Week 16 in the NFL began on Christmas day with a huge performance by the New Orleans Saints and Alvin Kamara, who finished second in league history to run for six touchdowns in a game. The Saints also won the NFC South with a win over the Minnesota Vikings.
On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers handed the Detroit Lions a lost defeat, gaining a playoff spot for the first time since 2005. The 49ers from San Francisco were upset by the Arizona Cardinals, who lost control of their playoff fortunes.
All that and more in the biggest takeaway of the Week 16 from the NFL Nation.
Standout Artist: 493 Jeff Wilson Jr., 183 rushing yards, receiving 1 TD
If you didn’t believe in the head-coaching candidacy of 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, you should now. Playing alongside others such as Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Jimmy Ward, Jackiskey Tart and Jevon Kinlaw, Saleh’s group found a way to limit Kylar Murray & Co. to a stunning victory. Saleh’s defense has been hurt all season and somehow managed to retain the 49ers for most of the game, even as the offense repeatedly overturned the ball in recent weeks. The win would hurt San Francisco’s draft position, but should only reduce Saleh’s case to the available head-coaching position in the coming weeks.– Nick Wagner
next game: Vs Seahawks (4:25 pm, Sunday, January 3)
The Cardinals’ playoff hopes have started slipping after the 49ers loss on Saturday. All Arizona needed to win and the Cardinals remained in control of their playoff fortunes. Instead, they lost, and now had to rely on the Chicago Bears to lose their last two games to make the postseason for the first time since 2015. – Josh Weinfuss
next game: At Ram (4:25 pm, Sunday 3 January)
Standout Artist: Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, 348 passing yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT
Brady helped end the NFL’s second-longest playoff drought, throwing four touchdown passes in a stormy win Saturday over the Detroit Lions, securing Tampa Bay’s first playoff berth since 2007. Brady made his career debut in his 300th game in the same city. Detroit, 20 years ago on Thanksgiving Day – led five TD-scoring drives in the first half, the team compiled 588 yards of total offense before giving way to backup Blaine Gabbert in the second half. Coach Bruce Arians said, “This is just the beginning. Our goal when we started, especially this year, was to just get into dance.” “And now it is to win 11 games. And see where we stand and where we are going, know who we are playing. Really, really proud.” – Jenna Line
next game: Vs Falcon (1 pm, Sunday 3 January)
What exactly is there to say? It was a terrible loss for the Detroit Lions in scoring (47–7), yards (588) and in health (Matthew Stafford missed all but one series with a right ankle injury). It is on top of the team without top coaches, defense co-ordinators, defensive line coaches, linebackers coaches and secondary coaches, all of whom had to sit down due to the close contact protocol of COVID-19. It was one of the worst losses in franchise history – and the worst loss at home in the Super Bowl era. “The issue was on offense, we can’t stay on the field,” said receiver coach / acting head coach Robert Prince. “And we can’t get off the field on defense.” – Michael Rothstein
next game: Vs Vikings (1 pm, Sunday 3 January)
Standout Artist: Alvin Kamara, 155 rushing yard, 6 rushing TDS saints
Friday’s win over the Vikings was another stark reminder that the Saints could win the game in different ways. This time, it was Kamara’s NFL-record-tying six TD runs and a total of 264 rushing yards (New Orleans’ second-highest total since 1986). It was huge on the day the Saints and defenseman were beaten with injuries, and they were playing in a short week. The Saints (11-4) still have an outside chance at the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Regardless, they now get some extra rest before Week 17, a chance to heal and peak in January. – Mike Triple
next game: At the Panthers (1 pm, Sunday 3 January)
The Vikings have the worst defense in seven seasons under coach Mike Zimmer and the rebuild is going to be longer than expected. Things should improve after Anthony Barr and Daniel Hunter return from injury in 2021 and Michael Pearce’s return. The Vikings still need to overhaul the defensive line, especially after a three-technique, one-on-one pressure on Drew Breeze by the unit and the third-lowest rate (23.2%) of any team this season. . “If you look at the playoff game last year and you see the people who were playing in that game and the people who were playing today, it’s completely 100% different,” said Jimmer. – Courtney Cronin
next game: In Lions (1 pm, Sunday 3 January)