General manager Chris Ballard says there are no guarantees Carson Wentz will be the Indianapolis Colts' starting quarterback for the 2022 NFL season.

Wentz, who joined Indianapolis from the Philadelphia Eagles ahead of the 2021 campaign, endured a nightmare as the Colts missed out on the playoffs by losing 26-11 to the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend.

He was sacked six times in a second successive defeat that brought Indianapolis' season to a halt with a 9-8 record.

Ballard on Thursday stated that it is too early to say what changes could be made after the Colts' failure to feature in the postseason.

"When we made the decision, after Philip [Rivers] retired and we made the decision to make a move on Carson, at the time of the decision we felt good about it and I still don't regret the decision at the time," Ballard said.

"Sitting here today, just so y'all know, I won't make a comment on who is going to be here next year and who is not going to be here next year. That's not fair to any player."

Ballard added: "I'd like to quit Band-Aiding it. I'd like for Carson to be the long-term answer or find somebody who will be here for the next 10-12 years.

"Sometimes it doesn't work out that way. I can dream about it, wish about it, do everything I can to figure out the solution, but you do the best with what you can do at the time."

Ballard suggested Wentz had been too eager to create moments of magic.

He said: "Make the layups. Make the layups. Make the layups. Carson wants to win. He has a will to win.

"Sometimes when you carry the burden where you think you have to make a big play all the time. Sometimes let the team help you, make the layups, make the layups."

Ballard stressed that Wentz is by no means the only player under scrutiny.  

"At the end of the day, I think we have a lot of really good players and really good pieces," Ballard said. "You have to get stability at the quarterback position.

"That position has to play up to his potential to help the team win. I'm not blaming this all on Carson. I'm not, because everybody else has to do their job, too.

"But the hyper-importance of that position, it's real. You have to get consistency there. The years we've gotten it we've been pretty good, and we thought we had it until the end of the season. Something we have to continue to work through."

Wentz ranked 18th in the league for completions (322) in the regular season, from 516 attempted passes (a completion percentage of 62.4, the 25th best in the NFL).

His tally of 27 touchdown passes was bettered by only nine other quarterbacks, though Wentz' total was six fewer than ninth-placed Kirk Cousins in that regard. His seven interceptions tied for 29th in the competition.

Wentz threw for 3,563 yards, the third-best total of his NFL career.

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich says his side has been left with a "scar" after missing the playoffs following Sunday's shock 26-11 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Indianapolis needed only to beat a two-win Jaguars team to secure their place in the postseason but were humbled, allowing the Pittsburgh Steelers to clinch a playoffs spot.

Quarterback Carson Wentz was sacked six times in a game the Jaguars led the entire way, with the Colts having not won in Jacksonville since 2014.

The Colts finished the season with back-to-back defeats to slip to a 9-8 record and second in the AFC South behind the Conference-leading Tennessee Titans.

"It was hard to imagine after the Arizona game, we get to 9-6, we feel like we’re one of the two or three teams to beat, a team everybody’s talking about," Reich told reporters on Monday.

"When you think about how all this was going to end, certainly, no one including myself, really, ever thought it would end like it did the last two weeks.

"That’s something that can’t be undone. It’s part of our record. It’s part of my record. … It’s a scar."

Reich revealed that he met with team owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard for several hours after the Jaguars defeat.

“It was a good conversation, a supporting conversation, but also demanding and wanting answers, [with Irsay] wanting to hold us accountable,” Reich said.

He added: "‘We’re going to get better.' … We walked out of there saying, ‘We’ve got a lot of the right pieces in place.'"

The Jacksonville Jaguars helped the Pittsburgh Steelers virtually secure a playoff place as they stunned the Indianapolis Colts in their regular-season finale.

Indianapolis needed only to beat a two-win Jaguars team to secure their place in the postseason.

History, however, was against Frank Reich's team, the Colts having not won in Jacksonville since the 2014 season.

And the Jags' home hoodoo over the Colts continued as Indianapolis quarterback Carson Wentz imploded in a 26-11 defeat.

Wentz was sacked six times in a game the Jaguars led the entire way, rookie first overall pick Trevor Lawrence throwing multiple touchdowns for the first time since Week 1.

The dagger effectively came when Lawrence capitalised on Wentz's lone interception, the former Philadelphia Eagle picked by Jags linebacker Damien Wilson in the third quarter.

Lawrence then successfully handled a high snap from center, rolled to his right and lofted a three-yard pass to Marvin Jones Jr, who made a leaping grab in the back of the endzone.

The Colts were eliminated from the playoffs after the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime. The Steelers will qualify unless the Los Angeles Chargers' game with the Las Vegas Raiders ends in a tie.

Despite the win, the Jaguars claim the number one pick in the 2022 draft by virtue of the Detroit Lions' win over the Green Bay Packers, who rested players for much of the game.

Titans take one seed

The Kansas City Chiefs kept the pressure on the Titans with their win in Denver on Saturday, but Tennessee did not waste the opportunity to clinch the one seed, though they received a scare from the lowly Houston Texans.

Tennessee surged to a 21-0 lead, only for the Texans to respond with 18 unanswered points of their own. Ryan Tannehill's fourth touchdown pass, on which he hit Julio Jones for the receiver's first touchdown as a Titan, gave them breathing room that proved enough as they hung on for a 28-25 win after Danny Amendola's second touchdown reception frayed the nerves.

Watt ties sack record as Steelers stay alive

Ben Roethlisberger bid a tearful farewell to Heinz Field in the Steelers' home finale on Monday, but his likely final season in the NFL looks like being extended into the Wild Card round.

The Steelers fought back from 10-3 down to lead 13-10 on a Roethlisberger pass to Chase Claypool and, though Justin Tucker's field goal forced overtime, the leg of Chris Boswell had the final say, giving the Steelers a 16-13 victory in a game that saw T.J. Watt tie Michael Strahan's single-season sack record as he took his tally to 22.5.

With Chargers head coach Brandon Staley saying they would not play for a tie that would punch the postseason ticket for them and the Raiders, the Steelers' spot seems virtually assured.

Matthew Stafford inspired the Los Angeles Rams to move one step closer to securing their second straight NFC West title with a 20-19 win over the slumping Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The defeat for the Ravens, who were without quarterback Lamar Jackson for the third straight game, leaves them perilously close to slipping out of the Wild Card hunt after their fifth consecutive loss.

Justin Tucker's field goal had put the Ravens up 19-14 with 4:33 left but Stafford launched a game-winning 75-yard drive to overhaul the deficit.

Stafford completed a 15-yard pass to Tyler Higbee and a 24-yarder to Cooper Kupp, before finding Odell Beckham Jr twice in a row, with the latter being the decisive TD.

The Rams QB finished with 26 of 35 passes for two touchdowns but also two interceptions, including a Chuck Clark first-quarter pick six, as well as a sack.

Clark's TD was the Ravens' only for the game, as QB Tyler Huntley completed 20 of 32 passes for 197 yards.

Rams running back Sony Michel had 19 carries for 74 yards including a TD along with wide receiver Kupp with six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown.

Over a month ago the Ravens had been 8-3 and looking good for the AFC top seed but now they are scrapping for a playoffs spot after a series of narrow defeats and desperate for Jackson's return.

Carlson field goal gives Raiders edge in Wild Card race

The Las Vegas Raiders claimed a crucial last-gasp win from Daniel Carlson's 33-yard field goal in the AFC Wild Card race with a 23-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz cleared protocols for the game but completed 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown, while running back Jonathan Taylor had one TD from 20 carries for 108 yards, with the defeat marking the first this season when he has rushed more than 100 yards.

The Raiders pipped the Colts in the final quarter, trailing 17-13 at the final break with QB Derek Carr hitting Hunter Renfrow on a fourth-down play for a TD, before Michael Badgley squared the game with a 41-yard field goal, only for Carlson to win it with one from 33 yards as time expired. The Raiders improve to 9-7, pulling ahead of the 9-7 Colts in the AFC Wild Card race.

 

Bengals clinch maiden AFC North title

The Cincinnati Bengals clinched their first-ever AFC North title as Evan McPherson kicked a late 20-yard field goal to secure a 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase set an NFL rookie record and franchise record with 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches, while QB Joe Burrow threw 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

Burrow got the better of opposing QB Patrick Mahomes who completed 26 of 35 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs, who have already won the AFC West title, moved to 11-5.

 

Brady cool after Brown meltdown

Tom Brady was cool in a crisis after Antonio Brown stormed off the field as the NFC South-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied to win 28-24 over the New York Jets.

Brady completed 34 of 50 attempts for 410 yards and three touchdowns, including leading them on a 93-yard drive in the final minutes to clinch the victory.

The game was marred after Brown's meltdown, storming off the field in the third quarter with the Bucs 24-10 down, with head coach Bruce Arians confirming "he is no longer a Buc" after the game.

Matthew Stafford inspired the Los Angeles Rams to move one step closer to securing their second straight NFC West title with a 20-19 win over the slumping Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The defeat for the Ravens, who were without quarterback Lamar Jackson for the third straight game, leaves them perilously close to slipping out of the Wild Card hunt after their fifth consecutive loss.

Justin Tucker's field goal had put the Ravens up 19-14 with 4:33 left but Stafford launched a game-winning 75-yard drive to overhaul the deficit.

Stafford completed a 15-yard pass to Tyler Higbee and a 24-yarder to Cooper Kupp, before finding Odell Beckham Jr twice in a row, with the latter being the decisive TD.

The Rams QB finished with 26 of 35 passes for two touchdowns but also two interceptions, including a Chuck Clark first-quarter pick six, as well as a sack.

Clark's TD was the Ravens' only for the game, as QB Tyler Huntley completed 20 of 32 passes for 197 yards.

Rams running back Sony Michel had 19 carries for 74 yards including a TD along with wide receiver Kupp with six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown.

Over a month ago the Ravens had been 8-3 and looking good for the AFC top seed but now they are scrapping for a playoffs spot after a series of narrow defeats and desperate for Jackson's return.

Carlson field goal gives Raiders edge in Wild Card race

The Las Vegas Raiders claimed a crucial last-gasp win from Daniel Carlson's 33-yard field goal in the AFC Wild Card race with a 23-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz cleared protocols for the game but completed 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown, while running back Jonathan Taylor had one TD from 20 carries for 108 yards, with the defeat marking the first this season when he has rushed more than 100 yards.

The Raiders pipped the Colts in the final quarter, trailing 17-13 at the final break with QB Derek Carr hitting Hunter Renfrow on a fourth-down play for a TD, before Michael Badgley squared the game with a 41-yard field goal, only for Carlson to win it with one from 33 yards as time expired. The Raiders improve to 9-7, pulling ahead of the 9-7 Colts in the AFC Wild Card race.

 

Bengals clinch maiden AFC North title

The Cincinnati Bengals clinched their first-ever AFC North title as Evan McPherson kicked a late 20-yard field goal to secure a 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase set an NFL rookie record and franchise record with 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches, while QB Joe Burrow threw 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

Burrow got the better of opposing QB Patrick Mahomes who completed 26 of 35 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs, who have already won the AFC West title, moved to 11-5.

 

Brady cool after Brown meltdown

Tom Brady was cool in a crisis after Antonio Brown stormed off the field as the NFC South-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied to win 28-24 over the New York Jets.

Brady completed 34 of 50 attempts for 410 yards and three touchdowns, including leading them on a 93-yard drive in the final minutes to clinch the victory.

The game was marred after Brown's meltdown, storming off the field in the third quarter with the Bucs 24-10 down, with head coach Bruce Arians confirming "he is no longer a Buc" after the game.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz has been activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list ahead of Sunday's game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Wentz had to be activated by 4pm eastern time on Saturday to be eligible for Sunday's game where the Colts can clinch a playoff spot with victory.

However, Wentz still has another hurdle to overcome, needing his COVID-19 symptoms to have resolved or improved by Sunday morning.

The unvaccinated QB tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week but under the new NFL protocols players can return after only five days if they are asymptomatic or demonstrate that their symptoms are lessening.

Wentz has thrown for 3,230 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions for the Colts, who have a 9-6 record.

The Baltimore Ravens are in danger of letting their season get away from them after a four-game losing run and things do not appear to get any easier with the Los Angeles Rams visiting on Sunday.

John Harbaugh's men have a positive recent record against the Rams though, and will need to properly utilise the impressive form of Mark Andrews.

The Indianapolis Colts can clinch their playoff spot with a win against the Las Vegas Raiders, while a potentially fascinating encounter in the race for the playoffs between the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos will take place at SoFi Stadium.

Stats Perform takes a look at the standout statistics ahead of the penultimate week of the NFL's regular season.

Los Angeles Rams (11-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

The Rams have lost four straight games against the Ravens (outscored 120-29 in those games) and are 2-5 all-time against them - Baltimore the only franchise in the league the Rams have never won a road game against (0-3).

Rams running back Sony Michel ran for 131 yards and a touchdown in last week's win against the Minnesota Vikings, two yards from tying a career-high set in 2018 with the New England Patriots. He has 423 yards in his last four games after a combined 305 in his first 11 games.

The Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 41-21 last week, allowing 525 passing yards, the most in franchise history. They also finished with just 39 rushing yards of their own, their fewest since a franchise-low 11 in 2016.

Andrews had eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown last week. He now has three straight games with at least 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown. He is the only Raven to ever have three such games in a row, and just the second tight end in NFL history (Jimmy Graham in 2013).

Las Vegas Raiders (8-7) @ Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

The Raiders were 7-2 in their first nine games against the Colts but have gone just 2-6 since then (dating back to 2004). They won 31-24 in their last trip to Indianapolis in 2019 but lost at home the following season.

After beating the Broncos last week, the Raiders have won back-to-back games despite scoring 17 points or fewer in each. It is the first time they have done so since 1991 – those victories came against the Broncos and the Colts.

The Colts beat the Arizona Cardinals 22-16 last week, improving to 8-2 in their last 10 games after starting the season 1-4. Their 31.2 points per game since Week 6 leads the NFL.

Jonathan Taylor had 108 rushing yards in his last outing, his ninth display this season with at least 100 yards – the Colts have won all nine of those games. Indianapolis has not won a game in which he has been held under the century mark this season.

Denver Broncos (7-8) @ Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

The Broncos beat the Chargers 28-13 in Week 12, their largest win over them since a 23-7 triumph in the 2005 season. Fourteen of the last 21 games between these teams have been decided by one possession (eight points or fewer).

Drew Lock is expected to start at quarterback again after starting his first game of the season last time out. Since the start of 2020, Lock has the lowest completion percentage among the 29 quarterbacks with 500 or more pass attempts (57.6 per cent).

The Chargers allowed 189 rushing yards in a 41-29 loss to the Houston Texans, who entered the game ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards per game. The Chargers are allowing 140.3 rushing yards per game, on pace for their worst mark since the 1987 strike season (144.7).

Justin Jackson had a career-high 162 scrimmage yards against the Texans while filling in for Austin Ekeler. He has 261 scrimmage yards in his last two games, which Ekeler has done just once in a two-game span this season (264 yards from Weeks 4-5).

Elsewhere...

Atlanta Falcons (7-8) QB Matt Ryan will look to add to his 3,555 yards thrown overall this season when he faces the Buffalo Bills (9-6). It is his 12th consecutive season with at least 3,500 passing yards. He joins Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady in an exclusive club to achieve the passing milestone in that many straight campaigns.

The Patriots (9-6) have lost at least two December games in each of the last four seasons (3-2 in 2018, 2-3 in 2019, 1-3 in 2020, 1-2 in 2021). New England, who host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13), have more December losses over the last four seasons (7-10) than in the previous 15 seasons combined (56-9, 2003-2017).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) star Brady is 30-7 as a starter against the New York Jets (4-11) in his career (including postseason). That is the second-most wins by any QB against a single opponent behind only his own record against the Bills (33). Brady is 7-0 in his last seven against the Jets, winning by an average of 23.3 points. 

The Kansas City Chiefs - who can clinch the AFC's top seed if they avoid defeat against the Bengals and the Tennessee Titans lose in Miami - have lost their last five games in Cincinnati, with their last win there coming in September 1984.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz could miss the Week 17 showdown with the Las Vegas Raiders after he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Wentz is unvaccinated, so he will be out for at least five days if he is deemed to be a high-risk close contact with a positive coronavirus case.

The 28-year-old will not be available for 10 days if he returns a positive test, as per the NFL's protocols.

Rookie Sam Ehlinger looks set to make his first NFL start if Wentz is unable to face the Raiders on Sunday.

Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady says Ehlinger will be ready to step up if needed.

Brady said: "We go through the plan, [Ehlinger] goes through it and, like, okay, what are your top calls that you feel comfortable with? [It] Doesn't have to be all of them.

"And so, we have that separate call sheet for him ready to go. He goes through all the reads just like Carson does. He may not get the live rep, but he'll get it on the side. So, he's ready to go."

The Colts beat the Arizona Cardinals 22-16 on Christmas Day despite having several players on the COVID list.

Indianapolis had also added Jahleel Addae, T.J. Carrie, Malik Jefferson, Marlon Mack, Braden Smith and Chris Wilcox to the reserve-COVID list on Monday.

A win over Las Vegas at Lucas Oil Stadium would put the 9-6 Colts in the playoffs for the third time in four years under head coach Frank Reich.

Aaron Rodgers made franchise history as he led the Green Bay Packers to a Christmas Day victory against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers overtook Packers legend Brett Favre for the most passing touchdowns in Green Bay history after finding Allen Lazard from 11 yards in the first quarter.

The 38-year-old threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the 24-22 win as the Packers extended their lead at the top of the NFC, moving to a 12-3 record.

Rodgers reached 445 career touchdown passes by the end of the game, beating Favre's haul of 442 for Green Bay.

Wide receiver Davante Adams made 10 catches for a total of 114 yards, scoring two TDs, the fourth time he has made 10 or more catches in a game this season.

Rodgers and Adams also became the Packers' most productive partnership in franchise history after combining for a TD for the 66th time, surpassing Rodgers and Jordy Nelson.

Baker Mayfield, meanwhile, struggled in his first game back since being activated from the Browns' COVID-19 list, being sacked five times and throwing four interceptions in Wisconsin.

Cleveland, now on a record of 7-8 for the season, gave themselves late hope with an Anthony Schwartz TD in the fourth quarter, but were unable to add further.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals lost a third game in a row after a 22-16 home loss against the Indianapolis Colts at State Farm Stadium.

Despite being sacked twice, Carson Wentz threw two TDs, one in the first quarter to T.Y. Hilton to give the Colts the lead, and then a 14-yard effort to Dezmon Patmon in the fourth to take the game away from the hosts.

Jonathan Taylor made over 100 rushing yards (108) for the Colts for the ninth time this season, and has now done so in six of his last seven outings.

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray saw plenty of the ball, making 43 throws in the game, but could only complete 27 of them, finding the endzone only once as he combined with Antoine Wesley as Arizona nudged ahead at the start of the second half.

Wentz and the Colts were able to wrestle control though, and move on to 9-6, while the Cardinals now sit at 10-5, dropping to fifth in the NFC.

The Indianapolis Colts have dominated selection for the Pro Bowl with seven players named for the game due to be played on 6 February in Las Vegas for the first time.

Colts' MVP contender running back Jonathan Taylor was among five players confirmed earlier this week but he was joined by six other team-mates as the full NFC and AFC rosters were revealed on Wednesday.

Indianapolis also had center Ryan Kelly, guard Quenton Nelson, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, linebacker Darius Leonard, cornerback Kenny Moore II and special teams long snapper Luke Rhodes all selected, with the Colts enjoying a run of five wins in six games to sit second in the AFC South.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady had already been named earlier this week for a record 15th Pro Bowl, with Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray and Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers joining him as NFC QBs.

The selected AFC quarterbacks were Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert, Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson and Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes.

The Chiefs and Chargers had six players selected in total, while the Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Bucs all had five representatives.

Four rookies were selected in Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts, Chargers offensive tackle Rashawn Slater and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.

The NFC and AFC rosters are determined by a vote of the fans, players and coaches.

Tom Brady is to become the first player in NFL history to feature in 15 Pro Bowls after being among the first five participants named for this season's game.

The first Pro Bowlers of the 2021 season were revealed on billboards in Las Vegas, which will host the annual NFL all-star game on 6 February at Allegiant Stadium.

The other confirmed players to feature are Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams), Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams), Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts) and Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs).

Brady will overtake Peyton Manning, Tony Gonzalez, Bruce Matthews and Merlin Olsen, who all featured in 14 Pro Bowls.

The legendary quarterback has guided the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 10-4 record and first place in the NFC South, with just one more victory needed to secure the division title. Brady currently boasts the best 2021 numbers in most major passing categories, including yards (4,348), attempts (602), completions (404) and touchdown passes (36).

The 44-year-old has won more Super Bowls than any other player in history (seven) and also holds the record for most Super Bowl MVP awards (five).

The full reveal of the AFC and NFC teams for this year's Pro Bowl will take place on Wednesday.

Frank Reich warned his Indianapolis Colts team they have to "dial it back" despite an impressive victory over the New England Patriots on Saturday.

The Colts scored a 27-17 win against the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday to improve to 8-6 on the season, leaving them fifth in the conference standings.

Next time out, the Colts face the high-flying Arizona Cardinals and, while delighted to add another tick in the win column, head coach Reich said there is plenty of work ahead in their playoff bid.

"We're the five seed, we got to win every one of these games," Reich said. 

"What we said in there was, hey, this is a great team win but this counts for one. It counts for one, that's it. 

"So, we got to dial it back in and get ready to play against, obviously, the best team in the NFL next Saturday."

Jonathan Taylor was influential for the Colts, rushing for 167 yards including a 67-yard touchdown with 2:01 remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter to put the seal on the Colts' triumph.

It means Taylor has run for a score in 11 straight games, which matches the Hall of Famer Lenny Moore for the longest streak in franchise history.

"I think it just says we're a team that's going to come in and play 60 minutes, four quarters of hard football and we're not going to give up till the clock hits zero," Taylor said. 

"It was just all out effort."

Speaking about Taylor's sensational 67-yard TD, Reich admitted he almost called for a different play.

"I almost called a pass there because I thought we needed a first down and I talked it over with Marcus Brady and said 'no, let's call one more pass,'" Reich said of discussions with his offensive coordinator. 

"There's no way anybody's catching him."

For the Patriots, defeat means they drop out of the AFC top-seed spot, while their seven-game winning streak was snapped.

A host of sloppy errors left them with a 20-0 deficit from which they were never able to recover.

"I've said it like five times, I can say it another five times," head coach Bill Belichick said. 

"We didn't do anything well enough to win tonight."

Jonathan Taylor dazzled with a 67-yard rushing touchdown as the Indianapolis Colts ended the New England Patriots' winning streak with a 27-17 win on Saturday.

The Patriots, who had won seven games in a row, suffered their first road defeat of the season despite a gallant last-quarter fightback, closing within three points after trailing 20-0.

Taylor's 67-yard touchdown settled the contest with two minutes on the clock, after Patriots quarterback Mac Jones had twice found Hunter Henry for fourth-quarter TDs.

The Colts running back's touchdown marked a franchise record for rushing TDs in a season with 17. Taylor had 29 carries for 170 yards, while QB Carson Wentz completed five of only 12 attempts for 57 yards.

Earlier, Taylor escorted Nyheim Hines into the end-zone to put the Colts ahead, before Matthew Adams blocked Jake Bailey's punt, with EJ Speed swooping on the loose ball for a touchdown.

Darius Leonard intercepted Jones' second quarter pass as the Colts opened up a 17-0 lead. Jones would throw two touchdown passes but had two interceptions, completing 26 of 45 attempts for 299 yards.

The Patriots were left with too much in the final period, despite Henry's second TD with 2:21 left on the clock, and would rue penalties and mistakes.

The Colts improve to 8-6 and remain second in the AFC South, while the Patriots are 9-5.

The Indianapolis Colts pinned their hopes for the 2021 season on a gamble. It was an educated bet, one made in the knowledge that the last time Frank Reich and Carson Wentz were on the same roster, the results were remarkable.

Still, their decision to trade for Wentz, coming off the worst season of his career, represented a substantial risk. He was a quarterback at his lowest ebb, sacked a league-high 50 times while his 15 interceptions also led the NFL, one viewed by many as beyond repair.

Yet the Colts backed Reich, Wentz's offensive coordinator in Philadelphia in the 2017 season when the Eagles won the Super Bowl and the 2016 second overall pick played at an MVP level prior to a serious knee injury, to successfully resurrect his career, and were willing to give up a first-round pick to make that bet.

A first-rounder in next year's draft will head the Eagles way should Wentz play 75 per cent of the offensive snaps or if he plays 70 per cent of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs.

As of Week 14, Wentz has 97.5 per cent of the snaps and the 7-6 Colts would be in the playoffs as an AFC wild card if the season ended today. Put simply, the Eagles are getting a first-round pick back for a player they were desperate to get off the books.

So with the Colts firmly in the mix for a postseason berth and the Eagles, who themselves are in the hunt for a Wild Card spot in the NFC, set to have three first-round picks come April, it begs the question, who is winning the Wentz trade?

A substantial turnaround

The raw numbers hint at a successful renaissance for Wentz, whose 22 passing touchdowns are the 10th-most in the NFL.

Meanwhile, he has done a much better job of taking care of the football, throwing just five interceptions. Of quarterbacks to have started double-digit games this season, only Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson (4) have thrown fewer.

He has thrown 12 interceptable passes this season, according to Stats Perform data, but his pickable pass percentage of 2.99 is the sixth-best among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts.

While obvious improvements have been made in his ability to limit turnover-worthy players, the reality is that Wentz still struggles for accuracy.

Big moments proving too much

Wentz's completion percentage has improved to 63.3 from a dismal 57.4 last season. Yet that is still some way short of his 2018 zenith of 69.6, which is a clear outlier for a quarterback who has never at any other point sniffed the 70 per cent mark.

He is 25th among qualifying quarterbacks in that category, his disappointing numbers reflective of an inability to produce accurately thrown passes consistently.

Indeed, his well-thrown percentage of 76.1 is below the average of 78.4 for quarterbacks who meet that 200-throw threshold, with the Colts' success this season arguably more a product of a dominant run game than any career revival by Wentz.

The Colts lead the league in rush yards per attempt with 5.15 while registering the fifth most carries (383) in the NFL, with 15.1 per cent of those going for 10 yards or more. Only the Cleveland Browns (16.3 per cent) and the Eagles (15.3 per cent) have done a better job at creating explosive runs.

Indianapolis' prowess running the ball has minimised Wentz's shortcomings. Yet in the situations where the pressure is in his face or on his shoulders, those failings are magnified.

His well-thrown percentage dips to 66.2 when under pressure from the opposing pass rush (the average is 69.3), and when asked to deliver in tight games Wentz has been unable to rise to the challenge.

Wentz and the Colts are 1-4 in one-score games this season, with all five of his interceptions coming across three of those defeats. He also lost a fumble in losses to the Baltimore Ravens and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his three turnovers critical in a 38-31 reverse at the hands of Tampa.

The evidence in that sense points towards Wentz's improved 2021 being a product of his situation, rather than his own merits. When the team has needed him to elevate them to victory in tight games, he has fallen short. There are plenty of quarterbacks who fall into the same bracket, but they did not come at the cost of a first-round pick that could prove key to the Eagles turning things around.

Eagles have crucial flexibility

The Eagles could be deemed unfortunate in potentially having three first-round picks in a draft class that is not regarded as being anywhere near as strong at quarterback as the 2021 crop.

Yet the progress 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts, who took over for Wentz last year, has made in his second season gives them the flexibility to potentially use that capital to either build around him or parlay those selections into a blockbuster trade for another quarterback.

Hurts' numbers as a quarterback - 60.1 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions - are nowhere close to those of Wentz. Yet a 79.9 well-thrown percentage points to him having superior accuracy to that of his predecessor, while he adds significantly more as a runner.

Only Lamar Jackson (767) has more rushing yards among quarterbacks than Hurts (695), who leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns for players at the position with eight.

With a quarterback whose diverse skill set matches the direction of the modern game, the Eagles can use their premium picks to fill the holes on the roster around him to improve Hurts' situation or package him with some of that draft capital to land a quarterback who can quickly turn them into contenders again.

Indianapolis' room for manoeuvre comes in the form of close to $60million in salary cap space, yet they are in a position where they will be building around a quarterback playing well enough to deserve to be the starter in 2022 but with an obvious ceiling.

The Colts are in the better spot in the race for this year's playoffs and have the better team right now, yet the ultimate impact of the Wentz trade could be that it puts the Eagles in a position to leapfrog Indianapolis and their former franchise quarterback in the ranks of contenders.

The Green Bay Packers will clinch the NFC North title if they avoid defeat against the wounded Baltimore Ravens, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could win the NFC South in Week 15.

AFC North leaders Baltimore will be striving to avoid a third consecutive defeat when they face the Packers but have this week been managing quarterback Lamar Jackson's ankle sprain.

Tampa Bay can seal the division title provided they are not beaten at home by the New Orleans Saints on Monday, while the New England Patriots are among the teams looking to book a playoff spot ahead of their showdown with the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.

Stats Perform previews the standout games and the best of the rest.

Green Bay Packers (10-3) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-5)

The Ravens have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, losing by one point against the Pittsburgh Steelers and by two at the Cleveland Browns. It is the first time in franchise history the Ravens have lost consecutive games by two points or fewer.

Green Bay scored 45 points in a win over the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field last week, their highest scoring output since 2014 against the Philadelphia Eagles (53-20 win). The Packers are averaging 30.7 points per game at home but 20.6 points on the road, the third-largest differential in the NFL.

Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Bears. It was his 28th career game with at least four TD passes and no interceptions, tied with Tom Brady for the most such games in NFL history including the postseason.

Davante Adams is Rodgers' top target and has gone over 100 receiving yards in three straight games. He is now tied with James Lofton for the most 100-yard receiving games in Packers history with 33.

New England Patriots (9-4) @ Indianapolis Colts (7-6)

The Patriots have conceded 13 or fewer points in each of their past five games. That is the longest such streak in Patriots history and the longest by any NFL team since 2008 (Pittsburgh, five games). 

Mac Jones and the Patriots attempted only three passes last time out in their 14-10 Week 13 win at Buffalo. Since 1950, there have been only two other instances of an NFL team attempting no more than three passes in one game: the Kansas City Chiefs (three) in a 24-10 win against the Oakland Raiders in 1968, and the Buffalo Bills (two) in a 16-12 victory over the New York Jets in 1974.

But Indianapolis know how to run the ball, too. They have gained 996 yards rushing over their previous five games, their highest total over a five-game span since gaining 1,024 in 1976. The Colts have scored 12 rushing TDs in the stretch, matching their best five-game total in the past 30 seasons. 

Through the air, Carson Wentz has had five interceptions from his 420 pass attempts this season. His interception rate (1.2 per cent) is the third-lowest among the 32 qualifying NFL quarterbacks. 

New Orleans Saints (6-7) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3)

The Bucs have won four consecutive games and are due a victory over the Saints, having lost the past six clashes between the two teams.

Brady reached yet another landmark last week, with his 58-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman taking his tally of touchdown passes in the NFL to 700. The only other quarterback with at least 600 is former Saint Drew Brees (608).

Taysom Hill had multiple rushing touchdowns for the fourth time in his career last week and added 73 rushing yards. The only other Saints quarterback to rush for at least 50 yards and multiple TDs is Archie Manning (52 yards, 2 TDs on October 17, 1971 against the Dallas Cowboys).

Expect a fast start from Tampa. The Bucs have outscored opponents by 70 points in the first half of games this season, behind only Indianapolis (73) for the best mark in the league.

Elsewhere...

The Los Angeles Rams (9-4) are closing in on the playoffs and will have home advantage when they face the Seattle Seahawks (9-4). The Rams have won six of the past eight matchups between these teams, including a 26-17 win in Seattle in Week 5 this year.

Heinz Field will stage a battle between the Steelers (6-6-1) and a Tennessee Titans (9-4) side scenting the AFC South title. The Titans shut out an opponent for the second time in 20 seasons with a 20-0 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. 

The Cowboys (9-4) travel to lock horns with the New York Giants (4-9) with the NFC title within their grasp. Dak Prescott lost both of his starts against the Giants as a rookie in 2016 but is 8-0 in his starts against them since then. Ron Jaworksi, from 1977 to 1981, was the last QB to win nine starts in a row against the Giants.

Darrell Bevell has stepped in to take over as the Jaguars' interim head coach after Urban Meyer was fired on Wednesday. Jacksonville start life after Meyer attempting to avoid a record-breaking eighth consecutive loss to the Houston Texans, with both sides a dismal 2-11 this season.

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