There was a ton of really weird stuff going on around the league during NFL Week 15, both positive and negative, as teams battled for a playoff berth.
One of the hottest teams in the NFL was shut out in stunning style. With a convincing win over the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears won the NFC North. The Cleveland Browns — of all teams — are still alive for postseason play, for crying out loud.
Heck, one player forgot which team he played for and facilitated a touchdown for the opposing team.
These are the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 15.
Winner: Philip Rivers has ice water running through his veins
Thursday night’s game in Kansas City seemed to portend doom for Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers. He threw an interception on his first pass attempt of the game, severely under throwing Tyrell Williams.
It didn’t take long for the Chiefs to build up a 14-0 lead. Then in the second half, they went up by two touchdowns once more midway through the fourth quarter. It appeared Patrick Mahomes and Co. were on their way to an easy win. Then, Rivers woke up.
The veteran quarterback led two consecutive touchdown-scoring drives in the final eight minutes of the game, capping it all off with a gutty two-point conversion to Mike Williams (watch here), who had a monster game while Keenan Allen watched due to an injury.
Now at 11-3, the Chargers have a chance to claim the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the final weeks.
Loser: Vance Joseph has got to go
Situational awareness is a critical element to being a good head coach in the NFL — or really any level of play. Vance Joseph does not have a healthy dose of that. He proved it once more on Saturday at home against the Cleveland Browns.
Down by four points, with just over four minutes left in the game, his offense on Cleveland’s six-yard line on a 4th-and-1, Joseph called for a field goal. He was booed heartily by the home crowd in Denver, and social media was brutal in its assessment of his awful decision.
Not surprisingly, the move backfired. Cleveland won the game by one point. In a must-win situation, Joseph retreated into his shell and cost his team the victory. There’s no way John Elway can keep him now. He’s got to go.
Winner: Josh Allen came up big
The Buffalo Bills were down their two top running backs before Sunday’s game against Detroit even began. Both LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory were ruled out, leading many to wonder just where any offense was going to come from.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen — whose play is always an adventure — answered the call. His shockingly nifty touchdown run in the first half (watch here) put the Bills up by a point. Then, in the fourth quarter, his 42-yard laser strike to Robert Foster proved to be the game-winner.
Loser: Oakland managed to make Cincinnati look good
We’ve been harping on how bad the Oakland Raiders are all year. One lucky win against an unmotivated Pittsburgh Steelers team in Week 14 did nothing to change that, as everyone found out just one week later in Cincinnati.
The Bengals dominated Sunday’s game. Oakland’s defense had no answer for Joe Mixon, and, despite a poor outing from backup Jeff Driskel, the Raiders just couldn’t make key stops when they needed it.
Derek Carr had a rough outing throwing the ball, and both he and Jalen Richard lost fumbles — the second of which led to the first score of the game for Cincinnati.
The bottom line is this: When you’re making the Bengals look good, you’ve hit rock bottom.
Winner: Tremendous team effort nets Pittsburgh a huge win
From the moment Tom Brady stepped onto the field for warm-ups in Pittsburgh, he faced adversity. When the game tipped off, it was clear that the Steelers were not going to let him connect with Rob Gronkowski or Josh Gordon. They did just that, as the two top New England playmakers combined for just three catches for 40 yards.
The coup de grace for Pittsburgh’s defense came in the fourth quarter when Joe Haden made a tremendous leaping interception with two Patriots draped over him for what proved to be the win-sealing play (watch here).
Big Ben Roethlisberger had a rough night with two bad interceptions but was buoyed by the rest of his offense. Jaylen Samuels did his best Le’Veon Bell and James Conner impersonation by racking up 172 yards on 21 touches, and the Steelers walked out with a 17-10 win over the mighty Patriots to remain atop the AFC North.
By: Jesse Reed