Winners and losers from NFL on Christmas Eve: Vikings win on FG … – USA TODAY

The Dallas Cowboys outlasted the Philadelphia Eagles at home. The Cincinnati Bengals narrowly escaped a loss on the road to the New England Patriots. The Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers took care of business. And the Minnesota Vikings continued to thrill their way to victory.

Even the Houston Texans – the Houston Texans! – won a game on Saturday.

The Christmas Eve slate of NFL games did not disappoint. Well, that depends on how your favorite team performed.  

Here are the winners and losers from Saturday’s slate of games in Week 16:


Dallas Cowboys

America’s team rebounded from their disappointing overtime loss in Jacksonville last week with a thrilling, 40-34 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at home. 

Dak Prescott overcame an early pick-six to help the Cowboys tie the game at 34 with his second touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb with 5:49 left. And while the Cowboys were unable to score a touchdown again, their two field goals in the final minutes were enough.

The Cowboys and Eagles split the season series, and coincidently won while the other team’s backup quarterback got the start.

Maybe a matchup with Prescott and Jalen Hurts, who is nursing a shoulder injury, could be in store for the playoffs. For now, the Eagles will have to wait to clinch the NFC East, a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

NFL playoff picture: Jaguars move into playoff field, Bills win AFC East

Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

Before this game, New York Giants defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said, “I told the defense. I said that he’s one of the top two receivers in this league, and he’s not number two.” 

Evidently, not even flattery can slow down Jefferson. He finished with 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown, his eighth of the season.

Jefferson broke the Vikings’ single-season receiving record (set by Hall of Famer Randy Moss in 2003) and Cris Carter’s single-season reception record, which the Hall of Famer set in 1994.

Jefferson, at 1,756 yards, needs 209 yards with two games left to surpass Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record of 1,964 yards.

These types of performances are becoming routine for the Offensive Player of the Year contender.

Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph

A 61-yard, game-winning field goal? Joseph showed why he is a big reason the Vikings always seem to win games that rest on the knife’s edge. He’s just the dagger, nailing his kick to secure Saturday’s win over the Giants.

Buffalo Bills’ run game

On a wintery Chicago day, the Bills relied on their run game to outlast the Bears after Chicago pulled within eight points early in the fourth quarter.

Devin Singletary rushed for 106 yards, James Cook rushed for 99 yards and quarterback Josh Allen had 41 yards. All three scored a rushing touchdown to help the Bills stay in first place in the AFC.

Baltimore Ravens

No Lamar Jackson. No problem. For now.

The Ravens won their second game with Jackson sidelined due to a knee injury, and clinched a playoff spot with their 17-9 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley secured the win, and he delivered a touchdown pass to receiver Demarcus Robinson – Baltimore’s first touchdown catch by a wide receiver since Week 3. 

Houston Texans

The worst team in the NFL broke through with a 19-14 win against the Tennessee Titans after flirting with victory after impressive performances against the Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs in their previous two games.

The Texans won their second game of the year, but are still considered the favorite to land the No. 1 pick at 2-12-1. Another win could put them in jeopardy with the Bears sitting behind them at 3-12.

Carolina Panthers’ run game

Carolina bullied the Lions at the point of attack and Detroit’s poor job of tackling led to a 37-23 victory that was closer on the scoreboard than it actually was.

Running back D’Onta Foreman rushed for a touchdown and 165 yards, while Chuba Hubbard had 125 yards on 12 carries (10.4 yards per carry). Quarterback Sam Darnold even had 19 yards on the ground (six attempts) and a rushing touchdown.

Carolina controls its own destiny in the putrid NFC South, starting with a massive matchup next week against Tampa Bay. 

Opinion: Panthers create NFC South chaos, put Christmas pressure on Tom Brady, Buccaneers

Jacksonville Jaguars

They started the week in second place in the AFC South. Now they’re in position to host a home playoff game.

The Jags dispatched the Jets with relative ease Thursday night, and they now hold the No. 4 seed in the AFC thanks to their head-to-head tiebreaker over the Titans, who they’ll face in the season finale.

Trenton Irwin and Shane Zylstra

The Bengals and Lions both relied on players low on their depth chart to provide a spark. But how about multiple touchdowns each for both Bengals receiver Trenton Irwin (two) and Lions tight end Shane Zylstra (three)?

Irwin took advantage of Tyler Boyd’s time on the sideline with a finger injury to catch three passes for 45 yards and two of Joe Burrow’s three touchdowns in the first half at New England.

As for Zylstra, he was a bright spot in an otherwise dull performance by the Lions, catching his touchdown passes from Jared Goff in the first, third and fourth quarters of a 37-20 loss in North Carolina.

San Francisco 49ers QB Brock Purdy

Brock Purdy joined Dan Marino as just the second quarterback since 1950 to throw multiple touchdowns while posting a 100-plus QB rating in each of his first three starts.

Purdy threw two touchdowns to George Kittle and improved to 3-0 as the 49ers’ starter with a 37-20 win over the Commanders.

And with the Eagles losing to the Cowboys, the 49ers gained a game toward Philadelphia for the No. 1 seed. San Francisco might not catch Philly, but Purdy has done his job to keep the 49ers afloat in Jimmy Garoppolo’s absence.


Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson

The Browns will finish Deshaun Watson’s first season with a losing record.

Watson, who is 2-2 as starter, and the Browns failed to convert on fourth down twice in their freezing contest at home against the Saints, falling to 6-9 and out of the playoff mix.

The Browns’ season was hampered by Watson’s 11-game suspension amid accusations by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct, and they have nothing left to play for with two games remaining.

New England Patriots

Down 22 points at the half, and needing receiver Scotty Washington to tip a deep pass from quarterback Mac Jones to receiver Jakobi Meyers for a 48-yard touchdown on third-and-29, the Patriots pulled within four points of an upset of the Bengals.

But their comeback effort was ripped away from them as Bengals safety Vonn Bell stripped running back Rhamondre Stevenson at the 5-yard line with 1:05 left to slam the door shut.

For the second straight week, the Patriots lost in dramatic fashion. Somehow, they’re still mathematically in the playoff mix at 7-8.   

Washington Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke

Down 30-14 in the fourth quarter against the 49ers, Washington coach Ron Rivera decided to bench starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke for Carson Wentz.

On consecutive drives in the second half, Heinicke was sacked and fumbled and then threw an interception to put the game out of reach for Washington.

The 49ers kicked field goals on both ensuing drives, but the damage was already done as San Francisco increased a 10-point lead to 16 after the turnovers. The 49ers won 37-20.

Now, Heinicke’s job may be in jeopardy heading into the final two games.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans appeared primed to win another AFC South title during their 27-17 win on the road against the Packers on Nov. 17.

But since then? It hasn’t been good.

The Titans lost their fifth straight game, this time to the worst team in the NFL, 19-14 to the Texans.  

Tennessee has fallen to 7-8, seeing the Jaguars leapfrog them in the division standings. The teams will play in the season finale to decide their division.

NFL kickers

The elements were not kind to several kickers on Saturday.

Bengals kicker Evan McPherson missed a field goal and an extra-point kick in New England. Patriots kicker Nick Folk missed two extra points.

Bills kicker Tyler Bass also had a frustrating day with a missed field goal and point-after attempt despite a victory.

NFL players on Saturday

With the exception of three games – Giants-Vikings, Eagles-Cowboys and 49ers-Commanders – every NFL team played in freezing temperatures on Saturday. At least, they’ll have Christmas Day to warm up at home.

Fantasy owners eliminated from playoffs

Hey, we’re really sorry your fantasy team didn’t make it to the fantasy championship this year. There’s always next year.