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NFL 2012 Week 16: Teams Of The Division

Law Murray |
December 24, 2012 | 3:05 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Manning's Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL, winning 10 straight games. (Jeffrey Beall/Creative Commons)
Manning's Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL, winning 10 straight games. (Jeffrey Beall/Creative Commons)
With no Monday Night Football, the National Football League has completed the penultimate week of the season, setting up the exclusive intra-divisional Week 17 slate.  Let's get a division-by-division look at the best of Week 16:

AFC EAST: New England Patriots

The Patriots got their struggle on in Jacksonville. Maybe they were tired after Sunday Night Football against the 49ers, but they overcame a slow start offensively (two 1st quarter interceptions by quarterback Tom Brady) to survive the Jaguars 23-16 and set up a chance to get a first-round bye in Week 17. Give them credit for getting through the game, which is more than what we can say about the 49ers. The Patriots defense held Jaguars running backs to 71 yards on 21 carries, and after surrendering a touchdown on the Jaguars' opening possession, held Jaguars QB Chad Henne to 23-of-45 passing for 292 yards, no TDs and three INTs the rest of the game. Brady would recover from his early INTs to throw TD passes to RB Danny Woodhead and wideout Wes Welker.

AFC NORTH: Baltimore Ravens

The debate will be whether or not the Cincinnati Bengals would be in this spot. After all, they went into Pittsburgh, clinched a playoff berth and knocked out the Steelers all on the 40th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception. But I wanted to see if that would set up a division title showdown in Week 17 with Baltimore. Mind you, the Bengals and Steelers both looked inept at critical points in that game. And while inept is a word you would use to describe the Ravens' play over the last month. They finally resembled the team that started 9-2 with perhaps their most impressive win of the season, 33-14 against the defending champion New York Giants. The win clinched the division for the Ravens. QB Joe Flacco finally stopped turning the ball over (he had six during the Ravens' three-game losing streak) and threw the ball all over the Camden Yard, finding WR Torrey Smith and RB Ray Rice for TD passes. The offense, featuring new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, racked up a season-high 533 yards on the Giants, bolstered by the ground game (104 yards on 24 carries for Rice, 123 yards on 14 carries for rookie RB Bernard Pierce, 78 of which came on one 4th quarter blast). Equally impressive was how the Ravens owned third down. While New York was only 2-for-10 on third down, Baltimore converted 11-for-18, allowing them to keep the ball for over 39 minutes. That greatly helped the defense stay off the field. When the defense was on the field, they harassed Giants QB Eli Manning, sacking him three times and holding him to 150 yards passing.

AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis Colts

Good thing the Houston Texans locked up the division in Week 15, because they looked pitiful at home against the Vikings, failing to score a TD for the first time since 2006. Meanwhile, the Colts and rookie QB Andrew Luck put together their seventh game-winning drive of the season, culminating with a TD pass to WR Reggie Wayne to beat the lowly Kansas City Chiefs 20-13. The win clinched a playoff spot for the Colts, who went 2-14 last season. While Luck ended the game well and set a new rookie record for passing yardage (4,183), he was struggling before the game-winning drive, completing only 11-of-28 passes for 158 yards. But he was still better than Chiefs QB Brady Quinn. Despite allowing 352 rushing yards (!), the biggest of which went for an 86-yard TD by RB Jamaal Charles (226 yards rushing overall), the Colts held the Chiefs to 13 points and returned the first of Quinn's two INTs for a TD. The Colts defense also were the beneficiaries of a missed field goal. They recovered a Charles fumble in the red zone, intercepted Quinn in the end zone, and stopped the Chiefs on 3rd- and 4th-and-1 at the Colts' 27 to spark Luck's go-ahead drive. 

AFC WEST: Denver Broncos

The Broncos are on a ten-game winning streak, and while only two of those wins were against playoff teams, all of them have been decided by at least seven points. The Broncos continued their assault yesterday against the Cleveland Browns, winning 34-12. QB Peyton Manning had a season-high 339 passing yards, completing 30 of 43, with two TDs to WR Demaryius Thomas (102 total receiving yards) and one to WR Eric Decker. What makes Denver scary is its top-five defense. The Browns failed to score a TD until garbage time. Rookie RB Trent Richardson and rookie QB Brandon Weeden were both injured during the game, rookie WR Josh Gordon (seven receiving yards) was erased by Broncos CB Champ Bailey and Denver racked up six sacks.

NFC EAST: Washington Redskins

The Redskins stayed hot and atop the NFC East with a 27-20 win at Philadelphia. The win was the Redskins' sixth in a row, and if they win at home on Sunday Night Football in Week 17, they will win their first division title since 1999. Rookie QB Robert Griffin III came back from injury and was limited as a runner (season-low four rushing yards) and threw an INT against an Eagles defense that hadn't intercepted a pass in over two months. Besides that, Griffin threw TD passes to WR Josh Morgan and WR Santana Moss, while rookie RB Alfred Morris (108 total yards) added a rushing TD. The Redskins also got big plays from their linebackers: outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had two of the Redskins' four sacks, one of which caused a turnover, while inside linebacker London Fletcher intercepted his fifth pass of the season, which leads all LBs.

NFC NORTH: Green Bay Packers

The Vikings and Bears both won on the road to keep their playoff hopes alive, but the division champion Packers won their home finale in a big way, blowing out the Tennessee Titans 55-7. The Packers scored seven red zone TDs, including five on their first five second-half possessions to blow the game open. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had his biggest day of the season with 342 passing yards (27/38) and three TD passes while scoring one of the Packers' four rushing TDs. He was only sacked once and the Packers didn't turn the ball over. WR James Jones leads the league in TD receptions (13), while RB Ryan Grant added 80 rushing yards and two rushing TDs. But you don't get a beatdown like this without some help from other areas, and the defense and special teams had big days as well. The Packers embarrased Titans QB Jake Locker, as he completed only 9-of-25 passes for 81 yards, no TDs and two INTs before a garbage-time TD drive to end the game. Locker was also sacked seven times, and Titans RB Chris Johnson was eliminated (28 rushing yards on 11 carries). The Packers were beneficiaries of bad punts and kickoffs that set up TD drives all game. If the Packers win at Minnesota in Week 17, they will earn a first-round bye.

The NFC playoffs go through Atlanta this season. (Creative Commons/Flickr/Football Schedule)
The NFC playoffs go through Atlanta this season. (Creative Commons/Flickr/Football Schedule)
NFC SOUTH: Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons beat the Detroit Lions 31-18 to lock up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. QB Matt Ryan threw four TD passes, two to WR Roddy White (153 receiving yards).  The Falcons defense survived Lions WR Calvin Johnson's record-breaking quest by allowing only one TD and forcing three turnovers. Johnson set the single-season record for most receiving yards while racking up 225 receiving yards, but he lost a key fumble, while Lions QB Matthew Stafford failed to throw a TD despite completing 37 passes for 446 passing yards on 56 attempts. 

NFC WEST: Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks won a huge game against the San Francisco 49ers 42-13 on Sunday Night Football, clinching a playoff berth. It was another complete win for the Seahawks. Rookie QB Russell Wilson threw four more TD passes (two to WR Doug Baldwin, one to RB Marshawn Lynch, one to backup tight end Anthony McCoy), giving him 25 passing TDs on the season (more than Luck and Griffin, one less than Peyton Manning in 1998). Lynch also ran for one TD and 111 rushing yards on 26 carries, attacking OLB Aldon Smith and injured defensive end Justin Smith's replacement, DE Ricky Jean-Francois. Wilson was only sacked once (by 49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga) and intercepted once (by 49ers ILB Patrick Willis, after rookie RB Robert Turbin bobbled a pass), while the Seahawks converted 11-of-13 third downs. The Seahawks proceeded to embarrass the 49ers on defense and special teams, holding the 49ers to 3-of-11 on third down and returning a blocked field goal for a TD. 49ers running backs were eliminated, combining for only 51 yards rushing, while 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick struggled inside CenturyLink Field, completing only 14 of 29 passes for 180 yards, no TDs, and an end zone INT before a garbage time TD drive.



Reach Staff Writer Law Murray by email or Twitter.



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