It is probably safe to say that with three games left to play and the Arizona Cardinals ahead of the NFC West by three games that the Cardinals will win this division. However, it also appears that the Seattle Seahawks have more than a good chance to make the playoffs as a wildcard.
The Seahawks continued their march to the post-season with a win against the Baltimore Ravens. Quarterback Russell Wilson continues to impress as he threw five touchdown passes in this game. Moreover, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin caught three of those passes. Tyler Lockett caught the other two. Wilson finished with 23 completions on 32 throws for 292 yards. His five touchdown passes in this game matched his career high, which was done earlier this season against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has 16 touchdown passes over the last four games.
Marshawn Lynch, who has been inactive due to an abdomen injury, did not play for the fourth straight game. Thomas Rawls started the game, but broke an ankle and was replaced by DuJuan Harris, who ran for 42-yards on 18 carries and lost a fumble.
The Seahawks, who has the second-best defense in the NFL, played as expected. The Ravens were unable to score a touchdown against them and gave up two turnovers. They were able to achieve only 28 yards rushing.
Jimmy Clausen replaced injured second-string quarter Matt Schaub, who had replaced injured starter Joe Flacco. Clausen finished with 23 completions on 40 attempts for a career-high 274 yards and an interception.
The Seahawks took the lead with a touchdown on their first possession of the day. Wilson engineered an 80-yard drive that finished with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Lockett. They added to their total after Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner recovered a Javorius Allen fumble at the Ravens’ 14-yard line. Two plays later Wilson hit Baldwin for another score.
In the Ravens’ next drive Clausen completed two passes –- one to Kamar Allen and the other to Justin Tucker –- which collected 58-yards before it was stalled and Ravens’ kicker converted a field goal on the last play of the half.
After the kickoff that started the second half, Wilson led an 80-yard drive completing four passes on five throws for 58 yards. This drive ended with a touchdown pass to Baldwin.
Wilson also completed a 49-yard touchdown pass to Lockett later in the game. This touchdown was set up when Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman intercepted a Clausen pass.
There was one oddity in the game. This game marked Clausen’s second game against the Seahawks this season. He played for the Bears in their game against the Seahawks in September. Clausen became the sixth quarterback since 1950 to start against the same team twice for different clubs during the same season. The last one to do so was Kyle Orton in 2011.
During the Seahawks’ four consecutive wins Wilson has 89 completions on 118 throws (75.4 percent) for 1,171 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Baldwin finished with six catches for 82 yards and three touchdowns. In the last five games, he has caught 30 passes for 515 yards and nine touchdowns. SEAHAWKS 35 RAVENS 6
Fourteen-year NFL veteran Dwight Freeney stripped the ball from Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with five seconds remaining to preserve the win for the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals clinched a playoff berth with the victory.
Freeney’s action definitely saved the win for the Cardinals. Bridgewater was leading a successful drive moving the ball to the Cardinals 31-yard line setting up a 48-yard field goal. That is well within the range of kicker Blair Walsh. However, the Vikings made one more play from scrimmage and Freeney hit Bridgewater’s arm as he tried to pass. The ball came loose and Calais Campbell recovered for the Cardinals.
Cardinals’ kicker Chandler Catanzaro kicked the winning field goal –- a 47-yard boot –- with 1:23 remaining.
Bridgewater finished with 25 completions on 36 throws for 335 yards and a touchdown. Adrian Peterson rushed for only 69 yards on 23 carries. He scored on a 9-yard run.
Carson Palmer threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns –- a 65-yarder to John Brown and a 42-yard pass to Michael Floyd. It was his 31st and 32nd touchdown passes for the Cardinals breaking Kurt Warner’s franchise record of 30 set in 2008 when the Cardinals went to the Super Bowl. Floyd caught five passes for 102 yards. Rookie running back David Johnson, who is substituting for an injured Chris Johnson, rushed for 92 yards on 19 carries.
Walsh had converted on a 54-yard field goal making the score 20-13 in favor of the Cardinals. The Cardinals failed to convert a third and one play and the Vikings went on an 88-yard drive capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace on a third down play and with 4:50 remaining in the game.
Prior to Freeney’s fumble recovery the Cardinals moved down field for the clinching field goal with 4:50 remaining.
The Vikings fumbled three times –- once deep in Arizona territory, the second at mid-field that led to a Cardinals touchdown, and the fumble recovered by Freeney. CARDINALS 23 VIKINGS 20
Todd Gurley rushed for 140 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns and defensive back Trumaine Johnson held Calvin Johnson to just one catch for 16 yards and returned an interception 58-yards for a score and Aaron Donald sacked Matthew Stafford three times as the St. Louis Rams defeated the Detroit Lions. Donald now has 11 sacks, two more than he had last season when he was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Golden Tate caught two touchdown passes and combined with Theo Riddick for 16 receptions for the Lions. Tate’s 2-yard touchdown catch cut the deficit between the two teams to a touchdown with the Rams in the lead.
The Lions left St. Louis with one conciliation as quarterback Matthew Stafford broke the 25,000 passing yards milestone in 90 games, fewer games than any quarterback before him. He finished with 30 completions on 46 attempts for 245 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. RAMS 21 LIONS 14
Up until now Johnny Manziel, a.k.a. Johnny Football, is probably more well known for what he does off the field than on. Prior to his start against the San Francisco 49ers he autographed a $100 dollar bill for a fan and during the game, unhappy with throwing an interception in the first half, he smashed a tablet on his head.
Well, whatever works. He went on to pass for 270-yards and tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Gary Barnidge in the third quarter to help the Cleveland Browns defeat the San Francisco 49ers.
This was Manziel’s first start after being benched two games by head coach Mike Pettine for partying during the Brown’s bye week. He finished the game with 21 completions on 31 throws.
Needless to say, there were times in this game when Pettine questioned his decision to start the prodigy. For example, on one play with the Browns near midfield, Manziel scrambled from the pocket and forced a pass over the middle that 49ers’ safety Jaquiski Tartt intercepted and returned 25 yards. As a result of the play, Manziel stormed off the field and threw his helmet on to the ground. When he reviewed the play on the tablet and saw that Barnidge was open, he had his temper tantrum.
Browns’ running back Isaiah Crowell collected 145-yards and ran for two touchdowns.
Crowell started the scoring on a one-yard run in the first quarter. His 50-yard run –- the longest by a Browns’ back this season –- set up the score.
The Browns, tapped as the worst run offense in the league, actually finished with 230 yards rushing.
49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert was harassed during the game and collected only 194 yards passing and a 6-yard touchdown to Jerome Simpson with 1:42 remaining in the game.
It is obvious that the 49ers’ coaching staff does not yet trust Gabbert to take shots down the field. He only had 122 yards passing with three minutes to play in the game.
49ers kicker Phil Dawson, who played for the Browns for 14 seasons, kicked a 44-yard field goal and received a warm welcome from the Browns’ fans after a video tribute was exhibited on the stadium scoreboard. BROWNS 24 49ERS 10
NFC WEST STANDINGS Overall Division Conference
ARIZONA CARDINALS 11-2 4-1 8-1
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 8-5 2-2 6-4
ST. LOUIS RAMS 5-8 3-1 4-5
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 4-9 0-5 3-7
NFC WEST SCHEDULE
BUCCANEERS @ RAMS THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2015
BROWNS @ SEAHAWKS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2015
BENGALS @ 49ERS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2015
CARDINALS @ EAGLES SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2015
Courtesy of ESPN