By Anthony McClean, Editor-In-Chief Emeritus
We have one week left in the regular season for the Field Generals. For some, they’re fine-tuning their game for the postseason. Some are hoping to get a chance to join that postseason party. Some are trying to secure their addresses for 2021.
Others have already been asked not to go home, but at the very least please leave the building and then some. We’ll detail all of those scenarios while also trying to preview Sunday’s final chapter. Without further ado, let’s look back at Week 16.
Kyler Murray, Arizona (Loss vs. San Francisco)
After being 6-3 at one point, the Cards have lost four of six since then, including a lackluster showing on both sides of the ball in Week 16 against San Francisco. Not only did they lose to the Niners, the game ended with the health of No. 1 up in the air. Murray, fresh off a 406-yard passing performance against the Eagles, threw for only 247 against San Francisco in 50 attempts. The Cardinals needed a solid offensive performance to really put them in the driver’s seat in the NFC wild card hunt, but the loss to the 49ers now has them holding on for dear life. Simply put: If the Cardinals lose to the Rams, their season will be over. If the Bears and Cardinals win, the Rams (9-6) will be eliminated from postseason hopes. If the Bears lose to the Packers, the Rams get into the playoffs regardless of the outcome of Cards-Rams.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (Win vs. Atlanta)
Sunday’s win moved Kansas City to a franchise-record 14-1 on the season while officially locking up the top seed in the AFC playoffs, guaranteeing a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the postseason. As for Mahomes, he was 24-of-44 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns in the game. No. 15 also extended his touchdown streak to 25 consecutive games with a passing score, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. Only 13 players since 2000 have compiled such a stretch. Mahomes now has a league-leading 4,740 passing yards to go along with 38 touchdown passes on the year. He’s one of just four players in the Super Bowl Era to tally 4,700+ yards and 38+ scores through 15 games, joining Drew Brees (2x), Peyton Manning and Dan Marino. Remarkably, Mahomes has now accomplished that feat twice through three seasons as a starter.
Deshaun Watson, Houston (Loss vs. Cincinnati)
The Texans offense put up 31 points in this loss to Cincinnati. Unfortunately, this was the second time this year that the Texans scored 30+ points in a game this year and lost (Week 6 at Tennessee). For reference, the Texans lost just one regular season game when scoring 30+ points in a game (Philly 2018) over the past two seasons. As for No. 4, Watson threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, which gave him a career high and franchise record 30 touchdown passes in a season. In fact, Watson has averaged 346 yards per game and in the past two games had a rating of 120 or higher. That, among many other reasons, is why he was named a Pro Bowler for the third time despite the trying season for him and his teammates.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (Win vs. N.Y. Giants)
After slumping at the midseason mark, Baltimore’s offense is peaking at the right time following their win against the G-Men. The offense blew right through New York’s supposedly stout defense, totaling 249 rushing yards and 432 overall offensive yards. Over its last four games, Baltimore has averaged 233.3 yards rushing with J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Jackson leading a triple-threat rushing attack. On Sunday, L.J. was 17-of-26 for 183 yards in the air (2 TD’s) and 80 yards (13 carries) on the ground. No. 8 needs 92 yards rushing for his second straight 1,000-yard season. No NFL quarterback has ever rushed for 1,000 yards twice in his career, but Jackson may do it in back-to-back years. A win Sunday against Cincy would send the Ravens to the playoffs for a third straight year and ninth time in 13 seasons under Coach Harbaugh. However, if the Ravens lose, they can only qualify for the postseason if the Browns or Colts also lose Sunday (not counting tie scenarios).
Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina (Win at Washington)
In a season where all close games have seemingly gone against them, the football gods smiled on Carolina Sunday at D.C. The Panthers had lost eight of their previous nine, but this time they stitched together enough good moments to win a football game. Washington turned the ball over six times, including four in the first half alone. As for Bridgewater, he was 19-of-28 for 197 yards and a TD. Overall, the Carolina offense went 2-of-3 in the red zone against a Washington team that entered the game with the league’s second-best (51.4) defensive red zone percentage.
Dwayne Haskins Jr., Washington (Loss vs. Carolina)
In a week that D.C. could have clinched the NFC Least, anything and everything went wrong on and off the field. The off the field transgressions regarding No. 7 before the game have been well documented. In the game, Haskins was 14-of-28 for 154 yards, with two interceptions and a fumble, and was pulled for Taylor Heinicke in the fourth quarter. It all culminated in Haskins’ release on Monday and a predictable avalanche of harsh ridicule and criticism from the local and national media. It seemed like No. 7 was never really wanted by the last two coaching staffs. While he did nothing to help his cause by his recent actions, one feels that a change of scenery (and an injection of maturity) will eventually do wonders. Stay tuned.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (Loss at Dallas)
We spoke of growing pains when speaking of Mr. Haskins in D.C. in the previous post. We can also chalk that up for Mr. Hurts regarding Sunday’s loss at Dallas. He completed 21 of 39 passes for 342 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He added 69 rushing yards on nine attempts but lost a fumble in Dallas territory in the fourth quarter. The loss also eliminated Philly from the postseason. Overall, it was a sloppy game for the Eagles, who committed a total of 12 penalties, losing 115 yards.They gained seven first downs on the opening drive and then gained only nine in quarters two and three combined, when the momentum swung in the Cowboys’ favor.
Russell Wilson, Seattle (Win vs. L.A. Rams)
Sunday’s win against the Rams improved the Seahawks’ record to 11-4 and clinched their first NFC West title since 2016, and their fifth under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. For the second time in three weeks, the Seahawks kept an opponent out of the end zone, limiting the Rams to just three field goals, 335 total yards and a 4.5 yards-per-play average. By holding the Rams to nine points, the Seahawks have now held five straight opponents under 20 points, something they last accomplished to finish out the 2014 season. As for No. 3, he struggled in the first half. He rebounded and completed 10 of 13 passes in the second half for 141 yards and a touchdown, giving him a 137 passer rating for the half, while also running for a 4-yard score.
Cam Newton, New England (Loss vs. Buffalo)
The Patriots had no answers for a talented Buffalo team that scored on all four of their first possessions and never looked back, en route to a 38-9 win. Offensively, it was more of the same for the Patriots, who had some early success on the ground but ultimately could only muster nine total points, despite scoring their first touchdown in two games. No. 1 scored his 12th rushing touchdown of the season on a 9-yard run in the second quarter to tie Steve Grogan for the single-season franchise record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Newton is the only NFL quarterback with three seasons with double-digit rushing touchdowns in a season.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Philly’s Jalen Hurts passed for 342 yards and one touchdown and added 69 rushing yards on Sunday. Hurts, who passed for 338 yards and rushed for 63 yards in Week 15, joins Michael Vick (Weeks 4-5, 2011) as the only quarterbacks with at least 300 passing yards and 50 rushing yards in consecutive games in NFL history. Hurts, who had 106 rushing yards in Week 14 and 63 rushing yards in Week 15, joins Lamar Jackson (first five starts) as the only quarterbacks with at least 50 rushing yards in each of their first three career starts in the Super Bowl era.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.