Six down, eight to go.
Eight playoff berths remain up for grabs and 24 teams enter Week 17 still in contention for Super Bowl LVI. It’s the most teams remaining in contention with two weeks to play in 15 years, tying the 2006 season. Six teams have reached the postseason:
- The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS won their sixth consecutive AFC West title.
- The DALLAS COWBOYS locked down the NFC East for the first time since 2018.
- The GREEN BAY PACKERS clinched their third straight NFC North title.
- The TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS clinched the NFC South division title for the first time since 2007 and will look to become the first team since the 2003-04 Patriots (Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX) to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
- The ARIZONA CARDINALS secured their first playoff berth since 2015.
- The LOS ANGELES RAMS punched their playoff ticket for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
In the AFC, six of seven playoff berths remain underdetermined. In the NFC, six teams are fighting for the final two playoff invitations.
The race for the playoffs continues on Sunday.
DATELINE PAUL BROWN STADIUM: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-4), who own the league’s longest active winning streak (eight), are in the driver’s seat for the AFC’s only first-round bye. The CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-6) are looking to nail down their first playoff berth and AFC North division title since 2015. Those teams clash on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS).
- The Bengals are in first place after finishing last in the AFC North in 2020. In 16 of the past 18 seasons, at least one NFL team has finished in first place the season after finishing in last or tied for last.
- Last week, Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW passed for 525 yards – the fourth most in a game all-time – with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 143.2 rating.
The players with the most passing yards in a game in NFL history:
|Norm Van BrocklinHOF||Sept. 28, 1951||554|
|Warren MoonHOF||Dec. 16, 1990||527|
|Matt Schaub||Nov. 18, 2012||527|
|Joe Burrow||Dec. 26, 2021||525|
- Burrow now has three career games with at least 400 passing yards and three touchdown passes, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO as the only quarterbacks with three such games in their first two career seasons all-time. Plus, Burrow registered his 10th career game with at least 300 passing yards since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft; he is the fourth quarterback in NFL history to have 10-or-more games with at least 300 passing yards in his first two seasons, joining JUSTIN HERBERT (16 games with at least 300 passing yards), PATRICK MAHOMES (10) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (10).
- The 2021 Bengals are the first team in NFL history with a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers all under the age of 26. Burrow, 25, has 4,165 passing yards and running back JOE MIXON, 25, has 1,159 rushing yards, while wide receivers JA’MARR CHASE, 21, and TEE HIGGINS, 22, have 1,163 and 1,029 receiving yards, respectively.
- Chase and Higgins also make the 2021 Bengals the first team ever with two players under the age of 23 with at least 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.
- Bengals defensive end TREY HENDRICKSON, who has a career-high 14 sacks this season, became the second player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to register at least half of a sack in 11 consecutive games within a single season, joining CHRIS JONES (11 consecutive games from Oct. 7, 2018, to Dec. 23, 2018).
- Chiefs quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES has won at least 11 games as a starting quarterback for a fourth straight season.
- The Chiefs, who close the regular season with a pair of road games, have won a sixth consecutive AFC West title, one of the longest stretches of division championships since the inception of the AFC and NFC in 1970.
The teams with the most consecutive division titles since 1970:
|New England Patriots||2009-19||11|
|Los Angeles Rams||1973-79||7|
|Kansas City Chiefs||2016-21||6|
COWBOYS LATEST TO WEAR NFC EAST CROWN: While the Chiefs have dominated the AFC West, the NFC East has seen a new division champion in 17 consecutive years, the longest streak without a repeat division winner in NFL history. The DALLAS COWBOYS (11-4), who clinched the division last week, prepare to host the ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-5), who own the league’s best road record (7-1). The teams clash at AT&T Stadium on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).
- The Cowboys lead the NFL in scoring offense (30.5 points per game) and takeaways (33). Only five NFL teams have led the league in each category since 1970: Carolina in 2015, Green Bay in 2011, Washington in 1983, Buffalo in 1975 and Dallas in 1971.
- The Cowboys’ 56 points last week were their most since scoring 59 in a victory over San Francisco in 1980.
- On defense, Dallas linebacker MICAH PARSONS leads NFL rookies with 13 sacks while teammate TREVON DIGGS leads all NFL players with 11 interceptions.
- Dallas is the first team in NFL history to have a player with more than 10 interceptions and a player with more than 10 sacks in the same season.
- Diggs’ 11 interceptions are the most by any NFL player in a season since EVERSON WALLS also had 11 in 1981. Diggs enters Week 17 two shy of tying the single-season league record.
The players with the most interceptions in a single season in the Super Bowl era:
|Lester Hayes||Oakland Raiders||1980||13|
|Mike Reinfeldt||Houston Oilers||1979||12|
|Emmitt ThomasHOF||Kansas City||1974||12|
ALL-AROUND EXCELLENCE: In each season, the rich history of the NFL has been dotted by individuals performing at exceptional levels in assorted areas of play. But never before have so many players performed at those exceptional levels across all areas of play.
In the same season, this is the first time in NFL history in which an individual has reached each of these landmarks:
- 1,600 rushing yards – Indianapolis’ JONATHAN TAYLOR (1,626)
- 4,500 passing yards – Tampa Bay’s TOM BRADY (4,580)
- 1,600 receiving yards – The Los Angeles Rams’ COOPER KUPP (1,734)
- 16 sacks – Pittsburgh’s T.J. WATT (17.5) and Chicago’s ROBERT QUINN (17)
- 10 interceptions – Dallas’ TREVON DIGGS (11)
- 50-yard gross punting average – Las Vegas’ AJ COLE (50.3)
- 135 points – New England’s NICK FOLK (136) and the Los Angeles Rams’ MATT GAY (136)
Taylor leads the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (9-6) into a key intraconference battle against the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (8-7) on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
- Taylor (1,626) needs 84 rushing yards to surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer EDGERRIN JAMES (1,709 in 2000) for the franchise’s single-season rushing record.
- Taylor – who turns 23 on Jan. 19 – leads the league with 1,962 scrimmage yards and 19 scrimmage touchdowns and can become the first player under the age of 23 with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns in a single season all-time.
- Indianapolis has won nine of its last 12 games, after opening the season 0-3. One of the most significant factors in that rebound has been points off turnovers. The Colts have turned 31 takeaways into 115 points, the most such points in the NFL.
FINAL INTERCONFERENCE GAMES THIS WEEK: In each of the past eight seasons (2013-20), the best interconference record has changed hands between the AFC and NFC. Last season, the AFC finished with the better record in interconference play (35-28-1) while the NFC held the advantage in 2019 (33-31).
This week marks the final 2021 interconference games until Super Bowl LVI. Next week, the regular season will conclude on Saturday, Jan. 8, and Sunday, Jan. 9. For the 12th consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for the final week of the season are division contests, enhancing the potential for more games with playoff ramifications.
One of those interconference battles this week has the ATLANTA FALCONS (7-8) traveling to meet the BUFFALO BILLS (9-6) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX). Each team is 3-1 this season against the other conference.
- In last week’s win, Buffalo quarterback JOSH ALLEN passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns with a 104.4 rating and added 64 rushing yards. Allen, who has 101 touchdown passes and 29 rushing touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2018, is the first player with at least 100 touchdown passes and 20 rushing touchdowns in his first four seasons in NFL history.
- Allen also has five career games with at least 300 passing yards and 50 rushing yards, surpassing MICHAEL VICK (four games) and RUSSELL WILSON (four) for the second-most such games all-time. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer STEVE YOUNG (eight games) has more.
- Meanwhile last week, Atlanta rookie tight end KYLE PITTS registered six receptions for 102 yards in the Falcons’ win. Pitts has 949 receiving yards this season and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (1,076 receiving yards in 1961) as the only rookie tight ends in NFL history with at least 900 receiving yards.
- Pitts also has 64 receptions in 2021 and is the fourth rookie tight end all-time with at least 60 receptions, joining KEITH JACKSON (81 receptions in 1988), JEREMY SHOCKEY (74 in 2002) and EVAN ENGRAM (64 in 2017).
- Pitts, who recorded 119 receiving yards in Week 5 and 163 receiving yards in Week 7, is the third rookie tight end in league history with 100 receiving yards in at least three games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (five games in 1961) and CHARLE YOUNG (four games in 1973).
KUPP EYES ELUSIVE RECEIVING TRIPLE CROWN: When the LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-4) make the cross-country trek to face the BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-7) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP can progress toward one of the game’s more remarkable achievements.
- Kupp leads the NFL in receptions (132), receiving yards (1,734) and receiving touchdowns (14). Since the 1970 league merger, only three players have finished a season leading the NFL in all three categories: Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (1990), STERLING SHARPE (1992) and STEVE SMITH (2005).
- Kupp’s 132 receptions are fifth on the league’s all-time single-season list. Only MICHAEL THOMAS (149 in 2019), Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (143 in 2002), ANTONIO BROWN (136 in 2015) and JULIO JONES (136 in 2015) had more.
- What’s more, Kupp has at least 90 receiving yards in 14 games this season and has surpassed ANTONIO BROWN (13 games in 2014) and Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL IRVIN (13 in 1995) for the most such games in a season all-time.
- Meanwhile, Baltimore tight end MARK ANDREWS recorded eight receptions for 125 yards and one touchdown last week. Andrews, who had 115 receiving yards with one touchdown in Week 14 and 136 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Week 15, is the second tight end in NFL history to record at least 100 receiving yards and one touchdown reception in three consecutive games, joining JIMMY GRAHAM (Weeks 2-4, 2013).
BRADY IN THE BIG APPLE: Quarterback TOM BRADY is 17-4 in his career in combined starts at Giants Stadium and MetLife Stadium. He makes another trip to the New York area when the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (11-4) meet the NEW YORK JETS (4-11) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
- Brady and Jets rookie quarterback ZACH WILSON were each born on Aug. 3, although their birthdays are 22 years apart.
- Brady leads the league with 4,580 passing yards and 37 touchdown passes. With three touchdown passes, he would join AARON RODGERS as the only players with three career seasons of 40-or-more touchdown passes in league annals and join DREW BREES (2011-12) as the only players with at least 40 touchdown passes in consecutive seasons all-time.
- In last week’s win, Wilson registered a 52-yard rushing touchdown and became the fourth rookie quarterback since 1950 to record a rushing touchdown of at least 50 yards, joining MARCUS MARIOTA (87-yard run on Dec. 6, 2015), ROBERT GRIFFIN III (76-yard run on Oct. 14, 2012) and Pro Football Hall of Famer FRAN TARKENTON (52-yard run on Nov. 5, 1961).
- Also last week, Tampa Bay wide receiver ANTONIO BROWN registered 10 receptions for 101 yards. Brown has 23 career games with at least 10 receptions, surpassing ANDRE JOHNSON (22 games) for the most games with at least 10 receptions in NFL history.
MIAMI REBOUND IS UNPRECEDENTED: Hope springs eternal in the NFL. The latest example is the MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-7), who last week became the first team in league history to win seven straight games and lose seven straight games in the same season.
- This week, in a potential preview of an AFC Wild Card game, the Dolphins visit the TENNESSEE TITANS (10-5) on Sunday at Nissan Stadium (1:00 PM ET, CBS).
- Since BRIAN FLORES became Dolphins head coach in 2019, Miami is 19-7 (.731) in games played in November, December and January. Only two other teams since the beginning of 2019 have better regular-season winning percentages during those months: Kansas City (23-2, .920) and Green Bay (19-6, .760).
- Dolphins quarterback TUA TAGOVAILOA leads qualifying players in completion percentage (70.1) this season.
- In last week’s win, Titans wide receiver A.J. BROWN had 145 receiving yards and one touchdown on a career-high 11 receptions.
ROOKIES CATCHING HISTORY: Detroit rookie wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN, whose DETROIT LIONS (2-12-1) travel to face the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (5-10) on Sunday at Lumen Field (4:25 PM ET, FOX), had nine receptions for 91 yards and one touchdown last week. Miami rookie wide receiver JAYLEN WADDLE recorded 10 receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown in the Dolphins’ Week 16 victory.
- Waddle has 96 receptions this season, second-most by a rookie in NFL history. Waddle needs six catches on Sunday to break the NFL’s single-season rookie record, established by ANQUAN BOLDIN (101) in 2003.
- St. Brown and Waddle are the third and fourth rookies all-time with at least eight receptions and a touchdown catch in three-or-more games, joining ODELL BECKHAM JR. (five games in 2014) and ANQUAN BOLDIN (four games in 2003).
- Waddle and St. Brown also each have at least eight receptions in four consecutive games, joining ODELL BECKHAM JR. (four consecutive games in 2014) as the only rookies with at least eight receptions in four consecutive games all-time.
NEMESIS OF THE NFC NORTH: The GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-3) host the MINNESOTA VIKINGS (7-8) on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC). Over their last 25 regular-season games, the Packers are 0-2 against the Vikings and 20-3 against the rest of the NFL.
- Green Bay enters with a streak of 31 wins when leading in turnover ratio. The next-closest active streak belongs to Tampa Bay, which brings a 19-game stretch into Week 17.
- Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS threw three touchdown passes in last week’s win to break a tie with Pro Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE (442) for the most in Packers history. Rodgers now has 445 career touchdown passes, the fifth-most in NFL history. Favre, who finished his career with 508, ranks fourth on the NFL’s all-time list.
- Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS had 10 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win. Adams now has nine career games with at least 10 receptions and two-or-more receiving touchdowns, the most by an NFL player all-time.
- Adams has a touchdown reception in 11 consecutive Sunday Night Football games, the longest such streak ever.
- Last week, Minnesota wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON had eight receptions for 116 yards. Jefferson has 2,851 receiving yards since entering the NFL in 2020 and surpassed ODELL BECKHAM JR. (2,755) for the most receiving yards by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history.
ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS SQUARE OFF IN NEW ENGLAND, BAY AREA: Rookie quarterback TREY LANCE could make his second career start when the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (8-7) host fellow rookie DAVIS MILLS and the HOUSTON TEXANS (4-11) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, CBS). It’s one of two games on the Week 17 docket expected to feature rookie starting quarterbacks on opposite sidelines.
- The Texans, who entered last week with a record of 3-11, earned a win over the Chargers (8-6 entering Week 16). It marked the 12th game won by a team over an opponent with at least four more victories this season, tied for the fifth-most through Week 16 in league annals.
- Mills completed 21 of 27 attempts (77.8 percent) for 254 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 130.6 rating in the victory. Mills, who passed for 312 yards with three touchdowns and a 141.7 rating in Week 5, is the third rookie quarterback all-time with at least 250 passing yards, two touchdown passes and a rating of 130-or-higher in multiple games, joining ROBERT GRIFFIN III (2012) and JUSTIN HERBERT (2020).
Earlier on Sunday, the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-13) meet the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-6) at Gillette Stadium (1:00 PM ET, CBS), in a faceoff of first-round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft. Jacksonville’s TREVOR LAWRENCE led his Clemson team to the College Football Playoff National Championship to finish the 2018 season, while New England’s MAC JONES guided Alabama to the title last season.
THICK SIXES: In Week 16, NFL teams designed plays that produced three touchdowns by offensive tackles: Philadelphia’s LANE JOHNSON caught a 5-yard pass from JALEN HURTS, the Jets’ CONOR MCDERMOTT scored on a 1-yard pass from ZACH WILSON and the Cowboys’ TERENCE STEELE hauled in a 1-yard reception from DAK PRESCOTT. Since the 1970 league merger, the most offensive linemen to score touchdowns on designed plays in one week had been two. Johnson, Hurts and the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-7) go on the road to face the WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (6-9) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).