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Welcome to the Week 17 grades!

On the final day of 2023, the NFL gave us some fireworks with 14 games on the Sunday schedule, and most of those fireworks came from the Baltimore Ravens, who absolutely destroyed the Dolphins, 56-19, in the biggest game of the day. 

With the win, the Ravens have now clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC. On the other hand, with the loss, the Dolphins are no longer a sure thing to win the AFC East. The 11-5 Dolphins will now be facing the 10-6 Bills in Week 18 with the winner taking the division crown. 

In the NFC, the 49ers now have the No. 1 seed locked up after beating the Commanders, combined with losses by both the Lions (to the Cowboys) and Eagles (to the Cardinals). 

Now that we have that out of the way, let's get to the grades, starting with the Ravens' huge win: 

Baltimore 56-19 over Miami

Sunday couldn't have been worse for Miami. They were embarrassed despite having a shot at taking control of the AFC's top seed, and they had multiple key injuries on top of the insulting performance. Tua Tagovailoa tweaked his left shoulder while sliding down to avoid a hit on a late fourth-down scramble with the game already out of reach. The team's best pass rusher, Bradley Chubb, suffered a leg injury late in the fourth quarter that required him to be carted off when the game was well out of hand. The Dolphins couldn't be in worse shape entering a winner-take-all matchup with the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East division title.
Lamar Jackson was literally perfect. He threw for 321 passing yards and a career-high five passing touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 passer rating, the third such game of his career. The Baltimore defense forced three takeaways, two interceptions of Tua Tagovailoa as well as a fumble recovery on a bad pitch by Miami late in the game. Jackson and the Ravens put about as strong of an exclamation as they possibly could in securing the AFC's top seed. If they can maintain anything close to the type of rhythm they showed on Sunday, they'll be in for a deep run this postseason.

Dolphins-Ravens grades by Garrett Podell (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Green Bay 33-10 over Minnesota

They played a fabulous game on both sides of the ball and earned themselves a win-and-you're-in home game against the Bears next week. Jordan Love was far better in his second test against Brian Flores' amoeba-like defense, Aaron Jones ran efficiently and explosively, and the defense held Minnesota in check all night.  
We're giving the choice to roll with Jaren Hall under center an "F," and the actual performance on the field a "C." Average those grades together and you get a pretty bad loss for the Vikings, who are technically still alive for the playoffs but now need to get a ton of help.  

Packers-Vikings grades by Jared Dubin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Kansas City 25-17 over Cincinnati

The Bengals showed a spark in the first half, but that spark disappeared during a second half where the Bengals got beat badly on both sides of the ball. Over the final two quarters, the Bengals managed just 80 yards of offense, and their biggest problem was that the offensive line couldn't protect Jake Browning, who got sacked six times, with five of those coming in the second half. The defense wasn't much better during a second half where the Chiefs didn't punt a single time on their final four possessions. The Bengals played well enough to win in the first half, but their second-half collapse means they're now eliminated from playoff contention. 
The Chiefs offense might not be firing on all cylinders just yet, but if this team proved one thing Sunday, it's that they can win games with their defense and special teams (Harrison Butker kicked six field goals). The Chiefs' pass-rush absolutely terrorized Jake Browning with six sacks, including two by Justin Reid. The secondary clamped down on Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, who combined for just 60 yards, including only 17 in the second half. The offense still doesn't look perfect, but Andy Reid is probably thrilled with what he saw in this game. Isiah Pacheco brought the rushing attack alive with 130 yards on 18 carries. And Patrick Mahomes seems to have a new favorite receiver in Rashee Rice, who caught five passes for 127 yards. The Chiefs have struggled at times this year, but the bottom line is that they're now in the playoffs, and this team is always dangerous in the postseason. 

Bengals-Chiefs grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Pittsburgh 30-23 over Seattle

Given where they were two weeks ago, a road win over a solid Seattle team certainly warrants an "A" grade for the Steelers. Once again, the Steelers received a solid effort from Mason Rudolph, who was complemented by Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, who ran for a combined 197 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries. Pittsburgh's defense played well enough and set up a score on Nick Herbig's strip sack of Geno Smith.
Seattle played OK, but they failed to stop the one thing they need to stop in order to beat the Steelers. With Mason Rudolph starting, Seattle needed to neutralize Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren while putting the game squarely on Rudolph's shoulders. They didn't, and the result was 30 points allowed and a eighth loss.

Steelers-Seahawks grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Denver 16-9 over L.A. Chargers

The Chargers offense has been virtually helpless since Justin Herbert went down, and we saw more of the same in this game. If the Chargers could have gotten their rushing attack going, that probably would have helped take some pressure off Easton Stick, but instead, Austin Ekeler got shut down, rushing for just 46 yards. The Chargers also had a rough fourth quarter that included an Ekeler fumble and a missed field goal and this team just isn't good enough to overcome that right now. 
With all eyes in Denver on Jarrett Stidham, the Broncos new quarterback actually played well in his first start of the season. Stidham threw for more than 200 yards, and most importantly, he didn't make any mistakes. Denver's defense also shined in this game, especially on third down as the Chargers converted just 9.1% of their attempts.The Broncos' decision to bench Russell Wilson could have backfired on them, but instead, they came away with the win. 

Chargers-Broncos grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Buffalo 27-21 over New England

The Patriots got a TD from Jalen Reagor on the opening kickoff, but everything fell apart after that. Well, Bailey Zappe fell apart after that. This was a nightmare game for the Patriots QB, who threw three interceptions, including a pick-six in the first half that gave Buffalo a 20-7 lead. If Zappe doesn't melt down, the Patriots might have been able to win, considering how well their defense played. The Patriots will soon have all offseason to figure out their QB situation for 2024 and the guess here is that it won't involve Zappe.
On a day where the Bills offense struggled at times, the defense came up with the big plays, especially in the first half. The defense forced four turnovers in the first two quarters and Buffalo was able get 20 points off those turnovers and that was the difference in the game. The biggest defensive play came from Rasul Douglas, who had a 40-yard pick-six in the second quarter. As for Buffalo's offense, although it was sluggish at times, the unit still managed to come up with some key plays. Dalton Kincaid had his biggest game of the year with 87 yards on four catches. The Bills have now set up a Week 18 showdown with the Dolphins in a game where the AFC East title will be on the line. 

Patriots-Bills grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Chicago 37-17 over Atlanta

This game was an absolute disaster for the Falcons, who looked lost in all three phases of the game. Their two quarterbacks combined to throw four interceptions, their defense couldn't stop the run and Younghoe Koo even missed two field goals, marking the second time since Week 14 that he's missed two kicks. Despite the loss, the Falcons still have a chance to win the NFC South.  
With snow falling at Soldier Field, the Bears dominated the Falcons in a game that was never really close. Justin Fields had a nearly perfect first half throwing the ball (13 of 17 for 166 yards) as the Bears shot out to a 21-7 lead before coasting to the win from there. Khalil Herbert steamrolled the Falcons in the second half, rushing for 92 of his 124 yards. Defensively, the Bears beat up Taylor Heinicke, who threw three interceptions. It's too bad the Bears only get to play one more game this season, because they suddenly look like one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL

Falcons-Bears grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Indianapolis 23-20 over Las Vegas

Antonio Pierce has been pretty aggressive during his time as interim coach, but that aggression went out the window against the Colts. The Raiders punted the ball from Indy's territory on four different drives in this game. The Raiders defense struggled to stop the big play with the Colts completing two passes of more than 50 yards, and they also struggled to stop Indy on third down. This was game the Raiders had a chance to steal, but instead, they lost, and they're now out of the playoff race.  
The Colts kept their playoffs hopes very much alive by playing smart football against the Raiders. Jonathan Taylor did a good job of carrying the offense with 96 yards and a TD on 21 carries, but Gardner Minshew also came through when the team needed him. Minshew only competed 15 passes, but he made those count by throwing for 224 yards, including a 58-yard TD to Alec Pierce that seem to catch the Raiders off guard. The Colts aren't flashy, but they keep winning and at this point in the year, that's all you can ask for. 

Raiders-Colts grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

L.A. Rams 26-25 over N.Y. Giants

The Rams decided to live dangerously in this game. There were plenty of mistakes, including two interceptions by Matthew Stafford and a punt return TD by the Giants, but the Rams survived thanks to their stars. Although Stafford threw two picks, he also threw for 317 yards and a TD. Kyren Williams continues to play like he's a human cannonball. The Rams running back rushed for three touchdowns and L.A. needed all of them. Puka Nacua took a step toward breaking the rookie receiving record with a huge day that included five catches for 118 yards. As for the Rams defense, they sacked Tyrod Taylor six times, but they did struggle in crunch time. Despite that, the Rams escaped from New York with a win and when you're fighting for a playoff spot, that's the only thing anyone cares about. 
The Giants had a chance to put a dagger through the Rams' season, but they came up just short. Tyrod Taylor totaled 118 yards during a wild fourth quarter where he led the Giants to nine points. He also set up Mason Crosby's potential game-winning field goal, but Crosby came up just short from 54 yards in the final seconds. The Giants were able to keep this close thanks to an impressive performance from Darius Slayton (105 receiving yards, 1 TD) and Gunner Olszewski, who had a 94-yard punt return TD in the fourth quarter. The Giants certainly played well enough to win, they just couldn't finish off the upset. 

Rams-Giants grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

New Orleans 23-13 over Tampa Bay

This was a total beatdown from start to finish with the Saints defense holding Baker Mayfield to under 100 yards passing through the first three quarters before he added to his total in garbage time. Derek Carr also looked impressive. The Saints brought him in to win big games and he came through on Sunday with an efficient performance that included two touchdown passes. Juwan Johnson, who caught eight passes for 90 yards, continues to be an underrated weapon for the Saints. The Saints needed a win to keep their NFC South hopes alive and they got it by destroying Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers had a chance to clinch the NFC South with a win, but instead, they pulled a total no-show. The offense appeared to sleep-walk through a first half where they put up only 44 yards. No one on the Bucs offense seemed to be on the same page during the first two quarters and by the time the team woke up, they were trailing 20-0. The Bucs can still clinch the NFC South with a win in Week 18, but that won't happen if they play the same way they did in this game. 

Saints-Buccaneers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

San Francisco 27-10 over Washington

The 49ers had to fly across the country on a short week, but that didn't seem to slow them down. The 49ers scored on five of their first six possessions and a big reason for that is because the offense was firing on all cylinders. Brock Purdy came out on fire in the first quarter -- he completed 8 of his first 9 passes for 52 yards and a TD -- and he also got plenty of help from a 49ers rushing attack that saw both Eli Mitchell and Christian McCaffrey top 60 yards. The 49ers defense struggled at times, but they picked off Sam Howell twice in the fourth quarter, which essentially iced the game. This was a huge win for the Niners, who have now clinched the top seed in the NFC.  
This felt like a game that Commanders never really had a chance to win and that's mostly because they couldn't stop San Francisco's offense. The 49ers were able to move the ball at will on a day where they topped 400 yards. The Commanders don't have the firepower to keep up with a team like San Francisco and that was evident in this game. Sam Howell, who got benched heading into the game before getting his job back after an injury to Jacoby Brissett, threw two picks in the fourth quarter to kill any shot the Commanders had of winning. 

49ers-Commanders grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Jacksonville 26-0 over Carolina

Carolina's offense has been bad all season but it was especially bad in this game. The Panthers couldn't move the ball on a Jaguars defense that went into Week 17 surrendering nearly 360 yards per game. Things got so bad at one point that the Panthers went three-and-out on SIX straight drives. The Panthers look like they're ready for this season to just end. 
The Jaguars didn't have Trevor Lawerence, but that didn't matter, because they might have been able to win this game without anyone playing QB with the way their defense played. The Jags pitched just their ninth shutout in franchise history and a big reason they did that is because their pass rush suffocated Bryce Young. The Panthers QB was sacked six times with two of those coming from Travon Walker. The defense also came up with an interception late in the game. Offensively, the Jags turned to Travis Etienne, who carried the ball 15 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns. C.J. Beathard also played serviceable football, and now, the Jags are just one win away from the clinching the AFC South. 

Panthers-Jaguars grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Houston 26-3 over Tennessee

When you can't protect your quarteraback and you can't convert on third down, you're almost always going to lose in the NFL and the Titans couldn't do either of those things against the Texans. Ryan Tannehill and Will Levis were sacked a combined six times on a day where the Titans converted just 1 of 12 times on third down. The Titans offense was painful to watch, it's for the best that this team will only be playing one more game this season. 
The Texans defense set the tone for this game in the first half by shutting the Titans down. On Tennessee's first five possessions, not only did the Texans force four punts, but Sheldon Rankins also scored a defensive TD after returning a Will Levis fumble for a score. The Texans surrendered just 187 yards, which is the fewest they've allowed in a game since 2018. As for Houston's offense, C.J. Stroud didn't miss a beat in his return, throwing for 213 yards and a TD. Devin Singletary also came up big on a day where he averaged five yards per carry (80 yards on 16 rushes). The Texans are now just one win way from a playoff berth and possibly even an AFC South title. 

Titans-Texans grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Arizona 35-31 over Philadelphia

The Cardinals scored 29 points in the second half against the Eagles -- four touchdowns and a two-point conversion on four possessions -- showcasing total domination over a defense that was clearly overmatched on this day by the NFL's 26th-ranked offense. Kyler Murray went 13 of 14 in the second half for 133 yards with three touchdowns, while the Cardinals ran for 138 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. This was the most efficient half of football Arizona has had all season, as the Cardinals held time of possession for over 17 minutes in the final 30 minutes and for 39:39 of the game. The Cardinals were the better team ... against an Eagles squad that was 11-4 going in. 
Philadelphia couldn't get off the field against an offense that ranked 26th in the NFL heading into Sunday's game, not forcing a single punt and allowing the Cardinals to score on six of seven possessions (not including the end of the half). The Cardinals scored a touchdown on all four second half possessions and gashed the Eagles for 449 total yards. The Eagles allowed the Cardinals to go 2 of 2 on fourth down and 5 of 10 on third down -- allowing 5.5 yards per carry. This was the worst defensive performance of the year, and a new play caller isn't making the defense better. Philadelphia is 1-4 in its last five games with its season spiraling out of control. This may be a one-and-done team in the playoffs. 

Cardinals-Eagles grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Dallas 20-19 over Detroit (Saturday)

The Lions certainly got hosed over by the officiating crew in this game, but they can't put all the blame there. The Lions could have blown this game open, but they made way too many mistakes on offense, starting with two interceptions from Jared Goff. Not only that, but they couldn't convert a third down -- they went just 4-of-13 -- and they had a failed fourth down at the Cowboys' 4-yard line in a situation where a field goal might have made sense. Also, after getting controversially flagged on their 2-point try at the end of the game, Dan Campbell probably should have just settled for the extra point. This felt like a playoff game and the Lions played well enough to win, so that part should have them feeling good as they head into the postseason. 
It's a good thing the Cowboys won, because if they had lost, everyone would be talking about how Mike McCarthy's botched time management down the stretch. Except for CeeDee Lamb (13 catches for 227 yards and one TD), the Cowboys offense struggled for most of the night. Dak Prescott went just 13 of 21 for 118 yards when throwing to receivers NOT named Lamb. The Cowboys rushing attack was especially bad with Tony Pollard continuously getting stuffed on a day where he finished with just 49 yards. Defensively, the Cowboys got gashed up for more than 400 yards, but they did come up with several big plays, including two interceptions. The Cowboys also shut the Lions down on third down, which kept Detroit's offense off the field. The Cowboys weren't perfect in this game, but they escaped with a win and that's all that matters. 

Lions-Cowboys grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

Cleveland 37-20 over N.Y. Jets (Thursday)

For the first 16 weeks of the season, the Jets had one of the best passing defenses in the NFL, but they got exposed by Joe Flacco during the first half on Thursday night. The Jets got diced up by Flacco during a first half where they surrendered a total of 367 yards. The defense was especially bad on third down, letting the Browns convert on five of six attempts in the first two quarters. Jermaine Johnson did come up with a pick-six late in the second quarter, but by then, it was too little, too late. Offensively, Breece Hall was the lone bright spot for the Jets, totaling 126 yards and a TD on 22 touches. The Jets didn't get any help from coach Robert Saleh, who made the decision to punt twice while in Cleveland territory in the second half, despite the fact that his team was trailing 34-17. When you have a bad defense for two quarters, a bad offense for four quarters and questionable coaching, it's tough to win in the NFL and that's what the Jets had on Thursday night.
Joe Flacco faced his biggest defensive test of the season on Thursday and he aced it. Going into Week 17, the Jets had the second-best pass defense in football, but that didn't faze Flacco, who threw for 309 yards, including 296 in the first half alone (He also threw all three of his TD passes in the first half). Flacco caught fire during the first two quarters and he did most of his damage while throwing to David Njoku, who had 128 yards in the first half. Flacco slowed down slightly in the second half, but that didn't matter because the Jets couldn't move the ball on the Browns defense. Ronnie Hickman came up with the biggest defensive play of the game with a first quarter pick-six that essentially put the game away. With the Browns now headed to the postseason, they suddenly look like one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs. If Flacco keeps playing like this, he might be able to lead the Browns to their first Super Bowl

Jets-Browns grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)