$1,000,000 up for grabs. Download the NBC Sports Predictor app and play SN7 for FREE! Get started here!
Farewell, Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a 26-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns last night. It was the 39-year-old quarterback’s final home game and he closed it out with a win over a division rival. Roethlisberger completed 24 of his 46 pass attempts for 123 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. It’s hard to say that he was let down by his receiving staff when most of his pass attempts were tipped or batted down at the line of scrimmage. Diontae Johnson (8-31-1 on 15 targets) was the only receiver to find the end zone last night. Chase Claypool (3-17-0 on nine targets) and Pat Freiermuth (5-22-0 on six targets) had pedestrian outings, whereas Ray-Ray McCloud (4-35-0 on 10 targets) continues to see an absurd number of targets despite his inefficiency. First-round running back Najee Harris posted a 28-188-1 rushing line and added 18 yards on three receptions in the receiving game. Harris should be locked in as a late-first round selection in drafts this offseason. The win keeps the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive and they’ll face off against division rival Baltimore next weekend. It’s hard to imagine now, but at one time Roethlisberger was a top-tier quarterback. He led the team to three Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them. With Roethlisberger on the way out, I’ll be interested to see how the team addresses the quarterback position this offseason.
Everybody was talking about Roethlisberger’s last game but ignored the fact that it was potentially Baker Mayfield’s last NFL game. Mayfield turned in ostensibly the worst game of the season, completing 16 of his 38 passes for 185 yards, two scores, and two interceptions. Mayfield has been playing through a myriad of injuries all season, but simply has not had anything in the tank over the last few weeks. The Browns’ quarterback was sacked nine times against the Steelers and head coach Kevin Stefanski took some of the blame regarding the number of sacks Mayfield ate. Given that the team has performed well below expectations, it comes as no surprise that the Browns did not appear to be interested in playing football. Stefanski deployed a baffling game plan that consisted of simply not using his best players. Star running back Nick Chubb rushed 12 times for 58 yards and no scores, and his usage was incredibly inconsistent. D’Ernest Johnson saw plenty of time on the field, despite not getting much usage. Johnson’s sub-par 5-13-0 rushing line and 1-1-0 (three targets) highlighted the struggles of every Browns offensive player. Tight end David Njoku (4-28-1 on four targets) and Harris Bryant (1-1-1 on one target) caught both of Mayfield’s touchdowns, whereas the receivers struggled with a bad case of the drops last night. The shine has really come off Jarvis Landry, who posted a 4-43-0 receiving line on 10 targets. Landry has had only one 100-yard game all year and one touchdown and I’ll be curious to see where he’s drafted next year. The Browns have noted that they’ll probably bring in competition for Mayfield this offseason, so I’ll be curious to see which veteran they bring in.
Are You Not Entertained?
The Bengals narrowly upset the Chiefs 34-31 in a game that was a good, old-fashioned barn burner. The Chiefs threatened to run away with it early, scoring touchdowns on their second and third drive of the game. Patrick Mahomes opened the scoring on a 29-yard passing touchdown to WR Demarcus Robinson and then hitting TE Travis Kelce for a 3-yard score. The Bengals were quick to respond, scoring a touchdown of their own. Ja’Marr Chase caught a pass in the open field and then proceeded to beat every member of the Chiefs’ defense in a footrace, en-route to the first of his three touchdowns on Sunday.
The Chiefs did a good job of finding the end zone in the first half. The team tacked on a couple of rushing touchdowns in the second quarter, thanks to Darrell “The Mentor” Williams. Williams has done a tremendous job filling in for Clyde Edwards-Helaire and posted a strong 14-88-2 rushing line. He also tacked on three catches for 19 scoreless yards. It looked like the Chiefs came to chew bubble gum and score touchdowns. Unfortunately, the team ran out of touchdowns at the end of the first half. The team only managed to score one field goal in the second half. Neither Tyreek Hill (6-40-0 on 10 targets) nor Travis Kelce (5-25-1 on seven targets) was able to get much going in the second half. Conversely, the defense seemed to be a bit shell-shocked at what Chase was doing to them.
Chase caught almost every ball thrown his way. He ended with a ludicrous 11-266-3 receiving line on 12 targets. Chases 55.6 PPR point outburst is among the greatest single-game wide receiver scoring games of all time. If you somehow made it past his or Joe Burrow’s Week 15 dud, you were probably rewarded with either player leading you to a fantasy title. I should add that Burrow’s 30-446-4 (on 39 pass attempts) outing was incredible to watch, and the young quarterback has been on fire the last two weeks. The Bengals’ offense is going to be incredibly fun to watch as they head into the playoffs, and I’ll be drafting Chase and Tee Higgins quite aggressively next year.
The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!
Potential NFC Wild Card Preview
This was the other game that had a fairly high total but was a dud. The game itself was a boring slog to get through, but it’s likely that both teams might week in a couple of weeks for the wild card game. It’s possible that both coaches did not want to reveal their hands, which could’ve explained the play calling. The Cardinals routed the Cowboys 25-22, and the final score makes this game look a lot closer than it was. The Cowboys scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but never really threatened the Cardinals who led 22-7 before the start of the fourth.
Kyler Murray completed 26 of his 38 attempts for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Murray seems to be back to his normal self on the ground, as he added 44 yards on nine rushing attempts. With James Conner a surprise inactive, Chase Edmonds carried the mail for the Cardinals. Edmonds rushed 18 times for 58 yards and caught five of his six passes for 29 yards. I’ll be interested to see the workload split in the playoffs once Conner returns, as I expect that the team continues to use the bruising running back around the goal line. It’s nice to see that Christian Kirk has stepped up in a big way in DeAndre Hopkins’ absence. Kirk posted a 6-79-0 receiving line on nine targets and made several big plays downfield. He’s the team’s only downfield threat and his presence has prevented Kliff Kingsbury from going full horizontal raid on us this year. AJ Green had a 3-74-9 receiving line on six targets, but I should point out that approximately 60% of that production came on his first catch. Antoine Wesley was the unlikeliest of heroes for the Cardinals, catching four of his five targets for 30 yards and two (2) touchdowns.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, lost a key playmaker on Sunday. Michael Gallup unfortunately tore his ACL when catching a 21-yard score. It was a sad injury for the young receiver, who was on his way to a big day. In his absence, neither CeeDee Lamb (3-51-0 on four targets) nor Amari Cooper (3-18-1 on seven targets) did much to help out Dak Prescott. Prescott completed 24 of his 38 attempts for 226 yards and three touchdowns and also led the team in rushing (20 yards on five rushing attempts). Ezekiel Elliott looked incredibly sluggish, carrying the ball nine times for 16 yards, but Tony Pollard (3-9-0 rushing line) did not fare much better. Dalton Schultz has emerged as Blake Jarwin’s successor this year, leading the Cowboys’ receiving corps with a 6-54-0 line (on 10 targets). Frankly, if the Cowboys hope to make it far in the playoffs, the team had better hope that Mike McCarthy and Co. can fix what’s broken.
Trey Lance’s Second Start Was Fine
Trey Lance’s second start showed us the face of the Niners’ franchise to come. The rookie completed 16 of his 23 passes for 249 yards, two scores, and an interception and added 31 yards on the ground on eight carries. Lance did look a lot better against the lesser Texans squad than he did against the Cardinals, so it’s hard to tell how much he’s improved. However, he did seem to look a bit more poised in the pocket and made several clutch throws. It helped that Brandon Aiyuk was quite efficient with his targets, posting a 4-94-0 (six targets) receiving line and that Deebo Samuel chipped in with a 3-63-1 receiving line. Unfortunately, Lance did have a 30-yard touchdown called back on a holding penalty, or his day could’ve looked a lot better than it was. Lance’s rushing upside and dangerous weapons will make him a very attractive mid-round quarterback option next season.