Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have led the tributes to Philip Rivers after the Indianapolis Colts quarterback announced his NFL retirement.

Rivers, 39, spent the first 16 years of his career with the Chargers, initially in San Diego and later in Los Angeles, before joining the Colts for the 2020 season.

He led the Colts back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record and the team narrowly lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wildcard Round in what proved to be his final game.

Rivers finishes his 17-year career ranked fifth all-time for both passing yards (63,440) and touchdown passes (421).

While Manning and Roethlisberger – the two other prominent quarterbacks drafted in 2004 – won two Super Bowls apiece, Rivers never made it to the big game.

But they insist it does not detract from his magnificent accomplishments.

Former New York Giants QB Manning wrote on Twitter: "Congrats to Philip on an outstanding career. 

"It was fun to watch my fellow Qb from 2004 draft class compete these past 17 years. Enjoy the next phase."

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Roethlisberger, whose own future is uncertain, added: "Philip, what a career! 

"An amazing competitor, winner and family man. It has been fun to compete against you and watch you do your thing for so many years. 

"I know countless kids have been inspired by you and will benefit from your coaching and football knowledge in the future. God bless!"

Colts head coach Frank Reich had previously said he believed Rivers had more left in the tank.

"Philip is one of the fiercest competitors and most loyal teammates that our game has ever seen," he said after Rivers' announcement. 

"His unwavering conviction as a leader and elite intelligence contributed to his Hall of Fame football career. 

"Philip made our game better and the National Football League was fortunate to have him.

"I wish Philip, Tiffany and the entire Rivers family the best and thank them for their contributions to our organization and community. 

"I am anxious to see Philip trade his helmet for the headset and do what he's always done best – bring his passion to the game of football and make others better."

Two of Rivers' prominent former Chargers pass catchers, Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry, were also quick to send him their gratitude on social media.

Allen wrote: "Husband, Father, Friend, Role Model, Professional, Warrior, Leader!

"Glad that I was blessed to be apart of your career. Showed up everyday like it was your last and never took any moment for granted!"

While Henry added: "Congrats stud. Insane career. 

"Thankful for everything you have done for me in my career. You were a true inspiration. Enjoy retirement stud!"

Houston Texans icon JJ Watt called Rivers "one of the smartest I’ve ever played against and a hell of a competitor".

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, said Rivers' career was worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame, labelling him "an example to follow as a QB, a team leader, a Dad, and a man of faith".

Veteran Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers has announced his retirement after 17 seasons in the NFL.

Rivers spent the first 16 years with the Chargers, initially in San Diego and later in Los Angeles, before joining the Colts for the 2021 season.

During his solitary campaign in Indianapolis, Rivers led the team back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record, throwing for 4,169 yards and 24 touchdown passes.

He finishes his career ranked fifth overall for completed yards at 63,440 and touchdown passes with 421.

The 39-year-old played in 244 NFL games in total including 240 straight starts, which remains the second-longest streak for a quarterback behind the legendary Brett Favre (297).

Announcing his decision to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Rivers said: "It's just time. It's just right.

"It [his career] was awesome. A young kid from northern Alabama who grew up wanting to play pro ball. I got to do it.

"This is the first year I felt like the ending was real. We talked about it other years, but we knew we weren't doing it. This year felt different. It just seemed right."

Rivers is now set to embark on a new chapter in his life in Alabama, where he is to become the head football coach at St. Michael High in Fairhope.

"I can sit here and say, 'I can still throw it. I love to play.' But that's always going to be there. I'm excited to go coach high school football," he added.

"What has helped me come to this [decision] is the growing desire to coach high school football. That's what I've always wanted to do. It's been growing. I can't wait."

Veteran Indianapolis Colts tackle Anthony Castonzo has announced his retirement from the NFL.

Castonzo has called it a career after 10 years with the Colts, having been selected in the first round of the 2011 draft.

He started all of his 144 regular-season games and eight postseason appearances.

"As a kid, it was my dream to play in the NFL. I played my first full season of tackle football in second grade. Now I have played my last," Castonzo said in a statement.

"As I sit here now, after a 10-year NFL career, I am extremely proud of all the hard work and sacrifice that allowed me to evolve that dream into a goal, and ultimately into a reality unlike anything I could have even imagined.

"I was fortunate to have been drafted by the Colts 10 years ago. I was even more fortunate to spend my entire career here in Indianapolis.

"The Indianapolis Colts is a special organisation with special ownership who fill the organisation with special people at every level. I truly believe this is the best organisation in all of sports. I am lucky to have been able to call myself a Colt for the past 10 years and will consider myself a Colt for the rest of my life.

"I have given much to the game of football, but it has given me so much more. I close the book on the football chapter of my life gifted with memories and moments I wouldn't trade for anything. So thank you, last but far from least, to football."

Castonzo's retirement at the age of 32 gives the Colts another need to address in the offseason, with finding his successor at left tackle likely now a priority for general manager Chris Ballard.

It is not clear whether quarterback Philip Rivers, who led the Colts to the playoffs in his first season with the team, only to be beaten in Saturday's Wild Card clash with the Buffalo Bills, will play on for another year or join Castonzo in retirement.

The Buffalo Bills survived a fourth-quarter comeback attempt to claim their first playoff win in 25 years as they saw off the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 in a dramatic Wild Card clash.

Indianapolis, the seventh seed in the AFC playoffs, controlled proceedings in the first half but paid for a failure to take opportunities and the Bills led 14-10 at half-time thanks to a classic piece of improvisation from Josh Allen on a three-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Knox and a five-yard run from the Bills quarterback, Jonathan Taylor having found the endzone for the Colts on a one-yard plunge.

It was another game in which Allen demonstrated unerring accuracy both from the pocket and on the move, and he was on the money early in the fourth quarter on a 35-yard strike to Stefon Diggs that gave them a 24-10 lead.

The Colts produced an excellent response as veteran quarterback Philip Rivers capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a nine-yard scoring connection with Zach Pascal, a subsequent two-point conversion attempt coming up short.

Tyler Bass' 54-yard field goal, his second three-pointer of the day, turned an eight-point lead into an 11-point advantage, though that was soon trimmed to three.

The Bills made the mistake of leaving tight end Jack Doyle wide open for a 27-yard touchdown catch from Rivers, who went back to the same player for a successful two-point conversion.

Indianapolis, with help from a nearly calamitous fumble from Allen, got the ball back for a final drive and were given a reprieve on a 17-yard fourth-down throw from Rivers to Pascal, the officials inexplicably ruling the latter had been down by contact before losing the ball, with that call upheld on review.

But it mattered not as Rivers could not guide the Colts into position for a game-tying field goal and a Hail Mary throw in the waning seconds was batted down as the Bills clinched a first playoff win since their Wild Card triumph over the Miami Dolphins in the 1995 season.

Turning point - Rivers misses Pittman

The Colts looked set to take command of the contest in the second quarter when they drove down to the Bills' four-yard line with a 10-7 lead.

However, they failed on four attempts to find the endzone from there, a backfoot throw from Rivers going beyond the grasp of rookie Michael Pittman Jr, who otherwise impressed with 90 yards on five catches.

Buffalo subsequently went 96 yards on 10 plays on a drive capped by Allen's touchdown run. Though there were plenty of twists and turns thereafter, the Bills never surrendered the lead from that point.

Allen enters Bills record books

The Bills ended the third-longest active run without a playoff win by defeating the Colts, having gone 24 seasons without success in the postseason. Only the Detroit Lions (29 seasons) and Cincinnati Bengals (30 seasons) have longer streaks.

Buffalo's victory makes Allen, who threw for 324 yards, the first Bills quarterback to win a playoff game since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. His first of two touchdown throws made him the first Bills quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in a postseason matchup since Doug Flutie in the 1998 Wild Card round - a gap of 8,043 days.

What's next?

The Bills can look forward to a Divisional Round matchup with either the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans or Baltimore Ravens.

It is an important offseason for the Colts, with the biggest decision surrounding whether they bring Rivers back for another year or turn to a new face at quarterback.

Despite getting under way in the middle of a pandemic, the NFL was able to complete its full regular season schedule. 

The drama is set to step up a gear as the postseason arrives this weekend, with only the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers securing a first-round bye. 

Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski will be absent when the Browns make their first playoff appearance since 2002 having tested positive for COVID-19. The Pittsburgh Steelers are their opponents. 

The Los Angeles Rams have concerns over the fitness of Jared Goff – one of the many injury worries affecting those teams still left standing – ahead of their encounter with the Seattle Seahawks, while the Buffalo Bills will be aiming for a first postseason win since 1995 when they go up against the Indianapolis Colts.

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills – Saturday, 1.05pm (all times Eastern)

- The Colts claimed the third AFC Wild Card spot with an 11-5 record, the most wins for the franchise since 2014. Indianapolis have held opponents under 100 rush yards in each of their past five games – including playoffs, they have not done so in six straight since a seven-game run from October 27 to December 7, 1968. 

- The Bills claimed their first division title since 1995 and won 13 games this season, their best record since 1991. However, Buffalo are still seeking their first playoff win since the 1995 Wild Card round – their 24-season drought is the third-longest active streak in the NFL, behind the Cincinnati Bengals (30 seasons, including 2020) and Detroit Lions (29 seasons, including 2020).

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks – Saturday, 4.40pm

- Making his NFL debut against the Arizona Cardinals last week, backup quarterback John Wolford finished with 231 passing yards and 56 rushing yards, both game-highs. The 56 rushing yards were the most by a Rams QB since Roman Gabriel had 57 in Week 6, 1967.

- In the first eight games of the season, Russell Wilson averaged 317.6 passing yards and threw 28 touchdown passes, but in the last eight games, those numbers were just 208.9 and 12. However, Seattle went 6-2 in both sections of the season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team – Saturday, 8.15pm

- After starting the year 2-7, Washington finished on a 5-2 run to clinch their first division title since 2015. Washington's last playoff win came in the 2005 Wild Card Round against Tampa Bay - they are 0-4 since then. This season, they reached 30 points just once. 

- The Bucs have attempted 22 pass plays of at least 40 air yards this season, three more than any other team in the league, and its eight completions also lead the league. Washington have attempted just two such passes, tied with the New Orleans Saints for the fewest, and is one of two teams (also Cincinnati) without a completion.

SUNDAY'S GAMES

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans – Sunday, 1.05pm

- The Titans have won three of the past four meetings with the Ravens, including a 30-24 overtime victory in Week 11 this season and a 28-12 win in last season's Divisional playoff. This will mark the fifth postseason meeting between the teams – they have split the previous four 2-2 with the visiting team winning each game.

- Tennessee won the AFC South for the first time since 2008, when they fell to the Ravens 13-10 in the Divisional playoff. The Titans scored at least 40 points five times this season, including in Week 17 against the Houston Texans, the most in the NFL this season and one shy of the all-time record (last set by the 2018 Saints).

Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints – Sunday, 4.40pm

- In his past six games, David Montgomery has averaged 99.7 rushing yards per game, and has seven rushing touchdowns. In his first nine games, he averaged just 52.4 yards per game and had one touchdown. His highest yardage total in that span came against New Orleans in Week 8 (89 yards).

- The Saints have lost each of their past two playoff games in overtime (against the Minnesota Vikings last season, and the Rams in 2018). No team has ever played three straight overtime playoff games – the Saints beat the Bears in overtime in Chicago in Week 8 this season.

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers – Sunday, 8.15pm

- The Browns and Steelers will meet in consecutive weeks after Cleveland pulled out a 24-22 victory at home in Week 17. This will be the teams' third meeting in the postseason and the third straight postseason game the Browns will face the Steelers – Pittsburgh won both of the previous two, most recently a 36-33 win in the 2002 Wild Card game.

- Ben Roethlisberger is expected to make his 22nd career postseason start, which would break a tie with John Elway for fifth most all-time. His 30 postseason passing touchdowns are tied for ninth most in NFL history, while his 24 career playoff interceptions are tied with Dan Marino for sixth most all-time.

The Green Bay Packers secured the NFC's top seed on Sunday, while Derrick Henry led the Tennessee Titans to the AFC South title.

Aaron Rodgers again powered the Packers, throwing four touchdown passes in a win over the Chicago Bears.

Despite their loss, the Bears clinched a playoff spot, as did the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams.

Meanwhile, Henry made history as the Titans won the AFC South, while the Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East.

 

RODGERS DOMINATES AGAIN AS PACKERS CLINCH TOP SEED

Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards and four TDs in the Packers' 35-16 victory over the Bears.

The Packers quarterback connected for TDs with Robert Tonyan, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Dominique Dafney and Davante Adams.

Rodgers finished the regular season with 48 TD passes. Alongside Peyton Manning, they are the only players in NFL history with 45-plus TD passes in multiple seasons, according to NFL Research. They won the NFL MVP in each of the previous three instances.

While Green Bay finished with a 13-3 record, the 8-8 Bears also reached the playoffs.

 

HISTORY FOR HENRY AS TITANS WIN AFC SOUTH

The Titans claimed the AFC South for the first time since 2008 after a thrilling 41-38 win over the Houston Texans.

Henry became the eighth player in history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season.

He had 250 rushing yards and two TDs against the Texans. Of the eight players to achieve the feat, Henry was the only one who needed 200-plus yards in his last game to get there, according to Stats Perform.

A.J. Brown had 151 receiving yards, but the Titans needed Sam Sloman's 37-yard field goal as time expired to edge the Texans.

The Titans became the first team in NFL history to have a 250-yard rusher and 150-yard receiver in the same game.

 

WASHINGTON WIN NFC EAST AS COLTS, RAMS REACH PLAYOFFS

The Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East thanks to a 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions as Washington (7-9) claimed the division.

The Colts (11-5) reached the playoffs thanks to a 28-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Los Angeles Rams (10-6) are also into the postseason after beating the Arizona Cardinals 18-7.

 

Week 17 scores:

Minnesota Vikings 37-35 Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44-27 Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots 28-14 New York Jets
Buffalo Bills 56-26 Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns 24-22 Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Giants 23-19 Dallas Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Indianapolis Colts 28-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans 41-38 Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams 18-7 Arizona Cardinals
New Orleans Saints 33-7 Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers 35-16 Chicago Bears
Los Angeles Chargers 38-21 Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks 26-23 San Francisco 49ers
Las Vegas Raiders 32-31 Denver Broncos
Washington Football Team 20-14 Philadelphia Eagles

The Green Bay Packers will hope to seal the top seed in the NFC when they face rivals the Chicago Bears, but the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks will be ready to pounce on any slip-up.

A tie on Sunday would be enough for the Packers to secure a first-round bye in the postseason, though they would also receive it regardless of their own result if the Seahawks fail to beat the San Francisco 49ers.

If the Seahawks are to head straight into the Divisional Round, they need to beat the 49ers and hope the Packers lose and the Saints fail to win against the Carolina Panthers.

New Orleans, meanwhile, need a victory over the Panthers to coincide with the Packers losing to the Bears and Seattle beating San Francisco.

Division titles are up for grabs in the AFC South and NFC East, with the Tennessee Titans and Washington Football Team looking to hold on and top their sections, while the Cleveland Browns will be aiming to reach the postseason for the first time since 2002 when they face a Pittsburgh Steelers side without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

 

FEATURED GAME

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears – Sunday, 4.25pm

- This will be the third Week 17 meeting since 2010 for the long-time rivals, and the previous two were critical games. In the 2010 campaign, the Packers needed to beat the Bears at Lambeau Field to make the postseason; they won 10-3 and went on to win Super Bowl XLV. The teams met in Week 17 three years later in Chicago; the Packers' 33-28 success earned them the NFC North crown and eliminated the Bears. 

- A win over Chicago would secure the NFC's top seed for Green Bay – as well as a second consecutive 13-3 season. The Packers have posted back-to-back seasons of 13 or more wins only once, in 1996 and 1997 with Brett Favre at quarterback. In the Super Bowl era, only one team has had consecutive seasons with at least 13 victories and no Super Bowl appearance: the Saints of 2018 and 2019.

- Aaron Rodgers has 51 touchdown passes against the Bears in his regular-season career, second only to Favre's 60. Including the 2010 NFC Championship Game, Rodgers is 20-5 versus Chicago for an .800 winning percentage, the fourth highest by any QB versus a single opponent since 1950 (minimum 25 starts; postseason included).

OTHER KEY GAMES

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers – Sunday, 4.25pm

- Alvin Kamara rushed for six touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Day, tying the NFL record set by Ernie Nevers in 1929. Kamara's 58 scrimmage TDs rank as the third most by a player through his first four seasons all-time (Terrell Davis – 61, LaDainian Tomlinson – 60).

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers – Sunday, 4.25pm

- After hurting the Arizona Cardinals' postseason chances with a 20-12 win at State Farm Stadium on Saturday, the 49ers will hope to play spoiler for a second straight week. A win over Seattle on Sunday would give San Francisco a 4-2 record within the NFC West, which would be a division-best – even as they finish in last place.

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans – Sunday, 4.25pm

Tennessee will clinch its first AFC South title since 2008 with a win, or an Indianapolis Colts loss versus the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. A win over Houston would also tie the Titans franchise record for road wins in a season (currently 5-2: 6-2 in 1996, 2000, 2008).

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts – Sunday, 4.25pm

Indianapolis and Jacksonville both have eight players with over 250 receiving yards this season, the only two teams in the NFL with as many. The Jaguars had never had eight players with 250 receiving yards in the same season before, while the Colts had it happen once before (2016, eight players). If they are to snatch the AFC South division title, Indianapolis need to win and hope Tennessee fail to match them, or tie and see the Titans lose.

Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles - Sunday, 8.20pm

Washington have lost six of their past seven games against the Eagles, including three straight on the road. Their lone success came in Week 1 this year after they scored the final 27 points of the game and won 27-17. A tie would be enough for Washington to clinch the NFC East division title, as long as the Dallas Cowboys fail to beat the New York Giants.

ELSEWHERE…

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants – Sunday, 1.00pm

Daniel Jones has not thrown an interception in 162 consecutive pass attempts, the longest active streak in the NFL and the third-longest streak by a Giant in the past 30 seasons (Eli Manning – 176 in 2014, Phil Simms – 173 in 1993). To reach the playoffs, Dallas needs a win and for Washington not to match them, or a tie and a Washington loss. New York need a win and a Washington loss.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns – Sunday, 1.00pm

Nick Chubb is averaging 5.45 yards per carry this season and has run for 11 touchdowns. He is set to will become the second player in NFL history with 5.0+ yards per carry and 8+ rush TDs in three straight seasons, joining another Browns player in Leroy Kelly (1966-68). With a win or a Colts loss on Sunday, the Browns would snap their 17-season playoff drought, which is tied for the longest in the NFL since the merger (1970-86 Saints, 2000-16 Buffalo Bills).

The Seattle Seahawks claimed their first NFC West championship since 2016 after topping the Los Angeles Rams.

Seattle sealed a four-year first in the NFL thanks to Sunday's 20-9 victory at Lumen Field, where the Seahawks kept alive their hopes of finishing with one of the NFC's top two seeds.

Aaron Rodgers flexed his muscles and team-mate Davante Adams starred in the Green Bay Packers' rout of the Tennessee Titans.

There were also wins for the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers.

 

SEAHAWKS IN NFC WEST-CLINCHING WIN

For the fifth time under head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks got their hands on the NFC West crown.

The Seahawks (11-4) used a resurgent defense to see off the Rams (9-6), holding Los Angeles to just six points in the second half, while sacking quarterback Jared Goff – who reportedly suffered a broken thumb – three times.

"There were times during the season where everybody had enough statistics to go ahead and blow us out, and like we weren't worth anything on defense," Carroll said.

"But this defense is good, and they've shown it and they've declared it. This is the kind of defense that we've played in years past when we really had good teams down ... the stretch."

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was 20-of-32 passing for 225 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, while he also rushed for a TD on three carries.

 

RODGERS' PACKERS DOMINATE

Huge performances from MVP hopeful Rodgers and wide receiver Adams fuelled Green Bay's 40-14 demolition of the Titans at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers showcased his MVP credentials by going 21 of 25 for 231 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for a 128.1 passer rating.

The Packers quarterback had his 13th game with a 100-plus passer rating this season, tying himself in 2011 and Patrick Mahomes in 2018 for the most such games in a single season in league history, per NFL Research. Both Rodgers (2011) and Mahomes (2018) finished as that season's NFL MVP.

Adams caught 11 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the third player in NFL history to have 100-plus receptions and 16-plus receiving TDs in a season.

He also recorded his ninth successive Sunday Night Football appearance with a touchdown – breaking a tie with Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski for the longest such streak in NFL history.

The Packers improved to 12-3 but still need to beat the Chicago Bears in their final regular-season game to clinch the NFC's number one seed.

Titans QB Ryan Tannehill completed just 11 of 24 passes for 121 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, while Tennessee star Derrick Henry was restricted to 23 carries, 98 yards and no TDs.

 

COWBOYS STAY ALIVE

The Cowboys remain in the hunt in a wide-open NFC East after defeating rivals the Philadelphia Eagles 37-17.

Coupled with the Washington Football Team's (6-9) 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys (6-9) still have a chance to win the division.

The Cowboys need to beat the New York Giants in Week 17, while the Eagles must take down Washington in order for Dallas to top the NFC East.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert set a new single-season rookie record for touchdown passes in the 19-16 victory against the Denver Broncos.

Herbert broke the record when he threw his 28th TD of the season in the second quarter, while he joined Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes as the only players to record 4,000 passing yards through their first 14 starts.

 

Week 16 scores:

New York Jets 23-16 Cleveland Browns
Baltimore Ravens 27-13 New York Giants
Cincinnati Bengals 37-31 Houston Texans
Chicago Bears 41-17 Jacksonville Jaguars
Kansas City Chiefs 17-14 Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers 28-24 Indianapolis Colts
Seattle Seahawks 20-9 Los Angeles Rams
Dallas Cowboys 37-17 Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers 40-14 Tennessee Titans
Carolina Panthers 20-13 Washington Football Team
Los Angeles Chargers 19-16 Denver Broncos

The Kansas City Chiefs are certain to be top seeds in the AFC as the Pittsburgh Steelers produced an impressive comeback in Week 16 of the NFL season.

Despite stuttering of late, Pittsburgh will now win the AFC North after a come-from-behind victory during Sunday's six-game early schedule.

Wins for the Baltimore Ravens and the Chicago Bears leave both franchises at the front of the queue to reach the postseason, and while the Cleveland Browns remain in the hunt, too, they blew a big opportunity as they went down to the New York Jets.

The Jacksonville Jaguars' playoff hopes had long since ended, but the franchise can now plan for their long-term future after a 14th straight loss means they will have the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

There was a record-breaking outing for Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, while the evergreen Frank Gore reached a major milestone.

 

RECORD-BREAKING KELCE STARS FOR CHIEFS

So now it is official: Kansas City are number one in the AFC, the defending champions securing a bye with a 14th victory in the regular season.

It was far from straightforward, however, as they scrapped to a 17-14 triumph over the Atlanta Falcons, who saw Younghoe Koo miss a late field-goal attempt that would have forced overtime. 

Atlanta had led 14-10 until the Chiefs claimed the lead just prior to the two-minute warning, Patrick Mahomes hitting Demarcus Robinson for a 25-yard touchdown. The score was enough to make sure of Kansas City's 10th comeback win of the campaign.

Kelce also caught a touchdown pass as he made NFL history, surpassing George Kittle's single-season receiving yardage record for a tight end. It was his 11th TD reception on the year, matching the franchise record for the position, set by Tony Gonzalez back in 1999. 

BIG BEN CHIMES IN DURING COMEBACK

It seemed the Steelers were in danger of a fourth successive loss when they trailed the Colts 24-7 in the third quarter, only to sensationally respond with 21 unanswered points. 

An offense that had failed to reach 20 points in their four previous outings suddenly came to life, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster to complete a remarkable comeback. 

As for the Browns, they are still yet to officially end their long playoff drought after a shock loss on the road.  

Running back Gore became just the third player to reach 16,000 rushing yards in NFL history - a feat only previously achieved by Emmitt Smith (18,355) and Walter Payton (16,726) -  as the Jets held firm in a dramatic finish, a Baker Mayfield fumble on a fourth-down scramble ending a potential game-tying drive for Cleveland. 

RAVENS SOAR, BEARS ROAR

The Ravens appear to be rolling into the postseason after stretching their winning streak to four games - another against Cincinnati next week and they will seal a wildcard berth. 

Lamar Jackson threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-13 victory against the fading New York Giants. The NFL's reigning MVP also ran for 80 yards, helping Baltimore reach 100 yards rushing on the ground for the 38th consecutive game. 

The Bears are also now in control of their own destiny. After the Arizona Cardinals lost on Saturday, Chicago thrashed the Jaguars 41-17 to improve to 8-7.

All they need do to make the playoffs is defeat divisional rivals Green Bay in Week 17. Jacksonville, meanwhile, can start planning for that first-round choice next April.


Week 16 scores

New York Jets 23-16 Cleveland Browns
Baltimore Ravens 27-13 New York Giants
Cincinnati Bengals 37-31 Houston Texans
Chicago Bears 41-17 Jacksonville Jaguars
Kansas City Chiefs 17-14 Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers 28-24 Indianapolis Colts

Philip Rivers will be without both his starting offensive tackles against the Pittsburgh Steelers after the Indianapolis Colts confirmed Anthony Castonzo will miss the Week 16 game.

Castonzo was ruled out on Saturday due to a "knee/ankle" injury, joining Braden Smith on the sidelines. Smith was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday.

The news will be a blow for veteran quarterback Rivers as he prepares to face a Steelers defense that leads the NFL in sacks this year with 47.

Rivers has played three games without one of Castonzo or Smith this season and was sacked five times across those fixtures. In his 11 outings with the duo he has been sacked nine times.

Among quarterbacks to have started more than six games this season, only Ben Roethlisberger (12) and Drew Brees (11) have been sacked fewer times than Rivers (14), but he may now feel more exposed.

The Steelers have already clinched a playoff spot but will be looking to end a three-game losing streak at Heinz Field, where victory would see them secure the AFC North division title.

However, Indianapolis will be hoping to pile more misery on the Steelers and could book their place in the postseason with a win.

With the NFL playoffs getting closer, Week 16 sees a host of matches with implications for the division titles, postseason seedings and Wild Card spots.

After a stunning loss to the previously winless New York Jets, the Los Angeles Rams (9-5) are a game behind the Seattle Seahawks (10-4), who they visit this week, atop the NFC West.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3) are in freefall after losing three straight games and are yet to wrap up the AFC North title ahead of what will not be an easy home meeting with the Indianapolis Colts (10-4).

AFC South glory is still up for grabs for the Colts, with the Tennessee Titans (10-4) – who themselves are in an exciting game against the Green Bay Packers (11-3) – battling them for first place.

We have used Stats Perform data to preview the key contests, including a Christmas Day meeting between the New Orleans Saints (10-4) and Minnesota Vikings (6-8).

 

FEATURED GAME

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks, Sunday 4.25pm (all times Eastern)

- If Seattle win they will clinch the NFC West, but the Rams have won five of the last six meetings. The Seahawks' solitary loss in that span, a 30-29 defeat in Week 5 last season, only came when Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field goal with 11 seconds left. The Rams have not lost consecutive games in Seattle since 2013 and 2014.

- The Seahawks' defense is trending in the right direction. They beat Washington 20-15 in Landover last week, their fourth straight game holding an opponent under 20 points - something they had not done once in any of their first 10 games. It is their longest such streak since a five-game run that spanned the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

- The Rams fell to the Jets 23-20 at home on Sunday, becoming the first team with at least nine wins to lose at home to a winless team. They were just 2-for-11 on third downs, their fewest conversions this season.

- Three Seahawks (Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde and Russell Wilson) ran for at least 50 yards against Washington, just the sixth time that has happened in franchise history and the first occasion since a dramatic 36-31 loss to the Rams in 2018. 

OTHER KEY GAMES

Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers, Sunday 9.20pm

- MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers is looking to lead his team to the number one seed in the NFC. He threw for just 143 yards - his lowest ever in a winning start - and one touchdown against the Carolina Panthers but added one score on the ground, his second straight game with a rushing score (first time since 2016). The veteran has the chance to run for a TD in three consecutive games, something he has never done before.

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday 1.00pm

- With their season in danger of falling apart, the Steelers will take comfort in their record against the Colts. With a 24-6 record including postseason games, this is one of the most one-sided rivalries in the NFL. Among current franchises, only the Denver Broncos, with an identical 24-6 record versus the Cleveland Browns, have been as dominant against a single opponent (minimum 25 meetings).

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots, Monday 8.15pm

- A win for Buffalo - who narrowly beat New England in Week 8 - would mark the team's first time sweeping the Patriots since 1999. New England's 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins last week officially snapped their 19-season streak of finishing above .500, falling one shy of the NFL-record 20-season streak set by the Dallas Cowboys from 1966 to 1985.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, Sunday 4.25pm

- Despite the struggles of both teams, this NFC East matchup still has high stakes with the division outcome not yet decided. Eagles rookie Jalen Hurts has 169 rush yards in his first two career starts - the third most by a quarterback over the past 60 years, topped only by Jack Concannon's 228 yards (1964-1966) and Lamar Jackson's 190 yards (2018).

ELSEWHERE...

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, Friday 4.30pm

- The Saints will be favourites to triumph on Christmas Day and have won four of the last five regular-season meetings between these teams, only to falter against the Vikings when it matters most. Minnesota have won two postseason games against the Saints in that span - the 2018 Divisional round, and their most recent meeting, a 26-20 overtime win in last season's Wild Card round.

Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday 1.00pm

- With eight catches against the Saints last time out, tight end Travis Kelce has now reached that mark in seven consecutive games, putting him in elite company. He has become just the fourth player to do so in the last 60 years. He has joined Michael Thomas (eight games, 2019), Antonio Brown (eight games, 2014), and Anquan Boldin (seven games, 2005).

The Kansas City Chiefs extended their winning streak in the NFL, while Kyler Murray inspired the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs improved to 13-1 thanks to a hard-fought win over the New Orleans Saints, who welcomed back Drew Brees.

Meanwhile, Murray and Jalen Hurts put on a show as the Cardinals overcame the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Cleveland Browns took another step towards a playoff spot and the New York Jets' wait for a first win came to an end.

 

CHIEFS TOO GOOD FOR SAINTS AS BREES RETURNS

Mahomes and Brees both threw three touchdown passes as the Chiefs recorded a 32-29 victory.

A ninth straight win helped the Chiefs improve to 13-1, and they are on track to secure the top seed in the AFC.

Mahomes completed 26 of 47 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns, while he was sacked four times.

The Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to win six straight games by six points or fewer, as per Stats Perform.

Brees, returning from injury, made the worst start of his career by going 0-for-six. He finished 15 of 34 for 234 yards, three TDs and an interception.

The Saints (10-4) are ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) in the NFC South.

 

CARDINALS OVERCOME EAGLES IN THRILLER

Murray helped the Cardinals (8-6) remain on track for the playoffs with a 33-26 victory over the Eagles (4-9-1).

The Cardinals QB was 27 of 36 for 406 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, while also rushing for 29 yards and a TD.

Making his second start, Hurts almost inspired the Eagles to another win, also throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another.

Murray and DeAndre Hopkins connected on a 20-yard pass with just over seven minutes remaining for what proved to be the game-winning score.

According to NFL Research, Murray is the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era aged 23 or younger to throw for 400-plys yards and have a 125-plus passer rating in a game. The previous three (Dan Marino, Jared Goff and Mahomes) reached the Super Bowl in that season.

 

BROWNS BOOST PLAYOFF CHANCES, JETS WIN

The Browns made it 10 wins in a season for the first time since 2007, brushing past the New York Giants 20-6.

Baker Mayfield starred, completing 27 of 32 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns.

The Jets' wait for a first win of the season came to an end with an upset 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

However, the success hurt the Jets' chances of landing Trevor Lawrence in the draft, with the Jacksonville Jaguars (also 1-13) now in position to get the Clemson Tigers quarterback

 

Week 15 scores:

Green Bay Packers 24-16 Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-27 Atlanta Falcons
Baltimore Ravens 40-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Dallas Cowboys 41-33 San Francisco 49ers
Indianapolis Colts 27-20 Houston Texans
Miami Dolphins 22-12 New England Patriots
Chicago Bears 33-27 Minnesota Vikings
Tennessee Titans 46-25 Detroit Lions
Seattle Seahawks 20-15 Washington Football Team
Arizona Cardinals 33-26 Philadelphia Eagles
New York Jets 23-20 Los Angeles Rams
Kansas City Chiefs 32-29 New Orleans Saints
Cleveland Browns 20-6 New York Giants

The New England Patriots saw their playoff hopes dashed as the six-time Super Bowl champions went down 22-12 to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

A defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in the Patriots' previous outing had ended their streak of 17 straight seasons with 10 or more wins and 11 successive division titles, both of which were the longest such runs in NFL history, and Bill Belichick's team will now not be involved in the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Meanwhile, former Patriots star Tom Brady combined with another ex-New England player as Antonio Brown scored his first touchdown for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons.

There was also a big win for the Seattle Seahawks, who clinched a playoff berth for the ninth time in 11 seasons thanks to a 20-15 win over the Washington Football Team.
 

PATRIOTS' POSTSEASON STREAK COMES TO AN END

For the first time in 12 years, there will be no New England in the postseason. They are now 6-8 in third place in the AFC East and officially eliminated from playoff contention.

Though the Patriots led at halftime, Cam Newton could not pick the Dolphins lock and help find a way to the end zone, with New England failing to score a touchdown.

Newton finished with 209 passing yards, while Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa produced a decisive performance, with two rushing scores to go along with 20-of-26 passing for 145 yards as the hosts tallied 22 points in the second half.

While the Patriots will be observers this postseason, Miami (9-5) have their playoff fate in their own hands, needing only to win their final two games.


BRADY BREAKS ATLANTA AGAIN AS BROWN GETS OFF THE MARK

While Newton may not be the man to take the Patriots forward, New England's former stalwart and legendary QB Brady inspired Tampa to a tight 31-27 win over the Falcons.

In the 2017 Super Bowl, Brady led the greatest comeback in championship game history as he inspired New England from 28-3 down in the third quarter to a 34-28 overtime success against Atlanta.

The prize on offer was considerably less substantial this time around, but Brady broke Falcons hearts again as he turned around two 17-point deficits.

Atlanta raced into a 17-0 lead by halftime and then restored that cushion after Tampa got their first touchdown early in the second half.

Yet it was to be Brady's day, with the 43-year-old finishing  completing 31 of 45 throws for 390 yards and two touchdowns.

He rounded it off in style, picking out Brown – a midseason signing for the Bucs – with a 46-yard touchdown pass as the seven-time Pro Bowler got off the mark for his new team. 

The Bucs are now 9-5 for 2020, ensuring just their third winning season since 2007, when Tampa last made the playoffs. Victory over Detroit Lions next time out will be enough to secure postseason football.


SEAHAWKS PLAYOFF-BOUND, BEARS AND COWBOYS IN THE MIX

The Chicago Bears remain firmly in the hunt for an NFC wildcard spot after they overcame the Minnesota Vikings 33-27.

Chicago, who started the campaign 5-1 before a six-game losing streak saw them drop off the pace, put in a poor offensive showing in a 19-13 defeat to the Vikings in Week 10 but showed no such inefficiency this time in their NFC North divisional contest.

The Dallas Cowboys are also still in the mix despite missing running back Ezekiel Elliott for their clash with the San Francisco 49ers.

Elliott sat out a game due to injury for the first time in his career, having suffered a calf bruise in the loss to the Baltimore Ravens on December 8, but the Cowboys managed without him.

Even with a 5-9 record, the Cowboys – who beat the Niners 41-33 – can still qualify for the postseason, with Washington's defeat to the Seahawks having helped their cause. 

That win in Washington booked a playoff spot for Seattle, who improved to 10-4 for the season.

Seattle made life tough for themselves in the fourth quarter, having led 20-3 in the third, but got consecutive sacks before an unsuccessful Hail Mary attempt ended Washington's comeback hopes.

QB Russell Wilson, Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde all topped 50 yards rushing for the Seahawks, with the latter scoring a touchdown on a 50-yard run.

 

Week 15 scores

Green Bay Packers 24-16 Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-27 Atlanta Falcons
Baltimore Ravens 40-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Dallas Cowboys 41-33 San Francisco 49ers
Indianapolis Colts 27-20 Houston Texans
Miami Dolphins 22-12 New England Patriots
Chicago Bears 33-27 Minnesota Vikings
Tennessee Titans 46-25 Detroit Lions
Seattle Seahawks 20-15 Washington Football Team

Week 15 will provide more clarity in the NFL playoff picture and see fantasy managers book their places in championship matchups.

It is semi-final week in most leagues, with a potential place in the title game contingent on the correct line-up selections.

That does not always mean going with the bonafide superstar, however, and an ageing quarterback and rookie wide receiver are both strong plays this week.

Here we look at some of the best options for Week 15 in the latest edition of fantasy picks.

 

QB: Philip Rivers - Indianapolis Colts

In the previous meeting between the Colts and the Houston Texans two weeks ago, Rivers threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions.

He has at least two touchdown throws in each of his last four games and the Texans, who were thrashed 36-7 by the Chicago Bears last week, have shown nothing to suggest they can prevent him from extending that streak.

RB: Austin Ekeler - Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers face a Las Vegas Raiders defense that was gashed on the ground in Week 14 by Indianapolis Colts rookie Jonathan Taylor, who racked up 150 yards and two touchdowns.

With 37 carries and 34 targets since his return from injury in Week 12, Ekeler will be a featured part of the Chargers' offensive gameplan and, based on recent history, his workload should translate into a very productive outing.

WR: Brandon Aiyuk - San Francisco 49ers

Aiyuk has been the most productive rookie receivers in the NFL over the last five weeks, catching 36 passes for 495 yards and three touchdowns. He recorded his second 100-yard game of the season in the 49ers' loss to the Washington Football Team in Week 14 and has a touchdown in three of his last four games.

With Deebo Samuel expected to miss the rest of the season, Aiyuk is the undisputed top target on a San Francisco offense that faces a Dallas Cowboys defense surrendering the second-most points a game to opposing wide receivers.

TE: Tyler Higbee - Los Angeles Rams

Higbee has had a quiet season since his three-touchdown effort against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, but he has a highly favourable matchup to exploit against the New York Jets.

No team in the league allows more fantasy points to tight ends than the winless Jets, making Higbee worthy of a dice roll for managers in a bind at that position.

D/ST: Cleveland Browns

Despite giving up nearly 50 points in the Monday thriller with the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns defense can have hope of a bounce-back week against the Giants.

New York had just 159 yards of total offense against the Arizona Cardinals last week and the Giants could again be without starting quarterback Daniel Jones because of injury. That is a recipe for success for Myles Garrett and Co.

Aaron Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to another NFC North title, while Russell Wilson dominated the New York Jets.

Rodgers continued his good form as the Packers overcame the Detroit Lions 31-24 on Sunday, clinching the NFC North for the second straight year.

Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks were untroubled by the Jets, who slumped to 0-13.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers fell to a second straight loss and Jalen Hurts inspired the Philadelphia Eagles on his first NFL start.

 

RODGERS HELPS PACKERS CLINCH

Rodgers threw three touchdown passes and went 26 of 33 for 290 yards in the Packers' win, while also rushing in for a score.

The quarterback connected with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Robert Tonyan, Green Bay seeing out their win despite the Lions closing to within seven twice in the fourth quarter.

Adams caught a receiving TD in an eighth straight game, which is tied for the third longest streak in a single season in the Super Bowl era, as per NFL Research. Only Jerry Rice (12) and A.J. Green (nine) have had longer streaks.

As the Packers improved to 10-3, Detroit fell to 5-8 – including 1-5 at home – and saw quarterback Matthew Stafford replaced by Chase Daniel due to an upper-body injury.

WILSON WONDERFUL AGAINST WINLESS JETS

Seattle were untroubled by the Jets as Wilson completed 21 of 27 passes for 206 yards, four touchdowns and an interception in a 40-3 thrashing.

Wilson recorded his 15th career game with four-plus touchdowns, tied with Peyton Manning for the second most such games in a player's first nine seasons in the Super Bowl era, as per NFL Research. Only Dan Marino (16) has more.

The Seahawks star checked out in the third quarter for Seattle, who joined the Los Angeles Rams on a 9-4 record in the NFC West. Seattle and Los Angeles meet on December 27.

BILLS BEAT STEELERS, HURTS SHINES

The Buffalo Bills handed the Steelers a second straight loss with a 26-15 victory to close in on a first AFC East title since 1995.

Josh Allen was 24 of 43 for 238 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and Stefon Diggs had 130 receiving yards and a TD.

Now 10-3, the Bills moved clear of the Miami Dolphins (8-5) and New England Patriots (6-7) in the AFC East.

Handed their first loss of the season by the Washington Football Team last time out, the Steelers (11-2) are still clear of the Cleveland Browns (9-3) and Baltimore Ravens (7-5) in the AFC North.

In the defeat, the Steelers set an NFL record with a sack in 70 consecutive games. Pittsburgh surpassed the 1999-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers' all-time mark.

Replacing the struggling Carson Wentz, Hurts inspired the Eagles to an upset 24-21 win over the New Orleans Saints, whose nine-game winning streak was ended.

Hurts completed 17 of 30 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries.

He became the second quarterback all-time to beat a team on a winning streak of nine-plus games on his first career start, according to Stats Perform. He joined former Ram Ron Jaworski (1975).

Week 14 scores:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26-14 Minnesota Vikings
Arizona Cardinals 26-7 New York Giants
Kansas City Chiefs 33-27 Miami Dolphins
Tennessee Titans 31-10 Jacksonville Jaguars
Dallas Cowboys 30-7 Cincinnati Bengals
Chicago Bears 36-7 Houston Texans
Denver Broncos 32-27 Carolina Panthers
Indianapolis Colts 44-27 Las Vegas Raiders
Seattle Seahawks 40-3 New York Jets
Green Bay Packers 31-24 Detroit Lions
Los Angeles Chargers 20-17 Atlanta Falcons
Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 New Orleans Saints
Washington Football Team 23-15 San Francisco 49ers
Buffalo Bills 26-15 Pittsburgh Steelers

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