PITTSBURGH -- Stripping the ball from JuJu Smith-Schuster's hands, JC Jackson temporarily kept the Patriots' playoff fate in theirs. From New England's 30-yard line, Roethlisberger had lofted a long ball to Smith-Schuster, who had been isolated in man coverage against Jackson on third down. Pittsburgh kicked a field goal, maintained a one-score lead and Smith-Schuster's night was effectively over at four catches on 10 targets for 40 yards. While Stephon Gilmore was plenty busy matching up with Antonio Brown, he could still appreciate the down-to-down work Jackson handled on the opposite side.
San Francisco 49ers' Richie James Jr., left, runs past Seattle Seahawks' Jake Martin (59) to score on a kickoff return during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. So in came Foles, who replaced a hurt Wentz late last season and ended up as the Super Bowl MVP; he went 24 of 31 for 270 yards in the Eagles' 30-23 victory over LA, helping them improve to 7-7 and hold onto their slim chance at a postseason berth. Rookie coach Matt Nagy and new pass-rusher Khalil Mack (another 2 sacks Sunday) have the Chicago Bears back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 after beating the rival Green Bay Packers 24-17 to improve to 10-4 and clinch the NFC North. There was more good news for the Bears: After their game, offensive lineman Charles Leno Jr. dropped to a knee right there on the turf in the middle of the stadium, pulled out a box with a ring in it and proposed to his girlfriend.
These developments, if they aren't an aberration, could bode well for such teams as Baltimore, Chicago, Seattle which actually was upset at San Francisco and Dallas, which also lost, blanked at Indianapolis. They could be bad news for the high-scoring machines whose defenses are leaky, including previously considered powerhouses in Kansas City, New England and Pittsburgh. But the clubs unlikely to light up scoreboards also know if they can establish the tempo with their ground games and their stingy defenses and an attitude that no opponent will intimidate them they can be valid contenders in January. Maybe some of the clubs who are showing they feature balanced game plans and approaches and talent say Houston, Chicago, Indianapolis and the Chargers should be reckoned with as much as New Orleans and Kansas City and the Rams.
Quarterback Case Keenum drove them down the field and got into Browns territory, but a sack by Jabril Peppers on 4th and long ended the game and Denver's playoff hopes. Texans running back Lamar Miller left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury and was announced as questionable to return. Jets offensive lineman Brett Shell's suffered a leg injury in the second half and was listed as doubtful to return, but he also did not make another appearance. The future is bright for him," Jets safety Jamal Adams said after Sam Darnold went 24-of-38 passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to the Texans.
Running back Jordan Howard (Gardendale, UAB) of the Chicago Bears ran for 60 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and caught a 15-yard pass in a 24-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers. Buffalo Bills linebacker Deon Lacey (Hueytown, West Alabama) and safety Siran Neal (Eufaula, Jacksonville State) in a 14-13 loss to the Detroit Lions. On Thursday night, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (Athens) threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, including a TD and 2-point conversion pass with four seconds left, in a 29-28 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. On Saturday, six state players were on the field in two games, including Houston Texans inside linebacker Zach Cunningham (Pinson Valley), who made seven tackles in a 29-22 victory over the New York Jets.
Facing the Baltimore Ravens' top-ranked defense on a rainy day, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hoped to ride running back Peyton Barber. Barber's contributions were magnified on Sunday because Baltimore held Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston to 157 passing yards, his lowest total in a game in which he's gone all the way under center. On Thursday night, Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford had a sack in a 29-28 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers to push his total for the season to 12.5. On Saturday, five Auburn players were in action in the two games, with Denver Broncos outside linebacker Jeff Holland making his NFL debut in a 17-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Philadelphias stunning upset of the Los Angeles Rams froze the playoff bracket heading into tonights Monday Night Football contest between the Panthers and Saints. While the field is a little top-heavy this year, Im almost more interested in the teams who are in the hunt as those with the potential to do the most damage from a lower seed (save for Baltimore and L.A. in the AFC, which will end up tiered so bizarrely because of the Chiefs and or Chargers taking the No. If this team somehow manages to stun the NFL world for a second straight season, there is not a coach in footballsave for the emotionless Bill Belichickwho wouldnt fear that the cosmos is somehow conspiring against them. Former newsletter Godfather Jacob Feldman ranks the sports networks for 2018, with a big up to Fox for their handling of Thursday Night Football.
Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson was relieved after the team's first win in five games. Johnson got the starting nod Sunday after Washington tried to overcome Alex Smith's season-ending injury. The Redskins tried Mark Sanchez under center, but after a poor performance in Week 14, they made Johnson their top option, making this his first start since 2011. The Redskins are trailing the Seahawks and Vikings in the NFC wild-card race and will have tough matchups against the Titans and Eagles in the coming weeks.
Pittsburgh finally won meaningful game against New England and, more importantly, maintained division lead. They host Ravens on Saturday and beating them would keep pressure on Chiefs, whose next game is in Seattle's unfriendly confines. Bears' turnaround means for 15th time in past 16 NFL seasons, at least one team has gone from worst to first after a last-place finish in previous year. Dallas blew a chance to clinch division and might have locked itself into a potentially tough wild-card matchup with the Seahawks, who handled the Cowboys in Seattle in Week 3.
Pittsburgh finally won meaningful game against New England and, more importantly, maintained division lead. Bears' turnaround means for the 15th time in past 16 NFL seasons, at least one team has gone from worst to first after a last-place finish in previous year. Dallas blew a chance to clinch division and might have locked itself into a potentially tough wild-card matchup with the Seahawks, who handled the Cowboys in Seattle in Week 3. Surprising stumble against Richard Sherman's San Francisco 49ers on Sunday cost them a chance to sew up a spot.