Giants stand tall
The last few weeks have been interesting for fans on the East coast. The race between the New York Giants and Washington Commanders has been growing ever tighter in the hunt for a Wild Card spot in the NFC, with the duo tying their clash two weeks ago and coming into this week’s Sunday Night Football clash with 7-5-1 records.
But alas, in the battle of the Big Apple and the Nation’s Capital, we have a winner.
Daniel Jones shined under the lights to end his career-long skid in night games as New York trumped Washington 20-12.
Jones, 0-9 in his first nine prime-time games for the Giants, had lost 11 in a row in these situations. But he finally came good as he threaded throws through tight windows in beating the Commanders with his arm rather than running all over Washington as he did in many of their previous meetings.
He was 21 of 32 for 160 yards and engineered an 18-play touchdown drive in the second quarter that started at the three-yard line and lasted 8:35. Saquon Barkley finished that drive with a three-yard run into the end zone on a direct snap.
But that result does not mean the race is over yet, it just gives the Giants a huge boost - well-needed after a six-game winless run.
The men from the Meadowlands still have to face the Vikings and the Eagles - the two best teams in the NFC - before the season is out, and in Washington's final three games they must overcome the red-hot 49ers and the ever-challenging Cowboys, so keep an eye out here.
As it stands they both make the playoffs, but that’s far from a certainty at this stage as the Seahawks are expected to make their way back into the Wild Card spots.
Patriots throw it away
Further up the coast, fans in New England must have poured dozens of quarters into the swear jar after the unbelievable conclusion to their trip to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Defensive end Chandler Jones grabbed a bizarre, unnecessary lateral by New England's Jakobi Meyers out of the air on the final play and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown, giving the Las Vegas Raiders a 30-24 victory over the Patriots on Sunday. What a disaster!
With the game tied at 24-all, the Patriots decided to run a series of pitches in a last-ditch attempt to avoid overtime.
All they needed to do was to spike the ball or let it run out to play it safe and try to rattle the Raiders in Overtime - something possible considering the raiders had blown a 14-point half-time lead.
But instead, Rhamondre Stevenson pitched the ball to Meyers, who heaved it across the field and into the arms of Jones, who had nothing but open field in front of him.
The wild finish bailed out the Raiders (6-8), who led 17-3 at halftime before allowing the Patriots (7-7) to score 21 straight points. Las Vegas scored two touchdowns in the final 32 seconds and seriously damaged New England's playoff hopes.
It is another twist to the Patriots season that is surely making fans in the Northeast pull their hair out. An 8-6 record would give the Patriots a huge boost in their playoffs hunt, especially after the Detroit Lions managed a 20-17 victory over the New York Jets, leaving the gang green on a 7-7 record.
But New England’s see-saw season is now hanging in the balance, only ahead of the Jets in the AFC East standings on head-to-head record and ranked eighth in the AFC seedings, where being seventh would seal a playoff berth.
That spot is currently held by the 8-6 Miami Dolphins, who the Patriots play on New Year’s day, but with games against the Bengals and Bills to come in between that game, it seems unlikely New England will still be playing football in late January.
Vikings raid the record books
The Minnesota Vikings completed the biggest comeback in NFL history, erasing a 33-point deficit in beating the Indianapolis Colts 39-36. Greg Joseph’s 40-yard field goal with three seconds left in overtime on Saturday ensured they won the NFC North division in their typical dramatic fashion.
Kirk Cousins passed for 460 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Vikings (11-3), who trailed 36-7 late in the third quarter and became just the third team in league history to win 10 games in a season by eight points or fewer.
The Colts (4-9-1) stumbled onto the infamous side of the list, just ahead of the Houston Oilers in the 1992 post-season. They blew a 32-point lead (35-3) and lost to Buffalo (41-38) in overtime.
The Vikings became only the second team in 1,551 regular-season or playoff games since 1930 to trail by 30 or more points and win.
Boisterous Burrow gets past Brady
Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals never blinked.
Down 17 points early in the young quarterback’s first start against Tom Brady, the surging Bengals took advantage of uncharacteristic mistakes by the seven-time Super Bowl winner to shrug off a slow start and beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-23 for their sixth straight victory Sunday.
“When we get in these situations we never panic, we know somebody’s going to make a play," Burrow said after throwing for four touchdowns in the second half to rally the defending AFC champions from a 17-3 halftime deficit.
It was quite a turnaround in fortune for Brady, who ended the day with three touchdowns but two interceptions.
Cincinnati (10-4) retained sole possession of first place in the AFC North, with Tre Flowers intercepting Brady to set up one touchdown and Logan Wilson sacking the 45-year-old quarterback to force a fumble that led to another TD.
“Just unforced errors. Two fumbles, two interceptions. You can’t win a game like that,” said Brady, who's been intercepted four times in the past two weeks after only throwing three picks in the first 12 games of the season.
The first-place Bucs (6-8) lost for the third time in four games and wasted an opportunity to take a two-game lead in the NFC South over Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans, who at 5-9 remain in contention for the division title despite being assured of finishing with losing records.
“Same old song. Bucs vs. Bucs. Play a good first half. Second half we come out and we shoot ourselves in the foot either by turnovers or penalties and (poor) field possession on special teams," Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles said.
Jags end the Cowboys ride
Rayshawn Jenkins intercepted Dak Prescott’s bobbled pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown that gave the Jacksonville Jaguars a 40-34 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in overtime Sunday.
Noah Brown failed to secure Prescott’s low throw, and Jenkins made a shoelace grab and went untouched the other way to end Jacksonville’s NFL-record 20-game skid against NFC teams.
The Cowboys (10-4) ended a five-game winning streak and failed to secure a playoff spot. Jacksonville (6-8), meanwhile, could gain ground on Tennessee in the topsy-turvy AFC South.
It was quite the turnaround for Jacksonville and has taken the wind out of Dallas’ sails so close to the postseason in a surprising result.
Hurts does a runner
The records of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 25-20 win over the Chicago Bears will show that Jalen Hurts threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. Yet, his legs still damaged to carry the ball over the line three times in a show of offensive variety that makes the Eagles such a force to be reckoned with.
Once again Jalen Hurts produced plays worthy of the weekend’s highlight reels. And once again his team lost - questions must now be asked if a talent this good is being wasted at Chicago, or whether his tendency to run with the ball and dance his way out of trouble is somewhat of a weakness.
Fields rushed for 95 yards to reach exactly 1,000 on the season, joining Michael Vick and Lamar Jackson as the only quarterbacks to rush for 1,000 or more. He also set a franchise single-season rushing record for a QB. But the Bears (3-11) lost their seventh straight game — their worst skid since dropping eight in a row in 2002 to match a franchise record.
Hurts is also closing in on history as a rusher. He has 13 rushing touchdowns, one short of the NFL record for a QB, set by Cam Newton during his rookie year in 2011.
The Playoff picture as it stands:
Clinched a playoff spot: Buffalo Bills (11-3, won AFC East); Kansas City Chiefs (11-3, won AFC West).
Making the playoffs as it stands: Cincinnati Bengals (10-4, first AFC North); Tennessee Titans (7-7, first AFC South); Baltimore Ravens (9-5); LA Chargers (8-6); Miami Dolphins (8-6).
Chasing pack: New England Patriots (7-7); NY Jets (7-7); Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8).
Clinch a playoff spot: Philadelphia Eagles (13-1, won NFC East); Minnesota Vikings (11-3, won NFC North); SF 49ers (10-4, won NFC West); Dallas Cowboys (10-4).
Making the playoffs as it stands: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8, first NFC South); NY Giants (8-5-1); Washington Commanders (7-6-1).
Chasing pack: Seattle Seahawks (7-7); Detroit Lions (7-7).