NFL Week 16 featured an exciting triple-header of Saturday games, two overtime contests and a major upset.
The Houston Texans and New England Patriots clinched their respective divisions on Saturday. The Texans won the AFC South for the second straight season and fourth time in the past five years, while the Patriots claimed the AFC East for the 11th consecutive season.
The New York Giants defeated the Washington Redskins 41-35 at Fed Ex Field in overtime in the highest scoring affair of the weekend. The Miami Dolphins squandered a 23-point fourth-quarter lead, but eventually topped the Cincinnati Bengals in OT. Cincinnati (1-14) secured the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft with the defeat.
In the most shocking result of the weekend, the Arizona Cardinals took down the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Seattle can still win the NFC West with a home victory over the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday night. But the Seahawks have now dropped three home games in 2019 and lost starting running back Chris Carson to a season-ending hip injury.
Before the final week of the season kicks off, let’s first discuss 10 stars who defined Week 16.
1. Michael Thomas
New Orleans Saints superstar wideout Michael Thomas broke Marvin Harrison’s single-season record for receptions. Harrison caught 143 passes in 2002. Thomas increased his 2019 total to 145 catches after hauling in 12 balls for 136 yards and a TD in the Saints’ 38-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 22, 2019
In addition to setting the single-season mark for catches, Thomas now holds the most all-time record for receptions over a two-season span. Thomas has 270 receptions in the past two years, breaking Antonio Brown’s mark of 258 catches between 2014 and 2015.
Michael Thomas this season now has:
* More catches (145) than all Broncos, Colts, Eagles, Raiders, Ravens and Vikings WRs
* More receiving yards (1,688) than all Eagles, Raiders and Ravens WRs
* More receiving TD (9) than all Chargers WRs
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 23, 2019
Thomas tops the NFL in both receiving yards and catches. He’s considerably ahead of the next closest players in both categories by a large margin. That’s fitting because Thomas is by far the best receiver in the league. As a matter of fact, he’s on pace to become one of the greatest receivers to ever play.
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 22, 2019
2. Chandler Jones
The Cardinals put the clamps on the Seahawks’ offense in their mammoth upset. They held quarterback Russell Wilson to a mere 169 yards passing. The Cardinals won 27-13, limiting the Seahawks to just one touchdown.
Outside linebacker Chandler Jones delivered a monster outing for Arizona. He tied a career-high with four sacks and registered six QB hits, two tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 22, 2019
Jones leads the NFL in sacks with 19.5. He is three sacks away from tying Michael Strahan’s single-season sack (22.5) mark. Jones has mustered a sack in 13 of 15 games this season.
Jones also leads the league in forced fumbles with eight. While Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore seems like the best bet to nab Defensive Player of the Year, Jones should at least be in the discussion.
3. Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley was unable to replicate his success from his rookie season, as the running back was mired in a sophomore slump for much of the year. But Barkley has padded the box score in consecutive weeks, including his career afternoon on Sunday.
Barkley ran for a career-best 189 yards and a TD against the Redskins. This came on the heels of a 112-yard rushing performance against the Dolphins. Barkley added four catches for 90 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Barkley accounted for 279 yards from scrimmage in an otherworldly showing.
Saquon Barkley is 2nd player in Super Bowl Era (since 1966) with 185+ rush yards and 90+ receiving yards in a game. The other was Priest Holmes in 2002 vs Seahawks.
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) December 22, 2019
Helping the Giants complete the season-sweep of the Redskins, Barkley demonstrated again why he is among the league’s elite tailbacks when healthy.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 22, 2019
4. Daniel Jones
Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones returned to the lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury and promptly shredded the Redskins for 352 yards and five TDs. Tight end Kaden Smith caught two TD passes, including the walk-off score in overtime.
Daniel Jones 28/42 352 yards
5 TD 0 INT
All 5 TD’s including a walkoff win for Daniel Jones! pic.twitter.com/guXBIsD7Rd
— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) December 22, 2019
Jones posted a 132.1 passer rating. His passer rating, yardage total and touchdowns were all the highest of his rookie campaign.
5. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Vintage ‘Fitzmagic’ came through in the Dolphins’ 38-35 OT win versus the Bengals. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 419 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Three of Fitzpatrick’s TD passes came before intermission—the second time this season he has tossed three scores before halftime.
DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki were Fitzpatrick’s go-to targets. Parker caught five balls for 111 yards and one touchdown. Gesicki had six catches for 82 yards and two TDs.
— Onward State (@OnwardState) December 22, 2019
Fitzpatrick has 11 four-TD games in his 10-year career. He is the only QB in NFL history to throw 4+ TDs in a single game for five different teams.
6. Kenyan Drake
Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake followed up his 4-TD performance from Week 15 with another sensational game. Drake gashed the Seahawks for 166 yards and two TDs. He went untouched on his 80-yard TD scamper, showcasing his blazing speed.
— NFL (@NFL) December 22, 2019
While Chandler Jones did the heavy lifting (per usual) for Arizona’s defense, Drake guided the offense for the second consecutive contest. Drake has amassed 330 rushing yards and 6 TDs in the Cardinals’ two-game win streak.
7. Nyheim Hines
Nyheim Hines put forth one of the greatest games ever by a punt returner.
Hines, the Colts running back/return man, returned three punts for Indianapolis in its 38-6 thrashing of visiting Carolina. He dashed for 40 yards on the first one, which set up an eventual 1-yard TD run for quarterback Jacoby Brissett early in the first quarter. Hines darted for a 84-yard TD on his second return later in the period.
Nyheim Hines takes it to the house!
— NFL (@NFL) December 22, 2019
Hines ran his third and final punt back 71 yards for a TD. He became the first player to have multiple punt return touchdowns in a game since Darius Reynaud in 2012.
The greatest day of Nyheim Hines' career continues.
— Indy SportsOne (@IndySportsOne) December 22, 2019
Hines logged 195 punt return yards on just three attempts—an incredible 65-yard average.
Nyheim Hines scored twice on punt returns today.
— ProFootballReference (@pfref) December 22, 2019
8. Miles Sanders
The Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) are in the driver’s seat to win the NFC East after defeating the Dallas Cowboys 17-9 on Sunday afternoon.
Rookie halfback Miles Sanders led the charge on offense, rushing 20 times for 79 yards and a touchdown while catching five passes for an additional 77 yards.
25 touches. 156 total yards. And a touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) December 23, 2019
During the Eagles’ three-game winning streak, Sanders has compiled 69 touches for 397 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving). Sanders set Eagles rookie records for rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in Week 15 and piled on to his season totals versus the Cowboys.
The Eagles clinch the division title with a win next week against the Giants.
9. Mark Andrews
Mark Andrews has remained Lamar Jackson’s favorite target all season and Sunday was no different. The tight end caught six balls for 96 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Baltimore Ravens upend the Cleveland Browns 31-15. The Ravens clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC, allowing them to rest some starters for Week 17.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 22, 2019
Andrews leads all tight ends in TDs with 10. In fact, he ranks second among all NFL players for receiving TDs. Only Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay has more receiving scores (11). A big play machine, Andrews has accumulated the most catches of 20+ yards among tight ends with 16.
10. Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones put the Green Bay Packers on his back during Monday Night Football, helping them win their first NFC North title since 2016. Despite losing a fumble early in the contest, Jones was the best player on the field in the Packers’ 23-10 win over the host Minnesota Vikings.
The 25-year-old running back rushed for 154 yards and two second-half touchdowns.
Jones leads the NFL in rushing TDs (16) and total touchdowns (19).
Honorable Mention: Alvin Kamara
Thomas wasn’t the only Saint to torch the Titans on Sunday. Running back Alvin Kamara ended his long touchdown drought by rushing for two scores. He turned 11 carries into 80 yards on the ground (7.3 yards per attempt) and collected six receptions for 30 yards.
— Roto Street Journal (@RotoStJournal) December 22, 2019
Kamara hadn’t scored since Week 3 but doubled his season TD total by reaching the end zone twice.