Week 15 gave fans plenty to be excited about across five-straight days of NFL action – including two overtime thrillers. From close contests to shocking blowouts, Decyfr dissects all the action from this week’s slate of games.
Minnesota Vikings @ Cincinnati Bengals
Final Score: 24 – 27
With season-ending injuries to some of the league’s foremost quarterbacks, the importance of a quality backup was perfectly epitomised in the first Saturday Showdown of the season, between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals. Jake Browning – stepping in for the injured Joe Burrow – shone for Cincinnati once again, throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile Nick Mullens, the Vikings’ third starting quarterback this season, led Minnesota to an impressive offensive outing. Mullens threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns – both to rookie receiver Jordan Addison. Despite trailing 17-3 late in the third quarter, Jake Browning managed to lead the Bengals to a thrilling comeback victory, capped off by a game-winning field goal in overtime. The Vikings now sit at 7-7 while the Bengals improve to 8-6, with both teams still in the hunt to clinch a playoff spot.
Player of the Game: Jake Browning, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals
Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders
Final Score: 21 – 63
Only four days after losing 3 – 0 to Minnesota, the Las Vegas Raiders put up a franchise record-breaking 63 points against the struggling Los Angeles Chargers. With four first half touchdowns from rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell, the Raiders dominated the Chargers in all three phases of the game – running up a 42-0 lead before the half. In spite of this, the Los Angeles Chargers’ backup quarterback, Easton Stick, had a respectable performance in his first NFL start – recording over 250 yards and three touchdowns. However, sloppy play from the Chargers’ offense led to critical errors in the form of one interception and four fumbles. The stout Raiders defense dominated the Chargers’ offensive line throughout – holding Los Angeles to only 3.3 yards per carry while recording two defensive touchdowns. The loss was evidently the final straw for Chargers owner Dean Spanos, who fired both head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco after the Los Angeles Chargers dropped to 5-9. Meanwhile the Las Vegas Raiders improve to 6-8.
Player of the Game: Aidan O’Connell, Quarterback, Las Vegas Raiders
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) December 15, 2023
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins
Final Score: 0 – 30
After the New York Jets shocked the Houston Texans with a blowout-win last week, Miami Dolphins fans were dreading this AFC East match-up – not helped by the loss of star receiver Tyreek Hill to an ankle injury. In Hill’s absence, the Dolphins’ defense stepped up and dominated the line of scrimmage – finishing with six sacks while holding the Jets to under 25 yards rushing. Fifth-year edge rusher Bradley Chubb had a particularly big day – recording three sacks, two forced fumbles and two tackles for loss. On the other side of the ball, Tua Tagovailoa continued to strengthen his connection with former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle, who posted 142 receiving yards and a touchdown. Tua ended the day with over 200 yards passing – helping Miami move to 10-4 and retain the division lead. Meanwhile, the Jets fall to 5-9 and are eliminated from the playoffs for the 13th-straight year – the longest active drought in North America’s four major sports.
Player of the Game: Bradley Chubb, Linebacker, Miami Dolphins
Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Final Score: 23 – 7
Coming off of two-straight losses, the Jacksonville Jaguars hoped to turn the tide at home against the AFC’s current number one seed, the Baltimore Ravens. While both teams got off to a slow start, the Ravens were able to overcome their initial struggles with a touchdown late in the second quarter. For Jacksonville, however, their struggles continued all night with sloppy fumbles and missed field goals. With a minute left in the half, the Jaguars were finally able to march up the field, but ultimately missed out on a scoring opportunity from the five-yard line, after a clock-management blunder – with Trevor Lawrence inexplicably deciding not to spike the ball with only 11 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts. The play of the day came when Lamar Jackson slipped out of a sack and completed an unbelievable pass that led to another Ravens score. Aside from a 65-yard touchdown pass, the struggling Jaguars offense couldn’t overcome a Ravens defense that forced two fumbles and held Travis Etienne to only 31 yards. Lawrence finished the day with 264 yards passing and one touchdown while Lamar Jackson passed for 171 yards, one touchdown and scrambled for an additional 97 yards. The Jaguars fall to 8-6, leaving the AFC South title up for grabs, whilst the Ravens improve to 11-3 and clinch their fifth playoff berth in six years.
Player of the Game: Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
Dallas Cowboys @ Buffalo Bills
Final Score: 10 – 31
As one of the hottest teams in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys looked to continue their rich vein of form against the star-studded Buffalo Bills, in arguably the most significant match-up of Week 15. The Bills got off to a strong start, taking a 21-3 lead before the half – a lead the Cowboys were never able to overturn. Bills’ interim offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, pounded the rock throughout – running the ball for two touchdowns and a total of 266 yards, with 179 of those going to emerging star, James Cook. Cook’s day did not stop there, however, as he caught the ball twice for a further 42 yards and a touchdown. Moreover, the Bills defense were able to convincingly handle MVP candidate Dak Prescott – holding the Cowboys quarterback to only 134 passing yards as well as forcing one interception. The Bills continue their push for the playoffs, moving to 8-6, while the Cowboys fall to 10-4 but remain atop the NFC East thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles’ loss against the Seattle Seahawks.
Player of the Game: James Cook, Running Back, Buffalo Bills
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) December 18, 2023
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans
Final Score: 19 – 16
Looking to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Tennessee Titans faced-up against a Houston Texans team trying to snag their first AFC South title since 2019. However, with superstar rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud in concussion protocol, the Texans turned to Case Keenum to lead them to victory. For the Titans, rookie quarterback Will Levis continued his impressive campaign as the team’s starter – recording an early touchdown on a quarterback run. The Titans defense then intercepted an errant pass – returning it for a touchdown and taking a 13-3 lead at the half. Thankfully for Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans, the Houston defense showed up in the second half – sacking Levis six more times, with Jonathan Greenard responsible for two and a half of those. Thanks to a big performance from running back Devin Singletary, the Texans offense was able to tie it up before time ran out in the fourth quarter. Following three consecutive punts to start overtime, the Texans re-found their ground game – driving down the field to set up the game-winning field goal. Singletary finished the game with 121 yards on 26 carries, while Case Keenum ended with 229 yards and one touchdown. After the narrow win, Houston are now third in the AFC South at 8-6. However, the loss eliminates Tennessee from playoff contention, as they fall to 5-9.
Player of the Game: Jonathan Greenard, Defensive End, Houston Texans
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