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The NFL playoffs are taking shape as we now know all but a handful of the postseason teams. The list starts with the Packers and Patriots, who are en route to securing the top seeds in the NFC and AFC.
49ers defense allows first 100-yard rusher and first rushing touchdown, but is still good enough to keep it close enough for a come-from-behind win.
The Detroit Lions are playoff bound after clinching a wildcard spot with a win over the San Diego Chargers on Saturday evening. The Lions found themselves in the driver's seat with two games to go in the regular season, needing just one win to lock up a playoff spot. And they found it in convincing fashion, jumping out to a 24-0 lead over the Chargers and breezing to a 38-10 finish.
The Chargers were also eliminated from playoff contention, leaving the AFC West race to the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders. Earlier in the day, the Kansas City Chiefs were eliminated with a loss to the Raiders.
The Seattle Seahawks are also out of the playoff picture after falling to the San Francisco 49ers, 19-17. The Seahawks needed to win out and get some help to make the playoffs, but it's all moot now. The Niners remained in the driver's seat for the No. 2 seed in the NFC heading into the final week, as well.
In the other late game, the Dallas Cowboys' result was rendered meaningless earlier in the day, with the NFC East coming down to Week 17 battle with the New York Giants. The Cowboys were run off the field in a 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday, but it matters not.
Tony Romo was sidelined with a hand injury and the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Philadelphia Eagles, 20-7.
The San Francisco 49ers have been amongst the most stout rushing defenses in NFL history this season, heading into their Week 16 encounter with the Seattle Seahawks having not allowed a rushing touchdown all year. Marshawn Lynch headed into the game having scored in 10 straight games. Maybe it should be no surprise that "Beast Mode" won the battle.
Following a blocked punt by the Seahawks that set them up at the 4-yard line, Lynch took the ball on the first play, went around the left end and fought his way into the end zone. It was the first rushing touchdown the 49ers had allowed all year and gave Lynch a franchise-record 11th straight game with a touchdown.
Lynch was already having a pretty solid game up until that point. The Seahawks running back has racked up 98 yards rushing in the game and has now scored a rushing touchdown in four straight games and rushed for at least one touchdown in 10 of 11 games. He has scored 13 touchdowns during his touchdown streak.
The Detroit Lions will be in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, thanks to a resounding 38-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Week 16.
With his third field goal of the game, David Akers set the NFL single-season mark for successful attempts in a season. The 44-yarder was his 41st of the season. Earlier in the game, he had hit field goals from 53 and 29 yards, respectively. That comes on the heels of his setting the San Francisco 49ers franchise record for points in a season, surpassing Jerry Rice's record.
Among Akers' field goals are 12 of at least 40 yards or longer. His first field goal of the game was his seventh of 50 or more yards.
Of course, Akers has only been able to kick so many field goals because the 49ers offense has not been very good inside the red zone. They are among the worst teams in converting their chances into touchdowns, which has led to some serious frustration on the part of head coach Jim Harbaugh. That frustration was once again on display after Akers' record-setting kick, in which Harbaugh appeared to be looking for a leverage penalty against the Seattle Seahawks.
The NFL playoff picture came slightly more into focus, but not much after Saturday's early games. The Arizona Cardinals were the only team to be eliminated and the New England Patriots were the only team to clinch their division. Here's a complete look at how the picture now looks:
Raiders 16, Chiefs 13: Oakland improved to 8-7 and remains alive in the playoff hunt. In fact, they can still win the AFC West if they beat the San Diego Chargers next week. Kansas City was officially eliminated from the playoff race.
Patriots 27, Dolphins 24: New England recovered from a slow start to clinch the AFC East and improve to 12-3. They will clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they win their final game against the Buffalo Bills.
Bengals 23, Cardinals 16: Cincinnati kept their playoff hopes alive, while Arizona's died. The Bengals are now 9-6 and can clinch a playoff spot by beating the Baltimore Ravens in their final game and could qualify even if they lose.
Bills 40, Broncos 14: Denver's once seeming lock on the playoffs is suddenly much more tenuous after losing to Buffalo, a team that had already been eliminated from playoff contention. The Broncos (8-7) play the Kansas City Chiefs in their final game and can still win the division or miss the playoffs.
Steelers 27, Rams 0: Pittsburgh remained in contention to win the AFC Central and have clinched a playoff spot. The Steelers (11-4) could win the division and earn a first-round bye if they beat the Cleveland Browns next week.
Giants 29, Jets 14: The Giants (8-7) put themselves in position to win the NFC East with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the season's final week. The Jets (8-7) were dealt a blow and will now need to win over the Dolphins as well as a little bit of help in order to qualify for the playoffs.
Ravens 20, Browns 14: Baltimore kept its hopes for an AFC Central title and a first-round bye alive with the victory. The Ravens (11-4) can clinch both of those things with a win in their final game over the Bengals.
Playing concurrently with the Detroit Lions, who can clinch the final playoff spot in the NFC, the 7-7 Seattle Seahawks can only play their hardest and win against the San Francisco 49ers to make sure they don't seal their own fate, and they're doing just that. With a touchdown pass from Tarvaris Jackson to Doug Baldwin, and absolutely stifling defense, the Seahawks are leading their divisional rivals 10-3 at the break.
Though they came up just inches short of scoring the first rushing touchdown of the year against the 49ers, the Seahawks have held Alex Smith to only 43 passing yards in the first half. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have gotten 83 yards on just 14 carries from Marshawn Lynch, who has scored a touchdown in 10 straight games, though none yet.
With the final three Christmas Eve games underway -- all at the half or later -- it's time for a quick check of the playoff scenarios. Two in-progress games hold significant implications as teams fight for their lives. Here's a look at the current scores and scenarios.
At the half, the Seattle Seahawks lead the San Francisco 49ers, 10-3. The Seahawks need to win both their Week 16 and 17 matchups to even have a chance at the playoffs, but need lots of help. The 49ers are still in the race for a first-round bye, but also need to beat the Seahawks to remain in the hunt. San Francisco has already locked up its spot in the playoff by clinching the NFC West.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions lead the San Diego Chargers early in the second half, 24-7. The Chargers need a win to stay alive in the AFC West race, even if their chances remain long. The Seahawks also need the Lions to lose out to make the playoffs -- Detroit currently holds the second wildcard spot.
Early in the third quarter, the Eagles lead the Cowboys, 14-0. The Cowboys are without Tony Romo, but are playing in what's essentially a meaningless game. Dallas' Week 17 matchup with the New York Giants looms large, with the Cowboys needing a win to get in no matter what happens in its matchup on Saturday with the Eagles.
When the New York Giants beat the New York Jets earlier in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, the Philadelphia Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs. The lone, farfetched scenarious that would have allowed the 6-8 Eagles to sneak into the playoffs involved the Jets beating their crosstown rivals, which they failed (miserably) to do.
That hasn't seemed to faze the Eagles, however, who have dominated the Cowboys from the opening bell, including injuring quarterback Tony Romo and knocking him out for the game with an injury to his throwing hand. The Eagles are leading 14-0 thanks to two touchdown passes from Michael Vick; one to Brent Celek, another to Jeremy Maclin. Though it's admirable, it's got to be frustrating for Eagles fans who are wondering where this team has been all season long.
The Cowboys are playing it safe. Regardless of the outcome of this game, the winner of their Week 17 contest against the Giants will win the NFC East and make the playoffs as the NFC's fourth seed. It doesn't matter if Tony Romo is able to return today, as long as he can return on New Year's Day.
With a win, the Detroit Lions can clinch their first playoff berth since 1999, and they're playing like they have everything on the line, exactly how they should. The San Diego Chargers need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive as the Oakland Raiders, their Week 17 opponent clinched an overtime victory against the Kansas City Chiefs earlier on Christmas Eve.
After the first half, the Lions are eviscerating the Chargers in every aspect, winning 24-0 on the heels on a phenomenal first half from quarterback Matthew Stafford. He's leaned on his two most productive receivers, Calvin Johnson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, to throw for 260 yards and three touchdowns already. Here's video of his third touchdown, a pretty back shoulder pass to Megatron:
The Chargers have just 17 rushing yards from their backfield, a number that has to increase if they want to come back and keep their playoff hopes alive.
The updates coming in about Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's right hand, which got bashed into the helmet of Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin, report that X-rays are negative, meaning it's not broken.
Still, as this screencap shows, that hand is rather swollen and, frankly, pretty gross.
Look at that thing, especially over the pinky. His hand looks like a white version of what I imagine Eddy Curry's hands look like after a week that Golden Corral had members-only specials. I'm not familiar with the complexion of Romo's hand when it's not injured, but there are some red dots in there, which could indicate broken blood vessels, or just really weird freckles.
UPDATE: According to ESPN's John Clayton, Romo's day is done, and he'll rest up for the big game against the Giants next week.
For more updates on Romo's injury status and how it affects his team, visit Cowboys blog Blogging The Boys.
Titans keep their playoff hopes alive with a 23-16 win over the Jaguars.
The New York Giants beat their Big Apple counterparts, the New York Jets, by a score of 29-14. Ahmad Bradshaw and Victor Cruz led the way for the Giants offense.
The New York Giants just sealed their victory over the New York Jets, so no matter what happens between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys will play the Giants in Week 17 in a winner-take-all game for the NFC East. However, early in the first quarter, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo went to the locker room with a right hand injury:
He throws with his right hand, so chances are, regardless of the severity of Romo's injury, we won't see him return in this game. which has been rendered meaningless. Unless he can play 100 percent healthy, head coach Jason Garrett will likely elect to rest him.
The Eagles, now officially eliminated from playoff contention, have a 7-0 lead in this game thanks to a hookup of MIchael Vick and Brent Celek for a touchdown.
The Baltimore Ravens moved to 11-4 on the season with a 20-14 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 16. Ray Rice led the way with more than 130 total yards and a touchdown.
Tim Tebow is picked off four times and the Bills score two defensive touchdowns in a 40-14 win over the Broncos.
Tom Brady worked some second-half magic as the Patriots came back to beat the Dolphins.
The Raiders survive and keep playoff hopes alive with their ugly win over the Chiefs on Saturday.
Cardinals eliminated from playoff contention, while the Bengals remain alive after Cincinnati's 23-16 victory.
In a game with major playoff implications for both teams, the Detroit Lions' Dominic Raiola and San Diego Chargers' Antwan Barnes got tangled up in a fight before the game even began, when Barnes was just trying to come out of the tunnel:
It's impossible to say what precipitated the fight — clearly something happened to which we as spectators were not privy — but emotions are clearly running high for this game that means so much to both teams. With a win, the Lions clinch their first postseason birth since 1999. After the Oakland Raiders' victory and the Denver Broncos' loss in the early games, the Chargers are still very much in the mix for the AFC West division title.
The Steelers cruise to victory behind a steady Charlie Batch and Rashard Mendenhall.
Rookie quarterback Cam Newton had a career day against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Newton's four total touchdowns helped bury the Bucs by a final score of 48-16.
Down 13-6, the Chiefs' inept offense suddenly came to life, driving 80-yards in five plays. Dexter McCluster's 49-yard run brought them down to the Raiders' three-yard-line and the drive culminated in a Dwayne Bowe touchdown run to tie things up.
A quick Raider three-and-out then gave way to one last chance for the Chiefs in regulation. They attempted a 49-yard field goal for the win, which was blocked, sending the game into overtime.
It's been a game marred by turnovers (four INTs) and penalties (26 for 180 yards) but both squads decided to make it interesting late in the game. Better late than never.
The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to rest Ben Rothliesberger on Saturday and give Charlie Batch the chance to lead them against the lowly St. Louis Rams. It was a smart strategy as Batch put together a solid performance in Pittsburgh's 27-0 victory.
Batch finished the game 15-of-22 for 208 yards and an interception. The turnover was early on and Batch settled in for a consistent day and the most yards he's throw in years. He also showed some elusiveness that the Steelers appreciated in lieu of a gimpy Big Ben.
In his first game as a pro, John Clay scored a touchdown on his first and only carry. Clay had been activated from the practice squad earlier in the week.
Kellen Clemens went 9-for-24 for 91 yards in the losing effort. Stephen Jackson rushed for 103 yards on 24 carries.
He breaks the previous record held by Barry Foster, who set it during the Steelers' 1992 season (2,034).
On the year, Brown has 63 receptions for 1,018 yards as well as 669 yards on kick returns and 320 yards on punt returns.
Brown is in his second season in the NFL out of Central Michigan where he was a two-time All-American punt returner and two-time MAC special teams player of the year. On December 4th, Brown returned his first punt return for a touchdown against the Bengals, and was also named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Brown had 16 receptions for 167 yards in his rookie season last year and has two career TD receptions.
Tim Tebow always seems to have another surprise up his sleeve, but you can forget about a Christmas Even miracle. The Denver Broncos quarterback was just intercepted on back-to-back passes, with both being returned for touchdowns by the Buffalo Bills.
The first one was returned 37 yards by Jairus Byrd. The ball was pretty badly under thrown and Byrd was able to work his way down the sideline for a touchdown.
If there was any hope for a comeback at that point, it quickly went away. On the very next play from scrimmage, Tebow was hit in the back while throwing and the ball ended up in the arms of Spencer Johnson. It probably could have been ruled a fumble, but it is being called an interception right now. That also makes for a slightly cleaner narrative.
Despite some highlights, this has been a largely forgettable day for Tebow. He had entered the game without a road interception this season and has now throw three. He has thrown a touchdown and run one in, though, for whatever that's worth. Right now, it's not worth much.
The New York Giants took a 17-7 lead over the New York Giants after an Ahmad Bradshaw rushing touchdown late in the third quarter. Bradshaw ran it into the end zone from 14 yards out, but the score was just a nice addition to a run marked by Bradshaw pounding through a Jets defender.
After breaking through a mass of bodies at the line of scrimmage, Bradshaw found himself one-on-one with Jets safety Brodney Pool. Like any good running back should, he lowered his shoulder and trucked Pool. It was all daylight from there to the goal line, something Bradshaw underscored by sticking the ball out into the air as he finished off the run.
The Giants added a field goal in the fourth quarter to give them a 20-7 lead over the Jets and keep their playoff hopes alive as the regular season draws to a close.
For more on the Giants, check out Big Blue View.
The New England Patriots spent the first half of their game Saturday against the Miami Dolphins on the losing end. In what always seemed inevitable, Tom Brady has brought the Pats roaring back and tied the game up 17-17 as the third quarter comes to a close.
Down 17-3, Brady completed a seven play, 28-yard drive with a 1-yard dink to Deion Branch to bring New England within a touchdown. Five minutes later, he capped a seven-play, 41-yars drive with a 1-yard touchdown run of his own. And just like that, the Pats are back in it.
Brady is recovering from a slow start and has 210 yards and 1 passing TD on 21-of-37 attempts to go with his rushing TD. Wes Welker is the main recipient of his passes with eight grabs for 59 yards. Rob Gronkowski has added five catches for 63 yards and Branch has 3 receptions for 37 yards.
Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson came into Saturday's game against the Arizona Cardinals needing 41 yards to cross the 1,000 barrier for the third consecutive season. He did exactly that in the third quarter.
Benson has 41 yards on 13 carries on the day so far.
He ran for a career-best 1,251 yards two years ago and 1,111 yards last season. Benson is in his seventh NFL season and fourth with the Bengals. That he's done it again with Brian Leonard a big part of the rushing attack is impressive.
On his career, Benson has 5,702 yards on 1,514 carries.
Less than four minutes after the Minnesota Vikings took the lead, the Washington Redskins answered with a Jabar Gaffney touchdown to retake edge on the scoreboard. Quarterback Rex Grossman hit Gaffney on a four-yard pass for the score. That capped off a seven-play, 43-yard drive that got a big boost from a 43-yard kick return from Brandon Banks.
Gaffney leads Washington with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Washington took a 20-17 lead on that play, but Minnesota would answer with a touchdown on their next possession.
Vikings’ backup quarterback Joe Webb found tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 17-yard touchdown pass. That finished off a six-play, 73-yard drive, giving the Vikings a 23-20 lead over Washington in the third quarter.
This has been a particularly costly game for the Vikings. They lost running back Adrian Peterson to a leg injury and quarterback Christian Ponder to a concussion on the same series in the third quarter.
A promising rookie season may have come to an abrupt end for Patrick Peterson. The Arizona Cardinals cornerback has left Saturday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals with an apparent left Achilles injury. Making the injury all the worse is that fact that he happened on a play that was nullified by a penalty.
#Cardinals rookie CB Patrick Peterson leaves game with injured left Achilles. Got hurt on INT that was wiped out by penalty.— Joe Kay (@apjoekay) December 24, 2011
Peterson had played in every game this year up to this point. Heading into this week, he had made 59 tackles and intercepted two passes. He appeared to have picked off his third pass of the season, but he pulled up lame during the return. Moments later, he realized that it wouldn't even count.
A.J. Jefferson entered the game immediately. The second-year player has made seven starts this year and played in every game.
On the Minnesota Vikings’ first possession after losing running back Adrian Peterson to a nasty leg injury, Toby Gerhart did his best to temporarily put fans at ease. Gerhart broke off a 67-yard run, bolting from the Vikings’ 25-yard line all the way down to Washington’s eight-yard line. That set up a Minnesota touchdown two plays later.
Quarterback Joe Webb picked up the nine-yard touchdown two plays after Gerhart’s run. That gave the Vikings a 17-13 lead, a lead which evaporated on Washington’s next possession.
With Adrian Peterson hurt, Gerhart takes over at the Vikings’ primary running back.
It’s been a particularly rough third quarter for Minnesota. After losing Adrian Peterson, they lost quarterback Christian Ponder on the very next play. The rookie quarterback suffered a concussion when he was sacked by Adam Carriker and London Fletcher.
Like a precious flower emerging from a field of manure, the Oakland Raiders have produced something worthwhile from their penalty-fest with the Kansas City Chiefs. Carson Palmer hit Denarius Moore for a 61-yard touchdown to make it 10-3 Raiders in the third quarter.
The Raiders offense was having a no-good, very-bad day up until now. Palmer's stats now look semi-respectable at 13-of-19 for 175 yards, TD and 2 INTs. Moore leads the team with 4 receptions for 94 yards and the score. Moore now has 26 catches for 423 yards and 4 TDs on the year.
Palmer had spread the wealth around, hitting seven different receivers for receptions so far.
Meanwhile the Raiders and Cheifs continue to rack up the penalties. The two have combined for 23 as they march towards the NFL record of 37.
The Vikings have lost Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson to injury in Week 16.
Love or hate Tim Tebow, we can all probably agree that he's pretty compelling at this point. Just when we were ready to say maybe today isn't his day, the Denver Broncos quarterback tosses a 17-yard touchdown pass to bring his team to within a field goal of the Buffalo Bills.
The touchdown was Tebow's second of the day -- he rushed for one earlier -- and he now has 18 combined rushing and passing touchdowns this season. Tebow is actually having an OK day passing, as he has now completed 6 of 8 passes for 83 yards. They aren't the kind of numbers that jump off the page, but he continues to do enough to keep the Broncos in games and giving himself a chance to perform even more late-game heroics.
Adrian Peterson's 2011, already marred by an ankle injury, has likely been ended in Week 16 by a gruesome knee injury.
The New York Giants lead their fellow MetLife Stadium tenants, the New York Jets, by a score of a 10-7 at halftime. Both teams are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive with just one game left in the regular season after this one. If the second half of the game is anything like the first, it may come down to the final ticks of the clock.
Jets kicker Nick Folk missed a 44-yard field goal with two seconds left in the second quarter. That kick would have sent both teams into the locker room with a 10-10 tie.
The Jets scored first on a Mark Sanchez 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josh Baker. Sanchez has accounted for 145 of the Jets’ 185 total yards. They have a big advantage in time of possession with almost nine minutes more than the Giants.
The Giants got the lead on a 99-yard touchdown by Victor Cruz in the second quarter. Eli Manning hit his receiver on a short third down pass from the Jets’ one-yard line on that play.
Defensively, both teams have shut down the running game. Giants second-year defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul recorded his 14th sack of the season.
Bowe has two catches for 24 yards in the first half, which ended with the teams tied 3-3. With 986 yards heading into the game, he has exactly 1,000 going into the second half.
Bowe previously crossed the 1,000 mark twice, in 2008 and 2010. He finished with a career-best 1,162 yards in 2010.
In the last three games against Oakland, Bowe has been kept under wraps by the Raider defense. His numbers in those games amounted to just 16 catches for 207 yards and one TD, an average of 5.3 catches and 69 yards per game. So far, he hasn't broken out, but the Chiefs will look to him to spark some offense in the second half.
There have been eighteen penalties on the day so far, with the Raiders committing a whopping ten for 57 yards and the Chiefs committing eight for 53 yards. In case you're wondering, the record for most combined penalties in a game is 37, so we're right on pace.
Raiders' QB Carson Palmer has had a dreadful day. He's 9-of-15 for 93 yards but he's also got two backbreaking interceptions and almost had a third pick. That was called back on a KC penalty, of course.
Kyle Orton's day isn't much better. He's 9-of-18 for 77 yards and an interception of his own. Most of that progress has been undone by sloppy play otherwise.
The half ended with a blocked Kansas City field goal. Rather apropos.
The Chiefs lead the yardage battle 141 to 116 and lead the first down battle 10 to 7. That's about the only victories on the day so far for either team, until you realize that the two teams have combined for more penalties than first downs.
Down 3-7 and facing third-and-10 from the New York Jets’ one-yard line, the New York Giants needed to make something happen. Quarterback Eli Manning connected with Victor Cruz on a short pass to the right side of the field. Cruz caught the ball, danced around two defenders, leaped over the outstretched arms of a third and raced down the sidelines for a 99-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 10-7 lead.
That play gave Cruz 128 receiving yards on just two catches. This is the second time in his last four game that Cruz has topped 100 receiving yards.
Prior to this game, he led the Giants with 1,194 receiving yards on 73 catches with seven touchdowns. Not bad for a player who saw action just three times last season as a rookie. Cruz was signed in 2010 as an undrafted free agent.
For more on the Giants, check out Big Blue View.
You've seen guys like Henry Ellard do flips to celebrate touchdowns. You've even seen guys flip into the endzone. Maybe you've even seen them do it to avoid a tackle. But, man, this has to be one of the first times you've seen a guy flip over a tackler to score a touchdown AND land on his feet. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson did just that against the Arizona Cardinals.
Now, if this were the Olympics Simpson would probably get a couple points deducted for putting his hand down. But seriously, check this stuff out. Pretty amazing.
Here's the video, which is just as amazing:
Finally, the reaction to the touchdown is incredible.
Ray Rice scored a 42-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the Baltimore Ravens’ game against the Cleveland Browns. That gave Baltimore a 17-0 lead, putting the struggling Browns’ offense in an even deeper hole.
Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco hit Rice in the flat on his way down the field. With the ball in his hand, Rice shifted into high gear, burning the Browns secondary for the touchdown.
Rice has three receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. He has also carried the ball nine times for 49 yards in this game.
If we didn't have nearly a full season of evidence to suggest otherwise, you'd be excused for thinking maybe today is not Tim Tebow's day. Leodis McKelvin just returned a punt 80 yards, with his tight-rope act along the sideline standing up against review, to give the Buffalo Bills a 10-7 lead over the Denver Broncos on Saturday. It was the first punt return for a touchdown the Bills have scored since 2009 when now injured Roscoe Parrish did the deed.
Just to pound home the "maybe this isn't Tebow's day" angle, Eddie Royal appeared to return the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but the play was called back for an illegal block. Since leading the Broncos to an touchdown on their first possession, Tebow has failed to pick up a first down on any of the Broncos' next five possessions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers activated RB John Clay from their practice squad this week after veteran Mewelde Moore sustained a knee injury Monday against the San Francisco 49ers. That move is paying immediate dividends as Clay just took his first NFL carry ten yards into the endzone for his first NFL touchdown.
The Steelers now lead the St. Louis Rams 10-0 midway through the 2nd quarter.
Before the game, Clay was told he would see time on the punt team as well as the backup RB. After Rashard Mendenhall scampered 52-yards to the Rams' 10, he needed a breather and in came Clay, who then punched it in.
Clay has ten yards while Mendenhall has 97 on ten carries. Charlie Batch is also playing well, throwing for 77 yards on six-of-eight passes, though he does have one interception.
The Miami Dolphins started their Brandon Marshall their seventh drive of the game against the New England Patriots from their own six-yard line. Five plays later, Brandon Marshall hauled in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Matt Moore to put the Fins up 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Marshall has two grabs for 66 yards on the day. Moore is 5 of 10 for 128 yards and the TD. Meanwhile, the Patriots are struggling offensively. Tom Brady is a mere 3 of 8 for 37 yards and they have barely any rushing game to speak of. The Dolphins have 167 yards of offense to the Patriots' 57 and if they keep this up they can pull of a significant upset.
The Dolphins got their earlier score on a Dan Carpenter field goal.
Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton and wide receiver Brandon LaFell have the highlight of the day so far. Newton hit LaFell for a 91-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter of their Week 16 game against Tampa Bay. It was the longest touchdown pass in franchise history for the Panthers.
This has been a big day for Newton, who continues to make the case for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. On the Panthers’ first possession of the game, Newton broke Peyton Manning’s single-season rookie record for passing yards. With 116 passing yards so far in this game, Newton now has 3,838 yards for the season.
Newton now has 18 passing touchdowns and 16 interceptions for the season.
The first overall pick in this year’s draft also has the record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. He scored his 13th rushing touchdown in Week 13 against these same Buccaneers. He actually scored three rushing touchdowns in that game.
Maurice Jones-Drew may be playing for a pretty bad team, but that hasn't stopped him from turning in a great season. His touchdown early in Saturday's game against the Tennessee Titans gives him 11 touchdowns for the year.
Jones-Drew, as you probably know, is also leading the league in rushing yardage. So far on Saturday, he has 20 yards, giving him more than 1,350 for the season. If he can pick up about 50 more yards, that will be a career high for him.
Jared Cook has only scored three touchdowns this season. But after his 55-yarder against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans tight end has now scored two of more than 50 yards. This one gave the Titans a 10-0 lead.
Cook is on quite a roll, it should be noted. That catch gave him 89 yards receiving on Saturday, putting him well on pace to eclipse the 100-yard barrier for the second straight week. Prior to last week, Cook had just three other games with more than 50 yards receiving this season. The only time he had gone over 60 yards receiving was in Week 4 when his 80-yard touchdown gave him the bulk of his 93 receiving yards that day.
The first touchdown of the day belongs to Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams. He gave the Panthers an early 7-0 over the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers with his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.
Williams scored on an eight-yard run over the left guard at the 10:17 mark of the first quarter. It was also Carolina’s first possession of the game.
The video of Williams’ touchdown:
With the game still in the first quarter, Williams has 24 rushing yards on just three carries.
He scored touchdowns in each of the Panthers’ last two games. Williams also ran for more than 140 yards in his last two games, starting something of a hot streak for him. Prior to Week 16, Williams had 717 rushing yards on 141 carries. Carolina re-signed him to a five-year, $43 million contract with $21 million in guaranteed money.
For more on the Panthers and Williams, check out Cat Scratch Reader.
Tim Tebow hater prepare yourselves: The object of your scorn has just scored again. Tebow finished off a 73-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge to give the Denver Broncos a 7-0 lead over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
The touchdown was Tebow's sixth rushing score of the season and gives him 17 combined touchdowns in his 13 appearances. More impressively, at least on this drive, was his passing. Although Tebow only was asked to throw twice, both of his passes were perfect strikes. Tebow carried the ball twice on the drive, both times once the Broncos were inside the 10-yard line.
Don't look now, but Tebow is starting to look like a pretty decent quarterback, at least in spurts. In any case, it's becoming harder and harder to straight up hate the guy.
Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee joined the 1,000-yard rushing club on Saturday. Prior to the Broncos' Week 16 game at Buffalo, McGahee was sitting on 990 yards. A productive first quarter put him over the hump.
This is the fourth time in McGahee's nine-year career that he has had more than 1,000 rushing yards. The last time he accomplished that feat was in 2007 with the Baltimore Ravens.
McGahee has experienced a revitalized career with the Broncos this season, mirroring a theme in Denver. At age 30, many had written McGahee off prior to the start of the season. He started just twice last season, rushing for only 380 yards in his final year with the Ravens.
Denver added McGahee after the Ravens released him to save cap space once the lockout ended. He has six 100-yard games with the Broncos this season.
For more on the Broncos, check out Mile High Report.
Are you in a fantasy football championship game with Roy Helu as one of your running backs? Then today is a bad day for you! Merry Christmas! Washington Redskins running back Roy Helu is inactive, while Tim Hightower is down for the season and Ryan Torain is very much out of favor. This means that rookie running back Evan Royster will be carrying the load for the Redskins today in their game against the Minnesota Vikings.
If you're a fan of college football, you might be familiar with Royster. He had three consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons with the Penn State Nittany Lions. Despite that high level of production, Royster had his least productive season in his senior year, last year. He fell to the sixth round of the NFL draft and started the season fourth on the depth chart, but now finds himself in a role where he will get the bulk of the carries.
Royster has 17 carries for 83 yards coming into this game.
If you don't like your family, or if your family likes football as much as you do, you can watch 13 different football games on Christmas Eve.
The Seattle Seahawks are fighting to keep their slim playoff hopes alive and need a victory against the San Fransisco 49ers.
The Detroit Lions want to grab a stranglehold of their NFC Wild Card spot, while the San Diego Chargers are fighting for their lives in the AFC West.
The Eagles and Cowboys face off in an NFC East matchup with serious playoff implications.
The Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins have little to play for, except for pride and draft position
The Baltimore Ravens look to stop themselves from going into a slump and get into a position to win both the AFC North and a first round bye against the Cleveland Browns.
The Tennessee Titans need a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars to keep their slight playoff hopes alive
The Cincinnati Bengals need some help from the New York Jets if they hope to secure the AFC's final Wild Card bid. Oh, and they will need to beat an Arizona Cardinals squad on Saturday that is currently riding a four-game winning streak.
The Rams visit a potentially Roethlisberger-less Steelers team in Week 16, but still are heavy underdogs.
Cam Newton is just 17 yards away from breaking Peyton Manning's record for passing yards in a rookie season. Against a woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad, he should have no trouble surpassing the record.
The Denver Broncos look to rebound from last week's loss to the Patriots against a reeling Buffalo Bills squad this week. The Bills have lost seven straight after beginning the season with a 5-2 record.
The New England Patriots finish out the season series with the Miami Dolphins by hosting them on Christmas Eve. It is unlikely that the Dolphins will receive any early Christmas gifts from the Patriots.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders battle in a race to the AFC West finish. Both teams still have a shot at winning the division.
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