B/R NFL Staff's Biggest Winners and Losers of Week 16
No excuses are allowed. NFL teams must show up when it matters the most with the postseason looming.
On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys got the job done. They either clinched a bye, a division title or a playoff spot, or they kept their hopes alive.
The Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Washington Football Team and Los Angeles Rams didn't. They now have work to do or else they'll be eliminated.
"We had exactly what we needed to win this game," Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield told reporters after Sunday's 23-16 loss to the New York Jets. "I didn't do good enough. That's it. ... This one is going to sting for a day or two, but we have the Steelers to win and get in."
Therein lies the beauty of playoff races. A painful loss one weekend can turn into euphoria the very next and vice versa. But that's for another day.
Today, Bleacher Report's team of NFL writers—Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport and Kalyn Kahler—watched Sunday's action to determine who emerged as Week 16's real winners and losers.
Spoiler alert: Playoff chances and draft choices matter to this group.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks defense
Quarterback Russell Wilson wasn't particularly special as the Seahawks wrapped up the NFC West with a victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, yet Seattle won by a double-digit margin anyway because the defense was on fire.
Seattle shut Los Angeles down twice in the red zone and gave up just three field goals altogether as that formerly maligned unit surrendered 17 or fewer points for the fifth consecutive week.
Jamal Adams, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Jarran Reed and Shaquill Griffin form a special defensive core for a team that might be peaking defensively just in time for the playoffs.
Loser: Denver Broncos general manager John Elway
The Broncos general manager put all his eggs in Drew Lock's basket this year, and another awful performance from the sophomore second-round draft pick pretty much ensured he can't possibly be handed the starting job during the 2021 offseason.
With two more interceptions in a dud against the division rival Los Angeles Chargers, Lock now has more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14) in 2020. He ranks near the bottom of the league in practically every rate-based metric.
It's fair to wonder if the organization should even allow Elway to take another shot at a franchise quarterback after yet another whiff.
Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock. Who's next? Maybe somebody else should decide.
Winner: Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
J.J. Watt is a winner. His squad, the Texans, may be a lousy, no-good team at the moment, but the franchise's status doesn't change who Watt is.
Watt is a team leader and tone-setter. His comments after Sunday's 37-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals showed his character.
"We're in Week 16, and we're 4-11," the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year told reporters. "And there's fans that watch this game, that show up to the stadium, that put in time and energy and effort and care about this. So if you can't go out there, and you can't work out, you can't show up on time, you can't practice, you can't want to go out there and win, you shouldn't be here."
The above is only part of Watt's exceptional response when asked why he still played hard despite a lost season. He clearly cares and brings the mentality of a true professional.
The 31-year-old may not be the same player he once was. Still, the Texans franchise is in good hands with him and quarterback Deshaun Watson leading the way no matter who takes over as Houston's next general manager and head coach.
Loser: Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr.
Consider the following for a moment: Washington started Dwayne Haskins Jr. at quarterback after he was "photographed at an event with strippers while not wearing a mask" last week, lost his captaincy and was fined $40,000 by head coach Ron Rivera, according to ESPN's John Keim.
Meanwhile, multiple players and coaches around the league had to sit out games this weekend despite not breaking any league COVID-19 guidelines.
How did Haskins do? About as well as expected after he disappointed everyone.
Rivera benched his second-year signal-caller in favor of Taylor Heinicke during Sunday's 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers after he completed 14 of 28 passes with a pair of interceptions.
Haskins had one more chance to prove himself in Washington with a division title on the line. He failed, and there's no reason to think last year's 15th overall draft pick will even be with the organization after this season.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars did something in Week 16 they hadn't since all the way back in Week 1: win.
That they did so by doing the only thing the franchise has done since the season opener (losing) is a very Jaguars way to go about it.
At this point in what has become a complete catastrophe of a season, getting drilled at home by the Chicago Bears doesn't really mean much. Jacksonville has now dropped 14 in a row. The rockiest of bottoms has been hit.
But the loss to Chicago, coupled with the New York Jets' win over the Cleveland Browns, ensures that regardless of what happens in Week 17, the Jaguars will hold the winning ticket in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes when the 2021 NFL draft gets underway.
Assuming Lawrence is anywhere close to as good a player in the pros as he has been at Clemson, it's the sort of pick that can redefine a franchise, and it will be quite the selling point as the Jaguars attempt to lure in a new head coach in 2021.
Loser: Cleveland Browns
The Browns aren't going to make the playoffs.
There. I said it.
You see, we had forgotten something about the Browns, and it's the Cleveland factor: The fact that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong at some point.
The day before the Browns were set to play the one-win Jets, most of the wideout corps landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
That worked out about like you'd expect. Even short-handed, the Browns had the ball deep in Jets territory with a chance. But Cleveland committed far too many unforced errors Sunday, including two lost fumbles by quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Now, the 10-5 Browns have to defeat the division champion Pittsburgh Steelers to make the playoffs. The same Steelers team that walloped Cleveland 38-7 in Week 6. The same Steelers team that is 35-6-1 against the Browns dating back to 2000. The same Steelers team that has lost just twice in 27 meetings with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
All the Browns had to do to punch a playoff ticket was beat a Jets team that has been a laughingstock most of the season. They couldn't get it done.
Winner: Mitchell Trubisky?
Please note the question mark. Since Trubisky's return from being benched in Week 3, the Bears quarterback has played some of his best football and has helped lift Chicago out of a six-game losing streak.
But he's also played against some truly unimpressive defenses. He lost to two weak defenses—the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions—in his first two games back and then beat the Minnesota Vikings, who head coach Mike Zimmer said Saturday have the worst defense he's ever coached.
Trubisky did beat the Houston Texans, who looked like they'd totally given up, and now he's defeated the one-win and tanking Jacksonville Jaguars, who secured the No. 1 overall draft spot Sunday.
Who knows what the future holds for him in Chicago? With the Bears one win away from clinching a playoff spot, Trubisky has at least warranted another look. Giving up on a No. 2 overall pick is no small decision.
Loser: The NFL
I know, I know. The league isn't postponing games unless there is a risk of an outbreak, but two games this weekend were affected by players or coaches on the reserve/COVID-19 list and warranted a postponement.
The Lions were missing five coaches and forced to play with an interim-to-the-interim head coach. They were blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in extreme fashion.
The Cleveland Browns did not have a single receiver with a catch this season available and also lost two starting linebackers. They lost in a close game to the New York Jets that had huge playoff implications.
The NFL seems determined to get through this season and not utilize a Week 18, but it's coming at the expense of a quality on-field product and competitive balance.