THE RACE TO THE PLAYOFFS ENTERS WEEK 16
As the NFL enters Week 16, five postseason berths have been clinched and seven remain up for grabs. Nineteen of the league’s 32 teams remain in contention for a trip to Super Bowl LIII and 14 of the 16 games on this week’s schedule feature at least one team still alive in the race to Atlanta.
Two teams – the Chicago Bears (NFC North) and Los Angeles Chargers(playoff berth) – clinched a berth in the 2018 NFL postseason last week. The Bears, who finished in fourth place in the NFC North last season, completed a “worst-to-first” turnaround in 2018. In 15 of the past 16 seasons, at least one team has finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place. Since the 12-team playoff format began in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.
In the AFC, the Houston Texans (10-4) can clinch the AFC South division title with a victory, while the New England Patriots (9-5) can secure their 10th consecutive AFC East division title with a win. The Patriots have advanced to the postseason in nine consecutive seasons (2009-2017), tied with Dallas (nine from 1975-1983) and Indianapolis (nine from 2002-2010) for the most consecutive seasons in NFL history with a playoff berth.
The Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) and Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) are tied atop with the AFC West and continue to battle for position in the AFC playoff picture. The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) can secure the AFC North title with a victory coupled with a Baltimore loss. Additionally, the Baltimore Ravens (8-6), Cleveland Browns (6-7-1), Indianapolis Colts (8-6), Miami Dolphins (7-7) and Tennessee Titans (8-6) all look to remain in the hunt.
In the NFC, three divisions have been clinched – the NFC North (Chicago), NFC South (New Orleans) and NFC West (Los Angeles Rams). The battle for the NFC East continues, as the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) can secure the division title with a victory this week, but the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) and Washington Redskins (7-7) remain in the thick of the race.
With a win in Week 16, the New Orleans Saints (12-2) would clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The race for the two Wild Card positions in the NFC remains competitive, with the Carolina Panthers (6-8), Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1) and Seattle Seahawks (8-6) fighting for a position in the playoff picture.
Below are highlights of the Week 16 schedule:
Week 16 kicks off with a Saturday doubleheader on NFL Network, as the Tennessee Titans host the Washington Redskins (4:30 PM ET) and the Baltimore Ravens travel to the StubHub Center to take on the Los Angeles Chargers (8:20 PM ET). Titans running back DERRICK HENRY, who rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns last week and 238 yards with four touchdowns in Week 14, is the fifth player since 2002 to record at least 170 rushing yards and two touchdown runs in consecutive games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON (2006), DEUCE MC ALLISTER (2003), CLINTON PORTIS (2003) and RICKY WILLIAMS (2002). Chargers quarterback PHILIP RIVERS ranks third in the NFL with a 112.4 passer rating and is one of four quarterbacks this season to throw at least 30 touchdown passes (31) and fewer than 10 interceptions (eight).
On Sunday, the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles square off in a battle of playoff hopefuls at Lincoln Financial Field (1:00 PM ET, CBS). The Texans sit atop the AFC South and currently hold the No. 2 position in the AFC. Houston defensive end J.J. WATT had two sacks in the team’s Week 15 victory and is the only player in the NFL with at least 14 sacks (14.5) and five forced fumbles (six) this season. Texans wide receiver DE ANDRE HOPKINSrecorded 10 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns in Week 15 and has three games with at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and a touchdown catch this season, the most in the NFL. Philadelphia tight end ZACH ERTZleads all NFL tight ends with 101 catches this season and is the first player in franchise history to record at least 100 catches in a single season.
The NFC South champion New Orleans Saints welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday afternoon (4:25 PM ET, CBS). Saints quarterback DREW BREES leads the NFL with a 116.8 passer rating and a 74.9 completion percentage, while wide receiverMICHAEL THOMAS leads the league with 109 catches this season. Pittsburgh wide receiver ANTONIO BROWN has 672 receptions since 2013, tied with WES WELKER (672 from 2007-12) for the most by a player over any six-year span in NFL history.
Sunday’s nightcap features the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field (8:20 PM ET, NBC). Chiefs quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES leads the NFL with 45 touchdown passes this season, tied for third-most in league annals through the first 15 weeks of a season and tied for the sixth-most over the course of a single season in NFL history. Seattle is averaging 154.9 rushing yards per game, the highest mark in the league, and features the only trio of running back teammates – CHRIS CARSON (913 rushing yards), MIKE DAVIS (439) and rookie RASHAAD PENNY (413) – with 400 rushing yards each in 2018.
NFL WEEK 16 SCHEDULE
SATURDAY, SUNDAY & MONDAY, DECEMBER 22-24
(All times eastern)
|Saturday, December 22||Sunday, December 23 (cont’d)|
|Washington at Tennessee, 4:30 PM (NFLN)||Buffalo at New England, 1:00 PM|
|Baltimore at Los Angeles Chargers, 8:20 PM (NFLN)||Green Bay at New York Jets, 1:00 PM|
|Houston at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM|
|Sunday, December 23||Los Angeles Rams at Arizona, 4:05 PM|
|Atlanta at Carolina, 1:00 PM||Chicago at San Francisco, 4:05 PM|
|Cincinnati at Cleveland, 1:00 PM||Pittsburgh at New Orleans, 4:25 PM|
|Tampa Bay at Dallas, 1:00 PM||Kansas City at Seattle, 8:20 PM (NBC)|
|Minnesota at Detroit, 1:00 PM|
|New York Giants at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM||Monday, December 24|
|Jacksonville at Miami, 1:00 PM||Denver at Oakland, 8:15 PM (ESPN)|
|HISTORY IN THE MAKING: Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES leads the NFL with 45 touchdown passes this season.
On Sunday night at Seattle (8:20 PM ET, NBC), Mahomes can continue his climb up the NFL’s single season touchdown pass leaderboard.
The players with the most touchdown passes in a single season in NFL history:
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4,000 in 10: New England quarterback TOM BRADY ranks fifth in the league in passing yards (3,979) while Los Angeles Chargers quarterbackPHILIP RIVERS ties for seventh in the league with 3,951 passing yards this season. Both quarterbacks have eclipsed 4,000 passing yards in nine different seasons during their careers.
In Week 16, Brady, who faces Buffalo on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), and Rivers, who faces Baltimore on Saturday night (8:20 PM ET, NFL Network), can join PEYTON MANNING (14 seasons) and DREW BREES (12) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to record at least 10 seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards. Brees has 3,666 passing yards in 2018.
The quarterbacks with the most seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards in NFL history:
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SHAKE & BAKER: Cleveland quarterback BAKER MAYFIELD, selected first overall by the Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft, leads all rookies with 21 touchdown passes this season.
With three touchdown passes on Sunday against Cincinnati (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Mayfield would surpass ANDREW LUCK (23 touchdown passes in 2012) for the second-most touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback selected No. 1 overall in the common draft era.
The most touchdown passes by a rookie selected No. 1 overall in the common draft era:
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RUN & CATCH: Carolina running back CHRISTIAN MC CAFFREY leads all running backs with 94 receptions in 2018.
With nine receptions on Sunday against Atlanta (1:00 PM ET, FOX), McCaffrey would surpass MATT FORTÉ (102 receptions in 2014) for the most receptions by a running back in a single season in NFL history.
The running backs with the most receptions in a single season in NFL history:
New York Giants rookie running back SAQUON BARKLEY leads all rookies with 82 receptions and needs seven catches at Indianapolis (1:00 PM ET, CBS) to surpass REGGIE BUSH (88 in 2006) for the most receptions by a rookie running back in league annals.
The rookie running backs with the most receptions in league annals:
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RECORD-SETTING TIGHT ENDS: Kansas City tight end TRAVIS KELCEleads all tight ends with a career-high 1,220 receiving yards in 2018.
With 108 receiving yards against Seattle on Sunday night (8:20 PM ET, NBC), Kelce would surpass ROB GRONKOWSKI (1,327 receiving yards in 2011) for the most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season in NFL history.
The tight ends with the most receiving yards in a single season in NFL history:
Philadelphia tight end ZACH ERTZ, who ranks third in the NFL with 101 receptions, needs 10 catches against Houston on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS) to surpass JASON WITTEN (110 receptions in 2012) for the most receptions by a tight end in a single season in league annals.
The tight ends with the most receptions in a single season in league annals:
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KEEP IT 100: Five players – New Orleans wide receiver MICHAEL THOMAS (109 receptions), Minnesota wide receiver ADAM THIELEN(105), Philadelphia tight end ZACH ERTZ (101), Atlanta wide receiverJULIO JONES (100) and Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS(100) – have recorded at least 100 receptions this season.
Entering Week 16, six additional players – Pittsburgh wide receivers JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER (95 receptions) and ANTONIO BROWN (90), Houston wide receiver DE ANDRE HOPKINS (94), Carolina running backCHRISTIAN MC CAFFREY (94), Kansas City tight end TRAVIS KELCE(93) and Minnesota wide receiver STEFON DIGGS (92) – currently have at least 90 receptions.
With 10 players recording at least 100 catches this season, the 2018 season would surpass the 1995 season (nine) for the most players with at least 100 catches in a single season.
The seasons with the most players with at least 100 receptions in NFL history: