As the 2014 regular season faces just one week left of play, it’s do or die time for teams fighting to play in January. Week 16 brought an abundance of celebrations and heartbreak, as a number of teams clinched spots in the NFL postseason, while others saw their playoff dreams crushed before their very eyes.
The weekend kicked off with the Tennessee Titans taking a trip down to Florida to play the Jacksonville Jaguars, a battle of two 2-12 teams. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was out-thrown by Tennessee’s Charlie Whitehurst, but still led his squad to a 21-14 victory. The San Diego Chargers kept their playoff hopes alive after a relentless comeback capped off with a late fourth quarter Nick Novak game winning field goal against the San Francisco 49ers. The Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings combined for 41 points in the fourth quarter of play alone and the Phins capped off a great team win with a game ending blocked punt safety. The Houston Texans are still alive entering Week 17 with their big 25-13 win against a Baltimore Ravens team who may have just seen their playoff hopes expire. The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their under-the-radar, yet extremely successful season by clinching a playoff berth against a talented Kansas City Chiefs team. The New England Patriots avoided a late scare from Geno Smith and the New York Jets and won the AFC East battle 17-16 en route to clinching the number one seed for AFC playoffs. The Cinderella Story of the Buffalo Bills just ended, as the lowly Oakland Raiders ended Kyle Orton and the Bills season with a 26-24 upset victory. In a Monday Night showdown, rookie Jeremy Hill torched the Denver Broncos with 147 rushing yards as the Cincinnati Bengals clinched their fourth straight playoff berth with a big victory.
Meanwhile in the NFC, a Washington Redskins team in shambles somehow found a way to defeat their division rival Philadelphia Eagles and virtually eliminate them from postseason contention. Although the New York Giants and Saint Louis Rams had nothing to play for, G-Men rookie Odell Beckham Jr. put together yet another jaw dropping performance with 148 yards and two touchdowns in a 10-point New York win. The Jimmy Clausen-era in the Windy City was short lived, but relatively successful by the 2014 Bears terms. Jay Cutler’s quarterback replacement threw for two touchdowns and kept the game with the division leading Detroit Lions close despite a loss. One star quarterback entered the game as another left it as Cam Newton returned to the field to lead the Carolina Panthers to victory against a Cleveland Browns team that saw rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel get sidelined with an injury early in the game. Even though both teams were well-below .500, the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints we’re duking it out for a shot at the NFC South division crown last Sunday. Despite Drew Brees storied reputation, Matt Ryan performed best when it mattered the most as he led Atlanta to a 30-14 win. Aaron Rodgers silenced critics who said he couldn’t play well on the road with a 318 passing yards and a touchdown in a Green Bay Packers blowout win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while looking to keep his name in the MVP discussion. The Dallas Cowboys proved that they may be the team to beat this postseason as they clinched the NFC East and smoked the Indianapolis Colts by a count of 42-7. In a battle of the bird, the Seattle Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch went “beast mode” in a dominating 35-6 win against the Arizona Cardinals and their third string quarterback Ryan Lindley.
Gear up for the 2014 NFL playoffs and a thrilling postseason because the competition between the remaining contenders after next week’s match-ups will be nothing short of intense. Don’t forget to invest in the future power players in the NFL and upcoming football stars by shopping Fanatics Authentic’s selection of unique NFL memorabilia with autographs from all of the league’s biggest names.