Where we look at the best (and worst) of NFL Week 15, all in one place.
Best Game – New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
This result could have major implications in the AFC playoff picture. One day shy of the one year anniversary of the “Jesse James game”, the Patriots and Steelers met again at Heinz Field. This time around, in the opposite end zone, New England failed to tie the game with seconds remaining on the clock.
New England’s final drive stalled at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line, as the Steelers held on to win a defensive throwback contest, 17-10. Ben Roethlisberger threw for two touchdowns, but Steelers rookie running back Jaylen Samuels helped them overcome two picks with 172 yards from scrimmage.
With the victory, the Steelers saved their season and stayed half a game in front of the Ravens in the AFC North. Had they lost, the Steelers would have dropped from the No. 4 seed to put of the playoff picture.
But the loss for the Patriots means they fall out of position to receive a first-round bye. Not to mention, New England also suffered its fifth road loss of the season.
Best History – Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
The future Hall of Fame receiver didn’t have a huge game, but he did make the best history Sunday, becoming the second-fastest receiver to 11,000 career receiving yards. He is second in franchise history in the category behind only Hines Ward.
Brown caught four passes for 49 yards and a pivotal touchdown in double coverage. The score put the Steelers ahead for the rest of the afternoon.
Honorable Mention Best Game – Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
With this contest going to overtime, it could have easily won the best game superlative as well.
Doug Baldwin hauled in a pair of touchdowns, and Chris Carson rushed for 119 yards and a score, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the 49ers, who are again ending a season on a high note. A missed extra point in the first quarter ultimately cost the Seahawks, as the 49ers rallied to win in overtime, 26-23.
Unlike the Patriots-Steelers matchup, the Seahawks-49ers game won’t have a huge impact on the playoff picture. San Francisco is simply playing for pride, and Seattle is still in good playoff position despite the loss. Although next week, the Seahawks will face the Chiefs, who are still trying to clinch the AFC West.
Best Play – Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
The most amazing part about this play is Cohen makes it look so easy that it doesn’t look all that impressive. But re-watch it and slow it down— it’s absolutely insane how Cohen can stop his momentum on a dime, reach back across his body to catch a pass and then get back to full speed so quickly.
Cohen and the Bears exacted revenge against the Packers in Week 15, officially eliminating Green Bay with a, 24-17, victory. With the victory, Chicago clinched the NFC North, winning the division for the first time since 2010.
Biggest Blunder – Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
On the game’s final possession, the Rams were driving down the field for the tying score. With 17 seconds left and no timeouts, Los Angeles held the ball at the Eagles 26-yard line. In all likelihood, they were going to run one more out route to gain about 5-8 more yards and stop the clock. That would’ve allowed the Rams to throw a few passes in the end zone.
But on 2nd-and-2 at the 26-yard line, Jared Goff completed a pass to Gurley, who turned up field instead of going out of bounds. The error cost the Rams at least 12 seconds. By the time they were able to spike it, only four seconds remained.
Goff’s final heave to the end zone fell incomplete. The loss dropped the Rams to 11-3 and gave them their first regular-season losing streak under Sean McVay.
Biggest Shock – Indianapolis Colts shut out Dallas Cowboys
The Eagles remain alive in the NFC East not just because of their big upset, but also due to this shocker. While it’s not a huge surprise Indianapolis ended Dallas’ five-game winning streak, seeing the Colts shut out the Cowboys sure was. Prior to Sunday, Dallas hadn’t suffered a shutout loss since 2003.
In addition to no points, the Indianapolis defense held Dallas to 292 yards, including 180 passing. The Colts also forced two turnovers in the, 23-0, victory.
Indianapolis improved to 8-6 with the win and kept pace with the Ravens and Titans in the AFC Wild Card race. Dallas still controls its own destiny, but things are tightening again in the NFC East.
Best Run – Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins
One team that didn’t keep pace in the AFC race was the Dolphins. Just a week removed from the Miami miracle, the Dolphins fell flat, losing to the Vikings, 41-17.
At one point, though, Ballage had Miami fans thinking about another epic comeback. In place of an injured Frank Gore, Ballage rushed for 123 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown to open the second half.
Minnesota’s victory kept the Vikings ahead of Philadelphia and Washington for the final wild card spot in the NFC.
Best Special Teams Play – Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
The rough year for the Jaguars mostly continued Sunday, as Jacksonville lost to the Redskins in the final seconds, 16-13. But the Jaguars received one outstanding special teams play from receiver Dede Westbrook.
The second-year receiver returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half. With both offenses struggling, it was a gigantic play, but Washington finally put some drives together in the second half while the Jaguars added only a field goal. The Redskins erased a 10-point halftime deficit to win.
Jacksonville’s quarterback play made that possible.
Worst Quarterback Play – Cody Kessler, Jacksonville Jaguars
If we do yearly superlatives at the end of the season, the combination of Blake Bortles and Kessler has probably already earned the 2018 worst quarterback play honor.
Kessler went 9 of 17 with 57 yards and an interception versus the Redskins. He had more rushing yards, 68, than passing. As a result, the Jaguars posted 192 offensive yards in the loss.
Best Rookie Quarterback – Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Baker Mayfield played Saturday, so the competition was a little less stiff, but Jackson is proving his draft doubters wrong. While he’s still raw as a passer, Jackson gives the Ravens an extra element on the ground Joe Flacco can’t.
Jackson completed 14 of 23 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. He also added 95 rushing yards on 18 carries. Jackson has rushed for at least 70 yards in all five of his starts.
Most importantly, he’s posted a 4-1 record as a starter. On Sunday, the Ravens beat the Buccaneers, 20-12.
Best Celebration – Tennessee Titans
With a 17-0 victory over the Giants, the Titans had plenty to celebrate. They improved to 8-6 to stay alive in the AFC South and the wild card races.
So why not embrace your inner-Titan?
Best Individual Celebration – Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
Whether it be a movie or player, we love homages to great things. The Bengals third-year wide receiver paid his respects to one of the greatest receivers in Cincinnati history — Chad Johnson.
The Bengals also snapped their five-game losing streak, beating the Raiders, 30-16.
Top Fantasy Performer – Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
Owners who predicted Henry wouldn’t be able to repeat his incredible Thursday night performance from Week 14 were wrong. Henry was outstanding again, leading all running backs in Week 15 (heading into Monday night) with 170 rushing yards, and he added two touchdowns in the 17-0 victory.
Obvious statement of the day — he’s a must-start back in Week 16.
Top Fantasy Defense – Atlanta Falcons
Fantasy defenses don’t matter? Well, any owner who was ambitious enough to claim the Falcons defense, which has been one of the worst defenses in 2018, and start them against the lowly Cardinals offense was greatly rewarded.
Atlanta’s defense forced three turnovers, recorded seven sacks, held Arizona to 253 yards and returned an interception for a touchdown. That equaled 22 fantasy points in the 40-14 Falcons win.
Those 22 fantasy points likely came up huge in a lot of semifinal matchups.
Biggest Fantasy Disappointment – Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Unfortunately, there were a lot of fantasy studs who also came up short in the fantasy semifinals. Among players who didn’t leave with injuries, Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper nearly took this honor after a huge Week 14 performance as did Giants running back Saquon Barkley, but Thielen was even worse.
Somehow, the Vikings scored 41 points and yet, Thielen only had two catches for 19 yards. Those were his only two targets on the day too.
Thielen has scored under 10 fantasy points in standard leagues just five times this season, but this was the first time opponents held him under 7.0 points.
Biggest Fantasy Disappointment Runner up – Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
At tight end, Gronkowski turned in the biggest disappointment of the week. He has experienced an up-and-down season, so his 2.1 fantasy points against the Steelers isn’t a huge surprise, but it comes a week after his biggest game of the year, and against an opponent that he historic has crushed.
Gronkowski caught just two passes for 21 yards in Pittsburgh.
Best Bad Game – Detroit Lions at Buffalo Bills
This matchup was back and forth and featured great efforts from both defenses. The Bills held on to win, 14-13, but with both teams out of the playoffs, it likely garnered little attention.
Matt Patricia’s decision to go for a 2-point conversion on the first touchdown of the game ended up costing the Lions. Both of these teams enter Week 16 with a 5-9 record.
Dave Holcomb began working as a sports writer in 2013 after graduating from Syracuse University. Over the last six years, he’s covered the NFL, NHL, MLB, fantasy sports, college football and basketball, and New Jersey High School sports for numerous print and online publications. Follow Holcomb on Twitter at @dmholcomb.