New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees said he is pondering retirement after Sunday's playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while head coach Sean Payton was tight-lipped over the veteran's NFL future.

Brees and New Orleans' season came to an end following a 30-20 defeat against Tom Brady's Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round.

All eyes were on Brees after reports emerged pre-game claiming the 42-year-old quarterback will retire at the end of the campaign.

Brees struggled at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Super Bowl champion threw three interceptions – including two in the fourth quarter – while completing 19 of 34 passes for one touchdown.

"I'm gonna give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things, just like I did last year and make a decision," Brees told reporters when asked if he had played his final game.

Brees almost retired at the end of last season but returned for a 20th campaign in 2020, something the 13-time Pro Bowler does not regret.

"I would never regret it. Never," Brees, who was emotional as he left the field, said. "No complaints. No regrets. I've always tried to play this game with great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me.

"There are obviously so many incredible memories, so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing in this game, and you find out so much about yourself, and you fight through so much when you play this game.

"And I would say this season, I probably had to fight through more than I've ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff to just crazy circumstances, and it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely."

Saints boss Payton added: "I think that's probably for another press conference. And I can't speak for Drew.

"Obviously, I would take up all of my time on your question tonight. ... Obviously, he's been tremendous for this team, this city, I could go on and on. But let's wait and answer that at the right time."

Tom Brady praised the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' "incredible" defense after a playoff win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

The Buccaneers caused four turnovers, leading to 21 points, to claim a 30-20 win in the NFC Divisional Round.

Brady rushed for a late touchdown and completed 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards and two TDs as the star quarterback improved to 14-2 in the Divisional Round.

The 43-year-old hailed the Buccaneers' defense, which intercepted Saints quarterback Drew Brees three times.

"Defense was incredible all game. The turnovers were huge," he told a news conference.

"Last time we played them we lost the turnover minus-three, today was plus-four. You're not going to lose many games when you're plus-four. Just a great effort. They came up huge.

"Offensively, we made some plays when we needed to, running game was great, line protected great up front, just a great week of prep and really proud of our team and everything we put in to get to this point."

The Buccaneers will face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in their first NFC Championship Game since 2003.

Brady – a six-time Super Bowl champion – is looking forward to the matchup against the Packers, the top seed in the NFC.

"There's only four teams left, we're one of them, it's tough to get to this point," he said.

"We need a great week of practice. We've got one of the best teams in the league obviously in Green Bay, the top seed, and Aaron's playing incredible.

"They've got a great defense so it's going to be a great matchup."

Brady will start his 14th conference championship when the Buccaneers travel to Lambeau Field.

He has more conference championship wins (nine) than any other quarterback has starts, per NFL Research.

According to Stats Perform, the Buccaneers became the first team in NFL history to lose to a team by double-digit points twice during the regular season but then beat that team by double digits in the playoffs.

Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into their first NFC Championship Game since 2003 with a 30-20 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Brady, 43, and Drew Brees, 42, were below their best in the highly anticipated NFC Divisional Round clash, but the Buccaneers got the job done late at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday.

The Buccaneers scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, with Brady's rushing touchdown capping the win and setting up a clash against the Green Bay Packers.

Brady went 18 of 33 for 199 yards and two touchdowns, while Brees threw three interceptions – including two in the fourth quarter – while completing 19 of 34 passes for one TD.

The Saints' four turnovers proved costly as the Buccaneers moved into the NFC Championship Game.

Trailing 6-3, the first touchdown of the game saw Brady find Mike Evans after Sean Murphy-Bunting intercepted Brees.

The Saints' response came through Jameis Winston, who threw a 56-yard TD pass to Tre'Quan Smith, and the teams were level at 13-13 at half-time.

Brees and Brady traded TD passes in the third quarter to Smith and Leonard Fournette respectively, keeping the game level with a quarter to play.

Ryan Succop's 36-yard field goal put the Buccaneers 23-20 up and Devin White intercepted Brees to give Tampa Bay another chance, which Brady took.

 

Turning point – White steps up with well-timed interception

Brees and the Saints were looking to respond to Succop's fourth-quarter field goal, but instead gifted Tampa Bay an opportunity to extend their three-point lead as White intercepted the QB.

The Buccaneers made no mistake, and it was Brady rushing over from one yard to give his team a decisive 30-20 lead.

Brady gets it done again in Divisional Round

The Buccaneers' win saw Brady improve his record in the Divisional Round to 14-2.

The six-time Super Bowl champion may have been below his absolute best, but he still got it done, putting the Buccaneers into the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 2003.

What's next?

Brady and the Buccaneers face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field on January 24.

For the Saints, meanwhile, there is plenty of talk about Brees' future amid reports the quarterback is set to retire.

The Wild Card Round was, well, wild.

The Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns ended long postseason droughts, while the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Ravens impressed as they produced upset results on the road.

Meanwhile, Tom Brady made sure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers progressed, securing a showdown with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints that will be an all-NFC South battle between starting quarterbacks with a combined age is 85.

As for the Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champions - along with NFC top seeds the Green Bay Packers - prepare to return to action after a well-earned bye week.

A four-game schedule has all the potential for another bumper weekend of NFL action, with fans watching on to found out who will be the final four left standing in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers - Saturday, 4.35pm (all times Eastern)

- The Rams are the only current NFC team with an all-time winning record against the Packers (46-45-2), but they have lost five of the previous six and 11 of the past 15 meetings. Green Bay, meanwhile, earned the No.1 seed in the conference for just the third time in their history.

- Aaron Rodgers posted the second-highest passer rating in NFL history this season (121.5), trailing only his own 122.5 in 2011, when he was voted the league's MVP. Rodgers had six games with four or more touchdown passes and zero interceptions, tying the most in a season all-time (Peyton Manning in 2013). In Rodgers' playoff career, the Packers are 8-1 when he does not throw an interception - but 2-7 when he does.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills - Saturday, 8.15pm

- Baltimore (191.9) and Tennessee (168.1) finished first and second in the NFL in rushing yards per game in the regular season, but the Ravens out-rushed the Titans 236-51 last week to progress. Lamar Jackson ran for 136 of them, the third most ever by a quarterback in a playoff game.

- Josh Allen completed 26 of 35 passes in the Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts (74.0 per cent), the highest completion percentage by a Bills starting QB in a playoff game. Allen also became the fifth player in NFL history with a passing TD, a rushing TD and a receiving TD in the playoffs, joining Freeman McNeil, Kordell Stewart, Julian Edelman and Nick Foles.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday, 3.05pm

- This is the first postseason game between the teams. The Chiefs have won the past three meetings, most recently on November 4, 2018 (37-21). In fact, Cleveland have not beaten Kansas City since December 2012, while they have triumphed at Arrowhead only once in the past 32 seasons (December 2009).

- Against the Steelers, Baker Mayfield became the seventh player in league history to throw at least three TD passes without an interception in his postseason debut. Only one other player has done this in the previous 15 years (Alex Smith in 2011). He goes up against Patrick Mahomes, who has accounted for 16 total touchdowns – 13 TD passes and three rushing scores – in five postseason outings.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints - Sunday, 6.40pm

- This will be the 59th all-time meeting of these franchises, albeit the first in the postseason. The Saints have won five straight in the rivalry, outscoring the Bucs by a combined 165-81 during that streak.

- Brady's two touchdown passes against the Washington Football Team moved his career postseason total to 75, while the victory was his 31st in 42 career playoff starts. In the entire NFL, only five teams have as many as 31 postseason wins in their history. Brady (341) and Saints QB Brees (303) rank first and third respectively in career starts among quarterbacks, regular season and playoffs combined.

Tom Brady spoke of his respect for Drew Brees ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' playoff clash against the New Orleans Saints.

Brady, 43, and Brees, 42, meet in the NFC Divisional Round at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday.

The Buccaneers quarterback said he had plenty of respect for former Super Bowl winner Brees, who made his debut in 2001 – a year after Brady.

"He's a lot younger than me – he's 18 months younger than me – 18 months ago I felt pretty good, so I've got a little advanced age on him – and experience," Brady told a news conference.

"I'm hanging in there. He's had a terrific year. He's a great player – I've known him for a long time. I've always had a great amount of respect for him going all the way back to his Purdue days. My room-mate when I first got to the [New England] Patriots was from Purdue and was really good friends with Drew.

"I always just kept up with him and have gotten to know him somewhat well over the years. I just think so much of him as a person and as a player.

"I know what it takes to do what he's doing [and] he knows what it takes to do what I'm doing. I think there's just a lot of mutual respect."

While Brees has been with the Saints since 2006, Brady is in his first season with the Buccaneers.

Brady (341) and Brees (303) rank first and third in career starts among quarterbacks, regular season and playoffs combined, ahead of Sunday's clash.

The Saints won the NFC South for the fourth straight season and Brady praised New Orleans.

"They won the division, they're a great football team, [have] great coaches, a great system [and] so many great players," he said.

"Their defense is phenomenal – a top-five defense, basically, in every category. Great rush, great cover linebackers, they blitz well, a lot of continuity in the secondary [and] a lot of ballhawks in the secondary.

"They've been one of the top teams in the league for a long time and they've had some tough playoff losses [on] some really fluke plays. Other than that, there's not a lot of bad about this team. They're pretty spectacular."

Drew Brees and Tom Brady have proven age is just a number in the NFL and the superstar duo have continued to poke fun at each other ahead of the blockbuster showdown.

Brees – who celebrates his 42nd birthday on Friday – will lead the New Orleans Saints against the 43-year-old Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round on Sunday.

It will be the first playoff game since at least 1950 between the top two players in career passing touchdowns, while it will be the second postseason encounter since 1950 between the top two players in career passing yards.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Brady has taken a light-hearted approach this week after sharing a meme via Twitter, which depicted the two all-time great quarterbacks as older men set for battle on the History Channel.

Asked about the viral meme, Super Bowl winner Brees joked with reporters on Wednesday: "Unfortunately, they made me look like the dad from Family Ties. I didn't like the hairline. I'll be honest, I would have liked a little thicker head of hair. I mean, I know I'm getting older and probably losing a little bit, but I would have liked a little more hair up top. I've never really been able to grow a beard.

"So maybe that's what I've got later on in my future. Maybe I'll get a nice, good, thick beard going. But I thought it was hilarious."

Brees added: "Listen, I think, Tom and I have a friendship and mutual respect. We were texting back and forth on Monday just kind of chuckling at this whole scenario, right? Listen, he's 43. I turn 42 on Friday. So that's 85 years and a lot of football experience that's going to be on the field on Sunday.

"When Tom Brady signed with the Bucs and I knew that he was coming to our division, I envisioned this game. So what was that nine months ago, eight months ago, I envisioned this game happening because I knew our aspirations as a team, to be in the playoffs and beyond. 

"And I certainly knew what he was bringing to the Bucs and that talented roster. And so I think this is probably where we all envisioned being at this point in season."

Brady (341) and Brees (303) rank first and third in career starts among quarterbacks, regular season and playoffs combined, per Stats Perform.

Meanwhile, Brady's two touchdown passes against the Washington Football Team on Saturday brought his career postseason total to 75, and the victory was his 31st in 42 career playoff starts. Of the league's 32 current franchises, only five of them have as many as 31 postseason wins in their history.

"Tom and I have known each other for a long time and been playing against each other since 1999. Maybe before a lot of guys that we're on the field with were born," Brees continued.

"So I think, there's a friendship there. There's a mutual respect there. I think we have a lot of things in common. A lot of things that we both value and appreciate that are very much the same."

This will be the 59th all-time meeting between the franchises and the first time they will square off in the postseason. The Saints have won five straight games against the Buccaneers, outscoring Tampa Bay by a combined 165-81.

Tampa Bay's 38-3 loss to New Orleans in Week 9 was the most one-sided defeat by a playoff team in 2020.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have activated linebacker Devin White from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

It is a move that sets White up to return for the Bucs' Divisional Round playoff meeting with their NFC South rivals the New Orleans Saints.

White missed the Buccaneers win over the Washington Football Team in the Wild Card round on Saturday having been placed on the list, used for players who have caught the virus or who have come into close contact with an infected person.

Defensive tackle Steve McLendon was also activated from the list on Monday.

It is the return of White, however, that is more likely to be key to the Tampa defense against a Saints team that swept the regular-season series with the Bucs.

A first-round pick in 2019, White is pivotal to the Buccaneers as a pass-rushing threat from the middle of the defense.

His nine regular-season sacks were second on the team behind Jason Pierre-Paul (9.5), who was one of only four Bucs defenders to have more pressures than White's 19.

The Buccaneers visit the Saints on Sunday, looking to progress to the NFC Championship game for the first time since the 2002 season, when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles en route to glory in Super Bowl XXXVII.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said it was "inevitable" that he would meet Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady in the NFL playoffs.

It will be a clash of the titans when Brees and the Saints host Brady's Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round on January 17.

The second-seeded Saints earned a showdown with the Buccaneers after easing past the Chicago Bears 21-9 in Sunday's Wild Card clash in New Orleans.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Brady – who swapped the New England Patriots for the Buccaneers at the start of the season – and Brees are the top two passers in terms of yards and touchdowns in NFL history.

It will be the first playoff game since at least 1950 between the top two players in career passing TDs, while it will be the second postseason encounter since 1950 between the top two players in career passing yards.

"The minute that he signed with the Bucs and came to the division, you felt like that was going to be a team to contend with, that was going to be a team that would have playoff aspirations and beyond, just like us," Brees told reporters after being asked about the upcoming blockbuster.

"So, I guess it was inevitable."

Brees fuelled the Saints with two touchdowns against the Bears, finishing 28-of-39 passing for 265 yards, no interceptions and no sacks.

The veteran – who is reportedly set to retire at the end of the season – also became the sixth player in NFL history with 35-plus passing touchdowns in the playoffs, per NFL Research. Brees joins Brady (75), Joe Montana (45), Brett Favre (44), Peyton Manning (40) and Aaron Rodgers (40).

The Saints allowed nine points and 239 total yards at home to Chicago – each the fewest allowed by New Orleans in a playoff game in team history, per NFL Research.

"Our defense played outstanding," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "We tackled well in space ... Ultimately we forced them to become one-dimensional, and when you do that you're going to win a lot of games."

The New Orleans Saints cruised through to the Divisional Round after Drew Brees inspired a 21-9 victory over the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card round.

Brees fuelled the second-seeded Saints with two touchdowns as the Saints made light work of Mitch Trubisky and the Bears in New Orleans on Sunday.

Saints star Brees was 28-of-39 passing for 265 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks, while Bears counterpart Trubisky finished 19 of 29 for 199 yards, one TD and no interceptions.

The Saints stormed out of the blocks against the seventh-seeded Bears in the NFC clash – an 11-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Michael Thomas on the second possession setting the tone.

It was Thomas' first touchdown reception of the season amid a 2020 campaign ravaged by injuries, with an ankle problem sidelining the receiver for the past three weeks.

A 36-yard field goal from Cairo Santos reduced the deficit for the Bears, who trailed 7-3 at half-time at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome where Chicago were making just their second playoff appearance in the past 10 seasons.

Brees weaved his magic again as he connected with Latavius Murray on a six-yard pass to move the Saints 14-3 clear with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Alvin Kamara's short rushing TD less than nine minutes from the end put the result beyond doubt, while the Bears finally entered the endzone when Trubisky threw a 19-yard pass to Jimmy Graham at the death.

 

Turning point - Saints defense

It was a dominant display from New Orleans' defensive unit at home to the Bears.

While sack leader Trey Hendrickson missed the game due to injury, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins stepped up and wreaked havoc – recording one sack, while C.J. Gardner-Johnson tallied eight total tackles.

Chicago's cause was not helped by Anthony Miller's ejection in the third quarter after the wideout shoved Gardner-Johnson.

Brees flexes muscles

The veteran quarterback became the sixth player in NFL history with 35-plus passing touchdowns in the playoffs, per NFL Research. Brees joins Tom Brady (75), Joe Montana (45), Brett Favre (44), Peyton Manning (40) and Aaron Rodgers (40).

What's next?

Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers await the Saints in a blockbuster Divisional Round showdown. It will be the first playoff game since at least 1950 between the top two players in career passing touchdowns.

After a second Wild Card loss in three years, questions again will be asked of quarterback Trubisky – who is no guarantee to return to Chicago – and the Bears heading into the offseason.

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

Alvin Kamara will not be able to provide an encore to his six-touchdown performance on Christmas Day after the New Orleans Saints running back tested positive for COVID-19.

After receiving mixed test results earlier in the week, Kamara had his positive test confirmed Friday, and he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, making him ineligible to play in Sunday's regular season finale against the Carolina Panthers.

Kamara's status puts the Saints in a precarious position, needing a win and some help on Sunday to secure the NFC's number one seed and a first-round bye.

If New Orleans do not secure the top seed, they will play a Wild Card round game the following weekend, and Kamara's involvement in that game could be in doubt.

NFL rules state that Kamara could not return until 10 days after the collection of the specimen that produced a positive test. If the conclusive sample was collected on Thursday, Kamara would be eligible to return for a first-round playoff game a week on Sunday, January 10.

If the Saints were scheduled in one of the three Saturday game slots, Kamara would be forced to watch from the sidelines.

The fourth-year running back has logged career bests this season with 21 total touchdowns, 1688 yards from scrimmage and 83 receptions.

Kamara is placed on the shelf one week after an all-time performance on Christmas Day, rushing for 155 yards and a record-tying six touchdowns as the Saints routed the Minnesota Vikings 52-33.

The news of Kamara's positive tests came the same day that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed three defenders on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Inside linebacker Devin White, outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett and defensive lineman Steve McLendon will all miss the Buccaneers' game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday as Tampa Bay jockey for better playoff positioning.

The Buccaneers did not disclose whether the players had tested positive for the virus or had been tagged in contact-tracing efforts.

White's nine sacks are second on the team this season, while Barrett's eight sacks rank third.  

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).

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees labelled Alvin Kamara's performance against the Minnesota Vikings as "astounding".

Kamara tied the all-time NFL record by rushing for six touchdowns in the Saints' 52-33 win over the Vikings on Christmas Day.

The running back equalled the mark set by Hall of Famer Ernie Nevers in 1929.

Brees hailed Kamara's performance after the Saints clinched the NFC South for the fourth straight year.

Kamara became the fourth player to score six TDs of any kind in a game, joining Nevers, Dub Jones (1951) and Gale Sayers (1965).

"It was awesome, it was awesome. Six touchdowns for a running back is just astounding," he told a news conference.

"Obviously he got a few in the first half and then kept getting them and I can remember him scoring and me being like I think that's five.

"Taysom [Hill] gets a touchdown there in the fourth quarter and then Sean [Payton, head coach] kind of mentioned to me he said, 'Hey, if Alvin gets one more touchdown, he ties this record with Gale Sayers'.

"Obviously, you're looking at the scoreboard, we're up three possessions, he's like, 'Let's see how close it is,' so they go down and score, we get the ball back at that point you get a first down and we're on a knee. We had the opportunity we felt like let's throw it before the two-minute warning and we get the big play to [Adam] Trautman that gets us down in scoring range so some things had to happen there in order to have the opportunity but then at that point it's like man we're getting this record."

Brees was below his best, going 19 of 26 for 311 yards and two interceptions, although he also made some history, becoming the first player to reach 80,000 career passing yards.

The 41-year-old was playing his second game back from rib and lung injuries and said he was still getting back to his best.

"I didn't know how I was going to feel coming off a game with only five days' rest with everything, but I actually felt pretty good, I felt better this week than I did last week," Brees said.

"That's the goal, to continue to get better and better each week, continue to get all the strength back, get all the feel and rhythm back."

Alvin Kamara felt he played a "small part" as the running back made history with six rushing touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints against the Minnesota Vikings.

Kamara tied the all-time NFL record for most rushing TDs in a game, set by Hall of Famer Ernie Nevers in 1929, in the Saints' 52-33 win on Christmas Day.

The 25-year-old running back was full of praise for his team-mates after his historic performance.

"This is a blessing, It's a good day. The O-line, kudos to them, they get the game ball for sure, they did everything they had to do," Kamara told Fox.

"They put us in position to win. Sean [Payton, head coach] dialled it up and I did a small part but I did the rest."

Kamara equalled Nevers' record with a three-yard run with just under two minutes remaining as the Saints secured the NFC South title for the fourth straight year.

Taysom Hill had earlier rushed in for the Saints, but Kamara was unfazed that opportunity did not fall to him.

"I wasn't worried about it. Taysom was like, 'Man, my bad'. I'm like, 'Nah, it's all good, we spread the will'.

"And then [Adam] Trautman got down there and Sean was like, 'Go' so I'm like, 'Cool, let's get it'."

The Saints improved to 11-4 to win the NFC South as they target a first Super Bowl success since 2009.

Kamara believes New Orleans, who wrap up their regular season against the Carolina Panthers next week, can get even better.

"We've still got so much more room to grow. This team, we're never satisfied. Every week we're looking to improve, every week we're finding ways to work harder and prepare smarter and be more efficient out here on Fridays, Sundays, whatever day we're playing," he said.

"We're chasing greatness. Today was a good day, got our first goal and we've still got a long way to go."

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