This Week in the NFL – Week 15, 2021

Hey everyone, Tyler Arthur here, welcome to my weekly NFL column.

I am going to be using this space to keep all of you guys up to date with what you may have missed in the NFL, the biggest takeaways and stats, and then preview the upcoming week and what I think you need to be watching next.

Thanks for reading, now let’s get into this week’s column.

Guys, I don’t know how we can keep doing this.

I feel like we have a crazy week and then all of a sudden the NFL outdoes itself. There were intense finishes, surprising blowouts, and two absolutely crazy upsets – including arguably the most surprising upset of the entire season! But we’ll get to that in a moment.

We have a lot to talk about (I think this will be our longest column yet!) so let’s break it down – what happened This Week in the NFL?

Editor’s Note: This column has now been fully updated.

Upset of the Week [We’re back baby!]

Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions

We retired the upset of the week segment to replace it with the playoff picture breakdown each week but there was no way on earth we aren’t talking about what happened at Ford Field this Sunday.

The 10-3 Arizona Cardinals and the 1-11-1 Detroit Lions had a date this week, and it did not go as expected.

Despite a healthy returning Kyler Murray, the Cards looked absolutely clueless and Dan Campbell and his boys came out firing and secured their second win of the season (and second in three weeks!) The first half was a complete no show from AZ, and before they knew it, they were back in the locker room losing 17-0. The second half wasn’t much better, but at least they mustered some points.

The final score of 30-12 left the Cardinals in shock and the NFL world reeling.

It had one more larger impact too, though… It’s cool that the Lions won, but there was a cost.

The new owners of the 1st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Bonus Upset!

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If we’re going to talk about upsets, we can’t just talk about one. Yes, the Lions put on one of the upsets of the season, but the Saints may have impressed me even more. They held the Super Bowl champions scoreless in an incredible 9-0 win. This was the first time in NFL history that a team that led the NFL in points per game at this stage of the season has been shut out.

The Bucs did pick up some injuries to some of their key offensive contributors fairly early in the game, but this was still a very impressive win and their shutout of Tom Brady and co. definitely goes down as a big upset.

Winners and Losers


Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

Buffalo Bills (8-6)

Detroit Lions (2-11-1)

Miami Dolphins (7-7)

Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)

Houston Texans (3-11)

Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

San Francisco 49ers (8-6)

Green Bay Packers (11-3)

New Orleans Saints (7-7)

Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)

Minnesota Vikings (7-7)

Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)


Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

New England Patriots (9-5)

Carolina Panthers (5-9)

Arizona Cardinals (10-4)

New York Jets (3-11)

New York Giants (4-10)

Tennessee Titans (9-5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

Denver Broncos (7-7)

Atlanta Falcons (6-8)

Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)

Cleveland Browns (7-7)

Chicago Bears (4-10)

Seattle Seahawks (5-9)

Washington Football Team (6-8)

Playoff Picture!

Reminder: This was initially written on Tuesday and will be updated as soon as possible on Wednesday to reflect the results of the two Tuesday night games.

Here is the current playoff picture, as of Week 15, with three games to play remaining for every team.

AFC Playoff Spots Week 15

#1 – Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

#2 – New England Patriots (9-5)

#3 – Tennessee Titans (9-5)

#4 – Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

#5 – Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

#6 – Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

#7 – Buffalo Bills (8-6)

AFC Playoff Hopefuls

Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)

Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)

Miami Dolphins (7-7)

Cleveland Browns (7-7)

Denver Broncos (7-7)

AFC Playoff Outlook

Good lord. This is why we watch the NFL. You are interpreting the information above correctly – there are THIRTEEN AFC teams with 7 or more wins. So, with three games remaining, not a single team has clinched yet and 13 separate teams could make the playoffs, in any sort of wild unpredictable order of seedings.

The Buffalo Bills were Super Bowl hopefuls with a stranglehold on the division a month or so ago, and now all of a sudden they genuinely in a position where if they lose to the Pats this week, their playoff spot is at serious risk. The matchup between the Ravens and Cincinnati is huge, too – whoever wins that game will find themselves atop the AFC North and therefore in the top 4 seedings. The last huge ‘playoff game’ in Week 16 is the AFC West matchup between the Broncos and Raiders, both teams are 7-7 and need to get a bit some serious late-season momentum if they’re going to claim a wildcard spot.

NFC Playoff Spots Week 15

#1 – Green Bay Packers (11-3) ** Clinched Division.

#2 – Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

#3 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)

#4 – Arizona Cardinals (10-4)

#5 – Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

#6 – San Francisco 49ers (8-6)

#7 – Minnesota Vikings (7-7)

NFC Playoff Hopefuls

Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

New Orleans Saints (7-7)

Washington Football Team (6-8)

Atlanta Falcons (6-8)

Seattle Seahawks (5-9)

Carolina Panthers (5-9)

New York Giants (4-10)

NFC Playoff Outlook

Although the NFC has one more team that could mathematically make the playoffs, the race is definitely a bit over-inflated by a couple of teams who are still here solely because the NFC records are so top-heavy. The Giants are as good as eliminated and it would take a miracle for the Panthers to make the playoffs, especially with how their passing game looks right now.

At the time of writing this, I’d say there are 12 teams I consider to still have a shot, but it feels like there are less spots up for grabs than in the AFC. Where the AFC could see any spot from the 2nd seed to 7th change hands with any single result, the NFC feels almost like the top 5 teams are blocking the way. The Packers have already clinched and the Cowboys and Buccaneers should realistically have theirs locked up too. Then you have the NFC West, who currently hold the 4th, 5th and 6th seeds. After the Tuesday night football antics, the playoff picture continues to look incredibly intense with three games to play.

The one spanner that could get thrown into the works here late is Arizona’s fall from grace, they are currently 10-4 but with terrible form and three matchups in which two of the teams won’t have any role to play in the NFC wildcard race (Colts are in the AFC and Cowboys have all-but clinched). If they continue to spiral, they could end up clogging up the 7th seed with 10 wins.

Standout Individual Performers

Efe Obada, Buffalo Bills!

3 combined tackles and 2 sacks!

Let’s go Efe! Everybody’s favourite British export showed up in a huge way this week against the team that gave him his first chance in the NFL. Efe Obada had his first-ever two-sack game this week, causing chaos in the backfield and traumatising ex-teammate Cam Newton. Efe’s career sack total was 11.5 going into the game and his epic performance gave that number quite the boost. Keep it up Efe, NFL fans in the UK can support different teams, but we’re all cheering for you.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

66% completion rate, 410 passing yards and 3 TD’s.

Bear with me here because there’s gonna be a few Chiefs as we get going. Kansas City’s offense was firing on all cylinders this week in a pretty epic Thursday Night Football matchup in Los Angeles. This was largely on the arm of Patrick Mahomes, who threw the ball 47 times. He connected on 31 of those attempts for 410 yards and threw 3 touchdowns. Despite this being their 7th win in a row, the KC quarterback hadn’t had a game of this magnitude since Week 10, when they destroyed the Raiders.

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

10 receptions, 191 yards and 2 TD’s.

Wow. This is up there as one of the performances of the entire season. Travis Kelce terrorised the Chargers for an insane line. He finished TNF with 10 receptions, 191 yards and 2 touchdowns. This was inarguably the greatest performance in Kelce’s esteemed 8 year career. He eclipsed his previous career-high in yardage (168) and had a well-deserved bounce back after a couple of quiet performances.

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

12 receptions, 148 yards and a TD.

While Kelce was having a career day, the Chiefs WR1 was still able to have a day himself. Tyreek Hill was targeted 13 times – tying with his TE for volume – however, he caught 12 of his and turned them into 148 yards and a touchdown. He ran one particularly insane route which caught the internet’s attention, resulting in a big gain and a very confused defensive back.

Tyler Huntley, Baltimore Ravens

70% completion rate, 215 passing yards and 2 TD’s, plus 73 rushing yards and 2 TD’s.

We’ve spoken enough about KC players, now, let’s move onto the other players who put in the work this week. Nobody deserves a shoutout more than Tyler Huntley. The Baltimore backup has some serious shoes to fill when Lamar Jackson is injured, but this week he did a damn good job. He went 28/40 (70%) and passed for 215 yards including 2 TD’s. He also took some inspiration from the man he was replacing and rushed 13 times, adding another 73 yards and scoring two more times. The Ravens nearly made a pretty epic comeback against a dominant Green Bay team, but they opted to go for 2 at the end and unfortunately fell just short. Either way, Huntley had a great game and was unfortunate to take an L.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

74% completion rate, 268 passing yards and 3 TD’s.

While Huntley’s efforts deserve some love, the quarterback who beat him had a great game too. Aaron Rodgers had to deal with the fact that the Ravens were lining two cornerbacks up on Davante Adams for almost the entire game, and he still had a big day. He racked up 268 passing yards and threw 3 TD’s, including one to Adams, despite the double coverage. Also, with his third score yesterday, Rodgers tied up Hall of Famer Brett Favre for the franchise record with 442 TD passes for the Pack.

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

10 receptions, 136 yards and 2 TD’s.

Despite losing the game, the best performance of this matchup did come from a Raven. Tyler Huntley took a serious liking to his tight end, finding Mark Andrews with 10 of his 28 complete passes. The Baltimore TE turned his 10 receptions into 136 yards and scored twice. For the second time in three weeks, he was targeted on the final play of the game for a two-point conversion, but once again he fell just short. A valiant effort from both Huntley and Andrews, nonetheless.

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

29 carries, 170 yards and a TD.

After near enough 18 months of Colts fans and fantasy owners alike calling for Jonathan Taylor to run the football as many times as possible, we’re getting to that stage where it’s actually a reality. This season, Taylor has been absolutely astonishing, and that didn’t change this week. In Week 13, before their bye, Taylor carried the ball a whopping 32 times. Well, on Saturday Night, he got another 29, and it went pretty well! He totalled 170 yards and scored a 67-yard game-sealing touchdown for good measure. There is a real shout for JT to earn offensive player of the year. There’s stiff competition, but he has been remarkable.

Duke Johnson, Miami Dolphins

22 carries, 107 yards and 2 TD’s.

You didn’t expect to see that name in my column this season did you? In just his second game of the year (the first involved just 4 carries), Duke Johnson put the Dolphins offense on his back and went to work. He rushed the ball 22 times, and he turned those opportunities into 107 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also caught his only target for an extra 20 yards. Not bad for a player who only signed onto the active roster on Monday this past week.

Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans

7 receptions, 102 yards and 2 TD’s.

There is very little to cheer about in Houston this year, but their best offensive player continued to perform, at least. Brandin Cooks caught 7 of his 10 targets in a rare Texans win, and was good for 102 yards and 2 TD’s against the Jaguars. Cooks is one of the more reliable receivers in the league and he is very quietly having yet another 1,000-yard season – something that he has done every year he’s played 15 or more games.

Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills

5 receptions for 85 yards and 2 TD’s.

The Buffalo Bills won against the Panthers at a jog, but one player in particular came up large in the passing game. Gabriel Davis, who came into the game with just 385 yards so far this season and 4 TD’s. He decided to bump those up a bit, hauling in 5 receptions for 85 yards and two touchdowns.

Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

5 solo tackles, 2 sacks, forced fumble.

Anybody who watched Sunday Night Football this week knew this was coming. The Saints shutting out the Buccaneers is honestly one of the most impressive things I’ve seen all season, and this effort was spearheaded by veteran edge rusher Cameron Jordan, who had two sacks and forced a fumble on a Tom Brady scramble. What a performance from the team and this player.

Yetur Gross-Matos, Carolina Panthers

5 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

It’s always a shame when one of the best defensive performances of the week comes from someone who lost, but credit is still due for Yetur Gross-Matos. The Panthers’ second-year edge rusher had the best performance of his young career this week, sacking Josh Allen for 2.5 sacks. He also had 5 combined tackles and forced a fumble on Buffalo’s opening drive, although they weren’t able to recover it for the turnover.

D.J. Wonnum, Minnesota Vikings

7 solo tackles, 3 sacks and a forced fumble.

What a performance! The Chicago Bears are struggling, I get it… But oh, boy. On Monday Night Football, D.J. Wonnum absolutely dominated them. He made 7 solo tackles, including three sacks on the elusive rookie, Justin Fields. He also forced a fumble, for good measure. The Vikings coasted to a fairly uneventful win, but their second-year defensive lineman had a huge performance.

Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

9 receptions, 136 yards and 2 TD’s.

He just refuses to stop. Cooper Kupp is inevitable, and both Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford know it. In 2021, it was inevitable that some records would be broken due to the nature of a 17-game season, but on Tuesday night Kupp broke one early. In just the 14th game of the season, he broke the Rams single-season franchise record for receptions, with 122. That means he is averaging almost 9 receptions a game and doesn’t seem likely to slow down anytime soon. This week he turned those 9 receptions into 136 yards and 2 TD’s. This huge performance sets the tone as he looks to stay atop the wideouts for all three major categories, as he leads in receptions by 20, receiving yards by 190 and receiving touchdowns by 3. Kupp is genuinely in the conversation for Offensive Player of the Year. In fact, I think he gets my vote.

Games to watch back

Chiefs @ Chargers

Packers @ Ravens

Cardinals @ Lions

Stat Leaders Through Week 15

Passing Yards – Tom Brady, 4348

Passing TD’s – Tom Brady, 36

Rushing Yards – Jonathan Taylor, 1518

Rushing TD’s – Jonathan Taylor, 17

Receiving Yards – Cooper Kupp, 1625

Receiving TD’s – Cooper Kupp, 14

Total TD’s – Jonathan Taylor, 19

Tackles (combined) – Bobby Wagner, 158

Sacks – T.J. Watt, 17.5

Interceptions – Trevon Diggs, 10

Week 16 Preview – What to watch

Week 16 Best Games

Ravens @ Bengals, 6PM

Bills @ Patriots, 6pm

Broncos @ Raiders, 9:25pm

Week 16 Storylines and what to watch

Can San Francisco maintain their good form against a faltering Tennessee? 49ers @ Titans, TNF

Will Cleveland bounce back with their team returning from the COVID list? Browns @ Packers, Saturday, 9:30pm

Arizona try to hold their season together, Colts @ Cardinals, Saturday Night, 1:20am

How far are Detroit willing to go to ruin their draft position? Lions @ Falcons, 6pm

An absolutely epic 8-6 clash for the AFC North lead, Ravens @ Bengals, 6pm

Can Bill and New England sweep Buffalo on the season, Bills @ Patriots, 6pm

An AFC West playoff game in Week 16? Yes, please. Broncos @ Raiders, 9:25pm

Both teams on the bubble, one in the AFC and one in the NFC. Dolphins @ Saints, MNF