NFL Week 17: What We Learned

Let the Playoffs Begin

Week 17 of the 2013 NFL season was like a daytime soap opera. The Jets and Rex Ryan were "bold" in a 20-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins, while Peyton Manning and the Broncos were certainty "beautiful" in a masterful 34-14 win over the Raiders.

The Cleveland Browns lacked the necessary "Passion(s)" after a solid start to 2013 and gave their head coach the pink slip. After a heart-breaking loss to the Bengals, the Ravens realized there won't be a Super Bowl "Dynasty" after all. Key performances from Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers helped the Packers and Chargers find their "Guiding Light" into postseason play.

Away from all the winners and losers pondering the next "Days of" their football lives, NFL legend Tony Gonzalez also called it a career. He now begins his life in "Another World"- one that doesn't revolve around the gridiron.

Here's What Else We Learned:

Broncos Highest Scoring Team in NFL History:
Behind Peyton Manning's record-setting 5, 477-yards and 55 TD passes, the Broncos coasted to a 13-3 record to claim the top spot in the AFC and a first round bye. Even with a sometimes suspect defense, Denver is a top pick to win the Super Bowl.

Newton, Panthers Clinch NFC South:
Winners of 11 out of their last 12 games, the Panthers washed away the remnants of a disastrous 1-3 start to win the NFC South. With their enigmatic QB Cam Newton, a solid run game and a nasty pass rush, the Panthers are not to be underestimated.

Saints Cast-Off Bucs, Win NFC Wild Card Spot: Much like the 49ers, the Saints' road to postseason play was an adventure, thanks to stiff divisional competition. But following a 42-17 rout of the Bucs, thanks to a four-TD performance from Drew Brees, the Saints nabbed an NFC Wild Card spot. With an improved defense, thanks to Rob Ryan, the Saints are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Fourth Quarter Interception Sends Eagles to Playoffs: It didn't matter that Tony Romo wasn't in the Dallas Lineup--it was the same old story for Cowboys fans, who will now scream Kyle Orton's name in their dreams for the rest of the season. With the game on the line, Orton, who had been solid up to that point with two TDs and 358 yards passing, threw an interception with less than two minutes left to seal a 24-22 Eagles win.

Ryan Will Be Back for Gang Green in '14:
After the team's 20-7 win over their arch-rival Miami Dolphins, Jets owner Woody Johnson announced the team's head coach Rex Ryan would be back for another season. Not many coaches could turn gang green, with their rookie quarterback and weak secondary into an 8-8 team, but Ryan did. For that reason alone, New York's favorite big mouth still has a job.

Rodgers Guides Green Bay NFC North Win: In his first game since Nov. 4, Rodgers dissected the battered and inconsistent Bears defense for 318 yards and two TDs in a 33-28 win. Like the Packers' season, the game wasn't without its share of drama. Rodgers found the returning Randall Cobb for a 48-yard TD on fourth and eight with just 48 seconds left to clinch the win. With one of their best wide outs in Cobb and their emotional leader and QB Rodgers back, Green Bay has every reason to put their cheeseheads back on.

Dawson FG Takers 49ers to Playoffs:
At 12-4, the San Francisco 49ers journey to the playoffs shouldn't have been this difficult. But with the Seahawks in the same division and the Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card hunt as well, things got tricky. In a fitting Week 17 confrontation, the 49ers got a huge fourth quarter FG from Phil Dawson to win, in the same game his franchise record-27 consecutive FG streak ended with a botched 24-yarder. In a crazy finish, both teams combined for 16 points in the game's last 3:20, but Dawson's 40-yard FG gave them the victory and earned them a playoff birth.

OT Win Guides Chargers into WIld Card Spot:
It was a game the Chiefs didn't have to win, but backup QB Chase Daniel looked confident. For for three quarters, it appeared KC's second stringers were going to win. Scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter, the Chargers got the game into overtime and finished off Kansas City with a Nick Novak FG in OT for the 27-24 win and an AFC Wild Card spot.

The Best TE in NFL History Calls it a Career:
With more than 1,300 receptions and 15,000 yards over his 17-year career in the NFL, Tony Gonzalez has wowed a generation catching passes. When you add in the fact that he's a TE, that changes the equation entirely--he's a first ballot Hall of Famer. Even at the "old age" of 37, Gonzalez had a solid 70+ plus reception season for a Falcons team that under-performed.

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