The Jacksonville Jaguars are a late-season revelation as they move into the top spot in the AFC South, the Minnesota Vikings continue to be the Kings of “one-score games,” while the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs battle for the No.1 seed in the AFC is still alive.
Elsewhere, the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, New England Patriots, and Washington Commanders, among several others, stumble, taking a big hit to their playoff hopes in the process. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers – shockingly – kept the slimmest of slim playoff hopes alive.
This and more are some of the many highlights of a wild, wild Week 16 in the NFL. Read on as we look at some of the key takeaways of the week.
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NFL Week 16 Highlights & Lessons Learned
Jacksonville Leapfrogs Into First Place
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ late-season push sees them move into the top spot in the AFC South behind a 7-8-0 record. They’re tied with the Titans at 7-8-0, but move in front thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker (the Jags beat the Titans 36-22 on December 11).
The Jaguars took care of business in Thursday Night Football, beating the New York Jets 19-3. Then, they got help later in the week from an unlikely source: the Houston Texans after they defeated the Titans 19-14. It was only Houston’s second win of the season, and it couldn’t have been more opportune for Doug Pederson’s side.
The Jaguars face the Texans in Week 17 and the Titans in Week 18. Should they win, they’ll win their first AFC South title since 2017 and simultaneously snap a five-year playoff drought.
Green Bay Still Alive
The Green Bay Packers (7-8-0) went into Week 16 as a longshot bet to make the playoffs, but their chances of getting into the postseason vastly improved at the close of Sunday.
First, losses by the Lions, Seahawks, Washington Commanders, and New York Giants opened the door ever so slightly. But it took the next day’s 26-20 upset over the Miami Dolphins on the road to propel the Packers forward.
The job isn’t done yet, though. It might not even get done looking at the schedule. The Packers still need to win out, and with dates against divisional rivals the Vikings and Lions, it’s going to be a tough slog.
Fun Fact: Matt LaFleur is 14-0 in December through his first four seasons in Green Bay.
Eagles, Cowboys Battle for NFC East Extends
The Dallas Cowboys (11-4-0) kept their slim hopes of winning the NFC East title alive by beating the Philadelphia Eagles 40-34 on Christmas Eve, coming back from behind to defeat the Jalen-Hurts-less Eagles.
A lot will need to go Dallas’ way to win the divisional title, namely winning out and the Eagles dropping their last two games. As far as the playoffs are concerned, though, both have clinched their respective places in the postseason.
Carolina Making Things Interesting in the NFC South
Although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8-0) are in pole position in the NFC South, the Carolina Panthers (6-9-0) are making things interesting down the stretch. Carolina clinched a pivotal 37-23 win over the Lions on Saturday to stay within touching distance of Tampa Bay in the standings.
Tampa Bay needed overtime to beat the Arizona Cardinals 19-16 and stay abreast of the NFC South race, but things could get heated in Week 17 when they collide with the Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
Vikings Rule One-Score Games
The Minnesota Vikings won another one-score game to improve to 12-3-0 on the season and close the gap on the Eagles in the race for the No. 1 seed. In one-possession games — 8 points or fewer — the Vikings are now 11-0 this season.
Interestingly, bettors are still finding it hard to buy what Minnesota is selling, with opinion polls showing that many believe the Vikings will be one and done in the postseason.
Tomlin Two Wins Away From Another Winning Record
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the quintessential long-shots to make the playoffs. They’re currently far down the line with a 7-8-0 record, sitting behind the Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, and Titans in the queue for the final Wild Card spot.
It goes without saying that they’ll need to win out to have a shot, even though it isn’t guaranteed if they do. That said, should the Steelers deliver and finish with a 9-7-0 record, head coach Mike Tomlin will improve to a record 16 undefeated seasons in the NFL!