Game of the weekBuffalo at Pittsburgh
Flexed into the Sunday night, the Bills (9-4) are a two-point underdog against the Steelers (8-5). This is a big one because it could mean the difference between opening the playoffs at Kansas City or Houston/Tennessee. The legend of Steelers quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges grows.
Steelers 28, Bills 23Lock of the weekHouston at Tennessee
Titans 34, Texans 24Upset of the weekMinnesota at L.A. Chargers
Expect thousands of Vikings fans to gobble up the tickets, but the Chargers (a 2 1/2-point home underdog) will build off last week’s 45-10 walk-over of the Jaguars. Minnesota (9-4) squanders a chance to keep pace with Green Bay (10-3) entering the teams’ Week 16 Monday night showdown.
Chargers 30, Vikings 27
Around the AFC: End of an era as Raiders play final home game in Oakland
End of an era. The reeling Raiders, who have fallen to 6-7 with three consecutive losses, play their last regular-season game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (or whatever it’s called these days) Sunday against Jacksonville. The Raiders are on to Las Vegas in 2020. The Broncos were in the Black Hole last Christmas Eve for what many thought was the Raiders’ Oakland finale. The scene was, well, spirited. Undoubtedly lubricated because of the 5:15 p.m. kickoff, several fans stormed the field after time expired, but the tomfoolery was limited. We’ll see what happens late Sunday afternoon.
Ravens’ record-setter. In Thursday’s rout over the Jets, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson broke Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback (now at 1,103 yards) and his five touchdown passes tied him with Vinny Testaverde for the franchise single-season mark (33). A great note from football historian/long-time pal Dan Daly: Three times this year, Jackson has thrown five touchdowns passes when having 25 or fewer attempts; since 1950, only five quarterbacks had even two such games in their entire careers (including Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger).
Right team, right time. The last time New England lost three consecutive games was a four-game skid … 17 years ago. It was quarterback Tom Brady’s second year as a starter. That Patriots team went 9-7 to miss the playoffs for the only time in Brady’s career (he was injured in 2008 when the Patriots didn’t qualify). But a trip to 1-12 Cincinnati should get the Patriots somewhat on track although it was striking during their loss to the Chiefs last week how poor their pass protection is and how nobody is getting open.
Around the NFC: James Winston has shot at first 30/30 season
Winston’s 30/30 watch. One of the best statistical subplots of the final three weeks is in Tampa Bay regarding quarterback Jameis Winston. Entering Sunday’s game at Detroit, Winston has 26 touchdowns (tied for second in the NFL) and 23 interceptions (first, seven more than Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield). There has never been a 30 TD/30 INT season in league history. Since 1920, per Pro Football Reference, there have been only 16 seasons of at least 25 TD/25 INT (Eli Manning was the last in 2010 — 31/25). The closest to 30/30 was Green Bay’s Lynn Dickey in 1983 (32 TD/29 INT). In 1962, Oakland’s George Blanda had 27 touchdowns and, gulp, 42 interceptions.
Thomas chases record. New Orleans receiver Michael Thomas is pursuing a totally positive record — most single-season receptions. Thomas is at 121 catches through 13 games and needs 23 to break the record of 143 set by Indianapolis’ Marvin Harrison in 2002 (his quarterback was Peyton Manning). The record is doable. Thomas has seven double-digit catch games this year and the Saints are playing for playoff position despite having already clinched the AFC South so Thomas won’t be sitting out the finale.
Disappointing decade. Tuesday is the 10-year anniversary of the Redskins hiring Bruce Allen as their general manager. The decade has been a dud. The Redskins have no playoff wins. They have appeared in only two playoff games. They have run through coaches Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden. And, here’s the key, they’ve used 11 starting quarterbacks. Allen, who also heads the Redskins’ business operations, has a 62-94-1 regular-season record with the Redskins, fifth-worst during that span. Owner Dan Snyder should clean house and start over with a new GM, who would hire a new coach.
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