NFL

Brady's Bucs within touching distance of playoffs, Seahawks and Jets set for crunch clash

By Sports Desk December 30, 2022

A host of teams can start 2023 on a high note by clinching an NFL playoff place in an eagerly awaited Week 17.

There are also divisional titles to be won on New Year's Day, with Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers within touching distance of winning the NFC South ahead of a clash against the Carolina Panthers.

The Seattle Seahawks and the New York Jets lock horns scenting a spot in the postseason, while the Miami Dolphins could seal a playoff berth when they do battle with the New England Patriots.

Here Stats Perform used its data to preview the biggest games with plenty at stake at the beginning of a new year.


SUNDAY (all times EST)

Panthers (6-9) at Buccaneers (7-8) 1pm

The Buccaneers can clinch the NFC South title for a second straight season if they beat the Panthers, a feat they have never previously achieved.

After a 21-3 win in Week 7, the Panthers are going for the season sweep of the Buccaneers for the first time since 2017. That was also the last season they made the playoffs.

Tampa Bay beat the Arizona Cardinals 19-16 in their final game of 2022. The Buccaneers have scored 21 or fewer points in all seven of their wins this season. 

Carolina overcame the Detroit Lions 37-23 in Week 16 behind 320 yards rushing and 250 yards passing. They were the first NFL team with 300 rush yards and 250 pass yards in a game since the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12, 2012.

Jets (7-8) at Seahawks (7-8) 4.05pm

The Seahawks have dominated the Jets in recent years, winning all four games against them since 2005 and conceding only 30 points in the process. That is just 7.5 points per game, which is the fewest allowed by any NFL team against a single opponent over that time.

Pete Carroll is in his 17th season as an NFL head coach and has never missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The Seattle boss is the only head coach in NFL history to coach at least 15 seasons in the league and never have consecutive seasons in which he did not lead his team to the playoffs.

DK Metcalf has had at least five receptions in eight straight games, tied with John L. Williams (1989-90) and Brian Blades (1995) for the longest streak in Seahawks franchise history.

The Jets are allowing 10.8 fewer points per game than they did last season (29.6 to 18.8), on pace to be the second-largest season-to-season improvement in the NFL in the past 40 years behind the 2000-01 Rams (29.4 to 17.1, -12.3). 

Dolphins (8-7) @ Patriots (7-8) - 1pm

New England are due a win over the Dolphins, who have beaten them in four consecutive games - the last of which was a 20-7 success in Week 1.

Miami are the only team to beat the Patriots four times in a row since Bill Belichick took over as head coach of the Patriots in 2000. With a loss this week, Miami would join Tennessee as the only teams this season with a winning streak of at least five games and a losing streak of at least five games.

Tua Tagovailoa posted a career-high 12.4 yards per pass attempt in last week's loss to the Green Bay Packers. It was the highest yards-per-attempt in a loss by a starting Dolphins quarterback in team history. He misses out this week due to concussion, though, so Teddy Bridgewater steps in.

New England’s comeback bid fell short in a 22-18 loss to the Bengals last week. The Patriots have lost nine straight games when trailing after three quarters, with only the Panthers (41 straight losses) and Seahawks (13 straight) having longer active streaks.

MONDAY

Bills (12-3) @ Bengals (11-4) - 8.30pm

The Bills know they will get a first-round bye in the playoffs if they see off the Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Denver Broncos. Following Cincinnati's win over the Bills in the 1988 AFC Championship Game, the Bills won 10 straight in this series. Since then, Cincinnati are 4-2 against Buffalo, with the most recent meeting resulting in a 21-17 Buffalo win in Week 3, 2019.

The Bills beat the Bears 35-13 in Chicago last week, extending their winning run to six games. Buffalo have scored at least 20 points in each of those wins – they have just two longer streaks of wins with 20+ points – a nine-game streak in 1964 and a seven-game streak in 1990.

The Bengals' road win over the Patriots extended their winning streak to seven games, one shy of tying the franchise record of eight – achieved in the first eight games of the 2015 season (also an eight-game streak spanning the 1970 and 1971 seasons).

Joe Burrow had 375 passing yards last week, his second-highest total of the season. It was his seventh career game with at least 350 passing yards, fourth most in the NFL since 2020 behind Tom Brady (13), Patrick Mahomes (12) and Josh Allen (9). 

Elsewhere...

The Denver Broncos start life after Nathaniel Hackett with a tough trip to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in their first game since the head coach's firing. The Chiefs have won 14 straight games against the Broncos dating back to the 2015 season. Just five teams in NFL history have beaten another team 15 times in a row, with the last team to do so being the Patriots against the Bills from 2003 to 2010.  

The Philadelphia Eagles host the New Orleans Saints knowing they can clinch the NFC East and the number one seed in their conference with a win.

The Eagles are 11-3 (.786) all-time at home against the Saints, which includes an active three-game winning streak. That is the Eagles' third-best home record against any opponent all-time (3-0 versus the Texans and 6-1 versus the Broncos). 

A playoff place is in the New York Giants' sights as they prepare to take on the Indianapolis Colts. 

The Colts have won four straight games against the Giants, with the most recent win coming in Week 16 of 2018 with a 28-27 home victory.

There appears to be no stopping the San Francisco 49ers, who can win a ninth game in a row when they take on the Las Vegas Raiders. The 49ers are the only NFL team in the Super Bowl era to win eight straight games in a single season while holding their opponents to fewer than 80 rushing yards in each victory.

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  • Howe taking plenty of positives despite frustrating Newcastle campaign Howe taking plenty of positives despite frustrating Newcastle campaign

    Eddie Howe was keen to look at the positives after Newcastle United secured seventh place in the Premier League on Sunday.

    Alexander Isak and Bruno Guimaraes were among the goalscorers as Newcastle won 4-2 at Brentford to finish their Premier League campaign.

    The victory ensured a seventh-place finish, and a Manchester City victory over Manchester United in next Saturday's FA Cup final will confirm Newcastle's place in next season's Europa Conference League.

    While this season did not quite live up to the heroics of last term, which saw the Magpies finish in the Champions League spots, Howe still feels it has been a successful campaign.

    "It summed up our season," Howe told BBC Sport. "We weren't totally secure at the back, but great credit to the players. They've done their job - now we wait and see.

    "We anticipated after losing against Manchester United that our control of the [European] situation had gone. It's never a nice situation, but whatever happens, happens.

    "We have issues to solve defensively. If we can do that, next season could be another season of really strong performances. This was a season that could have been better, but a good season overall.

    "We're a really united club. I think we're still moving forward, so there's a lot to be positive about."

  • Postecoglou will not settle until Tottenham hit his 'lofty ambitions' Postecoglou will not settle until Tottenham hit his 'lofty ambitions'

    Ange Postecoglou warned Tottenham he will not settle until the club hits the "lofty ambitions" targeted in his mind.

    Spurs were 3-0 victors over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Sunday, ending their Premier League season with a convincing win to finish fifth in the table.

    Postecoglou voiced his frustrations after Tuesday's 2-0 defeat to Manchester City ended their hopes of Champions League football next term.

    The Spurs head coach was far more relaxed after his side performed well in Sheffield, with Dejan Kulusevski twice on target, along with a goal for Pedro Porro against the relegated Blades.

    Yet Postecoglou insisted his ambitions remain high as the Australian attempts to take Tottenham to the next level.

    "Contrary to my general demeanour, I have loved every minute of it," former Celtic boss Postecoglou said of his first season in charge of Tottenham.

    "It is a great challenge in the Premier League and taking over a big club that didn't have a great year last year. You understand it is not going to run smoothly, but I have enjoyed the whole season.

    "I have got some lofty ambitions for the football club and until we reach that point I am not going to be smiling too much.

    "As I said, all any manager wants is maximum effort and I have got that from everyone involved. I have enjoyed it and looking forward to pushing on from here."

    Asked to summarise his first campaign in England's top league, Postecoglou continued: "It's been good, it's been eventful, it's had a bit of everything.

    "I am obviously not delighted with the way we finished the season but in fairness to the players and staff we have been in the top five all season, in a year where there was a fair bit of upheaval.

    "We finished eighth last year, player turnover, different football, different way of training, it is not easy to maintain a level when you are trying to do that.

    "Even in our tough periods this year we have still been competitive for the most part."

    Kulusevski scored his seventh and eighth Premier League goals of the season (36 outings), more than he managed in his first two league campaigns with Tottenham combined (seven across 48 games).

    Only in the 2019-20 season with Parma has the Sweden winger scored more times in a league season (10 in Serie A), and Postecoglou hailed Kulusevski's returns.

    He added: "I thought Deki was good. He's worked awfully hard this year without a lot of reward in the front third.

    "We thought playing him through middle today would help us with his mobility and ability to run in behind. He did well.

    "He always works hard but it's that sort of final third where we need him to get rewards and he got them today so he did well."

  • Walker: Man City driven on by creating history Walker: Man City driven on by creating history

    Kyle Walker believes Manchester City were spurred on by creating history to a fourth straight Premier League title.

    A Phil Foden double and a Rodri strike saw City beat West Ham 3-1 on Sunday as they claimed a fourth consecutive Premier League crown, finishing two points above Arsenal.

    In doing so, City became the first team ever to win England's top division four times in a row, and Walker feels that was one of the key motivations behind the team finishing top of the Premier League pile yet again.

    When asked if creating history had driven him and his team-mates on, Walker told Sky Sports: "I think so, I think so. We went out of the Champions League, got into the FA Cup final, but to do this, make it four in a row, it made it something special.

    "It has been spoken about all year what we can achieve and the history we can make. But it is about the finer details. It was down to just one game and that game was West Ham United. We get past that then we make history, but more importantly we claim the Premier League again.

    "It is a very, very tough league to win. I looked at the Italian league, German league, Spanish league, the winners are 10, 15 points clear. Fair play to Arsenal and Liverpool for what they have done throughout the season, making sure they push us right to the limit."

    Walker turns 34 later this month but has shown little signs of slowing down, playing an integral role again this season on his way to a sixth Premier League title of his decorated career.

    Walker still feels he is capable of playing at the top level, saying: "I feel young. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I feel young, I feel great, I still have my pace.

    "I come to training every day wanting to learn. Once that goes then it is probably time to pack up, but this group of lads keeps you on your toes. They keep on you to keep improving every day."

    Walker has been City's captain this season, making his 300th appearance for the club in the title-securing win over West Ham.

    The defender was keen to emphasise that it has been a collective effort this term, though, explaining: "I am the man at the front and I wear the armband, but I don't put myself above anyone else. We are a team.

    "There are four captains including myself, and we all pull our weight. I am just the man they've picked to wear the armband which I am very grateful for. To be able to lift the trophy in this scenario, the four in a row, it is a dream come true."

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