Sunday Rundown recaps the most important developments from the day's action and examines the significance of those events moving forward.
Carson Wentz deserves a round of applause for pushing the Eagles into the playoffs. After Miles Sanders injured his ankle, Philadelphia trotted out Boston Scott, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins, Deontay Burnett, and Greg Ward on offense against the Giants.
Scott stepped up big time in the win, but Wentz carried a group of no-names to the NFC East title. The 2016 No. 2 pick amazingly became the first player in NFL history with 4,000-plus passing yards in a season without a 500-yard wide receiver, setting numerous Eagles records in the process.
Fielding the most injury-riddled supporting cast in the league, Wentz saved his best football for when it mattered most. The Eagles were on the brink of elimination a month ago, and the 27-year-old led them to four straight wins to end the season, playing incredibly during fourth quarters.
Philadelphia is now streaking into the playoffs despite its 9-7 record, and no team will want to play Wentz. If Doug Pederson's squad gets healthier in time for next week (Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, and Nelson Agholor all sat out on Sunday), the Seahawks could be in trouble.
The Browns' eighth head coach of the last decade will be on the sideline when they take the field in 2020. It had to be this way.
Freddie Kitchens was always in over his head in the role, and he was rightfully fired shortly after the Browns concluded their 6-10 season - a 12th straight losing campaign for the pitiful franchise.
Hired because he helped lead the team on a 5-2 run after being elevated to interim offensive coordinator following Hue Jackson’s firing in 2018, it’s now apparent that whatever spark Kitchens ignited in Cleveland’s offense wasn't enough to burn down the shroud of failure enveloping the franchise.
Any coach would look appealing next to Jackson, and the Browns were so unfamiliar with success that the tiny taste of it Kitchens provided made owner Jimmy Haslam and GM John Dorsey overlook the coach's lack of bona fides. He had never been more than a position coach before stumbling into the interim OC gig.
For the Browns to stop being a laughingstock, they must shed the mindset of a loser and evaluate the paths forward available to them with true objectivity.
The next question is whether Dorsey, who oversaw the Kitchens hire, is the right man for that task.
Just like their matchup earlier this season, Sunday night's clash between the Seahawks and 49ers was incredible. What amounted to the NFC West title game came right down to the wire, with San Francisco stopping Seattle on the goal line to secure the division and the No. 1 seed in the conference.
Pitting the 49ers, far and away the NFC's most complete team, against a Seahawks squad that almost always finds a way to get the job done is just about as entertaining as football gets.
With the season series even at one, NFL fans deserve a rubber match. And we just may get it.
Seattle travels to play the Eagles on Wild Card Weekend. If the Seahawks advance, and the Saints emerge victorious in their matchup with the Vikings, Seattle would head to San Francisco for the divisional round.
Good luck predicting the result of that one.
The Seahawks bringing Marshawn Lynch out of retirement for another playoff run could be one of the best stories in an already wild NFL season. On Sunday night, we got a glimpse of how Lynch can still impact Seattle.
No, he's not in his prime anymore, and anyone who hates fun was quick to point out as much this week, questioning whether a 33-year-old running back coming off the couch will do anything to help a team in January.
But as we saw during a few key runs against the 49ers, Lynch has more than enough juice left to bolster a Seahawks backfield that injuries have decimated, especially in short-yardage situations. And with his fresh legs and physical running style going up against players who are five months into the grind of an NFL season, maybe Lynch's skill set even plays well in the playoffs.
Either way, one of the NFL's most likable personalities returning in such an unexpected fashion is going to make January that much more exciting. Let's hope the Seahawks don't mess things up on the goal line this time around.
The last time the Patriots had to play on wild-card weekend, Tom Brady was coming off a torn ACL, Julian Edelman was a complete unknown as a seventh-round rookie, and Stephon Gilmore was starting as a true freshman at South Carolina.
It was more than a generation ago in NFL time (six different men have coached the Browns since Eric Mangini in 2009!), making the Patriots' run of nine straight playoff byes one of the most impressive of the many records set during the Brady-Belichick era.
That run ended with a shocking loss to the Dolphins on Sunday. A week after New England imposed its will on the Bills to spark a thousand "the Patriots are rounding into form at the perfect time" takes, Ryan Fitzpatrick directed a last-minute touchdown drive on the road to knock the Patriots out of the AFC's No. 2 seed in favor of the Chiefs.
The Patriots lost their last wild-card weekend game when Ray Rice's Ravens raced to a 24–0 first-quarter lead and sent the Foxboro crowd home early. It was perhaps the worst loss Brady and Belichick have endured.
The Patriots face a long road ahead in their quest to book another date with the top-seeded Ravens this January.
We haven't seen this many teams stumble to end the regular season in quite some time. Five of the eight squads playing in the wild-card round are coming off losses, and the others didn't exactly pull off convincing wins.
In addition to New England, the Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, and Minnesota Vikings lost their Week 17 matchups. Granted, the latter three all rested starters, but the Bills and Vikings were also coming off tough losses in Week 16.
Even the Green Bay Packers, who locked up the NFC's No. 2 seed, barely beat the lowly Detroit Lions.
The postseason is often about getting hot at the right time, and only a select few teams are peaking right now. That could lead to a few surprises next weekend.
Teddy Bridgewater needed one touchdown pass Sunday to reach 10 on the season and trigger a $250,000 bonus. As the Saints raced to a 35-3 halftime lead over the hapless Panthers, it seemed certain Drew Brees' backup would get the chance to hit that mark.
Instead, the Saints inexplicably played Brees and other starters deep into the second half of a game when the outcome wasn't in doubt, and they're lucky to escape without any injuries.
Bridgewater wasn't so lucky. He finally got on the field in the fourth quarter for mop-up duty, but the veteran attempted only one pass. It didn't go for a touchdown, and Saints owner Gayle Benson is $250,000 richer now.
Bridgewater will be a free agent this spring, and the Saints would surely like to keep him around. The feeling might not be mutual after Sunday.
Facing his former employer Bill Belichick with nothing on the line except pride, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores dialed up trick play after trick play to great effect.
It was a refreshing, college bowl-like approach to the game from Miami. Why keep these plays in your back pocket? There's a long offseason ahead to draw up a new batch of tricks. Cap the 2019 season with a bang.
In an NFL season filled with bizarre twists and turns (at least half of them involving Antonio Brown), perhaps the most baffling moment was Jets owner Christopher Johnson's early November declaration that head coach Adam Gase's job is safe for 2020.
At the time, the Jets were 2-7 and coming off a humiliating loss to the previously winless Dolphins. They went on to finish 7-9 but there were plenty more embarrassing moments along the way, both on and off the field:
Finishing the season against a playoff-bound Bills team resting every key starter, the Jets' top unit barely managed a slim victory. The win came in spite of Gase's incompetence, with the head coach making several head-scratching calls, including attempting a 50-yard field goal in the frigid, driving rain on fourth-and-2 (the Jets missed).
There's no valid argument for Gase to return as the team's head coach in 2020, beyond the fact he's owed millions, and it would be embarrassing for Johnson to go back on his word (the Jets haven't revealed the exact terms of Gase's contract, but there are likely multiple years left in the range of $4-5 million annually).
Neither reason is good enough. Gase has to go.
Perhaps no player made himself more money over the season's final month than Buccaneers wideout Breshad Perriman.
On his fourth team since being selected 26th overall in 2015, the speedster caught fire in an elevated role following Mike Evans' season-ending hamstring strain in Week 14 and Chris Godwin's similar injury the following week.
Perriman put up 25 catches for 506 yards in Weeks 13-17, scoring five touchdowns along the way, including this beauty in the season finale:
Perriman is set to hit free agency and will surely seek a large raise on the one-year, $4-million contract he played under in 2019.
Perhaps fellow 2015 bust-turned-stud DeVante Parker's recent four-year, $30.5-million contract is a logical asking price.