This week, there were many exciting games, including a couple of shocking upsets. However, not much has been decided in the playoff races in either conference after Sunday’s games, as only one NFL team has been guaranteed a berth in the postseason.
Saints Win in Surprising Shutout of Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were hoping to celebrate a division title after their game on Sunday, but the New Orleans Saints had other ideas. Their defense stepped up just when they needed to and handed Tom Brady his first shutout loss since 2006. Head Coach Sean Payton was sidelined for this game as the Saints completed the season sweep of Tampa Bay and picked up their seventh straight regular-season win against their rivals.
Both teams combined for 17 punts in this defensive battle in which no touchdowns were scored. New Orleans had to depend on three field goals by Brett Maher to secure the victory. Tom Brady had a tough day against the Saints’ defense, throwing an interception and losing a fumble in the fourth quarter. He was also sacked four times. The Buccaneers hope to clinch the division with a win next Sunday on the road at Carolina.
Titans Turnovers Fuel Steelers Comeback Win
The Steelers continued their recent second-half dominance and outscored the Titans 16-0 after halftime to get the come-from-behind victory. The defense played great in the second half, with LB TJ Watt leading the way. The All-Pro had 1.5 sacks and recovered a fumble. He leads the NFL with 17.5 sacks on the season. CB Joe Haden also had a fourth-quarter fumble recovery to help seal the victory.
The Titans failed to protect the ball in the second half as they had three turnovers in ten plays run on offense during one stretch. QB Ryan Tannehill threw for 153 yards and no touchdowns but turned the ball over twice with an interception and a fumble. The Titans had a chance to win as they drove down to the Steelers16 yard line, where they had to go for it on 4th and 7 with time running out. Instead, Tannehill completed a pass to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine that came up short after an official measurement and guaranteed the win for Pittsburgh.
Packers Clinch Division Title
The Green Bay Packers became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth with a 31-30 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The victory helped them earn their third consecutive NFC North title. The Packers lead by 14 in the fourth quarter as Ravens backup QB Tyler Huntley helped them come back from a 31-17 deficit. He scored on an 8-yard run with 42 seconds remaining to get Baltimore to within one point, only needing the extra point to tie the game. Then, for the second time in the past three weeks, coach John Harbaugh decided to go for the two-point conversion, which would have given them the win. However, Huntley’s pass to TE Mark Andrews fell incomplete, handing the Ravens their third straight loss.
The loss drops the Titans out of first place in the AFC North standings as Cincinnati takes over the top position in the conference due to their 41-17 victory over Baltimore in Week 7.
Aaron Rodgers finished the game 23 of 31 with 268 yards and three touchdowns. His third TD pass tied him with Brett Favre for the most in franchise history. They remain the top seed in the NFC with an 11-3 record but still have two important home games coming up against the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings. They’ll then finish the season on the road against the Detroit Lions.