WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Season: Week 16 (Part 1)

Just two weeks remain in the Greatest of All Time Season and we’ll unveil the first half of this week’s results shortly. Before we do that, here’s a look at the pre-Week 16 standings with a few explanations for tiebreaking procedures where necessary:

AFC East

  1. ’07 New England: 11-3 (3)
  2. ’72 Miami: 7-7
  3. ’90 Buffalo: 7-7
  4. ’68 NY Jets: 6-8

AFC North

  1. ’75 Pittsburgh: 10-4 (4)
  2. ’81 Cincinnati: 7-7
  3. ’58 Baltimore: 6-8
  4. ’64 Cleveland: 1-13

AFC South

  1. ’00 Tennessee: 13-1 (1)
  2. ’99 Jacksonville: 8-6 (6)
  3. ’91 Houston: 6-8
  4. ’06 Indianapolis: 3-11

AFC West

  1. ’79 San Diego: 13-1 (2)
  2. ’69 Kansas City: 8-6 (5)
  3. ’98 Denver: 7-7
  4. ’76 Oakland: 3-11

NFC East

  1. ’92 Dallas: 11-3 (1)
  2. ’91 Washington: 9-5 (5)
  3. ’86 NY Giants: 6-8
  4. ’60 Philadelphia: 1-13

NFC North

  1. ’85 Chicago: 9-5 (3)
  2. ’62 Green Bay: 9-5 (5)
  3. ’73 Minnesota: 4-10
  4. ’52 Detroit: 3-11

NFC South

  1. ’05 Carolina: 8-6 (4)
  2. ’02 Tampa Bay: 8-6
  3. ’09 New Orleans: 6-8
  4. ’12 Atlanta: 5-9

NFC West

  1. ’99 St. Louis: 11-3 (2)
  2. ’05 Seattle: 6-7-1
  3. ’89 San Francisco: 6-7-1
  4. ’08 Arizona: 6-8

In the AFC, Kansas City owns the tiebreaker for the #5 seed over Jacksonville based on their win over the Jaguars last week…don’t pay any attention to Tennessee and San Diego’s “seeds” right now, they’ll decide home-field advantage in the AFC this week…in the NFC, Chicago currently owns the tiebreaker over Green Bay thanks to their Week 5 win at Lambeau; they play a de facto NFC North Championship this week in Chicago…Green Bay owns the wild-card tiebreaker over Washington by virtue of their Week 1 head-to-head victory…Carolina beat Tampa Bay head-to-head, so that’s why the Panthers currently are NFC South leaders (the two teams play in Charlotte next week)…and Dallas owns the home-field advantage tiebreaker over St. Louis thanks to their superior conference record…

With the preamble out of the way, let’s get to the start of Week 16:

1964 Cleveland Browns (2-13) 30, 1989 San Francisco 49ers (6-8-1) 13

Jim Brown gained 122 on 23 carries, scoring on runs from 54 and 12 yards and the Browns scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to win only their second game of the season. Ernie Green added 97 yards and a touchdown on ten carries. Roger Craig rushed for 118 yards for the 49ers, but Joe Montana threw two damaging interceptions.

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6) 23, 1992 Dallas Cowboys (11-4) 10

Brad Johnson went 21-of-28 for 246 yards and a touchdown and the Buccaneers snapped the Cowboys’ long winning streak and kept themselves right in the thick of the playoff chase. Keyshawn Johnson had 92 receiving yards and the only receiving touchdown of the game – a 32-yard catch from Brad Johnson in the second quarter. The Bucs’ Cover-2 also limited Troy Aikman to one of his worst games of the season – 7-of-20 for 116 yards. Emmitt Smith rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Cowboys from momentarily ceding control of the NFC home-field advantage race.

1991 Washington Redskins (10-5) 43, 2009 New Orleans Saints (6-9) 24

Mark Rypien went 19-of-25 for 273 yards and three touchdowns and the Redskins gained 537 yards of offense to fuel a rout of the Saints at the Superdome. Rypien’s touchdowns went to Art Monk (who had a total of 95 receiving yards), Ricky Ervins and Earnest Byner (who also rushed for 164 yards on the ground). Gary Clark didn’t catch a touchdown from Rypien but was the Redskins’ leading receiver with 100 yards. Pierre Thomas rushed for two touchdowns for the Saints and Drew Brees threw for 240 yards on 24 attempts but also threw two interceptions.

1986 New York Giants (7-8) 20, 1990 Buffalo Bills (7-8) 7

Joe Morris rushed for 133 yards on 25 carries and Maurice Carthon added a game-clinching 30-yard run in the fourth quarter as the Giants all but ended the Bills’ playoff chances with a 13-point victory in Buffalo. New York took the lead in the third quarter on a 13-yard pass from Stacy Robinson to Phil Simms and never relinquished it from there. Thurman Thomas got the scoring started in the first quarter with a 32-yard touchdown run but the Bills couldn’t score from then on.

1973 Minnesota Vikings (5-10) 27, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles (1-14) 20

Chuck Foreman rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns on 18 attempts as the Vikings built a 27-3 halftime advantage and weathered a second-half comeback from the Eagles to earn their fifth victory of the season. Fran Tarkenton added 239 passing yards and a touchdown to Stu Voigt in 25 attempts. Norm Van Brocklin threw touchdown passes to Pete Retzlaff and Bobby Walston in the second half to get the Eagles back into the game, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Eagles from falling to sole possession of the league’s worst record.

1998 Denver Broncos (8-7) 17, 1952 Detroit Lions (3-12) 10

John Elway threw touchdown passes to Ed McCaffrey and Shannon Sharpe and the Broncos stayed alive in the AFC wild-card race with a tight win over the Lions at Tiger Stadium. Elway threw for a total of 212 yards on only 22 attempts but also threw two interceptions to Jim David to keep the Lions in the game. With just under five minutes remaining in the game, Detroit had four chances to tie the game from inside the Broncos’ two-yard line but were shut down on three runs and an incomplete pass.

1958 Baltimore Colts (7-8) 27, 1981 Cincinnati Bengals (7-8) 24 (OT)

Alan Ameche rushed for three touchdowns for the Colts and Steve Myhra kicked a 24-yard field goal less than six minutes into overtime to give the Colts a home win and put the Bengals’ playoff hopes on life support. The Bengals had driven 69 yards in 14 plays to tie the game with 11 seconds remaining on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ken Anderson to Dan Ross and subsequent two-point conversion toss from Anderson to Pete Johnson. But on the second play of overtime, Ameche gained 35 yards on a draw play to put the Colts at the Bengals’ 25-yard line and the Colts were able to get into better position for the unreliable Myrha from there. In total, the Colts gained 248 yards on the ground on 48 carries.

1985 Chicago Bears (10-5) 19, 1962 Green Bay Packers (9-6) 18

Kevin Butler’s 29-yard field goal with 1:19 remaining gave the Bears a one-point lead and after forcing four straight incompletions from Bart Starr, the Bears hung on for a season sweep of the Packers and the NFC North title. Green Bay scored two touchdowns within the first five minutes of the game – an 18-yard pass from Bart Starr to Boyd Dowler and then, after a Willie Wood interception of Jim McMahon, a 4-yard Jim Taylor run. But Jerry Kramer missed the extra point after the second touchdown and would later miss a 49-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter. So despite netting a safety after a sack of McMahon in the end zone in the third quarter, the Packers only led 18-16 with less than five minutes to play. The Bears then went on a 49-yard, 10-play drive to set Butler up for his fourth field goal of the game. The Packers now may have to take care of the 3-12 Lions at home next week in order to make the playoffs.

Tomorrow: The ’72 Dolphins, ’99 Jaguars and ’69 Chiefs all try to net important wins in the AFC wild-card picture; the ’75 Steelers and ’99 Rams battle in what conceivably could be a Super Bowl preview; and the 13-1 ’79 Chargers and 13-1 ’00 Titans battle head-to-head in Nashville to decide who gets home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC.

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