Shutdown Corner - NFL

  • The NFL has picked the Cincinnati Bengals-Pittsburgh Steelers AFC North title clash as the last game of its  regular season, on “Sunday Night Football" to cap what will be an interesting Week 17.

    The league waits until during the Sunday night game in Week 16 to announce the last “Sunday Night Football” matchup for the final week, to ensure a good prime-time game. The Bengals-Steelers was selected over the Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers, which will determine the NFC North champ, and the Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons game that will decide the NFC North winner.

    The Steelers have battled inconsistency and rebounded from some bad losses to win three in a row and put themselves in position to win the AFC North with one more home win. The Bengals, who won the AFC North last season, play Denver on Monday night. Cincinnati can clinch a playoff berth with a win in that game, but no matter what, next Sunday night's showdown will determine the division champ.

    The Lions-Packers game will be at 4:25 p.m., the Lions announced. Not only will the Lions-Packers determine the NFC North champion, the winner also is ensured a first-round bye, the NFL said. The loser will have to go on the road as a wild card in the first round, so there’s a lot riding on that game.

    The Packers are 7-0 at home, and Detroit doesn’t have history on its side either. The Lions’ last win at Lambeau Field was 1991. They haven't won a division title since 1993. However, the Lions already beat the Packers 19-7 earlier this season.

    The NFC South will have a play-in game. The winner of Panthers-Falcons will be the second losing team in NFL history to make the playoffs. The Panthers are 6-8-1 and the Falcons are 6-9, so the Panthers would win the division if there is a tie. The loser of the game obviously won’t be going to the playoffs. The Cardinals, Seahawks, Packers, Lions and Cowboys have all clinched playoff spots in the NFC.

    Nine NFL teams have clinched a playoff spot, and the Bengals can make it 10 with a win or tie on Monday night. But there are a lot of seeding implications on the line in Week 17 as well. The Patriots can clinch the No. 1 seed through the AFC playoffs with a win over Buffalo (or if the Broncos lose on Monday night at Cincinnati). The Broncos can clinch a bye with a win on Monday night at Cincinnati, but if Denver loses it can still clinch a bye by beating the Raiders at home next Sunday.

    The top three seeds in the NFC were all unsettled heading into Sunday night’s Seattle Seahawks-Arizona Cardinals game, although Dallas can’t be the No. 1 seed unless the Packers and Lions tie, the NFL said. The Cowboys were still alive to get a top-two seed and a bye as the Seahawks and Cardinals kicked off on Sunday night, however.

    The San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans are still alive for a wild-card spot, with the Chargers clinching a spot if they win at Kansas City next Sunday. The Steelers clinched a playoff spot on Sunday by beating the Chiefs, joining the Patriots, Broncos and Indianapolis Colts in clinching a playoff spot in the AFC.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Here are the top five must-see plays from Week 16 in the NFL:

    Wanna start at QB?

    Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has a tough decision to make: Arian Foster, starting quarterback in 2015? We joke, yes, but check out this throw from Foster to rookie tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz.

    What a pick

    The Minnesota Vikings lost under fairly bizarre circumstances, having a punt blocked against them for a safety in the final minute. But early in the game, Harrison Smith made a fantastic interception that shows why he’s one of the better young safeties in the NFL. It almost looked like Smith just stole the ball straight from Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s hands on a blitz. 

    Remember him?

    Johnny Manziel didn’t do much better in his second start than he did in his first, with Brian Hoyer having to come on for the Cleveland Browns in relief after Manziel injured his hamstring. Hoyer was far from perfect either, but he did manage to hit Jordan Cameron on an 80-yard touchdown pass that tilted this game back in the Browns’ favor temporarily.

    Game saver

    The New Orleans Saints had two timeouts, the two-minute warning and 90 yards to go save a shot at the playoffs. But Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert McClain never let them get started. McClain picked off Drew Brees on the first play of the drive with just over two minutes left, helping preserve the Falcons’ win with a shot at the NFC South title next week.

    Making it look so easy

    It’s almost boring at this point, but Dez Bryant once again showed why he is about to be a very rich man. His touchdown might have been, oh, his seventh-most impressive score of the season, but by normal human standards he’s still in rare company. The Dallas Cowboys are a dangerous team entering the playoffs with this man on their side. 

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • The Oakland Raiders are expected to remain in the Bay Area for the 2015 season, according to an NFL Network report.

    The team's lease with O.Co Coliseum is set to run out, but the Raiders are expected to announce a one-year extension to remain in their current digs. Owner Mark Davis told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that "all our energy is going towards trying to stay in Oakland."

    Last week, word got out that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that no team would relocate to Los Angeles — one of the main locations the Raiders have been linked to — in 2015.

    The San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams are the two other teams that have been mentioned as the most likely candidates to move to L.A.

    It might be off the table for 2015, but there still will be a lot of talk about relocation after that. For now, however, the NFL's teams will be staying put next season.

    And the Raiders gave their fans a nice little double tip of the cap with an upset win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, even if it likely hurt their draft positioning.

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Of all the games on Sunday, only one had absolutely no playoff ramifications whatsoever: the New York Giants versus the St. Louis Rams. The very definition of a play-out-the-sched game, this one naturally descended into madness.

    There was plenty of chippiness from both teams throughout the game; even the Giants kicker got in on the act with an unnecessary roughness penalty. But what tore the roof off the joint was a late tackle: St. Louis' Alec Ogletree threw New York's Odell Beckham Jr. out of bounds in a way that Beckham didn't much care for.

    That set off a melee that wouldn't have looked out of place at a NASCAR race. In the end, three players, New York's Damontre Moore and Preston Parker, and St. Louis' William Hayes, got an early exit. The Giants would go on to run away with the ultimately meaningless game. So maybe that's the best excuse of all for letting off some steam. Not like these guys are going to knock themselves out of the playoffs or anything.

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    Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

    And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

  • Tony Romo overtook Troy Aikman to become the Dallas Cowboys' all-time passing yards leader against the Indianapolis Colts.

    It was only fitting, too, that Romo hit Jason Witten — his partner in crime for all of his years of starting — on a gorgeous touchdown pass as the Cowboys took a 35-0 lead on the Colts, inching closer to a division title.

    Aikman finished his career with 32,942 passing yards, and Romo passed him to move into No. 31 on the all-time passing yards list.

    Romo accomplished the feat in 15 fewer regular-season game and with more than 500 fewer pass attempts. Aikman left the NFL following the 2000 season at age 34 — the same age Romo is now.

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Even though New York Jets center Nick Mangold wore a walking boot on his left foot following an injury and yet another tough loss for his team, he walked out of MetLife Stadium a winner.

    Mangold, who suffered an ankle injury in a 17-16 loss to the New England Patriots, decided to pay tribute to the two New York City Police Department officers who were killed on Saturday afternoon in an execution-style shooting.

    During the walk into the stadium as part of the Jets' pregame rituals (the players get dropped off on buses and then walk through the crowd into the stadium), Mangold wore an "NYPD" baseball cap. His support for the police department set off a flood of positive messages on social media.

    It was a simple gesture that got rolling on Saturday night when, after he read the story about the two officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, he reached out to a friend with law enforcement ties to get a hat. He got it on Sunday morning and wore it to the game. There was also a moment of silence for the officers before kickoff.

    In recent weeks, players throughout the league have been criticized for sending messages aimed at law enforcement, including the St. Louis Rams players running onto the field with arms raised to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown. Mangold said he wasn't concerned about any backlash against his statement.

    It didn't cross my mind. Even if there was a backlash, those families deserve the support,” Mangold told Yahoo Sports after the game. “I would have been happy to take it. I just wanted to do something to support them." 

    Mangold has been politically active in the past, even campaigning for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 election. He said he had an overwhelming desire to support the families of the victims in a small way.

    I wasn't angry, just saddened. The fact that those guys sitting in their car didn't know it was coming, it was tough,” Mangold said. “Thinking of their wives, their kids – it must be tough. I'm just sad for them, sad for their families. I wanted to do something for them.”

    Mangold said he is contemplating putting the hat up for auction to raise money for the families of the two officers.

    Related NFL content:

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    Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer

  • Seven fans in the parking lot at Raymond James Stadium following the Buccaneers-Packers game were injured after lightning struck in a parking lot. Officials with Tampa Fire & Rescue said that seven people were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

    The storm rolled in just as the game ended, and clearly many fans were caught without shelter. However, it now appears that the hits were indirect:

    Electrical storms and large crowds are always a potent, threatening mix. Two years ago, one fan was killed and nine more were injured when lightning struck the crowd just after a NASCAR race in Pocono, Pa.

    Yahoo Sports is investigating the story and will update when more details are available.

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    Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

    And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

  • Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton scolded his own fans after Sunday's game.

    When Cleveland Browns rookie Johnny Manziel went down with a hamstring injury, some Panthers fans cheered. Manziel is a player fans love to hate, but that still crosses a line that makes just about any NFL player upset.

    Newton wasn't happy at the crowd's reaction to his fellow Heisman Trophy winner's injury, and didn't mince words.

    "It was saddening to see the crowd's response [to Manziel's injury]," Newton said, according to the Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones. "It was classless."

    Newton also said about the Panthers' fans reaction, "We are better than that." Manziel didn't return to the game.  

    Newton himself was coming back off a bad injury, a pair or fractures in the transverse process in his back when he was involved in a car accident. Only 12 days later, he was starting.

    Not all Panthers fans will like Newton's lecture. But the smart ones will understand it.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was once hot on Jim Harbaugh's trail, but it appears you can kill off any more talk of Ross chasing the San Francisco 49ers' head coach this coming offseason.

    According to Palm Beach Post's Andrew Abramson, Ross has said that embattled head coach Joe Philbin will return in 2015.

    The Dolphins won in dramatic fashion on a final-minute blocked punt on Sunday, and a Week 17 win could give them a 9-7 record, which would be Philbin's first winning season with the team.

    Will this appease Dolphins fans eager for a playoff appearance? Likely not, since they were eliminated from the picture Sunday. But it would be hard to argue with an owner supporting a coach who has made progress with a .500 team when a six- or seven-win team will be making the playoffs a week from now.

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • You blew it, Dewey.

    On a curious fake punt from their own 19-yard line, Indianapolis Colts safety Dewey McDonald dropped a surefire first down on a wide-open pass from punter Pat McAfee in the first quarter.

    One play later, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo connected with wide receiver Dez Bryant for a 19-yard touchdown that gave Dallas a 14-0 lead. Both the Colts and Cowboys entered the game with a 10-4 record and have plenty left to play for in terms of playoff positioning, all of which makes a fake punt deep in their own zone so early in the contest a mind-blowing decision by Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano.

    It's the second time this season the Colts have watched a player drop such a simple catch, as tight end Coby Fleener let a sure TD against the Washington Redskins slip through his hands three weeks ago.

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