Four Teams Clinched Playoff Spots & Other Things We Learned In NFL Week 15
Four teams qualified for the postseason in Week 15; just two weeks remain to fill out the rest of the field. Here’s a recap of this week’s action:
The Bengals Ruined Johnny Manziel’s First Start
Johnny Manziel'sfirst game as the starter for the Browns was one he’d like to forget. The Bengals sacked “Johnny Football” three times en route to a 30-0 laugher over their AFC North/in-state rivals. Manziel finished 10 of 18 for an embarrassing 80 yards with two interceptions — and a third that was nullified because of a penalty.
Cincinnati (9-4-1) closed in on the division title, while Cleveland (7-7) suffered its fourth loss in five games. The Bengals defense pressured Manziel often and taunted him with his signature "money" gesture often. The Browns managed just 107 yards of offense in the game.
The Bills (!) Shocked The Packers
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has played like Superman for the past two months, but he threw more like Clark Kent in a 21-13 road loss to the Bills on Sunday. Bacarri Rambointercepted Rodgers on two straight second-half drives, and Buffalo (8-6) stayed in the AFC playoff hunt with a win over football’s hottest team.
Rodgers finished 17 of 42 for 185 yards and two interceptions. He had been picked off just three times this season coming into the game. Green Bay (10-4) had its five-game win streak snapped. The Packers fell out of first place when the Lions knocked off the Vikings later in the day.
The Cowboys Should Win The NFC East
The Cowboys tried to choke away another important game in December, but the Eagles found a better way to lose. After erasing a 21-0 deficit, Philly committed three second-half turnovers and lost 38-27. Dez Bryantcaught three TD passes and Dallas (10-4) jumped ahead of Philadelphia (9-5) in the NFC East race with just two weeks to go in the regular season; the division title is now theirs to lose.
The Cowboy have a difficult home game against Indianapolis next Sunday, and they finish the season on the road against Washington. Since Dallas has lost a playoff spot on the last week of the season the past three years, most Cowboys' fans shouldn’t make any plans for January until they clinch.
The Patriots, Broncos, Colts & Cardinals Are In The Playoffs
Four teams locked up playoff spots by virtue of Week 15 victories. New England, Indianapolis and Denver claimed division titles in the AFC, while Arizona secured a playoff spot in the NFC.
The Patriots clinched their sixth straight AFC East title by routing the Dolphins, 41-13. New England (11-3) led just 14-13 at halftime, but they reeled off 24 third-quarter points while putting Miami (7-7) away. Tom Brady & Co. can secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with wins over the Jets and Bills in the next two weeks.
The Broncos claimed their fourth consecutive AFC West championship by dominating the Chargers, 22-10. Peyton Manning’s lackluster game — made worse by a mild thigh injury and the flu — didn’t keep Denver (11-3) from guaranteeing itself a post-season spot. San Diego (8-6) lost its second straight game and is now behind Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC wild-card race.
Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes, and the Colts dropped the Texans, 17-10. Indianapolis (10-4) won its second straight AFC South crown and deeply damaged the playoff hopes of Houston (7-7). The Colts need help to get a first-round bye.
The Cardinals won on Thursday night, beating the Rams, 12-6, but losing quarterback Drew Stanton to a knee injury. When the Eagles-Cowboys game didn’t end in a tie, Arizona (11-3) clinched a playoff berth. Third-string QB Ryan Lindley took over for Stanton.
The Panthers Can Still Repeat In The NFC South
Apparently no team wants to take charge of the NFC South race.
The Panthers remained alive to repeat as division champs when they knocked off the Buccaneers, 19-17. Carolina (5-8-1) won the game with backup quarterback Derek Anderson subbing in for Cam Newton, who was injured in a car crash earlier this week. Anderson beat Tampa Bay (2-12) for the second time this season.
If New Orleans (5-8) loses to Chicago on Monday night, the Panthers will take over sole possession of first place in the NFL’s weakest division, because Atlanta (5-9) lost to Pittsburgh (9-5) on Sunday.
Sun. Dec. 14
Pittsburgh 27, Atlanta 20
N.Y. Giants 24, Washington 13
Kansas City 31, Oakland 13
Baltimore 20, Jacksonville 12
N.Y. Jets 16, Tennessee 11
Detroit 16, Minnesota 14
Seattle 17, San Francisco 7