A pro bowl quarterback does battle with a backup in Green Bay, the Steelers squeek by lowly Cleveland and the AFC playoff picture is decided in Cincinnati (you don't hear that every year) as the north divisions wrap up their season in week 17.
Pittsburgh Steelers 13
Cleveland Browns 9
Needing a win and a Ravens loss to get a much needed bye in the playoffs, the Steelers' outlook for the playoffs may have changed dramatically over the course of this game. Running back Isaac Redman had 92 rushing yards and the game's only touchdown replacing Rashard Mendenhall who went down in the first quarter with a knee injury. If Mendenhall has to miss any time in the playoffs, the offense will have to rely even more on an injured Ben Roethlisberger as well as back up running back Redman who is normally Pittsburgh's 3rd down back. During the game two Steelers receivers made history, Tight end Heath Miller passed hall of famer Lynn Swann on the Steelers' all time receptions list with 336, and Hines Ward became the 8th player in league history to record 1,000 receptions in a career.
The Browns' offensive ineptitude continued as Cleveland once again failed to get a touchdown. Quarterback Seneca Wallace led the team in rushing yards with 44, but struggled throwing the ball going 16/41 for 177 yards and an interception. The Browns finish the season 4-12 and will have the #4 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Pittsburgh's win moves them up to 12-4 and the top wildcard spot in the AFC. The Steelers will face the Denver Broncos in Denver in the opening round of the playoffs on Sunday January 8th at 4:30pm ET.
Baltimore Ravens 24
Cincinnati Bengals 16
If the Ravens take their offensive gameplan for this game into the playoffs, they could be dangerous. The Ravens stopped trying to make quarterback Joe Flacco (15/19 130 yards, 1 TD) the centerpiece of the offense and just gave the ball to running back Ray Rice. Rice gained 191 yards on the ground including two touchdowns leading his team to victory. With the win, the Ravens improved to 12-4 including a perfect 8-0 in the division and clinched the #2 spot and a bye in the AFC playoffs.
The Bengals had a solid day across the board. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton had 232 passing yards and nearly led his team to a comeback performance in this game, but a questionable non-call on a potential pass interference penalty on the last play of the game ended any hopes of late game heroics. The Bengals finish the season at 9-7 and have the #6 spot in the playoffs and will face the Houston Texans in Houston in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday January 7th at 4:30pm ET.
Chicago Bears 17
Minnesota Vikings 13
With the playoffs out of reach for both teams, this became a game of pride and bragging rights as the Bears were barely able to hold off the Vikings and end the season on a semi-positive note. The win snapped a five game losing streak for the Bears that over the course saw them lose star players Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and in this game star linebacker and Bears legend Brian Urlacher went down with a possible ACL tear. Receiver Roy Williams had the only touchdown on offense and defensive back Charles Tillman added a 22 yard interception return for a touchdown. The Bears finish the season at 8-8 and will have the 19th overall pick in next year's draft.
Vikings quarterback Joe Webb once again took over duties for rookie Christian Ponder, but receiver Percy harvin was the star on offense for Minnesota. Harvin had 115 yards receiving and added a rushing touchdown on the day. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Jared Allen had 3.5 sacks on the day and his 22 sacks on the season are a Minnesota Vikings record. The loss has the Vikings finishing the year at 3-13 and they will have the #3 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Game of the Week
Detroit Lions 41
Green Bay Packers 45
To call this game a shootout would be an understatement as the defenses took the day off with quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Matt Flynn playing their own game of 'anything you can do I can do better' in a contest that had the lead change hands eleven times. The Lions once again were a showcase of Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson. Stafford was 36/59 for 520 yards and 5 touchdowns on the day, his 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns on the season are both team records. Johnson had 11 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown. The loss dropped the Lions to 10-6 and the #6 spot in the NFC, they will face the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans in the opening week of the playoffs on Saturday January 7th at 8pm ET.
The Packers gave superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers the day off and backup Matt Flynn made the most of his opportunity going 31/44 for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns. Those 6 TDs are the most in a single game by a Packer QB in franchise history. Flynn was helped out in a big way by receiver Jordy Nelson, throwing to him 15 times as Nelson was able to catch 9 of those passes for 162 yards and 3 touchdowns. Matt Flynn will be a free agent after this season, so don't be surprised to see someone offer him a significant contract after this performance. The Packers finish the season at 15-1 and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs including a bye next week.
Offensive Player of the Week
Matt Flynn (Green Bay QB) – 31/44, 480 yards, 6 TDs
This won't be the beginning of the Matt Flynn era in Green Bay, but those numbers can't be ignored.
Defensive Player of the Week
Jared Allen (Minnesota DE) – 3 tackles, 3.5 sacks
3.5 sacks is nice, 22 sacks and a franchise record for most sacks in a season is amazing.
Baltimore Ravens 12-4 (#2 seed in AFC playoffs)
Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4 (#5 seed in AFC playoffs)
Cincinnati Bengals 9-7 (#6 seed in AFC playoffs)
Cleveland Browns 4-12
Green Bay Packers 15-1 (#1 seed in NFC playoffs)
Detroit Lions 10-6 (#6 seed in NFC playoffs)
Chicago Bears 8-8
Minnesota Vikings 3-13
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Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS