Week 15 saw a total of 7 teams mathematically eliminated from the playoffs while other games between big teams led to a shakeup in the playoff seeding. We also got to say goodbye to Thursday Night Football in style, watching a thriller between two title contenders in the AFC. With just 2 weeks to go, each and every game has the feel of a playoff game. Don’t believe me? 14 of the 16 games this weekend have playoff implications. Check out where your team is before even more mayhem goes down.
Also, congrats to all the players selected to the Pro Bowl.
1. (–) New Orleans Saints (12-2)
Week 15: W 12-9 @Panthers.
The Saints were able to win a game that ended up being a lot closer than they would have liked, but the defense was still able to get the job done. Combined with the Rams loss, New Orleans can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with a win this week against the Steelers. Drew Brees (23-35, 203 yds, INT) is in prime position to make a run at his second Super Bowl. Another title might just give him some ammo in the G.O.A.T. debate.
2. (+2) LA Chargers (11-3)
Week 15: W 29-28 @Chiefs. The Chargers still are behind the Chiefs in the division due to tiebreaker, but make no mistake; LA is the best team in the AFC. Philip Rivers (26-38, 313 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT) is having a career year, Melvin Gordon is one of the best running backs in the league when he’s healthy, and they may have the best receiving corps in the league. The game ball goes to WR Mike Williams, who totaled 95 yards and 3 touchdowns, including the game-tying touchdown and the game-winning 2-point conversion in the final seconds. The final Thursday Night Football of the season did not disappoint.
3. (–) Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
Week 15: L 29-28 vs. Chargers. Kansas City hasn’t looked quite the same in recent weeks, and the Chargers were finally able to take advantage. Patrick Mahomes (24-34, 243 yds, 2 TD) was only good, and that simply wasn’t enough to overcome the Chiefs poor defensive play. The two positives of Thursday’s loss are that they still lead in the division and will get the #1 seed if they win out and that RB Damien Williams has played very well in place of Kareem Hunt. Don’t be surprised if we see Chiefs-Chargers Round 3 in January.
4. (-2) Los Angeles Rams (11-3)
Week 15: L 30-23 vs. Eagles. For the second straight game, Jared Goff just couldn’t figure out the opposing defense and it cost the Rams another loss. Down 17 headed into the 4th quarter, the Rams were able to cut the lead to just 7, but a muffed punt cost them nearly 2 minutes of time which ended up costing LA on their final drive. The #1 seed is now all but out of reach, and one more loss would drop the Rams all the way to the #3 seed after their loss in Week 14. A Super Bowl favorite just a few weeks ago is slipping farther and farther with each passing week.
5. (+1) Chicago Bears (10-4)
Week 15: W 24-17 vs. Packers. How sweet was Sunday for the Bears? Not only did they get revenge for their collapse back in Week 1, but they were able to simultaneously win the division AND knock their rivals from Green Bay out of the playoffs. Mitch Trubisky (20-28, 235 yds, 2 TD) did exactly what he had to do: keep the ball safe and let the defense and running game control the game. Speaking of the defense, it was even able to end Aaron Rodgers’ streak of 402 passes without an interception. Flashes of 1985 and 2006 are alive in many Chicagoans’ heads.
6. (+1) Houston Texans (10-4)
Week 15: W 29-22 @Jets. The Texans were able to get past their first loss in over 2 months with a win in the Medowlands, but the Jets didn’t make it easy for them. Deshaun Watson (22-28, 294 yds, 2 TD) was sacked 6 times and RB Lamar Miller was held to just 8 yards before being knocked out of the game with an ankle injury. J.J. Watt and the defense couldn’t hold New York out of the endzone down the stretch and let the game get close, but Watson drove right back down the field to put the game away. The division is all but theirs, and Houston is now in a great position to even get a first-round bye for the first time in franchise history.
7. (+2) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)
Week 15: W 17-10 vs. Patriots. No, you did not read that wrong. The Steelers actually beat New England for the first time in 6 meetings, and they did so by running right down the Patriots’ throats. Jaylen Samuels, not even a pure running back, ran 19 times for 142 yards, including 6 times on the final Steelers drive to help chew over 5 minutes off the clock. Big Ben threw 2 touchdowns, but his 2 picks kept New England in it. Credit to the defense, especially CB Joe Haden, for shutting down the Patriots offense and exorcizing their demons from years past.
8. (-3) New England Patriots (9-5) Week 15: L 17-10 @Steelers. For the first time since 2002, the Patriots have lost back-to-back December games. New England finishes the year with a 3-5 road record, but their saving grace is still a perfect 6-0 record in Foxboro, which at least gets them past wildcard weekend if they are not able to regain the #2 seed from Houston. Tom Brady (25-36, 279 yds, TD, INT) played well aside from a horrible interception he claims was meant to be a throw-away, but the nail in the coffin was uncharacteristic penalties. The least-penalized team in the NFL committed 14 penalties, including 5 in the 4th quarter, for over 100 yards. If this continues, there will be no 8th straight AFC Championship appearance.
9. (+2) Indianapolis Colts (8-6)
Week 15: W 23-0 vs. Cowboys. In a matchup between two red-hot teams that were a combined 9-1 headed into the game, the Colts held strong and halted Dallas’ charge in its tracks. Andrew Luck (16-27, 192 yds) wasn’t able to get much going, but for once his team was able to pick up the slack and win the game without him. RB Marlon Mack rushed for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns off a whopping 27 carries, dictating the pace of the game and leading the Colts to the win.
10. (-2) Seattle Seahawks (8-6)
Week 15: L(OT) 26-23 @49ers. If it wasn’t for the poor showings by Baltimore and Dallas, the Seahawks would have dropped even farther. What else is there to say? They lost to San Francisco. They had a chance to wrap up a wildcard spot and they blew it. Now the season is still up in the air, though Seattle is still very much alive. The game to watch this week might just be Seahawks-Chiefs, and neither team can afford to lose.
11. (+1) Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
Week 15: W 20-12 vs. Buccaneers. A rainy day in Baltimore led to a pretty ugly football game, and it was the Ravens that were able to come out on top. Rookie QB Lamar Jackson (14-23, 131 yds, TD, 95 yds rushing) looked a lot better on the ground than in the air, but apparently the front office has liked what they’ve seen in his tenure as the starter. Reports are now that the Ravens plan to either trade or cut Joe Flacco in the offseason, so for better or worse this is now Jackson’s team. He’s already 4-1 as the starter. There’s nothing that says he can’t lead the Ravens even farther.
12. (+2) Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1) Week 15: W 41-17 vs. Dolphins. What a way to respond to an embarrassing performance on Monday Night Football. In their first game without Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo, Minnesota exploded for more points than they had scored in any game this season. Kirk Cousins (14-21, 215 yds, 2 TD, INT) played okay, but the real spark came from the running game. RB Dalvin Cook ran for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns and Latavius Murray added 68 yards and a touchdown of his own. Minnesota controls their own destiny for a wildcard spot, but they need to keep up this new pace if they want to hold off the Eagles and Redskins.
13. (–) Tennessee Titans (8-6)
Week 15: W 17-0 @Giants. Much like last season, the Titans are incredibly off-and-on in their pursuit of the playoffs. Mike Vrabel has built a fairly impressive defense in his first year as head coach, and they showed how efficient they can be against the Giants. Rookie star running back Saquon Barkley was held to just 31 yards rushing and a measly 2.2 yards per carry. Week 16 is critical for the Titans, facing a Redskins team that also needs to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. After that is a division battle against the Colts in the final week that could be for the final AFC wildcard.
14. (-4) Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
Week 15: L 23-0 @Colts. The Cowboys winning streak has come to a screeching halt after running into the brick wall that was the Indianapolis defense. Despite Dak Prescott (24-39, 206 yds, INT) and Ezekiel Elliot didn’t play all that badly, but they could never string together enough plays to score any points. Games against the Bucs and Giants are still ahead, so Dallas will still win the NFC East relatively easily, but this kind of performance will bring those praising the Cowboys over the past month back down to Earth.
15. (+2) Cleveland Browns (6-7-1)
Week 15: W 17-16 @Broncos. The Browns have surpassed all expectations this season, and a lot of the thanks belong to rookie QB Baker Mayfield (18-31, 188 yds, 2 TD, INT) coming to life after the departure of Hugh Jackson. Rookie RB Nick Chubb has also proven to be a solid starter after the Browns traded Carlos Hyde. Cleveland still has a very small chance to still make the playoffs after the Steelers beat New England, but the focus right now should be making sure that their talent continues to develop and finding a coach to lead the Browns back to the promised land.
16. (+4) Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
Week 15: W 30-23 @Rams. Nick Foles (24-31, 270 yds, INT) has come to save the day once again. The Eagles offense took on a totally new shape against the Rams, and the biggest difference is the shift of the #1 receiver. Under Carson Wentz, the favorite target was TE Zachary Ertz. Under Foles, WR Alshon Jeffery is the #1 and the offense becomes a lot more vertical. As last season showed us, don’t count out the Eagles as long as Foles is under center.
17. (-2) Green Bay Packers (5-8-1)
Week 15: L 24-17 @Bears. Aaron Rodgers (25-42, 274 yds, INT) has now missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in his career. The final stand against Chicago fell flat as the Packers O-line couldn’t stop the Khalil Mack and the rest of the Bears shutdown defense. Hopefully a new coach and a good draft can lift the Packers back to their title-contending form.
18. (–) Carolina Panthers (6-8)
Week 15: L 12-9 vs. Saints. Here’s how badly the Panthers have collapsed this year. The Bills, Raiders and Cardinals all haven’t had a 6-game losing streak. Cam Newton (16-29, 131 yds, INT) has deeply regressed over the course of the season, and the Panthers offense has turned into Christian McCaffrey and not much else. McCaffrey even threw for a touchdown on Monday Night, bringing his season total to 14 total touchdowns. The Panthers playoff hopes are all but dead, but like Cleveland, crazier things have happened.
19. (-3) New York Giants (5-9)
Week 15: L 17-0 vs. Titans. The miracle run is officially over. The loss to Tennessee has officially eliminated the Giants from the playoffs, knocking off one of the more entertaining storylines of the 2018 season. Reports are the Eli Manning (21-44, 229 yds, INT) will remain the starter in 2019, but fans will be clamoring for change as there are some talented quarterbacks in the upcoming draft. Maybe next year New York.
20. (+3) Atlanta Falcons (5-9)
Week 15: W 40-14 vs. Cardinals. Atlanta laid waste to the struggling Cardinals in front of their home crowd, and the offense finally returned to their 2016 form. Matt Ryan (22-36, 231 yds, 2 TD) picked Arizona apart while RB Tevin Coleman racked up 145 yards on just 11 carries. In total, the Falcons rushed for over 200 yards. What could be the bad news? Oh yeah, the Falcons were terrible for the last month and a half and are eliminated from the playoffs anyway. Just like New York, maybe next year.
21. (-2) Denver Broncos (6-8)
Week 15: L 17-16 vs. Browns. This game might be the final nail in the coffin when it comes to Vance Joseph’s job. Instead of going for it on 4th&1 on the 6-yard line while down 4 points, Joseph elected to kick the field goal. Apparently he trusted his defense to get the ball back, but not enough to score a touchdown. The Broncos are out of the playoffs as a result of this loss, and Denver’s entire franchise appears to be in limbo with their big money quarterback signing not delivering nearly as much as they needed him to.
22. (+3) Cincinnati Bengals (6-8)
Week 15: W 30-16 vs. Raiders. The Bengals were finally able to end their losing streak after 5 straight losses. Jeff Driskel (14-33, 130 yds, TD, INT) played about as well as you can expect from him, but the win really goes to RB Joe Mixon. Mixon rushed for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns on a whopping 27 carries. As a team, then ran it 41 times for 171 yards and chewed over 33 minutes off the clock. Their reward for all this effort? Playoff elimination. Shouldn’t have wasted that 4-1 start.
23. (-2) Detroit Lions (5-9)
Week 15: L 14-13 @Bills. Detroit lost to the Bills when they HAD to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. They didn’t, and Matt Patricia’s first season ends in yet another disappointment. Not much else to say.
24. (-2) Miami Dolphins (7-7)
Week 15: L 41-17 @Vikings. After beating the Patriots in miraculous fashion, things were starting to look up for the Dolphins. QB Ryan Tannehill (11/24, 108 yds) was playing well and the playoffs were in sight. These turned out to just be a mirage as Miami got destroyed by an equally desperate Vikings squad competing for their own wildcard spot. The Dolphins are still alive, but there’s a reason they’re still so far down the list.
25. (+1) Washington Redskins
(7-7) Week 15: W 16-13 @Jaguars. The Redskins are still alive despite now starting their 4th-string QB against what looked to be a resurgent Jags defense. QB Josh Johnson (16-25, 151 yds, TD) was able to mostly protect the football, and combined with veteran running back Adrian Peterson to run the ball with enough consistency to win the game. Washington is now a game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East and a half-game behind Minnesota for a wildcard spot. The Skins aren’t done yet.
26. (-2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) Week 15: L 20-12 @Ravens. Tampa’s season is now mercifully over as the Bucs have officially been eliminated from the playoffs. Jameis Winston (13/25, 157 yds, INT) had another incredibly disappointing game, and now it’s decision time down south. The Buccaneers have to decide if Winston is worth keeping around for next season or if they should go in a different direction as they continue to rebuild. Same goes for Dirk Koetter.
27. (+1) Buffalo Bills (5-9)
Week 15: W 14-13 vs. Lions.
28. (-1) New York Jets (4-10)
Week 15: L 29-22 vs. Texans.
29. (+2) San Francisco 49ers (4-10)
Week 15: W(OT) 26-23 vs. Seahawks.
30. (-1) Oakland Raiders (3-11)
Week 15: L 30-16 @Bengals.
31. (-1) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)
Week 15: L 16-13 vs. Redskins.
32. (–) Arizona Cardinals (3-11)
Week 15: L 40-14 @Falcons.
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Photo Credit: Cover, Associated Press, Getty Images, NJ.com, USA Today Sports, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, United Press International