The NFL was the gift that kept on giving this Christmas – with two more teams clinching playoff berths, multiple games going down to the wire and two MVP frontrunners going head-to-head in a potential Super Bowl LVIII preview. As the push for the postseason intensifies, here is Decyfr’s roundup of Week 16.
Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings
Final Score: 30 – 24
The Detroit Lions came into Week 16 with their sights set on clinching their first playoff berth since 2016. For a postseason run, however, the Lions would first need to overcome division rivals, and fellow playoff contenders, the Minnesota Vikings. Despite an impressive string of performances in 2023, the Vikings defense was left immediately spell-bound by Lions’ offensive stars Jahmyr Gibbs and Amon-Ra St. Brown – who finished the game with a combined 206 total yards and three touchdowns – as the Lions built a 17-7 lead just before half-time. The Vikings offense produced some magic of its own, however, as Justin Jefferson made a diving reception in the end zone to reduce the lead to just three points in the final seconds of the half. In spite of quarterback Nick Mullens throwing four interceptions, the Vikings were able to keep the game to within a score throughout the second half – giving them a chance to win it all in the final seconds of the game. That was until Mullens’ fourth and final interception, on a pass intended for Jefferson, which would seal the game and hand the Lions their first division title in 30 years. Meanwhile, the Vikings drop to 7-8 and the eighth seed in the NFC.
Player of the Game: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions.
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) December 25, 2023
Washington Commanders @ New York Jets
Final Score: 28 – 30
The New York Jets, with the league’s 32nd ranked offense, taking on the Washington Commanders, with the 32nd ranked defense, wasn’t necessarily expected to be a highlight of Week 16. However, when third-string quarterback Trevor Siemian and the Jets offense started the game with an uncharacteristic level of efficiency – putting up 17 points in the first quarter – it became clear that this match-up would spring a surprise or two. By halfway through the third quarter, the New York offense had put up 27 points, while the defense had held Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, to a career-low passer rating of just 1.7 – resulting in Jacoby Brissett stepping in for the second-year QB. With Brissett at the helm, the Commanders now looked a formidable foe – scoring a remarkable 21 unanswered points in less than two quarters to take a 28-27 lead. With under two minutes remaining, sophomore running back Breece Hall drove the Jets into field goal range – setting up a successful 54-yard attempt from Greg ‘the leg’ Zuerlein. Hall’s staggering 95 rushing yards, 96 receiving yards and two touchdowns were instrumental in helping the Jets claim the W and move to 6-9 on the year. Meanwhile, the Commanders fall to 4-11 and will hope Brissett can replicate his strong showing as QB1, in Week 17.
Player of the Game: Breece Hall, Running Back, New York Jets.
Green Bay Packers @ Carolina Panthers
Final Score: 33 – 30
On the edge of the playoff picture, the only way the Green Bay Packers can claim a playoff spot is to win each of their remaining three games – and what better way to start their final stretch than with the 2-12 Carolina Panthers. As expected, the Packers quickly established themselves as the dominant force and ran away with a 23-10 lead after the first half – predominantly thanks to running back Aaron Jones, who would finish the game with 127 yards on 21 carries. The Panthers and their rookie quarterback Bryce Young weren’t going down without a fight, however, and pulled together an almighty second half performance – with Young’s 312 yards for two touchdowns helping Carolina to tie the game at 30-30 late in the fourth quarter. Refusing to back down, the Packers responded by driving the length of the field and putting three points on the board – making the score 33-30. Then, with only 13 seconds remaining, Young completed a 21-yard pass to veteran WR Adam Thielen – putting the Panthers in field goal range. However, with no timeouts, the Panthers were unable to spike the ball before the clock could expire – giving the Packers their seventh win of the year and keeping their playoff hopes alive. Despite their valiant effort, the Panthers suffer their 13th loss of the season and remain bottom of the NFC South.
Player of the Game: Aaron Jones, Running Back, Green Bay Packers.
Dallas Cowboys @ Miami Dolphins
Final Score: 20 – 22
Having already clinched a playoff berth, the Dallas Cowboys came into their heavily anticipated clash with the Miami Dolphins eyeing the number one seed in the NFC. Meanwhile, the AFC East-leading Dolphins were a win away from returning to the playoffs for their second-straight season. Despite explosive plays from both offenses to start the game, it would take until the end of the first quarter for either team to find the end zone – thanks to a 49-yard catch-and-run from Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb. While Dallas’ offense found its form in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter, Miami only visited the end zone once and instead relied on the leg of kicker Jason Sanders. With Dallas leading 20-19 heading into the final two minutes, thanks to Dak Prescott’s 278 total yards and two touchdowns, the Dolphins were in need of yet another field goal. Then, with two seconds left, Sanders delivered – converting his fifth field goal of the game and securing Miami’s trip back to the playoffs with an 11-4 record. At 10-5, the Cowboys now have an uphill climb if they hope to claim their division title and the NFC’s number one seed.
Player of the Game: Jason Sanders, Kicker, Miami Dolphins.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
Final Score: 20 – 14
Fresh off of their franchise record-breaking 63 points in Week 15, the Las Vegas Raiders arrived in Kansas City ready to derail the reigning Super Bowl Champions’ plans of clinching a playoff berth. The Raiders wasted no time making their intentions known, with the defense forcing two turnovers in seven seconds – returning both for touchdowns to give Las Vegas a 17-7 lead heading into the half. Despite the resilience of star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs offense couldn’t overcome the early deficit – with the reigning MVP suffering four sacks and 10 QB hits. The Raiders also experienced their fair share of offensive struggles, as quarterback Aidan O’Connell completed just 43% of his passes for 62 yards. However, thanks to running back Zamir White – who recorded 145 rushing yards on 22 carries – Las Vegas were able to move the chains exclusively via the ground game and claim a 20-14 win over the Chiefs. As a result, the Raiders and interim head coach Antonio Pierce move to second in the AFC West – keeping their playoff hopes alive – while the Chiefs fall to 9-6 and continue their hunt for a spot in the playoffs.
Player of the Game: Zamir White, Running Back, Las Vegas Raiders.
Baltimore ? San Francisco
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) December 22, 2023
Baltimore Ravens @ San Francisco 49ers
Final Score: 33 – 19
The NFL gave fans one final Christmas present this year, as the Baltimore Ravens took on the San Francisco 49ers to close out Week 16. With both teams boasting the best record in their respective conferences and quarterbacks Brock Purdy and Lamar Jackson sitting atop the MVP race, the match-up was tipped as a potential Super Bowl LVIII preview. Unfortunately for 49ers’ fans, the game was tough to watch from start to finish as Purdy threw four interceptions – with three coming in the first two quarters. Thanks to running back Christian McCaffrey – who finished with 131 total yards and scored his 21st touchdown of the season – San Francisco went into the break trailing by only four points, despite Purdy’s struggles. In the second half, however, the Ravens took their game to another level, with Lamar Jackson’s 297 yards leading Baltimore to 17 unanswered points. After taking over from the injured Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold was able to energise the 49ers offense for the last seven minutes of the game. However, it wasn’t enough to stop the Ravens from claiming their 12th win of the season and Lamar moving into pole position in the MVP race. Following the loss, the 49ers now sit at 11-4 and will be hoping for a bounce-back performance in Week 17 against the Washington Commanders.
Player of the Game: Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Baltimore Ravens.
Munich and Frankfurt Games Unlike Anything the Country Has “Ever Seen Before”, Says NFL Germany MD, Alexander Steinforth
For the First Time Since ‘99, Tom Brady’s Not in the NFL – So Who Can Become this Generation’s ‘GOAT’?
What the signing of Odell Beckham Jr. means for the Ravens, their quarterback – and the New York Jets