Week 16 of the NFL season kicked off Thursday night time because the Los Angeles Rams boosted their playoff hopes whereas placing a significant dent within the New Orleans Saints’ aspirations.
To begin a two-game collection Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, who additionally suffered a significant blow to their playoff hopes. Later, the Buffalo Payments took management of the playoff destiny with a slender win over the Los Angeles Chargers, taking part in their first sport because the firing of coach Brandon Staley and basic supervisor Tom Telesco final week.
Our NFL Nation reporters responded to all of the motion, answering lingering questions that emerged from every sport and choosing out who – or what – is rising and falling for every crew. Let’s get began.
Go to a matchup:
NON-LAR | CIN-PIT | BUF-LAC
How regarding was this efficiency because the Payments proceed their playoff run? It is a reminder of what this season has been. Of the Payments’ fourteen video games, ten have been one-score video games. Adequately shutting down opponents has been an issue all 12 months. James Prepare dinner’s ball safety is an issue, and the protection is permitting too many drives. Successful is in the end what issues at this level within the 12 months, however Saturday confirmed this crew nonetheless has issues to work on regardless of now controlling their playoff future.
Inventory after victory: Sam Martin. The Payments punter has been up and down these days, however he was essential in giving the Chargers a protracted subject with three of his 4 punts going contained in the 20-yard line and a median of 52.3 yards per kick, a very good signal for this particular groups unit shifting ahead.
Inventory decrease after the win: Passing sport. Josh Allen & Co. obtained issues going once they wanted to, however the Chargers got here into this sport with one of many worst cross defenses within the league. Allen accomplished simply 15 of 21 passes for 237 yards, a landing and a decide with miscues on the play when connecting with receivers. It stays inconsistent. — Alaina Getzenberg
Subsequent sport: vs. Patriots (Sunday, December 31, 1:00 PM ET)
Is there purpose to be involved about Derwin James? James has been one of many Chargers’ greatest gamers since he was drafted in 2018, establishing himself as probably the greatest gamers within the league. However in James’ first sport because the Chargers fired coach Brandon Staley, James performed two snaps at security and 40 for the sport, each season lows. He performed many of the sport as a nickel cornerback. Underneath Staley, James starred within the highlight, however his primary house was secure, making tonight’s match significantly shocking.
Stocking up after the loss: Kicker Cameron Dicker. Former Chargers head coach Brandon Staley was nicknamed “fourth-and-Staley” due to his willingness to go for fourth-down conversions, which frequently left Dicker on the sidelines. Within the first sport since Staley’s firing, Dicker made a career-high 5 subject objectives, almost profitable the sport for the Chargers themselves. It was the primary time since 2012 that the Chargers made 5 subject objectives.
Inventory dropped after the loss: Operating again Joshua Kelley. Kelley performed 12 complete snaps, together with seven on offense. Kelley was the Chargers’ backup operating again this season and began two video games whereas Austin Ekeler was out with an damage, however he seems to have fallen out of favor within the Chargers’ backfield. –Chris Rhim
Subsequent sport: at Broncos (Sunday, December 31, 4:25 PM ET)
Who will begin at quarterback towards the Seattle Seahawks? After the sport, Mike Tomlin instructed reporters it was too early to ask. Perhaps so, but it surely’s actually not too early to contemplate the chance that Mason Rudolph has earned the possibility to begin once more after throwing for 279 yards and two touchdowns. QB Kenny Pickett was a restricted participant in apply this week after present process TightRope surgical procedure on his proper ankle on December 4. He was inactive towards the Bengals, however might be able to play towards the Seahawks. Nonetheless, Rudolph performed a sensible sport and earned his first sport ball for the efficiency — and maybe one other begin.
Inventory after victory: Huge receiver George Pickens. Pickens had a profession efficiency with 195 receiving yards and two touchdowns within the aftermath of every week during which he was closely criticized for immaturity and a scarcity of effort, exhibiting that he has an impossibly excessive ceiling when he is at his greatest.
Inventory decrease after the win: Hearth Mike Tomlin sings. It is exhausting to search out a lot that went flawed with a powerful victory. But it surely was a troublesome match for all of the disgruntled followers who entered Acrisure Stadium able to unleash Hearth Tomlin chants. As an alternative, the fourth quarter featured 4 Mason Rudolph chants and one for Rudolph the Pink-Nosed Reindeer, one thing the Steelers gamers agreed was a welcome change. –Brooke Pryor
Subsequent sport: at Seahawks (Sunday, December 31, 4:05 PM ET)
Does this loss finish Cincinnati’s playoff probabilities? Properly, it actually places an enormous dent in them. In keeping with ESPN Analytics, the Bengals’ playoff probabilities dropped to 14% after the loss. But when the Bengals miss the postseason, they’ll firmly level to their AFC North report this season. After Saturday, the Bengals are 0-5 in division play. Cincinnati was swept by Baltimore and Pittsburgh this season. Relying on what occurs over the following two weeks, even a win towards the Browns in Week 18 might imply nothing for the Bengals.
Stocking up after the loss: WR Tee Higgins. With Ja’Marr Chase out, he had 5 catches for 140 yards and a landing, together with an 80-yard landing within the third quarter.
Inventory dropped after the loss: QB Jake Browning. Browning pressured the throw too typically and threw three interceptions in his worst efficiency as a starter instead of the injured Joe Burrow. — Ben Child
Subsequent sport: at Chiefs (Sunday, December 31, 4:25 PM ET)
Does the offense make the Rams a critical menace to make a playoff run? The Rams aren’t within the playoffs but — they’ve a 78% likelihood, in response to ESPN Analytics — however they’re taking part in like a crew that may make a run. Since RB Kyren Williams returned in Week 12, this Rams crew has appeared like a special group than the one which was 3-6 going into their Week 10 bye. There’s “no query,” head coach Sean McVay mentioned, “we’re totally different when he performs.” Los Angeles has scored not less than 28 factors within the 5 video games since Williams returned and has gained six of its final seven video games, the lone loss coming towards the AFC-leading Baltimore Ravens.
Inventory after victory: QB Matthew Stafford. The Rams quarterback has thrown a number of passing touchdowns in 5 straight video games, his longest streak since becoming a member of the Rams, in response to ESPN Stats & Data. He has additionally gone 4 straight video games with out an interception, which ties his longest streak with Los Angeles.
Inventory decrease after the win: Kicker Lucas Havrisik missed a 47-yard subject purpose within the second quarter. Los Angeles has missed 11 subject objectives within the league this season. In keeping with ESPN Stats & Data, that is essentially the most by any crew because the 2015 Buccaneers (11). –Sarah Barshop
Subsequent sport: at Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
With playoff hopes dwindling, can the Saints regroup? The Saints have to win now and get assist to make the playoffs. Their loss uncovered issues in every single place, each defensively (tackling) and offensively (they struggled to transform on third and fourth down). The Saints now need to journey to Tampa Bay for a divisional matchup after the frustration of such a vital loss. How they reply will seemingly decide what selections are made concerning the teaching workers or personnel as soon as the season ends.
Stocking up after the loss: WR Chris Olave. Olave battled by an ankle damage that prompted him to overlook Sunday’s sport and responded with a season-high 9 catches for 129 yards, giving him greater than 1,000 receiving yards for the season.
Inventory fell after the loss: CB Alontae Taylor. Taylor was benched for Ugo Amadi late within the sport and Saints coach Dennis Allen mentioned the Rams obtained Taylor “a few occasions together with his eyes.” –Katherine Terrell
Subsequent sport: at Buccaneers (Sunday, December 31, 1:00 PM ET)