NFL Week 16 takeaways, stat leaders: Saints clinch NFC South; Tom Brady helps Buccaneers to playoffs

Week 16 in the NFL started on Christmas Day with a huge performance by the Saints and Alvin Kamara, who became the second running back in league history to rush for six touchdowns in a game. The Saints also clinched the NFC South with a victory over the Vikings. Then on Saturday, the Buccaneers clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2007 before the Dolphins pulled off a big comeback win.

On Sunday, the Chiefs held off the Falcons to clinch the AFC's top seed, and the Browns lost to the Jets to put their own playoff hopes in jeopardy. The Jets' victory also locked up the top pick in the 2021 NFL draft for the Jaguars. Elsewhere, the Bears moved into the NFC's seventh seed with a win, the Steelers got back to their winning ways, and the Ravens got a big victory for their playoff outlook.

In the afternoon slate, the Seahawks held the Rams' offense at bay to clinch the NFC West, and Washington's loss pushed the NFC East decision to Week 17.

All that and more in Week 16's biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:

Green Bay Packers 40, Tennessee Titans 14

Standout performer: Davante Adams: 11 catches, 142 yards, 3 TDs

The No. 1 seed will have to wait until next week, when the Packers can secure it either with a victory over the Bears in the regular-season finale or with a Seahawks loss to the 49ers. But the MVP race just might be wrapped up. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw four more touchdown passes -- three of them to Davante Adams -- to run his season total to 44 against only five interceptions in the Packers' dominant win over the Titans. The Packers haven't been the No. 1 seed in the NFC since 2011, but they're one win away from it. -- Rob Demovsky

Next game: at Bears (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Titans squandered an opportunity to clinch the AFC South Division title with a pitiful performance at Lambeau Field. The same issues continue to haunt the defense, starting with a lack of pass rush. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense torched the Titans, putting 40 points on the board in the process. The good news for Tennessee is it can win the AFC South title next week with a victory over the Texans. -- Turron Davenport

Next game: at Texans (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Pittsburgh Steelers 28, Indianapolis Colts 24

Standout performer: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, 342 passing yards, 3 TDs

The boxes of AFC North champion shirts and hats have followed the Steelers around for weeks, and Sunday afternoon, the team finally got to break out the celebratory gear with a comeback victory against the Colts. In the first half, Pittsburgh looked more like the group that lost to the Bengals on Monday night, trailing 21-7 at the break. But after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told his team at halftime to have more fun, the Steelers found a groove and scored 21 unanswered points, as Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes on three consecutive drives. The Steelers didn't fix all of their problems, but they proved they could do enough to recapture some of the mojo they harnessed in their 11-0 start -- and just in time with the playoffs around the corner. -- Brooke Pryor

Next game: at Browns (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Colts have to beat Jacksonville next week and then have either Cleveland, Baltimore or Miami lose to lock in a playoff spot. A blown 17-point second-half lead against Pittsburgh has put the Colts in the position of needing help to claim their second postseason berth since 2014. -- Mike Wells

Next game: vs. Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Kansas City Chiefs 17, Atlanta Falcons 14

Standout performer: Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, 98 receiving yards, 1 TD

The Chiefs can win without a great game from Patrick Mahomes. That's what they did against the Falcons, but the asterisk is that the opponent was the 4-11 Falcons. It's hard to picture the Chiefs beating a playoff-caliber opponent with that kind of game from Mahomes (24-of-44, 278 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT). -- Adam Teicher

Next game: vs. Chargers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Falcons' defense is officially good. We've seen Atlanta play solid games against teams with offenses that don't necessarily strike fear in defenses, but to hold the Chiefs to just 17 points is no small accomplishment or fluke. The Chiefs' 17 points was their fewest in a win under Mahomes. If there's one positive to take not just from the game but also from Raheem Morris' tenure, it's that the defense is close to -- if not already -- where it needs to be as the Falcons move forward. -- Harry Lyles Jr.

Next game: at Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Baltimore Ravens 27, New York Giants 13

Standout performer: Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, 183 passing yards, 2 TDs (plus 80 rushing yards)

The Ravens now control their playoff fate, which is bad news for the rest of the AFC. Baltimore, which can clinch its third consecutive playoff berth with a win in Cincinnati, is looking like the bully that pushed around teams last season. The Ravens have won four straight games and have gained more than 200 yards rushing in three of them. If this ground game continues to roll, Baltimore can make noise in the postseason after two straight one-and-done appearances in the playoffs. -- Jamison Hensley

Next game: at Bengals (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Three straight games, three straight blowout losses against potential playoff teams. Sunday was the latest in a series of reality checks for the Giants. The dream of winning the weak NFC East looks lost. There is obviously a lot of work to be done before the Giants (5-10) can consider themselves serious contenders. "Games are always going to show you what you need to correct," quarterback Daniel Jones said after throwing for 252 yards and a touchdown in his return after missing last week's loss to the Browns with ankle and hamstring injuries. There is clearly a lot that needs to improve, beginning with the talent on the roster. The Giants lost to Arizona, Cleveland and Baltimore by an average of 15.7 points over the past three weeks. -- Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. Cowboys (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Cincinnati Bengals 37, Houston Texans 31

Standout performer: Bengals QB Brandon Allen, 371 passing yards, 2 TDs

The Bengals are now 4-10-1 after capturing back-to-back wins for the first time since Week 5 of the 2018 season, which also marked the last time Cincinnati had four wins in a season. Cincinnati has a little momentum to close a rough year. And it might also have a backup quarterback for 2021. Brandon Allen made the case to be No. 2 on the depth chart next season after completing 29 of 37 passes for 371 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. -- Ben Baby

Next game: vs. Ravens (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks is on the cusp of another 1,000-yard season, which would be the fifth of his career. In Sunday's loss to the Bengals, Cooks had seven catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Even though quarterback Deshaun Watson has shown he can put up big numbers with a revolving group of receivers, Cooks has been consistent and reliable this season, and if the Texans can keep him in 2021 (he has a $12 million cap hit and no guaranteed money), he will give Watson some stability at the position. -- Sarah Barshop

Next game: vs. Titans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

New York Jets 23, Cleveland Browns 16

Standout performer: Jets WR Jamison Crowder, 92 receiving yards, 1 TD (and 1 passing TD)

So long, Trevor Lawrence. The Jets' win, coupled with the Jaguars' 14th loss, means the Jets clinch the No. 2 pick in the draft. It sets up a fascinating offseason, as general manager Joe Douglas must decide whether to keep quarterback Sam Darnold, draft a replacement or perhaps sign a veteran. Right now, there's no clear-cut answer. Clemson QB Lawrence would've been a no-brainer at No. 1. -- Rich Cimini

Next game: at Patriots (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Though short-handed because of injury and COVID-19 concerns, the Browns squandered a golden opportunity to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in 17 seasons. Instead, minus its entire WR corps and several other starters, Cleveland fell to the lowly Jets. The Browns still control their own destiny to finally end the league's longest playoff drought. But in a make-or-break game next weekend, they will have to defeat the rival Steelers -- or watch the playoffs from home yet again. -- Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Carolina Panthers 20, Washington Football Team 13

Standout performer: Panthers WR Curtis Samuel, 106 receiving yards (and 52 rushing yards)

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow is finding ways to pressure the quarterback and force mistakes with a mixture of different looks, and that played a huge role in Carolina ending a three-game losing streak. Two interceptions and two fumble recoveries -- including one for a touchdown -- made this one easier than it should have been, even though it might have cost the Panthers a shot at a top-three draft pick. -- David Newton

Next game: vs. Saints (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

It's hard to imagine Dwayne Haskins Jr.'s Washington career continuing beyond this season. He had a shot to redeem himself against Carolina. Instead, he was benched in the fourth quarter and outplayed by his replacement, Taylor Heinicke, who arrived in Washington earlier this month. In two games with Haskins starting, Washington went from looking to be in a great spot to win the NFC East to stumbling toward the finish line. The hard part going forward with Haskins is that Washington might have to just cut the 2019 first-rounder if or when it decides to move on, unless it can find someone to take him for even a late-round pick. It will always be said that Haskins has talent; he just has not shown he can be a consistent quarterback and has not impressed two coaching staffs with his approach. Washington can still win the NFC East, even if Alex Smith doesn't return, but it's hard to imagine Haskins getting another chance to help it do so. -- John Keim

Next game: at Eagles (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Los Angeles Chargers 19, Denver Broncos 16

Standout performer: Chargers K Michael Badgley, 4-for-4 FGs, 1 PAT

Quarterback Justin Herbert solidified himself as the real deal. The 22-year-old set an NFL rookie record for TD passes, breaking Baker Mayfield's 2018 mark with 28. The Chargers have won four consecutive games, which Herbert said "puts them in a good position" for next season. -- Shelley Smith

Next game: at Chiefs (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Until Drew Lock stops turning the ball over in situations when there are other, far simpler solutions available, he can't really claim to be the unquestioned guy at quarterback. Unless John Elway -- or Vic Fangio -- says otherwise in the weeks ahead, he is likely to be Denver's starter in 2021. But Sunday's loss to the Chargers featured yet another painful turnover as Lock was trying to make something happen when, as Fangio put it, "there wasn't much there.'' Lock continues to flash the toughness, arm strength and knowledge of the offense needed to be a successful starter, but nothing has forced more quarterbacks out of the job than turnovers. And until Lock stops making them, they will continue to outweigh all of the good he has done in a difficult season. -- Jeff Legwold

Next game: vs. Raiders (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Seattle Seahawks 20, Los Angeles Rams 9

Standout performer: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, 225 passing yards, 1 TD (and 1 rushing TD)

The Seahawks' defense held the Rams to only three field goals. The legitimacy of their defensive turnaround from its historically bad start was in some question because of the caliber of opponents. Had the unit truly turned the corner or was it more about the fact that it was playing bad offenses with below-average or backup quarterbacks? Jared Goff is no MVP candidate, but he's better than the likes of Carson Wentz, Colt McCoy, Sam Darnold and Dwayne Haskins Jr. Seattle also faced Kyler Murray at the beginning of that turnaround. That's enough evidence to suggest the Seahawks have a good enough defense to make a deep run in the playoffs, which didn't seem true earlier in the season. -- Brady Henderson

Next game: at 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Rams wasted away another opportunity Sunday to clinch a playoff berth and the chance to remain in the race for a division title. The defense was stout, but the offense fell flat once again. After the game, Rams coach Sean McVay expressed frustration about his recent playcalling effort, which resulted in zero touchdowns on Sunday for the first time this season. Despite losing two straight, the Rams can still clinch a playoff spot next week with a victory over the Cardinals or if the Packers beat the Bears. -- Lindsey Thiry

Next game: vs. Cardinals (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Dallas Cowboys 37, Philadelphia Eagles 17

Standout performer: Cowboys DE Randy Gregory, 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 QB hits, 1 pass breakup

The Cowboys don't know if they will make the playoffs, but they have given themselves a chance. Beat the Giants in Week 17 and have Washington lose to the Eagles, and the Cowboys would win the NFC East. This did not seem possible after the Dec. 8 loss to Baltimore dropped them to 3-9 on the season. Since then, the Cowboys have won three consecutive games. "It's a long season, and for sure we just had to push through some tough stretches we had this season," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "At the end of the day, you want to be playing your best ball in December, going into January. For us, it seems like we're doing that right now." -- Todd Archer

Next game: at Giants (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

It's a fitting tribute to the Eagles' dysfunctional 2020 season that just when a giant window of opportunity opened, they slammed it shut right on their fingers. With Washington unable to take care of business against the Panthers on Sunday, an Eagles victory against the Cowboys would have set up a Week 17 showdown between Philadelphia and Washington for the NFC East crown. Instead, the Eagles stumbled on defense and lost to Dallas. As a result, they were eliminated from the playoffs and will miss the postseason for the first time in four seasons. They are now just a week away from what promises to be a drama-filled offseason in which the fates of coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz will be decided. One way or another, changes are coming. That's what happens when a team falls a mile short of expectations and a championship-caliber nucleus reaches its expiration date. -- Tim McManus

Next game: vs. Washington (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Chicago Bears 41, Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Standout performer: Bears LB Roquan Smith, 8 tackles, 2 INTs

The Bears kept control of their own playoff destiny with one game left to play. Chicago can clinch the seventh NFC playoff spot with a win over Green Bay in Week 17 or a loss by the Cardinals to the Rams. The Bears scored 30-plus points for the fourth consecutive game for the first time since 1965, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. -- Jeff Dickerson

Next game: vs. Packers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Potentially the greatest moment in the history of the Jaguars came on the same day they set a franchise record with their 14th consecutive loss. Falling to the Bears coupled with the Jets' victory over Cleveland clinched the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft -- which the Jaguars will all but certainly use to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars have never had the No. 1 pick (they've picked second three times). -- Mike DiRocco

Next game: at Colts (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Miami Dolphins 26, Las Vegas Raiders 25

Standout performer: Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, 182 passing yards, 1 TD

Brian Flores doesn't care about conventional quarterback decisions or long-term effects. He does what he feels gives his team the best chance to win no matter what, as he showed by benching rookie Tua Tagovailoa for Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 26-25 win over the Raiders. Tagovailoa will remain the starter, but this is the second time Flores has made the bold move to bench his franchise quarterback, and it shows the second-year coach is confident he knows how his team will respond. Now the Dolphins are knocking on the door of their first playoff berth since 2016. Win next Sunday against Buffalo and they're in. -- Cameron Wolfe

Next game: at Bills (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The way the Raiders were officially eliminated from the playoffs was oh so fitting. A blown coverage by Damon Arnette. A "horrific" face mask penalty on the same play by Arden Key. And, despite starting at their 25-yard line with 19 seconds to play and no timeouts to use, the Dolphins were suddenly in field goal range to win the game, and the Raiders were toast. Indeed, after a 6-3 start, the Raiders have lost five of six and probably should have lost at the Jets. The Raiders are 7-8 a year after going 7-9 and head to Denver next week. Derek Carr put up good numbers and had the Raiders in position to win, but he was clearly hobbled as Las Vegas was 0-for-10 on third down. What a depressing second half of the season for Las Vegas.-- Paul Gutierrez

Next game: at Broncos (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

San Francisco 49ers 20, Arizona Cardinals 12

Standout performer: 49ers RB Jeff Wilson Jr., 183 rushing yards (and 21 receiving yards, 1 TD)

If you didn't believe in 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's head-coaching candidacy, you should now. Playing without Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Javon Kinlaw, among others, Saleh's group found a way to limit Kyler Murray & Co. in an upset victory. Saleh's defense has been ravaged by injury all season yet somehow has managed to keep the 49ers in most games, even as the offense has turned the ball over repeatedly in recent weeks. The win will hurt San Francisco's draft positioning but should only bolster Saleh's case for an available head-coaching position in the coming weeks.-- Nick Wagoner

Next game: vs. Seahawks (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Cardinals' playoffs hopes are beginning to slip away after Saturday's loss to the 49ers. All Arizona needed to do was win and the Cardinals would've stayed in control of their playoff destiny. Instead, they lost, and now have to rely on the Chicago Bears to lose their last two games for Arizona to make the postseason for the first time since 2015. -- Josh Weinfuss

Next game: at Rams (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 47, Detroit Lions 7

Standout performer: Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, 348 passing yards, 4 TDs

Brady helped end the NFL's second-longest playoff drought by throwing four touchdown passes in a blowout win over the Detroit Lions on Saturday, clinching Tampa Bay's first playoff berth since 2007. Brady, appearing in his 300th game in the same city where his career began -- Detroit, 20 years ago on Thanksgiving Day -- led five TD-scoring drives in the first half before giving way to backup Blaine Gabbert in the second half as the team compiled 588 yards of total offense. "It's just the beginning. Our goal when we started out, especially this year, was just to get in the dance," coach Bruce Arians said. "And now it's to win 11 games. And see where we stand and where we're going, know who we're playing. Really, really proud." -- Jenna Laine

Next game: vs. Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

What is there to say, really? It was a horrific loss for the Detroit Lions in score (47-7), in yards allowed (588) and in health (Matthew Stafford missed all but one series with a right ankle injury). This on top of the team going out there without its head coach, defensive coordinator, defensive line coach, linebackers coach and secondary coach, all of whom had to sit because of COVID-19 close-contact protocols. It was one of the worst losses in the history of the franchise -- and the worst loss at home in the Super Bowl era. "The issue was on offense we couldn't stay on the field," receivers coach/acting head coach Robert Prince said. "And on defense we couldn't get off the field." -- Michael Rothstein

Next game: vs. Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

New Orleans Saints 52, Minnesota Vikings 33

Standout performer: Saints RB Alvin Kamara, 155 rushing yards, 6 TDs

Friday's victory over the Vikings was another emphatic reminder the Saints can win games in a variety of ways. This time, it was Kamara's NFL-record-tying six TD runs and a team total of 264 rushing yards (New Orleans' second-highest total since 1986). That was huge on a day when the Saints' receiving corps and defense were beat up by injuries, and they were playing on a short week. The Saints (11-4) still have an outside chance at the NFC's No. 1 seed. Regardless, they now get some extra rest before Week 17, with a chance to heal up and peak in January. -- Mike Triplett

Next game: at Panthers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

This is the worst defense the Vikings have had in seven seasons under coach Mike Zimmer, and the rebuild is going to take far longer than expected. Things should be better in 2021, assuming Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter return from injury and Michael Pierce comes back after opting out. The Vikings still need to overhaul the defensive line, particularly a 3-technique, after the unit generated one pressure on Drew Brees and the third-lowest rate (23.2%) of any team this season. "If you look at the playoff game last year and you look at the guys who were playing in that game and the guys who were playing today, it's completely 100 percent different," Zimmer said. -- Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Lions (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Buffalo Bills 38, New England Patriots 9

Standout performer: Receiver Stefon Diggs, 9 catches, 145 yards, 3 TD

The Bills have a legitimate argument that they are the best team in the AFC. Sure, they beat up on an uninspired Patriots team -- but Monday's rout marked five straight wins for Buffalo, including four in a row by multiple scores on national television. The football world has watched the Bills over the past month and the AFC East champion did not disappoint. Predicting a winner between them and the Chiefs is not as clear-cut as it once was in the middle of the season. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: vs. Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The lack of talent across the Patriots roster stands out. While much of the focus will be on the quarterback, as it often is, it goes much deeper than that and shows how much work Bill Belichick has to do this offseason. The Bills have been loading up, while the Patriots have been going in the opposite direction. This should lead Belichick to get aggressive this offseason. -- Mike Reiss

Next game: vs. Jets (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)