The NFL’s Week 17 clarified much of the playoff picture, even though not all loose ends were resolved.
There was one thread that came up in the NFC South, where the Carolina Panthers’ improbable run ended, largely because of the way they defended Tom Brady’s favorite target, Mike Evans. Now, Tampa Bay has won the NFC South title.
Elsewhere in the conference, the Green Bay Packers (via losing leaders Washington) are now in control of their fate in the last remaining NFC playoff spot. But this team is much more than quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
In the AFC, the Miami Dolphins continued their free fall, and the New England Patriots moved up to the last open card spot… for now.
Here are the winners and losers from the penultimate week of the 2022 NFL season.
Follow every match: Latest NFL results and schedules
Kenny Pickett is growing up
Facing a defense that hadn’t allowed a touchdown at home over the previous 15 quarters, Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett made several huge throws with their season on the line, down four points and needing a touchdown to move forward.
Pickett (15 of 27 passes for 168 yards with one touch) didn’t post huge numbers, but he played reasonably well. However, this was the game’s winning series, when it shone. In the series, Pickett completed five of his six throws for 62 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run by running back Nagy Harris in which Pickett escaped pressure and delivered an accurate pass on the move. He also converted two rushing down conversions on the third down by sneaking up the quarterback. Now, more importantly for the Steelers (8-8), their slim playoff hopes were kept alive with the win. Pittsburgh needs to beat the Browns next week and drop both the Patriots and the Dolphins in their games.
32 things we learned: QBs remain predictive, whether starting or backup
Opinion: Don’t count on Tom Brady, but Bock needs everyone to avoid playing singles in the playoffs
playoff photo: The Eagles fail to clinch the top seed in the NFC, while the Packers control fate
Even if they miss the playoffs, the Lions are rising
Winners of seven of the last nine, the Lions have an outside chance of making the postseason. Detroit (8-8) will need to beat the Packers (8-8) in Week 18 but will also need the Seahawks (8-8) to lose to the Rams (5-11). Honestly, it’s all very unlikely, but – either way – this season has been a smashing success for Dan Campbell and the Lions.
Although there were still some issues to work out on defense, Detroit injected speed into their roster, with rookie star Jameson Williams still in action after tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the National Championship game. Jared Goff works the passing game in Detroit with absolute precision. The offensive line was static. And Detroit is the best defense team in the NFL, having executed just 15 turnovers. These are all things this young team can take next season and beyond.
Packets are dangerous for many reasons
While the Vikings had an unsustainable amount of luck and Green Bay got a massive break with the Browns dropping the leaders, the Packers (8-8) will be in for a winning scenario next weekend against the Lions (8-8). However, it’s not just Aaron Rodgers who has suddenly made Green Bay elusive.
To be clear, Rodgers was efficient, completing 15 of 24 passes for 159 yards with two touchdown runs. But Green Bay’s defense and special teams set the tone with two first downs of the game: a 105-yard kickoff return by Keisean Nixon and a 75-yard kickoff by safety Darnell Savage. During Green Bay’s four-game winning streak, they only allow 17 points per game. Admittedly, they haven’t played the strongest opponents and have faced some teams struggling through injuries, but the Packers have limited opponents to 41.5% conversions on third downs and 44.4% conversions in the red zone. They also forced 12 turnovers in that period.
The case of Garrett Stidham
Let’s get the awful overtime interception out of the way: Stidham shouldn’t have lifted it up in the face of pressure, the kind of play he’ll need to learn from if he’s going to be a solid NFL player.
However, in his first career start for the Raiders (6-10), Stidham showed that – depending on price – he might be worth the Pilot next season as Las Vegas determines what to do in the quarterback. Stidham (23 of 34 for 365 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions) is 26 and has the best defense in the NFL. When the Patriots recruited Stidham in 2019, New England’s offensive coordinator was Josh McDaniels. Given his familiarity with Stidham, McDaniels makes sense as a coach who can get the most out of him, and Stidham makes sense as a bridge player for a team that will certainly be looking for a new midfielder for the first time since the 2014 season.
Ron Rivera’s amazing lack of awareness
Otherwise, the Chiefs coach had a solid season managing a roster deficient in playoff contention. But the seventeenth week was a disaster. Rivera Carson Wentz started at quarterback because Wentz had a good quarter the previous week, after he relieve oneself Taylor Hynecke in a big loss.
While Washington’s offense has stalled recently, Heinicke’s play wasn’t the only reason. The leaders (7-8-1) committed reckless penalties, the occasional rushing game disappeared and a defense that forced the turnover suddenly stopped putting the offense in advantageous positions. So, in an indispensable game, instead of riding the momentum Heinicke built, Rivera turned to Wentz, who has proven track record From imploding in crucial games late in the season. Rivera’s short lead on Wentz (16-of-28 for 143 yards, 0 touchdowns, three interceptions) wasn’t terrible. That he did not know that Washington could be excluded from the supplementary disputes is completely untenable.
Colts’ collapse bears Irsay’s fingerprints everywhere
Colts owner Malik took a victory lap after interim coach Jeff Saturday won his first game in Week 10. Since then, Indianapolis has been in free fall. According to multiple reports, Irsay was the catalyst He succeeded the team’s first game, Matt Ryan at quarterback, in October, when Frank Reich was still head coach.
Irsai now oversaw a series of moves that did nothing but create massive instability. Irsay fired Reich in large part because the Indianapolis offense was ineffective. The Colts (4-11-1) have now been outscored 97-16 in the last ten quarters. The Giants haven’t edged anyone this season by more than eight points; They stifled Indy by 28. The offensive line, a position he played Saturday and was expected to improve, continued his slide as one of the most disappointing units in the NFL. The roster is flawed, the Colts don’t have a quarterback and if anyone deserves blame, it’s the owner.
Karolina makes a scary decision, not once, not twice…
The Panthers built an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Had they won, they would have entered the season finale with a chance to win and clinch an improbable run in the NFC South Championship. Instead, the Panthers lost (6-10) to the Pirates and were eliminated, largely because they (twice) repeated a mistake that burned them earlier in the game.
After Panthers receiver Shae Smith caught a 19-yard touchdown in the fourth, Carolina played Bucs receiver Mike Evans on single coverage with no safety assist, resulting in grabs of 57 and 30 yards on back-to-back Tampa possessions that gave the Bucs the lead. that they will never give it up. It came after Evans scored 63 yards late in the second quarter, when Carolina also played him on a one-man, confusing order and defensive mismanagement at its peak. As caretaker head coach Steve Wilkes was, this was not his finest moment.
Dolphins in free fall
At the end of Week 12, the Dolphins were 8-3. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was sneaking into the MVP conversation. They were buyers at the trading deadline and a playoff berth seemed certain. Since then, Miami (8-8) has lost five in a row. They need help making the postseason. Tagovailoa had health issues with a concussion, and the team’s long-term quarterback questions were unanswered.
The fact that all but one of Miami’s losses during the slide were in one-pitch games indicates how close the Dolphins were to an alternate reality and how costly their lapses were. Miami gave up rushing at critical times. She often committed reckless punishments in situations that required great leverage. Place kicker Jason Saunders became completely unreliable from 40 yards out. The Dolphins gave the ball away 10 times during their losing streak. They are battling a series of injuries. They have only themselves to blame.