It was hat and t-shirt week in the NFL

The good, bad and ugly from NFL Week 16

David Silverman, Patriots team website

Week 16 of the NFL season was hat and t-shirt week as several teams clinched division titles and playoff spots. Here a few things I observed:

The Good

-The Patriots captured their 10th consecutive AFC East division title with their 24-12 win over the Bills. The only other pro sports team to have a run like this was the Atlanta Braves in MLB. Whether you love, hate or are indifferent about them, you have to respect what they've done. Like the old saying goes "If you ain't cheatin, you ain't tryin!" Or is it: "It's only cheatin if you get caught!"

-The Cowboys wrapped up their third NFC East title in the last five years following a 27-20 win over the Bucs. Although they haven't made it past the divisional round since 1995 (the last time they won a Super Bowl), this team seems poised to possibly make that a thing of the past.

-The Browns beat the hapless Bengals 26-18 behind another big performance by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. He went 27 of 37 for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Even receiver Jarvis Landry threw a 63-yard bomb to Breshad Perriman. The Browns are an exciting young team. Let's hope they find the right coach to steer this ship.

The Bad

-Apparently there was a "situation" between Bills coach Sean McDermott and his star running back LeSean McCoy this week that led to McDermott benching McCoy. McCoy admitted as much but didn't elaborate. One must speculate as to whether there will be a parting of the ways this offseason, or this was a one off.

-Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota went down with a stinger in their 25-16 win over the Skins. The thing that makes this fall under "The Bad" you ask? We may be subjected to a Blaine Gabbert versus Andrew Luck "Loser Leaves Town Match" when the Titans play the Colts next week for a playoff spot.

-I wrote this article before Monday Night Football because nobody gives a damn about a Broncos (6-8) versus Raiders (3-11) game. Well, their family members might care. The NFL needs to do something about the MNF schedule. I know people buy tickets and plan around these games, but I have an idea about how to fix it. Be looking for that article soon.

The Ugly

-As ballsy as the Chargers played last week to beat the Chiefs, was as bad as the Ravens made them look. They were held to just 10 points, less than 200 yards total offense, and Phillip Rivers went 23 of 37 for 181 yards with two picks and was sacked four times. In other words, they pissed away their chance at the top seed in AFC.

-The Jags beat the Dolphins 17-7. It was so ugly, the teams combined for 427 total yards of offense, 4.06 yards per play average, and 20 penalties for 192 yards. This was the type of game in which the family members left early.

-Skins decided to cut safety D.J. Swearinger following disparaging remarks he made about defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Swearinger was named a Pro Bowl alternate this year and had one year remaining on his contract. I guess saving $4.5 million dollars on next year's cap and a headache in the locker room was more important.

We will have to wait and see how the folks at 345 Park Avenue in New York decide how the schedule will play out for week 17. The league tries to make sure the last couple weeks of the season mean as much as possible to keep people interested. Playoff spots and seeding will be on the line and I'm looking forward to it.

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Houston can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 26-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

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