Week 16 NFL Preview: Exciting Football Abounds As NFL Teams Sprint To Finish

mike-tomlin-steelers-coachTime is running out. With two weeks to go in the NFL regular season, it’s time for teams to make their final playoff push.

While six spots have been clinched – Arizona (NFC West), Indianapolis (AFC South, homefield advantage), Minnesota (NFC North), New Orleans (NFC South, first-round bye), Philadelphia (playoff spot) and San Diego (AFC West) – there are still 19 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida.

“We’re not dead yet,” says Pittsburgh Steelers head coach MIKE TOMLIN, whose team improved to 7-7 with a dramatic 37-36 win over Green Bay and hosts the division-rival Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. “We’ve still got a little bit of a pulse here.”

The defending Super Bowl champions rallied behind quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER, who became the third player in NFL history to pass for at least 500 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a game (Pro Football Hall of Famers Y.A. TITTLE and WARREN MOON), and rookie wide receiver MIKE WALLACE, who caught the game-winning 19-yard touchdown as time expired.

It marked the third game this season in which a team scored a game-winning touchdown with no time remaining in regulation, the most such games in a season since at least the 1970 merger. Previously, the Detroit Lions defeated the Cleveland Browns on a MATTHEW STAFFORD-to-BRANDON PETTIGREW touchdown in Week 11 and the Tennessee Titans scored as time expired when VINCE YOUNG found KENNY BRITT in the end zone against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12. The game-winning touchdown was caught by a rookie in all three instances.

The Steelers are one of 12 teams still in the hunt in the AFC and one of six teams sitting at 7-7. With two games to go, there is still a lot of football to be played and a number of scenarios can unfold.

“Some things are falling our way, but at the end of the day, you can only control what you control,” says Tennessee Titans running back CHRIS JOHNSON. “We’re just going in and taking care of what we have to take care of.”

The Titans, who defeated Miami last week in overtime, are now 7-7 and became the first team in NFL history to get back to .500 after an 0-6 start.

And speaking of history, the Indianapolis Colts continue their march towards perfection. The Colts extended their NFL-record winning streak to 23 consecutive regular-season games with a 35-31 win at Jacksonville. And Indianapolis became just the third team in league annals to reach 14-0, joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 New England Patriots. The Colts will take aim at 15-0 on Sunday when they host the New York Jets.

Some of the headline games in Week 16:


Two teams coming off thrilling Week 15 victories will meet in Tennessee on Christmas night. The NFL Network contest features two of the hottest teams in the NFL as the Chargers have won nine in a row and the Titans are 7-1 in their past eight games. It is the first regular-season game played after December 1 in which the two teams had a combined record of 15-1 or better in their previous eight games since December 24, 2005 – Seattle (8-0) vs. Indianapolis (7-1).

The Chargers improved to 11-3 and moved one step closer to a first-round bye with a 27-24 victory over Cincinnati last week. NATE KAEDING kicked a game-winning 52-yard field goal with three seconds remaining to lift the team to its 17th consecutive December victory, the longest such streak in NFL history. The victory helped San Diego clinch the AFC West for the fourth consecutive year.

“We beat a really good team and accomplished the first goal on our list, which was to win the division,” says Chargers tackle MARCUS MC NEILL.

Against Cincinnati, quarterback PHILIP RIVERS passed for 308 yards and three touchdowns. On the season, he leads the AFC and is third in the NFL with a 102.8 passer rating.

“Philip Rivers wins December games,” says NFL Network analyst STEVE MARIUCCI. “The Chargers might be the best team in football right now.”

Tennessee evened its record at 7-7 with a 27-24 overtime victory as ROB BIRONAS converted the game-winning field goal from 46 yards out after the defense forced an interception to set up the kick. Titans running back CHRIS JOHNSON, who leads the NFL with 1,730 rushing yards, recorded his ninth consecutive 100-yard rushing game (104), tied for the third-longest streak in league annals. He needs 270 yards to become just the sixth player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.

“The NFL is the best of the best, so you never get comfortable, no matter what the score is,” says Tennessee linebacker STEPHEN TULLOCH. “You have to be consistent in this league and you have to learn how to close out games. Hopefully we’ve learned because we have a big game coming up on Friday.”


“The Eagles are peaking at the right time,” says NBC analyst RODNEY HARRISON. “No question, this is the best team in the NFC East.”

Last week, Philadelphia clinched a playoff berth. Now, the Denver Broncos hope to do the same. The 8-6 Broncos currently hold one of the AFC’s two Wild Card spots in a tight playoff race.

“We put ourselves in a situation where we’ve got to win two games and see what happens,” says Broncos head coach JOSH MC DANIELS. “There are a lot of teams that aren’t in this situation. We’re excited about the opportunity that we have.”

Philadelphia clinched a playoff berth with a 27-13 win over San Francisco last week as wide receiver DE SEAN JACKSON had six catches for 140 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first Eagle since MIKE QUICK in 1985 to record back-to-back 140-yard games. Philadelphia has now advanced to the postseason eight times in the decade.

“It’s a great accomplishment, but there’s more that you have to take care of,” says Eagles head coach ANDY REID of the team’s playoff berth. “You better not slight the Denver Broncos at all because they’re a good football team.”

The game will also mark the return of former Eagles safety BRIAN DAWKINS, who was selected to seven Pro Bowls during his 13 years in Philadelphia.

“I’m sure the fans will welcome him the right way,” says Philadelphia cornerback SHELDON BROWN. “It’s one of those memorable moments and games. This is what it’s all about.”


Dallas ended New Orleans’ run at perfection last week and now looks to secure a playoff berth.

The Cowboys held on to defeat the previously unbeaten Saints 24-17 at the Superdome last week. Linebacker
DE MARCUS WARE, who led a defensive unit that limited the high-powered Saints to their lowest point total of the season, recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles, including one on the Saints’ final drive to secure the victory.

Offensively, the squad was led by the combination of quarterback TONY ROMO and wide receiver MILES AUSTIN.

Romo passed for 312 yards with one touchdown and posted his fourth consecutive 100+ rating game. Austin, who reached 1,000 yards (1,138) for the first time in his career, led the team with seven receptions for 139 yards and one score. Romo (Eastern Illinois) and Austin (Monmouth) teamed up for a 49-yard touchdown in the first quarter, their 11th touchdown connection this season. That is the most in NFL history by two undrafted teammates.

“We’ve still got to back this up and play the next game just as well,” says Cowboys head coach WADE PHILLIPS. “We still have some work to do.”

Pittsburgh QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER (503 yards) and Green Bay QB AARON RODGERS (383) combined for a total of 886 passing yards in the Steelers’ 37-36 win over the Packers. It marked the highest passing yardage total in NFL history in a game that did not have an interception.