*UPDATE – Saturday 07/01.*
Damar Hamlin has made absolutely amazing progress. He is awake and recovering and medical specialists have confirmed that his ‘remarkable improvement’ has led them to believe he is still neurologically intact, meaning that he avoided one of the biggest threats from his cardiac arrest.
Hamlin has been able to verbally communicate, since the breathing tube he was using was removed, and has even shown an incredibly positive attitude when he joined his Buffalo teammates on Facetime.
This incredible news has lifted spirits all around the NFL and the larger sporting world, and this great news couldn’t have come soon enough.
The other news I want to briefly mention is that there has now been official confirmation that Week 17’s Buffalo-Cincinnati game will not be resumed. They will each finish the season having played 16 games.
I have now updated the Playoff Scenarios to reflect this, including the agreed possibility of a neutral AFC Championship location. Feel free to scroll down and check out the latest updated scenarios.
I would like to open this week’s column differently.
Right now, there is something that matters a lot more than football at stake. My thoughts are with Damar Hamlin and his family as well as everyone in the Buffalo Bills organisation at this incredibly difficult time. We’re all praying for a swift recovery, #3.
I would finally like to note that the vast majority of this column was already written before this tragic situation began. I don’t believe that warning is necessary, but I wanted to make it in case anything reads differently given different context.
Game of the Week
If you can only watch one full game in its entirety, watch this one:
San Francisco 49ers @ Las Vegas Raiders
This game was absolutely epic. Brock Purdy vs Jarrett Stidham, delivering an incredible battle, just as you would expect.
You definitely need to watch this one.
Alright, let’s try and talk through this madness.
San Francisco 49ers 37 – 34 Las Vegas Raiders
I know that I joked about the Brock Purdy vs Jarrett Stidham matchup, but these two young, inexperienced QB’s showed out this week. There was a lot of talk this week after Derek Carr was benched – and the hype was growing on Purdy, too – so the pressure was on for both. They delivered a battle that far exceeded expectations.
Purdy threw a very respectable 284 passing yards and a pair of TD’s, and then Stidham – in his first-ever NFL start – posted a serious stat line. He completed 68% of his passes and put up 365 passing yards and 3 TD’s. He threw a pair of INT’s, but one was an unlucky tip-drill pick. Unfortunately, his second interception was a killer.
Davante Adams went absolutely crazy, with 153 receiving yards and 2 TD’s, and the impact that Waller’s absence had was proven again with his second touchdown in two games and 72 receiving yards for himself.
The big performances for the Niners came from Brandon Aiyuk, who had 101 receiving yards and a TD, and Christian McCaffrey, who was playing like a man possessed. CMC managed a ridiculous 193 scrimmage yards, with 121 rushing and 72 receiving. He also scored.
The game went to overtime, due to some gutsy offense from the Raiders, against the top-ranked defense in the NFL – scoring 34 points against a team who were averaging 15. They should be commended for that, but at the end of the day, their season is over and the main objective now is to just work out who is staying and who is going at the end of the year.
Another win for the 49ers keeps their potential #1 seed dreams alive and keeps their momentum going into the postseason.
Other games to watch back
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Upset of the Week
Minnesota Vikings 17 – 41 Green Bay Packers
The records alone make this look like an upset, with a 12-4 team toppling to an 8-8 rival, but the scoreline indicates just how dominant this performance was. The Packers defense put on an absolutely incredible show – the exact type of game that you want to have in January.
My MVP of this game was Jaire Alexander. The amount of confidence it takes to declare before a game of football that you are going to lock up Justin Jefferson is impressive enough, but to actually do it – and griddy right in front of him while you’re doing it – is unbelievable.
Green Bay’s offense was productive enough, but they didn’t have to do much. Their defense forced four turnovers and their superstar kick returner Keisean Nixon scored on an epic 105-yard return TD. This was Nixon’s seventh game in a row, with 95+ kick return yards. They say that defense [and special teams, I guess!] wins championships… Green Bay will need that to be the case if they have any hope of making their mark on the playoffs this year.
Winners and Losers
Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
Atlanta Falcons (6-10)
Detroit Lions (8-8)
Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)
New England Patriots (8-8)
New York Giants (9-6-1)
New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)
Cleveland Browns (7-9)
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)
Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
Green Bay Packers (8-8)
Los Angeles Chargers (10-6)
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
Tennessee Titans (7-9)
Las Vegas Raiders (6-10)
Arizona Cardinals (4-12)
Chicago Bears (3-13)
Denver Broncos (4-12)
Miami Dolphins (8-8)
Indianapolis Colts (4-11-1)
Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Carolina Panthers (6-10)
Washington Commanders (7-8-1)
Houston Texans (2-13-1)
New York Jets (7-9)
Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
Los Angeles Rams (5-11)
Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Standout Individual Performers
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10 receptions on 12 targets for 207 receiving yards and 3 TD’s.
If you didn’t know that this man was going to be on the top spot, then you clearly haven’t watched much of this weekend’s action! What a performance. Tom Brady’s favourite receiver just kept beating his coverage over and over. Evans put up an unbelievable 207 receiving yards on 10 catches, and scored a hat-trick in the best game of his career (his second-most yards ever but with one more TD than his 209-yard day in 2014). All three of #13’s touchdowns were near identical, a flawless outside release, beating his solo coverage and a beautiful throw by Tom Brady. A 63-yard TD, then a 57-yard TD, then a 30-yard TD, all down the right sideline. Incredible.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
76% completion rate, 432 passing yards and 3 TD’s. 127.3 passer rating.
I mean, I guess I’ll mention the guy who was throwing Evans the ball. This Tom Brady chap is pretty good at football. The 45-year-old assassin was firing on all cylinders this week, playing a near-flawless game. He was throwing efficiently, confidently and accurately. His 76% completion rate is nothing new for Brady, but the output was impressive, even for the GOAT. His 432 passing yards tied his fifth highest ever (in 334 regular season games), and for those who want a fun stat to share to a friend this week, this was his 104th game with 3 (or more) touchdowns. Evans had the unicorn game for his position, but Brady was exceptional and continues to prove that age is irrelevant for him.
Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
19 carries for 121 rushing yards and a TD, plus 6 receptions for 72 receiving yards.
The NFL has placed an extreme emphasis on passing the football over recent years and running backs who can be useful on both sides of the ball are very valuable. Many such backs find their use being more for receiving than rushing, but nobody can strike the balance better than Christian McCaffrey. The Panther-turned-Niner is incredible out in open space, everyone knows that, but he is also underrated running between the tackles. This week he feasted on the Raiders run defense, putting up 121 rushing yards and a TD on 19 rush attempts, including one ‘angry run’ that Raiders fans will be trying to extinguish from memory this week. He also added a casual 72 receiving yards on 6 catches.
Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders
7 receptions on 11 targets for 153 receiving yards and 2 TD’s.
On the other side of the ball in Vegas, Davante Adams had himself a day. The statline is impressive on its own, although nothing new for one of the best receivers to ever do it, but the catches themselves in this one were remarkable. Adams made two equally absurd grabs, one for a big gain while flying through the air, and the other with a toe-tapping snag right in the back corner of the end zone for one of his two TD’s. He showed himself to be an incredibly QB-friendly receiver, balling out despite being partnered with someone having their first ever NFL-start – not to mention the fact that the QB he was replacing has more chemistry than anyone else with Adams.
Jarrett Stidham, Las Vegas Raiders
68% completion rate, 365 passing yards and 3 TD’s with 2 INT’s.
Speak of the devil, I think some praise is in order for Jarrett Stidham. As I said, the situation was a rough one. His first-ever NFL start, stepping in for a long-time franchise starter, to face the best defense in the NFL in a home game that felt a whole lot like a road atmosphere. With all that in mind, it is very impressive that he was able to put up the line he did, throwing 365 passing yards and 3 TD’s. One of the interceptions was off a tip-drill, which was unlucky, and the second was off the back of an unbelievable bull rush where Nick Bosa dumped a left tackle in his lap. All in all, a pretty damn impressive first start.
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
10 carries for 122 rushing yards and 2 TD’s, plus 3 receptions for 39 receiving yards.
If you’re a fantasy football player, this one will be on your radar already. Austin Ekeler is a fantasy football player and advocate (a rarity in the NFL, for the most part) and he declared this week that he would carry his owners to a fantasy football championship. He wasn’t lying. The Chargers RB delivered on his promise with 122 rushing yards and 2 TD’s on just 10 carries, while also pulling in 3 receptions for 39 receiving yards. His big day was good for 32 PPR fantasy points.
Jamaal Williams, Detroit Lions
22 carries for 144 rushing yards and a TD.
The NFL rushing TD leader continued to do exactly what he’s been doing all season and found the end zone once again. The Lions’ Jamaal Williams didn’t have the backfield to himself this week, with D’Andre Swift returning (and doing pretty well, with over 100 scrimmage yards and 2 TD’s himself). However, he was still able to make effective use of his share, rushing for 144 yards and scoring his 15th rushing TD on the year (two more than the trio tied for second).
Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns
3 receptions on 4 targets for 105 receiving yards and 2 TD’s.
It’s pretty rare to reach triple-digit yardage with just three catches, but that’s exactly what Amari Cooper did this week. He was targeted just four times, in his defense. The production was incredibly efficient, though. His 3 receptions converting into 105 receiving yards and 2 TD’s, in the Browns’ win in Washington.
Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints
5 solo tackles including 3.0 Sacks
The best defensive stat line of the week came from one of the most consistent veterans at his position in the league. Cam Jordan has been performing at a high level for over a decade now and is a mainstay of the Saints defense. This week he was at the forefront of New Orleans’ effort to deny the Eagles the number one seed. He made 5 tackles, all solo, including 3.0 sacks against a very good offensive line. Impressive stuff.
James Houston, Detroit Lions
3 solo tackles for 3.0 Sacks
A lesser-known name but another edge-rusher with a hat-trick this weekend was James Houston of the Detroit Lions. Hardly a household name, the 24-year-old rookie is quietly having an incredibly good season. He didn’t make his first appearance until Week 12, but he has already made himself known. This week he made three tackles, all of which were sacks. This hat-trick put up his total to 8.0 through just six games. Keep an eye on this guy, he could be serious.
Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers
Justin Jefferson’s statline: 1 reception on 5 targets for 15 yards.
I couldn’t not talk about Jaire Alexander this week. That would just be disrespectful. If I just wrote my column based solely on stats, you would never have known just how good a week he had. The stat line I put above is the one that matters, though. The Packers’ CB held the best wide receiver in football to a pitiful single catch for 15 yards. To rub some salt in the wounds, Jefferson had a front-row seat to Alexander’s iteration of the griddy.
Stat Leaders Through Week 17
Passing Yards – Patrick Mahomes KC, 5048
Passing TD’s – Patrick Mahomes KC, 40
Rushing Yards – Josh Jacobs LVR, 1608
Rushing TD’s – Jamaal Williams DET, 15
Receiving Yards – Justin Jefferson MIN, 1771
Receiving TD’s – Davante Adams LVR, 14
Total TD’s – Austin Ekeler LAC, 18
Tackles (combined) – Foyesade Oluokun JAX, 171
Sacks – Nick Bosa SF, 17.5
Interceptions – Minkah Fitzpatrick PIT, C.J. Gardner-Johnson PHI, Justin Simmons DEN and Tariq Woolen SEA, 6
Week 18 Preview – What to watch
Hello to anybody who is here for the playoff scenarios breakdown. I will again remind you that absolutely nothing matters more right now in the NFL than the recovery of Damar Hamlin.
I can only apologise for the more convoluted and complex AFC scenarios, but I think that everybody reading this will appreciate that Monday Night’s postponement was absolutely necessary and that whatever happens is of secondary importance to the life of the Bills’ 24-year-old safety.
Final note. I will be required to reference the results of two more games for the Bills and Bengals, however, at the time of finalising this article, there is no scheduled date to continue for their Week 17 matchup.
Alright, here goes nothing.
My attempt at breaking down Week 18’s playoff implications and scenarios for every team that is still alive, in the simplest way possible.
NFC Playoff Scenarios
Philadelphia Eagles (vs New York Giants)
Clinch NFC East with PHI win or DAL loss.
Clinch NFC No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage with PHI win or DAL + SF loss.
San Francisco 49ers (vs Arizona Cardinals)
Clinch No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage with SF win + PHI loss.
Dallas Cowboys (@ Washington Commanders)
Clinch NFC East with DAL win + PHI loss.
Clinch NFC No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage with DAL win + PHI loss + SF loss.
Green Bay Packers (vs Detroit Lions)
Clinch playoff berth with GB win.
Seattle Seahawks (vs Los Angeles Rams)
Clinch playoff berth with SEA win + GB loss.
Detroit Lions (@ Green Bay Packers)
Clinch playoff berth with DET win + SEA loss.
AFC Playoff Scenarios
Kansas City Chiefs (@ Las Vegas Raiders)
Clinch AFC No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage with KC win, OR BUF loss.
Buffalo Bills (vs New England Patriots // @ Cincinnati Bengals if rescheduled)
Clinch AFC No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage with BUF win + KC loss.
AFC Championship Neutral Location Requirements
If Kansas City wins and Buffalo wins, they will play at a neutral AFC Championship location, should they meet there.
If Kansas City loses and Buffalo wins, Buffalo will be the home team in the AFC Championship, should they make it there.
If Kansas City lose and Cincinnati wins, they will play at a neutral AFC Championship location, should they meet there.
No matter what, if the Bills met the Bengals in the AFC Championship game, they would play in Buffalo.
Tennessee Titans (@ Jacksonville Jaguars)
Clinch AFC South with TEN win.
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs Tennessee Titans)
Clinch AFC South with JAX win.
Clinch playoff berth with MIA + NE + PIT losses.
Miami Dolphins (vs New York Jets)
Clinch playoff berth with MIA win + NE loss.
New England Patriots (@ Buffalo Bills)
Clinch playoff berth with NE win, OR MIA loss + PIT loss + JAX win.
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs Cleveland Browns)
Clinch playoff berth with PIT win + MIA loss + NE loss.
Week 18 Best Games
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles
Tyler’s Bold Week 18 Prediction
Why not… Jarrett Stud-ham and the Raiders will defeat the Kansas City Chiefs.
Week 18 Storylines – (Including Record Watch!)
I’ve made it clear that only one storyline matters right now.
However, I will include the section that I had previously written in case you’re interested in what records could be broken in Week 18.
Naturally, the Playoff-related scenarios are the big storylines, but there are a couple of other things to watch. PS; don’t forget that we have two games on Saturday this week!
The number one pick will be secured if Houston lose this week, however, if they win and Chicago lose, they would flip places and the Bears would draft number 1 overall.
Patrick Mahomes needs 430 passing yards to break the single-season record, unlikely but not impossible. Chiefs @ Raiders, Saturday 9:30pm
Justin Jefferson needs 194 receiving yards to break Megatron’s single-season record. Vikings @ Bears, 6pm
Tom Brady would quite easily break the single-season completions record if he plays in Week 18, but they have nothing to play for – and it’s his own record… Buccaneers @ Falcons, 6pm
Tennessee’s punter Ryan Stonehouse is currently on track to break the all-time single-season record for Yards Per Punt. Titans @ Jaguars, Saturday Night Football, 1:15am (Sunday morning)