Welcome back to the final regular season installment of the NFL Notebook series. With the holidays here when Week 16 occurred, I combined the final two weeks of the season into one post. There is only one thing from Week 16 that I will be discussing and a few items from Week 17.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
Without further ado, the final regular season installment of the NFL Notebook.
I only wanted one thing for Christmas and that was for the Cleveland Browns to not go 0-16. I did not care if it came against the Chargers or the Steelers, I just wanted a win. Well, Santa Claus must have thought I was a good boy this year as the Browns pulled off a victory over the Chargers on Christmas Eve. The Chargers drove down the field into field goal range, but had no timeouts on fourth down, so the field goal team had to rush onto the field. Kicker Josh Lambo missed the kick as time expired and the Browns avoided the dreaded 0-16 season. Many of the players were highly emotional and I loved it. Joe Thomas, who is the consummate professional, described the game as the Browns Super Bowl, which sounds crazy to most, but when you are on the verge of 0-16, it makes sense. This team showed no quit throughout the season and that is appositive. It was a Christmas and Festivus (Seinfeld reference) miracle!
The final week of the regular season didn’t have all that much drama. All the teams that qualified for the playoffs in the AFC were already locked in, with some playing for seeding. New England took care of business by beating Miami and secured home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Kansas City won and Oakland lost to give the Chiefs the AFC West title, the two seed and a first round bye. Oakland will travel to Houston, starting a third string quarterback as backup Matt McGloin was injured in the finale against Denver. Oakland was already at a disadvantage without quarterback Derek Carr and now it looks like the magical season will lose its luster.
Pittsburgh rested Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Maurkice Pouncey, which was the right call. Although the Browns took them to the wire, the game did not mean much as the Steelers were already locked in as the three seed. They will host Miami on Sunday afternoon aim to limit Jay Ajayi, something they failed to do in their Week 6 matchup, as Ajayi rushed for over 200 yards.
The NFC had a few positions up for grabs, but Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins blew a golden opportunity to return to the postseason. Cousins threw a costly interception to seal the fate of his team, putting both Detroit and Green Bay in the playoffs. The Sunday night game between the Lions and Packers was to determine who would win the NFC North and who would be the six seed. Detroit showed once again they can’t get over the Green Bay hump as Aaron Rodgers and company continued to roll, winning six straight. Green Bay will host the Giants while Detroit travels to Seattle.
Speaking of Seattle, they did not look good against the lowly 49ers, despite picking up the win. Seattle doesn’t seem like the same team without Earl Thomas anchoring the defense and that could spell trouble in the playoffs. The 49ers cleaned house this weekend as they fired general manger Trent Balke and head coach Chip Kelly. Now, the Niners can start over and rebuild.
Atlanta looked real impressive against the Saints, scoring 35 first half points against the Saints. Atlanta clinched the two seed and a first round bye with the win. This team has one of the best offenses in NFL history and that makes them a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl.
Dallas was not able to beat Philadelphia, but that didn’t matter as the Cowboys already clinched home-field through the NFC playoffs. Ezekiel Elliott was active, but did not see the field. Dak Prescott was in for two series, before giving way to Tony Romo who made his season debut. Romo tossed a touchdown pass and played two series. Mark Sanchez played most of the game and proved he is still a lousy quarterback. The resting of the starters was a good decision for the Cowboys, who can now focus on the playoffs, without the distractions.
Reggie Bush made history, but not the kind any player wants to make. He became the first player in NFL history to rush at least 10 times and finish with negative yardage. He entered the final game of the season needing three yards to stay out of the negatives, but failed to get those three yards, finishing with -3 yards for the season.