49ers 23, Texans 7: In his second career start, Trey Lance was steady as he threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns to earn a win San Francisco absolutely needed. His 45-yard scoring strike to Deebo Samuel midway through the fourth quarter provided some separation from the Texans and provided evidence that Lance gives the 49ers a chance to beat the Rams next week if Jimmy Garoppolo’s torn thumb ligament keeps him sidelined.
Saints 18, Panthers 10: With disastrous injuries to their starting quarterback and offensive line, plus a rash of positive coronavirus tests among players, it is no small miracle that New Orleans could still make the playoffs with a win next week against Atlanta, and a 49ers loss. Credit the defense, which stymied Tom Brady in Week 15 and gave Sam Darnold and Carolina an abysmal day. The Saints racked up seven sacks with Cameron Jordan (eight tackles, 3.5 sacks) leading the way. Running back Alvin Kamara busted loose for one 30-yard run but managed all of two yards on his other 12 carries.
Chargers 34, Broncos 13: After Broncos Coach Vic Fangio inexplicably settled for a field-goal attempt to take 3 points out of a 20-3 deficit in the fourth quarter, the Chargers quickly ended the affair. Andre Roberts returned the ensuing kick 101 yards for a touchdown, and Los Angeles will now face Las Vegas in Week 18 with a playoff berth on the line. The last time the two teams played, a Week 4 Chargers win, defensive end Joey Bosa questioned Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s ability to face pressure.
Eagles 20, Washington Football Team 16: It was easy to mock Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni in the spring when he said he had played rock paper scissors with draft prospects to gauge their competitiveness. Nobody’s mocking him anymore. After a 2-5 start, Sirianni pivoted Philadelphia to rely more on the run and now, at 9-7, Philadelphia is on the verge of making the playoffs. Cornerback Rodney McLeod supplied the game-sealing interception of Taylor Heinicke in the end zone.
Rams 20, Ravens 19: This win showed why the Rams traded for Odell Beckham Jr. On fourth-and-5 from the Ravens’ 12-yard line, with 1:08 left, Beckham hauled in an extremely difficult 5-yard reception. Matthew Stafford, who had been intercepted twice on Sunday, went back to the receiver for a 7-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
Bills 29, Falcons 15: Josh Allen’s three interceptions gave the Bills a scare but the re-emergence of running back Devin Singletary helped push Buffalo to the win. Last season, the Bills showed zero desire to run the ball in January, even calling 20 consecutive pass plays to open up the divisional playoff game against Baltimore. With so many opposing defenses focused on stopping Allen, Singletary, who shredded the Falcons for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, could provide much-needed balance.
Patriots 50, Jaguars 10: The rookie quarterback Mac Jones got back on track by going 22 of 30 for 227 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Of course, in New England, it all starts with the run. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, who combined for 142 yards, helped create opportunities for Jones to throw successfully.