Buccaneers 20, Saints 17 (OT)
After losing their second consecutive game, the
are showing troubling signs heading into the postseason. While their offense remains one of the most prolific units in the league, the defense and special teams have started to fall off dramatically in recent weeks. New Orleans has problems defending the run and its inability to stop the power game allows teams to control the tempo. The
relied on the ground game to rally from a 17-0 deficit early in the contest. The special teams woes prevented the
from sealing the victory in the fourth quarter.
's 77-yard punt return for a touchdown tied the game for Tampa Bay, and
's miss on a 37-yard field goal attempt kept New Orleans from winning at the end of regulation. After running out to a 13-0 mark, problems in two key phases may lead to a quick exit for the
Packers 48, Seahawks 10
After falling apart against the
last week, the
defense rebounded with a stellar effort. The pass defense, in particular, looked vastly improved after Green Bay spent a week shoring up its coverage in practice. Led by
's two interceptions, the
picked off four
passes and completely disrupted the rhythm of the passing game. The airtight coverage allowed defensive coordinator Dom Capers to harass the veteran quarterback with a host of five-man pressures from multiple angles. The effective use of blitz and coverage combined with a better effort from the secondary allowed the
to get back on track after a tough loss in Pittsburgh.
Jets 29, Colts 15
fans are surely upset at Jim Caldwell's decision to rest players during the second half, but the long-term plan for winning a Super Bowl deservedly took priority over a quest for an unbeaten season. While a 16-0 mark would have represented history for the franchise, the potential loss of a key player prior to the playoffs would ensure a brief postseason stay.
, Reggie Wayne,
are too valuable to be lost during a game that doesn't alter the team's standing in the playoffs, so the priority must be placed on ensuring their health. Although a case can be made for maintaining momentum, the fact that the
' starters played well into the second half should be enough to sustain rhythm. Even though the decision to pull the starters appears rooted in logic, the
face the prospect of being second-guessed if they fail to advance deep into the playoffs.
Falcons 31, Bills 3
continue to sputter regardless of the signal caller. The Brian Brohm-led offense failed to score a touchdown and produced just 178 yards of total offense. Brohm, who was making his first career start, struggled from the outset and passed for only 146 yards and two interceptions. He was woefully inaccurate on his deep throws and his inability to connect with Terrell Owens or
on vertical routes allowed the
to suffocate Buffalo's short passing game. In addition, the
couldn't generate positive production on the ground.
combined for only 42 rushing yards, which left the coaching staff with few options against the
' opportunistic defense.
Bengals 17, Chiefs 10
' defense has flown under the radar for most of the season, but the unit has been the key to Cincinnati's run to the AFC North title. Mike Zimmer's troops have been outstanding at generating turnovers, and their ability to come up with timely plays proved critical against the
. The secondary, in particular, delivered two gems with
and Chinedum Ndukwe picking off passes at big moments. In addition, the unit blanketed Kansas City's receivers and forced
to repeatedly settle for check downs. With the
unable to generate explosive plays (completions over 20 yards) in the passing game, Cincinnati's defense kept the game under control until the offense found a rhythm in the late stages of the contest.
Browns 23, Raiders 9
It remains to be seen whether Eric Mangini will remain as the coach in Cleveland, but he may have discovered a franchise runner for the
in Jerome Harrison. For the second consecutive week, Harrison put up big numbers and single-handedly carried the offense. While most would point to his 148 rushing yards as his most impressive contribution, it was the fact that he toted the rock 39 times that keyed the victory. Harrison's ability to handle a heavy workload allowed the
to control the clock and muster another win without a significant contribution from the passing game.
Texans 27, Dolphins 20
As a disciple of the West Coast offense,
is prone to script Houston's first 12-15 plays to get the offense into a rhythm. Based on the
' sensational opening half against the
, Kubiak put together an outstanding game plan.
responded particularly well, as he opened the game completing 14 of his first 18 passes and led the
to scores on each of their first five drives. Kubiak included an assortment of downfield shots to
, which loosened up Miami's tight man coverage. With the
forced to respect the deep pass, Schaub comfortably distributed the ball underneath coverage and kept the
ahead of the chains. The
also mixed in enough runs to
to maintain balance and rhythm. While most coaches hope for fast starts, the
' sizzling first half was the result of Kubiak crafting a perfect script.
Steelers 23, Ravens 20
' miscues cost them dearly against the
. Baltimore committed 11 penalties for 113 yards, which included numerous fouls that extended drives for Pittsburgh. The bonus plays gave
additional opportunities to attack an injury-ravaged secondary and allowed the
to score points on drives that should've ended on the cusp of the red zone. Aside from the mental errors, the
hurt themselves with dropped passes. Throw in two flags that negated would-be touchdowns and the lack of discipline not only cost the
a win, but put their postseason plans in jeopardy.
Panthers 41, Giants 9
The insertion of
in the lineup has undoubtedly allowed the
to rediscover their offensive identity. Carolina has long had a reputation for a smash-mouth ground game complemented by an explosive vertical attack. However, the erratic play of Jake Delhomme kept the
from utilizing the game plan. In four starts, Moore has proven to be a more efficient game manager, but can still push the ball downfield to give the
an explosive element. With
enjoying an outstanding day against the
, Moore repeatedly riddled their secondary on an assortment of intermediate and deep throws off play-action. The combination of power runs and play-action tosses kept the
on their heels and led the
to one of their best offensive showings this season.
Patriots 35, Jaguars 7
controversy from a few weeks ago may have awakened a dormant offense. The
were unquestionably in rhythm against the
, as the unit rolled up 464 yards of offense and scored 35 points. Although
acted as the catalyst for the offense with 13 receptions, it was Moss' big-play production that sparked the unit. Moss finished with only four receptions, but three of his grabs resulted in touchdowns. In getting the offense back on track,
deserves credit for hitting his playmakers in their sweet spots. For Welker, that means catching balls on short crossers and option routes to take advantage of his exceptional quickness in space. In getting Moss more involved, the
had him run more vertical routes near the goal line that utilized his athleticism in jump-ball situations. The
' offense is beginning to display the explosiveness that most anticipated.
Cardinals 31, Rams 10
are beginning to show more balance on offense, and the surprising diversity is making the unit difficult to stop. While most teams are intent on stopping Kurt Warner and the tandem of
, the emergence of the running game has been an effective counter.
have become an effective one-two punch, and Arizona has increasingly relied on them to get in an offensive rhythm. Against the
, Wells and Hightower combined for 100 rushing yards on 27 carries behind an assortment of power runs between the tackles. In addition, the
have morphed their one-back formation into a two-back set by using extra tight ends as lead blockers off an assortment of motions. The increased use of run-heavy personnel has given the
another dimension that could serve them well as they make another postseason run.
49ers 20, Lions 6
' opportunistic defense keyed the win over the
. The unit forced six turnovers and repeatedly came up with critical plays to stop drives. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky deftly mixed in conventional coverage with an assortment of blitz pressures to keep
uncomfortable in the pocket. The constantly changing looks resulted in numerous mistakes from the young quarterback, including three interceptions and a fumble. Although San Francisco's offense failed to capitalize on most of Detroit's miscues, the defense's penchant for creating takeaways led the
to their seventh win.
Eagles 30, Broncos 27
might be the hottest team in the NFC, and their explosive offense is keying the run. Donovan McNabb and Co. put defenses in a quandary by opening up formations to get their playmakers favorable matchups in space.
and Brian Westbrook excel in the open field, and the increased use of spread sets naturally creates space for them underneath coverage. In addition to using more wide-open formations, the
have started to frequently operate at a no-huddle tempo to keep defenses from substituting personnel. The combination allowed the
to quickly get into rhythm while keeping the
' defense on its heels.
Cowboys 17, Redskins 0
Wade Phillipsâ aggressive defensive game plan rendered the
offense punchless. Phillips utilized a series of five-man pressures to batter Jason Campbell in the pocket. The
routinely sent rushers from multiple angles to disrupt the
â blocking schemes, and their ability to put big hits on the quarterback led Campbell to repeatedly toss errant passes. Although the stat sheet will reveal that the
recorded three sacks, it was the steady pounding of Campbell that prevented the
from mounting a serious scoring threat. If the
can continue to get steady pressure on their future opponents, they will make a deep run for the first time in more than a decade.
Seven from Sunday
A look at seven statistical highlights from games played during the 16th week of the 2009 season.
» Indianapolis quarterback
threw for 192 yards in
the Colts' 29-15 loss
New York Jets
. Manning (50,033) joined Brett Favre (68,692), and Pro Football Hall of Famers
(51,475) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to reach 50,000 career passing yards. Manning also became the fastest to reach the 50,000-yard mark, accomplishing the feat in 191 career games (Marino, 193).
» Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner threw two touchdown passes in
the Cardinals' 31-10 victory over St. Louis
. Warner, who threw 102 TDs with the
, now has 100 touchdown passes with the
and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer
as the only players in NFL history with at least 100 touchdown passes with two teams.
» Green Bay quarterback
passed for 237 yards in
the Packers' 48-10 win over Seattle
. Rodgers, who had 4,038 yards last year, has passed for 4,199 yards this season and is the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards in each of the first two seasons in which he started a game.
» Houston wide receiver
had 71 receiving yards in
the Texans' 27-20 victory over Miami
. Johnson leads the NFL with 1,504 receiving yards this season. Johnson, who had an NFL-best 1,575 receiving yards last year, joined
(2001-02) as the only players in NFL history to record at least 1,500 receiving yards in consecutive seasons.
New York Jets
had a 106-yard kickoff-return touchdown in
the Jets' 29-15 win at Indianapolis
, tied for the second-longest kickoff return in NFL history. New England's Ellis Hobbs holds the NFL record with a 108-yard return (Sept. 9, 2007) and three others --
(Oct. 7, 1956),
(Dec. 17, 1967) and
(Oct. 21, 1979) -- have had 106-yard returns.
» New England quarterback
passed for 267 yards and four touchdowns in
the Patriots' 35-7 win over Jacksonville
at Gillette Stadium. With the win, Brady (20) tied Pro Football Hall of Famer
for the third-most consecutive home wins as a starting quarterback since 1970. He also became the fifth quarterback to win 20 or more consecutive home games since 1970.
» Denver wide receiver
had eight receptions in
the Broncos' 30-27 loss at Philadelphia
. Marshall, who has 101 catches this season, joined
(3) as the only players to have 100 receptions in at least three consecutive seasons.
Vikings at Bears:
The homefield hopes of Brett Favre and the
were given new life after the
' loss on Sunday. Can Minnesota get its season back on track when it visits Chicago?
Ahead ... Week 17!
Indianapolis at Buffalo
, 1 p.m.
New Orleans at Carolina
, 1 p.m.
Jacksonville at Cleveland
, 1 p.m.
Chicago at Detroit
, 1 p.m.
New England at Houston
, 1 p.m.
Pittsburgh at Miami
, 1 p.m.
N.Y. Giants at Minnesota
, 1 p.m.
San Francisco at St. Louis
, 1 p.m.
Atlanta at Tampa Bay
, 1 p.m.
Green Bay at Arizona
, 4:05 p.m.
Philadelphia at Dallas
, 4:15 p.m.
Kansas City at Denver
, 4:15 p.m.
Baltimore at Oakland
, 4:15 p.m.
Washington at San Diego
, 4:15 p.m.
Tennessee at Seattle
, 4:15 p.m.
Cincinnati at N.Y. Jets
, 8:20 p.m.