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What We Learned: 33 Expert Takeaways From Week 16

In Week 16, we saw three teams clinch playoff berths, tightening divisional races, games played in freezing temperatures, record-setting performances, and a couple of aging superstar quarterbacks doing everything they can to get their teams in the postseason. The 33rd Team’s experts weighed in with 33 takeaways from the weekend's games:


Ravens 17, Falcons 9

1. "I don't think you'll see Lamar Jackson go back out there this season. We know why he won't be, and it's just a testament to the job GM Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh do to still win games without having Lamar. Playoff time won't be as simple. They've got to come to the point where they have to pay Lamar. The fans don't seem as engaged when Lamar isn't out there, and he's the former MVP. It's time to pay up and let his mind be free so he can just go play football." — Samari Rolle

2. "The Ravens won't be doing much, even in the playoffs. They don't have Lamar. The defense isn't as good as the standard that normally is up there for the Ravens. It's all next year, basically." — Samari Rolle

Panthers 37, Lions 23

3. "The Lions fell short in Carolina, giving up 300 yards rushing. That was the game. In the first half, they gave up 240 yards. You can't do that when you have playoff implications on the line. This team had been rolling, not only offensively but defensively. They had found a way to stop the run, and then their defensive line just didn't show up. They didn't make tackles. They didn't fill gaps and get runners on the ground. You see their offense playing from behind, which they're comfortable doing, but they just couldn't find the end zone when they needed to." — Greg Jennings

4. "The offensive line and defensive line were the keys to success for the Panthers. When you look at that team and what Steve Wilks has been able to do ... he has developed a culture in Carolina. They may not be stringing together wins, but they fight, and they have grit. We saw that on Saturday. When a team can run for over 300 yards on you and just punch you in the mouth time and time again, Steve Wilks should definitely be in consideration for maintaining the Panthers head coaching job" — Greg Jennings

Bills 35, Bears 13

5. "Josh Allen now has eight interceptions in opponent's territory. He had seven in his previous three seasons combined. While Buffalo won, Allen's inconsistency and repeated turnovers are preventing them from being the dominant team they were a year ago.  Defensively, they were excellent — holding Chicago to only two third-down conversions." — Mike Tannenbaum

Saints 17, Browns 10

6. "The Cleveland Browns playing at home in the cold conditions in a game you should win against a dome team like the Saints. I believe this season was just set off by distractions from the start. They had the signing of Deshaun Watson, and that threw a cloud over this organization the entire year. They were kind of on and off throughout the majority of the season. Watson came back and couldn't add that jolt they expected to end the seasons strong, so now there will be a lot of questions to answer this offseason." — Tank Williams

7. "The Saints got a huge win. The NFC South actually got a couple of big wins, with the Panthers blowing out the Lions. The Saints go up into a cold environment and get a win. The thing that impressed me most about the Saints is you play against a Browns team that is known for rushing, yet the Saints got 152 yards rushing when you compare to the Browns' 124 yards rushing. So the Saints go into that cold environment and establish dominance with the run game using Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara. That is going to set them up well in the playoffs if they make it." — Tank Williams

8. "I’ve lived 27 years in Wisconsin, 11 years in Cleveland, spent a lot of time ice fishing in Northern Wisconsin. Never have I been in temperatures that felt so cold." — Joe Thomas

9. "In the second-coldest game in franchise history, the Browns looked like the dome team, and the Saints looked like the cold-weather team. New Orleans came out in the second half and basically punched Cleveland in the mouth. The Browns struggled to finish catches, and they allowed the elements to affect their play.  Taysom Hill was a difference-maker with 56 yards rushing to go along with Alvin Kamara's 76.  Deshaun Watson and the Browns better figure out how to win in the cold weather – the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC for the next several years will go through Kansas City, Buffalo or Cincinnati." — T.J. McCreight

Chiefs 24, Seahawks 10

10. "The Chiefs are the best team in the AFC by far. They've got the best quarterback in the NFL, the best tight end and even without Mahomes having Tyreek Hill this year, the train just keeps going. Their defense obviously leaves a lot to be desired at times, but the Chiefs have a team, with Andy Reid calling the plays, where they play with the lead a lot of times, so it's not as much stress on the defense." — Samari Rolle

Vikings 27, Giants 24 

11. "The Minnesota Vikings managed to squeak out yet another [one-score] win. That's 12 on the season. They have become the masters of learning how to win by less than three points. When you're an opponent, you look at this team, and you say, 'There's nothing scary about this team.' But there is one caveat, and that's Justin Jefferson. If you're unable to contain what he does in late-game performances, they're going to have an opportunity to win games. We saw that against the Giants. He came up huge." — Greg Jennings

12. "When you look at Minnesota's secondary, as great as Patrick Peterson has been all year getting pivotal interceptions, you see teams attacking him. Teams are isolating him because he doesn't have the speed that he once had. He doesn't get out of transitions the way that he once did. He understands how to dissect plays and schemes, so he still makes plays, but he's also sometimes a liability" — Greg Jennings

13. "Incredible ending, but the Vikings have to fix their defense — they gave up 445 yards to a Giants offense that has struggled all year. Justin Jefferson might be the best non-QB in the league." — Mike Tannenbaum

Bengals 22, Patriots 18 

14. "New England had a chance to score and take the lead and run out the clock while doing it, and they fumble. Okay, you fumbled, but to add the personal foul [committed by Mac Jones] on top of that. Instead of the Bengals punting out of their end zone, where now New England has a chance to go down and score, they get the 15 yards, and it gives the punter room to work. It's a totally different equation. That was 10 penalties for the game. It doesn't make any sense that this is happening on such a consistent basis." — Eric Mangini

15. "Cincinnati won their seventh straight game. They might be the best team in the AFC when it's all said and done. They have more ways to beat you than anyone else in the AFC." — Trey Wingo

16. "This game got off to an incredibly slow start with only three first downs in the first half.  Rhamondre Stevenson had a critical fumble at the 7-yard line, which would have given New England the lead late in the game. Mac Jones' lack of mobility and foot quickness continues to hurt this offense. Cincinnati continues to look like the best team in the AFC; Burrow was outstanding, and eight different Bengals caught passes." — Mike Tannenbaum

Texans 19, Titans 14

17. "Not all hope is lost. The Titans still have a chance. We still control our destiny. I think a lot of people are going into panic mode because, at one point in time, we were in the driver's seat like so many games ahead. Now, we've lost our last five games, and anytime you lose that many games in a row, it's going to turn your season around. " — Chris Johnson

18. "We gotta come back on the short week and play the Cowboys on Thursday night, but then we got a head-on matchup with Jacksonville, and it's kind of a playoff game before the playoffs start because whoever wins that game will probably get that spot. I can't remember the last time, as a Titan, Jacksonville had a sweep on us. No way Jacksonville is going to beat us twice in one season." — Chris Johnson

49ers 37, Commanders 20

19. "The 49ers continue to amaze not only by winning but dominating with a rookie third-string quarterback and a great defense. This story is as much about coaching as it is about the players. I think head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans are arguably the best offense-defense coaching combo in the league. The question as they go into playoffs: will that be enough when going up against the best teams?" — Joe Banner

20. "The Commanders have made some progress, but without figuring out an answer at quarterback, their upside is limited. In my opinion, that answer isn't on the current roster." — Joe Banner

Cowboys 40, Eagles 34 

21. "Even with the win, there were some things that concern you about the Cowboys. For example, after the fumble by Miles Sanders, the Cowboys were set up with a chance to put the game away with a touchdown. Prescott makes a nice run to set up first and goal, but he runs out of bounds for no reason whatsoever. If he stays in bounds, the clock runs, or the Eagles are forced to use timeouts before they want to. There were a couple of situational things the Cowboys didn't do well, but at the end of the day, their defense held." — Trey Wingo

22. "For the Eagles, this wasn't the worst thing possible for them. They need one win in two games remaining to clinch the NFC East and homefield advantage, and we certainly believe with rest, Jalen Hurts might be back in the lineup. Gardner Minshew was phenomenal in this game. That's why Minshew is the perfect backup quarterback. You feel comfortable putting him in the lineup for two, maybe three games, but I'm not sure you want him running the operation for a long period." — Trey Wingo

23. "While Dallas got the win they needed, it took four turnovers. The Eagles never punted, and both AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith went over 100 yards. Dallas got significant contributions from their young defensive players, Daron Bland (fifth-round rookie) and Nahshon Wright (third-round pick in 2021), who made just enough plays to hold on. The Cowboys' injuries on defense (Leighton Vander Esch, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, Jonathan Hankins) are testing their depth." — Mike Tannenbaum

Steelers 13, Raiders 10

24. "We have said it week after week, but the Steelers just know how to win, mainly because the organization is so stable and sound. They picked off Derek Carr three times and held Josh Jacobs to 2.9 yards per carry.  I fully expect the Steelers to win their last two games. Winners win." — T.J. McCreight


Packers 26, Dolphins 20

25. "[Tua Tagovailoa] was just a completely different guy there in the fourth quarter. And I think part of that is that they got a little cautious because they got frustrated in an inability to get back to the line of scrimmage and rush the football. And then, all of a sudden, their first pass in the series is picked." — Mike Martz

26. "The thing to get excited about for the Packers now is that that's the best that defensive front has played all year. They dominated the Dolphins offense in the second half, both rushing the passer and in the run game." — Mike Martz

27. "I really believe this could be a catalyst for [Green Bay] running the table here these next two weeks. At home against the Minnesota Vikings and, finally, the last regular-season game against the Detroit Lions. It's been an amazing turnaround for the Green Bay Packers. A lot of people, myself included, kind of counted them out, but Aaron Rodgers really put this team on his shoulders." — Rich Gannon

28. "When people ask me about Rodgers' arm talent, I don't see any indications that this guy has lost his fastball. He made a lot of big-time throws, and he can still extend, create and manufacture plays with his legs." — Rich Gannon

29. "The Dolphins really needed to win and had a perfect opportunity to do so, but they could not get it done against Green Bay. Tagovailoa threw three interceptions, and Miami only rushed for 82 yards. Aaron Rodgers still showed he can complete the deep ball as he had some perfectly placed passes down the field. I would not bet against Rodgers – wherever he plays – in 2023." — T.J. McCreight

Rams 51, Broncos 14

30. In the micro, Baker Mayfield had himself a day. More than just efficient, he was overly sharp. The game got out of hand pretty early, yes, but at halftime he had as many touchdown passes as incompletions, and by the end of the game, he was 24-of-28 with a pair of touchdown tosses and no picks. In the macro, he’s becoming an offseason quarterback of interest. He’s made three starts in his short stint in LA, and in the first he threw on the cape at the end of the game to lead a highly unlikely win, and in the most recent he was crisp and on point the whole way. You have to wonder, at least a little, if teams who need a new quarterback next season will intrigued and enticed by Mayfield, or be more skeptical and turned off. It’s the best story going for the Rams’ final two weeks. Stay tuned. — Paul Burmeister

Buccaneers 19, Cardinals 16

31. "Getting into the playoffs is the only thing that matters. Much like the Green Bay Packers finding a way to maybe in the playoffs, when you have a guy who's as accomplished as Tom Brady is, all you want to do is punch your ticket to the dance. That it's unimpressive and somewhat uninspiring from a fan's point of view means nothing at this point. They get their chance next week with a pretty hot team in Carolina, which has won three of the last four since they jettisoned Baker Mayfield to Los Angeles and Sam Darnold's come in and has played pretty well. It's a really tough team and will be a really tough game next week on Bruce Arians' Ring of Honor game." — Ronde Barber

32. "Bad conservative play-calling for the Bucs, who are running on first down way more often than last year, and for much less yardage. That’s a formula for a bad offense trying to save the day at the end." — Joe Banner

33. "The win against the Cardinals will mask a lot of the problems that are going on with this Bucs football team — the inability to establish a running game, the inability to find consistency in the passing game. It all comes down to one thing: their offensive line is not nearly as effective as it was last year. Their defense has played well, really well at times this year; they created a lot of opportunities in this game, including  a late turnover against a guy who hasn't played much football in Trace McSorley. But still, scoring 14 points per game less this year is a problem for this team when Tom Brady is your quarterback. If they're going to advance in the playoffs, they're going to have to find an answer to that. — Ronde Barber