Week 16 of the 2021 NFL regular season was filled with a stunning upset and intense battles with playoff implications.
Here is a look at the winners and losers from Sunday:
Winner: Joe Burrow and the Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals have moved another step closer to their first AFC North title since 2015. With the Baltimore Ravens down to third-string quarterback Josh Johnson, the Bengals took care of business at home with a big 41-21 victory. Johnson put forth an admirable effort (28 of 40 for 304 yards, two touchdowns and one pick) but the Ravens' defense was torched by Joe Burrow and Co. for a second time this season.
Burrow passed for the fourth-most yards in a single game in NFL history with 525 and broke the Bengals' franchise record of 490 yards in the process. The sophomore signal caller, who threw for four touchdowns on Sunday, also became the first player to ever record multiple games of at least 400 yards passing against the same team in a single season. Rookie sensation Ja'Marr Chase has been Burrow's top target this season, but Tee Higgins stole the spotlight against Baltimore with 12 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
The 9-6 Bengals are now one win away from securing the division crown with matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns to close out the season.
Loser: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers, entering Week 16 in a wild card spot, had a great opportunity to strengthen their playoff hopes with a matchup against the 3-11 Houston Texans.
Rex Burkhead had other ideas. The Texans running back ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns as Houston shocked Los Angeles with a 41-29 upset win. Davis Mills tossed 254 yards and two touchdowns for the Texans, while Justin Herbert threw 336 yards and a touchdown, but also added two picks.
With the loss, the Chargers dropped to 8-7 and out of a playoff spot. They have two tough divisional matchups against the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos, who are also still in the hunt for the postseason.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
What a difference a couple of weeks can make. Back in Week 13, the New England Patriots defeated the Bills in Buffalo amid wild weather conditions for their seventh straight victory. The Pats took over the AFC's No. 1 seed with the 14-10 triumph and looked well on their way to reclaiming the AFC East title.
Not so fast.
Josh Allen went into Foxborough on Sunday and delivered a signature performance to power the defending AFC East champion Bills past the Pats 33-21. Allen, who went 30 of 47 for 314 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 64 yards, made play after play after play, maybe none bigger than these two conversions during Buffalo's game-sealing touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter:
Meanwhile, the Patriots' offense had yet another rough day at the office. Rookie signal caller Mac Jones had his second straight two-interception game while going 14 of 32 for 145 yards.
The Bills and Pats now have identical 9-6 records, but Buffalo holds the tiebreaker. The Bills have matchups with the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets left, while the Pats close the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.
Loser: Seattle Seahawks
It’s bad enough to blow a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. How about giving up a 10-point lead to a third-string QB who also knocks you out of playoff contention?
That was the case with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, who lost 25-24 to Nick Foles and the Chicago Bears. After building a 24-14 lead heading into the final 15 minutes, the Seahawks gave up a field goal, missed a field goal of their own, then let up a touchdown with 1:01 left in the game. Instead of kicking the extra-point to tie the game, the Bears elected to go for two and were successful, giving them a one-point lead with a minute left in the game.
Russell Wilson and Co. failed to even cross midfield in the last-minute effort, dropping to 5-10 on the year and out of the playoff race. This is just the second time in the Wilson era that the Seahawks will miss the playoffs.
Winner: Justin Jefferson
While the Minnesota Vikings may have been losers on Sunday, Justin Jefferson made history. In the Vikings’ 30-23 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Justin Jefferson broke Odell Beckham Jr.’s record for most receiving yards by a player in their first two NFL seasons.
The No. 22 pick in the 2020 draft needed just 21 receiving yards on Sunday to set the new record. Jefferson’s nine-yard catch in the third quarter gave him 23 yards at that point in the game, passing Beckham Jr.’s mark of 2,755.
Jefferson finished the day with eight catches for 116 yards, giving him a total of 2,851 receiving yards so far in his career.
Losers: New York Giants and Carolina Panthers
In addition to the Seahawks, two more teams were eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday.
The New York Giants are officially out of the postseason race after falling to 4-11 after their 34-10 blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants allowed 31 points in the second half, including a pick-six thrown by Mike Glennon. New York has not made the playoffs since 2016 when the team lost in the wild card round to the Green Bay Packers.
The Carolina Panthers also were on the wrong end of a blowout, losing 32-6 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to fall out of the playoff race. Cam Newton and Sam Darnold combined to complete 49% of their passes for 206 yards and a pick, which was thrown by Newton. The Panthers have not been in the playoffs since 2017 when they lost in the wild card round against the New Orleans Saints.