Weekly recap

NFL Week 16: Good, bad and ugly

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers should have an advantage. Photo credit: Andy Lyons

Week 16 brought more meaningful football. It's amazing to see that there are teams out there that looked to be dead in the water, but still have a shot at the playoffs. Here are my observations:

The Good

-The Packers are going to be a tough out in the playoffs, and it's not for the reason most think. Sure Aaron Rodgers is a perennial All Pro quarterback, but that defense is stout. Between Za'Darious Smith, Preston Smith, Jaire Alexander, and others, that defense is the real deal. If they get homefield advantage, it'll be tough to go to the Frozen Tundra in January and win.

-The Cardinals may be 5-9-1 after their improbable 27-13 win over the Seahawks, but there are several bright spots. Outside linebacker Chandler Jones sacked Russell Wilson four times to bring his league leading total to 19. Running back Kenyan Drake (acquired in a midseason trade from the Dolphins) has proven to be one of the keys to their offense with another near 200 yard multi-touchdown performance. Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray is the next in line to prove great athletes playing quarterback can work at the NFL level.

-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 42 years old, has played 20 seasons in the NFL, and is firmly in the G.O.A.T. conversation at the quarterback position. Despite his status and all the accolades, he still ran out on a reverse and threw a block. Not a typical quarterback flailing sissy block, but a hit'em low take out the knees type block. Always good to see the fire of guys like that on those plays.

The Bad

-Not often do I say winning is a bad thing, but in the case of the Giants: WHAT THE HELL ARE Y'ALL DOING?!? Why would you win a game against a division rival that'll be picking ahead of you now in the draft? They went from the driver's seat for the #2 overall pick to #5. If Ohio State defensive end Chase Young declares, which I fully expect him to, he would've filled a huge need for the Giants. Now the Skins may get him at #2. That is if the Bengals don't take him #1.

-With two interceptions next week against the Falcons, Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston will be the inaugural member of the 30/30 club: 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. That's the most awesomely terrible stat line I've seen in quite some time. Not only does a quarterback have to play and start enough games, but he has to stay in games and continue to fling it. He's also 92 yards away from 5,000 on the season. I fully expect him to achieve both, as well as be back in Tampa next year as the starter.

-The Browns "clinched" another losing record with their 31-15 loss to the Ravens. They came into the season as the sexy pick because of their offseason player acquisitions. Acquiring talent doesn't equate to wins. Head coach Freddie Kitchens may be on his way out after one season; so may Odell Beckham Jr is you believe the rumors. Baker Mayfield has seemingly regressed and taken this franchise's chances at emerging from the doldrums with him.

The Ugly

-The NFC East Trash Bowl took place as the Eagles bested the Cowboys 17-9. They are now 8-7 and in control of winning the division and the #4 seed in the heavy NFC. Whoever wins this division will be the worst team in the NFC playoff bracket considering all the others will have at least 10 or more wins and have been far more competitively consistent all year. Salt in the wound: Eagles' tight end Zach Ertz fractured a rib in the win and they're already down several pass catchers.

-The Panthers are now 5-10 after suffering their seventh straight loss in a 38-6 thrashing at the hands of the Colts. Panthers' defensive tackle Vernon Butler was ejected for throwing a punch and gave Colts' fans the finger as he left the field. Their tight end Greg Olsen then tore into how poorly they've been playing in a locker room media scrum postgame. All of this and they have an MVP candidate in Christian McCaffrey aka "Dairy Sanders." (Shot out to Gino McGee in Bias Sports Talk FB sports page for the nickname.)

-MLB free agent pitcher Rich Hill and his wife were arrested after an incident at Gillette Stadium before the Patriots game. Hill's wife apparently tried to enter the stadium with an unapproved bag, was denied and told to leave. When she refused, police arrested her. When Hill tried to prevent her from being put in the car, he too was arrested. Not a good look for a guy who's spent 14 years in MLB. They were also fined $500 each.

Week 17 is setting up to be the big finale of the season the NFL envisioned when they decided to change the schedule to make division games the last games of the season. The flex scheduling also allows the league to place games in similar time slots that involve teams vying for playoff seeding. It'll end in a Sunday Night Football matchup that pits the 49ers against the Seahawks for the NFC West crown and a first round bye on the line. The loser gets to face the NFC East winner on the road. I'm fired up for next week already! Aren't you?

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Suns defeat Rockets, 110-105. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images.

Phoenix All-Star Devin Booker and Houston rookie Cam Whitmore got into a minor scuffle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night and both players were called for a technical foul.

With a couple big blocks on the ensuing possession, Suns center Jusuf Nurkic was there to back his star teammate.

Booker scored 35 points, Kevin Durant added 24 and the Suns held off the Rockets 110-105, with the teams set to meet again in Phoenix on Saturday night.

Nurkic had 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks before fouling out. His biggest moment came in the fourth, when he stuffed Whitmore twice on the possession following the scuffle, drawing huge roars from the Phoenix crowd.

“Very important — that's the team sticking together,” Booker said. “That goes a long way. That's what you need when things get tough, it gets to the thick of things and the energy is high. You want to know you have people on your team that are built like that.”

Booker scored 20 points in the first quarter to help give the Suns an 18-point lead they would never relinquish. He has scored at least 20 points in an NBA-high six quarters this season.

Three-time All-Star Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game because of a hamstring injury.

The Suns took an 86-75 lead into the final quarter. Houston cut the advantage to six midway through the fourth, but Booker responded immediately with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine.

That led to the brief skirmish between Booker and Whitmore. Tempers stayed hot over the next few minutes — Houston's Alperen Sengun fouled out and then got two quick technicals, earning an ejection.

Booker hit both of the technical free throws, Nurkic followed with his two free throws from Sengun's foul, and that pushed the Suns' lead to 99-84. The Rockets would cut the lead to four with 16.9 seconds left, but Royce O'Neale hit two free throws to end the threat.

Jalen Green led Houston with 34 points. Fred VanVleet added 21. The Rockets connected on just 11 of 45 3-pointers and shot 33.3% from the field overall, which was their worst percentage of the season.

“It wasn't one of our better nights as far as guys getting open looks and making the extra pass,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We had a few guys who had it going, but a few guys who were struggling.”

Phoenix has won seven of its past 10 — and nine in a row at home — as it tries to stay in the top six of the Western Conference playoff race and avoid the play-in tournament. The sliding Rockets have lost eight of 10.

“We're getting confident in this building,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said.

Booker's big first quarter pushed the Suns to a 33-17 lead. The four-time All-Star made 8 of 10 shots from the field, including a 33-foot 3-pointer in the final seconds.

Phoenix settled for a 64-53 halftime lead. Booker had 26 points before the break while Green led Houston with 21.

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