The NFL announced Sunday the schedule of sites, dates, and times for Super Wild Card Weekend on Jan. 15-17.
With the addition of a Monday night game to the 2021 playoffs, Super Wild Card Weekend will now have two Wild Card games on Saturday (4:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. ET), three on Sunday (1:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 8:15 p.m. ET), and one on Monday (8:15 PM p.m.).
SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND
Saturday, Jan. 15
AFC: 4:30 p.m. (ET) No. 5 seed (Las Vegas/New England) at No. 4 Cincinnati (NBC, Peacock, Universo)
AFC: 8:15 p.m. (ET) No. 6 (Los Angeles Chargers/New England) at No. 3 Buffalo (CBS, Paramount+)
Sunday, Jan. 16
NFC: 1:00 p.m. (ET) No. 7 Philadelphia at No. 2 Tampa Bay (FOX, FOX Deportes)
NFC: 4:30 p.m. (ET) No. 6 San Francisco at No. 3 Dallas (CBS, Paramount+, Nickelodeon, Amazon Prime Video)
AFC: 8:15 p.m. (ET) No. 7 (Las Vegas/Pittsburgh) at No. 2 Kansas City (NBC, Peacock, Telemundo)
Monday, Jan. 17
NFC: 8:15 p.m. (ET) No. 5 Arizona at No. 4 Los Angeles Rams (ESPN/ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+, ESPN Deportes)
The NFC’s top-seeded Green Bay Packers and the AFC’s No. 1 seed, the Tennessee Titans, are on bye.
Rams WR Cooper Kupp captures receiving triple crown
Cooper Kupp has hit the finish of a remarkable 2021 regular season and emerged as a triple crown winner.
The Los Angeles Rams wide receiver captured the receiving triple crown, becoming the first player since 2005 to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Kupp’s final line of statistical splendor reads: 145 receptions, 1,947 receiving yards; 16 receiving touchdowns. His marks for catches and yards are each the second-most in NFL history.
Kupp is only the fourth player since 1970 to achieve the rare feat, joining Jerry Rice (San Francisco 49ers, 1990), Sterling Sharpe (Green Bay Packers, 1992) and the last player previous to Kupp to claim a triple crown, Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers, 2005).
Though the Rams lost to the 49ers in overtime on Sunday, Kupp was still stellar to the tune of seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Heading into Sunday, the only statistic in which Kupp could have realistically been caught was in touchdowns. One game remains on the Week 18 slate, with the Chargers and Raiders playing. Bolts WR Keenan Allen, who had 100 catches coming in, would need to more than double the single-game catch record to catch Kupp in that category.
But Kupp, a guiding light for the NFC West champions, has caught just about everything thrown his way in 2021, and now he’s caught the triple crown to cap a season for the ages.
49ers rally to beat Rams, clinch playoff spot; L.A. wins NFC West with Cardinals loss
For the second time over the last eight seasons, the San Francisco 49ers are headed to the playoffs.
San Francisco is returning to the postseason by virtue of the Niners’ thrilling 27-24 overtime win Sunday against the rival Los Angeles Rams.
It was the 49ers’ sixth straight win over the rival Rams.
San Francisco (10-7) is the third NFC West team to qualify for the playoffs following the Rams and Arizona Cardinals. Sunday was not all bad for L.A., however, as the Rams clinched the NFC West thanks to the Cardinals’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Rams (12-5) drop to the No. 4 seed with the loss and will host the Cardinals next week during Super Wild Card Weekend. The 49ers will face the No. 3 seeded Dallas Cowboys.
Kyle Shanahan’s squad finished 6-10 in 2020 after advancing to the Super Bowl the season prior. With a talent-laden 2021 roster, hopes were high for the Niners again, but a 3-5 start tempered those hopes. However, now the 49ers have won seven of their last nine to stride into the postseason.
Under head coach Sean McVay, the Rams have advanced to the playoffs in four of five seasons.
The Rams advanced to the NFC Divisional Round last season, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers.
Bills clinch back-to-back AFC East division titles
For a second season in a row, the AFC East belongs to the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo clinched the division title Sunday afternoon by virtue of the New England Patriots’ loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Bills minutes later cemented their status atop the division with their 27-10 win over the Jets. Buffalo is now the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Not since the Bills advanced to their second of four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1991 season as Buffalo claimed a division repeat.
Josh Allen and the 2021 Bills had previously sewn up a third consecutive playoff trip, which was also a first since the franchise’s Super Bowl years.
This season marks the first time that the franchise has made it to three consecutive postseasons and had three straight double-digit win seasons since the Bills’ run of four Super Bowl trips in a row concluded in the 1993 season. Buffalo went to the playoffs in six consecutive seasons from 1988-1993 and had double-digit victories from 1990-1993 consecutively.
Under the coaching umbrella of Sean McDermott, the Bills have now made the postseason four out of five years after a franchise drought of 17 seasons and won repeat division titles to conclude the Patriots’ run of 11 consecutive division crowns.
Colts eliminated from playoff contention following shocking loss to Jaguars
For the Indianapolis Colts, it was simple: Win against a 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars team that had scored over 20 points just once since Halloween and was eyeing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and you’re in.
But the heavily favored horseshoes weren’t so lucky Sunday afternoon, losing improbably in Jacksonville, 26-11. To make matters worse for the Colts (9-8), who had been in control of their football destiny for the past two weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ win over the Baltimore Ravens eliminated Indy from playoff contention.
“I never expected to be sitting here having this moment right now, not like this,” Colts coach Frank Reich said after the game. “We had a good week of practice. We had good preparation all week long, felt good energy the whole week, every day, every meeting. We felt like we had three good plans. We felt like the players were dialed in. We just didn’t get it done today. We just didn’t get it done, coaching or playing.”
The Colts entered Week 17 on a tear, having won eight of their last 10, including victories over the playoff-bound Bills, Patriots and Cardinals. But Indy stumbled at home with a chance to clinch a berth to the Las Vegas Raiders, losing at the end by a field goal.
Then came Sunday. The Colts struggled to move the ball against Jacksonville, let Trevor Lawrence play the best game of his rookie season and entered halftime down 13-3. Indy then committed multiple second-half turnovers when they were already down big and only found the end zone on its final possession of the season, cutting a 23-point deficit to a 15-point hole. The Colts were outgained by Jacksonville, 318-233, went just 4-of-12 on third down and lost the turnover battle — a recipe for disaster with the season on the line.
Just like that, as NFL Network’s Rich Eisen put it, Indy went from the team nobody wanted to see in the playoffs to a team nobody is seeing in the playoffs.
We started the way we started. It was out of our hands,” Reich said, referring to Indy’s 1-4 start. “We fought our way and clawed to get it back in our hands. And then the last two weeks of the season, we did what we did. It starts with me as a head coach, and we’ve got to figure out how we can close this season out the right way.
“We had the opportunity, we had control of our own destiny, we just didn’t get it done.”
The culprits of the Colts’ collapse litter their roster, but fingers will likely be pointed at Carson Wentz, who missed a week of practice leading up to Week 17 after testing positive for COVID-19 and upon his return posted two of his worst outings of the season in successive weeks. Wentz threw for just 148 yards and missed myriad throws against the Raiders, and then committed both of Indy’s turnovers, took six sacks and completed just 58.6 percent of his passes against the woebegone Jaguars.
The end of Wentz’s first year in Indianapolis left the QB dumbfounded.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it right now,” Wentz said when asked to diagnose his disappointing finish to the season. “Sluggish, not the dynamic explosive offense we always thought we were. … I’ve got to protect the ball. I’ve got to do a better job. So there’s a lot that could be said and a lot of things to digest right now. But it’s a frustrating, kinda crappy feeling right now.”
Reich said he wouldn’t single out one player for the team’s failures and expressed confidence in Wentz’s future with the club.
“I think Carson did a lot. I think he’s our quarterback,” Reich said. “I think we’re all going to learn and grow from this year, how to utilize every player that we have to the fullest. I think there were a lot of bright moments for him, for Carson.”
There were bright spots for many players on Indianapolis in 2021, particularly Jonathan Taylor, who was garnering MVP consideration before the Colts’ late-season crash. But the second-year RB’s last game of the year was his least productive since Week 8, a 77-yard day. Taylor finished the campaign with a league-high 332 carries, 1,811 rushing yards and 20 total TDs (18 rushing).
Taylor’s stellar year is now but a footnote in Indy’s improbable exit from the 2021 season.
“It sucks,” Colts All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard summed up, per FOX59’s Dave Griffiths. “To end the way we did, it sucks. That’s all it is.”
Vikings HC Mike Zimmer on job status: ‘Not my choice. Not my decision’
Following a season-ending 31-17 win over the division rival Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t interested in discussing his future.
“I haven’t heard anything about my job status,” Zimmer said Sunday when asked if he’d had any discussions with the front office on where he stood.
Asked if he thinks it could be his final game leading the Vikings, Zimmer responded: “Not my choice. Not my decision.”
Zimmer’s future is in question as the season ends with the Vikings missing the postseason for the second consecutive campaign.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported earlier Sunday that all signs point to owners Zygi and Mark Wilfs moving on from Zimmer after eight seasons, but they hadn’t communicated any decision to Zimmer or other team officials as of Saturday, per sources informed of the situation.
Zimmer is 72-56-1 in eight seasons with the Vikings after Sunday’s win. But the 8-9 finish to a disappointing year could spell the end to the coach’s run. While his teams play hard and have talent, ownership could decide the locker room needs a new voice.
The Vikings have gone 2-3 in the postseason under Zimmer.
The 65-year-old didn’t want to get into reflecting on his eight years in Minnesota in the immediate aftermath of the season. However, Zimmer did lament the last two seasons, which were disrupted by COVID-19 — quarterback Kirk Cousins missed last week’s elimination loss after testing positive.
“These last two seasons with COVID and the protocols and guys not getting vaccinated, it’s been difficult,” Zimmer said. “But like I told them last night, I like the way these guys go about their business. We don’t have a lot of guys that are just cashing checks.”
Whether Zimmer will cash future checks from Minnesota owners will be decided in the coming hours and days.
Tom Brady oldest player in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards in season
Forty-four years young and two years into his stay in Tampa Bay, Tom Brady continues to rewrite record books and stack up milestones.
Brady became just the second player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in multiple seasons and became the oldest player in league history to hit the 5,000 mark on Sunday in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 41-17 win against the Carolina Panthers.
Brady hit 5,000 yards for the second time in his career, roughly 10 years after he first did it with the New England Patriots in his age-34 season of 2011. Only Drew Brees, who did it an amazing five times in his career, and Brady have multiple 5,000-yard seasons.
Following his 326-yard, three-touchdown showing on Sunday, Brady finished the season with 5,316 yards passing (third all-time, first in franchise history), 43 passing touchdowns (T-10th all time, first in franchise history) and 485 completions (first all-time).
Brady and Brees remain married in many a statistical stratosphere, as Brady threw his 40th touchdown of the season in Week 16 to join Brees as the only players to have back-to-back seasons with 40 touchdowns.
Brady’s latest 5,000-yard showing marks only the 13th 5,000-yard season in NFL history.
Entering Week 18, Brady needed just 10 yards to hit 5,000, as his 4,990 yards led the NFL along with his 40 touchdown passes. Those 40 TDs matched the Buccaneers’ single-season record that Brady set just a year earlier. Brady broke his own Bucs single-season record for touchdown passes with a 1-yard scoring strike to Le’Veon Bell in the second quarter and threw No. 42 and 43 of the season to Mike Evans.
Another Brady completion to Evans broke Brees’ record for completions in a season at 471.
Not done adding up the milestones, Brady surpassed his own career-high of 5,235 yards in a season that he set with the Patriots 10 years prior, so he has a new career high, a new Buccaneers single-season record and the No. 3 and No. 4 single-season passing marks.
Brady should end the day tops in touchdown passes and/or yards passing, which would make him oldest to accomplish either feat. Brady also would be the first player in league history to lead the NFL in yards or touchdowns in passing, rushing or receiving while also being the league’s oldest active player, per NFL Research.
As Brady already holds career records for passing yardage and touchdowns, every TB12 game provides new records. With the 2021 regular season having concluded, his all-time yards record sits at 84,520 and his all-time TD record is 624.
Brady continues to defy age and logic as he piles up the milestones.