Follow along here for frequent updates on the playoff picture, injury updates and developments from all of Sunday’s NFL games. Check back after “Sunday Night Football” for a look at the biggest moments and trends to watch.
NFL Week 16
The completion of the afternoon portion of Sunday’s games brought news of the complete schedule for Week 17. The league flexed several games with playoff implications to later windows. The highlight will be Sunday night, when the Indianapolis Colts travel to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans in what amounts to a play-in playoff game for the two AFC South contenders. If the Houston Texans lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier in the day, the winner of the night game would win the division. Otherwise the winner of the night game will earn a wild-card berth.
Both teams are 9-6, with the Colts in position to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014 thanks to their come-from-behind, last-minute win over the New York Giants on Sunday.
Elsewhere, the majority of games with playoff implications will be played in the 4:25 window. In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1) will need a win against the Cincinnati Bengals and a loss by the Baltimore Ravens at home against the Cleveland Browns to both win the AFC North and get in.
On the NFC side, the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in another 4:25 game, with their playoff fate dependent on a win and a Minnesota Vikings loss at home against Chicago.
The Seattle Seahawks punched their ticket to the postseason with a 38-31 win over the Chiefs — go figure, a shootout with Patrick Mahomes involved. While the Kansas City quarterback tossed three touchdown passes, upping his season total to 48, Seattle counterpart Russell Wilson matched that feat and completed some eye-opening late-game passes to hold off the Chiefs.
With a Week 17 win over the lowly Cardinals, the Seahawks can lock up the NFC’s No. 5 seed and a date with the Cowboys, who they beat in Week 3, 24-13. The Chiefs can grab the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win over the Raiders, but if they lose and the Chargers beat the Broncos, Los Angeles wins the AFC West and gets the conference’s top seed. If both teams lose and the Patriots win, New England will ascend to the top seed.
Also notable are the fates of the Bears and Los Angeles Rams. Right now, L.A. holds a one-game edge on Chicago and only needs a win at home against the San Francisco 49ers to lock up the conference’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. But if the Rams lose and the Bears win in Minnesota, Chicago jumps into that second slot behind the New Orleans Saints, who have the No. 1 seed wrapped up.
In the 1 p.m. window, if the Patriots beat the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium, they will be assured of the No. 2 seed and a bye. But if they lose and the Texans beat the Jaguars at home, Houston gets that spot, knocking New England into its first game on wild-card weekend since 2009.
Saints get past Steelers: The Saints stopped the Steelers’ last-minute drive and dealt a major blow to Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes. New Orleans’s 31-28 win dropped Ben Roethlisberger and Co. to 8-6-1 on the season and a half-game behind the Ravens with one week left in the season.
Drew Brees found wide receiver Michael Thomas on a one-yard play that was ruled a touchdown upon review with 1:25 left in the game, but the Steelers had time to move back downfield for an attempt at a game-tying field goal or even a game-winning touchdown. Roethlisberger completed a 19-yard pass to Antonio Brown to overcome a fourth-and-15 situation, but four plays later, JuJu Smith-Schuster was stripped of the ball after a reception and the Saints recovered the fumble.
New Orleans moved to 13-2 and locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. In other late-afternoon games, the Rams and Bears both won, meaning the battle for the conference’s No. 2 seed and other first-round bye will go to the regular season’s final week — the 11-4 Bears need to win and hope the Rams (12-3) lose .
The Steelers can still take the AFC North if they win next week and the Ravens lose, a scenario that’s hardly out of the question. Pittsburgh will host the 6-9 Bengals, who have lost six of their past seven games, while Baltimore takes on the visiting Browns (7-7-1), who have won five of their past six.
Bears, 49ers brawl: Fisticuffs broke out in the fourth quarter of the Chicago-San Francisco game, resulting in the ejections of Bears wide receivers Anthony Miller and Josh Bellamy and 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman. The melee erupted on Chicago’s sideline after Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was dealt a late hit by San Francisco safety Marcell Harris.
Crown ’em: Two division titles have been settled with victories by the Cowboys and Patriots in the early games.
Dallas wrapped up the NFC East with a 27-20 victory over the Buccaneers, and New England won the AFC East, moving to 10-5 with a 24-12 victory over the Bills. The Patriots’ win, coupled with the Texans’ loss in Philadelphia, puts the Patriots in the driver’s seat for a first-round bye.
But before there was joy in Dallas, there were some nervous moments following a scary-looking injury.
Defensive end Tyrone Crawford was taken to a Dallas area hospital after suffering a scary injury on the second play from scrimmage in the game against the Buccaneers.
Crawford, who reportedly had movement in his arms and legs, was carted off the field after the shoulder of Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen struck him in the head and neck area. A hush fell over AT&T Stadium as Crawford remained motionless and his teammates surrounded him as the cart came onto the field. Crawford was taken to a hospital with what was being called a neck injury, and according to owner Jerry Jones, the injury doesn’t appear to be serious.
“Everything checks out really good. We’re very pleased with the initial reports MRIs and all the examinations,” Jones said (via Dallas Morning News). “He went on to the hospital and had those examinations. I won’t have the status for next week, but we are real pleased with what we’ve gotten so far.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles, Vikings and Colts remain in the playoff hunt. Philadelphia beat the Texans, 32-30, on a Jake Elliott field goal with three seconds left. The win keeps the Eagles in contention for a wild-card spot along with the Vikings and officially eliminated the Redskins. The Vikings had little trouble with the Lions, winning 27-9. Among the highlights in Detroit was this Hail Mary pass by Kirk Cousins as the first half ended.
In Indianapolis, Andrew Luck passed for 357 yards as the Colts advanced to a regular-season finale against the Titans with a 28-27 victory over the Giants that required a touchdown on Indy’s final possession.
Too much Rodgers: The 6-8-1 Packers had to fight and claw their way to a victory over the Jets, which pretty much says everything about how their season has gone. Aaron Rodgers completed 37 of 55 passes for 442 yards and two touchdowns and had five carries for 32 yards and two more touchdowns. Still, Green Bay had to go to overtime for the 44-38 victory over the Jets.
Quite a haul: The Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey set an NFL record for running backs by pushing his season receptions total to 106, breaking the mark of 102 set by the Bears’ Matt Forte in 2014. The second-year Carolina star, who had 12 catches in his team’s 24-10 loss to the Falcons, also gained family bragging rights by topping the highest single-season mark for receptions, 101, posted by his father, former Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey.
Welcome to the club: With their 26-18 win over the Bengals, the Browns assured themselves of their first winning record in the AFC North since the NFL’s divisional realignment in 2002, becoming the final team to accomplish the feat, per ESPN.
Energizer Edelman: Julian Edelman scored what may have been the smartest touchdown of the day. Realizing he wasn’t down, he just kept going, straight to the end zone.
A FitzMas Festivus: In what may be his last game in Arizona, Larry Fitzgerald threw a touchdown pass. He hasn’t indicated yet whether this season will be his last.
Scenarios aplenty: The Titans beat the Redskins and the Ravens stopped the Chargers in Saturday’s games, two results with important implications. Still, the overall playoff picture did not change dramatically after the Saturday games. The Ravens showed that December is the month for defense as the Chargers slipped in a home game that probably took Philip Rivers out of the MVP conversation. The Titans prevailed but will now await word on the arm stinger that sidelined Marcus Mariota for the second half against the Redskins.
Here’s how the playoffs are shaping up after Sunday’s 1 p.m. games:
1. Kansas City (11-3): The Chiefs have clinched a playoff berth and can win the AFC West (and a first-round bye) with a win at 8-6 Seattle. A win, coupled with the Texans’ loss, would give the Chiefs home-field advantage for the playoffs.
2. Patriots (10-5): The Patriots clinched the AFC East with a victory over the Bills in Gillette Stadium. The Texans’ loss helps give them the inside track for a first-round bye, as the Patriots defeated Houston earlier this season. Now, if they can just get the Chiefs to lose two games . . .
3. Texans (10-5): Houston was teetering on the edge of clinching a playoff berth and a division title entering its game in Philadelphia and came up with nothing. A win and a Patriots loss would have secured a first-round bye. Alas.
4. Steelers (8-5-1): Pittsburgh faces a tough test late Sunday afternoon in New Orleans before closing out their regular season with a home game against the Bengals. A loss in either of their last two games, coupled with a Ravens’ victory in their finale would take the Steelers out of the AFC North’s top spot.
5. Chargers (11-4): Maybe they can petition to move out of the AFC West. A Chiefs win would secure the fifth seed for Los Angeles. A Chiefs loss would have the Chargers rooting for the Raiders in Kansas City’s regular-season finale in Kansas City.
6. Ravens (9-6): The Ravens hold the tiebreaker over Titans and Colts via better conference record. The Ravens will be watching Sunday and hoping for a Steelers loss that would move them into first place in the AFC North.
Still alive and playing each other next week: Titans (9-6), Colts (9-6).
1. Saints (12-2): After playing lights-out offense early in the season, New Orleans’s defense is coming around — just in time for Sunday afternoon’s home game against the Steelers. A victory either this week or next would clinch the NFC home-field advantage because the Saints hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Rams.
2. Rams (11-3): Beware the Cardinals. The Rams have a one-game lead on the Bears (who beat them two weeks ago) in the race for a first-round playoff bye, but they can clinch a first-round bye with a victory over Arizona and a loss by the Bears in San Francisco.
3. Bears (10-4): The NFC North champions, who play the 49ers, hold the head-to-head tiebreaker edge over the Rams in the battle for a first-round bye.
4. Cowboys (9-6): Ah, the NFC East. Someone has to win it and get into the playoffs and Dallas, energized by the arrival of Amari Cooper, took care of business against Tampa Bay.
5. Seahawks (8-6): The Seahawks failed to clinch a playoff berth in San Francisco, but are in position to do so with a victory over either the Chiefs or the Cardinals, their opponent in the regular-season finale. Both of those games are in Seattle.
6. Vikings (8-6-1): Minnesota needs to focus on just winning.
Still alive: Eagles (8-7).
Top story lines
The end might be in sight: The Patriots’ dynasty is fading, but they might have one more Super Bowl run left in them. (Read more.)
Harbaugh stays: The Ravens say John Harbaugh will return for the 2019 season. (Read more.)
The future is here: The Saints’ Taysom Hill is the NFL’s Swiss Army knife and a sign of the creativity boom. (Read more.)
Patriots lose Josh Gordon: Facing another suspension, Josh Gordon leaves the Patriots. (Read more.)
Thomas carted off: Texans wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with what, according to early reports, is an Achilles injury.
Gurley out: Rams running back Todd Gurley won’t play against the Cardinals because of a knee injury.
Freeman’s season is finished: The Falcons decided to shut down running back Devonta Freeman, who has not played since mid-October because of knee and groin injuries.
Kerryon Johnson on IR: Lions running back Kerryon Johnson, who has missed four games with a knee injury, has been placed on the injured-reserve list.
Gore’s season ends: Dolphins running back Frank Gore is on the injured reserve list with a foot injury, ending his streak of 126 consecutive games.
Week 16 cheat sheet: The choicest advice from every corner of the Internet. (Read more.)
Start/Sit: Bench Tom Brady. We know it’s difficult. (Read more.)
Week 16 waiver wire tips: Surprisingly solid options to win your league. (Read more.)
Week 16 player rankings: Who’s set for big rankings? (Read more.)
Betting tips: Chargers and Bears are peaking while Saints and Rams are fading. (Read more.)
ATS betting tips/picks
The Bears will win and the Texans will put an end to the Eagles’ playoff hopes. (Read more.)