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.
This week in the NFL, we experienced the first Week 18 in history. Except it might have been more than that, we might have just started off with one of the best ones we will ever see. Of course, it’s easy to make the joke that it was the best Week 18 ever but what if once that joke wears off we realise how good it really was.
There was gut-wrenching drama and tension in all three windows, as games with key playoff-implications were all coming down to the wire and shifting as we all watched. A huge upset left the playoff race wide open and all of a sudden there was a game with absolutely huge ramifications, then that game went to overtime… In the second window, there was another game with huge ramifications, and that game then went to overtime… Then, once all of the drama of the week boiled down to just one football game, on Sunday Night Football, with the most ramifications of any game this YEAR… We went to overtime.
Week 18’s are pretty fun, aren’t they?
Let’s break some of that fun down, shall we – what happened this week in the NFL?
Relive the Chaos.
If you want to watch all of the playoff-relevant action in order, here are the games you need to watch back.
Colts @ Jaguars
Steelers @ Ravens
49ers @ Rams
Chargers @ Raiders
Game of the week / season / decade?
I’ve avoided spoilers on final results so far for a reason, everyone. That reason is simply that any NFL fan should watch this game, at the very least:
Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders
Don’t ask questions, just go and watch it. I don’t care if you just quickly throw on a 5 minute highlight reel, or if you want to go and watch the whole broadcast. Either is fine. Just do not let the NFL regular season move into the rear view mirror without you watching this football game.
I shall provide you with some empty space to avoid spoilers, but it’s on you if you scroll without watching that game. It was absolutely insane.
thanks for reading, by the way
Alright, you had your chance.
Let’s get into the column, now. I’m going to start with Winners and Losers like we always do just so you can see how every team finished off. Then we can get into breaking down exactly how the final week of the year leaves us set for the postseason.
Winners and Losers
Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
Cleveland Browns (8-9)
Detroit Lions (3-13-1)
Minnesota Vikings (8-9)
Washington Football Team (7-10)
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14)
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)
Tennessee Titans (12-5)
New Orleans Saints (9-8)
Buffalo Bills (11-6)
San Francisco 49ers (10-7)
Miami Dolphins (9-8)
Seattle Seahawks (7-10)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)
Denver Broncos (7-10)
Philadelphia Eagles (9-8)
Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
Green Bay Packers (13-4)
Chicago Bears (6-11)
New York Giants (4-13)
Indianapolis Colts (9-8)
Baltimore Ravens (8-9)
Houston Texans (4-13)
Atlanta Falcons (7-10)
New York Jets (4-13)
Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
New England Patriots (10-7)
Arizona Cardinals (11-6)
Carolina Panthers (5-12)
Los Angeles Chargers (9-8)
Week 18 Playoff Chaos – How it all happened.
For anybody who doesn’t want to try and watch back hours of football, I have done my best here to summarise the insanity that you may have missed on Sunday. It was quite a wild ride, but I’ve tried to keep it brief-ish.
Colts @ Jags
The insanity started in Jacksonville. The Jags scored in the first quarter to make it 7-0, and despite their terrible season, they played for pride and they never relinquished the lead. They gave up just 3 points to their 26 through the first 55 minutes, before giving up a meaningless consolation TD at the end. The Jags did what few expected them to, they knocked the Colts out of the playoffs.
Colts 11 – 26 Jaguars
Steelers @ Ravens
As the Colts were flailing, the news made its way to Baltimore. With that unexpected result, all of a sudden, the Steelers and Ravens were battling for something very tangible. Granted, the Ravens would have needed help from elsewhere, but if the Steelers won, they were all but clinched (with a SNF tie the only way they don’t make it). The fourth quarter of this low-scoring affair began with a 10-6 lead to Baltimore. As the Colts game was already decided, all eyes were on the final minutes of this one.
The Steelers took the lead via a Chase Claypool TD, before a Justin Tucker field goal sent us to overtime. The tense overtime period was concluded on a 15-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a Steelers walk-off field goal attempt, which Chris Boswell made from 36 yards. Now all the Steelers needed was for the SNF game to not be a tie (we’ll get back to that later).
Steelers 16 – 13 Ravens
Niners @ Rams
Now to the NFC. There was one key game to watch here, between San Francisco and the LA Rams. In yet another incredibly intense game, the Rams took a 17-0 lead, and at halftime, it was 17-3 to LA after a field goal as time expired. The Niners then scored two touchdowns to equal the score by the end of the 3rd. 17-17. If the Rams win they can get the second seed, but the Niners needed to win to make the playoffs.
With 2:30 left in the game, a Cooper Kupp TD made it 24-17. Two 3 and outs later, Jimmy Garoppolo then managed to drive down the field in just 5 plays, going 88 yards in 5 plays, to tie the game with 26 seconds to go. Overtime, again. The Niners won the toss and drove down the field in a slow-burning drive of 69 yards over 7 minutes, finishing with a field goal, leaving the Rams just 2:45 to try and either match them for a tie or try to score. Matthew Stafford tried to find Odell Beckham on a deep shot, and it was intercepted by rookie CB Ambry Thomas to end the game and put San Francisco into the playoffs.
Niners 27 – 24 Rams
Chargers @ Raiders
Then there was just one game left to be played. The regular-season finale. Reminder, you still have a chance to watch this for yourself.
Okay, where do we begin? Whoever wins this game makes the playoffs, and if it ends in a tie, they both make the playoffs.
The Raiders got out to an initial 10-0 lead, but in the second quarter, the Chargers scored twice to take control, before Josh Jacobs scored with the final action of the first half. From a tight 17-14 advantage at halftime, the Raiders dominated the next 25 minutes, with Daniel Carlson scoring two field goals and Hunter Renfrow hauling in his second touchdown of the game. The Raiders were up by 15 with 8 minutes left in the game.
This is where the Chargers and Raiders basically broke football (and the internet). From this point on it was absolute carnage.
The Chargers’ first drive was a 14-play, 75-yard drive that somehow only took 3:55 and involved converting on one 4th down and throwing a touchdown on 4th and 21 to stay alive. Then, the Raiders went 3 and out and punted it back to them with 2:16 left on the clock. Justin Herbert led them on a 2-minute drive that [don’t ask me how this isn’t possible] took the ball 83 yards in 19 plays. 19 plays in 2 minutes. This drive also included three more fourth-down conversions, and a touchdown pass with 0 seconds remaining on the clock, as Herbert found Mike Williams through double coverage to take us to overtime, again.
In Overtime. The Raiders won the toss and took the ball. They drove down the field and Daniel Carlson hit a 40-yard field goal to put the pressure on LA. The Chargers went back the other way and they too kicked a field goal. The game was now tied at 32-32 with 4:30 remaining in OT, sudden death, next points win. Las Vegas then proceeded to drive down the field, 46 yards in 7 plays, after which they called a timeout [not the first of the drive, but we don’t have time for that] with just 2 seconds remaining.
As the clock turned to 0’s, Daniel Carlson nailed a 47-yard field goal. The Raiders were in the playoffs, the Chargers were out of it. And, the Steelers made it in, despite being 2 seconds away from the end of their season and their quarterback’s career.
Chargers 32 – 35 Raiders
What a night.
Here we go, ladies and gentlemen. Now comes the real fun stuff. The remainder of this edition of the column will focus largely on the playoffs, who is playing, and when. The most important information is right here: Your final 2021 Playoff Seedings.
AFC Final Playoff Seeding
#1 – Tennessee Titans (12-5)
#2 – Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
#3 – Buffalo Bills (11-6)
#4 – Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
#5 – Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)
#6 – New England Patriots (10-7)
#7 – Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)
NFC Final Playoff Seeding
#1 – Green Bay Packers (13-4)
#2 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
#3 – Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
#4 – Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
#5 – Arizona Cardinals (11-6)
#6 – San Francisco 49ers (10-7)
#7 – Philadelphia Eagles
Wildcard Weekend Matchups – Who and when
The first week is just around the corner, so let’s make sure you know what you’re watching and when, within the GMT time zone, of course!
Las Vegas Raiders @ Cincinnati Bengals – Saturday, 9:30PM
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills – Sunday, 1:15AM (Saturday Night)
Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sunday, 6PM
San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys – Sunday, 9:30PM
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs – Monday, 1:15AM (Sunday Night)
Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams – Tuesday, 1:15AM (Monday Night)
2022 Draft Order – locked in through the first 18 picks.
#1 – Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14)
#2 – Detroit Lions (3-13-1)
#3 – Houston Texans (4-13)
#4 – New York Jets (4-13)
#5 – New York Giants (4-13)
#6 – Carolina Panthers (5-12)
#7 – New York Giants via the Chicago Bears (6-11)
#8 – Atlanta Falcons (7-10)
#9 – Denver Broncos (7-10)
#10 – New York Jets via the Seattle Seahawks (7-10)
#11 – Washington Football Team (7-10)
#12 – Minnesota Vikings (8-9)
#13 – Cleveland Browns (8-9)
#14 – Baltimore Ravens (8-9)
#15 – Philadelphia Eagles via the Miami Dolphins (9-8)
#16 – Philadelphia Eagles via the Indianapolis Colts (9-8)
#17 – Los Angeles Chargers (9-8)
#18 – New Orleans Saints (9-8)
The rest of the teams will receive picks in inverse order of their final playoff position.
The Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks do not have any first round picks.
Standout Individual Performers, Week 18 – Playoff-clinching Edition!
We’re doing things slightly differently this week. Instead of just a generic segment of who did best, this week we’re going to highlight the players who stepped up to help their teams make it to the playoffs.
Daniel Carlson, Las Vegas Raiders
5/5 FG’s from including a walk-off playoff-making kick to win, 17 total points.
This isn’t even a question. The star of this week’s NFL drama above everyone else. The man who the entire league was watching, Daniel Carlson. This is someone that the Vikings cut in the middle of his rookie season. The Raiders signed him and haven’t looked back. Carlson made 93% of his field goal attempts this year and (as commentators will never fail to remind you) is yet to miss a single kick in Allegiant stadium. Carlson was directly responsible for 17 of the total 35 points scored. The man who sent the Raiders into the playoffs deserves the top spot here, and I’m sure that any Pittsburgh fans reading this will agree with me on that.
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
26 carries, 132 yards and a TD.
He’s the closer. That’s what Josh Jacobs told the Raiders coaches when they got the ball back in overtime. And he was right. Josh Jacobs carried the ball 26 times in the wild SNF clash with the Chargers and turned those carries into 132 yards and a score. According to Next Gen Stats, the Raiders RB had 130 yards after contact, which is absolutely absurd, and a testament to how hard he worked to put this team in the playoffs.
Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders
4 receptions, 13 yards and 2 TD’s.
This is the weirdest line you’ll see in any ‘standout performers’ segment, but it’s simple. Hunter Renfrow was double teamed on almost every single passing play of the game, and he only caught the ball 4 times. That doesn’t matter though, because of his 4 receptions, 2 were touchdowns. The Raiders slot receiver couldn’t impact the game as often as he usually would, but he still made a huge mark on the game, and his outrageous redzone route running was essential in the Vegas victory.
Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders
6 solo tackles including 2 sacks.
Okay, last Raider. But possibly the one who had the most dominant game out of all of them. Mad Maxx Crosby went absolutely nuclear this week. He was matched up with an incredibly unfortunate young tackle named Storm Norton, who despite a cool name, could not hang with him – at all. It was the biggest positional advantage on the field and it completely shifted the game. Crosby destroyed him snap after snap and it resulted in 4 QB hits, 3 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. His disruption completely changed the game, forcing the Chargers to throw the ball quickly and waste energy and resources from their passing game to try and help their RT out.
Juan Jennings, San Francisco 49ers
6 receptions, 94 yards, 2 TD’s.
Onto the Niners’ epic win now! The surprising star of this game was Juan Jennings, who had a day. The wideout was targeted 7 times, and hauled in 6 of them for 94 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. He scored the final two TD’s, including an epic game-tying touchdown with just 26 seconds left on the clock, to take it into overtime.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
4 receptions, 8 carries, 140 scrimmage yards with a rushing TD… and a passing TD.
Okay so here’s a fun one. Over the last few weeks of the season we’ve noted how Deebo Samuel has thrived as a wide receiver, but while also putting in work as a running back. This week he completed the trifecta! At his natural position, he was able to catch 4 of his 6 targets and recorded 95 receiving yards. In his secondary position of running back, he rushed the ball 8 times and was able to add on another 45 yards, as well as a touchdown run. Then there was the one play where he got to throw the ball… On a trick play, he rolled out to the right with blockers, and threw a 24 yards passing touchdown to Jennings. Deebo really can do it all – and now we get to watch him do so in the playoffs!
Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers
7 combined tackles, including 2.5 sacks.
The biggest defensive performance of the week came in this game, courtesy of Arik Armstead. The Niners defensive end tormented the Rams O-Line and got into the backfield throughout the whole game. He recorded 2.5 sacks and had 3 QB Hits, piling the pressure on Matt Stafford, who struggled and threw two interceptions as well as being sacked 5 times total.
Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers
5 receptions for 37 yards and a TD.
It’s not easy to hype up the Steelers best performers, because they scraped a 16-13 overtime win against a backup QB and the person who did the best job to get them into the playoffs plays for another team, but if you score a TD in a must-win game, you deserve some love. Chase Claypool had 5 receptions and turned them into 37 yards, including the only touchdown they scored in the game.
Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers
6 solo tackles including a sack.
While the offense wasn’t particularly dominant, that puts strain on the Steelers’ defense. We’ll speak about the superstar of Pittsburgh’s D in just a moment, but the best individual performer was Cameron Heyward. The veteran D Lineman recorded 6 solo tackles and had two tackles for loss, including a sack.
Record Breakers (and record tie-ers)!
T.J Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers superstar edge rusher needed to get one single sack to match Michael Strahan’s all-time record of 22.5 sacks. He got a sack early on, however they officially decided to score it as a tackle for loss instead. Luckily, he was able to get another sack later in the game, matching the record. Many records that will be broken this year and in the next few will be done so partially because of the 17-game season, however, Watt actually missed two games through injury, therefore matching Strahan in one less game.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There’s a couple of note here! The GOAT broke the all-time completions record held by Drew Brees, after completing 29 passes this week. His 485 completions now setting the 17-game benchmark (previously 471). Brady also set two equally impressive records after breaking the 5,000-yard mark for the second time in his career. He became the oldest QB to ever throw 5k, at 44 years old, and also he is only the second player in history to break that mark multiple times [once again it’s Drew Brees whose company he shares, Bress threw 5,000 yards five times in his career, including three times in a row from 2011-2013. TB12’s 5,316 yards is the second most passing yards in a single season.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Not necessarily breaking a record here, but Mike Evans continues to extend his own record of consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to begin a career. He has been in the league for 8 years and remains one of the most consistent receivers around. While eight seasons to start a career is impressive, it’s hard to see any reason why that number couldn’t continue to grow. Evans also set the franchise record of 14 receiving TD’s.
Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins drafted Jaylen Waddle out of Alabama despite him not playing in 2020, pairing him with his college quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. He hit the ground running with a great rookie campaign. He had 1,015 yards receiving and broke Anquan Boldin’s record for receptions by a rookie with 104 catches (previously 101).
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
If we’re talking about great rookie seasons, that seems a natural segue to talk Justin Jefferson, who showed no signs of slowing down in his second season. He expanded on his breakout season, with 108-1616-10 in his sophomore season. Jefferson tied the record for the most receptions in the first two seasons of a player’s career, matching Michael Thomas’ record of 196 receptions through their first two seasons.
End of Season Stat Leaders
Passing Yards – Tom Brady – 5316
Passing TD’s – Tom Brady – 43
Rushing Yards – Jonathan Taylor, 1811
Rushing TD’s – Jonathan Taylor, 18
Receiving Yards – Cooper Kupp, 1947
Receiving TD’s – Cooper Kupp, 16
Total TD’s – Austin Ekeler and Jonathan Taylor, 20
Tackles (combined) – Foyesade Oluokun, 192
Sacks – T.J Watt, 22.5
Interceptions – Trevon Diggs, 11
There we have it, everyone. That is my final weekly column for the 2021 season.
That’s what happened this week in the NFL.
Thank you so much for reading these over the year, they took a lot of work and research, but it was worth it! I know how difficult it is to keep up with everything that’s going on, so I hope that these helped you to stay on top of all the action.
Now enjoy the playoffs!