It’s OK if you forgot there was a full slate of NFL games this past weekend. Thanksgiving is the NFL’s holiday, while Christmas usually belongs to the NBA.
Or maybe you wanted to watch, but you couldn’t for various Yuletide reasons: family obligations, travel, your annual tradition of marathoning Die Hard, or Elf, or A Christmas Story, or alternating between Home Alone and Home Alone 2 à la Victor Oladipo (Home Alone 3, you ain’t canon).
If you couldn’t keep up with all the action from this weekend, then you missed quite the ride. There was a butt interception, Butt Fumble 2: Lost in New
York Orleans, Andy Reid dressing up as Santa, and DeAndre Hopkins coming down with one of the best touchdowns you’ll ever see.
For everything else that happened, let’s hit the numbers and catch you up.
Either way, we’ve got some new blood in the playoffs this year:
2017 will mark the first time in the Super Bowl era that the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Packers, and 49ers all missed the playoffs.— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 25, 2017
The last time all 5 of those teams missed the postseason was in 1964.
And some familiar faces as well ...
The Steelers grinchedly beat up the Texans on Christmas Day, guaranteeing themselves a first-round bye for the third time this decade. That could end up being the best Christmas present they could ask for:
Steelers clinch a first-round bye. Each of the last two times they've had a first-round bye they've reached the Super Bowl (won in 2008, lost in 2010)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 26, 2017
But they’ll have to wait until New Year’s Eve to see if it’s them or the Patriots who earn home-field advantage.
Todd Gurley has made a strong case for his MVP campaign lately. Following up a career day against the Seahawks a week ago, he hurdled all over the Titans on Christmas Eve:
More like Todd Hurdley:
Gurley accounted for 118 yards on the ground and a whopping 158 receiving yards and two touchdowns as the Rams clinched the NFC West for the first time in 14 years. He became just the third player ever — along with Ollie Matson and Herschel Walker — to put up 100-plus rushing yards and 150-plus receiving yards in the same game.
Gurley, who leads the league with 13 rushing touchdowns, also has six TD receptions under Sean McVay this year. It should be noted that he had zero receiving TDs in two seasons under Jeff Fisher.
The Bears are staring down a potential 5-11 season after Sunday’s win over the Browns, but they’d be much, much better if they played in the AFC North instead of its NFC counterpart. Four of their wins — 80 percent — have come against the Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, or Browns. At the same time, Chicago is 0-5 in its own division.
This season, they’ve beaten two teams that have clinched playoff spots (Pittsburgh, Carolina) and one more in line for a postseason berth (Baltimore). At the same time, they’ve lost games to:
a) the five-win 49ers
b) the four-win Buccaneers, and
c) the Brett Hundley-led Packers
So all hail the true AFC North champions, the Chicago Bears. If 2017 turns out to be John Fox’s last as a head coach, at least he can take solace in the fact it made no sense whatsoever.
They’re close to clinching a first-round bye. If they do that, they’ll need only two wins in January to be the first-ever team to play a home game in the Super Bowl.
Adam Thielen’s hometown hero rags-to-riches story, Case Keenum’s emergence, Teddy Bridgewater’s return...it’s getting harder and harder to unlink the Vikings from being a team of destiny.
4 years, 11 months, 24 days
It’s been a very long time since any team has tried an onside kick within the first 30 seconds of any game. It hasn’t happened since Dec. 30, 2012, which was the Eagles’ 42-7 Week 17 loss to the New York Giants. Like the Jets, the Eagles started the game with an onside kick and recovered. The drive ended with a Michael Vick interception, so it was all for naught.
The Jets didn’t gain anything from their successful onside kick, either. The drive fizzled out on the 50-yard line, and New York was forced to punt. The Chargers won 14-7.
Drew Brees became just the third quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 70,000 yards in his career on Sunday. He still trails Peyton Manning, who’s on top with 71,940 yards and Brett Favre at No. 2 with 71,838 yards.
Brees is first in this group in one category:
Drew Brees becomes the fastest player to 70,000 passing yards in NFL history (248 games)— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 24, 2017
Peyton Manning: 258 games
Brett Favre: 293 games https://t.co/m6Nh5ybhRm
Provided that Brees doesn’t shock the world with an unexpected retirement announcement after the season, he should land at the top of the list sometime next year.
Damiere Byrd has come on strong for the Panthers when they’ve needed him the most. The former undrafted free agent hadn’t scored a touchdown in his two-year NFL career before Week 15 when he hauled in a pair of Cam Newton passes in the back of the end zone to propel Carolina to a 31-24 win that ended Green Bay’s playoff hopes. On Sunday, he came through in a different facet of the game, setting a franchise record with a 103-yard kickoff return that gave the Panthers a 12-6 lead in the second quarter of their game against the Buccaneers:
That score was huge, not just because it set a record. Carolina eked out a 22-19 win and is now headed back to the postseason.
Four starts. Four wins in a row. That’s what Jimmy Garoppolo has done so far in San Francisco. The 49ers also boast the NFL’s longest current winning streak. It’s quite a turnaround for a team that won exactly one game this season before Garoppolo took over as the starter.
But Garoppolo didn’t just ball out this week in the Niners’ 44-33 win over the Jaguars. He went 21-of-30 passing for 242 yards and two touchdowns against the top pass defense in the NFL.
Garoppolo remains perfect as a starting QB in the NFL, dating back to his two starts for the Patriots a season ago:
Jimmy G is still undefeated as a starting QB! pic.twitter.com/fPWzvVyKCe— SB Nation (@SBNation) December 25, 2017
He also managed to help out his former team. The Patriots clinched a first-round bye thanks to the Jaguars loss.
New England went into Sunday’s showdown with the Bills down two running backs, but Dion Lewis made sure his team wouldn’t miss James White or Rex Burkhead. The 5’8 tailback was the latest man to star in Bill Belichick’s backfield rotation, carving up the Bills with a career-high 129 yards. He’d score one touchdown on the ground and add another through the air to keep the Patriots in the AFC’s top spot.
Lewis stepped up when his team needed him the most, playing bigger than his frame to grind out tough yards throughout the second half.
35 (of 36)
The Seahawks have scored 36 offensive touchdowns in 2017. Russell Wilson has either thrown for or rushed for 35 of those. Seattle’s inability to develop an offense outside of its Pro Bowl quarterback has never been more evident than this season, where a disappointing rushing attack has gotten just 3.3 yards per carry from its tailbacks. Only undrafted rookie J.D. McKissic has found the end zone without Wilson being heavily involved.
They still got the win over the Cowboys this week, but it wasn’t thanks to the offense:
Seahawks are the first team to win a game with more penalty yards (142) than total yards (136) since the Eagles in 1966 (also did it against the Cowboys).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 25, 2017
Larry Fitzgerald hauled in his 100th catch of the season for a 13-yard touchdown on Sunday afternoon against the Giants. By doing so, Fitzgerald became the only member of an exclusive NFL club:
That 13-yard TD catch gives @LarryFitzgerald 100 catches for the season.— Mark Dalton (@CardsMarkD) December 24, 2017
He becomes the first player in NFL history to record 100 catches & 1,000 receiving yards in a season he began at age 34 or older #NYGvsAZ
It was a big day for Fitzgerald, who also completed a pass for the first time in his 14-year career on Sunday. Fitzgerald’s score also snapped an 11-quarter streak without a touchdown for the Cardinals.
Sunday may have been Fitzgerald’s last home game with Arizona. He signed a one-year extension that keeps him under contract through the 2018 season, but he hasn’t decided if he’ll actually return to the field next year. If this was Fitzgerald’s last home game, it’ll be a memorable one.
Keenan Allen is such a good receiver that he’s catching passes from opposing team’s quarterbacks. The Chargers’ No. 1 wideout shut down Bryce Petty’s half-ending Hail Mary against the Jets, ripping the ball out of the sky and returning it 34 yards as the clock expired.
It wound up being Allen’s longest reception of the day. He finished the Los Angeles win with five catches for 53 yards.
The Bengals entered Week 16 with the worst rushing offense in the NFL. For symmetry’s sake, they also had the worst rushing defense.
So with their playoff hopes on the line, what did the Lions do? Give up 142 yards on the ground and rush for a paltry 87 yards in a disappointedly limp 26-17 loss to Cincinnati. That put the bow on their season — and potentially Jim Caldwell’s job.
And FYI, the Bengals now have the second-worst rushing attack and running defense.
Joe Flacco has a reputation for turning it on in the playoffs, and it looks like he’s gearing up to walk that road again. Before December, he had nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions through 11 games. In four games during the last month on the calendar, Flacco has seven touchdowns, one interception, and a 98.2 passer rating.
On Saturday, he led the Ravens on five scoring drives of at least 10 plays, and he looked calm, cool, and collected every step of the way:
If Flacco keeps playing the way he has in December, the Ravens might not be as easy as an out as everyone says they’ll be.
The Baltimore defense leads the league with 22 interceptions and has added 15 forced fumbles on the season. But when the Ravens beat the Colts on Saturday, they did it without forcing a single turnover.
That’s the first time that’s happened since Week 1 of the 2016 season, when the Ravens managed to squeak out a 13-7 win against Buffalo despite not getting Tyrod Taylor and the Bills to turn over the ball.
The Colts are 3-12, but taking care of the football is one of the only things the offense has done moderately well this year. Jacoby Brissett has thrown just seven picks, and the Colts have only six lost fumbles.
The Eagles’ 19-10 win over the Raiders was sloppy. The two teams spent much of the second half trading turnovers, starting in the third quarter and ending on the very last play of the game. The two teams gave the ball away a combined seven times, which is the most in any half this season.
Two other games this year have come close:
The Raiders and Eagles have combined for 6 turnovers in the second half - tied for the most turnovers in a half this season.— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 26, 2017
Week 14: Lions & Buccaneers combined for 6 turnovers in the first half
Week 6: Lions & Saints combined for 6 turnovers in the second half
It looked like the Raiders and Eagles might finish with six in the second half. But the Eagles’ Derek Barnett scooped up a Jalen Richard fumble on the Raiders’ desperate series of laterals at the very end of the game, and he ran it into the end zone. That gave the Eagles a 19-10 win and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.