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What we learned from Sunday's Week 17 games

*Here's what we learned from Sunday's Week 17 slate: *

  1. San Francisco has home-field advantage for the first time since 1997 and an NFC West title for the first time since 2012, and the 49ers achieved that on the backs of their rookies on Sunday night. Deebo Samuel was unstoppable in the air and on the ground, tallying a team-high 135 total yards on seven touches and a rushing touchdown, his get-off off the line stopping defensive backs in their tracks and his elusiveness in the open field putting Seattle's secondary in a spin cycle. On the other side of the ball, Nick Bosa pressured Russell Wilson constantly, leading the team with three QB hits, and Dre Greenlaw led San Francisco with 13 tackles and made the key fourth-down stop of Jacob Hollister on the goal line (along with Fred Warner) to end the game and seal the Niners' division title. Under John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers have built a deep team laden with young talent, one that can bounce back from adversity quickly and win as many close games as they lose. San Francisco will be a tough out, and an even tougher one at the Big Bellbottom.
  1. Marshawn Lynch returned to Seattle to much fanfare and a showering of Skittles. While Beast Mode ceded carries to dual-threat Travis Homer early on against San Francisco, as Seattle fell into a 13-0 hole, Lynch ended the game with a team-high 12 carries for just 34 yards and a touchdown run at the goal line. Beast Mode had a golden opportunity to get another when Seattle miraculously pulled back within one score with three second-half touchdowns and found itself on the one-yard line with 22 seconds to go. But the Seahawks inexplicably took a delay of game penalty, and then on their three ensuing plays from the five-yard line, could not crack the end zone. The injury-riddled Seahawks pulled Lynch (and Robert Turbin) off their couches for moments like those. But in crunch time, Homer was Seattle's lead back; in his start, the rookie logged 47 snaps and 92 total yards on 15 touches. The Seahawks should be favored heading into their wild-card clash with Philly, but there is no favorite ball-carrier in the Seattle backfield. Chris Carson's absence still looms large.

-- Jeremy Bergman

  1. This was a fitting end to Ryan Fitzpatrick's shocking season as the best quarterback in the AFC East. He ducked under innumerable would-be sacks on the way to 320 yards and a touchdown. His game-winning, 75-yard drive, capped with a Mike Gesicki touchdown with 24 seconds left, showed something Fitzpatrick doesn't get enough credit for: terrific decision-making along with his calculated risk-taking.
  1. The Patriots will be hosting a Wild Card Round game for the first time since the 2009 postseason in large part because their defense wasn't special on Sunday. The Dolphins had answers for all the zero coverage blitzes thrown their way, with DeVante Parker leading the way. Not all of Parker's eight catches for 137 yards came against Stephon Gilmore, but Parker got the best of the matchup for most of the day. Gilmore's chances of a Defensive Player of the Year award likely went up in smoke along with the Patriots bye. The Patriots, who lived off turnover differential all season, finished the game minus-2 after not forcing a Dolphins mistake.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

  1. When Ryan Tannehill opened the fourth quarter by dialing up a perfectly placed 47-yard bomb toward a toe-tapping A.J. Brown in double coverage just in front of the pylon, it felt like the Comeback Player of the Year connecting with the Offensive Rookie of the Year for the spectacular play that would extinguish a half-hearted Houston effort and propel the Titans into the postseason. Tannehill transformed the Titans franchise, becoming the first QB to lead the league in passer rating and yards per attempt since Matt Ryan's 2016 MVP season. Even better, he's the first to complete at least 70.0% of his throws at more than 9.0 yards per attempt since Joe Montana 30 years ago. Ascending to the No. 1 receiver role in Tannehill's white-hot aerial attack, Brown has averaged 111 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown over the past six weeks.
  1. Imposing his will with a two-score lead, Derrick Henry overtook Cleveland's Nick Chubb for the NFL rushing title by rampaging through the Texans defense for a 53-yard touchdown with three minutes remaining. That jailbreak run pushed Henry over 200 yards for the day, putting his season total at 1,540 ground yards in 15 games played after sitting out last week's bout with a hamstring strain. Now that Henry is healthy and Tannehill is locked in as the leader of a big-play offense averaging 30.4 points in his 10 starts, New England coach Bill Belichick will have his hands full against former Patriots star Mike Vrabel and his high-flying Titans.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. On tattered wings, the Eagles flew to the NFC East title on Sunday afternoon. With Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson out and top back Miles Sanders and right guard Brandon Brooks sidelined in the first half, the Eagles made do with Philly legend Boston Scott (three TDs, 130 total yards) and Dallas Goedert. Carson Wentz became the first Eagles QB to pass for over 4,000 passing yards in a season surrounded by the likes of Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett and Josh Perkins as pass-catchers. That Philadelphia even made the postseason given its injury woes is a Christmas miracle and victory unto itself. Whether the Eagles' backup offense can hold up against the NFC West loser next week at the Linc is something even St. Nick (Claus or Foles) can't predict.
  1. Big Blue saw the good and bad from its top-10 talents against the Eagles. Daniel Jones went over 300 yards for the fifth time in his rookie season but also committed two second-half turnovers, including a fourth-quarter double-fumble that led directly to Philadelphia's game-sealing score. Saquon Barkley broke off a 68-yard wunder-touchdown to tie it up in the third, but picked up just 24 rushing yards on his 16 other carries. New York saw solid contributions from rookie pass-catchers Kaden Smith and Darius Slayton again (12 catches, 148 yards combined). The future is bright, or at least visible, in East Rutherford. Will Pat Shurmur and his 9-23 record will be back in blue to see it manifest into something bountiful?

-- Jeremy Bergman

  1. The Cowboys' offense was very familiar early Sunday but has its defense to thank for shutting down the Redskins and keeping Washington from capitalizing on Dallas' offensive mistakes. Eventually, they figured it out and got rolling to the blowout win, which naturally brought to mind: What if the Cowboys had played like this all season? We mustn't forget how they started this game, though, because that is who the Cowboys are, or were too often in 2019, unfortunately. That's why they'll be home in January.
  1. One has to wonder how Washington might have played with Dwayne Haskins under center instead of Case Keenum, who gives a valiant effort but simply isn't equipped to overcome the weaknesses that exist elsewhere within the Redskins' offense. None of that mattered by the fourth quarter, as the Cowboys were simply too much to overcome on both sides of the ball. The play of first-round pick Montez Sweat (2.0 sacks Sunday) and undrafted rookie Steven Sims was encouraging, though, and gives Washington a couple more reasons to be hopeful entering 2020.

-- Nick Shook

  1. Consider it a fitting end to a dreary Steelers season. In a streaking rain in Baltimore, Devlin Hodges fired wayward balls, committed a killer fumble, and appropriately was called for a safety on an intentional grounding in the end zone late to close the scoring. Even if Pittsburgh got the needed help with a Tennessee loss (they didn't), the Steelers looked nothing like a playoff team in Week 17. A close game turned into a blowout late as the Steelers offense did zilch for the final two and a half quarters. Hodges finished a sad 9-of-25 passing (36 percent) for a futile 95 yards. The undrafted quarterback had no shot against the fiercely blitzing Ravens defense. Duck floundered in the rain as his team's playoff dreams were washed away. With Ben Roethlisberger returning in 2020, the Steelers will need to address the backup position this offseason, so they aren't left in a similar situation with no hope from the offense in the event of another injury to the soon-to-be 38-year-old QB.
  1. Despite Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and a bevy of starters sitting out, the Ravens still bowled over the Steelers to move to 14-2. Baltimore gobbled up 223 rushing yards, with eight players getting carries. Gus "The Bus" Edwards led the way with 130 yards rushing on 21 carries, blasting through a good Steelers defense that came in allowing just 102 yards rushing for the season. The ground performance gave the Ravens the all-time team rushing record for a season, soaring past the 1978 Patriots. Of Baltimore's 19 first downs, 15 came on the ground Sunday. Robert Griffin III, making his first start since Week 17, 2016, performed fine leading Greg Roman's offense that ran the ball 44 times. RGIII didn't stretch the field but didn't need to, adding 50 rushing yards on eight carries and passing for 96 yards on 11-of-21 passing with a late meaningless deflected INT. The cherry on top of John Harbaugh's season-long opus came with the score still 19-10 with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh called a fake put on a 4th-and-1 from his own 11-yard-line. Baltimore converted to drain more clock. The no-fear Ravens head into the playoffs still churning with their 12th straight win.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. On the day when they passed up the Patriots to take the AFC's No. 2 seed, the Chiefs did not have one of their better offensive afternoons. But running back Damien Williams looked as good as he ever has, which could be a boon for a deep playoff run. Williams' 124 yards were one shy of a career and season-high. Williams, troubled much of the year by injury, averaged more than 10 yards a clip thanks in large part to an 84-yard touchdown run. It was the first of two scores that each came in the second half and sealed the win -- and the second seed.
  1. There are uncertainties aplenty regarding the Chargers. This was perhaps Philip Rivers' last game (he went 31-of-46 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for posterity's sake if it was) with the Bolts. Who knows what's next for Melvin Gordon? And Austin Ekeler, who fell seven yards shy of becoming the fifth running back with 1,000 yards receiving, is a restricted free agent. But Keenan Allen, once seemingly plagued by injuries, was consistently outstanding for the Chargers with little fanfare to show for it. He started and played all 16 games -- the third campaign in a row in which he played all 16 after playing just nine combined from 2015-16. After a nine-catch, one-TD, 82-yard showing Sunday, he has 104 catches, 1,199 yards and six scores on the year -- a quietly sensational one for the Bolt with one season left on his contract.

-- Grant Gordon

  1. It wasn't especially pretty, but Green Bay sealed up a first-round bye in the NFC and can still grab the No. 1 seed away from San Francisco if the Niners stumble in Seattle. The Packers hit the scene lifeless and sleepy on offense with an ice-cold Aaron Rodgers throwing for 29 air yards over the first 27 minutes. Aa-Rod pulled Green Bay out of a 17-3 hole, though, with gorgeous scoring darts to Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. Rodgers also tossed a pick with the game notched at 20-20 inside the two-minute warning, but returned one drive later to fling the ball to Aaron Jones, who weaved deep into Lions territory to set up Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal as time expired. The second-half surge looks more impressive considering right tackle Bryan Bulaga was lost to a concussion while center Corey Linsley left with a back injury. Still, the ugly first half raises concerns about this offense.
  1. Detroit's final tilt in a lost campaign started with a dash of sizzle as wideout Danny Amendola flung a trick-play touchdown rope to signal-caller David Blough. The Matthew Stafford fill-in did just enough to help the Lions build that 17-3 advantage, but also tossed a killer fourth-quarter pick that set up Green Bay's game-tying march. Chalk it up as another problematic crumbling for coach Matt Patricia, whose club has led the league in blown leads over the past two seasons.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. Drew Brees turned in a 253-yard, three-TD performance in the Saints' 42-10 win over the Panthers, giving him an NFL-record 547 career TD passes. The Saints are now positioned for a first-round bye; they would only need the 49ers to either lose or tie against the Seahawks to secure it. Meanwhile, it was a quiet four-catch, 37-yard day for Michael Thomas but, given how quickly this one got out of hand, his numbers just ended up adding more stature to the absurd year he's had. He finished his season with a new NFL single-season record 149 catches, 1,725 yards and nine TDs.
  1. It's been Christian McCaffrey's world this season and the Panthers are just living in it. The dynamic RB tallied seven catches for 72 yards and nine rushes for 26 yards and a TD en route to becoming the third player in NFL history to reach 1,000-plus rush and receiving yards in a season. He is only the fourth RB in history to reach 1,000 rec. yards.

-- Jelani Scott

  1. If the Mitch Trubisky era ends in the offseason, it will go out with another uneven performance, this time against Vikings backups. To his credit, Trubisky's best pass of the game came on fourth-and-9 late in the fourth quarter, a pretty lob on the move to rookie Riley Ridley, to set up the game-winning field goal. The Bears offense still remained scuttled for much of the contest, settling for field goals repeatedly in the red zone. Behind a sieve offensive line that got whopped by Vikings reserves, Trubisky was scattershot much of the game and took four sacks, including a key sack-fumble to give the Vikes their only lead late. The QB finished with 207 yards passing and an 84.0 passer rating against Minnesota backups. On the plus side, Allen Robinson remains a force, and David Montgomery played his best game in weeks, plowing for 113 yards on 23 carries and the Bears' only TD of the game. The rookie RB accounted for 57 yards on a 75-yard scoring drive to open the second half. Chicago fans must be left wondering where that had been when the season was still in play.
  1. With Minnesota locked in at the No. 6 seed, Mike Zimmer sat the majority of his starters on both sides of the ball. The coach has to be pleased with the fire his backups played with despite coming up just short. Mike Boone had a wild game in the regular-season finale. The running back was Boone-or-bust, if you please. Boone scampered for 59 yards on the first play of the game. He followed that by botching a pitch for a fumble on the next play. On the following possession, he bobbled a catch that was picked off. Both turnovers led to Chicago field goals. Boone, however, bounced back, blasting off for another 41-yard run late in the second quarter. For the game, Boone compiled 148 yards (126 in the first half) on 17 carries for 8.7 yards per carry and the Vikes' only TD (sorry to all fantasy footballers who needed that performance in Week 16). Minnesota's offensive line, playing mostly reserves, opened good holes against the Bears' front. With Dalvin Cook slated to return for the playoffs, Zimmer should be happier with how his run game performed this week.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. When these two teams met in Week 14, the Browns needed a comeback to win, and Bengals running back Joe Mixon was left feeling like his team had a victory slip through its fingers. They played like they wanted to ensure it wouldn't happen again. At the end of a 2-14 season, that's incredibly encouraging for first-year coach Zac Taylor, who can look forward to an offseason for the front office to upgrade the roster and ride Sunday's momentum into 2020.
  1. After 16 weeks of struggles with and questions about why the big plays weren't coming from the Browns' well-equipped offense, they arrived. Baker Mayfield completed dream-like touchdown passes to Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. This is what the Browns' offense was supposed to be. Too bad it came in Week 17. Too little, too late was the theme Sunday for the Browns, who must first learn the fate of their coach in the next 24 hours and then figure out how to avoid the issues that filled the majority of the game -- and the season -- between the big plays.

-- Nick Shook

  1. Playing in unsavory conditions on the road at New Era Field, the Jets managed to get one final win for the 2019 season, moving to 7-9 on the year. After two costly misses, kicker Sam Ficken redeemed himself on a 47-yard boot to put the Jets up by 10 with a few minutes to go and ultimately clinching the W. The kick likely saved Ficken's job as he's been inconsistent throughout the season. Despite being an inconsequential game for both squads, the Jets still put up a good fight in the regular-season finale.
  1. The Bills opted to rest most of their top players in advance of next week's wild-card appearance. However, Josh Allen still got the starting nod and Sean McDermott trotted the QB out for two possessions before subbing in backup quarterback Matt Barkley late in the first quarter. Barkley, who lit up the Jets in his last matchup, tossed two interceptions and succumbed to a few turnovers. The signal-caller marched the offense down the field on a last-chance drive, ultimately settling for a field goal.

-- Andie Hagemann

  1. The Falcons (7-9) might've won the game but Jameis Winston won by making history today. In a finish that was only fitting for this game, Winston threw a game-losing pick six in overtime to end the year as the first quarterback to have 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a season. Winston also became the first passer in Buccaneers history to throw for over 5,000 yards in a single season. The Bucs also finished the season 7-9. Though the team is expected to bring Winston back for the 2020 season, after the game coach Bruce Arians told reporters that his pick-six "doesn't help" his evaluation.
  1. With the Falcons already eliminated from the playoffs and coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff returning in 2020, there wasn't much for the team to play for. The Falcons put the first points on the board with a gadget play to Ty Sambrailo for a 35-yard TD. Yes, you read that right: Ty Sambrailo. The offensive tackle's TD was the longest scrimmage TD by a player weighting at least 300 pounds in NFL history. Now on to next season.

-- Lakisha Wesseling

  1. Perhaps the Jaguars felt free after the firing of Tom Coughlin, or maybe they realized they had one last chance to save Doug Marrone's job. Either way, Jacksonville played with renewed energy in the last two weeks and battled back to take the lead over Indianapolis in the second half by riding the arm of Gardner Minshew and the efforts of its defense. The Jaguars' forcing of two Jacoby Brissett fumbles permanently swung the game in their favor and provided evidence that things might not be so bad in Duval County after all. We'll see what that does for Marrone's future.
  1. The Colts are another team that will likely look back at the third quarter of the season with great regret, because they simply didn't do enough to win when most needed. They went back to riding the run Sunday, totaling 132 yards, but couldn't keep up thanks to the two Brissett fumbles. After a 10-game stretch in which they lost seven, the Colts are officially at the point where they need to take a hard look at their future under center -- and get healthy elsewhere ahead of the 2020 season.

-- Nick Shook

  1. Save for the outlier that was 2016, the Raiders' final season in Oakland concluded like the other 10 seasons this past decade: with a whimper. With the Titans having won their game, Oakland's postseason fate had already been decided but the chance to end the year on a high note was still on the table. With under 15 seconds to go, Derek Carr (24/38, 341 yards, TD) found rookie Hunter Renfrow on a three-yard toss to set the stage for a potential game-winning two-point conversion. As Carr dropped back to pass on what was Oakland's first two-point attempt of the season, Broncos nose tackle Shelby Harris batted down the pass, slamming the door shut on the game and the Raiders' topsy-turvy era in the Bay Area. As the team prepares to move to Las Vegas, assessing what key pieces will make the trip will be a primary focus in the offseason. Offensive Player of the Year Candidate Josh Jacobs missed the finale with a shoulder injury and an illness but he'll certainly be a part of the future. The same can be said for rookie DEs Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby, as well as tight end Darren Waller, who finished his breakout campaign with five catches for 104 yards. Oakland's once-promising season soured quickly over the last month but they can now move on as their new palace awaits.
  1. Looking ahead to the future also sounds like good advice for the Broncos (7-9). A day after it was reported that Vic Fangio will stay in Denver, the team handed Oakland (7-9) its fifth loss in their last six games and improve their home record to 5-2. Second-year RB Phillip Lindsay (18/53) made history as the first undrafted player to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of their first two seasons. Rookie QB Drew Lock went 17-of-28 for 177 yards and a score, positioning himself as the potential QB1 for 2020 with the injured Joe Flacco already seeming to be on the outs.

-- Jelani Scott

  1. For the Cardinals (5-10-1), Week 17 was more about one final award season push for Kyler Murray and Chandler Jones. The young gunslinger remains a top candidate in the Offensive ROY conversation, and it appeared evident to this viewer that they may have been on his mind as he threw the ball 42 times, the most he's thrown since Week 10. Murray completed 26 of those attempts for 325 yards and two TDs to go along with 2 picks. Although a win would've obviously been the preferred outcome, Murray can hang his hat becoming only the second rookie QB-- the first being Cam Newton in 2011, to have at least 3,500 passing yards and 500 rushing yards in NFL history. Jones, Arizona's premier linebacker, made his final pitch as a DPOY candidate with two tackles, QB hit and two passes defensed; he finished his year with a league-best 19 sacks. Will it be enough to push either over the top? Guess we'll have to wait and see.
  1. And just like that, the Rams (9-7) end their up and down season with an up and down game. Jared Goff ended the game going 29-of-45 and 319 yards, and finished with three TDs for the first time in a game this season. Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee were Goff's primary targets, combining for 15 catches, 183 yards and two scores. Todd Gurley chipped in 68 yards and 20 rushes and finished without a TD for the fifth time. A year after reaching the Super Bowl, the Rams' season will end with them missing the postseason despite putting together a third straight winning season. The focus now will shift to locking up Jalen Ramsey, who missed the game with a knee injury, long-term and gearing up to have a bounce-back 2020.

-- Jelani Scott

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