tied with the Titans after successful their third recreation in a row. The Titans have misplaced 5 in a row and QB Ryan Tannehill is probably going out for the season, that means rookie Malik Willis takes over. Proper now, the Jaguars are taking part in the perfect soccer of any workforce within the division. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is taking part in at a excessive degree, and the protection has compelled eight turnovers previously three video games. If the Jaguars are a recreation behind or tied with the Titans heading into Week 18, the regular-season finale in opposition to the Titans in Jacksonville will determine the division. — Mike DiRocco

Subsequent recreation: at Texans (Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET)


Jets

What to know: Coach Robert Saleh delivered a powerful commentary on his religion in embattled QB Zach Wilson, changing him with former practice-squad participant Chris Streveler late within the third quarter — in a digital must-win recreation, no much less. Wilson was truly outplayed by Streveler in what may need been the unofficial finish to the Wilson period. As soon as once more, the Jets are staring into the quarterback abyss, solely two years faraway from utilizing the second total decide on Wilson. It is an organizational failure to the very best diploma.

What occurred to the Jets in December? They started the month at 7-4, seemingly a shoo-in for the playoffs. A four-game shedding streak — the longest in 32 video games below Saleh — has crushed their playoff hopes. The quarterback instability (from Wilson to Mike White to Wilson to Streveler) has taken an enormous toll. Looking back, their postseason goals have been shattered the second White’s ribs have been fractured in Week 14. — Wealthy Cimini

Subsequent recreation: at Seahawks (Sunday, Jan. 1, 4:05 p.m. ET)