Going into Week 16, the Bills knew they needed a win over the Patriots to keep their hopes alive of winning the AFC East and Josh Allen did his best to make sure that win happened.
In what was arguably his best performance of the year, the Bills quarterback put on an offensive show during an impressive 33-21 road win for Buffalo. With Allen running the offense to near perfection, the Patriots simply couldn't figure out how to slow down a Bills team that didn't punt a single time on nine possessions.
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Patriots got some defensive help from Mother Nature, who slowed down the Bills' passing game with 70 mph winds. This time around, Mother Nature stayed at home on a day where the weather was nearly perfect and Allen took advantage of it by throwing for 314 yards and three touchdowns.
Buffalo's first possession foreshadowed what the rest of the game was going to be like: The Bills moved the ball at will and that was mostly thanks to Allen. The Bills also proved on the opening drive that they were playing to win.
After Allen drove them 58 yards, the Bills faced a fourth-and-2 from the Patriots' 3-yard line, and at that point, Sean McDermott didn't even hesitate -- he knew his team was going for it. Allen made the gamble pay off with a perfect strike to Isaiah McKenzie. The score below gave the Bills a 7-0 lead and they never trailed after that.
Thread it. 👀— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 26, 2021
📺: @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/849Iya2GNB
McKenzie was arguably the unsung hero of the game for Buffalo. With Cole Beasley out due to COVID, McKenizie stepped up and had one of the biggest games of his career with 11 catches for 125 yards.
As for Allen, he didn't just do damage with his right arm in this game, he also hurt the Patriots with his legs. One of the biggest plays of the day came on a fourth-and-1 with just 4:27 left to play. With the Bills clinging to a 26-21 lead, McDermott once again decided to go for it and once again, Allen made the gamble pay off.
JOSH. ALLEN.— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 26, 2021
📺: @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/oPL4Ei417E
That conversion set up a TD pass to Dawson Knox just five plays later that ended up icing the game. Overall, Allen totaled 64 yards on the ground, which led the Bills.
This is a win that should give the Bills some confidence and that's because they won big. As a matter of fact, the 12-point margin of victory makes the Bills the first team in 25 years to win by double digits at New England in consecutive seasons.
With the win, the Bills are now right where they want to be heading down the stretch: They control their own destiny. If they can win their final two games -- against the Falcons and Jets -- they'll win the AFC East. And the best part for Buffalo is that both games are at home.
Alright, let's get to the grades for every game from Week 16. If you're looking for a deeper dive on Tennessee's wild win over the 49ers that was played on Thursday, be sure to click here.
Buffalo 33-21 over New England
|The Bills had control of this game essentially wire to wire. They were able to move the ball on offense with relative ease as they averaged 5.7 yards per play. Of their nine offensive possessions, seven traveled into the red zone while the other two were clock-killing measures at the end of the first half and regulation. They were also strong on fourth down, converting three of their four attempts, including a clutch conversion on a Josh Allen rollout run with the game still tight in the fourth quarter. Defensively, they held the Patriots' passing game in check as they only were able to move it 145 yards through the air. Buffalo also was extremely stout on third down, holding New England to one conversion on 10 attempts. Allen was masterful in this game with both his arm and legs. He finished with three passing touchdowns while making some clutch plays on the ground as well. |
|It was another flat effort by New England pretty much from the jump. The offense couldn't find much consistency, while the defense couldn't quite get off the field with the same efficiency as it did during its winning streak throughout the season. Penalties also proved to be massive killers for the Patriots as well. Christian Barmore was called for an encroachment infraction that turned a fourth-and-7 attempt for the Bills into a fourth-and-2 with just over two minutes left in the first half. The Bills would convert that shorter situation and eventually score a touchdown. On the following offensive possession for New England, left tackle Trent Brown was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty that killed all the momentum that they previously had been riding on during that possession. Instead of putting points on the board before the half, they punted the ball away just two plays after that penalty. The passing game was also not particularly prolific in this loss. New England does get some credit for its scoring flurry in the second half to stay in it, but there were too many mistakes to ultimately pull out the win. |
Bills-Patriots grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Green Bay 24-22 over Cleveland (Saturday)
|It's fitting that this game was played on Christmas because Baker Mayfield gave the Packers plenty of gifts. If you don't count Mayfield's performance, you could probably make the argument that the Browns deserved a 'B+' or even 'A-' for their effort in Green Bay, but Mayfield dragged their grade down with a disastrous four-interception showing. Mayfield's four picks led to 21 points for the Packers and that was essentially the difference in the game. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski also wasn't great. For some reason, he kept airing it out on offense even though he had a rushing attack that averaged 8.76 yards per carry (219 yards on 25 carries). Most of that came from Nick Chubb, who rushed for 126 yards on just 17 carries on a day where he totaled 184 yards. The Browns' defense held the Packers to just three points in the second half, but Mayfield and the offense couldn't take advantage.|
|After missing a week due to COVID, Mayfield returned as the Browns starting QB on Saturday and no one was more happy about it than the Packers' defense. Every time the Browns tried to throw the ball in this game, something disastrous would happen and that was mostly thanks to a defense that sacked Mayfield five times while also picking him off four times, including two from Rasul Douglas. Those four interceptions led to 21 points for Green Bay. It was a good thing the Packers were able to stop Cleveland through the air, because they definitely couldn't stop the Browns on the ground. As for the offense, Aaron Rodgers now holds the franchise record for most touchdown passes (445) after throwing three against the Browns. Two of those scores went to Davante Adams, who finished with 10 catches for 114 yards, but probably could have added to that total if not for two uncharacteristic drops.|
Packers-Browns grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Indianapolis 22-16 over Arizona (Saturday)
|The box score says that Jonathan Taylor had another big game (108 yards), but he wasn't the one carrying the Colts' offense on Saturday night. In a surprise, that honor belonged to Carson Wentz. The Colts QB threw two touchdown passes, including a 14-yard score to Dezmon Patmon in the fourth quarter that might go down as Wentz's best throw of the season. On defense, the Colts weren't perfect, but they did enough to win, which was impressive when you consider that their best defensive player (Darius Leonard) was ruled out due to COVID just hours before kickoff.|
|The Cardinals have now lost three straight games and it seems like they find a new way to lose every week. This week, they had a total special teams meltdown on a night where Matt Prater missed three kicks (one extra point, two field goals). Offensively, the unit continues to look like it's stuck in neutral. Although Kyler Murray did have the offense moving at times, he just couldn't come up with a big play when the team needed it. Not only did the Cardinals get stopped on two huge fourth downs in Indy territory, but they also gave up a safety. Defensively, the Cardinals actually did a decent job of bottling up Taylor. After busting loose for a 43-yarder on Indy's first offensive play, Taylor only rushed for 65 yards on 26 carries over the rest of the game. The biggest takeaway here, though, is that the Cards are in a tailspin that's likely going to cost them the NFC West title.|
Colts-Cardinals grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Atlanta 20-16 over Detroit
|The Lions had a chance to put together their first winning streak of the season, but they came up 9 yards short after Tim Boyle threw an interception on first-and-goal with under 35 seconds left to play. The interception basically summed up the day for a Lions team that couldn't move the ball once it got inside Atlanta's 10-yard line. The Lions made three trips inside of Atlanta's 10 in the game, but came away with zero touchdowns on those drives. Despite starting a backup QB, the Lions were able to keep this close thanks to a defense that sacked Matt Ryan three times while only allowing two third-down conversions in the game.|
|If you want to know what a bend-but-don't-break defense looks like, just pop the film of this game and watch what the Falcons did. Although the Lions reached the Falcons' red zone a total of four times, Detroit came away with zero touchdowns thanks to a Falcons defense that clamped down each time. Offensively, the Falcons weren't exactly impressive, but Kyle Pitts did provide a huge spark, catching six passes for 102 yards.|
Lions-Falcons grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
N.Y. Jets 26-21 over Jacksonville
|In a game that featured the top two picks from the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jaguars could have won, but Trevor Lawrence and the offense came up one play short as the Jags were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1 on Jacksonville's final offensive play of the game. That was one of two possessions in the game where the Jaguars came away without a TD despite driving inside of New York's 5-yard line. The defense surrendered 273 yards on the ground, which is tied for the fourth-most in franchise history.|
|The Jets didn't have their head coach and they were missing several starters, but they were able to win this game thanks to big plays and a rushing attack that trampled the Jaguars' defense. One of the biggest plays came from Braxton Berrios, who returned a kickoff 102 yards for a TD in the first half to give New York an early lead. Zach Wilson didn't do much damage with his arm, but he did get a touchdown on a wild 52-yard run. Wilson finished with 91 rushing yards on a day where the Jets totaled 273 yards on the ground, which was the third-most for the team over the past decade.|
Jaguars-Jets grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Tampa Bay 32-6 over Carolina
|Antonio Brown picked a good week to return to Tampa Bay's lineup. With several offensive weapons out for the Buccaneers, Brown turned into Tom Brady's favorite offensive weapon on Sunday. Of Brady's 18 completions, 10 of them went to Brown, who finished with 101 yards. The Buccaneers also got a surprise performance from Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who rushed for 70 yards, including a 55-yard TD in the first quarter. Of course, the star of this game for the Buccaneers was their defense. The Buccaneers came up with two big fourth-down stops during a second half where Carolina never really came close to scoring. |
|Whatever Matt Rhule is doing at quarterback, it's not working. For whatever reason, Rhule has decided that he was going to run a platoon-system against Tampa Bay, but that decision backfired. Neither Cam Newton or Sam Darnold was really able to get in rhythm in a game where they were sacked a total of seven times. CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora reported before the game that Rhule likely would be keeping his job, but if he keeps losing games like this, it wouldn't be surprising to see owner David Tepper change his mind about that.|
Buccaneers-Panthers grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Houston 41-29 over L.A. Chargers
|If you're a playoff contender who loses to a team that was 3-11 going into this week, you automatically get an "F." This was a meltdown of epic proportions by the Chargers and it's not clear which was worse: Their offense or their defense. The Chargers' offense turned the ball over three times, including a pick-six by Justin Herbert. Overall, those three turnovers led to 13 points for Houston. Defensively, the Chargers got steamrolled on the ground by a Texans team that went into Sunday with the NFL's worst rushing attack. A team that averages just 77.4 yards per game on the ground totaled 189 yards and two touchdowns against L.A.|
|In what was easily the biggest upset of Week 16, the Texans absolutely destroyed the Chargers in a game where Houston could do no a wrong. The Texans' rushing attack, which was basically nonexistent for the first 15 weeks of the season, totaled 189 yards with 149 and two touchdowns coming from Rex Burkhead. Texans coach David Culley continues to look brilliant for turning the starting job over to Davis Mills. The rookie QB was efficient and accurate in a game where he threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns. The Texans also came up with several big plays on defense, including. a pick-six by Tavierre Thomas with under two minutes left to play that iced the win.|
Chargers-Texans grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Rams 30-23 over Minnesota
|Matthew Stafford did his best to look like a Lions QB against his old divisional rivals Sunday, throwing three picks (and nearly another two). Sean McVay didn't always help by dialing up pass after pass despite Sony Michel's early success on the ground. But the Rams get a solid mark for how well they won in spite of their star QB, who can and will be better. Michel was fluid every time he touched the ball, and the O-line gave him space all day. Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. may have combined for 200+ yards if Stafford had settled down out of the gate. And the defense was plenty physical when it needed to be, with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey each contributing in big spots.|
|They can't be dinged too much considering they finished within one score and thoroughly disrupted Stafford for at least a half of action. Mike Zimmer's "D" really looked poised to lead an upset at one point in the second half. Justin Jefferson was also reliable as usual, and Kirk Cousins never bowed out. But the play-calling left quite a bit to be desired, especially in the red zone, too often forcing Cousins to make a big play on third down early. Alexander Mattison was both under-used and wrongly used at times. The defense, meanwhile, ultimately looked incapable of slowing the Rams' ground game, and even the secondary that helped dominate Stafford early proved porous down the stretch.|
Rams-Vikings grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Cincinnati 41-21 over Baltimore
|The Ravens were short-handed and down their top two quarterbacks, so it's hard to overreact to this loss. The defense got completely pummeled, and losing Anthony Averett during the course of Sunday's matchup didn't help. Josh Johnson had a solid outing with 304 passing yards, two touchdowns and a pick, and Mark Andrews caught eight passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, but the defense just couldn't stop anything. It wasn't long ago when the Ravens were the No. 1 seed in the AFC. After a four-game losing streak, however, they are in legitimate danger of missing the postseason.|
|This game was over by halftime, and it was because of how good Cincy's offense played. The Bengals racked up a whopping 575 yards of total offense and Joe Burrow had a career day with 525 passing yards and four touchdowns. His trio of wide receivers got whatever they wanted, as Tee Higgins caught 12 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns, Ja'Marr Chase caught seven passes for 125 yards and Tyler Boyd caught three passes for 85 yards -- including a 68-yard touchdown in the first half.|
Ravens-Bengals grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Philadelphia 34-10 over N.Y. Giants
|The Giants are bad -- plain and simple. Joe Judge started Jake Fromm in his first start and he went 6 of 17 for 25 yards with an interception before being pulled for Mike Glennon, who also threw an interception returned for a score. The Giants had just 192 total yards, and 87 of them were in garbage time against Eagles backups with the game out of hand. The defense couldn't shut down the Eagles in the second half, making the game essentially over at 13-3 because of how poor the offense played. This is a bad football team, but Judge is expected back next year!|
|This would be an "A" if the Eagles weren't so terrible in the first half, but they had 11 penalties and atrocious play-calling in the first half led to a 3-3 score at halftime -- against a quarterback that had just 18 passing yards in the first half! Philadelphia allowed New York to hang around for a half and was close to having three crucial turnovers, yet ended up with zero and a tie score at halftime. Head coach Nick Sirianni went back to his bread and butter in the second half, using the run to set up the pass as Jalen Hurts went 10-for-12 for 105 yards with two touchdowns in the second half in a rout. As bad as the Eagles were in the first half, that's how good they were in the second half. The result is the No. 7 seed in the NFC, which seemed unfathomable in October. The Eagles control their own destiny in the playoff race with two to play. |
Giants-Eagles grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Chicago 25-24 over Seattle
|It might have been the day after Christmas, but St. Nick delivered again. Nick Foles got the start for the Bears in this game, and although he struggled for most of the day, he came up with some holiday magic by leading a game-winning drive that culminated with a 15-yard TD pass to Jimmy Graham. Matt Nagy then decided to go for two and the gamble paid off when Foles hit Damiere Byrd. The late score allowed the Bears to come back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. This win might not save Nagy's job, but it definitely can't hurt. The Bears had the ball for more than 38 minutes in this game, which was likely one reason why the Seahawks defense looked so gassed as the second half progressed.|
|At halftime of this game, it looked like the Seahawks were going to coast to victory, but then disaster hit Seattle right in the face. The Seahawks defense couldn't stop Nick Foles, who engineered two touchdown drives of more than 80 yards in the second half. This came after a first half where the Seahawks only surrendered ONE drive of more than 15 yards. The Seahawks special teams also had a nightmare performance. In the first half, the unit allowed a long punt return by Dazz Newsome that set up Chicago's first TD. In the second half, Jason Myers missed a 39-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that likely would have put the game out of reach. The Seahawks are going to have a lot of questions heading into the offseason, and they can start thinking about them now since they're officially eliminated from the playoff race.|
Bears-Seahawks grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Las Vegas 17-13 over Denver
|With their season on the line, the Broncos offense fell flat on its a face. It couldn't run the ball (18 yards), it couldn't throw the ball (140 yards) and it couldn't convert on third down (1-of-10). The Broncos' rushing total was tied for the third-lowest in franchise history. The only reason this game didn't turn into a blowout is because Denver's defense constantly came up with big plays. It forced three turnovers, including a Bradley Chubb interception just before halftime that set up a TD. Unfortunately for the Broncos, the loss means that their season is all but over.|
|With their season on the line, the Raiders came out and played arguably their best defensive game of the year. Not only did they harass Drew Lock to the tune of two sacks, but they also limited the Broncos to just 18 yards on the ground. Overall, the Raiders surrendered just 158 yards, marking just the third time this century that they've held an opponent under 160 yards. On offense, the Raiders let Josh Jacobs do all the dirty work. The running back carried the ball 27 times for 129 yards, with 58 of those yards coming on a TD drive to start the second half. With the win, the Raiders are now in the thick of the AFC playoff race.|
Broncos-Raiders grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Kansas City 36-10 over Pittsburgh
|Pittsburgh's offense continues to stumble off the blocks. For the first time since 1940, Pittsburgh's offense has failed to score a first half touchdown in five consecutive games after failing to score a point during the first half Sunday. The offensive line continues to struggle to consistently open up holes for Najee Harris, especially during the start of games. The offense also continues to struggle to get into an early rhythm under first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Far too many times, the Steelers attempted short passes on third-and-long that failed to come anywhere close to the first-down marker. It's hard to blame a defense that was on the field for two-thirds of the first half, but it failed to come up with a big play after forcing four turnovers in last Sunday's win over Tennessee. Pittsburgh's defense also continues to struggle to stop the run -- although the unit was better Sunday.|
|Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were able to move the ball at will while not taking too many chances downfield. With Travis Kelce out, Mahomes completed passes to nine different teammates while keeping Pittsburgh's defense on its heels. Mahomes' passing was complemented by an effective rushing attack that was led by Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Defensively, the Chiefs quickly made the Steelers offense one-dimensional by shutting down Najee Harris and the running game. They also came up with the game's first turnover on Charvarius Ward's second-quarter interception of Ben Roethlisberger that set up Mahomes' five-yard touchdown pass to Byron Pringle that made it a 14-0 game.|
Steelers-Chiefs grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Dallas 56-14 over Washington
|If there was a such thing as an F-minus, WFT would've earned it here. Washington came out firing with a deep pass from scrimmage but Trevon Diggs intercepted it and, apparently, whatever heart Washington brought along with their heated benches. The blame for losing can often be either isolated to a few or spread over many with some exceptions, but not in this case. The fact is the Cowboys eviscerated Washington with surgical precision and all Ron Rivera and his bunch of unmerry men could do one day after Christmas was to start building their wish list for 2022, because Santa gave them a lump of coal in 2021.|
|So much for relaxing after clinching the NFC East, because this was the most complete game played this season by the Cowboys, and by a country mile. They owned Washington from minute one in this contest and were relentless throughout all four quarters -- usually known to let off of the accelerator with games well in hand. This time around, they punched WFT in the face on the first play from scrimmage for Taylor Heinicke by way of Trevon Diggs' 11th interception, and that's when Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' offense found the mojo they'd been searching for desperately the last several weeks. There wasn't a phase of football that didn't land a haymaker against WFT en route to a season sweep, and it gives Dallas a chance to build momentum as the postseason nears.|
Washington-Cowboys grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Miami 20-3 over New Orleans (Monday)
|If the Dolphins' offense had missed the plane ride to New Orleans, Miami probably still would've won this game thanks to an absolutely dominating performance from its defense. The defense showed the Saints no mercy and that started with a pick-six by Nik Needham on New Orleans' opening possession. The Dolphins also had eight sacks to go along with that, with two of those coming from Emmanuel Ogbah. Saints rookie QB Ian Book will probably be having nightmares about the Dolphins' defense for the next few weeks. Offensively, Jaylen Waddle was really the only bright spot for Miami. The rookie receiver caught 10 passes for 92 yards and scored the Dolphins' only offensive touchdown.|
|The Saints were missing multiple starters due to COVID and they played like a team missing multiple starters due to COVID. With Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian both on the COVID list, New Orleans was forced to start Book and his first career start was nothing short of a disaster. He threw a pick-six on his second career pass and things only got uglier from there. The Saints totaled just 164 yards and they didn't convert a third down in the game (0-for-12). This score could have actually been uglier, but the Saints' defense kept that from happening. They sacked Tagovailoa twice, picked him off once and held Miami's offense to just 13 points.|
Dolphins-Saints grades by John Breech (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)