When the Indianapolis Colts were eliminated by the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, they did not look like a team ready to take on a reclamation project.

The seventh-seeded Colts pushed a Bills team that reached the AFC Championship Game all the way before falling to a 27-24 defeat. 

Yet that exit, combined with Philip Rivers' retirement after one season, left the Colts in the empty void of quarterback purgatory, without a solution on the roster and not in a position in either free agency or the draft to find a long-term solution.

The Colts' answer to their quarterback problem was to take a chance on a player most in the NFL appeared reluctant to consider, putting faith in their head coach Frank Reich to return Carson Wentz to his MVP-calibre form of 2017.

Indianapolis sent a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional second, which can become a first if Wentz plays 75 per cent of the offensive snaps or if he plays 70 per cent of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs, to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire the former second overall pick.

They may not have given up too much in terms of premium draft capital, yet the gamble on a quarterback who was one of the worst in football last year was one few would have advised them taking.

Is their belief in the ability of Reich, who was Wentz's offensive coordinator with the Eagles in 2017, to turn the much-maligned signal-caller's career around justified? We looked at the Stats Perform data in an attempt to answer that question.

The scale of the challenge

Eventually benched for Jalen Hurts as his relationship with then-head coach Doug Pederson reportedly deteriorated, Wentz endured the worst season of his career in 2020.

His completion percentage of 57.4 was the second-worst in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks, Wentz drastically underperforming an expected completion percentage of 61.5.

Only Sam Darnold had a lower passer rating than Wentz's 72.8, while his adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) average of 3.98 was last in the league.

The disparity between Wentz's numbers in that regard and those of Rivers, who was 10th with an ANY/A of 7.18, helps underline the scale of the challenge facing Reich and his staff in rehabilitating a quarterback who once looked like the future of the league.

Further illustrating the difference between Wentz and Rivers last season was their performances against the blitz. Wentz ranked 34th of 36 quarterbacks to have 50 passes against the blitz in passer rating, with Rivers in ninth.

Sacked a league-high 50 times in 2020, Wentz had 27 completions of 20 yards or more compared to 56 for Rivers, whose significant edge in big plays came despite Wentz boasting a slightly superior passer rating on throws of 21 air yards or more (70.8 to Rivers' 67.1), pointing to the large gap in explosive passes being a product of Indianapolis having superior protection, receiver performances and play-calling.

Reich's record

Before tearing his ACL in Week 13, Wentz thrived under Reich to the extent that he still finished the year second in passing touchdowns (33) and touchdown to interception ratio (4.71).

Reich's success in getting the best out of his quarterbacks has largely continued in Indianapolis since he stepped in after Josh McDaniels went back on his agreement to take over as coach.

Andrew Luck's sole season with Reich at the helm in 2018 saw him throw 39 touchdowns, second only to Patrick Mahomes, while he was fifth in red zone passer rating among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts inside the 20 and 11th in ANY/A.

Though Jacoby Brissett did not come close to replicating that kind of production after Luck's shock retirement in the 2019 preseason, the combination of Rivers and Reich produced a bounce-back year in 2020.

Rivers was ninth in red zone passer rating, throwing 17 touchdowns to just one interception, and outperformed his expected completion percentage of 66.3 by connecting on 68 per cent of his passes.

In short, when Reich has been paired with a quarterback with the skill set to challenge the league's upper echelon, success has followed.

And, though Rivers was a substantially better quarterback than Wentz in 2020, the ceiling of the Colts' offense will be higher if the partnership that produced such remarkable results in 2017 delivers the desired impact for the Colts.

The possible pay-off

While Wentz has never recaptured the magic of 2017, he has consistently been more aggressive with the football than any of the quarterbacks Reich has worked with during his time with the Colts. 

Since 2017, Wentz's air yards per attempt average has only once dipped below eight yards. That was in a 2018 campaign defined by injury issues and Wentz still had a narrow edge over Luck. Wentz (7.75) was 19th in the NFL with Luck (7.63) ending the year 20th.

Even in the low point that was last season, Wentz was fifth in air yards per attempt, Rivers was 26th.

His willingness to push the ball further downfield and the play-calling acumen of Reich resulted in Wentz finishing 2017 sixth in ANY/A, providing a clear indication of how that mix could elevate Indianapolis' attack.

Wentz also provides greater rushing upside than any of the quarterbacks Reich has had at his disposal as a head coach. Indeed, since entering the league in 2016, Wentz's 1,061 rushing yards have him sitting 11th among quarterbacks with a minimum of 500 attempts, a total that surely would have been higher had he played more than two full 16-game seasons during that span.

Of course, for Wentz's reunion with Reich to pay dividends, his accuracy must improve. In two of his three seasons in charge, Reich has had two quarterbacks who had a well-thrown percentage above 80, meaning fewer than 20 per cent of their passes were poorly thrown.

Luck had a well-thrown percentage of 82.1 in 2018 and Rivers finished 2020 on 84.2 per cent.

Wentz has only surpassed 80 per cent once in his career, marginally outdoing Luck in 2018, when he ended the year on 82.5.

However, poor throws were a common feature of Wentz's game in 2020, as evidenced by his well-thrown percentage of 68.8.

Yet the fact he delivered slightly fewer poor throws than Luck in the former number one overall pick's Comeback Player of the Year season is testament to the talent Wentz possesses and the level of play of which he is capable.

Reich has had the most success at harnessing Wentz's best. If he can do so again in 2020, it would give the Colts a more dynamic downfield attack and potentially a more diverse offense that emphasises what Wentz can do with his legs.

For a Colts team that was on the cusp of knocking off an AFC heavyweight, the price they paid for a quarterback who represented extremely damaged goods will prove a bargain should Reich's repair job whip Wentz back into 2017 shape.

Carson Wentz is heading to the Indianapolis Colts after the team struck a deal to trade for him from the Philadelphia Eagles.

The quarterback, who was benched for Jalen Hurts towards the end of a miserable 4-11-1 season for the Eagles, is poised to join the Colts, according to widespread reports.

Indianapolis will give the Eagles a 2021 third-round draft pick and a conditional 2022 selection in exchange.

The pick in 2022 is provisionally a second-rounder, but can increase to a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75 per cent of the snaps next season.

It could also convert to a first if Wentz leads the Colts to the playoffs while playing in 70 per cent of snaps.

Wentz will be reunited with Colts head coach Frank Reich, who spent the QB's first two years in the NFL as the Eagles' Offensive Coordinator, with impressive results.

The 2017 season, Wentz's second in the NFL, saw him produce MVP-calibre form and throw for a franchise record 33 TDs before going down with injury and famously being replaced by Nick Foles, who took the team to Super Bowl glory.

Wentz signed a four-year, $128 million contract ahead of the 2019 season.

But he has struggled to replicate his early career form, culminating in the Eagles drafting Hurts in the second-round last year and benching Wentz after Week 13.

The 28-year-old averaged 218.3 yards per game last season, the lowest mark of his career, and threw a career-high 15 interceptions in 12 games.

Philip Rivers' retirement had left the Colts seeking a new QB to lead a roster that appears ready to contend in the postseason.

They narrowly lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round in 2020 after going 11-5.

Wentz is the latest domino to fall in what is proving to be another dramatic offseason on the QB market.

Jared Goff was the number one overall pick in 2016 - one spot ahead of Wentz - but was recently traded by the Los Angeles Rams to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford and draft picks.

Question marks remain over the future of Deshaun Watson with the Houston Texans and Dak Prescott is still unsigned by the Dallas Cowboys. 

Meanwhile, Trevor Lawrence – billed as a generational talent – leads a star-studded crop of QBs in the draft.

There are suggestions Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields could go 1-2-3 in the draft.

Wentz had also been connected with the Chicago Bears, who now continue their search for a 2021 starter.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said he "can't answer" whether quarterback Carson Wentz will be with the team in 2021.

Sirianni was introduced as Philadelphia's new coach to replace Doug Pederson on Friday and attention has already shifted to embattled Eagles QB Wentz.

Wentz – who signed a lucrative four-year, $128million contract extension in 2019 – was benched in favour of rookie Jalen Hurts in Week 13, raising serious questions over his future in Philadelphia.

The 28-year-old Wentz ranked 23rd for completions (251), 34th for passing percentage (57.4), 25th for yards (2,620) and tied for 20th for touchdowns (16), while he was equal first for interceptions thrown this past season.

"I can't answer that," Sirianni said during his introductory news conference after being asked if Wentz would be back in 2021.

"Again, evaluating everything. Again, there's a lot of things to go through. Evaluating everything."

"You look at a lot of rosters and they don't have any quarterbacks, right, that they feel really good about. We have two. That's unbelievable to have two quarterbacks who have played and that have played well," he added.

"I couldn't have watched more tape on Carson Wentz in 2018. When Frank and I got back together, when we were installing our offense with the Indianapolis Colts, we watched a lot of Chargers tape, and we watched a lot of Philadelphia Eagles tape from 2017.

"Man, what an impressive player. He's got so much talent, and from what I've heard from everybody, great person. Good talent, good person, it takes your game to really high levels. So excited.

"Jalen got his snaps last year and was able to play last year and he played good football in meaningful games. Not a lot of people have that luxury of having two quarterbacks that have experience, so super excited to be able to work with them because, obviously, we all know how important that position is to a football team."

The Eagles have turned to rookie head coach Sirianni after NFL Super Bowl-winning boss Pederson was fired following a tumultuous 2020 campaign.

Sirianni spent the past three seasons working for the Indianapolis Colts – the 39-year-old former offensive coordinator also previously spending time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers in various roles.

After moving to Indianapolis in 2018, Sirianni and the Colts twice reached the playoffs – beaten by the Buffalo Bills in this season's Wild Card clash.

But Sirianni will step into his first head-coaching job, tasked with restoring a struggling franchise, who ended the season 4-11-1 having won their first Super Bowl in 2017.

The Philadelphia Eagles will appoint Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as their head coach, team executive vice-president Howie Roseman said.

Roseman told ESPN on Thursday that the Eagles are turning to Sirianni after NFL Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson was fired following a tumultuous 2020 campaign.

Sirianni has spent the past three seasons working in Indianapolis – the 39-year-old also previously spending time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers in various roles.

After moving to Indianapolis in 2018, Sirianni and the Colts twice reached the playoffs – beaten by the Buffalo Bills in this season's Wild Card clash.

But Sirianni will step into his first head-coaching job, tasked with restoring a struggling franchise, who ended the season 4-11-1 having won their first Super Bowl in 2017.

Sirianni – a former quarterback coach with the Chiefs and Chargers – will also have to deal with a tricky quarterback situation in Philadelphia, where star quarterback Carson Wentz struggled for form in 2020.

Wentz – who signed a lucrative four-year, $128million contract extension in 2019 – was benched in favour of rookie Jalen Hurts in Week 13, raising serious questions over his future in Philadelphia.

Eagles QB Wentz ranked 23rd for completions (251), 34th for passing percentage (57.4), 25th for yards (2,620) and tied for 20th for touchdowns (16), while he was equal first for interceptions thrown this past season.

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie denied Carson Wentz was the reason for Doug Pederson's departure, though he did not commit to the embattled quarterback returning next season.

The Eagles sacked Super Bowl-winning head coach Pederson on Monday following a tumultuous 2020 NFL campaign.

Pederson, who was appointed in 2016, led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title in his second season at the helm but Philadelphia struggled this term after a 4-11-1 finish.

Wentz's form resulted in the franchise quarterback – who signed a lucrative four-year, $128million contract extension in 2019 – being benched in favour of rookie Jalen Hurts in Week 13, while it raised serious questions over his future in Philadelphia.

While doubts remain over Wentz, Lurie insisted the 28-year-old was not behind Pederson's exit.

"My first allegiance is, what will be best for the Philadelphia Eagles and our fans for the next three, four, five years. It's not based on does someone deserve to hold their job or deserve to get fired; that's a different bar," Lurie told reporters on Monday.

"It's not about, 'Did Doug deserve to be let go?' No, he did not deserve to be let go. That's not where I'm coming from, and that's not the bar in the evaluation process."

"I don't think any owner should decide that [whether Wentz returns in 2021]. Carson, to me and to I think virtually everyone in our organisation, is a quarterback that in his first four years was in many ways elite, comparable to some of the great quarterbacks the first four years in the league," Lurie added on Wentz. "The fifth year, obviously not satisfactory for whatever reasons, there are probably multiple reasons for that.

"I think the way I look at it is, we have an asset and we have a talent. He's a great guy. He wants nothing but to win big and win Lombardi trophies for Philadelphia. This guy is tireless. He has his heart in the right place. He is really dedicated offseason, on-season. He's just what you want. And it behoves us as a team with a new coach and new coaching staff to be able to really get him back to that elite progression where he was capable of, and understand at the same time that there have been many quarterbacks in their fourth and fifth year, if you trace this, you can come up with many, many quarterbacks that have a single year where it's just, 'Whoa, the touchdown-to-interception ratio is not what you want.' And we're talking some great ones like Peyton [Manning] and Ben [Roethlisberger] and guys like that."

Wentz ranked 23rd for completions (251), 34th for passing percentage (57.4), 25th for yards (2,620) and tied for 20th for touchdowns (16), while he was equal first for interceptions thrown in 2020.

"So I take more of a longer view of this was not the best season for our offense," Lurie continued. "It was a poor season. And we also had a poor season from Carson, in terms of what he's been able to show in the past; very fixable, and I fully expect him to realise his potential."

Pederson compiled an overall 46-39-1 record over five seasons with the Eagles, including four playoff victories.

The 52-year-old, who oversaw three consecutive postseason appearances from 2017 to 2019 before dropping to the bottom of the NFC East this year, had not won 10-plus games since Philadelphia's run to Super Bowl LII.

"It has been an absolute honour serving as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. As difficult as it is to say goodbye, I will always look back on my time here with appreciation and respect," Pederson said.

"Thank you to Jeffrey Lurie for the opportunity, and to Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski for their partnership and support over the last five seasons. To all of our coaches, players, and staff, thank you for believing in me and allowing me to lead us on this journey. The memories we made here, together, will always have a special place in my heart.

"To the City of Philadelphia, thank you for embracing me and this team. I truly appreciate that passion you bring every single day – at home, on the road, and in the community. No matter what, you were always right there with us.

"Although I am disappointed that this chapter of my career has come to an end, I am extremely proud of what we accomplished together. Through all the ups and downs, one thing remained constant about our team – an unwavering commitment to battle through adversity and to achieve our goals not as individuals, but as a collective unit. There is no better example of that than when we celebrated the first Super Bowl Championship in Eagles history together with our city. That is a memory we will all cherish forever."

The Philadelphia Eagles have fired head coach Doug Pederson, according to reports.

Pederson had been said to be meeting with owner Jeffrey Lurie to outline his plans for the future, with his position thought to hinge on that discussion.

It seems he failed to convince Lurie and the franchise hierarchy to keep him in the post, with NFL Media's Tom Pelissero first reporting his firing.

Pederson, who took over in 2016, led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title in his second season at the helm.

Philadelphia's first Lombardi Trophy came at the end of a storied playoff run, in which unheralded backup Nick Foles led them to glory after then-MVP candidate Carson Wentz suffered a serious knee injury.

The Eagles overcame the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII but Wentz's struggles to recapture his 2017 form following his comeback from injury played a significant role in Philadelphia's failure to scale the same heights in Pederson's subsequent three seasons.

Pederson oversaw playoff campaigns in 2018 and 2019, the latter despite a roster decimated by injury.

However, he attracted increased criticism amid a dismal 2020 season that saw a sharp decline from Wentz, who was eventually benched and forced to watch the final few weeks of a 4-11-1 year from the sideline.

His replacement, rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts, was one of the few bright spots for Philadelphia. The controversial in-game benching of Hurts in favour of Nate Sudfeld for the Week 17 loss to the Washington Football Team saw Pederson placed under further scrutiny as he faced accusations of overt tanking for draft position.

Pederson had claimed he made the move to evaluate Sudfeld, but the future at quarterback in Philadelphia is now a matter for his successor and general manager Howie Roseman.

In five seasons with the Eagles, Pederson compiled a 42-37-1 record in the regular season. He went 4-2 in the playoffs.

New York Giants coach Joe Judge fumed after Philadelphia Eagles' loss to the Washington Football Team and vowed that his side would never "disrespect the game".

Washington clinched the NFC East with a 20-14 win over Philadelphia as the Giants were eliminated from the playoff race, when a win by the Eagles would have seen Judge's team advance to the post-season.

Trailing 17-14 in the third quarter, Philadelphia passed on the chance to tie the game with a short field goal and took a fourth-down shot from the four yard line, which quarterback Jalen Hurts did not complete.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson then replaced starting QB Hurts in the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field and back-up Nate Sudfeld completed only five of 12 passes for 32 yards and an interception.

"There’s a number of sacrifices that have been made by all of the players and coaches in this league," Judge said.

"There’s a number of sacrifices that come along as well with the family members of the people connected to them.

"To disrespect the effort that everyone put forward to make this season a success for the National Football League, to disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and doing everything you can to help those players to win...

"We will never do that as long as I am the head coach of the New York Giants."

The Green Bay Packers secured the NFC's top seed on Sunday, while Derrick Henry led the Tennessee Titans to the AFC South title.

Aaron Rodgers again powered the Packers, throwing four touchdown passes in a win over the Chicago Bears.

Despite their loss, the Bears clinched a playoff spot, as did the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams.

Meanwhile, Henry made history as the Titans won the AFC South, while the Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East.

 

RODGERS DOMINATES AGAIN AS PACKERS CLINCH TOP SEED

Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards and four TDs in the Packers' 35-16 victory over the Bears.

The Packers quarterback connected for TDs with Robert Tonyan, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Dominique Dafney and Davante Adams.

Rodgers finished the regular season with 48 TD passes. Alongside Peyton Manning, they are the only players in NFL history with 45-plus TD passes in multiple seasons, according to NFL Research. They won the NFL MVP in each of the previous three instances.

While Green Bay finished with a 13-3 record, the 8-8 Bears also reached the playoffs.

 

HISTORY FOR HENRY AS TITANS WIN AFC SOUTH

The Titans claimed the AFC South for the first time since 2008 after a thrilling 41-38 win over the Houston Texans.

Henry became the eighth player in history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season.

He had 250 rushing yards and two TDs against the Texans. Of the eight players to achieve the feat, Henry was the only one who needed 200-plus yards in his last game to get there, according to Stats Perform.

A.J. Brown had 151 receiving yards, but the Titans needed Sam Sloman's 37-yard field goal as time expired to edge the Texans.

The Titans became the first team in NFL history to have a 250-yard rusher and 150-yard receiver in the same game.

 

WASHINGTON WIN NFC EAST AS COLTS, RAMS REACH PLAYOFFS

The Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East thanks to a 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions as Washington (7-9) claimed the division.

The Colts (11-5) reached the playoffs thanks to a 28-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Los Angeles Rams (10-6) are also into the postseason after beating the Arizona Cardinals 18-7.

 

Week 17 scores:

Minnesota Vikings 37-35 Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44-27 Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots 28-14 New York Jets
Buffalo Bills 56-26 Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns 24-22 Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Giants 23-19 Dallas Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Indianapolis Colts 28-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans 41-38 Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams 18-7 Arizona Cardinals
New Orleans Saints 33-7 Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers 35-16 Chicago Bears
Los Angeles Chargers 38-21 Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks 26-23 San Francisco 49ers
Las Vegas Raiders 32-31 Denver Broncos
Washington Football Team 20-14 Philadelphia Eagles

The Green Bay Packers will hope to seal the top seed in the NFC when they face rivals the Chicago Bears, but the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks will be ready to pounce on any slip-up.

A tie on Sunday would be enough for the Packers to secure a first-round bye in the postseason, though they would also receive it regardless of their own result if the Seahawks fail to beat the San Francisco 49ers.

If the Seahawks are to head straight into the Divisional Round, they need to beat the 49ers and hope the Packers lose and the Saints fail to win against the Carolina Panthers.

New Orleans, meanwhile, need a victory over the Panthers to coincide with the Packers losing to the Bears and Seattle beating San Francisco.

Division titles are up for grabs in the AFC South and NFC East, with the Tennessee Titans and Washington Football Team looking to hold on and top their sections, while the Cleveland Browns will be aiming to reach the postseason for the first time since 2002 when they face a Pittsburgh Steelers side without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

 

FEATURED GAME

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears – Sunday, 4.25pm

- This will be the third Week 17 meeting since 2010 for the long-time rivals, and the previous two were critical games. In the 2010 campaign, the Packers needed to beat the Bears at Lambeau Field to make the postseason; they won 10-3 and went on to win Super Bowl XLV. The teams met in Week 17 three years later in Chicago; the Packers' 33-28 success earned them the NFC North crown and eliminated the Bears. 

- A win over Chicago would secure the NFC's top seed for Green Bay – as well as a second consecutive 13-3 season. The Packers have posted back-to-back seasons of 13 or more wins only once, in 1996 and 1997 with Brett Favre at quarterback. In the Super Bowl era, only one team has had consecutive seasons with at least 13 victories and no Super Bowl appearance: the Saints of 2018 and 2019.

- Aaron Rodgers has 51 touchdown passes against the Bears in his regular-season career, second only to Favre's 60. Including the 2010 NFC Championship Game, Rodgers is 20-5 versus Chicago for an .800 winning percentage, the fourth highest by any QB versus a single opponent since 1950 (minimum 25 starts; postseason included).

OTHER KEY GAMES

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers – Sunday, 4.25pm

- Alvin Kamara rushed for six touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Day, tying the NFL record set by Ernie Nevers in 1929. Kamara's 58 scrimmage TDs rank as the third most by a player through his first four seasons all-time (Terrell Davis – 61, LaDainian Tomlinson – 60).

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers – Sunday, 4.25pm

- After hurting the Arizona Cardinals' postseason chances with a 20-12 win at State Farm Stadium on Saturday, the 49ers will hope to play spoiler for a second straight week. A win over Seattle on Sunday would give San Francisco a 4-2 record within the NFC West, which would be a division-best – even as they finish in last place.

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans – Sunday, 4.25pm

Tennessee will clinch its first AFC South title since 2008 with a win, or an Indianapolis Colts loss versus the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. A win over Houston would also tie the Titans franchise record for road wins in a season (currently 5-2: 6-2 in 1996, 2000, 2008).

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts – Sunday, 4.25pm

Indianapolis and Jacksonville both have eight players with over 250 receiving yards this season, the only two teams in the NFL with as many. The Jaguars had never had eight players with 250 receiving yards in the same season before, while the Colts had it happen once before (2016, eight players). If they are to snatch the AFC South division title, Indianapolis need to win and hope Tennessee fail to match them, or tie and see the Titans lose.

Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles - Sunday, 8.20pm

Washington have lost six of their past seven games against the Eagles, including three straight on the road. Their lone success came in Week 1 this year after they scored the final 27 points of the game and won 27-17. A tie would be enough for Washington to clinch the NFC East division title, as long as the Dallas Cowboys fail to beat the New York Giants.

ELSEWHERE…

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants – Sunday, 1.00pm

Daniel Jones has not thrown an interception in 162 consecutive pass attempts, the longest active streak in the NFL and the third-longest streak by a Giant in the past 30 seasons (Eli Manning – 176 in 2014, Phil Simms – 173 in 1993). To reach the playoffs, Dallas needs a win and for Washington not to match them, or a tie and a Washington loss. New York need a win and a Washington loss.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns – Sunday, 1.00pm

Nick Chubb is averaging 5.45 yards per carry this season and has run for 11 touchdowns. He is set to will become the second player in NFL history with 5.0+ yards per carry and 8+ rush TDs in three straight seasons, joining another Browns player in Leroy Kelly (1966-68). With a win or a Colts loss on Sunday, the Browns would snap their 17-season playoff drought, which is tied for the longest in the NFL since the merger (1970-86 Saints, 2000-16 Buffalo Bills).

The Seattle Seahawks claimed their first NFC West championship since 2016 after topping the Los Angeles Rams.

Seattle sealed a four-year first in the NFL thanks to Sunday's 20-9 victory at Lumen Field, where the Seahawks kept alive their hopes of finishing with one of the NFC's top two seeds.

Aaron Rodgers flexed his muscles and team-mate Davante Adams starred in the Green Bay Packers' rout of the Tennessee Titans.

There were also wins for the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers.

 

SEAHAWKS IN NFC WEST-CLINCHING WIN

For the fifth time under head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks got their hands on the NFC West crown.

The Seahawks (11-4) used a resurgent defense to see off the Rams (9-6), holding Los Angeles to just six points in the second half, while sacking quarterback Jared Goff – who reportedly suffered a broken thumb – three times.

"There were times during the season where everybody had enough statistics to go ahead and blow us out, and like we weren't worth anything on defense," Carroll said.

"But this defense is good, and they've shown it and they've declared it. This is the kind of defense that we've played in years past when we really had good teams down ... the stretch."

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was 20-of-32 passing for 225 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, while he also rushed for a TD on three carries.

 

RODGERS' PACKERS DOMINATE

Huge performances from MVP hopeful Rodgers and wide receiver Adams fuelled Green Bay's 40-14 demolition of the Titans at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers showcased his MVP credentials by going 21 of 25 for 231 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for a 128.1 passer rating.

The Packers quarterback had his 13th game with a 100-plus passer rating this season, tying himself in 2011 and Patrick Mahomes in 2018 for the most such games in a single season in league history, per NFL Research. Both Rodgers (2011) and Mahomes (2018) finished as that season's NFL MVP.

Adams caught 11 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the third player in NFL history to have 100-plus receptions and 16-plus receiving TDs in a season.

He also recorded his ninth successive Sunday Night Football appearance with a touchdown – breaking a tie with Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski for the longest such streak in NFL history.

The Packers improved to 12-3 but still need to beat the Chicago Bears in their final regular-season game to clinch the NFC's number one seed.

Titans QB Ryan Tannehill completed just 11 of 24 passes for 121 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, while Tennessee star Derrick Henry was restricted to 23 carries, 98 yards and no TDs.

 

COWBOYS STAY ALIVE

The Cowboys remain in the hunt in a wide-open NFC East after defeating rivals the Philadelphia Eagles 37-17.

Coupled with the Washington Football Team's (6-9) 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys (6-9) still have a chance to win the division.

The Cowboys need to beat the New York Giants in Week 17, while the Eagles must take down Washington in order for Dallas to top the NFC East.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert set a new single-season rookie record for touchdown passes in the 19-16 victory against the Denver Broncos.

Herbert broke the record when he threw his 28th TD of the season in the second quarter, while he joined Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes as the only players to record 4,000 passing yards through their first 14 starts.

 

Week 16 scores:

New York Jets 23-16 Cleveland Browns
Baltimore Ravens 27-13 New York Giants
Cincinnati Bengals 37-31 Houston Texans
Chicago Bears 41-17 Jacksonville Jaguars
Kansas City Chiefs 17-14 Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers 28-24 Indianapolis Colts
Seattle Seahawks 20-9 Los Angeles Rams
Dallas Cowboys 37-17 Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers 40-14 Tennessee Titans
Carolina Panthers 20-13 Washington Football Team
Los Angeles Chargers 19-16 Denver Broncos

With the NFL playoffs getting closer, Week 16 sees a host of matches with implications for the division titles, postseason seedings and Wild Card spots.

After a stunning loss to the previously winless New York Jets, the Los Angeles Rams (9-5) are a game behind the Seattle Seahawks (10-4), who they visit this week, atop the NFC West.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3) are in freefall after losing three straight games and are yet to wrap up the AFC North title ahead of what will not be an easy home meeting with the Indianapolis Colts (10-4).

AFC South glory is still up for grabs for the Colts, with the Tennessee Titans (10-4) – who themselves are in an exciting game against the Green Bay Packers (11-3) – battling them for first place.

We have used Stats Perform data to preview the key contests, including a Christmas Day meeting between the New Orleans Saints (10-4) and Minnesota Vikings (6-8).

 

FEATURED GAME

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks, Sunday 4.25pm (all times Eastern)

- If Seattle win they will clinch the NFC West, but the Rams have won five of the last six meetings. The Seahawks' solitary loss in that span, a 30-29 defeat in Week 5 last season, only came when Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field goal with 11 seconds left. The Rams have not lost consecutive games in Seattle since 2013 and 2014.

- The Seahawks' defense is trending in the right direction. They beat Washington 20-15 in Landover last week, their fourth straight game holding an opponent under 20 points - something they had not done once in any of their first 10 games. It is their longest such streak since a five-game run that spanned the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

- The Rams fell to the Jets 23-20 at home on Sunday, becoming the first team with at least nine wins to lose at home to a winless team. They were just 2-for-11 on third downs, their fewest conversions this season.

- Three Seahawks (Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde and Russell Wilson) ran for at least 50 yards against Washington, just the sixth time that has happened in franchise history and the first occasion since a dramatic 36-31 loss to the Rams in 2018. 

OTHER KEY GAMES

Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers, Sunday 9.20pm

- MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers is looking to lead his team to the number one seed in the NFC. He threw for just 143 yards - his lowest ever in a winning start - and one touchdown against the Carolina Panthers but added one score on the ground, his second straight game with a rushing score (first time since 2016). The veteran has the chance to run for a TD in three consecutive games, something he has never done before.

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday 1.00pm

- With their season in danger of falling apart, the Steelers will take comfort in their record against the Colts. With a 24-6 record including postseason games, this is one of the most one-sided rivalries in the NFL. Among current franchises, only the Denver Broncos, with an identical 24-6 record versus the Cleveland Browns, have been as dominant against a single opponent (minimum 25 meetings).

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots, Monday 8.15pm

- A win for Buffalo - who narrowly beat New England in Week 8 - would mark the team's first time sweeping the Patriots since 1999. New England's 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins last week officially snapped their 19-season streak of finishing above .500, falling one shy of the NFL-record 20-season streak set by the Dallas Cowboys from 1966 to 1985.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, Sunday 4.25pm

- Despite the struggles of both teams, this NFC East matchup still has high stakes with the division outcome not yet decided. Eagles rookie Jalen Hurts has 169 rush yards in his first two career starts - the third most by a quarterback over the past 60 years, topped only by Jack Concannon's 228 yards (1964-1966) and Lamar Jackson's 190 yards (2018).

ELSEWHERE...

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, Friday 4.30pm

- The Saints will be favourites to triumph on Christmas Day and have won four of the last five regular-season meetings between these teams, only to falter against the Vikings when it matters most. Minnesota have won two postseason games against the Saints in that span - the 2018 Divisional round, and their most recent meeting, a 26-20 overtime win in last season's Wild Card round.

Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday 1.00pm

- With eight catches against the Saints last time out, tight end Travis Kelce has now reached that mark in seven consecutive games, putting him in elite company. He has become just the fourth player to do so in the last 60 years. He has joined Michael Thomas (eight games, 2019), Antonio Brown (eight games, 2014), and Anquan Boldin (seven games, 2005).

It's championship week in fantasy football.

Week 16 marks the end of the fantasy season in the vast majority of leagues, with Week 17 often too much of a guessing game due to teams frequently resting players for the regular-season finale.

So those lucky enough to have made it through to the final will be carefully studying their line-up, identifying any holes and examining potential waiver claims to address weaknesses and take advantage of favourable matchups.

Which players are worthy of consideration for the biggest week of the fantasy year? Some of the selections may surprise you.

QB: Mitchell Trubisky - Chicago Bears

Are you willing to pin your fantasy title hopes on the man seen as the bust of the 2017 draft class? There is evidence to suggest it's a smart idea.

After a strong Week 14 outing against the Houston Texans, Trubisky cooled off against the Minnesota Vikings, throwing for 202 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

But he has the Bears in the thick of the wild card race at 7-7 and gets to face a Jacksonville Jaguars defense allowing 23 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.

Mitch may be the answer for fantasy teams that have made it to the championship game while alternating quarterbacks.

RB: Zack Moss - Buffalo Bills

The New England Patriots can't stop the run and nobody can stop the Bills, the likely result of that combination is a strong day for rookie running back Moss.

He had a 13-8 edge over backfield mate Devin Singletary in terms of carries in the rout of the Denver Broncos last week, and averaged 6.2 yards per attempt.

New England allowed 250 rushing yards as they were eliminated from the playoffs by the Miami Dolphins in Week 15, and there's little reason to expect them to put up much resistance this week.

WR: Jalen Reagor - Philadelphia Eagles

In a bind at receiver or the flex position for the title game? Why not look to a suddenly explosive Eagles offense.

The switch to Jalen Hurts at quarterback has breathed new life into the Eagles and his favourite target in last Sunday's defeat to the Arizona Cardinals was namesake Jalen Reagor.

Reagor had eight targets and, while he only turned those into five catches for 49 yards, a similar share should result in better results against a Dallas Cowboys defense giving up an average of 28.5 points per game to opposing wide receivers, the second-most in the league.

TE: Noah Fant - Denver Broncos

The Broncos should be a lot more exciting than they have been in 2020, but when they get half-decent quarterback play then skill-position weapons like Noah Fant can produce.

He had eight catches for 68 yards and a touchdown against the Bills and gets a favourable matchup this week, Denver facing a Los Angeles Chargers team that concedes the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Bet on this supremely athletic playmaker to positively impact your title hopes.

D/ST: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals defense has put up double-digit fantasy points in each of the last two weeks. Now Arizona faces an injury-hit San Francisco 49ers side playing out the string after a nightmarish defence of the NFC title.

San Francisco have committed at least two turnovers in each of their last eight games. Regardless of which backup quarterback plays for the Jimmy Garoppolo-less Niners, they are a team an improving Cardinals group can take advantage of.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson said in the wake of their dramatic loss to the Arizona Cardinals that he would wait until Monday to name a starting quarterback for Week 16. 

The delay in doing so could hardly seem more pointless after Jalen Hurts gave a previously moribund offense a spark for the third successive week, helping them push a playoff contender to the wire in an absorbing encounter. 

He hasn't even played two and a half games yet, but this was another contest that gave rise to the notion that Hurts, despite the huge contract handed to Carson Wentz in June of last year, is the future at the quarterback position in Philadelphia. 

His back-and-forth duel with dual-threat superstar and fellow former Oklahoma Sooner Kyler Murray also served as further compelling evidence of the ever-expanding merits of investing in athleticism at quarterback. 

Murray, who has dipped in and out of the MVP conversation this season, may have prevailed - a last-gasp heave into the endzone from Hurts falling incomplete - but the Eagles' second-round pick emerged with his reputation significantly enhanced. 

Hurts finished the 33-26 loss with 338 yards passing, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, and ran for 63 yards and another score on the ground.

Posting a passer rating of 102.3, Hurts is the first rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw at least three touchdown passes and rush for a touchdown in his first road start. 

After putting up 106 rushing yards against the New Orleans Saints in Week 14, he also joins Randall Cunningham (1985) and Lamar Jackson (2018) as the only first-year quarterbacks with at least 50 yards on the ground in their first two starts. 

Following in the footsteps of fellow 2020 draft picks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, Hurts is now one of just three rookie quarterbacks to record at least 300 passing yards, three touchdown throws and a rushing score in a single game since 1970. 

His efforts on the ground are in stark contrast to those of Wentz, who has five rushing touchdowns this season but just one game of over 50 yards. While Hurts has yet to throw an interception in two starts - though he did commit one in Week 13 against the Green Bay Packers - Wentz leads the league with 15 picks. 

Therein lies the rub. Entering the NFL in 2016, Wentz had athletic upside. However, he has since been limited by a devastating 2017 knee injury that ruined an MVP-calibre season. With the additional speed Hurts - the second-fastest quarterback at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine – offers, the Eagles can utilise a new dimension on offense that they did not have with an increasingly statuesque former first-round pick under center. 

Defenses must pay significant respect to the threat of a quarterback run on zone-read plays, while Hurts' ability to scramble decreases the odds of him staying in a muddied pocket and risking a turnover by taking a sack or forcing a throw into a non-existent window. 

It also raises the potential for the spectacular, which arrived in spades on Sunday, most notably on the failed game-tying drive as Hurts fumbled the ball only to regather it, roll to his right and deliver a first-down pass to Dallas Goedert.

 

The composure Hurts showed on that completion is illustrative of a player quickly settling into life at the pro level, and his late-season emergence comes on the heels of an MVP year for Jackson in a campaign during which his dual-threat contemporaries further demonstrated that, with the right coaching, the time needed for young, mobile quarterbacks to adapt to the league is getting shorter. 

Herbert, who is being allowed to use his legs much more than he did at Oregon, is in the midst of one of the best rookie quarterback seasons ever. Josh Allen's third-year transition from athletically gifted wild card to a versatile and supremely accurate field general has the Buffalo Bills at the sharp end of the AFC playoff race, while Murray keeps writing his name in the record books as the Cardinals push towards the postseason. 

Murray had 406 yards passing with three touchdowns and an interception on Sunday, while he too found the endzone on the ground, marking his ninth game with both a passing touchdown and rushing score this season, the most by a quarterback in a single campaign in NFL history. 

He is the fourth quarterback, alongside Allen (10), Steve Grogan (10) and Cam Newton (14), with 10 such games in his first two seasons. Only he and Newton (2015) can claim to have thrown for 25 touchdowns and rushed for 10 in a single season, Murray replicating the feat of Newton's MVP year by taking his passing tally to 26 and his rushing mark to 11.

The rapid rise of Murray, Allen, Herbert and now seemingly Hurts should give confidence to quarterback-needy teams that the 2021 crop of dual-threat signal-callers can start early and be successful. 

Presumptive number one pick Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Zach Wilson of BYU all possess the skills to do significant damage through the air and also with their legs. 

Murray and Hurts' bewitching battle encapsulated the impact a quarterback with such diversity to their game can have on the modern NFL when they land in the right environment. 

There is still a place for the traditional drop-back quarterback, of course, but they are increasingly being shunned in favour of more unpredictable and seemingly more influential counterparts. 

At least four more possible success stories are on the horizon in the next draft and franchises requiring change under center need to heed one of the many lessons of a year where nothing has been normal. It is past time to cast aside previous convention. Get a quarterback who can do both, and get them on the field.

The Kansas City Chiefs extended their winning streak in the NFL, while Kyler Murray inspired the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs improved to 13-1 thanks to a hard-fought win over the New Orleans Saints, who welcomed back Drew Brees.

Meanwhile, Murray and Jalen Hurts put on a show as the Cardinals overcame the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Cleveland Browns took another step towards a playoff spot and the New York Jets' wait for a first win came to an end.

 

CHIEFS TOO GOOD FOR SAINTS AS BREES RETURNS

Mahomes and Brees both threw three touchdown passes as the Chiefs recorded a 32-29 victory.

A ninth straight win helped the Chiefs improve to 13-1, and they are on track to secure the top seed in the AFC.

Mahomes completed 26 of 47 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns, while he was sacked four times.

The Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to win six straight games by six points or fewer, as per Stats Perform.

Brees, returning from injury, made the worst start of his career by going 0-for-six. He finished 15 of 34 for 234 yards, three TDs and an interception.

The Saints (10-4) are ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) in the NFC South.

 

CARDINALS OVERCOME EAGLES IN THRILLER

Murray helped the Cardinals (8-6) remain on track for the playoffs with a 33-26 victory over the Eagles (4-9-1).

The Cardinals QB was 27 of 36 for 406 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, while also rushing for 29 yards and a TD.

Making his second start, Hurts almost inspired the Eagles to another win, also throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another.

Murray and DeAndre Hopkins connected on a 20-yard pass with just over seven minutes remaining for what proved to be the game-winning score.

According to NFL Research, Murray is the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era aged 23 or younger to throw for 400-plys yards and have a 125-plus passer rating in a game. The previous three (Dan Marino, Jared Goff and Mahomes) reached the Super Bowl in that season.

 

BROWNS BOOST PLAYOFF CHANCES, JETS WIN

The Browns made it 10 wins in a season for the first time since 2007, brushing past the New York Giants 20-6.

Baker Mayfield starred, completing 27 of 32 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns.

The Jets' wait for a first win of the season came to an end with an upset 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

However, the success hurt the Jets' chances of landing Trevor Lawrence in the draft, with the Jacksonville Jaguars (also 1-13) now in position to get the Clemson Tigers quarterback

 

Week 15 scores:

Green Bay Packers 24-16 Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-27 Atlanta Falcons
Baltimore Ravens 40-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Dallas Cowboys 41-33 San Francisco 49ers
Indianapolis Colts 27-20 Houston Texans
Miami Dolphins 22-12 New England Patriots
Chicago Bears 33-27 Minnesota Vikings
Tennessee Titans 46-25 Detroit Lions
Seattle Seahawks 20-15 Washington Football Team
Arizona Cardinals 33-26 Philadelphia Eagles
New York Jets 23-20 Los Angeles Rams
Kansas City Chiefs 32-29 New Orleans Saints
Cleveland Browns 20-6 New York Giants

The Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints lock horns in the standout match of NFL Week 15.

Defending champions the Chiefs (12-1) already have the AFC West division title in the bag and can secure a first-round bye if they win on Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers lose and Buffalo Bills fail to win.

The Saints (10-3) could wrap up the NFC South division title, while the Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans are looking to secure playoff berths.

With the use of Stats Perform data, we preview the action this weekend.
 

FEATURED GAME

Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints - Sunday, 4.25pm (all times Eastern)

- The Chiefs hold a 6-5 advantage over the Saints - including wins in the last two meetings. Both of those games were close – a 27-24 OT win in the last meeting in New Orleans in 2012, and a 27-21 home victory for KC in 2016.
- The Chiefs have won eight games in a row, 10 straight road games, and 21 of their last 22 - including postseason contests. They have won five consecutive games by six points or fewer.
- The Saints saw their nine-game winning streak snapped with Sunday’s 24-21 loss in Philadelphia. New Orleans allowed 400-plus yards for the first time this season and was gashed for 246 yards on the ground – the most allowed by the team in its last 96 games.
- Travis Kelce needs three receptions to reach 600 for his career, 10 catches to reach 100 for the season, and 100 yards for a team-record seventh 100-yard receiving game in 2020. He needs 128 receiving yards to top George Kittle's mark of 1,377 yards in 2018 – the top single-season figure ever by a tight end.

OTHER KEY GAMES

Seattle Seahawks at the Washington Football Team - Sunday, 1pm

- The Seahawks had a season-high in points with their 40-3 win over the New York Jets last week, while also posting their largest victory in any game over the last eight seasons. It was Seattle's eighth game this year with at least 30 points, setting a new franchise record for 30-point games in a single season.

Cleveland Browns at New York Giants - Sunday, 9.20pm

- New York have won six of the last seven meetings between these teams dating back to 1991. Cleveland have scored more than 13 points in just two of those seven games. The Browns' last road win against the Giants came in Week 13, 1985 (35-33).

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins - Sunday, 1pm

- The Patriots lost 24-3 to the Rams last Thursday, the team's fewest points since a 16-0 home loss to Buffalo on October 2, 2016. That ended New England's streaks of 17 straight seasons with 10+ wins and 11 straight division titles, both of which were the longest such runs in NFL history.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings - Sunday, 1pm

- The Vikings' 19-13 win in Chicago in Week 10 halted the Bears' four-game winning streak in this series. Chicago have prevailed in the last two meetings in Minnesota and have not won three straight there since 1983-85.

 

ELSEWHERE...

Philadelphia Eagles at the Arizona Cardinals - Sunday, 4.05pm

- Former division rivals in the NFC East, the Eagles and Cardinals have faced off 117 times in regular-season play, with the Cards holding a 57-55-5 edge. This will be just the fourth visit to Arizona for the Eagles in the last 19 seasons; their last road win over the Cardinals came on November 4, 2001.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Atlanta Falcons - Sunday, 1pm

- Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in the Bucs' 26-14 win over the Vikings last week, giving him 30 for the year - his most since 2017 (32). This is his eighth season with 30+ TD passes, the fourth most all-time behind Drew Brees (10), Brett Favre (9) and Peyton Manning (9).

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