After a slow offensive start on Sunday, the Ravens pulled away from the Browns in Cleveland, effectively avenging their divisional loss in Week 4. In doing so, they secured the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, which gives them home-field advantage in the postseason. As for the Browns, they are now mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
The Steelers dropped a much-needed game against the Jets, flip-flopping quarterbacks in the process. Devin Hodges was benched for Mason Rudolph in the middle of the game and Rudolph provided more of an offensive spark. However, Rudolph suffered a multiple-week injury, which means the reigns will be handed back to “duck” next week.
Cincinnati also clinched something, that is the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. They fell behind early in Miami and despite a roaring comeback in the fourth quarter to force overtime, it ultimately wasn’t enough. They still have just won victory this season.
Ravens defeat Browns: 31-15
In a high-stakes divisional tilt, the Ravens uncharacteristically came out flat on the offense side of the ball, punting twice and turning the ball over twice on their first four drives. Fortunately, the defense held up their end of the bargain, although three crucial penalties on one drive allowed the Browns to score a touchdown. When the two-minute warning arrived in the second quarter, though, the Ravens flipped the switch.
In a span of 1:18, Lamar Jackson completed seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns, both caught by Mark Andrews (39 yards, 14 yards). They carried their momentum into the second half, scoring 17 points on their next three drives. After being gashed by Browns RB Nick Chubb in their first meeting this season, Baltimore’s defense did a nice job of shutting him down. Chubb rushed for just 45 yards on 15 carries and much of his damage was done on a few touches. Pro Bowl CB Marlon Humphrey sealed the victory with an interception late in the fourth quarter.
Mark Ingram suffered a calf strain and will not play in Week 17, although he is expected back for the playoffs. Several other starters are set to rest against the Steelers too, including Lamar Jackson, Earl Thomas, Brandon Williams and Marshal Yanda.
Defining stat: 16 rushing first downs
What’s next: vs. Steelers - Sunday, Dec. 29 (1:00 p.m. ET)
For the Browns, this loss eliminated them from playoff contention. Oddly enough, every scenario they needed to play out in Week 16 for their postseason hopes to remain alive actually happened - but them losing is the nail in the coffin. Cleveland seem primed for another potential upset victory over the Ravens early on, as they were hanging tough and getting stops on defense. Hope for a victory quickly faded, though, when the Ravens hung 14 points on them in the blink of an eye.
Outside of a few plays here and there, the Browns struggled to move the ball with consistency. Nick Chubb was held in check all day, which allowed the Ravens to dial up some blitz packages and get pressure on Baker Mayfield. Mayfield wound up completing 20/33 throws for 192 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He threw a couple balls that should have been picked off, though. Ravens LB L.J. Fort snagged a one-handed pick in the first quarter but it was negated by a penalty. Later in the game, Fort picked off Mayfield’s pass again but it was overturned after review.
Throughout the game, there were questionable coaching decisions, poor situational management and costly penalties, which frankly has been the theme of Cleveland’s season.
Defining stat: 3/12 on third down
What’s next: @ Cincinnati Bengals - Sunday, Dec. 29 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Dolphins defeat Bengals: 38-35
After trailing by 23 points in the second half, the Bengals offense exploded for 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. It looked the Dolphins were going to coast to a victory after outplaying Cincinnati for the majority of the game, but credit the away team for tying it up late and sending it overtime. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, they failed to execute in OT and Miami kicked a game-winning field goal. QB Andy Dalton threw for 396 passing yards and tossed four touchdown passes. While he compelted just 33/56 throws, he willed the Bengals in the final frame of play.
With this loss, the Bengals secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The early presumption is that with the selection, they’ll snag QB Joe Burrow out of LSU, who won the Heisman Trophy this year. Burrow has been mocked and projected to Cincinnati for weeks now and it’s all but a foregone conclusion that he’ll be wearing a Bengals jersey next season.
Defining stat: 2.4 YPC
What’s next: vs. Cleveland Browns - Sunday, Dec. 29 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Jets defeat Steelers: 16-10
With a chance to improve to 9-6 and secure a strong grip for the last wild card spot in the AFC, the Steelers fell flat in New York, scoring just 10 points against the Jets. As has been the case for many games this season, their defense showed up and played well enough for Pittsburgh to win, but the offense struggled mightily. Devlin Hodges threw 17 times for just 89 yards and after tossing two more interceptions, he was pulled from the lineup for Mason Rudolph, who instantly gave the Steelers more of an offensive jolt.
Rudolph threw for 125 yards and a touchdown but was placed on injured reserve on Monday, meaning Hodges will be back under center in Week 17. Injury struggles continued for RB James Conner, who suffered a quad injury on his sixth and final carry of the game. Conner has been in-and-out of the lineup all season with a multitude of injures.
Defining stat: 3.9 yards per play
What’s next: @ Baltimore Ravens - Sunday, Dec. 29 (1:00 p.m. ET)