Week 16 of the NFL season continues with 11 games Sunday afternoon, nearly all of which have postseason implications. The early window features the Buffalo Bills vs. the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, and the late window features the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. Follow along for live updates, news and highlights from around the league.
Bills stand up to Patriots to keep AFC East race tight
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The AFC East race is still on.
The Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots, 33-21, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium to pull into a virtual tie for the division lead.
The Bills avoided a season’s sweep by the Patriots, avenging a 14-10 loss 20 days ago in windy Orchard Park, N.Y. The teams have matching records of 9-6 with two games remaining in the regular season.
The Patriots lost their second straight game, following a listless-for-three-quarters performance last weekend in Indianapolis with a mostly uninspired outing at home Sunday in Foxborough. Tailback Damien Harris ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns but the Patriots never led.
Quarterback Josh Allen threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns for the Bills. He also ran for 64 yards. Tailback Devin Singletary provided a rushing touchdown.
The Buffalo defense kept the Patriots’ running game somewhat in check this time. And Coach Sean McDermott was aggressive all day, dialing up a series of fourth-down attempts on offense that weren’t uniformly successful but set an unflinching tone.
Tampa Bay clinches first NFC South title since 2007 with 32-6 victory
For the first time since 2007, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the champions of the NFC South. The Buccaneers beat the Carolina Panthers, 32-6, and, at 11-4, are just one game behind the Green Bay Packers for the best record in the NFC.
After the Panthers kicked a field goal to bring the score to 10-6 in the second quarter, the Buccaneers scored 22 straight points behind a balanced offensive attack. Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 232 yards and a touchdown including 10 completions to wideout Antonio Brown, who returned from a suspension after using a fake covid vaccination card. Tampa Bay added 159 yards on the ground with its running backs by committee.
The Panthers, losers of five straight, are looking for answers, especially at quarterback. Cam Newton and Sam Darnold split time behind center today. Darnold completed 15 of his 32 passes for 190 yards; Newton went 7-for-13 with 61 passing yards and a team-leading 42 yards rushing.
The Buccaneers, who were shut out last week at home against the New Orleans Saints, finished with 391 yards of total offense compared to the Panthers’ 273.
Drew Lock back to starter’s role for Broncos
Third-year quarterback Drew Lock makes his first start of the season when the Denver Broncos play a late-afternoon game at Las Vegas.
Lock is filling in for Teddy Bridgewater, who was ruled out because of a concussion.
Lock has played three games this season in relief of Bridgewater. He made five starts in 2019 as a rookie and started 13 games last season.
He said during the week it’s time for him to show he’s a better quarterback than he has been in the past. He has 24 touchdown passes, 20 interceptions and a passer rating of 77.9 in his NFL career.
It does not appear at this point that he’s in the running to be the Broncos’ starter entering next season, with the team likely to be among the franchises vying to land one of the prominent quarterbacks expected to be on the market in the offseason.
It’s Nick Foles for the Bears
Veteran quarterback Nick Foles makes his first appearance of the season when he starts for the Chicago Bears in their late-afternoon game at Seattle.
Foles got the nod from Coach Matt Nagy because of injuries to Justin Fields and Andy Dalton.
Fields suffered an ankle injury during Monday night’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Dalton is plagued by a groin injury.
Foles made seven starts last season for the Bears.
Eagles’ DeVonta Smith scores touchdown after two booth reviews
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught a touchdown from quarterback Jalen Hurts against the New York Giants. Replay officials said he didn’t, but then they changed their minds.
Smith toe-tapped in the corner of the end zone falling backyards to push the Eagles ahead 19-3. But all scores are reviewed and the call was overturned, forcing a fourth down for the Eagles.
But Philadelphia head coach Nick Sirianni felt confident that his rookie wideout caught the pass and threw the challenge flag. After the booth initially called it an incomplete pass, they changed their own call and ruled it a touchdown again.
The Eagles now lead 20-3 and have scored on all three third-quarter possessions.
Simone Biles celebrates Jonathan Owens’s interception
There hasn’t been a lot to cheer about for Houston Texans fans this season, but one booster was pretty excited when Jonathan Owens came up with the first interception of his career.
Owens, the team’s 26-year-old safety, snagged a pass from Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers, much to the delight of his girlfriend, Olympic gymnastics great Simone Biles, in the stands.
Her excitement bubbled over onto social media.
To top it off, he added a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.
Owens, who has spent most of his career on the practice squad, was mobbed by his teammates as they celebrated the interception.
Last week, Biles celebrated his first start on Instagram.
Bengals take a big lead on undermanned Ravens
The Cincinnati Bengals made an emphatic claim to the AFC North title, taking a 31-14 lead on a Baltimore Ravens team that is decimated by injuries.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 18 of 21 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Tee Higgins, who caught seven passes for 129 yards, caught one TD pass, Tyler Boyd caught one TD pass that covered 68 yards and Joe Mixon caught the third. Mixon also had 10 carries for 42 yards and another touchdown. Ja’Marr Chase had three receptions for 52 yards.
With Lamar Jackson out and Tyler Huntley on the covid-19 list, veteran journeyman Josh Johnson started for Baltimore and completed 16 of 22 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Mark Andrews was Baltimore’s leading receiver with five catches for 78 yards.
Bills have 10-point halftime lead on Patriots in Foxborough
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Buffalo Bills, trying to avoid being swept by the New England Patriots this season, have a 17-7 halftime lead at Gillette Stadium.
Quarterback Josh Allen threw for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the first half for the Bills. He also had a 25-yard scramble to set up a field goal.
Allen threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs in the final two minutes of the half.
The Bills converted on fourth and two from the New England 34-yard line on that drive, after the Patriots had jumped offside on fourth and seven.
The Bills had failed on fourth and one from the New England 1-yard line earlier in the second quarter, following a tipped-ball interception thrown by Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.
Tempers flared a bit very late in the half when Jones was shoved far out of bounds by Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes at the end of a run. The officials inexplicably chose not to penalize Hughes, and the Patriots received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty soon thereafter. That left Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and the home crowd understandably upset.
Buccaneers lead Panthers 19-6 at halftime
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and his crew are handling business as usual, leading the Carolina Panthers 19-6 at halftime after being shut out against their division rival New Orleans Saints just a week ago.
With a win today, the Buccaneers clinch an NFC South division title for the first time since 2007.
After a Panthers field goal, the Buccaneers kicked off their scoring on their second drive of the game when backup running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, garnering a heavier workload with Leonard Fournette (hamstring) out, bolted for a 55-yard touchdown.
After three more field goals between the two teams in the second, Brady found tight end Cameron Brate for a 4-yard touchdown to give Tampa Bay a 19-6 lead.
The Panthers platooned both Cam Newton and Sam Darnold in the first half — Darnold completed 4 of 6 passes for 75 yards; Newton was 6-of-9 for 52 yards and an interception, adding 42 rushing yards.
Bengals take 17-7 lead after 63-yard touchdown pass by Joe Burrow
The Cincinnati Bengals, with an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the AFC North, have jumped out to a 17-7 lead against the Baltimore Ravens.
Ahead by three, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow hit wide receiver Tyler Boyd in stride for a 63-yard touchdown after a bust in coverage in the Ravens’ secondary left Boyd wide open and untouched into the end zone.
The Bengals have scored on their first three possessions of the ballgame and have picked up 202 yards of total offense on those drives. In the team’s first matchup of the season, Burrow threw for a season high 416 yards and three touchdowns in Cincinnati’s 41-17 victory. A win over the Ravens would give the Bengals a season sweep of the series for the first time since 2015.
Pats convert twice on fourth down on way to tying touchdown against Bills
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It’s a fourth-down fest at Gillette Stadium.
The New England Patriots converted twice on fourth down on their way to tying their game with the Buffalo Bills.
Tailback Damien Harris, back in the lineup after missing one game with a hamstring injury, had a 16-yard touchdown run to cap a 13-play, 75-yard drive. The Patriots and Bills are tied at 7 in the second quarter.
The Patriots got first downs on fourth and one from their own 48-yard line and on fourth and one from the Buffalo 28-yard line during the drive.
The Bills had taken the lead with a fourth-down touchdown in the opening quarter.
Zach Wilson’s 52-yard touchdown run gives Jets the lead
In a matchup between Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the top two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, Wilson is off to a fast start.
On a third and five from the Jets’ 48, Wilson eluded oncoming defensive linemen, escaped the pocket and sprinted up the right sideline. The No. 2 overall pick made two Jaguars defenders miss and scored a touchdown to put the Jets ahead, 7-3.
Wilson, since returning from a PCL injury in Week 12 after missing five weeks, has rushed for four touchdowns in his past five games after not having any through his first seven weeks. The Jets rushed for 66 yards on the first drive, including the run and Wilson added 25 yards through the air.
Bills get early fourth-down touchdown against Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Buffalo Bills have the early lead over the New England Patriots in the rematch of their Dec. 6 game, as a fourth-down gamble by Coach Sean McDermott paid off.
McDermott left his offense on the field on fourth and two from the New England 3-yard line. After a timeout, the Bills converted with a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Allen to wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie.
Allen had plenty of time in the pocket and eventually found McKenzie open in the back of the end zone.
The Bills lead, 7-0, after the first quarter at Gillette Stadium.
They could not finish their drives in the first game, a 14-10 victory by the Patriots. McDermott’s unwavering faith in Allen and his offense was rewarded this time.
NFL told teams ‘seeding and tie-breaking procedures’ regarding canceled games remain in effect
The NFL remains intent upon playing all games as scheduled in its 18-week regular season, even with the sharp recent increase in coronavirus cases.
But even if that cannot happen, the league does not appear particularly receptive to adding a Week 19 to the schedule to accommodate any postponed games.
It appears that the NFL is prepared to cancel games–and allow teams to play uneven numbers of games–if any games must be postponed during the remainder of the regular season and cannot be rescheduled during that week’s play.
In the Dec. 17 memo that he sent to NFL teams about the three Week 15 games that were postponed by two days each—resulting in them being played later in Week 15 last Monday and Tuesday—Commissioner Roger Goodell mentioned the “seeding and tie-breaking procedures” that the league had in place last season. Those procedures included having playoff spots determined by winning percentage if teams had played different numbers of regular season games because of virus-related disruptions.
“The seeding and tie-breaking procedures approved by the membership for the 2020 season remain in place and will be used if necessary for the 2021 season,” Goodell wrote in the memo.
The NFL never had to utilize that provision last season. It managed to play a full season even with a series of rescheduled games.
And it hopes to not have to utilize that provision this season, as it readies to complete the Week 16 games Sunday and Monday.
“We will make every effort, consistent with underlying health and safety principles, to play our full schedule within the current 18 weeks,” Goodell wrote in the Dec. 17 memo.
Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, the president of the NFL Players Association, told reporters last week that the league was prepared to cancel the trio of Week 15 games without rescheduling them. The NFLPA pushed for the games to be played so that players would be paid, Tretter said. Under the current rules, players on both teams would go unpaid for that week if a game is canceled.