Carolina pulled a Conor McGregor impression by jumping all over Atlanta in the early going Sunday, amassing a league-wide season-high of 260 yards of offense in the opening frame. They built a quick 21-0 first quarter lead before coasting to an easy 38-0 victory, and in doing so won their 17th straight. Carolina is only the sixth team in NFL history to accomplish that feat, and moved to 13-0 on the year.
The unstoppable freight train that is the Panthers' season keeps gaining momentum, and behind Cam Newton's offense they now have an NFL-high 411 points with an NFL-best 48 touchdowns on the year. Now pair that output with one of the best defenses in the league and you can see why Carolina is the league's only unbeaten team this season.
Here’s how Newton celebrated after Sunday’s dominating win over the Falcons:
Speaking of elite defenses, the Broncos bottled up the Raiders' offensive attack and held Derek Carr to 135 yards on 12 of 29 passing, but Denver's offense took a step back with multiple devastating drops and a putrid run game. An Emmanuel Sanders muffed punt didn't help matters either, and when only one phase of your game is working it can be hard to win in this league. Denver dropped to 10-3 with the 15-12 loss, and again fell behind New England in AFC playoff seeding.
The Bengals lost their inside track at the No. 1 seed as well. They might have one of the deepest teams in the NFL this year, but they may have some real trouble now at the most important and irreplaceable position. Andy Dalton left Sunday's matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter with a fracture in his thumb and the prognosis right now looks like he'll miss a week at best, the rest of the season at worst.
Cincinnati couldn't overcome his injury and fell to the Steelers 33-20, dropping to 10-3 on the year, but Dalton is obviously the bigger loss for the Bengals. We should know more about Dalton's prognosis on Monday, but in the meantime, Pittsburgh won their second straight game to keep pace for a wild card bid, moving to 8-5 on the year.
Still ahead of Pittsburgh, though, are the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the Chargers in a low-scoring but exciting 10-3 affair, and the Jets, who dominated the Titans at home to the tune of 30-8. Both teams moved to 8-5 on the year while the Patriots moved to 11-2 and back in control in the AFC by blowing out the Texans on Sunday Night Football.
The AFC South is still a mess, and it doesn't look like anyone wants to win that division. The Texans couldn't take advantage after the Colts got a 50-burger dropped on them by the Jags in Jacksonville, and both teams fell back below .500.
As long as we're talking about dumpster fire divisions, the NFC East isn't much better, but Washington and Philly both grabbed big wins to stay even at 6-7, respectively. Washington beat the Bears 24-21 in Chicago with another nice game from Kirk Cousins (24 of 31 for 300 yards, one touchdown and one interception), while Philly did enough to get by the Bills at home, their second straight quality win.
The Packers took back sole possession of first place in the NFC North with a win over the Cowboys, with Mike McCarthy's return to play calling providing a nice boost for Green Bay's offense. Aaron Rodgers looked sharp, finishing 22 of 35 for 218 yards and two touchdowns and importantly, the Packers were able to get big Eddie Lacy rolling. Lacy finished with 124 yards and a score on just 24 carries.
The Seahawks kept rolling with a dominating win themselves, blowing out the Ravens 35-6 in Baltimore. Russell Wilson has the Seattle offense clicking at historic levels and the defense did their job in taking the Jimmy Clausen-led offense out of the game.
Elsewhere, the Saints knocked off the Buccaneers 24-17, the Browns dominated the 49ers 24-10 and the Rams outlasted the Lions in an ugly game, 21-14. Oh, and by the way, the Chargers, Titans, Ravens, Lions, and 49ers were all eliminated from NFL playoff contention.
Win the water cooler
Arm yourself with the most essential tidbits from Sunday's action ... impress your coworkers around the water cooler.
Interception streaks end
Alex Smith came into Week 14 pushing Tom Brady's all time record of 358 pass attempts without an interception, but fell just short with his early second quarter pick to Chargers corner Jason Verrett. All told, Smith threw 312 straight passes without getting picked, just 46 attempts shy of tying Brady's mark.
Once Smith had ended his streak, the active leader in that statistical category defaulted to Bills signal-caller Tyrod Taylor, whose then-streak of interception-less passes was pretty impressive in itself. Unfortunately, Taylor only carried that mantle for a short time; he was picked off with 1:23 remaining in the game as the Bills tried to mount a game-winning drive. His streak of passes without an interception ended at a very respectable 223 attempts.
The A.J. connection
Get ready to experience the AJ to A.J. connection in Cincinnati. With A.J. McCarron in for Dalton as he recovers from a hand injury, Bengals fans will get a rare opportunity to see how things run without their franchise quarterback.
In his five seasons in the NFL, Dalton's been an underrated ironman, starting all 81 games he's appeared in as a pro. In fact, he's never missed more than a half due to injury in his 77 regular season starts or four playoff games. Per ESPN Stats and Info, including trick plays with throws by receivers and running backs, Cincinnati has only witnessed 58 pass attempts by a player other than Andy Dalton since the start of 2011 season.
I don't have a ton of analysis on this other than "he might be looking for a new job soon," but Jaguars kicker Jason Myers has now missed seven extra point attempts this season. The NFL's new extra point rules are making things more interesting for sure, but I doubt that will buy Myers too much leeway at this point.
On the other hand
The good news for Jacksonville is 1) that they completely blew the Colts out, ending Indianapolis' reign of terror in the AFC South dating back to 2012 (16 straight division wins), and 2) that they just might be seeing the beginning of a great career for Blake Bortles.
In the Jags' 51-16 win, Bortles passed for 250 yards and threw for three touchdowns while running for another, accumulating 114.6 passer rating. He now sits at 3,524 yards passing with 30 touchdowns to just 13 picks on the year, and at just 23 years old, joined some rare company.
The 23-year old Bortles joins just Dan Marino (Hall of Famer), Matt Stafford, and Daunte Culpepper as the only players in NFL history with 30 touchdown passes in a season at age 23 or younger. That's impressive.
Bortles' No. 1 target is Allen Robinson, who quietly tied Tyler Eifert for the NFL lead in touchdown catches (12) on Sunday. This Jaguars offense can upset the balance in the AFC South if things continue spiral for the Colts and Texans.
Drew Brees can still sling it
New Orleans continued their Jekyll and Hyde season Sunday with a nice road win over the Buccaneers, but while they've been wildly inconsistent this year, Drew Brees has largely remained the constant. A testament to Brees' consistency, the future Hall of Famer threw for 300-plus yards for the 93rd time in his career per ESPN Stats and Info, which ties Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history. Amazing.
In case you still didn't know, Antonio Brown is good
I'm not enlightening anyone when I tell you that Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is ridiculously talented, but a few statistical benchmarks he reached on Sunday paint a vivid picture anyway.
After catching 7 passes for 87 yards in Pittsburgh's win over the Bengals, he broke the century mark and moved to 100 catches on the season, his third consecutive season reaching that milestone. He's just the sixth player in NFL history to do that.
Previous to Brown's emergence in Pittsburgh as a true dual-threat, only two players had ever recorded 100-catch seasons while adding a punt return touchdown to the mix -- Troy Brown in 2001 and Eric Metcalf in 1995 -- and amazingly, Brown has now done that three years running.
In case you still didn't know, Rob Gronkowski is also really good
Also joining rarified statistical air is New England's Rob Gronkowski, who returned to action after missing a game with a knee injury. Gronk caught four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots blowout win over the Texans, and in doing so, moved to double-digits in touchdowns on the year (10).
Here's a little perspective on the greatness you're witnessing: He's the first tight end in NFL history with five seasons of 10-plus touchdowns, and only the 10th player all time with five seasons of double-digit touchdowns. Incredible.
Marcus Mariota achieves rare feat
So here's a random one: With Marcus Mariota's awesome 41-yard touchdown catch from running back Antonio Andrews, he became the first NFL player with 40-plus yard touchdowns via the pass, the rush, and from a reception in a single season since Walter Payton did that in 1983. Not too shabby.
Tyler Lockett matches a rare record as well
Another obscure but highly impressive record: With Tyler Lockett's two touchdown receptions for the Seahawks -- pushing his total to five on the season -- he became one of only two rookies in the league's history with at least five receiving touchdowns plus a kick return touchdown and a punt return touchdown, joining legendary Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, who did that in 1965. Good company.
Khalil Mack sack attack
Khalil Mack tied a Raiders single-game sacks record held by Howie Long with five sacks against the Broncos on Sunday, igniting an Oakland defense in the upset. Mack is the first player this season to get five sacks in a single game, besting Cameron Wake, who recorded four sacks in Week 6 against the Titans.
Robert Turbin ends drought
Robert Turbin finally scored a rushing touchdown! When he rushed 22 yards for paydirt in Dallas' 28-7 loss to the Packers, the former Seahawk and Brown running back broke the longest streak of carries to start a career (268) without a rushing touchdown in NFL history.
Final Scores for Week 14:
Arizona Cardinals 23, Minnesota Vikings 20 (Thursday)
Washington 24, Chicago Bears 21
Pittsburgh Steelers 33, Cincinnati Bengals 20
Cleveland Browns 41, San Francisco 49ers 10
Jacksonville Jaguars 51, Indianapolis Colts 16
New York Jets 30, Tennessee Titans 8
Philadelphia Eagles 23, Buffalo Bills 20
St. Louis Rams 21, Detroit Lions 14
New Orleans Saints 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17
Kansas City Chiefs 10, San Diego Chargers 3
Carolina Panthers 38, Atlanta Falcons 0
Seattle Seahawks 35, Baltimore Ravens 6
Oakland Raiders 15, Denver Broncos, 12
Green Bay Packers 28, Dallas Cowboys 7
New England Patriots 27, Houston Texans 6
A.J. Green made AJ McCarron's first career touchdown look good.
McCarron's first pick-six, however, wasn't pretty. But William Gay sure had fun celebrating it, penalty be damned.
Cam Newton can still, somehow, find kids in Carolina he hasn't given a ball to -- so don't even try, adults.
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Cam Newton Zone.
Johnny Manziel, stop hitting yourself!
SB Nation presents: The NFL's Microsoft tablets take so much abuse
Marcus Mariota had a long touchdown catch -- yes, catch -- for the Titans.
Every Titans defender except a 305-pound lineman forgot to cover Brandon Marshall. Spoiler alert: Marshall scored.
Matt Jones forgot a basic NFL rule, but the Bears were nice enough to not make him pay for it.
The Chargers came within a half-yard of tying the Chiefs late in the game, but then kept moving backward due to dumb mistakes.
Robbie Gould missed yet another crucial field goal attempt. The Bears lost and Gould lost a couple of diehard fans.
It's unseasonably warm in Wisconsin, but James Jones is still wearing a hoodie under his Packers uniform.
Holy crap, La'el Collins is faster than Darren McFadden.
This cramp from Von Miller was ... well timed.
Another game at Lambeau and another incredible catch that was called back for Dez Bryant.
Dalton injured his right thumb in the first quarter against the Steelers. He was replaced by McCarron and did not return to the game. He's expected to miss at least one more week.
Bengals TE Tyler Eifert, who missed last week with a neck injury, entered concussion protocol in the first half and did not return.
Rookie RB Thomas Rawls has done an excellent job filling in for Marshawn Lynch, but his season is over after he broke his ankle against the Ravens.
Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor exited soon after Rawls and did not come back in the game due to a tailbone injury.
Vincent Jackson injured the same knee that has limited him throughout the season. He did not return against the Saints.
Greg Olsen injured his left knee before halftime against the Falcons. He did not play in the second half, though the injury does not appear to be serious.
Matt Hasselbeck got beaten up against the Jags and was replaced by Charlie Whitehurst.