If Week 15 was statement week, Week 16 could be called elimination week. A few teams had their playoff hopes officially extinguished.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Rams can prepare for the offseason, and the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys are on the brink.
Those games are a part of the week's featured stories, but first...
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The Top Stories
The Super Bowl Champs are Almost Done
The New York Giants have gone from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, to nearly eliminated from the playoffs the following season. Their 33-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday has all but knocked them out of the NFC playoff picture for good.
The Ravens got off to a great start with a 24-7 halftime lead, and they never allowed the Giants back into the game.
The Giants' defense was victimized on the ground all day. Both Bernard Pierce (123 yards) and Ray Rice (107 yards) hit the 100-yard mark. The Ravens clinched the AFC North with the win.
At 8-7, the Giants can be eliminated in Week 17 by a variety of scenarios. Because of their loss on Sunday, just defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17 won't get them in. They need tons of help if they hope to have a shot at defending their title.
My, how the mighty have fallen.
SOURCES: The plants outside #Giants CB Corey Webster's house always die every winter. He's still trying to figure out how to cover them.— NOT SportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) December 23, 2012
RGIII Returns and the Skins Are In Control in the NFC East
The Washington Redskins are firmly in control of their destiny in the NFC East. With both the Dallas Cowboys and Giants losing on Sunday, Robert Griffin III has his team in position to grab a very unlikely division crown.
RGIII threw two touchdowns en route to an impressive 27-20 road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the Skins sixth win in a row.
Rookie running back Alfred Morris chipped in 91 yards and a touchdown in what has been a great season. The Eagles had an opportunity to tie the game at the end of regulation, but Nick Foles was called for an intentional grounding on the last play of the game.
Dallas Comes Up Short
Despite a furious 14-point comeback in the fourth quarter to force overtime, the Dallas Cowboys came up short in the extra session.
The Cowboys had the ball first, but were forced to punt the ball to Drew Brees and the Saints' offense. They wouldn't see it again.
Brees drove the offense into field goal range, and Garrett Hartley nailed a 20-yard field goal for the 34-31 win. Brees threw for 446 yards and three scores in a masterful performance.
The Cowboys are now set for an epic showdown against the Redskins in Week 17. The winner will be the NFC East champion.
In my Bart Scott voice: "can't wait."
Bengals Claim their Spot and Eliminate the Steelers
The Cincinnati Bengals took advantage of their opportunity to claim a playoff spot with a 13-10 win. In the process, they officially eliminated the Pittsburgh Steelers from contention.
It was a physical game—as expected—but the Bengals' defensive line controlled the game.
Although Andy Dalton was dumped six times, the Bengals got to Ben Roethlisberger four times, and many of them came to stamp out crucial drives. A huge interception from Reggie Nelson late in the fourth quarter gave Dalton a chance to get his team in position for a game-winning field goal.
He didn't disappoint, and Josh Brown 43-yard field goal sent the Bengals into the postseason and the Steelers searching for answers.
Vikings Come Up Big in Texas
The Minnesota Vikings grabbed the biggest road win of the season on Sunday: going into Houston and defeating a Houston Texans team that still had something to play for is impressive.
What was even more noteworthy was the fact that the Vikings did it without a monster game from Adrian Peterson. AP ran for a human 86 yards, but the Vikes' defense held the Texans attack in check.
The result was a dominating 23-6 victory for the Vikings.
Peterson is now 208 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, but more importantly, the Vikings can make the playoffs with a win in Green Bay on Sunday.
Colts Complete Amazing Turnaround With Playoff Berth
After going 2-14 in 2011, the Indianapolis Colts have responded with an inspired season. They clinched a playoff berth a year after securing the league's worst record.
The Colts' victims on Sunday can only hope to emulate their success in 2013.
The Kansas City Chiefs fell to 2-13 after the 20-13 defeat. The Chiefs came up short despite a great performance from Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs RB had 226 yards and one touchdown on the ground in a losing effort.
#Colts are 2nd team to win at least 10 games a season after losing at least 14 (2008 Dolphins)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 23, 2012
Packers 55, Titans 7
Dolphins 24, Bills 10
Chargers 27, Jets 17
Rams 28, Buccaneers 13
Panthers 17, Raiders 6
Patriots 23, Jaguars 16
Broncos 34, Browns 12
#Broncos have won 10 in row for 1st time since 1998. They've also won 10 straight vs the Browns— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 24, 2012
Bears 28, Cardinals 13
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