2019 NFL Week 17 Recap
How big was this win for San Francisco? Russell Wilson entered this game with an 8-0 record and +136 point differential at home against the 49ers in his career — until the Niners’ epic goal-line stand earned them homefield advantage for the first time since 1997. This team only goes as far as this defense takes it.
Beast Mode was back in effect in Seattle, with Marshawn Lynch finding the end zone in his return to the Seahawks and giving the 12’s hope of completing unfinished business. Don’t be surprised if Seattle steamrolls their way through Philly for a rematch with the Niners in Santa Clara, where the Seahawks were one of only two road teams to leave Levi’s Stadium victorious in the regular season.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — DEC. 29: Tyler Higbee, #89, of the Los Angeles Rams runs the ball on a short pass play during the first half of a game against the Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
(Getty Images/Sean M. Haffey)
Forty years after saying goodbye to the Coliseum, the Rams again bid farewell to the iconic 96-year-old stadium by finishing 9-7 — just like the 1979 team — but have no shot at another Super Bowl run. L.A. better find a way to christen their new stadium with a team capable of hosting a playoff game in the new digs, or Tinseltown will lose interest (yes, even more) in the star-studded roster with more sizzle than steak.
All things considered, this season was a success for Arizona. Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t the unmitigated disaster I thought he’d be. Kyler Murray joined Cam Newton as the only rookies to throw for 3,500 yards and rush for 500 in a season, and is already a problem for the vaunted 49ers defense. If Kingsbury progresses as fast as Murray, the Cardinals might actually be alright.
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock runs with the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Denver.
Not all 7-9 records are created equal. Denver wrapped up a 4-1 stretch with Drew Lock as the starting QB, while Oakland’s slim playoff chances were dashed in almost every way, including Shelby Harris’ haunting of his former team to deal the Raiders their fifth loss in their final six games representing the Bay Area. The Silver and Black limp to Las Vegas with their third straight losing season and 14th since their 2002 Super Bowl run, while the Broncos look a team that could challenge Kansas City in 2020.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, #4, is hit by Washington Redskins linebacker Montez Sweat, #90, and pressured by linebacker Cole Holcomb, #55, as he tires to pass during the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019.
Dak Prescott may have lit up an injury-riddled Redskins secondary, but he came up short in more ways than one. Not only was Sunday’s victory in vain, but the Cowboys’ +113 point differential is the second-best in NFL history for a nonwinning team, sparking the likelihood for big changes in Big D. Hell, Dak’s worthiness of a big contract might also be on Jerry Jones’ radar.
Of course, we know Washington is about to undergo a Jerry-esque face-lift. Fresh off the Skins’ 10th straight loss in-division, Riverboat Ron Rivera seems ready to gamble on the vacant head coaching position, only the tip of the iceberg for a lost franchise set to change its front office structure and a chunk of its roster. As usual, the Redskins’ offseason should be much more fun than actually watching them play football.
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND — DEC. 29: Quarterback Robert Griffin III, #3, of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a first down against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at M & T Bank Stadium on Dec. 29, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland.
(Getty Images/Rob Carr)
Coincidentally, the last time Robert Griffin III started an NFL game was Week 17 in 2016, when he threw for two touchdowns in a 27-24 loss to the Steelers. This time, he played decidedly worse but chipped in 50 rushing yards to help Baltimore set a new NFL record, with 3,296 team rushing yards this season and throttle Pittsburgh in a game that meant style points for the Ravens but everything to the Steelers’ season. Something special is brewing in Baltimore.
But Pittsburgh has no reason to hang their heads. Sure, the season-ending three-game losing skid is disappointing but even being in the playoff chase at all with the likes of Devlin Hodges playing QB is impressive. Mike Tomlin won’t win Coach of the Year, but he should get more consideration than he will.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY — DEC. 29: Carson Wentz, #11, of the Philadelphia Eagles throws a pass against the New York Giants during the first quarter in the game at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 29, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Getty Images/Steven Ryan)
Philadelphia overcame an onslaught of injuries to finally win the division nobody seemed to want, getting Rodney McLeod paid and ensuring the NFC East won’t get a repeat winner for a 15th straight year. I don’t know if the Eagles have enough healthy bodies to hang with the Seahawks, but Carson Wentz (who finishes the year with a franchise-record 4,039 yards despite being the first 4k passer without a 500-yard receiver) has finally demonstrated the ability to carry a team when he has to.
And someone please check on Pat Shurmur’s mental health — if this dude honestly thinks the Giants are better off because of him, he should immediately be placed on sick leave. But this much is true: Whomever gets to coach Big Blue has big-time talents in Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, leaving little excuse for the kind of season the Giants had in 2019.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, #22, breaks away for a 53-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Houston. The run moved Henry into first place for the season rushing title. The Titans won 35-14.
Tennessee got its first win in Houston in nearly eight years, bringing one of the hottest QBs (Ryan Tannehill) and the league’s regular season rushing leader (Derrick Henry) into New England with an opportunity to upset the team head coach Mike Vrabel help to make a dynasty. This is matchup worthy of its primetime Saturday slot.
Meanwhile, Houston rested their key starters and host Buffalo in a true toss up game. Bill O’Brien should coach it like his job depends on it — because it just might.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Ryquell Armstead, front right, makes a reception for a 3-yard touchdown in front of Indianapolis Colts safety Clayton Geathers, #26, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla.
(AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
If this was Doug Marrone’s final act in Jacksonville, it’s a fine way to go out. Hopefully, he enjoys his beer(s) because his 22-28 record certainly won’t get him any free drinks in Florida.
I know it’s little consolation for Indy, but much like Pittsburgh, they had every reason to fold but stayed in the playoff hunt far longer than they should have. A healthy Jacoby Brissett and a solid 2020 draft should keep the Colts in the mix for this competitive division next season too.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, #22, runs while New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, #94, chases during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019.
Carolina closes out its season with eight straight losses, but whomever lands the head coaching job will be thrilled to have Christian McCaffrey, the third player in NFL history and first in 20 years to notch 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. If the Panthers can find their long-term solution at QB — or even a decent one — they could rebound quickly in a questionable division.
Of course, New Orleans presently rules that division, and though homefield advantage won’t happen for them, the Saints look like a team capable of going on the road and doing some damage. This is the best team without a bye week.
Bucs 22 (OT)
If Jameis Winston is done in Tampa, there’s no more fitting end to his tenure than his walk-off Pick 6 to lose in overtime — especially since his first pass in Tampa was also a Pick 6. If Bruce Arians’ vow that the Bucs won’t beat themselves next year has any chance to be true, then he needs to move on from The Great Equalizer — the first man to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 picks in the same season.
Apparently, Dan Quinn was feeling loose with the knowledge that Atlanta will bring him back in 2020, as Ty Sambrailo scored the longest TD by a 300-pounder in NFL history and the defense feasted on Winston’s treat Ws. It’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons are more like the team that went 6-2 in the back half of their schedule than the one that stunningly struggled to a 1-7 start.
Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, left, catches the winning touchdown pass in front of New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass.
Miami’s first win in New England in 11 years, and their 5-4 finish after a historically bad 0-7 start, suggests the Dolphins are on the right track. If they make the most of their draft bounty in 2020 — they have three first-round picks, a pair of second-rounders and at least 10 picks in total — this could eventually become the new king of the AFC East.
But the actual Patriots find themselves in an unfamiliar position: A wild card team for the first time since 2009 and questions surrounding whether Tom Brady — who made NFL history by just being on the field for all 16 games — has enough left in the tank to take New England the long way back to the Super Bowl. With former Patriot Mike Vrabel returning to Foxborough with a tough Titans team on a roll, the Pats are in danger of a rare one-and-done playoff run.
Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, #57, poses for photographs with a fan before an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y.
Lorenzo Alexander is one of the best players to come through Washington in the otherwise-dark Snyder era, and it was good to see him get his due in what figures to be his final regular season game in Buffalo. His story is one of the best in league history and any Redskins fan should be thrilled to see him make a solid playoff run with the Bills.
For better or worse, the Jets went from 1-7 embarrassment to playoff spoiler, going 6-2 down the stretch with half of those wins coming against teams vying for an AFC wild card. But don’t get too excited for 2020, New York — 7-9 is where Adam Gase lives.
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA — DECEMBER 29: Deon Bush #26 and Eddie Jackson, #39, of the Chicago Bears both go up to intercept the final pass of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Dec. 29, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Bears defeated the Vikings 21-19.
(Getty Images/Hannah Foslien)
Look, point blank: Mitch Trubisky sucks. Chicago’s willingness to admit this and find a suitable upgrade will determine whether they take advantage of an otherwise-solid roster or waste their championship window.
Meanwhile, Minnesota opted for rest rather than going for their third 11-win season in the six-year Mike Zimmer era. It’ll be interesting to see if the week off for Kirk Cousins makes him more or less likely to have one of his patented big-game no-shows in New Orleans next week — and whether that spells the end of his brief stint as a Viking.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard, #13), defended by Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay, #23), falls into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Detroit.
Green Bay survived a scare to lock up a first-round bye, and Detroit seems destined to say bye-bye to Matt Patricia. Is it possible for a team already cursed by Bobby Layne to be double-cursed for firing the underrated Jim Caldwell?
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Terrell Suggs, #94, sacks Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, #17, during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019.
Kansas City gratefully accepted its belated Christmas gift from Miami and locked up the 2-seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. With T-Sizzle donning red, the Chiefs truly are the greatest threat to Baltimore’s coronation.
If this is the end of the line for Philip Rivers as a Charger, he leaves with his second 20-INT season on a last-place team amid justifiable questions about how much the 38-year-old can help L.A. (or any other team) in a league where his lack of mobility and penchant for picks likely outweighs his wealth of experience. He and Eli Manning should walk away while they still can.
CINCINNATI, OHIO — DEC. 29: Tyler Eifert, #85, of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 29, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
(Getty Images/Andy Lyons)
Hey, Bengals. This win in Andy Dalton’s (likely) farewell isn’t really a reward for Cincinnati. Moving the franchise elsewhere, however …
Speaking of moving elsewhere … has anyone been screwed by a relocation more than Cleveland? The old Browns are in Baltimore with two Lombardi Trophies and favored to win a third, while the current-day Browns just fired Freddie Kitchens for getting a whole lot of nothing out of a talented roster. As Cleveland braces for its 12th coach since their 1999 reincarnation, it’s time to start talking about Jimmy Haslem as a Midwest version of Dan Snyder.
Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.
© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.