The last Sunday of the regular season is in the books. Here are some of our big takeaways from the Week 17 games today:
» After last week's deflating performance versus the Raiders, Nick Foles' performance vs. the Cowboys did nothing to encourage the Eagles.
» In his first start with New England, ex-Steelers pass rusher James Harrison recorded two sacks and five combined tackles on 27 defensive snaps.
»Frank Gore's performance in 2017 will go down as one of the few bright spots of an otherwise dreary season for the Indianapolis Colts (4-12).
Twenty-five years after the 1992 Chargers opened 0-4, only to make the playoffs, this year's Bolts failed to double down. Despite the win for Los Angeles, Tennessee's victory over Jacksonville eliminated the Chargers. In his final showing of 2017, Philip Rivers carved up Oakland, hitting 28-of-37 attempts for 387 yards, three touchdowns and saucy completions of 62, 56, 28, 27, 23, 21 and 20 yards with beautiful deep scoring strikes to Tyrell Williams (3/67/1) and Travis Benjamin (4/96/1). Rivers played a rare brand of football for long stretches, only making this team's absence from the playoffs all the more frustrating. Melvin Gordon looked healthy running for 93 yards and got lucky when his second-quarter fumble landed in the arms of Keenan Allen (9/133/1), who raced 27 yards for the score. Derek Carr countered on the following drive with a gorgeous, powerful 87-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper (3/115/1), but the offense went to sleep from there.
-- Marc Sessler
The Russell Wilson-to-Doug Baldwin second-half magic wasn't enough to save a Seahawks offense that was among the league's least effective in the final quarter of the season. A Seattle squad facing the potential end of the Legion of Boom era will sit out the NFC tournament for the first time in six years. If Bruce Arians opts to walk away from coaching, the Cardinals sent him out in style with back-to-back victories to salvage a .500 record in a season sabotaged by injuries. If future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald opts for his own retirement, he will do so as the oldest receiver ever to record 100 receptions and 1,000 yards in the same season.
-- Chris Wesseling
It took all 17 weeks, but the Atlanta Falcons earned an opportunity to defend their NFC Championship in the playoffs. The path this time around will be much tougher. The 10-6 Falcons are headed to Los Angeles to face the Rams in the wild card round after a 22-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. It was the type of complete team effort from Atlanta that has been missing much of the season. While the offensive fireworks from a season ago remain absent, Matt Ryan controlled the pace of play throughout the second half with precise throws on third down that kept drives alive. Ryan threw for 317 yards on 45 attempts on a day where the Falcons couldn't get anything going on the ground.
-- Gregg Rosenthal
A winding journey of a Week 17 game went from a handy defeat to an interesting game in the final moments. Buffalo did about as much as it could to give this one away, but thanks to the Bills holding on via Jordan Poyer's game-sealing interception of David Fales, and a stunning Baltimore Ravens defeat, the Bills are heading to the playoffs for the first time since we waved goodbye to the 20th Century. The big question now, though, is if the Bills will have LeSean McCoy, who was carted off with an ankle injury and did not return. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported X-rays on McCoy's ankle were negative, but even if it's a sprain, we'll have to wait to see how severe it is -- which will have a direct impact on Buffalo's chances against Jacksonville in the Wild Card round.
-- Nick Shook
The Saints won the NFC South on Sunday but not of their own accord. New Orleans blew two four-point fourth-quarter leads to Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who mounted a 11-play, 95-yard touchdown drive in less than two minutes to steal a win. Tampa Bay converted fourth- and third-down conversions on the march, arguably the greatest drive of Winston's career. For the Saints, the loss is a reminder that, even with Alvin Kamara healthy and able -- the rookie back guaranteed himself the Offensive Rookie of the Year award with a kickoff return TD and another 100-yard day -- New Orleans' defense is not invincible. Despite intercepting Winston three times, the Saints' lauded defensive backfield with Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams was picked apart in the fourth quarter. Thankfully for the Saints, Atlanta's win over Carolina handed New Orleans the division title and a wild-card clash with the pass-poor Panthers next week.
-- Jeremy Bergman
The Titans have earned a postseason berth for the first time since the 2008 season.Tennessee staved off a comeback attempt by first-place Jacksonville, ending a three-game losing skid with a 15-10 victory in Week 17. The Titans' gain is the Chargers' loss, as Los Angeles' own 30-10 pasting of Oakland went for naught. Marcus Mariota came up big with the game on the line, moving the sticks with a pair of tackle-breaking, stiff-arming runs to drain the clock and preserve the win. The embattled quarterback's 61 rushing yards led the team, making up for a botched handoff that was returned 67 yards for a Yannick Ngokoue touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter. Coach Mike Mularkey can also thank his stingy defense and a mistake-prone Jaguars outfit for saving his job.
-- Chris Wesseling
Tyler Boyd won't have to buy a drink in Buffalo for the rest of his life. The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver knocked the rival Baltimore Ravens out of the postseason with a 49-yard touchdown catch-and-run with just 44 seconds left in the game. On paper, Baltimore should have never been in that position in the first place. All the Ravens had to do to snag a playoff spot was beat a Bengals team with a lame-duck coach -- Marvin Lewis is expected to leave, though he insisted after the game that he wants to return for a 16th season in 2018. Unfortunately, the Bad Ravens from the first half of 2017 showed up on offense. Joe Flacco's great run of play came to a screeching halt against a defense that Mitchell Trubisky eviscerated three weeks prior. Baltimore came to life in the second half after Chris Moore's clutch end-of-first-half KO return and TD catch gave the Ravens momentum. They had a three-point lead with just under three minutes to go, but another failed third-down conversion -- one of 12 -- gave Andy Dalton the ball back with just enough time to spare. It was all too fitting that, on Baltimore's final drive of the season, Flacco's last pass attempt on fourth and 14 to Benjamin Watson was thrown way short of the sticks, and Watson, gaining 13 of the yards to gain, came up just inches short.
-- Jeremy Bergman
What to make of a Rams team that sat quarterback Jared Goff, MVP candidate Todd Gurley and a flood of key starters? All of those players will be in the lineup when third-seeded Los Angeles hosts the Falcons next week in the wild-card round. On Sunday, the Rams looked nothing like a postseason machine, allowing the 49ers to pile up 277 yards before the half and 463 on the day. San Francisco passer Jimmy Garoppolo made a rash of beautiful throws, but also tossed a pair of downfield picks to Kevin Peterson. Garoppolo always makes up for his mistakes, though, leaving me to wish the Rams would have challenged the young signal-caller with their best players. It's impossible not to wonder where this Niners team would be had Jimmy G been here since Week 1. Next year, they'll be a sexy pick for the playoffs, but this division remains property of the Rams until further notice. One injury note: Niners receiver Marquise Goodwin was taken to a local hospital after a scary hit from Blake Countess.
-- Marc Sessler
Pat Mahomes!! The rookie quarterback shook off an early interception and some youthful miscues to find his footing before halftime, displaying his tantalizing arm strength that made scouts drool and surely makes those in charge of the Chiefs excited about the future. The rookie fired multiple bullets off his back foot or while on the run, completing 22 of 35 attempts on the day for 284 yards and helping Kansas City build a 24-10 lead that eventually disappeared. But for Mahomes, the moment -- tied 24-24 on the road with the ball, two minutes left and roughly 70 yards to go -- wasn't too big. The rookie engineered an 11-play, 67-yard march that ended with Harrison Butker's game-winning field goal and additional momentum entering the postseason. Whether Alex Smith is in Kansas City in 2017, Mahomes sure looked like the new wave in Chiefs Kingdom (which should be a Chiefdom, but whatever).
-- Nick Shook
Winless. The Browns are 0-16, an inglorious feat secured with Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Steelers. Pittsburgh thought enough of Cleveland to sit star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and workhorse runner Le'Veon Bell despite still being alive for the first-overall seed in the AFC. The Steelers crossed 100 yards on the ground in just 20 minutes, while backup passer Landry Jones threw for 239 yards and overcame a pair of turnovers while guiding Pittsburgh to four touchdown drives. Cleveland's DeShone Kizer made some of his best throws all year -- deep strikes to Josh Gordon (4/115) and Rashard Higgins (3/68/2) -- but also hurt the team with a pick while taking six sacks. It won't be enough to shake Cleveland's laser-focused offseason search for a franchise quarterback. As for Pittsburgh, they weren't the same without their front-line stars, but received a marvelous outing from surging rookie pass-catcher JuJu Smith-Schuster (9/143/1). We'll see the second-seeded Steelers again two weeks from now in the AFC's divisional round.
-- Marc Sessler
The Eagles were hoping to see an encouraging tune-up from Nick Foles and the passing attack after last week's deflating performance versus the Raiders. Instead, a skittish Foles delivered more of the same, dropping a shotgun snap, misfiring a fourth-down pass to Torrey Smith and floating an unpardonable interception. He finished just 4 of 11 for 39 yards on four possessions, leaving him with a 46.9 completion percentage, 48.2 passer rating and a feeble 4.1 yards per on 49 attempts over five quarters in the regular season's final two games. The defense and ground attack are going to have to do the heavy lifting if the NFC's top seed is going to fend off the postseason competition for a Super Bowl run.
-- Chris Wesseling
The Minnesota Vikings clinched a first-round bye with a familiar recipe: A smothering defense and chain-moving offense. Mike Zimmer's D once again controlled the game, dominating the Bears run game, and pestering Mitchell Trubisky into rookie errors. The Vikings held Jordan Howard, the NFL's fifth-leading rusher entering Sunday, to -1 yard in the first half, and nine rushing yards on the day. The first half was a performance the Purple People Eaters would be proud of. Minnesota's defense has allowed a combined 10 points to offenses the past three games. With the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense destroying offensive lines and Case Keenum running a steady offense, the Vikings head into the postseason with the most balanced team in the NFC. Sunday's whitewash of the Bears sets up Minnesota with a golden opportunity to play a home game in the Super Bowl.
-- Kevin Patra
Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions didn't let a game void of playoff implications prevent them from trouncing their longtime NFC North rivals. Against an injury-depleted Packers squad, the Lions more or less controlled this one from start to finish. Stafford connected on 20 of 29 passes for 323 yards and three TDs. His 71-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate in the third quarter also was his longest pass of the season. As for Brett Hundley, he did nothing to change the narrative that he's a backup NFL quarterback. Without the dynamic Aaron Jones to help him balance the Packers' attack, Hundley was limited to 14 of 24 passes for 172 yards. It didn't help that he was sacked three times by Ezekiel Ansah. It was a solid performance by a somewhat mercurial Lions team that likely will have a new coach at the helm next season.
-- Austin Knoblauch
It was cold and receivers were dropping passes left and right for both squads, but Kirk Cousins ended his 2017 season -- and possibly his time in Washington -- with one of his most forgettable performances as a starter. After the Redskins put together an inspired game last week in a win over the Denver Broncos, they did the opposite, struggling to muster much of anything. Cousins finished 20-of-37 passing for 158 yards and three interceptions, and the play was about as ugly as the stat line. It's an interesting wrinkle coming out of an otherwise meaningless game, considering Cousins' impending free agency and the sweepstakes that's expected to ensue in March. As for the other side, Eli Manning went out with a win in what some think could have been his last game, though he expressed his desire to return to New York in 2018. Giants fans sent him into the new year the right way, chanting his name in unison as he took a knee just outside Washington's end zone to finish off a season-ending win.
-- Nick Shook
With home-field advantage on the line, New England wasn't at its best despite electing to play its starters -- Tom Brady looked his age in frigid Foxborough, missing open receivers and throwing too low, and Rob Gronkowski was double-teamed all day and saw zero targets for the first time in his career. But with nearly every other Pats running back inactive, Dion Lewis put the team on his back and legs. Lewis tallied a career-high 32 touches for 133 yards and two scores, displaying excellent patience and inside speed. New England's most useful running back is rolling in postseason football red hot, but perhaps over-worked after two straight weeks of 20-plus carries. Lewis and the Pats will relish their eighth consecutive first-round bye. In his first start with New England, ex-Steelers pass rusher James Harrison recorded two sacks and five combined tackles on 27 defensive snaps, more than in any game the 39-year-old played for Pittsburgh this season. New York put up next-to-no fight during the Pats' breezy victory, refusing to replace the pedestrian Bryce Petty with enigma-in-parka Christian Hackenberg despite the former going oh-fer-12 on third down.
-- Jeremy Bergman
Frank Gore's performance in 2017 will go down as one of the few bright spots of an otherwise dreary season for the Indianapolis Colts (4-12). On Sunday, the 34-year-old running back hit another milestone in his memorable career, becoming the fifth player in NFL history to surpass the 14,000-yard mark. Gore achieved the feat in the fourth quarter as part of a 100-yard performance against the Texans (4-12). It was a touching moment in a game that very well could be the "last rodeo" for the Colts as we know them. As for Gore, he finishes the season with 961 yards and three touchdowns.
-- Austin Knoblauch