The NFL regular season ended on Sunday night with 85 touchdowns scored in the final slate of games. The fireworks didn’t stop there with teams like Pittsburgh left watching the big screens hoping for the right results in other games – in their case, they needed the Browns to beat the Baltimore Ravens.
This season, we have been treated to an offensive explosion as the new breed of quarterbacks have found their feet. A new generation of ball throwers and game changers are now in the NFL. Yes, Drew Brees has broken numerous records and Tom Brady has been his usual reliable self, but the real explosion behind these guys is where the fun has been.
Not all the new young guns in the league will go on to be part of the elite grouping into which pundits seem so intent on placing QBs, but some of them will.
The last weekend of the regular season gave us Patrick Mahomes 50th touchdown pass of the season – only future Hall of Famers Brady and Peyton Manning have done that before. Browns first-round draft pick Baker Mayfield also threw his 27th touchdown pass, breaking the record for touchdown passes in a rookie season – not bad for a player who didn’t start the season as the No 1 in Cleveland.
When you add in Josh Rosen at Arizona, Mitch Trubisky in Chicago and the emergence of Lamar Jackson, in Baltimore the future of the NFL’s passing game looks exciting. All these players have stood out as not just leaders but generals on the field.
But they also need to become more consistent. To really be in the upper echelons with Brady, Brees and Phillip Rivers the likes of Mayfield and Rosen need to perform like this every year.
They must avoid costly interceptions and keep developing their games and, of course, make the play-offs – where the three veterans will be playing in January.
Those Pittsburgh players on the field waited in vain as the Browns couldn’t quite make a late run over the Baltimore Ravens who – with the win – secured their place in the postseason.
The league office couldn’t have been happier with the scheduling as there were two other “win and in” games on Sunday.
The Chicago Bears were guaranteed a play-off place but knew they had to keep their No 3 seed as they travelled to Minnesota to play the Vikings, who knew a win would see them sneak back into the postseason. The Bears comfortably saw off the challenge to secure a home game next Saturday.
The Philadelphia Eagles were all but done a few weeks ago when starting quarterback Carson Wentz went down with an injury. Almost mirroring last years miraculous Super Bowl run, Nick Foles came in and led them back to the play-offs with a win over rivals Washington, setting up a game in Chicago next weekend.
Seattle Seahawks overcame a stubborn challenge from Arizona, and the Dallas Cowboys also managed to defeat the New York Giants on the back of a superb game by Dak Prescott. Those teams face off next Saturday night in Dallas knowing that it is now lose and go home.
The Indianapolis Colts had to overcome the Titans in another “win and in” game late on Sunday. The Andrew Luck-led team became only the third team to overcome a one win and five loss start to a season and will be rewarded with a trip to play the 11-4 Houston Texans – who started the season with three defeats.
The LA Chargers finished tied for best record in the AFC but as the Kansas City Chiefs share the division and beat them in a head to head, they have to settle for a wildcard game. They will host the Baltimore Ravens. The New England Patriots, Chiefs, LA Rams and New Orleans Saints will have a week off before they resume postseason action hosting teams from the weekend’s wild card games.