In an AFC showdown that actually lived up to the hype, the Bengals topped the Chiefs 34-31 in a wild shootout where Joe Burrow was so impressive, he might have done enough to put himself firmly in the MVP conversation. One week after throwing for 525 yards, Burrow was just as good against Kansas City, throwing for 446 yards and four touchdowns.
The Bengals offense has looked borderline unstoppable over the past two weeks with Burrow making clutch throw after clutch throw, and on Sunday, most of those clutch throws went to Ja'Marr Chase, who put himself squarely back in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race (against Mac Jones) with a history-making performance that saw him catch 11 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns.
Not only did Chase break the Bengals franchise record for receiving yards in a game, but he also set the NFL rookie record for most receiving yards in a single-game, topping a mark that had stood since 1979 when Buffalo's Jerry Butler finished with 255.
The reason Chase was able to set the record is because he kept coming up with big plays when the Bengals needed them the most. His first score of the game might have been the biggest. With the Bengals trailing 14-0, Chase cut the Chiefs' lead in half with a 72-yard score where he weaved around Kansas City's entire defense.
Chase also had touchdown catches from 69 and 18 yards against Kansas City.
Although all three touchdowns were important, you could argue that none of them would qualify as his biggest play of the game and that's because his biggest play came on a third-and-27 with the Bengals at the Chiefs' 41-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
With the game tied at 31, the Bengals were staring at a possible punt or long field goal attempt if they didn't convert, but they didn't have to worry about either of those options, because Chase and Burrow connected for a huge 30-yard gain.
That third down conversion allowed the Bengals to melt the final 3:14 off the clock. Thanks to that conversion, Evan McPherson was able to win the game with a 20-yard field goal that he hit as time expired. With no time left, that meant that Patrick Mahomes never got the ball, which is why Chase's conversion was so important.
By beating the AFC's top team, it's starting to feel like this Bengals team needs to be considered as one of the top contenders in the conference, and if Burrow and Chase keep playing the way they're playing, they might also be able to make some history in the playoffs by leading the Bengals to their first postseason win in more than 30 years.
The Bengals don't know who they'll be playing in the playoffs, but the important thing is that they do know they'll be there and that should scare the other teams in the AFC.
Alright, let's get to the grades for every game from Week 17.
Cincinnati 34-31 over Kansas City
|For a minute there, the Chiefs looked like they were going to run away with this game. After an initial three-and-out to begin the day, they recorded four-straight touchdown drives that had them up 28-14 at one point in the first half. The K.C. defense was able to pressure Joe Burrow and it appeared like they were going to continue to have a firm grasp of the No. 1 seed. However, they collapsed in the second half as they managed just three points over the final two quarters and allowed the Bengals to drop 17 en-route to the victory. The Chiefs had no answer for Ja'Marr Chase, who totaled three touchdowns in the win. Andy Reid's team also had a crushing penalty on the final drive that gave Cincinnati a new set of downs after they failed to convert a fourth-and-goal play. Had they played it clean there, they would have kept the game tied at 31 and either forced overtime or had a couple of deep shot attempts with 50 seconds left in regulation.|
|The Bengals showed that they are ready to be considered a true powerhouse in the AFC with their win over the Chiefs. Offensively, they continue to light up the scoreboard and never seemed out of the game even as Kansas City went up by two scores early. Rookie Ja'Marr Chase likely locked up Offensive Rookie of the Year honors for his historic performance as he recorded the most receiving yards in a single game by a rookie in NFL history with 266. He also had three touchdowns to his name and hauled in a massive 30-yard reception on the game-winning drive on a third-and-27 situation. Defensively, they were able to make adjustments in the second half that resulted in just three points allowed and gave them the opportunity to complete the comeback. Protecting Joe Burrow continues to be an issue for this team, but that offense should scare any team this postseason.|
Chiefs-Bengals grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Buffalo 29-15 over Atlanta
|The Falcons actually led this game 15-14 at halftime, but then their offense completely disappeared in the second half. Over the game's final two quarters, the Falcons totaled just 96 yards of offense and the only time they came close to scoring, their drive was killed after Matt Ryan got called for a taunting penalty on a play where he thought he scored a TD (The TD got called back and the Falcons ended up not scoring on the drive). It was a rough day for Ryan, who also got sacked five times.|
|Josh Allen played his worst game of the year, but it didn't end up hurting the Bills and that's because Devin Singletary and the Buffalo defense were able to pick up the slack. Singletary rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns for a Bills offense that did most of its damage on the ground. As for Allen, although he struggled through the air with three interceptions, he made up for that on the ground by rushing for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, the Bills shut the Falcons down when it mattered most: Not only did Atlanta only convert one third down in the game (1 of 7), but the Bills also limited the Falcons to just one touchdown on four trips to the red zone.|
Falcons-Bills grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Chicago 29-3 over N.Y. Giants
|If you want to know what a bad football team looks like, just watch the Giants. The Giants turned the ball over on two of their first six offensive plays and things only got uglier from there. If you're wondering how things got uglier: The Giants finished with just -10 passing yards -- yes, that's a negative sign in front of that 10 --which is the lowest total the NFL has seen from any team since 1998.|
|The Bears weren't perfect, but they didn't have to be, because they were playing the Giants. On a day where the Bears offense totaled less than 250 yards, Chicago still got the blowout win thanks to its defense. Not only did the Bears force four turnovers, but they also came up with a second quarter safety. Not to mention, they held the Giants to -10 passing yards, which was the third-lowest total in franchise history.|
Giants-Bears grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
New England 50-10 over Jacksonville
|It's almost unfair to ask a rookie QB to go up against a Bill Belichick defense and Trevor Lawrence found out why on Sunday. The Jaguars rookie looked absolutely lost going up against the Patriots defense. Lawrence threw three interceptions and the Patriots turned those three picks into three touchdowns, which is a big reason why this was such a blowout. Of course, even if Lawrence had thrown zero interceptions, the Jags probably still would have lost the and that's because their defense couldn't stop a Patriots offense that racked up nearly 500 total yards. |
|The Patriots were on a two-game losing streak going into Sunday, but they ended that in a resounding fashion by absolutely destroying the lowly Jaguars. The defense set up three touchdowns in the game by picking off Trevor Lawrence three times. Offensively, Mac Jones also produced three touchdowns with three scoring throws. The Patriots were basically able to move the ball at will on a day where they converted 8 of 10 third downs while totaling 471 yards.|
Jaguars-Patriots grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Tampa Bay 28-24 over N.Y. Jets
|On an off day for the Buccaneers, Tom Brady was able to muster up enough magic to make sure that the Jets weren't able to pull off the upset. Brady threw for 410 yards with 93 of that coming on a game-winning drive in the final two minutes that he had to run with no timeouts left. Brady hit Cyril Grayson for a 33-yard score with just 15 seconds left to win the game. Of course, there's a good chance no one remembers Brady's comeback and that's because the only thing anyone is going to be talking about after this game is the fact that Antonio Brown basically quit the team in the middle of the game.|
|For most of the first three quarters, the Jets played a nearly perfect game, but then they melted down. With one minute left in the third quarter, the Jets were up 24-10 and it looked like they were on their way to pulling off an improbable upset, but then they turned into the Jets. On their final four offensive possessions, they went three-and-out twice, they fumbled once and they got stopped on a huge fourth-and-2 at Tampa Bay's 7-yard line with under 2:30 left to play. The loss overshadowed a mostly impressive day from a Jets offense that was surprisingly able to move the ball well against the Buccaneers.|
Buccaneers-Jets grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Rams 20-19 over Baltimore
|Los Angeles weathered the storm after a slow start. The Rams' defense forced the Ravens to settle for a field goal after marching 91 yards following Chuck Clark's second pick of Matthew Stafford. Jordan Fuller's pick of Tyler Huntley on the Ravens' ensuing drive set up Stafford's 18-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp that made it a 10-7 game. The Rams' red zone defense came up with two more stops in the second half, as Leonard Floyd and Aaron Donald's third-down sack of Huntley forced Baltimore to settle for a fourth Justin Tucker field goal and a 19-14 lead. The stop set the stage for Stafford, who hit Odell Beckham Jr. for the game-winning score.|
|The Ravens scored 13 points off of turnovers, but their inability to do more with those opportunities contributed to the loss. Ahead 13-7, Baltimore had an opportunity to pull away from Los Angeles after Tyus Boswer's strip-sack of Matthew Stafford deep in Ravens territory early in the third quarter. The Ravens then moved to the Rams' 28-yard-line before having to settle for a field goal and a 16-7 lead. Despite exceptional play for most of the game, the Ravens' defense was unable to make the game-winning play late in the game. A 21-yard completion from Stafford to Cooper Kupp set up Sony Michel's touchdown run to make it a 16-14 game with 12:09 left. A 12-yard completion from Stafford to Beckham on fourth-and-five from the Rams' 12-yard-line set up their game-winning score moments later.|
Rams-Ravens grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Las Vegas 23-20 over Indianapolis
|Derek Carr and Daniel Carlson were clutch once again for this Las Vegas team as it charges towards the playoffs. The Raiders are hopeful to get Darren Waller back in time for next week's game and the run game will need to be better in order to exploit Los Angeles' biggest weakness.|
|The Colts did not have any critical errors. It was a slow burn with a few sparks from Jonathan Taylor. Special teams allowed some big returns early and that set up Las Vegas to take an early lead. Carson Wentz missed practice this week while on the reserve/COVID-19 list and it showed in the form of rust as Wentz started the game 1 of 7. |
Raiders-Colts grades by Josh Edwards (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Tennessee 34-3 over Miami
|The Dolphins didn't like the cold, wet weather. Tua Tagovailoa fumbled a total of three times (lost one) and threw an interception while the defense struggled to stop Tennessee's rushing attack. Nothing went right for Miami and it is again on the outside looking in at the playoffs.|
|It was rainy/snowy/cold in Nashville, but that's the kind of weather Mike Vrabel's team likes. Even without Derrick Henry, this squad racked up 198 yards on the ground, led by D'Onta Foreman's 132 yards. The defense pressured Tua Tagovailoa all afternoon and didn't allow Jaylen Waddle to take over. Miami scored just three points all game!|
Dolphins-Titans grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Philadelphia 20-16 over Washington
|This one wasn't pretty for the Eagles, who overcame another sluggish first half to rally for the win in Washington. Philadelphia allowed Washington to score on all four of its first half possessions and grab a 16-7 lead. Washington didn't score once in the second half, though, having just 81 yards on 27 plays and a turnover. The Eagles defense allowed the offense to overcome a 16-7 deficit and hang on for the four-point win. Jalen Hurts didn't have a touchdown, but performed like a franchise quarterback with clutch throws on third down on key scoring drives for the Eagles. Philadelphia is in position to lock up a playoff berth. |
|The Football Team fought hard, but Taylor Heinicke continued his inconsistent play. After going 14 of 17 for 170 yards in the first half, Heinicke went just 10 for 19 for 77 yards in the second half -- throwing an interception to Rodney McLeod from the Eagles' 20 with 30 seconds left. The Football team couldn't score touchdowns deep in Eagles territory, settling for field goals and allowing Philadelphia to stay in the game. Washington is eliminated from the playoffs and needs a franchise quarterback in 2022 and beyond if it wants to win the NFC East again. |
Eagles-Washington grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
San Francisco 23-7 over Houston
|The Texans actually played well enough in this game to lead 7-3 at halftime, but then the wheels fell off the wagon in the third quarter with several big mistakes. The first one was an interception by Davis Mills on Houston's opening possession of the second half. The pick led to a go-ahead TD for the 49ers and San Francisco would never trail after that. The Texans had a chance to tie the game in the third quarter, but Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a 45-yard field goal and the 49ers made Houston pay for the mistake by scoring a TD just four plays after the miss. If the Texans had been able to cut down on the mistakes, they might have been able to pull off the upset.|
|With Trey Lance making his second career start, there was a lot of unknown going into this game for the 49ers' offense and if there's one piece of good news for San Francisco: Lance looked like someone who could definitely be the QB of the future. After a slow start, Lance rebounded to throw for 249 yards and a two TDs, including a 45-yard scoring pass to Deebo Samuel. The 49ers' offense is usually working when its ground game is working and the ground game was definitely working, thanks to the return of Eli Mitchell, who rushed for 119 yards on 21 carries. Defensively, the 49ers overwhelmed Mills, sacking him four times and picking him off once.|
Texans-49ers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Seattle 51-29 over Detroit
|The Lions have struggled on the road all season and those struggles continued in Seattle. This game was basically over before it started and that's mainly due to the fact that the Lions couldn't stop a Seahawks rushing attack that totaled 265 yards. They also couldn't stop Seattle's passing attack, and really, they couldn't stop anything the Seahawks did. With the loss, the Lions will finish the season with a road record of 0-8-1.|
|If this was Russell Wilson's final home game in Seattle, then he definitely went out with a bang. The Seahawks QB threw four touchdown passes in a game that was never close. As good as Wilson was, he wasn't even the best offensive player on the field for the Seahawks and that's because that honor belonged to Rashad Penny, who rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns. DK Metcalf also scored multiple touchdowns, hauling in three of Wilsons' four scoring throws. Not to be outdone, the Seahawks' defense picked off three passes in the second half, which kept the Lions from mounting any sort of comeback.|
Lions-Seahawks grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
New Orleans 18-10 over Carolina
|The Panthers' offense came out hot, scoring on its first two possessions, but then things seemed to fall apart after that. Following the first two possessions, the Panthers only managed to put together ONE drive the rest of the game that went for more than 16 yards and that drive ended with a missed field goal by Lirim Hajrullahu. The Panthers' defense played well enough to win, but that effort went to waste due to an offense that turned the ball over twice while only managing 178 yards.|
|It's a good thing football isn't a beauty contest, because this definitely wasn't a pretty win for the Saints. On a day where the offense struggled, the Saints took advantage of multiple mistakes by the Panthers. After forcing a Sam Darnold fumble in the first half, the Saints quickly turned that into three points. The Saints also got their only TD of the game on a drive following a Panthers missed field goal. The win keeps the Saints' playoff hopes alive and at this point, that's all that matters.|
Panthers-Saints grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Chargers 34-13 over Denver
|Denver was playing with a backup quarterback, which excuses some of this performance. But so much about what the Broncos did here was sloppy. Missed fourth-down opportunities (three of them), a penalty that took a touchdown off the board, a muffed punt, two blown kick coverages ... it was not a good day at the office for Denver.|
|The Chargers got off to a fast start, and for the most part did not slow down. Their special teams performance was immaculate -- which is pretty incredible considering they are still the Chargers. Justin Herbert was efficient, Austin Ekeler was his usual self, and the run defense showed up big in a big spot. Terrific performance to set themselves up for a playoff clincher next week against the Raiders.|
Broncos-Chargers grades by Jared Dubin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Arizona 25-22 over Dallas
|Credit the Cardinals for righting the ship on the road against a team that's been mostly dominant at home, with the Cowboys often punishing visitors en route to wins. Kyler Murray handled the waves of pressure as best he could, and avoided what might've been a handful of sacks for the Cowboys, extending plays and delivering strikes downfield that made it difficult for a Dallas defense that was asked to carry an offense that couldn't stay on the field or deliver points when it was. The Arizona defense left Dak Prescott unsettled for much of the game and by the time he started to heat up, it was too late to matter.|
|You could argue that the defense, while allowing [only] 25 points against Murray and Co., nearly aced this assignment. Micah Parsons and others like Randy Gregory hurried the speedy QB as mostly every turn, and kept him uncomfortable while the secondary had a mostly strong showing. They weren't perfect, no, but considering they were asked to play much longer than they would've liked -- i.e., time of possession -- eyes turn to Prescott and an offense that again lacked execution and discipline and landed a failing grade that could be buoyed by the ability to make it close in the end, but since it was too little, too late ... no.|
Cardinals-Cowboys grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Green Bay 37-10 over Minnesota
|Without Kirk Cousins, the Vikings were no match for the Packers and even with Cousins, they might not have been any match for Green Bay and that's because this game was a blowout from start to finish. To pull off the upset at Lambeau, the Vikings would have needed a nearly perfect performance from their defense, but instead, they got the opposite of that. Offensively, the Vikings were so bad that an offensive lineman (Garrett Bradbury) who caught a deflected pass ended up having the longest reception (21 yards) of the game for Minnesota. You know things aren't going well when an offensive lineman has the longest catch of the night for you.|
|If there was a mercy rule in the NFL, this game might have been called at halftime. The Packers won this game thanks to a nearly perfect performance from a defense that held the Vikings to under 200 yards. The Packers offense was also nearly perfect, especially Davante Adams, who caught 11 passes for 136 yards, which was nearly half of Aaron Rodgers' 288-yard passing total. Aaron Jones (76 yards) and A.J. Dillon (63 yards, two touchdowns) continue to be a strong one-two punch and they both should come in handy come playoff time. Speaking of the playoffs, the Packers earned the top seed in the NFC with the win.|
Vikings-Packers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Pittsburgh 26-14 over Cleveland (Monday)
|The Browns' defense played well enough to win, but the same definitely can't be said for an offense that got destroyed by the Steelers. Baker Mayfield had an ugly game, but it wasn't completely his fault and that's because he got zero protection from his offensive line on a night where he got sacked nine times. Even when he did get protection, though, he wasn't great, completing just 42.1% of his passes for 185 yards. The Browns coaching staff wasn't much better than Mayfield. With Cleveland going against a Steelers defense that's vulnerable against the run, feeding Nick Chubb would have made sense, but he inexplicably saw just 12 carries, despite averaging 4.8 yards per rush.|
|In what was likely Ben Roethlisberger's final game ever at Heinz Field, his teammates made sure to send him out with a bang. His defensive teammates made life miserable for Mayfield, who was sacked nine times with four of those coming from T.J. Watt. Another teammate, Chris Boswell, came up with four much-needed field goals (50, 48, 30, 22) to give the Steelers some breathing room on the scoreboard. Although Roethlisberger himself wasn't spectacular, he didn't have to be and that's because Najee Harris did more than enough to carry the offense with 188 rushing yards and a TD on the ground. Of course, Big Ben also played a big part in the win by providing a key early TD with a second-quarter scoring pass to Diontae Johnson. Not only did the Steelers send Big Ben out with a win, but they kept their faint playoff hopes alive while also guaranteeing that Mike Tomlin's record 15-year streak of consecutive seasons without a losing mark will continue. The win also means the Steelers will never have had a losing record during Roethlisberger's 18-year career.|
Browns-Steelers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)