Sports

What We Learned From Week 16 in the N.F.L.

Rams 30, Vikings 23: A 61-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Rams in the third quarter was essentially the difference in a competitive afternoon. Los Angeles struggled early to separate itself from the Vikings, who were without the star running back Dalvin Cook because of the coronavirus. The Rams clinched a playoff berth with the win, but if Matthew Stafford throws three interceptions like he did on Sunday, the team’s postseason journey will be short. For Minnesota, the next two games are must-wins, and it will need help from others to earn a wild-card spot.

Texans 41, Chargers 29: An upset victory by the Texans complicated the playoff equation for the Chargers, who were without Austin Ekeler and Mike Williams, two of their best offensive players, because of the coronavirus. Los Angeles’s defense, which all season has been one of the worst units against the run, allowed Rex Burkhead to rush for 149 yards and two touchdowns. The Chargers are now in a race for the A.F.C.’s final wild-card spot, and will be forced to monitor Ravens scores for the remainder of the season.

Kansas City 36, Steelers 10: Kansas City effortlessly clinched the A.F.C. West by drubbing the Steelers and did so without Travis Kelce, who was on the Covid-19 list. Its early season struggles seem like a distant memory, as Kansas City has not lost a game since October and has a legitimate shot to win the conference title for a third consecutive season. For Pittsburgh, with the postseason largely out of reach, it may now be time to give the other quarterbacks on the roster more playing time to get a head start on a succession plan for the era after Ben Roethlisberger.

Raiders 17, Broncos 13: The Raiders kept their playoff hopes alive in a sloppy win against the Broncos. The Raiders’ win would set up an important game with the Chargers in the regular-season finale if Las Vegas can beat the Colts in Week 17. For Denver, its unbearably average season is nearing its end.

Bears 25, Seahawks 24: A late 2-point conversion lifted the Bears, who started the third-string quarterback Nick Foles, over the Seahawks in snowy conditions. It was a meaningless game, as both teams are already eliminated from playoff contention, but it may give Russell Wilson more ammunition to force his way out of Seattle this off-season.

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