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Wild and crazy season ends with lots of playoff uncertainty

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File-This Dec. 23, 2018, file photograph exhibits Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) celebrating a game-winning landing in the course of the second half of an NFL soccer recreation towards the New York Giants in Indianapolis. Benefit Luck on this rivalry: he’s 10-Zero in his profession begins vs. the Titans. He might develop into the one participant since 1970 with an 11-Zero mark towards one group. (AP Photograph/Darron Cummings, File)

In a wild and crazy season, the most important remaining tumult is within the AFC South.

Houston leads and takes the division title by beating struggling Jacksonville. A Texans loss, nevertheless, provides the winner of the prime-time recreation between the Colts and Titans in Nashville the crown, dropping Houston right into a wild card.

“When you start off 0-3 and you’re sitting here at 10-5 with a chance to win the division on Sunday you’ve done a lot of good things over the course of those games since we were 0-3,” star defensive finish J.J. Watt says. “But we have to make sure that we do what we need to do to make sure that doesn’t all go to waste.”

There are two different AFC division crowns to settle, within the North and West, however no less than the Chiefs and Chargers already are into the postseason. So whereas avoiding having to go well with up subsequent weekend — and the probability of having the convention’s greatest document — turns into paramount, Kansas Metropolis and Los Angeles each have a consolation zone.

Baltimore and Pittsburgh don’t. If the Ravens win at residence over Cleveland, they take the North. In the event that they lose and the Steelers defeat spiraling Cincinnati, Pittsburgh advances.

The winner of the night time recreation in Music Metropolis will, properly, be making candy music as a playoff qualifier.

“We’re just blessed to be in this position to be playing for a playoff game, so that’s all the motivation that guys need,” Titans security Kevin Byard says. “They’ll be motivated, we’ll be motivated. It’ll be a fun game.”

Jacksonville (5-10) at Houston (10-5)

Watt wants one-half sack to hitch Reggie White as the one gamers since 1982 with 4 or extra seasons with 15 or extra sacks. Watt has 4½ sacks and has pressured three fumbles prior to now 4 division video games.

On offense, Deshaun Watson had two landing passes and ran for 2 extra scores final week in a loss at Philadelphia. He has 9 landing passes and no interceptions in his previous 4 house video games.

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who was benched after a loss to Buffalo on Nov. 25, will begin, maybe for the final time for Jacksonville. Bortles has 13 TD passes and 10 interceptions this season.

Indianapolis (9-6) at Tennessee (9-6)

Benefit Andrew Luck on this rivalry: he’s 10-Zero in his profession begins vs. the Titans. He might grow to be the one participant since 1970 with an 11-Zero mark towards one staff.

Colts Okay Adam Vinatieri can break a tie with Jeff Feagles (352) for third-most video games performed in league historical past and can be a part of George Blanda, Morten Andersen and John Carney as the one gamers to seem in a recreation at age 46.

Titans QB Marcus Mariota is recovering from a stinger that knocked him out of the final recreation towards Washington. Backup Blaine Gabbert has began twice and come off the bench in three different video games this season for Mariota and fared comparatively properly.

However Tennessee’s path to the playoffs possible is Derrick Henry toting the ball. No one has extra yards dashing or TDs in December than Henry, who has 532 yards dashing and eight TD runs.

Cincinnati (6-9) at Pittsburgh (Eight-6-1)

Pittsburgh has gained 10 of the previous 11 conferences with Bengals, whereas the Bengals are Eight-25 vs. the Steelers beneath coach Marvin Lewis. However final yr, the Bengals gained at Baltimore 31-27 within the last recreation, knocking the Ravens out of rivalry and giving a playoff berth to Buffalo. In fact, these Bengals have been much more wholesome than this injury-wrecked group.

Pittsburgh is hopeful Professional Bowl operating again James Conner returns after a three-game absence (sprained left ankle).

“It’s out of our control,” says guard David DeCastro. “You’re going to feel a lot worse than you do now if you were to go out there and see Baltimore lose and us lose, too. It’s definitely deflating, it’s been a long season. We’ve put forth a lot of effort.”

Cleveland (7-7-1) at Baltimore (9-6)

Cleveland definitely has lots of incentive, together with a profitable document after going Zero-16 in 2017, and making an emphatic assertion concerning the work of interim coach Gregg Williams.

That doesn’t probably trump the motivation of making the playoffs, particularly in a season with no overwhelming favorites. The Ravens are 9-1 towards Cleveland at residence underneath John Harbaugh, who took over in 2008. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is 5-1 in his first six profession begins, tied for third-best begin in NFL historical past. RB Gus Edwards leads Baltimore with 642 yards dashing, with Jackson second at 605. Each are rookies.

Philadelphia (Eight-7) at Washington (7-Eight)

With final yr’s hero, Nick Foles, taking up as soon as extra for an injured Carson Wentz, the Eagles have made a late playoffs push. They win right here and Minnesota fails and the Eagles get an opportunity to defend their crown.

Foles threw for a franchise-record 471 yards final week vs. Houston. He’s the one QB in franchise historical past with a number of 400-yard passing video games and has averaged 279.5 yards passing in his previous 4 begins vs. the Redskins.

In a robust comeback season, Adrian Peterson rushed for 119 yards final week to surpass 1,000 for the season. Peterson’s 13,259 yards dashing are eighth on the profession listing.

Chicago (11-Four) at Minnesota (Eight-6-1)

An enormous problem for the Vikings, as a result of a loss might spoil their season one yr after making the NFC title recreation. However the Bears have misplaced six straight video games in Minnesota and doing so once more doubtless sends the Vikings to Soldier Subject the next week.

Matt Nagy is the primary Bears coach with a profitable document in a debut season since Paddy Driscoll went 9-2-1 in 1956, when George Halas took a two-year hiatus.

The Vikings lead the league with 50 sacks and have allowed the fewest TD drives (25) within the league for a second straight season after giving up 23 in 2017.

Oakland (Four-11) at Kansas Metropolis (11-Four)

The Chiefs can clinch the AFC West and No. 1 seed within the playoffs with a win and they’ve dealt with Oakland in seven of the previous eight conferences. However a loss and Chargers win drops Kansas Metropolis to fifth seed.

KC’s top-ranked offense might be challenged a bit by a Raiders D that has not allowed an opposing QB to throw for 300 yards in 9 straight weeks. Raiders QB Derek Carr has an NFL-best streak of 325 passes with out an interception.

Los Angeles Chargers (11-Four) at Denver (6-9)

LA has largely made its rush to the playoffs away from its short-term California residence: The Chargers have gained 5 straight on the street, tied for the franchise’s longest because the merger. Though QB Philip Rivers is 12-15 vs. Denver, together with the playoffs, he’s having a particular season.

The Broncos are assured of back-to-back dropping seasons for the primary time since 1971-72. They misplaced Professional Bowl choice Philip Lindsay, an undrafted free agent who has 1,037 yards dashing and 9 TDs, to a wrist damage.

San Francisco (Four-11) at Los Angeles Rams (12-Three)

A win or tie provides LA a wild-card spherical bye. However the Rams haven’t been as dynamic with the ball lately, and star operating again Todd Gurley is battling knee points, although C.J. Anderson crammed in properly final week towards Arizona. DT Aaron Donald leads the NFL with 19½ sacks, and is in putting distance of Michael Strahan’s document of 22½. Donald had 4 sacks within the Rams’ first assembly with the Niners.

San Francisco has had seven takeaways; the report for the fewest in a season is 11, beforehand accomplished by Chicago in 2016.

Carolina (6-9) at New Orleans (13-2)

With nothing to perform as a assured prime NFC seed, the Saints might relaxation individuals. Drew Brees leads the NFL in completion price at 74.Four % (364 of 489), placing him in place to interrupt his personal single-season document of 72 %, set in 2017. New Orleans by no means has gained 14 video games in a season, although such an achievement won’t be excessive precedence.

Carolina goes with rookie quarterback Kyle Allen for his first profession begin. He accomplished all 4 move makes an attempt final week after starter Taylor Heinicke left with an damage. No. 1 QB Cam Newton was shut down after 14 video games.

New York Jets (Four-11) at New England (10-5)

A victory would clinch New England’s 13th first-round bye within the AFC playoffs since 2001. The Patriots would additionally earn a first-round bye with losses by Baltimore, Houston and Tennessee. New England can also clinch home-field benefit all through the AFC playoffs with a win and losses by Kansas Metropolis and the Los Angeles Chargers. New England has gained 5 in a row over Jets, who’ve been feisty the previous few weeks as rookie quarterback Sam Darnold improves.

New England is the one group and not using a loss at house (7-Zero) and is trying to full an undefeated house common season for the seventh time since 2002. A win can be the Patriots’ 500th within the common season and prolong the group’s NFL report to 9 straight years with no less than 11 victories.

Arizona (Three-12) at Seattle (9-6)

The Seahawks’ excellent retooling has landed it an NFC wild card. Coach Pete Carroll signed a contract extension by way of 2021 season this week.

Russell Wilson is the primary QB with a profitable document in every of his first seven seasons within the NFL, however this yr a lot of it has been constructed on the league’s prime dashing recreation, defending the ball — a plus-14 turnover differential — and strong protection.

A Cardinals loss would lock within the No. 1 decide in subsequent April’s draft.

Dallas (9-6) at New York Giants (5-10)

Good probability for the Cowboys to get people wholesome as they’re locked into the fourth seed and will host a wild-card recreation subsequent week. Dallas gained six of its previous seven general and has gained three straight towards the Giants. Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL with 1,434 yards dashing and has 2,001 yards from scrimmage. He’s in search of a ninth straight recreation with 100 yards from scrimmage, however how a lot motion will he see?

Giants RB Saquon Barkley ranks third in dashing (1,198 yards) and yards from scrimmage (1,886). He wants 114 yards from scrimmage to hitch Eric Dickerson (2,212 yards in 1983) and Edgerrin James (2,139 in 1999) as the one rookies with a minimum of 2,000 scrimmage yards in NFL historical past.

Miami (7-Eight) at Buffalo (5-10)

A December street recreation in Orchard Park by no means is enviable and the Dolphins have misplaced 5 of the previous six video games there. This might be QB Ryan Tannehill’s last recreation as Miami’s quarterback given his inconsistency and frequent accidents.

Payments RB LeSean McCoy’s 488 yards dashing are 149 shy of his profession low set in his rookie season with the 2009 Eagles.

Atlanta (6-9) at Tampa Bay (5-10)

The Falcons have gained 4 straight on this NFC South rivalry that has little which means Sunday. Falcons WR Julio Jones leads the NFL with 1,539 receiving yards and has 104 catches.

Bucs WR Mike Evans averages a league-leading 17.7 yards per catch (minimal 50 receptions) and ranks third within the NFL with 1,418 receiving yards.

Detroit (5-10) at Inexperienced Bay (6-Eight-1)

Two of the NFL’s most disappointing groups play out the string. Detroit is making an attempt to win consecutive video games at Lambeau Area for the primary time since 1990-91.

Packers WR Davante Adams has 111 catches, two shy of breaking Sterling Sharpe’s single-season franchise report (112 in 1993). Adams wants 134 yards to interrupt former teammate Jordy Nelson’s single-season yardage document of 1,519 in 2014.

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