The NFL playoff race is coming down the stretch.
Teams’ margins for error are razor-thin with only two games remaining.
Here are some of the top stories from another week of entertaining action.
49ER EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Jeff Garcia was the last San Francisco quarterback to make the Pro Bowl back in 2002. Since then, the franchise has started 13 different quarterbacks with zero Pro Bowl appearances. But Jimmy Garoppolo, the baker’s dozen, looks like he’s the man to eventually break the drought. Garoppolo led the 49ers to a 25-23 win over the Tennessee Titans who are squarely in the playoff hunt. San Francisco was 1-10 when Garoppolo was inserted into the starting lineup, and he’s reeled off three straight wins. He’s also the first quarterback since Garcia in 2000 to throw for 300 yards in consecutive games. The Titans are still in the playoff picture, but they’ll need to finish the season with two wins to remain.
JAGS ROLL OVER TEXANS
Tennessee’s AFC South rival Jacksonville just notched their 10th win in convincing fashion with a 45-7 drubbing of the Houston Texans. The Jaguars arguably have the best defense in football, and they have a strong running game to match. With quarterback Blake Bortles playing well, the Jaguars are built to be a tough out in the playoffs. They finish the season with the Titans, but they’d prefer to wrap up the division next week. However, that could be tougher than expected because they must play a hot 49er team on the road.
There could be a changing of the guard in the NFC West after the L.A. Rams demolished the Seahawks 42-7 in Seattle. The Seahawks used to be invincible at home, and when they lost, it was usually a nail-biter. Seattle was unable to muster the comeback magic they often exhibit, and went down in flames. The Rams haven’t yet locked up the division, but Seattle’s chances at pulling off a division crown appear to be on life support.
RODGERS’S RETURN RUINED
Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best player in football, returned to action after injuring his collarbone earlier in the season against Minnesota. The injury seemed like it would end both his season as well as Green Bay’s. The Packers stayed in the playoff hunt, but their 31-24 loss at Carolina essentially knocks them out of the playoff hunt. Making matters worse, Green Bay’s hated rival Minnesota clinched the NFC North on the same day. The most memorable moment of the game might’ve been when Green Bay’s Clay Matthews tried to call out Carolina’s play before it happened, but Cam Newton had the perfect response for him:
72.8k Likes, 728 Comments – Sports Videos (@hurdles) on Instagram: “Cam Newton: “You been watching film? That’s cool, watch this.” 🔥 (via @nfl)”
PATS STEAL ONE IN PITT
In what was likely the showdown for the number one season throughout the AFC playoffs, the Steelers suffered a heartbreaking 27-24 loss at home. Making matters worse, superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown suffered a partial calf muscle tear that will end his regular season and will likely hamper him in the playoffs. The game came down to the wire as expected. The Patriots scored a late touchdown, but Pittsburgh marched down the field quickly and scored what looked to be the game-winning touchdown, but it was overturned on replay:
Was it a Catch? 👀 #NFLStats https://t.co/HnISPlPQgH
The nonsensical NFL catch rules cost the Steelers the game, because Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception two plays later when a field goal would’ve sent the game into overtime.