NFL Football Column: Scott's NFL Shots
Week 16: AFC Clearer, NFC Not So Much
Unfortunately for Houston, the Vikings defense did an even better job of shutting down the Houston Texans entire offense.
In one of the real shockers of Week 16 in the National Football League, the Vikings kept their playoff hopes alive with a 26-6 shellacking of the now 12-3 Texans and they did it on the road in front of a hostile crowd at Reliant Stadium.
It would be pretty difficult to find anyone who, in their heart of hearts, thought the Vikings could win this week. Sure, there will be playas that took the Vikes and the 7.5 points, but none of them truly believed that Minnesota would win that game.
Thanks to a defense that stopped the Texans without a touchdown for the first time since 2006, Minnesota improved to 9-6 and with a win at home against Green Bay next Sunday can shock the world and reach the post-season.
And suddenly, after Sunday’s remarkable game in Houston, there are now fewer people who are convinced the Vikings can’t pull it off. More importantly, there are fewer people within the Vikings locker room who don’t believe.
"That was probably one of the best defensive efforts I've been around," Vikings Linebacker Chad Greenway told reporters in Houston after the game. "This type of opponent, on the road, to be able to play this way was pretty fun for us.”
While Adrian Peterson pursues Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,106 rushing yards in a single season, perhaps what’s even more amazing about these Vikings is that they have bounced back from a horrendous 3-13 season, to be 9-6 and a legitimate playoff threat. Granted, Peterson’s remarkable season has come on the heels of major knee surgery less than a year earlier, but this Vikings team appears to have had surgery at just about every level since last year’s debacle of a season.
"To have a turnaround from three and 13 to having a chance that we might go to the playoffs is phenomenal," Jared Allen said. "Obviously, you start thinking about some games that slipped away to where we could have a little better position. But I'm just happy the way we're playing football right now. This is the way football is supposed to be played.”
There is one week remaining to be played in the National Football League and in the NFC, there are still plenty of questions that have to be answered in the final week. Atlanta has wrapped up the NFC South and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Green Bay has wrapped up the NFC North title, but the NFC East and West are still up in the air.
San Francisco and Seattle are in the playoffs in the West, but the Niners are 10-4-1 while Seattle is 10-5 so the final outcome is yet to be decided.
In the East, Washington is 9-6 while the Cowboys and Giants are 8-7 and all three teams have a hope. The Giants have just a little less hope than Washington or Dallas.
It’s so much clearer in the AFC: The 11-4 New England Patriots have won the AFC East, 10-5 Baltimore has won the AFC North, 12-3 Houston has grabbed the AFC South and 12-3 Denver has the AFC West. Cincinnati and Indianapolis are the two Wild Card teams.
In the meantime, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson has set a record for receiving yardage in a single season, breaking the mark set by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, Andrew Luck broke Cam Newton’s record for rookie passing yards and Russell Wilson is on the verge of breaking Peyton Manning’s rookie touchdown passing record.
It’s been a record setting year and in the NFC, at least, there is still one more week of suspense.
This was Week 16 in the National Football League, only one week to go. Let’s take a closer look:
Atlanta 31 Detroit 18
The Falcons clinched home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but the big story was Calvin (Megatron) Johnson, who broke Jerry Rice’s all-time single season receiving record. Going in, Johnson needed 181 yards to tie Rice’s 1,848 yards in a single season. On Saturday night, Johnson caught 11 passes for 225 yards to shatter the record. Johnson now has 1,892 receiving yards this season and with 108 yards next week against Chicago can become the first player ever to reach 2,000 yards. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan led the Falcons by going 25-for-32 for 279 yards and four touchdowns as he hit Roddy White eight times for 153 yards and two TDs. Matt Stafford went 37-for-56 for 443 yards and no TDs for 4-11 Detroit. The Falcons are now 13-2.
Minnesota 23 Houston 6
The Houston defense held Adrian Peterson to just 86 rushing yards and no touchdowns. Trouble is, the Minnesota defense held Houston to no touchdowns for the first time since 2006. It was a brilliant Tour de Force for the Vikings defense who held Texans QB Matt Schaub to 18 completions on 32 attempts for just 178 yards and no touchdowns. Peterson, meanwhile, had his lowest rushing total since getting 79 yards on Oct. 14 in a loss to Washington He has 1,898 yards this season and needs 208 to break the NFL single-season rushing record held by Eric Dickerson and he has to do it next week against Green Bay. Minnesota QB Christian Ponder had a nice game – 16-for-30 for 174 yards and one touchdown pass. He also rushed seven times for 48 yards. It was his best games of the year at the end of the week he got married to ESPN reporter Samantha Steele. Too bad he wasn’t Mormon. He could get married every week.
Chicago 28 Arizona 13
Jay Cutler wasn’t great but he was good enough to win. The Bears quarterback completed 12-of-26 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown to Brandon Marshall. Matt Forte carried 12 times for 68 yards and a touchdown. The Bears improved to 9-6, tied with the Vikings for second in the NFC North. One of those two teams can make the playoffs next week with a win, but the Vikings play Green Bay while Chicago plays in Detroit. Ryan Lindley went 17-for-30 for 141 yards and no touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 111 yards.
Green Bay 55 Tennessee 7
The Packers are getting tuned up for the post-season. Aaron Rodgers completed 27-of-38 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns while James Jones caught seven passes for 100 yards and one of those touchdowns. Jake Locker was weak: 13-for-30 for 140 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Locker was sacked seven times. The victory guaranteed that the Packers would be at least the No. 3 seed in the NFC. The Titans are now 5-10.
New Orleans 34 Dallas 31 (OT)
Garrett Hartley kicked a 20-yard field goal in overtime to give New Orleans the win. The Saints led 31-17 in the fourth quarter but Dallas fought back as Tony Romo went 26-for-43 for 416 yards and four touchdowns and scored two touchdowns in the final 3:35 to tie it. The Saints’ Drew Brees went 37-for-53 for 446 yards and three TDs in a true battle of great quarterbacks. The 7-8 Saints were eliminated from the playoffs when Minnesota won while the 8-7 Cowboys still have a chance, although an extremely thin chance.
Cincinnati 13 Pittsburgh 10
Josh Brown kicked a 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to give Cincinnati the win and eliminate Pittsburgh from the playoffs. The Bengals grabbed one of the AFC’s Wild Card spots. For the second week in a row Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was picked off late in a game and the interception resulted in the winning field goal – for the other team. Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton completed 24-of-41 passes for 278 yards and two interceptions for the 9-6 Bengals, who snapped a five-game losing streak to Pittsburgh (7-8). Roethlisberger completed 14 of 28 passes for 220 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Baltimore 33 NY Giants 14
The Ravens claimed the AFC North title while the defending Super Bowl champion Giants were all but eliminated from the post-season. Joe Flacco had a great game, going 25-for-36 for 309 yards and two TDs. Bernard Pierce carried 14 times for 123 yards while Ray Rice carried 24 times for 107 yards. Eli Manning completed 14-of-28 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown. The 8-7 Giants are not out yet but they have no control over their own destiny. They must win next week and get some help.
Denver 34 Cleveland 12
Peyton Manning was brilliant again as Denver won its 10th straight. Manning was 30-for-43 for 339 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Demaryius Thomas caught nine passers for 102 yards and a touchdown as Denver grabbed a first-round bye. Poor Brandon Weeden went 12-for-19 for 104 yards and no touchdowns for 5-10 Cleveland. Pat Shurmur’s career as coach of the Browns is probably over at the end of the season.
New England 23 Jacksonville 16
The Pats Tom Brady got off to a slow start, but finished 24-for-41 for 267 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as New England improved to 11-4. 2-13 Wes Welker had 10 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Jacksonville set a franchise record for losses and insiders say that Tim Tebow will, in all probability be the starting quarterback there next season.
Indianapolis 20 Kansas City 13
Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck completed 17-of-35 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown and broke Cam Newton’s rookie record for passing yardage. Luck now has 4,051 passing yards this season and the 10-5 Colts have qualified for the playoffs. The Chiefs fell to 2-13. Reggie Wayne caught five passes for 81 yards and Luck’s TD pass.
San Diego 27 NY Jets 17
The Jets third-string quarterback, Greg McElroy started and was sacked 11 times. Yikes! McElroy finished 14-for-24 for 185 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Both teams are now 6-9 and both have been eliminated from the post-season. Philip Rivers finished the game 11-for-22 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdown passes went to Antonio Gates. It was the 82nd of his career, snapping a tie with Lance Alworth for the franchise lead.
Washington 27 Philadelphia 20
The ‘Skins Robert Griffin III completed 16-of-24 passes for 198 yards, two touchdowns and one interception as Washington improved to 9-6 and can clinch the NFC East with a win at home over Dallas next week. Washington hasn't won the division since 1999 and last reached the playoffs in 2007. Alfred Morris carried 22 times for 91 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles fell to 4-11 and Andy Reid probably coached his last game at home in Philadelphia.
St. Louis 28 Tampa Bay 13
Sam Bradford went 13-of-27 for 196 yards and two touchdowns but as soon as the Vikings won their ninth of the year, (7-7-1) St. Louis was eliminated from the post-season. Tampa’s Josh Freeman went 30-for-54 for 372 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Mike Williams caught seven passes for 132 yards and one TD while Vincent Jackson caught seven passes for 108 yards, but Tampa turned the ball over five times and were stopped on downs twice inside the Rams’ 10 as the Bucs (5-9) lost their fifth straight.
Carolina 17 Oakland 6
A meaningless game unless you’re playing fantasy with Cam Newton at quarterback. Newton threw for 171 yards and a touchdown and ran for 60 yards and another score, in a game that featured six unnecessary roughness penalties and a handful of skirmishes. The Panthers injured Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer and all Matt Leinert could do in relief was complete 16-of-32 for 115 yards, no TDs and an interception. The 6-9 Panthers have won four of their last five.
Miami 24 Buffalo 10
The Dolphins Reggie Bush was the star while Buffalo was just horrendous. Bush carried 19 times for 65 yards and caught four passes for 42 more. He caught two touchdown passes from Ryan Tannehill and ran in for another short touchdown. Tannehill finished 13-for-25 for 130 yards and two TDs. The Dolphins are now 7-8. C.J. Spiller carried 22 times for 5-10 Buffalo for 138 yards. Neither team is going to the playoffs. As soon as Cincinnati won, the Dolphins were eliminated.
Seattle 42 San Francisco 13
The Seattle Seahawks might just be playing the best football in the NFL right now. In the past three weeks, the Seahawks have scored 150 points as they clinched a playoff berth. Russell Wilson went 15-for-21 for 171 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He now has 25 TD passes this season, just one short of Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26. Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch carried 26 times for 111 yards and one touchdown and also caught a TD pass from Wilson. Meanwhile, Richard Sherman returned a blocked field goal, 90 yards for another touchdown. The Seahawks are now 10-5. For 10-4-1 San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick went 19-for-36 for 244 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
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