32 things we learned from Week 15 of the 2020 NFL season – USA TODAY

The 32 things we learned from Week 15 of the 2020 NFL season:

1. The Jets will not become the NFL’s third 0-16 team – leaving the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns in history’s dustbin – after upsetting the Rams on Sunday afternoon. 

1a. The Jets will probably not be drafting Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, either. The Jaguars, 1-13 like the Jets, assume control of the top pick of the 2021 draft as their futility has come with an easier schedule than New York’s.

1b. Chins up, NYJ fans. You were also reeling in 2005 when the team won late in year, costing itself a shot at USC RB Reggie Bush. But the J-E-T-S wound up drafting LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold … which worked out pretty well.

2. Meanwhile, the Rams must wait a week to clinch a playoff spot and lost first place in the NFC West after failing to handle the previously winless NYJ in one of the bigger stumbles in recent memory.

3. In less consequential (and more unsurprising) AFC East matters, the New England Patriots have officially failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008 – their record 11-year run reaching postseason spiked by the Dolphins on Sunday.

3a. The Pats dominion over their division was second only to the Atlanta Braves’ 14-year reign over the NL East in terms of major North American team sports.

3b. The Patriots have lost six of their last eight in Miami.

4. Elsehwere, ex-Pat QB Tom Brady led the Buccaneers to the verge of their first postseason trip since 2007 – naturally victimizing his old friends, the Atlanta Falcons, who led Tampa Bay 24-7 in the third quarter. Brady (390 yards passing, 2 TDs) won for the seventh time in his 21-year career despite trailing by at least 17 points, tying Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers for the most such comebacks.

NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE:Seahawks clinch spot, assume first place in NFC West, as Rams stumble

5. TB12 found WR Antonio Brown for the game-winning, 46-yard TD in the fourth quarter. It was AB’s first score in 462 days, the previous one also coming courtesy of Brady when both played for New England in 2019.

6. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald scored his first TD in 364 days.

7. Ravens WR Dez Bryant scored his first TD in 1106 days.

8. The Chiefs won the matchup of the day, outlasting the Saints 32-29, but possibly leaving New Orleans with a decimated backfield after rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire was helped off the field. RB Le’Veon Bell also looked beaten up by game’s end.

9. Not a good day for the Saints, either, QB Drew Brees looking rusty in his return – one that didn’t have the benefit of WR Michael Thomas, who landed on injured reserve Saturday courtesy of his lingering ankle injury. Is it possible neither K.C. nor N.O. will have the gas to get this purported Super Bowl preview to the finish line?

10. Eagles QB Carson Wentz wants out of Philadelphia, per reports, if he loses his job to rookie Jalen Hurts. But given the way Hurts is playing (338 yards passing, 63 rushing, 4 total TDs on Sunday), is anyone in the City of Brotherly Love gonna be showing Wentz any love – or attention – if this keeps up?

11. Unfortunately on Sunday for Hurts, who shared the field with Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, he was not the former Sooner who boomed quite enough. Murray passed for a career-best 406 yards and three TDs – and ran for another – to keep Arizona in the NFC’s projected playoff bracket.

12. The Cardinals were fortunate to draw the NFC East on their schedule this year, finishing a season-long divisional sweep Sunday.

13. Baltimore sure seems to be coming together as a team no one will want to draw in the playoffs – assuming the Ravens make it that far. They really need either the Browns or Dolphins, who both own better records against AFC competition, to slip up over the final two weeks.

14. Lamar Jackson joined Michael Vick as the only quarterbacks with two seasons of at least 800 rushing yards.

15. Once on pace for a historically putrid season, the Seahawks D has allowed fewer than 300 yards in three of the past four games and no more than 17 points in any of them – including Sunday’s 20-15, playoff-clinching defeat of Washington. Credit the return of S Jamal Adams as the stabilizing factor.

15a. Adams’ 9½ sacks are a single-season record for an NFL defensive back. He set another mark for DBs Sunday by notching a sack in four consecutive games.  

16. Rivers is 47-24 (.662) all-time after November ends. Who knew? His Colts are certainly shaping up as a team no one will want to face in January.

17. Titans RB Derrick Henry garners most of the attention Tennessee manages to generate nationally – and why not, now that he has a career-high 1,679 yards and still has a reasonable shot at reaching 2,000. His nine 100-yard rushing days in 2020 are the most in the NFL since 2014.

The Titans seem to be in good hands with QB Ryan Tannehill (17) and RB Derrick Henry.

18. But let’s recognize what a fabulous season Titans QB Ryan Tannehill has had in his first year as the team’s full-time starter – especially after he became the first player to pass for three TDs and rush for two in the same game during Sunday’s victory, which kept Tennessee in first place and on course for an AFC South crown.

19. The reigning NFC champion San Francisco 49ers were officially eliminated from playoff contention Sunday. If they weren’t suffering from a Super Bowl hangover, no reason they can’t go tie one one now.

20. Congratulations to Buffalo and Bills Mafia after the organization secured its first division title since 1995 and first playoff home game since 1996, when the team suffered a wild-card loss to the Jaguars.

21. Only the Browns (1989) and Lions (1993) had longer divisional title droughts than Buffalo entering 2020.

22. Sunday’s matchup between New England’s Cam Newton and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa was first time an ex-Auburn QB had opposed a former Alabama counterpart in the NFL since at least 1950.

23. Bills WR Stefon Diggs, who has a club-record 111 catches this season, has to be the offseason acquisition of 2020. He and QB Josh Allen are the AFC’s version of Rodgers-to-Adams.

24. Staying at Lambeau Field, even in a year largely devoid of fans who can attend, could still serve the top-seeded Green Bay Packers quite well in the playoffs. They are a league-best 14-2 at home since the start of last season.

25. Pack QB Aaron Rodgers didn’t take the opportunity to pull away in the MVP race Saturday, but he did become the first man in league history to throw for 40 TDs in three separate seasons.

26. The Bears are 5-2 when QB Mitchell Trubisky starts in 2020 and are only one game out of the NFC’s final playoff spot. Still, whether this glass is half full or half empty, seems inevitable it will get smashed in the offseason.

27. Number of running backs with at least 80 receptions in their first four seasons? It’s a list of one: New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara.

28. Chargers QB Justin Herbert remains the front runner for offensive rookie of the year honors, tying the record for most TD passes (27) posted by a first-year player while breaking Andrew Luck’s freshman record for 300-yard games with his seventh Thursday at Las Vegas. The Bolts have about 99 problems, but Herbert ain’t one.

29. But Herbert has not yet buried Vikings rookie WR Justin Jefferson, who surpassed 100 receiving yards for the sixth time Sunday – more than all but three rookies in history. 

30. After 6-4 starts each of the past two years, the Raiders are 2-8 after Week 11 since 2019.

30a. Las Vegas coach Jon Gruden has a .377 win percentage (23-38) in December games and a .500 percentage this week on wearing the correct hat.

31. Nice to see Raiders backup QB Marcus Mariota, a boyhood hero of Herbert’s and one of the finest guys in the league, play so well in relief of injured starter Derek Carr. Mariota, who lost his starting job in Tennessee last year, signed with Las Vegas in 2020 and passed for 226 yards and a TD while rushing for a team-best 88 and another score in his Silver and Black debut. “It’s been a long journey,” Mariota said Thursday. “I’ve been through kind of everything from injuries to surgeries to mental kind of lapses and the confidence thing. I just truly appreciate the Raiders and the entire organization for kind of helping me through that.”

32. Congrats to Colts P Rigoberto Sanchez, who played less than three weeks after having a malignant tumor removed. #RigoStrong indeed.


Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

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