Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks give Eagles fans early Christmas present

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Seahawks give Eagles fans early Christmas present

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Justin Coleman put Seattle in front for good with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown and the Seahawks won a playoff elimination game against Dallas, beating the Cowboys 21-12 on Sunday in Ezekiel Elliott's return from a six-game suspension.

Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and the Dallas offense didn't score a touchdown despite the reunion with his backfield mate, the one he shared a remarkable rookie season with a year ago when Cowboys had an NFC-best 13 wins.

Now Dallas (8-7) is eliminated from the postseason with the end of its three-game winning streak, and the Seahawks (9-6) still have a chance to keep their five-year playoff streak alive after Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns despite a career-low 93 yards passing.

Coleman gave Seattle a 14-9 lead in the third quarter when he reached down to catch Prescott's badly overthrown pass to Elliott and ran untouched 30 yards for a touchdown.

It was the fourth pick-six of the season for Prescott, who threw just four interceptions last season when he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has 13 interceptions for the season (see full recap).

Panthers clinch playoff berth with win over Bucs
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds remaining to lift the Carolina Panthers to a 22-19 win over the upset-minded Tampa Bay Buccaneers and clinch a spot in the NFC playoffs.

The Panthers (11-4) trailed most of the second half, but Newton drove the Panthers 59 yards completing 4 of 7 passes for 52 yards in the final 3 minutes before scoring on a what could have been a disastrous play. Newton fumbled the snap from the shotgun, alertly picked it up and then raced across the goal line for the go-ahead score.

Newton celebrated the score by using the football as a prop, pretending to light a candle on a cake in celebration of his son Chosen's 2nd birthday.

Carolina can clinch the NFC South championship with a win over Atlanta and a New Orleans loss to Tampa Bay.

The Panthers sealed the game when Kawann Short sacked Jameis Winston on Tampa Bay's final drive, and forced a fumble that Julius Peppers recovered. Winston threw for 367 yards and a touchdown but was sacked six times and fumbled three times. The Bucs are 4-11.

The Panthers offense struggled all day (see full recap).

Defense propels Saints past Falcons, into playoffs
NEW ORLEANS -- Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore corralled an unusual, momentum-turning interception off his back , New Orleans made two defensive stands from inside its own 2-yard line, and the Saints clinched their first playoff berth since 2013 with a 23-13 victory over the rival Atlanta Falcons.

Ted Ginn caught a 54-yard pass for a touchdown, which came just a few plays after Lattimore's interception and shortly before halftime. Mark Ingram used a sharp cutback to break loose for a 26-yard touchdown for New Orleans ( 11-4), which kept its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final week of the season.

While the loss eliminated the Falcons (9-6) from the NFC South race, Atlanta can clinch a wild-card berth by beating Carolina in the final regular season game on New Year's Eve.

The Falcons entered the game with a second straight division crown in their grasp, but they needed to beat the Saints. They squandered chances spectacularly, much to the delight of a deafening Superdome crowd -- and certainly to the chagrin of scattered fans wearing Falcons red. The Falcons were taunted on their way to the game by a plane towing a banner that read "28-3 Merry Xmas," a reference to Atlanta's Super Bowl collapse.

Atlanta trailed just 6-0 when Lattimore's interception of Matt Ryan set the Saints up to double their lead (see full recap).

Browns clinch No. 1 overall pick, move to 0-15
CHICAGO -- The Cleveland Browns got pushed to the brink of a winless season, hurt by two more interceptions by DeShone Kizer and two turnovers in the red zone on the way to a 20-3 loss to the Chicago Bears on a snowy Sunday.

One more loss and the Browns will join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go 0-16.

And the Browns will wrap up the season at AFC North leader Pittsburgh next week.

Then again, the Browns (0-15) keep racking up losses no matter whom they're playing.

They're 1-30 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson. And after beating the then-San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve last year, there was no holiday celebration for them this time.

Kizer threw for 182 yards and ran his league leading-interception total to 21. One of those was to a wide-open Kyle Fuller in the end zone in the second quarter.

Defensive end Myles Garrett had what looked like a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter wiped out because Carl Nassib was offside.

Rashard Higgins lost a fumble near the goal line that Chicago (5-10) recovered in the end zone (see full recap).

Chiefs beat Miami to win back-to-back AFC West titles
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Alex Smith threw for 304 yards and a touchdown, Kareem Hunt ran for 91 yards and a score and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Miami Dolphins 29-13 on Sunday to clinch back-to-back AFC West titles for the first time in franchise history.

Tyreek Hill had six catches for 109 yards, and Harrison Butker converted five field goals, as the Chiefs (9-6) dashed what faint postseason hope the Dolphins (6-9) still harbored.

Jay Cutler threw for 286 yards and a touchdown, but a chunk of that came on a 65-yard toss to Jakeem Grant late in the first half. Otherwise, Miami struggled against a Chiefs defense that has been stingy and opportunistic the past two weeks.

That's coincided with the return of Marcus Peters from his disciplinary suspension.

The Chiefs' star cornerback had two interceptions and forced a fumble against the Chargers last week, a win that pushed them to the brink of the playoffs. He recovered a fumble and forced another on Sunday, giving Peters a hand in five turnovers the past two weeks.

Both turnovers led to points, but they weren't the Dolphins' only costly miscues (see full recap).

Rams clinch 1st NFC West title since '03, beat Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jared Goff threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 11:51 left, and the Los Angeles Rams held off the Tennessee Titans 27-23 on Sunday to clinch their first NFC West title since 2003.

The Rams (11-4) came in needing a win or a loss by Seattle to secure the division. They took care of business themselves, with Todd Gurley II and Goff leading the way again.

Gurley bolstered his argument for NFL MVP with 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving with two TDs. Goff finished with four touchdowns and 301 yards passing.

The Titans (8-7) lost their third straight game, damaging their chances of ending their own playoff drought stretching to 2008.

The Titans had the ball and a chance to win late in the game. On fourth-and-4 at the Rams 44, Marcus Mariota rolled right and chucked the ball incomplete under pressure from Connor Barwin.

The Rams ran out the final 1:35 for their second straight victory and fourth in five games (see full recap).

Aaron Rodgers is back to ruin everything

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Aaron Rodgers is back to ruin everything

Derrick Gunn makes his Week 15 NFL picks.

Eagles at Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
What a mess the Giants are right now. GM Jerry Reese fired! Head coach Ben McAdoo fired! Future Hall of Fame QB Eli Manning sits for a game and then resumes his starting role. Their offense can't score (15.3 points per game — which is 31st in the league), and their defense, which was the heart of this team in 2016, is nothing more than a distant memory. The Giants' D is 32nd overall in yards allowed, 31st in passing yards allowed, 31st in run defense, and 27th in points allowed. 

The Eagles are quickly getting over the loss of Carson Wentz, who was having an MVP season. This should be a walk in the park for the Birds even without Wentz, but you won't hear the players say that. They have a lot of respect for their wounded division foe, and as that old saying goes, "On any given Sunday." If Dallas was able to put up 30 points on the G-men, then surely the Birds can do that. You should be able to go holiday shopping by halftime.

Pick: Eagles 34, Giants 13

Bears at Lions, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. on NFL Network
It's hard to believe the Bears are actually seventh in the league in rushing (124.5 yards per game,) but when they get the ground game going, it's pretty special. Just ask Cincinnati. The Lions are fighting for their playoff lives but the right side of their O-line is banged up. Matthew Stafford's air game vs. the Bears' ground attack. I'm going with the Lions through the air.

Pick: Lions

Chargers at Chiefs, Saturday, 8:25 p.m. on NFL Network
A showdown in the AFC West. The Chiefs knocked the Raiders off their perch to snap a four-game slide, but the Chargers are a different story. Philip Rivers and company are hot, winners of four in a row. Both teams have big-play capabilities. CB Marcus Peters is back from his one-game suspension to help the back end of the Chiefs' defense. Winner takes control of the division. Big Red's army will be ready.

Pick: Chiefs

Dolphins at Bills, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
The Dolphins put a smackdown on New England but that was in the warm confines of South Florida. Now the Fins head to the arctic blast that is Buffalo. The Bills currently hold the sixth seed in the AFC. Miami is one game behind them. LeSean McCoy needs only 39 yards to become the 30th player to rush for 10,000 in a career. Shady gets his, and the Bills get a win.

Pick: Bills

Ravens at Browns, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
The Ravens are still seething about how they let a win slip by in Pittsburgh. The Browns continue to find new ways to lose games. The Ravens' defense leads the league with 20 interceptions and it should add to that total because the Browns' revolving door of QBs has served up a league-high 23 INTs. The Ravens stay in the thick of the playoff race. The Browns continue to secure the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.

Pick: Ravens

Bengals at Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
It's bad enough the Bengals got steamrolled by the lowly Bears, now they have to face a ticked-off group of Vikings. The Vikings didn't play their best game against Carolina and it cost them. They will not make the same mistakes against the Bengals on their turf.

Pick: Vikings

Jets at Saints, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
The Jets are the Jekyll and Hyde of the NFL. They beat teams like Jacksonville and Kansas City, but lose to the likes of Tampa Bay and Denver. Drew Brees and the Saints will be ready for them down in the bayou. The Saints share the NFC South lead with Carolina, and Atlanta is one game back. There is no room for error. The Saints go marching to a W.

Pick: Saints

Cardinals at Redskins, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
There's trouble in Redskinsville. The team is losing and players are grumbling. To make matters worse, TE Jordan Reed has been placed on IR. The 'Skins now have 18 players on IR. The Cards still have faint playoff hopes but I don't think Blaine Gabbert can outduel Kirk Cousins.

Pick: Redskins

Packers at Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
The fact that Aaron Rodgers has missed seven games and the Packers are still talking playoffs is amazing in itself. Now, Packers nation is really buzzing because ARod posted on his Instagram page that he has been medically cleared to return to action and is expecting to start against the Panthers. Carolina is coming off a huge win over Minnesota and will have to bring its A-game for this one. How rusty will Rodgers be remains to be seen. Rodgers will give the Packers' offense a much-needed jolt, but I don't have faith in their defense stopping Cam Newton and company. 

Pick: Panthers

Texans at Jaguars, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
In case you didn't know, there's a new bully on the block and its name is Jacksonville. The Jaguars took a major step towards respectability by out-muscling Seattle. The Jags control the AFC South. Their athleticism and physicality on both sides of the ball is impressive. Meanwhile, as if the Texans' QB situation isn't unstable enough, starter Tom Savage is in the concussion protocol. It's going to be a long day for Houston.

Pick: Jaguars

Rams at Seahawks, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. on FOX
The Rams have no one to blame but themselves for their loss to Eagles. The Seahawks are one game behind the Rams in the NFC West and must shake off the cobwebs after getting roughed up by Jacksonville. The 'Hawks beat the Rams earlier this season. Seattle continues to hurt on defense. The heart of its D, linebackers Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion), are questionable for this huge showdown. The Rams know what's at stake and they haven't lost two in a row all season. The boys from SoCal get their revenge.

Pick: Rams

Patriots at Steelers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on CBS
This could be a preview of the AFC Championship. The Patriots were off their game in Miami, but now it's game on for top seeding in the conference. The Steelers are stoked to have this one in their backyard. The loss of LB Ryan Shazier is huge for the 'Burgh. Big Ben vs. the G.O.A.T. is always a special treat. Advantage: Steelers at home.

Pick: Steelers

Titans at 49ers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on CBS
The Titans have a lot at stake, still chasing Jacksonville in the AFC South. The Niners are playing for pride. It looks like a mismatch on paper, but not so fast, as Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo is 2-0 as a starter. Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been way off his game. In his last four outings, he's been picked off eight times, while tossing just three TDs. I don't know if Garoppolo has been the Niners' missing link or not, but I gotta believe the Titans' ground game can bail them out.

Pick: Titans

Cowboys at Raiders, Sunday, 8:30 p.m. on NBC
The Cowboys are riding a two-game winning streak and talking playoff run. While not officially eliminated yet, the Raiders are in trouble. Oakland's loss to the Chiefs put it in a deep hole. There's a lot at stake for both teams in this one. Can Dallas survive one more game until the return of Ezekiel Elliott? I think it can.

Pick: Cowboys

Falcons at Buccaneers, Monday, 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
The Falcons are coming off extended rest after a must-win over the Saints. The Bucs have been one of the more disappointing teams in the league this season. The Falcons are currently the six seed in the NFC and can still win the NFC South if they run the table. The Dirty Birds should run right through Tampa Bay.

Pick: Falcons

Lane Johnson shares some advice with Halapoulivaati Vaitai

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Lane Johnson shares some advice with Halapoulivaati Vaitai

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Lane Johnson has some advice for teammate Halapoulivaati Vaitai. 

Use it. 

Use everything you can to motivate yourself. The bad games, the naysayers. All of it. Coming off a pretty bad game against the Seahawks last weekend, this would be the time for Vaitai to heed that advice. 

"I think some of the games you don't perform well in, you can learn the most out of," Johnson said at Angel Stadium this week. "Just speaking for myself — suspensions, bad games. I use that as a huge motivator and I think he can too. That's the one thing Jason Peters has done in his career. He wasn't drafted, this, that and the other, and he's about to be in the Hall of Fame. 

"So I think what he needs to do is just bottle up everything that's not right or has gone wrong and use it as a motivator for him. He'll do it, man. He's still young."

Against Seattle last Sunday, Vaitai had his worst game of the season since taking over for Peters at left tackle. He gave up two sacks, one quarterback hit and five quarterback hurries. 

Johnson said he thought the one thing Vaitai had trouble with against the Seahawks was getting off the ball. Because of the crowd noise and silent count, that was a little more difficult, especially from the left tackle position, because right guard Brandon Brooks is the player who taps the center pre-snap. 

That's tough enough, but then Vaitai had to deal with a pretty good and really quick pass rusher in Frank Clark. 

On one particular occasion, Clark used what offensive coordinator Frank Reich called a "wicked pass rush move" to beat Vaitai for a sack. Reich didn't think many guys would have been able to stop it. 

Even after a poor performance last week, Vaitai is still the Eagles' best option at left tackle. He's a fifth-rounder in his second year; there were bound to be hiccups. The only other backups on the team are Isaac Seumalo and Will Beatty. 

Vaitai, who was not made available to reporters after repeated attempts this week, is a player who thrives on confidence. It's why we've seen him get stronger as games go on; he's able to prove to himself he can do it. 

Now, it'll be up to him to figure out a way to regain that confidence this Sunday, when the Eagles face the Rams at the LA Coliseum.