NFL 2018-2019 Wildcard Recap

January 6th, 2019

AFC (6) Indianapolis Colts at (3) Houston Texans was the Saturday afternoon game.The teams split the regular season, but this game was all Colts from the start. On 3rd and 12 from their own 23, Andrew Luck hit TY Hilton for just enough. On 3rd and 7 from their own 38, the defense jumped offsides. on 3rd and 2, Luck hit Hilton for 13 yards. Luck then went deep to Hilton for a 38 yard gain, splitting triple coverage. Luck capped the drive with a 6 yard touchdown pass to Eric Ebron to make it 7-0 Colts. The Colts got it back at their own 26 and Marlin Mack ran for a 25 yard gain. From the Houston 24, Luck hit Rogers for 16 and Mack for 6. Mack ran for the 2 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Colts after the first quarter. In the second quarter the Colts took over at their own 35. From their 46, Luck hit Dontrelle Inman for 21, Ebron for 15, and Inman for the 18 yard touchdown to make it 21-0 Colts. The Colts defense did the rest. The Texans had 4th and 1 at the 9. Bill O’Brien went for it and Deshaun Watson threw incomplete. Houston finally reached the end zone with 11 minutes left in regulation, but no more. On 2nd and 10 from the Indy 24, Watson threw 3 incompletions. Frank Reich has seen his team now go 10-1 in their last 11 games as they travel to Kansas City for the divisional round. 21-7 Colts

NFC (5) Seattle Seahawks at (4) Dallas Cowboys was the Saturday night game. The first 28 minutes was a brutal slog that saw Cowboys receiver Allen Hurns get carted off with a gruesome leg injury. Brett Maher hit a 39 yard field goal for the Cowboys in the first quarter. In the second quarter Sebastian Janikowski hit from 27 to tie the game. After Maher missed from 58, Sebass hit from 42 to make it 6-3 Seahawks with 1:47 left in the half. On 3rd and 1 from their own 34, Ezekiel Elliott ran for a 44 yard gain. Prescott hit Michael Gallup for an 11 yard touchdown to make it 10-6 Seahawks with 24 seconds left in the half. Tyler Lockett returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to the Dallas 49. On the last play of the half, Seabass missed from 57 and crumpled to the ground with an apparent hamstring injury. In the third quarter a punt pinned the Cowboys at their own 2 yard line. Seattle got it back at the Dallas 44. On 4th and 5 from the Dallas 39, a 57 yard field goal was out of the question with Seabass injured. Pete Carroll decided to go for it and Wilson delivered a perfect sideline pass to Doug Baldwin for a 22 yard gain. On 3rd and 5 from the 12, Wilson faked a handoff and kept it himself for a 7 yard gain. Wilson did that again for a 4 yard touchdown. An injured Seabass forced Pete Carroll to go for 2 rather than kick extra points. Davis punched it up the gut for a 14-10 Seahawks lead after three quarters. 

This time Dallas came back quickly. On 3rd and 1 from their own 42, Prescott hit Brown for 6 yards. From midfield, Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a 34 yard gain. Elliot gained 6 and Prescott gained 9 to set up 1st and goal inches short of the goal line. Elliott banged it in to put the Cowboys up 17-14 with 13 minutes left in regulation. Dallas had a chance to put the game away when Tavon Austin returned a punt 51 yards to the Seattle 38. Prescott went to Cooper for 27 yards. Prescott went to the end zone to Noah Brown and KJ Wright made an acrobatic interception in the end zone for a touchback. 

Dallas took over again midway through the third quarter at their own 37. A pair of defensive penalties killed the Seahawks. With 2 1/2 minutes left, an offensive penalty set up 3rd and 14 from the Seattle 16. With everything on the line, Prescott took a delayed draw up the middle, leapt up in the air, and gained 15 yards down to the one. With 2:14 left the Seahawks were forced to take their final timeout. Prescott snuck it in to give the Cowboys the 24-14 lead. After a touchback and needing 2 scores, Wilson hit Lockett deep for a 53 yard gain. On 4th and 4 from the Dallas 7 with 1:18 left, Pete Carroll again had to go for it with no kicker. Chris Carson ran it in to get the Cowboys within 2. Jerry Jones was prepared to fire everyone if the Cowboys lost and blow up his stadium for the insurance money. Punter Dickson had to try drop kicking an onside kick. It floated up in the air and was easily fielded as  Jason Garrett and the rest of the staff got to stay employed with the hard fought win. 24-22 Cowboys

AFC (5) Los Angeles Chargers at (4) Baltimore Ravens is the Sunday morning game. Ray Lewis fired up the crowd before the game, but it was the Chargers defense that dominated the first half. Baltimore fumbled on 3 of their first 8 offensive plays. The third fumble set up the Chargers at the Baltimore 15. However, on 3rd and goal at the one, a run up the gut was blown up in the backfield for a loss. Lamar Jackson was constantly under pressure and had one pass intercepted. Mike Badgley made field goals of 21 and 53 in the first quarter and from 40 and 34 in the second quarter as the Chargers took a 12-0 lead to the locker rooms. King returned the second half kickoff 73 yards to the Baltimore 27. Badgley’s 5th field goal try from 41 yards out was blocked. The Ravens got a second break when they forced a fumble and took over at the Chargers 21 yard line. They settled for a 33 yard Justin Tucker field goal to trail 12-3. The Ravens got a third break when they blocked a punt and took over at the Chargers 39 yard line. Yet Tucker missed a 50 yard field goal.  

The Chargers took over at their own 40. From the Baltimore 43, Philip Rivers hit Williams for 28. Melvin Gordon ran for 14 yards to set up 1st and goal at the one. First Gordon lost a yard. Then a pass to a wide open Watt in the flat was under thrown. Watt caught it and rolled over into the end zone. However, he was ruled short of the goal line. Then on 3rd and goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, chaos ensued. Gordon got the carry, stretched for the goal line, fumbled, and saw the defense pick it up and race 103 yards the other way. The Ravens thought they had a touchdown and a 12-10 ballgame. Officials ruled a Chargers touchdown instead. John Harbaugh challenged the call, and it was reversed. Neither team had a touchdown. Gordon was ruled down. On 4th and goal from inches away, Anthony Lynn decided to go for it. Gordon went up the gut and this time broke through for the score. Anthony Lynn then decided to go for the 2 point conversion. A defensive breakdown let Rivers loft a pass to a wide open Williams for a 20-3 Chargers lead. After 3 quarters, Jackson was 3 of 9 for 25 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, and 1 lost fumble. He entered to heavy boos as Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco stayed on the sideline. Badgley hit his 5th field goal from 46 with 9 minutes left to make it 23-3 Chargers. At this point the Ravens had negative 2 passing yards. 

Now it was desperation time after a touchback. The Ravens faced 4th and 11 at their own 40. One more stop would end it. Jackson went deep to Willie Snead for 29 yards and then threw a 31 yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. With 6 1/2 minutes left the Ravens were within 23-10. The onside kick failed but the Ravens got the ball back at their own 20 with 4:45 left. On 3rd and long from midfield, Jackson was flushed out, rolled all the way to his right, through across his body to the middle of the field, and somehow hit Ed Dickson who had nothing in front of him but green. He was caught from behind at the Chargers 11 after a 39 yard gain. On 4th and 8 from the Chargers 9, one stop would end it. Jackson fired to Crabtree for the touchdown. At the 2 minute warning, the Ravens were within 6 points. They still had 2 timeouts. Everything came down to the Chargers facing 3rd and 6 from their own 26 and the Ravens out of timeouts. Anthony Lynn played it safe and ran the ball. Gordon got around the end for the first down as the Chargers celebrated. However, offensive holding negated the play. On 3rd and 16, the Chargers played it very risky and Rivers threw a pass. it was caught for 8 yards as the Chargers set up to punt with 54 seconds left. With 54 seconds left, the Ravens took over at their own 34 yard line. With 30 seconds left from the Baltimore 47, Jackson had the ball knocked from his hand. The fourth fumble of the day was the second one recovered by the defense. Melvin Ingram fell on it and the Chargers were off to New England. 23-17 Chargers

NFC (6) Philadelphia Eagles at (3) Chicago Bears was the Sunday afternoon game.Dick Butkus and Brian Urlacher fired up the crowd pregame. The first half had Buddy Ryan and George Halas smiling in heaven. Nick Foles was intercepted twice, including once in the end zone for a touchback. Jake Elliott hit a 43 yard field goal in the first quarter for the Eagles. In the second Cody Parkey hit a 36 yarder and then a 29 yarder to end the half with the Bears up 6-3. Tremendous confusion of whether one play was a fumble or an incompletion was exacerbated when nobody recovered the ball and left it sitting there. Al Michaels commented that “The Dead Sea Scrolls are easier to dissect than the (NFL) rulebook.” In the third quarter the Eagles faced 3rd and 6 at their own 21. Foles threw incomplete but unnecessary roughness gave the Eagles 14 yards. On 3rd and 5 from their own 40, Foles hit Golden Tate for 9 yards. From the Chicago 43, defensive pass interference on Prince Amukamara meant a 33 yard gain. Foles threw a 10 yard touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert to make it 10-6 Eagles. Less than one minute into the fourth quarter, Parkey hit from 34 to get the Bears within 10-9. The Bears got it back and soon faced 3rd and 11 at their own 19. Mitchell Trubsky hit Taylor Gabriel for 19, Jay Bellamy for 34, and Robinson for the 22 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the Bears led 15-10 with 9 minutes left in regulation. 

A short Bears punt of only 36 yards had the Eagles taking over at their own 40 with 4:48 to play. Foles hit Alshon Jeffery for 15 yards, Goedert for 10, Nelson Agholor for 8, Zac Ertz for 13 as the clock hit the 2 minute warning. With 1:55 left the Eagles faced 3rd and 9 at the Chicago 13. Foles hit Jeffery for 11 yards and for some bizarre reason, Matt Nagy decided not to take a timeout on defense. 40 seconds ticked off the clock before the Eagles ran another play. Twice Darren Sproles got the carry and twice he was stopped. Foles then threw incomplete. With 1:05 left, it all came down to 4th and goal at the 2. Foles fired to the front corner of the end zone and Tate caught it. The Eagles led by a point and Doug Pederson went for the 2 point conversion. Sproles got the carry and tried to leap over the top. He had the ball knocked out for a fumble. The Eagles insisted Sproles broke the plane, but replay appeared to show that he lost the ball just shy of the plane. The Bears got a major break when Tarik Cohen returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the Chicago 42. Trubisky hit Robinson for gains of 25 and 8 yards. With 10 seconds left, Parkey came in for a 43 yard field goal to win it. The kick was dead center but Doug Pederson called a timeout. Now it was time for the real kick. Earlier this year Parkey doinked 4 kicks off the upright no good in one game. In Minnesota, he did it once. In this came the ball bounced off the upright, then hit the crossbar, and with the world watching, fell toward the field of play no good. To quote Paul Maguire, “I hate kickers. They should be paid $50 a game.” As for the Eagles, champions do not go down without a fight. The Eagles are off to New Orleans, who walloped them 48-7 a few weeks ago. Until proven otherwise, they are still champs. 16-15 Eagles

The Divisional playoff games are now set.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

4:30 p.m. AFC (6) Indianapolis Colts at (1) Kansas City Chiefs on NBC

8:00 p.m. NFC (4) Dallas Cowboys at (2) Los Angeles Rams on CBS

Sunday, January 13

1:00 p.m. AFC (5) Los Angeles Chargers at (2) New England Patriots on FOX

4:30 p.m. NFC (6) Philadelphia Eagles at (1) New Orleans Saints on FOX

NFL 2018-2019 Wildcard Prequel

January 5th, 2019

NFL 2019 Coaching Carousel Predictions

January 2nd, 2019

2019: We…can…do…this

January 1st, 2019

2019: We…can…do…this

What the heck is that beeping sound?

(Knocks the phone off the hook, keeps banging the snooze alarm)

A voice tells me it’s my pager. My pager is black, so finding it in the dark is the needle in the haystack equivalent. A lucky smack knocks it against the wall, where it may or may not have shattered. The beeping continues. Why does anyone need a pager anymore anyway?

Who the heck is texting me at this ungodly hour of…(either 7 a.m., 1 p.m., or 1 a.m. …it looks blurry)?

Oh, no. It is 5 a.m., and my first radio interview of the New Year is with the morning man of an East Coast station. Time to pretend to sound coherent and go back to sleep. Oh no, wait, that radio interview was five years ago.

Great, happy wishes for the new year. Thanks. Whoever you are, it is too early to talk to you.

One year the person on the telephone insisted it was 1 p.m. After explaining to them that they were on the East Coast, and that 1 p.m. EST is 10 a.m. in Los Angeles, they grew impatient. They knew how to tell time, and that it was 4 p.m. EST, hence 1 p.m. my time.

Sure, getting up and writing my column is an option. It’s a new year, and starting the year off with a flurry of brilliance might be helpful. Forget it. This column is recycled from years ago. It’s also hours late. That is what happens when people get no sleep because of stressful December 30 football games followed by New Year’s Eve revelry.

Election 2020? The first person to talk politics gets blistered in my column … tomorrow.

Bowl games? There is DVR. Besides, does anybody care who wins the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl, the Lack of Insight.com Bowl, the Fishbowl, the RU486 Morning After Bowl, The California Metrosexual Pride Bowl, or any other game that may or may not be made up?

Speaking of the morning after, does anybody remember the David Byrne Talking Heads song from the movie “Less than Zero? (which the temperature feels like right now in some parts of the country. No wonder I live in this insane city of LA)” The song is called “Once In A Lifetime.”

“This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife. What have I done? How did I get here?”

It then occurs to me that the beeping sounds are the voices in my head telling me I am too old, even at 46, to stay out this late. Even without alcohol, exhaustion has set in. 

Get out of bed? Work calls in (whenever) hours. Better rest up before my tyrant of a boss complains. Such is the life of the self-employed.

Get up now? Somehow stagger to the shower, get dressed, make it out of my condo to go … where?

The stores are closed. Maybe they are open. Too tired to find out.

My birthday is in just over a week. Time to pace myself.

Work on my website? All that takes is staggering to my couch. Oh, no. My IT guy has not finished it yet. Oh, wait, he did years ago. I clicked on the wrong site.

Go on Jdate and search for women? Not a bad idea, except it is too tiring to check their Adams Apples. This is not the year for a boyfriend, and am not sure that my eyes can tell the difference right now. Besides, Jdate is so 2014. Now it is Tinder, JSwipe and JCrush.

Shop on Ebay? No. bad idea. Buying stuff when not at full capacity is problematic. Who needs another mountain goat? Dang creature gets his horns in my hide. Not a comfy way to wake up. Calm down boy, you’ll get some straw to graze on upon my waking up.

Work on my record album? Although again, world, just because my hair is long, that does not mean my band exists. The best instrument is the triangle, because that tells me lunch is ready. Oh wait, my hair is not even that long anymore. I could work on that, although I didn’t do much. I sat. It grew.

Ahh, yes, lunch. Get up and eat something. My microwave is slow, and a five minute microwave dinner takes almost 15 minutes. Read the paper? It is cold outside my building where the stand is, and it only takes coins. Reading the paper online is tiring, and my printer is not working. At least the lifestyle section makes a great placemat for eating. Oh, wait. That stand does not exist anymore. Reading the paper online it is. 

Staying in bed for only a couple more hours until (whatever the big and little hands say) would allow me to stay up all night and be totally exhausted for work tomorrow. Again, my boss is a tyrant.

Running errands … not gonna happen.

Every morning, a four word prayer starts my day. My elbows are used to try and leverage them against my bed to prop me up. Placing my alarm clock on the other side of the room failed, since ripping the cord out of the wall solved that problem.

As for the Jewish brunette who stole the covers, her voice was not a problem last night, although if she opens her trap today she will receive a more caustic reception than usual.

Oh wait, she already left. Here is a note. “Tried to wake you, but that was a losing battle. By the way, you have nothing but soda in your fridge. Talk to you soon.” oh, wait, I think that happened over a decade ago. This is 2019, not 2005.

She is a liar. There are potato chips in my fridge as well. Why they are there remains a mystery, but it saves having to remember which cabinet they are in. One-stop shopping  is the way to go.

Besides, combing my hair for her was enough. Not doing it this morning, proud “retrosexual” that is me.

At least having the decency to say some morning prayers would be appropriate.

“Hey God…those people I pray for every night…yeah those people, the same ones…look after them again.”

Back to sleep, despite every attempt to wake up. The home phone is turned off, the cell is off as well, and the pager is still shattered, in addition to being disconnected years ago.

There may have been a car crash outside my building followed by 911 calls and sirens, but telling everybody to “keep it down,” solved that problem. A brief nightmare of me being late for work was averted when I realized my location to me was known if necessary.

Four televisions in the living room, and none in the bedroom. Who thought that up? Oh yeah, a television in the bedroom would promote laziness. Besides, trying to figure out which remote to use would cause me to break them all as if they were my pager.

Ok, here it is. Come on, elbows, do your stuff. Rise, young lad, rise! Awaken thy exhausted tired eyes!

Why is God shouting? Oh wait, that is my over-dramatization of God.

Time to set the alarm now to avoid missing work tomorrow. Where was it thrown? Threw it? Oh, screw it.

Ok, time for my four word prayer. It has gotten me this incredibly terribly far. Time to contemplate getting out of bed.

“We…can…do…this.”

Happy 2019 all. Except for the person who woke me up earlier. Whoever you are, I still can’t stand you, even though you are doing me a favor.

Ten hours and 16 bowl games later, there is only one thing left to do.

Time for a nap. Happy 2019.

Zzzzz.

eric

New Year’s Eve 2018 With Lil Jon and Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz

December 31st, 2018

Top 10 PBWGs of 2018

December 31st, 2018

Top 10 PBWGs of 2018

NFL 2018 Week 17 Recap

December 30th, 2018

NFL 2018 Week 17 Recap

This is when the biggest of the big dogs come out!

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills — No playoff implications. Buffalo moved 68 yards. On 3rd and 16 from the Miami 47, Josh Allen went to Chris Ivory for 46 yards. Ballage got the last yard for a 7-0 Bills lead. Ryan Tannehill was intercepted, setting up the Bills at the Miami 18. One play later Allen hit Jones for the score to make it 14-0 Bills. Another interception of Tannehill led to nothing when Steve Hauschka surprisingly came up short on a 42 yard field goal. There was no rain or snow but field goals in Buffalo in late December is like kicking a brick. Momentum then changed. in the second quarter.

The Dolphins took over just shy of midfield and 11 plays later were on the scoreboard. On 3rd and 7 from the Buffalo 22, Tannehill went to Kenyan Drake for 19 yards. Tannehill went to Kenny Stills for the 3 yard touchdown. With one minute left in the half, the Dolphins were within 14-7. On 2nd and 12 from the Buffalo 23, Allen was intercepted by Jones, who returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. Rather than a 17-0 Bills lead, the game was tied 14-14. Buffalo dominated the first 29 minutes and gave up 2 scores in the final minute. In the third quarter momentum shifted back again.

The Bills moved 78 yards in 10 plays. On 3rd and goal from the 5, Allen hit Reuben Foster for the touchdown to make it 21-14 Bills. Tannehill then got sacked and fumbled to set up the Bills at the Miami 23. LeSean Shady McCoy ran for a 9 yard touchdown to make it 28-14 Bills. Miami moved from their own 34 to a 1st and 10 at the Buffalo 12. On 3rd and 9 Tannehill threw incomplete. Sanders hit a 29 yard field goal to get the Dolphins within 28-17, but the Bills put the game away in the fourth quarter. 

The Bills moved 70 yards and Allen ran for a 30 yard touchdown to make it 35-17 Bills. Another fumble by Tannehill set up Buffalo at the Miami 48. Allen hit Jones for 11 with a defensive penalty tacked on and then connected with him again for a 26 yard touchdown to turn a once close game into a Bills blowout. Adam Gase and Sean McDermott were both expected to return next year. 42-17 Bills

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans — The Jaguars were eliminated from playoff contention while the Houston Texans came in at 10-5. They were the three seed, but could go all the way to the top seed with home field throughout the playoffs or fall to the six seed and play road playoff games. The Jaguars kicked a 26 yard field goal. The Texans moved to a 3rd and goal at the one. DeShaun Watson got stopped and Bill O’Brien decided to go for it. A false start killed the chance. Kaimi Fairbairn hit the 23 yard field goal for a 3-3 tie. 

In the second quarter the Texans took over just shy of midfield. Defensive pass interference added 27 yards. Watson ran for a 5 yard touchdown to make it 10-3 Texans. Houston got it back and moved 63 yards. On 3rd and 6 from the Jacksonville 20, Watson hit Hopkins for 13 yards. Lamar Miller ran for the 7 yard touchdown to make it 17-3 Texans. Fairbairn hit a 24 yard field goal in the fourth quarter to salt it away. Doug Marrone did not have long to wait for his Black Monday fate. Owner Shad Khan immediately after the game announced that nobody is getting fired. It was the right call.  The 11-5 Texans won the AFC South but not the first round bye. They are the three seed and will host a playoff game on Wildcard weekend 20-3 Texans 

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers — No playoff implications. The Lions moved 56 yards in 12 plays and 5 minutes. Matthew Stafford fired over the middle to the back of the end zone and Jones caught it for the 7-0 Lions lead. In the second quarter the Lions moved 78 yards in 11 plays and 6 minutes. On 4th and 3 from the Green Bay 8, Matt Prater came in for a 26 yard field goal try. Prater has the NFL record of 64 yards. Yet Matt Patricia called a fake field goal, and Prater threw to Toilolo for the touchdown as the Lions led 14-0. Aaron Rodgers walked to the locker room in the second quarterback with a possible concussion as DeShone Kizer replaced him. The Lions moved 73 yards in 12 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. Zac Zenner ran straight up the middle for a 13 yard touchdown to make it 21-0 Lions. Prater added a 43 yard field goal in the third quarter to make it 24-0 Lions. In the fourth quarter Stafford threw a 23 yard touchdown pass to Jones to complete the blowout as Joe Philbin awaited Black Monday. 31-0 Lions

New York Jets at New England Patriots — The Jets were out of the playoffs while the 10-5 Patriots had clinched their division. The Patriots were the two seed, but had a shot at the top seed. They could even fall lower and miss out on a first round bye. New England capped a 59 yard drive with Tom Brady hitting James White for a 17 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Patriots. Sam Darnold ripped off a 28 yard run to set up Jason Myers for a 40 yard field goal to get the Jets within 7-3. The second quarter brought the reality check.

The Patriots moved 75 yards and Brady hit Ronnie Burkhead for an 18 yard touchdown to make it 14-3 Patriots. The Jets fumbled, giving the Patriots 1st and goal at the 8. On 3rd and goal from the 18, Brady threw incomplete but a mindless roughing the passer penalty after the play gave the Patriots a new set of downs. If Todd Bowles gets fired on Black Monday, plays like that will be cited. On 3rd and goal from the 9, Brady hit Philip Dorsett for the touchdown to make it 21-3 Patriots. In the third quarter with the Jets facing 3rd and 10 just past midfield, Darnold was hit and fumbled. Kyle Van Noy ran it back 46 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 28-3 Patriots lead. In the fourth quarter Stephen Gostkowski hit a 38 yard field goal and Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 5 yard touchdown as the 11-5 Patriots captured a first round bye for the 8th straight year. Bill Belichick almost smiled. On the other sideline, Todd Bowles did not have to wait until Black Monday. On Sunday after the loss he was fired  38-3 Patriots

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints — No playoff implications. The Panthers were out of the playoffs while the 13-2 Saints clinched home field throughout the playoffs. Both teams brought in their backup quarterbacks. Kyle Allen replaced the injured Cam Newton while Teddy Bridgewater saw some action as Drew Brees rested for the postseason. The Panthers moved 75 yards in 11 plays and 5 minutes. Allen hit Moore for a 19 yard gain down to the one. On the next play Allen got in himself to make it 7-0 Panthers. Carolina came back 89 yards. On 3rd and 8 from the Carolina 36, defensive pass interference meant a 39 yard gain. Artis-Payne ran for a 15 yard touchdown. The extra point was doinked off the upright no good but the Panthers led 13-0.

In the second quarter the Saints moved 65 yards in 13 plays and 7 1/2 minutes. On 4th and 2 from the Carolina 10, Sean Payton decided to go for it. Bridgewater threw incomplete. The Panthers came back with a staggering 16 pay, 90 yard drive that took nearly 8 minutes. On 3rd and 10 from the Saints 18, Allen ran for 10 yards and then hit Thomas for the 8 yard touchdown to make it 20-0 Panthers. Catanzaro hit a 22 yard field goal to end the half to make it 23-0 Panthers. In the third quarter the Panthers quickly moved 75 yards. Allen went bombs away to Samuel for a 53 yard touchdown and a 30-0 Panthers lead after three quarters. The fourth quarter was all garbage time as the Saints scored a pair of touchdowns and Carolina tacked on another field goal. The Panthers snapped their 7 game losing streak as Ron Rivera awaited Black Monday. The Saints starters can now enjoy relaxing and getting healthy during the bye week. 33-14 Panthers

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants — No playoff implications. The Giants were out while the Cowboys as division champs were locked into the four seed. They will host the top Wildcard next week. For some reason Jason Garrett decided to play Dak Prescott even though Ezekiel Elliott was given the week off. Eli Manning threw a pair of interceptions although one of them was ruled a fumble. He still had two turnovers. The Cowboys failed to capitalize as Brett Maher missed a 34 yard field goal try. After a hideous scoreless first quarter, the Cowboys moved 65 yards in 13 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. On 3rd and 12 from the Giants 13, Prescott fired to Blake Jarwin for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Cowboys. 

Dallas got it back and moved 75 yards in 13 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. With 1:50 left in the half on 3rd and 9 from the Giants 19, Prescott went to Jarwin again for the score and the 14-0 Cowboys lead. After doing nothing for 28 minutes, the Giants worked the 2 minute drill. With 15 seconds left in the half, on 3rd and 10 from the Dallas 21, Manning went to the end zone to Latimer, who was double covered. Despite defensive pass interference, Latimer made a one-handed catch and got both feet down for the score as the Giants only trailed 14-7 at recess. A 48 yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas got the Giants within 14-10 in the third quarter.

The Cowboys moved 75 yards. On 3rd and 3 from the Giants 39, Prescott went deep to Jarwin for their third touchdown connection on the day and a 21-10 Cowboys lead. The Giants got it back and soon faced 1st and 20 at their own 17. Saquon Barkley then ripped off a 68 yard gain. Lost in the Giants bad season was rookie Barkley, who joined Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James as the only rookies to have more than 2,000 combined yards from scrimmage. On 3rd and 1 from the Dallas 6, Manning hit Evan Engram for the touchdown. Manning hit Shepard for the 2 point conversion to get the Giants within 21-18.

The Giants got it back at their own 19. On 3rd and 5 from their own 35, Manning went to Engram for a 51 yard gain. Gallman ran for a 2 yard touchdown. With 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Giants had their first lead of the game up 25-21. less than 90 seconds later the lead changed. Dallas took over at their own 25. Prescott hit Gallup for 24 yards. On 3rd and 10 from just shy of midfield, Prescott went deep to Hurns for a 49 yard gain. Smith got the last yard as the Cowboys retook the lead 28-25.  

Midway through the fourth quarter with nothing to lose, Pat Shurmur gambled on 4th and 1 from his own 35. Manning got 2 yards on the quarterback sneak. On 3rd and 5 from the Dallas 38, Manning went deep to Cody Latimer for a 31 yard gain. On 3rd and goal from the 2, Barkley went airborne from deep in the backfield, stretched the ball from the backfield, had it knocked out of his hands for a fumble, but it didn’t matter. He broke the plane of the goal first for the touchdown as the Giants led 32-28 with 3:20 to play. 

After a touchback, a fumble by Amari Cooper set up the Giants at the Dallas 18. Offensive holding killed the Giants drive. Rosas hit the 38 yard field goal to make it 35-28 Giants with 2:40 to play, but the Giants did not close the door. Dallas took over at their own 30. Prescott went to Jarwin for a 30 yard gain. With 1:12 to play, it all came down to 4th and 15 from the Giants 32. One stop and the Giants had the win. Prescott went deep to Cole Beasley, who made a diving catch in the back of the end zone. However, his elbow came down out the back of the end zone on the white chalk. The officials ruled the play incomplete as the Giants celebrated. The celebration would not last long.

On further review, Beasley’s knee hit down inbounds about a millisecond before his elbow hit out of bounds. He held control of the ball. Officials reversed the call to a touchdown. In a meaningless game that nobody wanted to go into overtime, Jason Garrett decided to go for the 2 point conversion and the win. Prescott hit Michael Gallup and the Cowboys had the one point lead. Yet the Giants were in a strong position to win it when Latimer returned the ensuing kickoff 34 yards to the Giants 48 yard line. If this was Manning’s final game with the Giants, he had the chance for the fairy tale ending. 

He didn’t get it. 4 incompletions meant a bitter loss. While the Cowboys won, there will be more than one football analyst who will question Jason Garrett for playing Dak Prescott for an entire meaningless game. Nevertheless, Prescott finished a spectacular 27 of 44 for 387 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Manning went 24 of 41 for 301 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception. 38-36 Cowboys 

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — No playoff implications. The Buccaneers moved 93 yards in 12 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. Jameis Winston hit Mike Evans for a 19 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Buccaneers. Cairo Santos tacked on a 36 yard field goal in the second quarter to make it 10-0 Buccaneers. Tampa got it back and moved 70 yards. Winston went to Chris Godwin for a 30 yard touchdown to make it 17-0 Buccaneers. 

Only 46 seconds remained in the half, but the Falcons made the most of it. Matt Ryan hit Mohammed San for 8, Hooper for 20 and 19, Coleman for 9, and Julio Jones for a 19 yard touchdown pass. The entire drive took 26 seconds as the Falcons trailed 17-7. In the third quarter the Falcons moved 75 yards in 14 plays and 6 minutes. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Ryan hit Sanu for the score to get the Falcons within 17-14. Santos hit a 45 yard field goal to make it 20-14 Buccaneers, but after that the Falcons took over. 

Matt Bryant countered from 49 yards out to get the Falcons within 20-17. An interception of Winston set up Atlanta at the Tampa 43. Tevin Coleman ran for a 23 yard touchdown to give the Falcons their first lead up 24-20. In the fourth quarter the Falcons moved 75 yards. Ryan threw a 7 yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley to put the Falcons up 31-20 with 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation. After being outscored 31-3 since taking a 17-0 lead, now the Buccaneers had their comeback moment.

With the Buccaneers facing 3rd and 8 at their own 27, Winston was sacked for a 9 yard loss. Yet defensive holding instead kept the drive going. Winston then hit Humphries for 19 yards and Brate for gains of 18 and 21. Winston then went to Evans for the 10 yard touchdown. With 8 minutes left in regulation, Dirk Koetter went for the 2 point conversion. It failed and the Buccaneers trailed 31-26. Matt Ryan was soon intercepted, setting up the Buccaneers at the Atlanta 34. Winston went to Humphries for 15 and to Godwin for the 19 yard touchdown. Again Koetter went for 2 and again the try failed. With 5 minutes left the Buccaneers led 32-31, but the failed 2 point drives loomed large.

On 2nd and 8 from the Atlanta 27, Hill ran for 12 and Ryan hit Jones for 16 more. On 3rd and 11 from the Tampa Bay 32, Matty Ice hit Jones for 16 yards. With the Buccaneers out of timeouts at the 2 minute warning, Dan Quinn took no chances. He had Ryan take 3 knees to take the clock down to 4 seconds. Bryant came in for the 37 yard field goal try for the win. The kick was good. Dan Quinn and  Dirk Koetter both awaited Black Monday. The Buccaneers did not even wait until Monday. Koetter was fired after the game. 34-32 Falcons 

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens — The Browns were out. The Ravens with a win would clinch their division. They came in the four seed but could go as high as the two seed. If they lost and Pittsburgh won, the Ravens would miss the playoffs entirely. An early interception of Baker Mayfield had the Ravens taking over at their own 39. On 2nd and 8 from the Browns 20, Lamar Jackson threw incomplete twice. Justin Tucker hit the 38 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Ravens. The Browns came back quickly. On 3rd and 6 from their own 29, Mayfield went deep to Callaway for 38 yards. Mayfield then went deep to Perriman for a 28 yard touchdown and a 7-3 Browns lead. 

Baltimore took over at their own 31. Jackson went to Michael Crabtree for 7 yards. Jackson then scrambled for 24 yards. On 3rd and 8 from the Cleveland 36, Jackson threw incomplete but defensive holding on Jabril Peppers kept the drive going. On 3rd and 4 from the Cleveland 25, Jackson ran all the way for the touchdown to put the Ravens back on top 10-7. Baltimore got it back at their own 23. Jackson hit Brown for 7 yards, Dixon ran for 15 more, and Edwards added another 24 on the ground. Dixon ran for 20 and Jackson ran for the 8 yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to make it 17-7 Ravens. Tucker added a 35 yard field goal to put the Ravens up 20-7 at the half.

In the third quarter the Browns missed a chance to get closer when Greg Joseph missed a 46 yard field goal. Yet the defense held and the Browns got it back at the Baltimore 48. Mayfield immediately went for it all and hit Jarvis Landry for the touchdown to get the Browns within 20-14. The Ravens after a touchback moved 12 plays in 5 1/2 minutes. On 1st and 10 from the Cleveland 33, Jackson ran all the way for the touchdown. Yet offensive holding nullified the touchdown. On 3rd and 9 from the Cleveland 21, Jackson was sacked. Midway through the third quarter, Tucker hit the 44 yard field goal to make it 23-14 Ravens.

The Browns took over at their own 23 and Mayfield went deep to david Njoku for a 42 yard gain. The fourth quarter began with the Browns facing 1st and 10 at the Baltimore 19. On 3rd and 8, Mayfield threw incomplete. Joseph hit the 35 yard field goal to get the Browns within 23-17. The Ravens then held the ball for 12 plays and 6 1/2 minutes, moving 78 yards. Baltimore settled for Justin Tucker’s fourth field goal from 23 yards out for a 26-17 Ravens lead  midway through the fourth quarter. Baltimore had breathing room, but they would not be breathing easy for long.

After a touchback, Mayfield hit Njoku for 13 yards. On 3rd and 8 from the Cleveland 40, Mayfield hit Landry for 14 yards and Higgins for 33 yards. Mayfield hit Callaway for a one yard touchdown. With 3:24 to play, the Browns were within two points. Baltimore soon faced 3rd and 5 at their own 30. Jackson tried a pitchout that was fumbled. The Ravens were lucky that it was only a 6 yard loss rather than a turnover. At the 2 minute warning, the Ravens had to punt. The Browns took over at their own 26.

The Browns were playing like it was 1980 and Brian Sipe was in charge. The entire AFC North depended on the new Cardiac Kids. Mayfield went to Perriman, who made an acrobatic catch on the sideline for a 19 yard gain. Mayfield went deep to Landry for a 16 yard gain as another acrobatic catch survived official review. With 1:18 left the Browns had 1st and 10 at the Baltimore 39. That’s when Baltimore did what every defense should do in this situation. Their defense did not sit back and play zone. They brought the entire d@mn house at Mayfield. 3 incompletions later, it was 4th and 10. With 1:06 left, Gregg Williams opted against a 57 yard field goal try. Mayfield dropped back to pass, the Ravens sent everybody, and the pass was intercepted. It was a heart-stopper, and the 7-8-1 Browns will be a force next year. As for this year, Baltimore won the AFC North and knocked hated rival Pittsburgh out of the playoffs altogether. Baltimore has the defense to beat anyone, anywhere. 26-24 Ravens

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins — Washington is eliminated. The Eagles needed to win and hope for a Minnesota loss to make the playoffs as the six seed Wildcard. Nick Foles and Josh Doctson were both intercepted on their opening drive in an ugly first quarter. Elliott hit a 23 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Eagles. In the second quarter the Eagles went on the mist mind-numbing drive of the year. 19 plays. 87 yards. Nearly 12 minutes. On 4th and 1 from the Washington 15, Doug Peterson went for it. Foles gained 2 yards. Foles hit Alshon Jeffery for a 2 yard touchdown with 30 seconds left in the half to make it 10-0 Eagles. 

In the third quarter the Eagles moved 68 yards in 13 plays and 7 1/2 minutes. On 3rd and goal at the 6, Foles hit Nelson Agholor for the touchdown as the Eagles led 17-0 after three quarters. Nick Foles for the second straight week got rocked with a shot to the chest and left the game. Nate Sudfeld threw a fourth quarter touchdown, his first as a pro. The 4-6 Eagles went 5-1 down the stretch. With Minnesota losing, The Eagles are in the playoffs as the six seed Wildcard. Champions don’t go down without a fight, and the Eagles are still the defending champs. 24-0 Redskins

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs — In 1999, the Raiders played at the Chiefs. The Raiders had nothing to play for. The Chiefs had everything to play for. The Raiders fell behind 17-0, took a 21-17 halftime lead, fell behind again, and rallied back for a wild 41-38 overtime win. They knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs in front of a shellshocked home crowd. Jon Gruden was the coach. In 2018, he is again. The Raiders are eliminated, while the 11-4 Chiefs right now are the top seed. However, if they lose and New England and Houston win, the Chiefs could fall to the two seed or even the three seed. If the Chiefs lose and the Chargers win, the Chiefs would fall to the five seed and play road playoff games. Earlier this year in Oakland the Raiders lost 40-33. While the Raiders supposedly had no chance, they heard that in 1999. 

The Chiefs defense is very deceptive. They give up a ton of yards but far fewer points because they force turnovers. The Raiders moved the ball at will but self-destructed. The Raiders became the first NFL team since 2003 to have turnovers on their first 4 possessions. The Raiders won the coin toss and deferred. A pair of Patrick Mahomes incompletions had the Chiefs facing 3rd and 10 at their own 16. Mahomes went back to pass and had a defender draped all over him back at the 5 yard line. Mahomes escaped the sack and threw a completion to Sherman, who evaded several awful attempts at tackling for a 12 yard gain. On 3rd and 5 from the Chiefs 33, Mahomes went deep to Tyreek Hill for a 67 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Chiefs lead.

The Raiders moved from their 25 to a 2nd and 2 at their own 48 yard line. Muscle Hamster Doug Martin got the carry and fumbled. The defense held and the Raiders moved from their own 12 to midfield. Jon Gruden called a formation with 4 receivers lined up to the left and only Jared Cook to the right. Carr fired to Cook, who stopped and did not even run a route. Carr had gone 332 passes in 10 straight games without an interception. This time he was intercepted by Sorenson, who coasted 54 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 14-0 Chiefs lead.

On the next Oakland series in the second quarter the Raiders took over at their own 25. The Raiders held the ball for 11 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. On 2nd and 10 from the Chiefs 33, Carr went back to pass, He had the ball chopped out of his hands by Justin Houston, who fell on it at the Chiefs 40. Again the Raiders killed themselves with a penalty. On 3rd and 4 from their own 46, Mahomes hit Travis Kelce for 8, Williams for 8 more, Kelce again for 19 and Kelvin Benjamin for 9. Williams ran for a 4 yard touchdown. 3 times Mahomes threw passes that should have been intercepted. 3 times the Raiders defenders dropped the ball. 3 times the Chiefs scored touchdowns to lead 21-0.

Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 34 yards to the Oakland 45. The Raiders moved to a 2nd and 3 at the Chiefs 34. Sadly for the Raiders, the Chiefs defenders can catch the ball, especially when it is thrown right to them. Carr was intercepted for the second time by Ragland, who returned it 67 yards to the Oakland 4 yard line. It was offensive tackle Kolton Miller who somehow outraced everyone to make the tackle and save the touchdown. The play mattered because Walrus Lite Andy Reid decided to go for it on 4th and goal at the one. Williams got the carry and got rocked. The Raiders could have been down 28-0, but an inspired goal line stand gave them a ray of hope.

The Raiders held the ball for 13 plays and moved 66 yards. From their own 2 yard line, they moved to a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 34. The drive stalled, but for the first time in 5 drives, the Raiders did not turn it over. Daniel Carlson hit a 50 yard field goal as the Raiders trailed 21-3. Mahomes went for the kill shot, but a bomb into double coverage was intercepted at the Oakland 2 yard line as the Raiders got to the half without any more damage.

The third quarter was more of the same. The Raiders moved from their own 25 to a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 36. Carr completed a pass to Jordy Nelson for 26 yards to set up 1st and goal at the 10, but it was all for naught. Offensive holding wiped out the gain. On 2nd and 15, Carr was sacked and fumbled again. The Raiders retained possession. It was a 4 yard loss but not a 5th turnover. On 4th and 10 from the Chiefs 41 and down by 18, Jon Gruden decided to punt. The Chiefs were pinned at their own one yard line.

It didn’t matter. With the Chiefs facing 3rd and 10 at their own 11, the Raiders only rushed 3 defenders. Mahomes went deep to Robinson. The defender went for the ball and not the tackle. Robinson coasted to an 89 yard touchdown and a 28-3 lead. Mahomes became the third quarterback to throw for at least 50 touchdowns in a season and one of only several quarterbacks to pass for 5,000 yards in a season. The Chiefs followed up a 99 yard drive with a 92 yard drive in the fourth quarter. Hill rushed for a 15 yard touchdown to complete the massacre. The Chiefs are the top seed while the Raiders begin preparing for the draft. 35-3 Chiefs

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings — Minnesota right now is the six seed. If they lose and Philadelphia wins, the Vikings are out of the playoffs altogether. Chicago came in as the division champs and the three seed. With a win and a Rams loss, the Bears would move up to the two seed. There would be cold weather playoff football, just as Bears fans like it. The Bears began at their own 29. Howard ran for 7 yards and then ripped off a 42 yard gain. Miller then ran for an 8 yard gain. On 3rd and 3 from the Minnesota 15, Mitchell Trubisky hit Burton for a 9 yard gain. Howard ran for the 6 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Bears.

In the second quarter the Bears moved 85 yards in 10 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. On 3rd and 11 from their own 24, Trubisky threw deep incomplete but roughing the passer kept the drive going. On 3rd and 7 from the Minnesota 41, Trubisky went deep to Gabriel for a 40 yard gain. Howard got the last yard. Kicker Cody Parkey earlier this year doinked 4 kicks off the upright no good in one game. In this game he did it once as the Bears led 13-0. 

Minnesota tried to slowly claw back into the game. Dan Bailey hit a 45 yard field goal with less than one minute left in the half to get the Vikings on the board. In the third quarter the Vikings took over at their own 8 yard line. On 3rd and 2 from their own 16, Kirk Cousins threw incomplete but roughing the passer on Khalil Mack kept the drive going. On 3rd and 8 from just past midfield, Cousins the incomplete but defensive pass interference on Prince Amukamara meant 11 yards. On 4th and 1 from the Chicago 4, Mike Zimmer decided to go for it. Dalvin Cook gained 2 yards. Cousins hit Stefan Diggs for a 2 yard touchdown. The 12 play, 92 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive had the Vikings within 13-10 with less than 2 minutes left n the third quarter.

The fourth quarter belonged to Chicago. They just hit Minnesota in the mouth on both sides of the ball. The offense led a staggering 16 play, 75 yard drive that took 9 minutes off the clock. On 3rd and 5 from their own 30 Trubisky ran for 12 yards. On 3rd and 6 from their own 46, Trubisky hit wins for 16 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Minnesota 38, Trubisky was sacked bu defensive holding was a killer penalty. On 3rd and 6 from the Minnesota 29, Trubisky hit Burton for 9 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Minnesota 17, Trubisky hit Wims for 9. Tarik Cohen ran for a 3 yard touchdown. For some reason, Matt Nagy went for 2. Trubisky hit Kwiatkoski for the 2 pointer as the Bears led 21-10 midway through the fourth quarter.

After a touchback Cousins threw incomplete, ran for 7 yards, and on 2nd and 3 threw 3 straight incompletions. Parkey tacked on a field goal to complete the scoring as Chicago’s suffocating defense did the rest. Minnesota had the ball two more times and turned it over on downs two more times. With Philadelphia winning, Minnesota was knocked out of the playoff race. Chicago is the three seed, unable to get the first round bye. They will be at home on wildcard weekend, with their defense and cold weather. 24-10 Bears 

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers — The Bengals were out. The Steelers were on the outside looking in. The Steelers needed to win and hope for a Baltimore loss to win the division and make the playoffs as the four seed. After a scoreless first quarter, the Steelers in the second quarter moved from their 18 to their 45. Ben Roethlisberger was then intercepted by Williams, who evaded tacklers and raced for a 58 yard defensive touchdown and a 7-0 Bengals lead. Cincinnati got it back and moved 51 yards in 12 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. They settled for a 49 yard Randy Bullock field goal and a 10-0 Bengals lead with just over 2 minutes left in the half. 

A 27 yard kickoff return had the Steelers taking over at their own 45. On 4th and 1 from the Cincy 46, Roethlisberger hit Xavier Grimble for a 16 yard gain. With 35 seconds left the Steelers had 1st and 10 at the Cincy 18. Yet an unnecessary roughness penalty on the offense meant 3rd and 25. Matt McCrane ended the half with a 39 yard field goal as the Steelers trailed 10-3. With 5 minutes left in the third quarter, the Steelers took over at their own 26. Roethlisberger went deep to Washington for a 47 yard gain. James Conner then ran for 16 yards. Roethlisberger hit Juju Smith-Schuster for the 11 yard touchdown and a 10-10 deadlock after three quarters. Neither team reached the end zone in the fourth quarter. It came down to the kickers. 

The Steelers held the ball for 7 1/2 minutes and 13 plays. On 3rd and 8 from their own 37, Roethlisberger hit Vance McDonald for a 22 yard gain. On 4th and 4 from the Cincy 35 with 12 minutes left, Mike Tomlin opted against a 53 yard field goal try with a backup kicker on the road. He went for it and Roethlisberger hit Samuels for a 6 yard gain. On 3rd and 10 from the Cincy 29, Big Ben threw incomplete. McCrane nailed the 47 yard field goal to give the Steelers the 13-10 lead with 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The Bengals took over at their own 34 and Joe Mixon ripped off a 51 yard gain. On 3rd and 7 from the Pittsburgh 12, Jeff Driskel threw incomplete but defensive offsides gave the Bengals another chance. On 3rd and 2, Driskel was sacked for a 7 yard loss. Bullock hit the 32 yard field goal as the game was tied 13-13 with 6 minutes left.

After a touchback, Roethlisberger hit Conner for 20 and Washington for 10 more. With 2 1/2 minutes left, on 3rd and 10 from the Cincy 34, Roethlisberger hit Rogers for just enough. The Bengals took their timeouts on defense. With 1:56 left, McCrane came in to give the Steelers the lead from 35 yards out. The kick was good. The Bengals took over at their own 35. On 4th and 5 from their 40 with 1:08 left, Driskel threw incomplete. After 16 seasons and 0 playoff wins, Marvin Lewis again awaited his Black Monday fate. As for the 9-6-1 Steelers, their hearts were broken a few minutes after the game. Baltimore won their game and the division, knocking the Steelers out of the playoffs. Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season in Pittsburgh, but this year they needed 1/2 game more.16-13 Steelers

Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos — The Broncos were out. The 11-4 Chargers were the five seed Wildcard, but with a win and a Kansas City loss would vault all the way to the top seed. Denver went on the road a few weeks ago and stunned the Chargers. In Denver, the game was tied 0-0 with 6 minutes left in the half. On 1st and 10 from the Denver 46, Devontae Booker got around the end and ran for a 54 yard Broncos touchdown. Offensive holding nullified the score. Another offensive holding call had the Broncos facing 1st and 30 at their own 26. Out of the shotgun, Case Keenum fumbled the snap. He picked it up and threw a sideways pass that was dropped. However, since the ball was thrown behind the line of scrimmage, it was a lateral and a live ball. Emanuel picked it up and raced 18 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 7-0 Chargers lead. 

The Broncos then moved from their own 10 yard line to a 1st and goal at the 6 with 9 seconds left in the half. After a pair of incompletions, Keenan on 3rd and goal went to the end zone and was intercepted. It seemed like 84 yards in 10 plays was all for naught. It should have been, but Addae refused to go down in the end zone and take a touchback. Instead he ran it out and fumbled the ball back to the Broncos at the Denver 20. With 20 seconds left in the half the Broncos again had 3rd and goal at the 6. This time Keenum was sacked but held on to the ball. Brandon McManus hit the 28 yard field goal as the Broncos trailed 7-3 at halftime.

With 6 minutes left in the third quarter, another fumble killed the Broncos as the Chargers took over at the Denver 16. On 3rd and 3 from the 9, Philip Rivers hit Williams for 6 yards and the other Williams for the 3 yard touchdown to make it 14-3 Chargers after three quarters. With 12:20 left in regulation, the Broncos took over at their own 44. Case Keenum hit Sutton for 25 yards and Freeman for 9 more. Keenum hit Andy Janovich for a 20 yard touchdown with 10 minutes left. An extra point would make it a 4 point game. Vance Joseph decided to go for 2. Keenum had his pass intercepted at the goal line and returned 100 yards the other way for a 2 point defensive score. Rather than be down by 3, the Broncos trailed 16-9.

The Chargers then moved to put the game away. On 2nd and 3 from their own 32, Austin Ekeler ran for a 41 yard gain. On 3rd and 5 from the Denver 22, Philip Rivers hit Keenan Allen for 21 yards. Ekeler got the last yard with under 6 minutes left to put the game on ice. Vance Joseph awaited Black Monday. The Chargers at 12-4 had to settle for the Wildcard and road playoff games. Kansas City won their game, and Kansas City owned the tie-breaker. 23-9 Chargers

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams — The 49ers were out. The Rams came in 12-3 as the two seed with the top seed out of reach. However if the Rams lost and Chicago won, the Rams would fall to the three seed. A win was critical to play warm weather playoff games. Early on the 49ers fumbled and the Rams took over with 1st and goal at the 7. On 3rd and goal from the 3, Jared Goff hit Cooks for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Rams. An interception of Nick Mullens again had the Rams in the red zone at the 49ers 13 yard line. Anderson ran for 11 and then ran for the one yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Rams. The 49ers took over at their own 30 and Alfred Morris ran for a 51 yard gain. A sack ended the drive but Robbie Gould hit a 30 yard field goal to get the 49ers on the board.

It didn’t matter. In the second quarter with the 49ers facing 3rd and 4 at their own 12, Mullens was intercepted by Littleton, who returned it 19 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-3 Rams. The Rams got it back and moved 86 yards in 11 plays and 5 minutes. Goff hit Cooks for an 18 yard touchdown as the Rams were carpet-bombing the 49ers 28-3. The 49ers did get in the end zone but Greg Zuerlein hit a 28 yard field goal to put the Rams up 31-10 at halftime. 

The second half was a formality as Sean McVay kept his foot on the gas. In the third quarter the Rams quickly went 75 yards. Goff went to Reynolds for a 29 yard touchdown to make it 38-10 Rams. The 49ers reached the end zone again but their defense could not stop the Rams, who gashed them on the ground. After a touchback, Anderson ran for a pair of 9 yard gains. Kelly ran for 6 and 5 and Anderson ran for 11 more. Unnecessary roughness added 15 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Goff hit Reynolds for another touchdown as the Rams were obliterating their hated rival 45-17 after three quarters. This was with Todd Gurley not playing. 

The fourth quarter was a coronation. The Rams added another field goal and the 49ers scored a couple of garbage time touchdowns to make the final score look almost respectable. The 49ers have the building blocks to improve next year. The Rams held the two seed and the first round bye and will not have to play any cold weather playoff games. 48-32 Rams

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks — Arizona was out and a loss would guarantee the Cardinals the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The 9-6 Seahawks had locked up a Wildcard spot but their division was out of reach. An early interception of Russell Wilson set the Cardinals up at the Seattle 28. Yet the defense held Arizona to a 36 yard Zane Gonzalez field goal and a 3-0 Cardinals lead. Arizona got it back and Steve Wilks gambled on 4th and 1 from his own 48. Josh Rosen threw incomplete. After that reality set in. On 3rd and 3 from the Arizona 29, Wilson went deep to Tyler Lockett to make it 7-3 Seahawks. The Cardinals fumbled and Seattle took over early in the second quarter at the Arizona 34. Chris Carson ran for a 7 yard touchdown to make it 14-3 Seahawks.

Seattle got it back but had to punt on 4th and 17 from their own 6. The punt was partially blocked to set up the Cardinals at the Seattle 27. Rosen threw a 15 yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald to get the Cardinals within 14-10. Arizona kept killing Seattle on special teams when a Seattle punt was returned 45 yards to the Seattle 21. Arizona went backward but Gonzalez bailed them out with a 50 yard field goal as the Cardinals only trailed 14-13 at halftime.

Midway through the third quarter the Seahawks took over at their own 2 yard line. On 3rd and 6 from their own 6, Wilson was sacked and fumbled. Patrick Peterson recovered for the defense and rumbled 3 yards for the score as the Cardinals had the lead. It was all for naught. Defensive holding nullified the score. On the next play from the Seattle 11, Carson ran for a 61 yard gain. Wilson then hit Gannett for 11 yards. Davis ran for a 17 yard touchdown. Rather than trailing 20-14, the Seahawks with the 98 yard drive led 21-13.

Yet special teams were killing the Seahawks. They punted on 4th and 5 from their own 25. For the second time on the day, the punt was blocked. Dennis Gardeck recovered it in the end zone for an Arizona touchdown. David Johnson ran in the 2 point conversion, as replay showed he broke the plane of the goal. After three quarters, the game was tied 21-21. A loss would guarantee the Cardinals the top draft pick. They didn’t want it. There is no tanking in football. 

With 9 minutes left in regulation, the cardinals faced 3rd and 10 at their own 40. Rosen was sacked and fumbled and the Seahawks recovered at the Arizona 31. With 6:20 to play, Sebastian Janikowski hit a 42 yard field goal to put the Seahawks up 24-21. After a touchback, Rosen hit Sherfield for 18 yards and Williams for 12 more. With 1:49 to play, Steve Wilks on 4th and 12 from the Seattle 37 brought in Gonzalez to try a 55 yard field goal. Gonzales buried it and the game was again tied 24-24. 

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Russell Wilson still had time to work with after a touchback. On 3rd and 1 from the Seattle 34, Davis gained 4 yards. On the next play, Wilson went deep to Lockett for a 37 yard gain. Carson ran for gains of 2 and 11. With 3 seconds left, Seabass came in for the 33 yard try to win it. The kick was good, and the Seahawks went from a 3-5 team to 7-1 down the stretch and a road Wildcard playoff game. They will be at Dallas, who also started 3-5 and went 7-1 in the second half of the season. Arizona at 3-13 secured the top draft pick as Steve Wilks hoped to survive Black Monday and be a head coach for more than just one season. 27-24 Seahawks

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans is the regular season closing Sunday night game. Both teams came in 9-6 in the NFL regular season do or die closing game. The winner was in the playoffs and the loser was out. The winner could also move up from a Wildcard to the division winner if Houston also lost. That is the difference between being at home or on the road in the wildcard round. Tennessee had the home field advantage but the injured Marcus Mariota was inactive in favor of Blaine Gabbert.

Andrew Luck was healthy, and the Colts made it look easy early on.  The Colts moved 92 yards in 12 plays and nearly 7 minutes. From their own 8, Marlin Mack gained 6 and Luck hit Hines for 17 yards. Luck went deep to Dontrelle Inman for 24 yards. On 3rd and 6 from the Tennessee 43, Luck hit TY Hilton for 18 yards. On 3rd and 8 from the Tennessee 11, Luck hit Inman for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Colts. The Colts followed that up with a brutalizing 16 play, 90 yard drive that consumed 10 minutes. From their own 10, Mack gained 9 and 2. On 3rd and 10 from their own 21, Luck hit Eric Ebron for 16 yards. Wilkins gained 8 and Mack ran for 6, 1, 5 and 2. On 2nd and 12 from the Tennessee 37, Luck hit rogers for 17, Grant for 4, and Ebron for a 9 yard touchdown. With 9 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Colts led 14-0. 

The Colts got it back at their own 6. After touchdown drives of 92 and 90, this one was much shorter. Luck threw his 3rd touchdown pass, but this one went to the Tennessee defense. Brown returned the interception 22 yards for the score to get the Titans within 14-7. With 44 seconds left in the half, Adam Vinateri drilled a 52 yard field goal to make it 17-7 Colts. That was enough time after a touchback. Blaine Gabbert hit Davis for 16 yards, Lewis for 9, Jennings for 6, and Davis for 6. Succop hit a 38 yarder to end the half with the Titans down 17-10.

In the third quarter the Colts took over at their own 32. Mack ran for 11 and Luck hit Ebron for 22 yards. On 3rd and 18 from the Tennessee 43, Luck threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant 13 yards and an automatic first down. Luck then went deep to Inman for a 29 yard gain down to the one. Luck hit Hewitt for the touchdown to make it 24-10 Colts. A field position game very late in the third quarter had the Titans taking over at their own 45. Derrick Henry ran for a 33 yard gain. Gabbert hit Stocker for a 22 yard touchdown as the Titans only trailed 24-17 after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter the Titans moved from their own 3 yard line to a 3rd and 6 at their own 46. Then came the play of the game with just over 9 minutes left in regulation. Looking to tie the game, Gabbert was intercepted by Moore, who returned it 16 yards to the Tennessee 38. The Colts bled 5 minutes off the clock. Although a touchdown run was nullified by offensive holding, Vinatieri kicked a 25 yard field goal to give the Colts a 27-17 cushion with 4 minutes left. Tennessee’s last gasp on 4th and 14 from their own 9 with 2 1/2 minutes left saw Gabbert throw incomplete. Mack ran for a touchdown on the next play for the exclamation point. Mike Vrabel saw his Titans fall to 9-7 and out of the playoffs. After starting 1-5, the Colts went 9-1 the rest of the way and will play a road Wildcard game. They did not get the division crown due to the Houston victory, but they are in the tournament. 33-17 Colts

The Wildcard Playoffs are as follows:

AFC: 6) Colts at 3) Texans, 5) Chargers at 4) Ravens

The Chiefs and Patriots have the bye week.

NFC: 6) Eagles at 3) Bears, 5) Seahawks at 4) Cowboys

The Saints and Rams have the bye week.

The NFL 2018 regular season is now in the books. The playoffs have arrived.

NFL 2018-2019 AFC Playoff Predictions

December 29th, 2018

NFL 2018-2019 NFC Playoff Predictions

December 29th, 2018

NFL 2018 Black Monday Predictions

December 29th, 2018