It's (almost) the most wonderful time of the year, when we gather in festive jubilation, celebrate special moments with family and no longer have to pay attention to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's right, it's almost time for playoff football.
To paraphrase the O'Jays, I can hardly wait, so let's talk about what Football Santa might have in store for us: Can the Patriots and Seahawks run the table and give us the once-in-a-generation Super Bowl matchup we've long craved? Does Peyton Manning have one more playoff run in him, or will this postseason belong to his heir apparent, Andrew Luck? How far can Tony Romo take the Cowboys, and what's up with Aaron Rodgers and the Pack?
And for the first time in a while, there's plenty left to play for in Week 17 – San Diego and Baltimore are both still in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the AFC, Carolina and Atlanta meet to determine the de facto winner of the dreadful NFC South and, of course, ho-ho-home-field advantage is still up for grabs in both conferences.
With so much excitement to come, let's pause for a second and a look back at the action that was: These are Week 16's Winners and Losers.
Winner: The Packers and Steelers
A pair of perennial contenders punched their tickets to the playoffs on Sunday.
The Packers did so by sleepwalking their way past the Bucs in Tampa, putting up 431 yards of offense against Tampa Bay's 109. The Pack also collected seven sacks yesterday, which would be rather impressive if it wasn't against the Bucs. And, after a three-year drought, Pittsburgh is back in the postseason, thanks to a 20-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers Big Three – Ben, Brown and Bell – led the way, and it'll be the Black and Yellow vs. the Bengals in Week 17 for the NFC North crown.
Losers: The New Orleans Saints
We've already established that playing in the NFC South makes you a loser by default, but the Saints were eliminated from playoff contention in a division that only requires seven wins to get in. In a way, that somehow makes them more than mere losers.
After the Panthers and a recuperated Cam Newton took out the Browns, the Saints had to beat the Atlanta Falcons if they wanted to keep their playoff hopes alive. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not when you commit three turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, including this heartbreaking fumble on the goal line. The Falcons went on to win thanks to the return of Mr. Julio Jones, who caught seven passes for 107 yards. Meanwhile, the Saints, once a lethal force in the NFC, are left wondering if their window has closed.
Winners: The Dallas Cowboys
The 'Boys also booked their ticket to the dance, as Dallas comfortably clinched a playoff spot by stomping the Colts 42-7. The Cowboys also won their first NFC East title since 2009, looked damn impressive – Tony Romo was 18-of-20 for 218 yards and four touchdowns, passing Troy Aikman as the franchise's all-time passing leader – and moved to 3-0 this month, which should be enough to shake that pesky "December" narrative. Maybe we can start calling Tony "Mr. December"?
Losers: The Buffalo Bills
Remember last week, when the Bills beat the Packers to move one step closer to their first playoff berth in 15 years and everyone was all "Believe in Buffalo"?!?
Well, fuck that noise. To paraphrase Denny Green, the Bills are exactly who we thought they were, getting bounced from playoff contention once again, this time thanks to a befuddling loss to the Oakland Raiders. After back-to-back weeks shutting down Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, Buffalo's defense failed to slow down Raiders QB Derek Carr. That's the saddest sentence I've ever written. The Bills failed to get anything going with their run game and managed to turn the ball over three times, which is a recipe for disaster when your quarterback is still Kyle Orton.
I'd say better luck next year, but we both know that's not gonna happen.
Loser: Those Who Mess With Kickers
Attention, America: Kickers are done taking your shit.
After a season that saw Cleveland punter Spencer Lanning take a kick to the face from Antonio Brown and puntin' Pat McAfee literally beg the crowd to acknowledge his presence, it's time for someone to step up and kick back. And that someone is New York Giants kicker Josh Brown.
As Brown got caught up in a dog pile in the first quarter of the Giants/Rams game, some dude named Cody Davis went ahead and signed his own death sentence by touching J. Brown's leg, which is like tugging on Superman's cape (or Chuck Norris' beard). This caused the kicker to donkey kick Davis straight in the face. Josh Brown is the vigilante hero that punters deserve.
Winner: Stomach Viruses!
Before the big Sunday night Seahawks/Cardinals game, NBC's Michele Tafoya reported that Marshawn Lynch would not start the game due to an "upset stomach." This obviously had Seattle fans worried and sent shockwaves through fantasy football finals – thankfully, Beast Mode's bad tummy bothered him for all of one quarter.
Lynch stormed onto the field in the second, scored his first of two touchdowns, then probably chugged all the Pepto in Arizona, because he came out possessed in the second half, chugging his way to 113 yards – including a life-altering 79 yard TD rumble – helping the Seahawks seize control of the NFC West by throttling the Cardinals 35-6.
And much like the Cardinal's Super Bowl dreams, after the game, Lynch's stomach issues were a thing of the past. Thanks for asking.