There will officially be no professional postseason football in the state of Texas.
Despite the return of Ezekiel Elliot, the Dallas Cowboys floundered when it mattered most in a home elimination matchup with the Seattle Seahawks to fall to 8-7.
Trailing 21-12 in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had a chance to get back into the game with a score. Dallas opted to keep the ball out of Elliot’s hands inside the 5-yard line, which resulted in two stuffs and a sack of Dak Prescott. Dan Bailey, who has been one of the most effective kickers all season, missed a short field goal to keep the deficit at two possessions.
Prescott was shaky in this one and it wasn’t the best day in Dallas, but they dug their own grave when they didn’t give it to Zeke from just a few yards out. This was the dynamic factor they were missing for a month and a half but didn’t utilize him when they needed him most.
Seattle is still on the outside looking in at the playoff party, but week 16 went exactly as they needed it to. Along with their win to improve to 9-6, Atlanta lost the Saints as well. Atlanta, also 9-6, currently holds the last playoff spot over Seattle since they defeated them early in the season. The Falcons will qualify with a win or a Seahawks loss in the final week of the season, Seattle will qualify with a win and an Atlanta loss.
The Panthers and Saints each secured postseason slots with big divisional wins on Sunday. This means that at least two teams will represent the NFC South in the postseason with the possibility for one more if Atlanta can hold on next week. However, it’s still undecided who will win the NFC South and host a playoff game. Both the Saints and Panthers are 11-4, with New Orleans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. Whoever prevails next week will be the three or four seed while the next team gets the five spot.
The Los Angeles Rams used Todd Gurley to run all over the Tennessee Titans in a touch win. With the Tennessee loss, the Jacksonville Jaguars officially clinch the AFC South. Despite the good news, the Jags became the fourth straight team to buckle at the hands of Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. Jacksonville has owned one of the most dominant defenses of the year, but Garappolo found a way to post 44 points on them. The loss all but ensures the Steelers a first round bye in the playoffs along with the Patriots.
New England locked up their bye on Sunday with a home win over the Bills. It was a very competitive game throughout the first three quarters, but Tom Brady and company hit a switch and dominated the final 15 minutes of play for their NFL record eighth straight season with 12 wins or more. If they can take care of business at home against the pesky New York Jets in the season finale, the road to Super Bowl 52 will once again go through New England for AFC hopefuls.
The abysmal Cleveland Browns were unable to pick up their first win of the season on a snowy afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago. Cleveland managed to even make the lowly Bears look respectable in the 20-3 loss. This was the last realistic shot Cleveland had at their first win. The Browns will travel to Pittsburgh in the regular season finale next week and will more than likely become just the second team to finish 0-16 (2008 Detroit Lions).
Despite another poor season in Chicago, the Bears finish the 2017 season a perfect 4-0 against the AFC North.