Weekend Recap  


Vikings recapture mojo right in time for playoffs

Jim Mone / Associated Press
The Vikings' Jared Allen (left) and Brian Robison converge on Giants QB Eli Manning.
» Best of Week 17 | More photos

Vikings 44, Giants 7
After sputtering on offense the past few weeks, the Vikings seemingly regained their rhythm against the Giants' anemic defense. Brett Favre was instrumental in leading Minnesota to 44 points. Beyond his impressive numbers (316 yards passing and four touchdowns), his early-game success should give the Vikings plenty of confidence heading into the postseason. The Vikings are at their best when they are able to throw effectively to build an early lead and turn the game over to Adrian Peterson in the late stages. With Minnesota rediscovering the formula Sunday, the Vikings could prove to be formidable in the playoffs.

Cowboys 24, Eagles 0
The Cowboys' defensive success against the Eagles' quick-strike attack is attributed to the disciplined coverage of their secondary. Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins did an outstanding job of not allowing Philadelphia's receivers to run past them on deep routes. The trio's ability to force short or intermediate throws from Donovan McNabb kept Andy Reid's offense under wraps. The airtight coverage also enabled Dallas' pass rush to get after McNabb. While most of the league has been unable to find an answer for the Eagles' big-play potential, the Cowboys have diffused one of the league's most explosive attacks twice this season. Dallas will have a third chance next week.

Packers 33, Cardinals 7
Mike McCarthy promised to go full throttle against the Cardinals, and his team responded to the challenge of playing well in a meaningless contest. The Packers looked sharp on both sides of the ball at Arizona. Aaron Rodgers was particularly on point, connecting on 21 of 26 passes for 235 yards and distributed the ball to eight different receivers. With the diverse aerial attack keeping the Cardinals on their heels, Ryan Grant picked yards on an assortment of downhill runs from a variety of two-man sets. Green Bay faces the daunting task of defeating Arizona on the road in back-to-back weeks. However, the Packers should enter their wild-card matchup with a lot of confidence.

Bills 30, Colts 7
The Colts willingly surrendered their chance to achieve history by making wholesale substitutions against the Jets, but Indianapolis' reluctance to play its starters against the Bills continued to kill the momentum generated by a 14-0 start. The Colts looked listless and uninspired at Buffalo, and the lack of focus led to numerous miscues on both sides of the ball. The defense, in particular, played undisciplined against the run, which led to Fred Jackson's big day (33 carries for 212 yards). The Colts' linebackers were repeatedly off target in their run gap fits, and their penchant for overrunning plays led to long gains from Jackson on cutback runs. With their last two opponents finding tremendous success on the ground, a blueprint for defeating the AFC South champions in the playoffs is on film for opponents to see.

Panthers 23, Saints 10
The Saints might disregard the importance of momentum heading into the playoffs, but their disappointing performance against the Panthers should be concerning. The defense has been absolutely horrible the last half of the season, and the unit's dismal play Sunday indicates that the Saints haven't solved their issues against the run. Jonathan Stewart had a 67-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game, and his 125 rushing yards represent the second straight week that the Saints have allowed a 100-yard rusher. Given the importance of playing great run defense in the postseason, the Saints are looking more and more like a one-and-done team.

Browns 23, Jaguars 17
The Browns may not be playoff worthy this season, but the team has established key building blocks on offense in Jerome Harrison and Josh Cribbs. The duo was sensational over the final month of the season, and their stellar play has been instrumental in a four-game winning streak. Harrison, in particular, has emerged as the team's franchise back with three straight 100-yard games. With Cribbs providing a boost as the Wildcat quarterback, the Browns have discovered a much-needed explosive dimension. Although the quarterback situation still needs to be resolved, the Browns should be optimistic about their offensive potential.

Texans 34, Patriots 27
The Texans have flown under the radar for most of the season, but their surprising win over the Patriots should be an eye opener. Houston's offense has shown explosive potential with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson acting as the main catalysts, but the hard-nosed running of Arian Foster gives the unit a physical presence. Defensively, the Texans have made major strides under coordinator Frank Bush. Mario Williams and Brian Cushing have spearheaded a unit that has increasingly started to force turnovers at key moments. With a young, talented roster in place, the Texans are clearly a team on the rise.

49ers 28, Rams 6
Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore have allowed Alex Smith to thrive as a game manager for the 49ers. Crabtree and Davis have a flair for making acrobatic catches, which has encouraged Smith to make more aggressive throws down the field. Gore acts as the anchor of the offense, and his running prowess allows Smith to throw comfortably off play-action. The 49ers missed the playoffs because it took their offense time to find an identity, but it appears that the unit has finally found its stride.

Falcons 20, Buccaneers 10
Jason Snelling has been a valuable reserve for most of his career in Atlanta, but is capable of thriving as a feature back. He rushed for 147 yards on 25 carries, and gave the offense the punch it needed to separate from the pesky Buccaneers. With the game on the line, Snelling toted the rock 12 times in the fourth quarter and led the Falcons to 10 points in the period. While Snelling lacks the big-play potential of Michael Turner, his hard-nosed running allowed the Falcons to pound the ball between the tackles and seize control of the game late.

Steelers 30, Dolphins 24
The increased use of the spread offense has led to speculation about the Steelers becoming a pass-first team, but their diverse game plan against the Dolphins indicates a balanced attack is still preferred. Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall combined for 185 rushing yards on 32 carries. Their success on the ground provided a perfect complement to Ben Roethlisberger's workmanlike passing performance (18 of 27 for 220 yards with three touchdowns). With Pittsburgh able to shift seamlessly from open formations to conventional two-back sets, it was able to control the flow of the game and come away with a hard-fought win.

Bears 37, Lions 23
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner may not be around next season, but he finally got his unit on track. Although the offense started slow, Jay Cutler jumpstarted things when he got hot in the 2-minute drill prior to halftime. He connected on an assortment of short throws to get into a rhythm, which also opened up the field for Matt Forte (16 carries for 101 yards). While the stellar effort showcased the offense's potential, the fact that the Bears couldn't perform at a high level consistently has to be frustrating to Lovie Smith and Co.

Chiefs 44, Broncos 24
Josh McDaniels' inexplicable decision to play without two of his most explosive offensive weapons ( Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler) cost the rookie coach dearly against the Chiefs. The passing offense lacked rhythm, and the absence of a legitimate threat put an inordinate amount of pressure on Kyle Orton to function as a playmaker. While Orton has shown flashes, he crumbled against the Chiefs with a potential playoff berth on the line. Two of his three interceptions were returned for scores. McDaniels has made a host of questionable decisions since taking over in Denver, but this one will haunt him for most of the offseason.

Ravens 21, Raiders 13
The Ravens enter the postseason as one of the most feared opponents due to their punishing ground game and menacing defense. Both aspects of their attack were on full display in Oakland. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice combined for 237 yards rushing on only 30 carries, which allowed Baltimore to control the tempo of the game from the start. McGahee, who had played in a complementary role for most of the campaign, surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time of the season and served as the designated hammer between the tackles. Defensively, Ray Lewis and Co. continue to generate turnovers with high-pressure tactics and punishing hits. With the combination of a strong rushing attack and a fierce defense, Baltimore is definitely a team to watch in the playoffs.

Titans 17, Seahawks 13
After watching Chris Johnson go over the 2,000-yard rushing mark, the second-year pro has become the most dynamic runner in the league. He appears to play at a speed that is a notch above most defenders. Johnson's smooth running style masks his explosive burst in the hole, which leaves defenses unable to take proper pursuit angles. Given his rare ability to score from anywhere on the field, Johnson is undoubtedly the most dangerous weapon in the game today.

Chargers 23, Redskins 20
Philip Rivers didn't play much, but the offense continues to roll under his direction. He produced two scoring drives to open the game, and maintained the rhythm that has been a trademark of the unit for most of the season. Additionally, the Chargers continue to terrorize opponents with their vertical passing game. Rivers' penchant for throwing downfield early in games sets up the potent ball-controlled passing game, and creates some space for LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles to run. Although San Diego enters the playoffs as the AFC's second seed, its dangerous offense will make them a tough out.

Jets 37, Bengals 0
The Jets' defense is starting to live up to the hype that accompanied Rex Ryan's arrival in New York. The unit bludgeoned the Bengals from the opening snap, and held the league's sixth-ranked rush offense to only 72 yards. In addition, the Jets harassed Carson Palmer into a dismal performance (1 of 11 passes for 0 yards) from the pocket. While the windy conditions greatly contributed to the Jets' misery, the lockdown efforts of Darrelle Revis on Chad Ochocinco also was key. The Jets enter the postseason with the top-ranked defense, both in terms of points and yards allowed, and their 37-0 thrashing of the Bengals showcased their immense potential.


Seven from Sunday

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played during the 17th week of the 2009 season.

» This season, 10 quarterbacks each passed for at least 4,000 yards -- Matt Schaub (4,770), Peyton Manning (4,500), Tony Romo (4,483), Aaron Rodgers (4,434), Tom Brady (4,398), Drew Brees (4,388), Ben Roethlisberger (4,328), Philip Rivers (4,254), Brett Favre (4,202) and Eli Manning (4,021) -- the most in a single season in NFL history. The previous record was seven in 2007.

Twelve quarterbacks passed for at least 25 touchdowns this year -- Brees (34), Favre (33), P. Manning (33), Rodgers (30), Schaub (29), Brady (28), Rivers (28), Jay Cutler (27), E. Manning (27), Roethlisberger (26), Romo (26) and Kurt Warner (26) -- the most in a single season in NFL history. The previous record was 10 in 2007.

» Tennessee running back Chris Johnson had 154 yards from scrimmage (134 rushing, 20 receiving) in the Titans' 17-13 victory over Seattle. Johnson totaled 2,509 yards from scrimmage this season (2,006 rushing, 503 receiving), surpassing Marshall Faulk (2,429 in 1999) for the most in a single season in NFL history.

Johnson also led the league in rushing with 2,006 yards and became the sixth player in league history with 2,000 rushing yards in a season.

» The Green Bay Packers improved to 11-5 with a 33-7 victory over Arizona. The Packers became the first team in NFL history with a 4,000-yard passer (QB Aaron Rodgers), 1,200-yard rusher (RB Ryan Grant) and two 1,000-yard receivers (WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings) in consecutive seasons.

» Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for 125 yards in the Panthers' 23-10 win against New Orleans. Stewart (1,133) and DeAngelo Williams (1,117) are the first set of teammates to each rush for 1,100 yards in a single season.

» Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre threw four touchdowns in the Vikings' 44-7 win against the New York Giants. Favre, who passed for 33 touchdowns this season, reached the 30-touchdown mark for the ninth time in his career, the most in NFL history.

Favre, who passed for 316 yards against the Giants, reached the 4,000-yard mark (4,202) for the sixth time in his career, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the second-most in NFL history.

» San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis had a touchdown catch in the 49ers' 28-6 victory over St. Louis. Davis, who tied for the NFL lead with 13 touchdown receptions in 2009, tied Antonio Gates of San Diego (13 in 2004) for the most TD catches by a tight end in a single-season in NFL history.

» Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson had 65 receiving yards in the Texans' 34-27 win against New England. Johnson, who has led the NFL in receiving with 1,575 yards in 2008 and 1,569 yards in 2009, joined Jerry Rice as the only players since 1970 to lead the league in consecutive seasons. Rice topped the league in back-to-back seasons in 1989-90 and led the NFL three years in a row from 1993-95.

Johnson and Marvin Harrison (2001-02) are the only players in NFL history to record at least 1,500 receiving yards in consecutive seasons.

Fantasy studs

Who was this week's best fantasy player? Was it Jay Cutler, who finished a disappointing season strong? What about Jamaal Charles? Or, was it Chris Johnson? Check out all of Michael Fabiano's nominees and cast your vote.
» Vote for Week 17 fantasy stud


The NFL delivered more exciting games and performances this final weekend of regular-season play, including the Bills defeating the Colts in the snow in Buffalo. Check out the memorable moments from Week 17.

» Fans of the NFL
» NFL cheerleaders during Week 17
» Braving the weather
» NFL.com photo gallery archives

Weekly Countdown

NFL Weekly Countdown, which airs each Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network, lets fans program the show. Check out the 15 nominations for the best performances, and then rank in the order you want to see them on the show. Come back Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to see the results.

Top 15 moments of Week 17:

» Charles in charge in Denver | Vote
» Pick sixes for Johnson | Vote
» Cutler gets four TDs | Vote
» Favre ends on high note | Vote
» Rice gets two scores | Vote
» Gaffney a real catch | Vote
» Gore blasts through Rams | Vote
» 49ers stuff Rams | Vote
» Harrison carries Browns | Vote
» Action Jackson in snow | Vote
» Chris Johnson's record | Vote
» McGahee leads way to playoffs | Vote
» Rodgers scorches Cardinals | Vote
» Cowboys blank Eagles | Vote
» Texans get first winning season | Vote

» Vote: Week 17's top performances

Ahead: Wild-card weekend!

N.Y. Jets at Cincinnati, 4:30 p.m. (NBC)
Philadelphia at Dallas, 8 p.m. (NBC)
Baltimore at New England, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Green Bay at Arizona, 4:40 p.m. (FOX)

» Complete schedule



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