By Anthony McClean, Editor-In-Chief Emeritus
With the final week of the regular season upon us, the NFL playoff party is coming into shape. Needless to say, several of the Field Generals have grabbed seats to the ball while a few more are hoping to get their invites as well.
In the AFC, the defending conference champs from K.C. overcame their early-season slump to repeat as Western Division champs. Despite losing last week’s shootout with the Bengals, the Chiefs still have an outside chance to get the top seed in the conference.
In the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys clinched the East during their destruction of Washington two weeks ago. Joining them in the playoff picture is division foe Philadelphia along with Arizona, who handed the Boys a big loss last week (more on that below).
We will not list all of the remaining playoff scenarios because, by the time we get through, we’ll be preparing to look back at Week One of the 2022 season. We’ll just take a look back at Week 17 in which all games were played on Sunday
LAST WEEK: 4-4 (77-73 overall)
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (Won at Washington)
The talented Mr. Hurts ran six times for 45 yards and narrowly escaped a railing collapse walking to the tunnel (see below) after the Eagles held on to win at D.C. They’ve won seven of nine since starting 2-5 and clinched an NFC wild-card spot hours later when Minnesota lost to Green Bay. Hurts was 17 of 26 passing for 214 yards in leading the Eagles to a fourth consecutive victory. Philadelphia (9-7) started slowly yet again, and its league-leading rushing attack was held to a season-low 3.4 yards per carry with Sanders out because of a broken left hand. Twelve days after racking up 238 yards on the ground against Washington (6-10), the Eagles had 119 yards rushing.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (Loss at Cincinnati)
This time, the Chiefs fell short in a shootout on the road. Kansas City (11-5) had its eight-game winning streak snapped and fell out of the top seed in the AFC, ceding that spot to Tennessee. The Chiefs led 14-0, 21-7, and 28-14 in the first half. They were ahead 28-17 at halftime before the Bengals began the latest of several second-half surges this season. Mahomes was 26 for 35 for 259 yards and threw touchdown passes to Demarcus Robinson and tight end Travis Kelce, who caught a pass in his 125th straight game. Kansas City can still secure the AFC’s top seed with a victory at Denver and a loss by Tennessee, which plays at Houston next Sunday.
Kyler Murray, Arizona (Win at Dallas)
In a game that Arizona needed to win, Murray threw two touchdown passes to Antoine Wesley and the Cardinals held on to beat Dallas in a matchup of playoff-bound teams. Murray also improved to 8-0 as a starter at the home of the Cowboys. Most of those victories were as a Texas high school playoff star in the Dallas area, but the past two have been as a pro after last season’s 38-10 rout. The teams go into the final weekend as the fourth and fifth seeds in the playoffs, which would mean a first-round meeting — once again at AT&T Stadium since Dallas won its division.
Dak Prescott, Dallas (Loss vs. Arizona)
As for No. 4, Prescott finished 24 of 38 for 226 yards with a lost fumble when the Cowboys were down eight early in the fourth quarter. The fumble set up a short drive to the last of Matt Prater’s four field goals for a 25-14 lead. The Cardinals shut down the struggling Dallas running game, holding Zeke Elliott to 16 yards on nine carries. Prescott was the leading Dallas rusher with 20 yards. Dallas had four holding penalties, two of which wiped out third-down conversion runs. Both of those possessions ended in punts. The Cowboys committed 10 penalties for 88 yards, their fourth game with at least 10 this season.
Trey Lance, San Francisco (Win vs. Houston)
Making his second career start, Lance threw a pair of touchdowns in the second half of his second career start, and the 49ers closed in on the playoffs with a victory over the Texans. The rookie got the nod for the 49ers (9-7) for the first time since Week 5 with Jimmy Garaoppolo sidelined by a thumb injury and overcame an interception in the first half to lead San Francisco to the win. Lance led the Niners to five scores on their final seven drives, starting late in the first half when he completed three passes for 56 yards in the final 38 seconds to set up Robbie Gould’s 37-yard field goal on the final play of the half. He went 16 for 23 for 249 yards. The Niners can clinch their second postseason appearance in five seasons under Kyle Shanahan with a win against the Rams or a loss by New Orleans.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami (Loss at Tennessee)
Well, it was good while it lasted. Miami came in as the first team in NFL history to win seven straight after a seven-game skid. That surge helped push the Dolphins into the third and final wild-card spot in the AFC, but the loss ended their playoff hopes. The Titans also sacked Tagovailoa four times — a season-high for the Dolphins quarterback. Miami came in leading the NFL with 45 sacks, four shy of the franchise record last set in 2005. Tagovailoa was 18 of 38 for 205 yards, the kind of performance that won’t quiet the doubters about whether he’s the quarterback to lead Miami to the playoffs.
Russell Wilson, Seattle (Win vs. Detroit)
If this was No. 3 last home game, he went out with a bang. Wilson finished 20 of 29 for 236 yards, while DK Metcalf had a career-high three touchdown catches. Metcalf has 12 TD catches this season, also a career-best. It was the fifth 50-point game in franchise history and the first since 2012 when Seattle beat Buffalo 50-17 in a game played in Toronto. Seattle (6-10) closed out its home schedule with its most impressive offensive showing of the season, raising questions about where those fireworks have been for most of an underachieving year.
Tyler Hundley, Baltimore (Loss vs. L.A. Rams)
At one point this season, Baltimore was 8-3 and the top seed in the AFC. The Ravens (8-8) have since lost five straight, their longest skid since a nine-game run in 2007 under Brian Billick paved the way for current coach John Harbaugh to take over in 2008. As for Hundley, he went 20 of 32 for 197 yards in his third NFL start. He missed last week while on the COVID-19 reserve list. The loss ousted Baltimore from the AFC North title hunt. The Ravens were not officially eliminated from the playoff chase, but to get in as a wild card they’ll need a win Sunday and a whole lot of help.
STAT OF THE WEEK
In Seattle’s win against Detroit, Russell Wilson tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (112 wins) for the most wins, including the postseason, by a quarterback in his first 10 seasons in league annals. He also has 17 career games with at least four touchdown passes, tied with Manning and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the most such games by a player in his first 10 seasons in NFL history.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.