Vikings 44, Giants 7
After sputtering on offense the past few weeks, the
seemingly regained their rhythm against the
' 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
plenty of confidence heading into the postseason. The
are at their best when they are able to throw effectively to build an early lead and turn the game over to
in the late stages. With Minnesota rediscovering the formula Sunday, the
could prove to be formidable in the playoffs.
Cowboys 24, Eagles 0
' defensive success against the
' quick-strike attack is attributed to the disciplined coverage of their secondary.
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
'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
' big-play potential, the
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
promised to go full throttle against the
, and his team responded to the challenge of playing well in a meaningless contest. The
looked sharp on both sides of the ball at Arizona.
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
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
should enter their wild-card matchup with a lot of confidence.
Bills 30, Colts 7
willingly surrendered their chance to achieve history by making wholesale substitutions against the
, but Indianapolis' reluctance to play its starters against the
continued to kill the momentum generated by a 14-0 start. The
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
's big day (33 carries for 212 yards). The
' 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
might disregard the importance of momentum heading into the playoffs, but their disappointing performance against the
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
haven't solved their issues against the run.
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
have allowed a 100-yard rusher. Given the importance of playing great run defense in the postseason, the
are looking more and more like a one-and-done team.
Browns 23, Jaguars 17
may not be playoff worthy this season, but the team has established key building blocks on offense in Jerome Harrison and
. 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
have discovered a much-needed explosive dimension. Although the quarterback situation still needs to be resolved, the
should be optimistic about their offensive potential.
Texans 34, Patriots 27
have flown under the radar for most of the season, but their surprising win over the
should be an eye opener. Houston's offense has shown explosive potential with
acting as the main catalysts, but the hard-nosed running of
gives the unit a physical presence. Defensively, the
have made major strides under coordinator Frank Bush.
have spearheaded a unit that has increasingly started to force turnovers at key moments. With a young, talented roster in place, the
are clearly a team on the rise.
49ers 28, Rams 6
to thrive as a game manager for the
. 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
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
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
. With the game on the line, Snelling toted the rock 12 times in the fourth quarter and led the
to 10 points in the period. While Snelling lacks the big-play potential of
, his hard-nosed running allowed the
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
becoming a pass-first team, but their diverse game plan against the
indicates a balanced attack is still preferred. Willie Parker and
combined for 185 rushing yards on 32 carries. Their success on the ground provided a perfect complement to
'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,
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
(16 carries for 101 yards). While the stellar effort showcased the offense's potential, the fact that the
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 (
) cost the rookie coach dearly against the
. The passing offense lacked rhythm, and the absence of a legitimate threat put an inordinate amount of pressure on
to function as a playmaker. While Orton has shown flashes, he crumbled against the
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
' defense is starting to live up to the hype that accompanied Rex Ryan's arrival in New York. The unit bludgeoned the
from the opening snap, and held the league's sixth-ranked rush offense to only 72 yards. In addition, the
into a dismal performance (1 of 11 passes for 0 yards) from the pocket. While the windy conditions greatly contributed to the
' misery, the lockdown efforts of
on Chad Ochocinco also was key. The
enter the postseason with the top-ranked defense, both in terms of points and yards allowed, and their 37-0 thrashing of the
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 --
(4,388), Ben Roethlisberger (4,328),
(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),
(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
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
(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.
Green Bay Packers
improved to 11-5 with
a 33-7 victory over Arizona
became the first team in NFL history with a 4,000-yard passer (QB
), 1,200-yard rusher (RB Ryan Grant) and two 1,000-yard receivers (WRs
) in consecutive seasons.
» Carolina running back
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
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
, reached the 4,000-yard mark (4,202) for the sixth time in his career, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer
for the second-most in NFL history.
» San Francisco tight end
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
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
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
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.
(2001-02) are the only players in NFL history to record at least 1,500 receiving yards in consecutive seasons.
Ahead: Wild-card weekend!
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)