Peyton Manning responds to HGH allegations; #NFL Week 16 upsets – MMQB with Peter King

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A strange weekend of football

The 10 stories that hit me over the head Sunday:

There’s one head-to-head division title game in Week 17, and it will be game 256. Minnesota (10-5) at Green Bay (10-5) was flexed to the Sunday night game next week, meaning the last game of the regular season will be a second straight frigid Sunday night game in the Great North. Forecast for Green Bay next Sunday: no snow, wind chill of about 10 degrees. But will the friendly confines help? Green Bay, trying for its fifth straight NFC North title, is 4-5 since Halloween (and would be 3-6 if not for Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary of all Hail Marys on Dec. 3 at Detroit). Incredible to think the team that started 6-0 with visions of home-field through the playoffs is now one loss away from traveling to Washington to play a wild-card game in two weeks. “We will bounce back,” said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. “That’s the way we are wired.” Perhaps. But the Packers haven’t looked like the Packers since September, and it’s too late to think McCarthy can just flip a switch and life will return to normal.

Pittsburgh? Really? My Pittsburgh friends shrieked “Tomlin must go” after Sunday’s totally embarrassing 20-17 loss at Baltimore, which made Pittsburgh’s playoff chances sub-50 percent. For the Steelers to make the postseason, they’d need to beat the Browns Sunday while Rex Ryan beats the Jets … or while Denver loses Monday night to the Bengals and next week to the Chargers, both games at home. Who knows? Rex would trade five years off his life to keep the Jets from the playoffs, so we shall see. But the Steelers were my fifth-ranked team last week, and to see them dominated by first-time Ravens starter Ryan Mallett was a stunner. The Steelers forgot this was a rivalry game, and Ben Roethlisberger was surprisingly mediocre, with his second touchdown-less game in the last three weeks.

Pop the corks, Dolphins. For the 43rd straight season, there won’t be a perfect NFL team. Formerly 14-0 Carolina is now 14-1 Carolina. This one felt different for the ’72 Dolphins, though, because coach Don Shula’s son Mike is the Carolina offensive coordinator, and Mike Shula said his dad wanted Carolina to be unbeaten more than he (Mike) did. But Carolina was flawed for the second straight week. Last week they gave up a 28-point lead to the Giants before pulling out a late win; this week they were flat, and Cam Newton played his first average game in a while. Carolina could still lose home-field in the NFC with a loss to Tampa Bay and a Cardinals win over the Seahawks on Sunday.

Did Cam open the MVP door a bit for Carson Palmer? I discuss below, but it’s not impossible.

There’s a difference in the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets. It’s called offense.Against the best team in the AFC on Sunday, New York rushed for 143 yards, threw three touchdown passes, protected the quarterback serviceably against a good Patriots pass rush, and drove 80 yards to start overtime after New England coach Bill Belichick chose to begin OT by giving the ball to the Jets. In all, the only thing that could have made the day better for the Jets would have been Rex Ryan losing.

LaAdrian Waddle—yes, that LaAdrian Waddle—could all of a sudden be a key player for the Patriots. Waddle, waived by the Lions and picked up by New England two weeks ago, became the fifth left tackle for the Patriots in 15 games Sunday when Sebastian Vollmer went out against the Jets with an ankle sprain. New England is the black hole of injury reporting, so no one knows how bad Vollmer is … and then Waddle went out with what appeared to be shoulder or neck injury. Cameron Fleming finished the game on the left side. Waddle and Fleming combined to give up five pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, and Tom Brady was pressured, sacked or hit 17 times against the Jets. Seemed like more……(continue reading)

Source: Peyton Manning responds to HGH allegations; NFL Week 16 upsets | The MMQB with Peter King

10 Things We Learned from #NFL Week 16

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A lot was decided around the NFL during the second-to-last weekend of regular season action.

The Minnesota Vikings clinched a playoff berth in the NFC while the New York Jets inched closer to a postseason spot themselves by virtue of a curious decision from the New England Patriots.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers blew a golden opportunity against an injury-riddled Baltimore Ravens team.

On the other hand, Brandon Weeden led his Houston Texans (yes, that’s a thing) to a blowout win over the Tennessee Titans to pretty much lock up the AFC South.

Here are your top-10 takeaways from this weekend in the NFL.

1.

New England Patriots overthink it in big loss to the New York Jets

Bill Belichick’s career as a mad scientist is by now well known. An evildoer to those who goes up against him, this future Hall of Fame head coach actually found a way to get in his own way on Sunday.

The seen was about as surreal as it gets. Heading into overtime against the Jets in New Jersey, the Patriots (obviously) won the toss. Instead of electing to receive the ball and give Tom Brady an opportunity to win the game, New England decided to kick off.

Making matters even more interesting, the Patriots believed they could choose what direction they kicked. NFL rules clearly state otherwise heading into overtime.

New York proceeded to drive down the field 80 yards on five plays en route to a game-winning touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Eric Decker.

It was one of those things you just don’t see. Coach Belichick and the Patriots getting in their own way during a pivotal moment in a game.

It also set the Jets up perfectly to earn a playoff spot. With a win over the Bills in Buffalo next week (or a Steelers loss), they will earn their first playoff appearance since the 2010 season.

2.

Green Bay Packers absolutely crushed by unstoppable force in the desert

How can a team with an opportunity to clinch a division title and inch closer to a first-round bye in the playoffs perform the way Green Bay did in Arizona on Sunday? It really is unfathomable.

The Cardinals sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times, forced four turnovers and allowed a total of 77 passing yards. In fact, Green Bay racked up 178 total yards while converting 5-of-17 third-down opportunities in the team’s 38-8 loss.

Defensively, the Packers didn’t do much better. Rookie running back David Johnson racked up 127 yards on 12 touches before Arizona decided to call off the dogs before three quarters had even been completed.

By virtue of this loss, Green Bay now heads into a Week 17 game with Minnesota still looking to clinch the NFC North title. If not, the team might have to open the season on the road against what is suddenly a red-hot Washington Redskins team.

Yeah, it was a brutal loss all the way around.

For the Cardinals, it could not have been more spectacular. They head into Week 17 with an opportunity to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs after winning their ninth consecutive game.

They do so as the hottest team in the NFC and as a near unstoppable force. After all, Arizona has won nine consecutive games by an average of nearly two touchdowns.

Let that sink in before picking any other team to come out of the NFC.

3.

About those Seattle Seahawks

Playoff positioning was the only thing at stake for Seattle as it hosted the suddenly resurgent St. Louis Rams on Sunday. Though, said positioning was pretty darn important.

With wins in their final two games, the Seahawks could have clinched the fifth seed in the NFC. This means that they would have headed to D.C. to take on an eight or nine win Washington Redskins team.

Seattle now finds itself as the likely sixth seed, which would force it to play in either Green Bay or Minnesota in the wild card round. No one wants to play in those stadiums as a road team in January.

Sunday’s 23-17 loss to the Rams was a mix of fluky action and some tremendous struggles from the home team.

On the second half drive that saw St. Louis take a two-score lead, the Rams recovered two ridiculous fumbles en route to a touchdown — the last of which was pure hustle on the part of center Tim Barnes.

Outside of that, Seattle turned the ball over three times, including a Russell Wilson fumble deep in St. Louis territory late in the final stanza.

That was the fluky. Now on to the struggles.

Without the services of both Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls, running backs combined for 21 rushing yards on 16 attempts.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s vaunted defense failed to get to Case Keenum for a single sack on the afternoon. That enabled the Rams to come away with a win despite the fact that their journeyman quarterback threw for a whopping 103 yards.

In reality, Seattle needs to play better football if it is going to win even one postseason game.

Considering what we saw in the five weeks prior to Sunday’s performance, we know Pete Carroll and Co. have the talent to do just that. We just don’t know if they will be able to show consistency on both sides of the ball in order to get it done.

4.

Pittsburgh Steelers blow it against hapless Baltimore Ravens team

Pittsburgh lost a game to a team that started Ryan Mallett under center, Baltimore’s fourth starting quarterback this season.

In doing so, Mike Tomlin and Co. find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the AFC playoff picture heading into Week 17.

It was pretty much a disaster from the get go. Pittsburgh capped off a promising opening drive by failing to convert on a fourth and one from Baltimore’s 25.

It then proceeded allow Mallett to lead the Ravens down the field on a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown-scoring drive to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead.

Baltimore wouldn’t look back. It added two field goals — one immediately following a Ben Roethlisberger interception — to take a 13-3 lead into the half.

After some drama in the second half, Pittsburgh simply couldn’t get out of its own way in a disheartening 20-17 loss to its division rivals.

Heading into Week 16, Pittsburgh had one of the two wild card spots in the AFC on lock down. By virtue of its loss and the Jets win, Mike Tomlin and Co. need some major help to even make the playoffs.

If the Steelers fail to get said help, 2015 would go down as a disastrous season for the franchise.

There’s no reason why a team with this much talent, especially on offense, could possibly fail to make the playoffs. And in the end, that failure is squarely on Tomlin’s shoulders.

5.

Clueless in Santa Clara

What? Seriously, what the heck is Jim Tomsula talking about here? We really would love to know what the follow up question was to this dumpster fire of an answer.

Less than two hours before, the San Francisco 49ers were penalized for coming on to to the field too early in the third quarter. That’s about as amateur as it gets.

Down just 20-17 at the half against the Detroit Lions, San Francisco found itself outscored 12-0 in the final two quarters to drop its 11th game of the season.

To make matters more disturbing for those of us looking for a silver lining, the 49ers coaching staff completely screwed the pooch once again.

After racking up 122 yards on 20 carries in the first half, San Francisco attempted just three runs in the second half. Those three runs went for a combined negative one yard as the team was shut out in the final two quarters.

Talk about adjusting out of a sound game plan to create a mess we have seen too many times from San Francisco’s sideline this season.

As much as some of us wanted to defend Tomsula earlier in the year, it’s readily apparent that the 49ers’ coaching staff is simply in over its head.

With one game remaining in what has been a disastrous season in Santa Clara, it will be interesting to see if we start hearing rumors of some dramatic changes within the team’s front office and coaching staff over the next several days.

Simply put, it’s become rather embarrassing for one of the most historic franchises in the NFL. What happens from now on will tell us whether the ownership group is okay with it.

6.

Inspired Atlanta Falcons end Carolina Panthers pursuit of perfection

Cam Newton and Co. had to be feeling good heading into Atlanta Sunday afternoon. After all, the Panthers had just obliterated Atlanta 38-0 two weeks prior.

What ended up happening was one of the most surprising outcomes of the NFL season thus far.

Atlanta held Newton to 142 yards through the air without a passing touchdown en route to a 20-13 take down of the Panthers at home on Sunday.

It was a banner defensive performance by the Falcons defense in a game that kept the team’s playoff hopes alive for just a few minutes.

While Atlanta will not be playing meaningful January football after a 5-0 start to the season, coming out victorious against the previously undefeated Panthers gives them something small to build off of heading into the offseason.

For the Panthers, this loss doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot. They are still in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

They also don’t have to go through said playoffs with the distinction of being an undefeated regular season team — something that would have added a bit more pressure to a team without a ton of playoff experience and with minimal margin for error in a stacked NFC.

7.

Washington Redskins prove to be the class of the east

Kirk Cousins threw another four touchdowns en route to a division-clinching win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night.

More than anything else, the fact that this division is wrapped up prior to Week 17 is rather interesting.

It tells us a story of a Redskins team that’s in its own class when it comes to the NFC East.

Whether this translates to playoff success is anyone’s guess. Entrenched in as the No. 4 seed in the NFC, Washington has nothing to play for against the Dallas Cowboys next week, meaning that it could very well head into the postseason with an 8-8 record.

As it is, Washington is right there among the hottest teams in the NFL right now.

And in reality, the Redskins’ turnaround has more to do with quarterback play than anything else. Cousins has now thrown eight touchdowns compared to zero interceptions over the past two games and boasts a 20-to-3 split since consecutive two-interception performances back in mid October.

If Cousins is able to keep up this ridiculously high level of play, Washington stands a decent chance of advancing beyond the wild card round.

That’s only magnified by the fact that he’s combined for 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions at home on the season.

This was all made possible by a 38-24 win over a Philadelphia Eagles team that headed into Saturday night controlling its own destiny in the NFC East.

Putting up that performance in front of a national audience on the road against a division rival is mighty impressive. It also might change our opinion of the Redskins heading into the playoffs.

8.

Frank Gore turns back the clock in helping Indianapolis avoid elimination

The Indianapolis Colts simply needed to win a game in order to even have a shot at the AFC South title. Turning back the clock some, the 32-year-old Gore did everything in his power to lead the fledgling team to a huge win against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Gore’s 37-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter put Indianapolis up eight. He then added an 11-yard scoring scamper late in the second quarter to give the Colts a two-score lead heading into the half.

Despite struggling to score in the second half, Indianapolis held off a hapless Dolphins team 18-12 to head into Week 17 with a small chance to save what has been a lost season up to this point.

The Colts would need 10 different things to break their way from here on out to earn that trip to the playoffs. This leaves the team with a 0.03 percent chance of playing football beyond next week.

But at least for one day, Gore showed everyone why he still has something left in those tires.

9.

Minnesota Vikings force do-or-die game for NFC North title

Following a 38-17 dismantling of the Chicago Bears last week, Minnesota headed into Week 16 with an opportunity to win the NFC North. That still remains the case after a second consecutive blowout win, this time by the score of 49-17 against the New York Giants.

Finding his way back after struggling over the past three games, Adrian Peterson netted 104 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts.

Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater put up yet another stellar game in what was a tremendous overall performance from the Vikings.

It was the defense that did the heavy lifting here, though. Minnesota forced three Eli Manning interceptions, including a pick-six by Harrison Smith late in the second quarter to blow the game wide open.

With both sides of the ball playing great football, Minnesota now heads to Green Bay to take on a struggling Packers team with a chance to earn an unlikely division title.

If it’s able to do that, some unlucky team will have to play outdoor football in Minnesota in January — proving that home-field advantage may in fact be of utmost importance for the surprising Vikings.

10.

The Kansas City Chiefs keep winning

It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination. Kansas City held off a game Cleveland Browns team at home Sunday for its ninth consecutive win, clinching a playoff spot in the process.

In fact, the game hung in the balance with Cleveland’s final drive stalling with the team down by four inside the Chiefs 35-yard line.

But at the end of the day, Kansas City found a way to get the job done. Not only did Andy Reid’s squad clinch a spot in the postseason after a one-year hiatus, it put the pressure on the Denver Broncos to win Monday night.

It also proved to the rest of the AFC that it could win a game playing less-than-stellar football. That’s a huge bonus for a team that could possibly find itself playing playoff football in the midst of a whopping 10-game winning streak.

The biggest factor Sunday was a lack of mistakes from the Chiefs. They turned the ball over just one time while committing five penalties in the 17-13 win over a last-place Browns team.

This performance won’t be good enough come January. It, did however, add another layer to what we have seen from the Chiefs over the past two-plus months.

In this, Kansas City proved itself worth to be mentioned among the top teams in the NFL.

Source: Top 10 takeaways from NFL Week 16 action

#NFL Week 16 – United Stats of America – Elias Sports Bureau

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NFL

Falcons rebound from huge loss to hand Panthers their first loss

The Falcons ended Carolina’s bid for a perfect season with a 20-13 win over the Panthers. Atlanta’s victory came just two weeks after Carolina routed the Falcons, 38-0. But there have been many precedents for such a reversal of form. Since 1970, 12 other teams won a game against an opponent that beat them by at least 38 points earlier that season. And like Atlanta, which had a 7-7 record heading into Sunday’s game, none of those 12 teams had a winning record at the time of its turnaround victory.

Carolina had won 18 consecutive regular-season games (and 10 in a row during December), tying the third-longest winning streak in NFL history. The only other teams to win 18 straight games were Indianapolis (23, 2008-09) and New England twice (18 in 2003-04 and 21 in 2006-08).

nullFitzpatrick, Marshall, and Decker are too much for the Patriots

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall and an overtime game-winner to Eric Decker in the Jets’ 26-20 win over the Patriots. It was the eighth game this season in which both Marshall and Decker caught TD passes, an NFL record for games in which a pair of teammates both had touchdown receptions. The previous mark was set by Cris Carter and Randy Moss with the Vikings in 1998.

With his first catch of the day, Marshall broke the single-season team record that Al Toon set in 1988. Only two other franchises have a single-season record for receptions that has stood that long: the Titans’ record was set by Charlie Hennigan with the Houston Oilers in 1964 (101); and the Browns’ mark was set by Ozzie Newsome in 1983 (89).

The Patriots lost only one other game on a touchdown pass in overtime and it took a pair of future Hall of Famers to do it. In 1981, Lynn Swann scored from 24 yards out on a pass by Terry Bradshaw to give the Steelers an OT victory over New England.

An amazing streak comes to an end in Seattle’s loss

The Rams took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and were never caught, holding on for a 23-17 victory at Seattle. That ended the Seahawks’ extraordinary streak of 62 games in which they led at some point, corresponding exactly to Russell Wilson’s tenure with the team. Check this out: Not only was that the longest such streak in NFL history; but half of the 32 current NFL teams have never had such a streak even half as long as Seattle’s, including three clubs that date back to the 1930s: the Bears, Packers, and Redskins.

nullWeeden finds success in Houston

Brandon Weeden passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans’ 34-6 victory over the Titans. It was Weeden’s first win as a starting quarterback since 2012 with Cleveland. He was the first QB in the NFL’s expansion era to start for a first-place team in the month of December having lost his last 10 starts.

Weeden led Houston on touchdown drives of 65, 80, and 34 yards on Sunday. Coming into the game, he had produced a TD on only two of his last 27 drives. He hadn’t thrown two or more TD passes in the same game since Dec. 1, 2013, in the Browns’ 32-28 loss at Jacksonville.

nullSaints’ combo is tough to beat

Drew Brees passed for 412 yards in the Saints’ 38-27 win over the Jaguars. It was the 13th time that Brees topped the 400-yard mark, but this was the first of those games in which a teammate gained at least 100 yards rushing. Tim Hightower gained 122 yards on 27 carries. Over the last five seasons, the only other player to supplement a teammate’s 400-yard passing performance with 120 or more rushing yards was James Starks of the Packers in 2013. Starks rushed for 132 yards and Aaron Rodgers passed for 480 in a 38-20 win over the Redskins.­

Incidentally, that’s a combination that has never been beaten in the NFL. Teams with a 400-yard passer and a teammate with at least 120 rushing yards have a 7-0-1 record.

nullSmith and Chiefs win ninth consecutive game

The Chiefs extended their winning streak to nine games with a 17-13 victory over the Browns. That matches the longest winning streak of Alex Smith’s NFL career; he previously won nine consecutive starts with Kansas City in 2013 and eight straight with the 49ers in 2011. Only four other quarterbacks won eight consecutive starts in one season for each of two different teams: Jack Kemp, Earl Morrall, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning.

nullGillislee caps unexpected December with big game vs. Cowboys

Mike Gillislee, who spent the first three months of the season on the practice squads of the Cardinals and Bills, gained 93 yards on nine carries and scored a late insurance touchdown in Buffalo’s 16-6 win over Dallas. Gillislee finished the month with 239 yards on 23 carries. His average of 10.4 yards per carry was the fourth-highest in one calendar month by a running back with at least 20 rushing attempts. The only RBs with higher marks were Lenny Moore (12.7 yards per carry in Oct. 1956), Hugh McElhenny (11.6 in Oct. 1952), and Bruce Harper (10.6 in Oct. 1983).

nullFreeney and the Cardinals sack the Pack

Arizona sacked Packers passers nine times, including three by Dwight Freeney, in a 38-8 rout of Green Bay. It was the Cardinals’ highest single-game total since 1986, and the most sacks in one game against the Packers since 1982.

Freeney, who turned 35 in February, had five games with three or more sacks over his first five seasons in the league. But this was his first such game since 2006. Over the last 10 seasons, the only players as old as Freeney with three or more sacks in one game were Michael Strahan (at age 35 in 2007) and 37-year-old James Harrison three weeks ago.

nullPackers suffer their worst loss with Rodgers at QB

Green Bay’s 38-8 loss was its largest margin of defeat in a game started by Aaron Rodgers. While it’s impressive that Rodgers started 117 games before his first 30-point loss, Packers fans can take pride in the fact that Brett Favre started an NFL-record total of 200 regular-season games before losing one by 30 points, and Bart Starr didn’t lose by 30 points or more until start #143 in 1970, with a pair of Super Bowl victories to his credit.

nullCarey scores two short TD for Bears

Second-year running back Ka’Deem Carey scored on a 1-yard run and a 1-yard catch in the Bears’ 26-21 victory at Tampa. Carey was the second Chicago player to score on rushing and passing plays in the same road game this season, following rookie Jeremy Langford who did it at St. Louis last month. The only other Bears player to do that on the road in the last two decades was Matt Forte (at Detroit in 2008).

Since 2000, three other players scored 1-yard TDs by rushing and receiving in the same game: Marshall Faulk (2001), Pierre Thomas (2013), and Eddie Lacy (2014).

nullMallett wins debut with the Ravens

Ryan Mallett, making his first start for the Ravens, passed for a career-high 274 yards and a touchdown in a 20-17 victory over the Steelers. Mallett was the fourth different quarterback to start for Baltimore in its last six games, following Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, and Jimmy Clausen. Over the last five seasons, the only other team to start four different QBs in a span of six games was Green Bay in 2013 (Aaron Rodgers, Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn).

Like the Panthers, who also lost on Sunday, Pittsburgh had won its last 10 games in the month of December.

nullStafford maintains sharp form in win over 49ers

Matthew Stafford threw a pair of touchdown passes in the Lions’ 32-17 win over the 49ers. Stafford, who set a team record for completion percentage in one game last week, has now thrown 14 TD passes over his last five games. He has been picked off only once in his last 225 throws dating to November 15.

Source: Elias Says: Sports Statistics