How Dolphins, Packers could save Christmas, plus two impactful rookies

In honor of the holiday, here is my NFL Week 16 wish list:

1. A decent one dolphinspackers game

When NFL planners released the 2022 roster in May, they flexed their muscles against the NBA with what they hoped would be three colossal matchups in three big windows.

For years, the NFL had ceded Christmas to the hardwood and let the Association have a day in the winter to get some shine, but this year there would be a total takeover by the gridiron gods. Three great confrontations. Renowned field marshals. And the playoff implications are many.

Unfortunately, some things fell by the wayside.

Both the Broncos and Rams started slow out of the gates, lost their starting quarterbacks and turned into epically disastrous seasons. Talk about a lump of coal. This one is on Nickelodeon and CBS. Maybe it’s not too late to have an episode of “Rugrats” or “Salute Your Shorts” simulcast.

Mark Schlereth on the Broncos’ QB situation

Mark Schlereth on the Broncos QB situation

FOX NFL analyst Mark Schlereth says Brett Rypien runs Denver’s offense better than Russell Wilson.

Instead of Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson battling for the bigs in Week 16, it will be Baker Mayfield filling in for the Rams and Wilson returning to the lineup after a concussion, with both teams eliminated from playoff contention. Let’s hope this game at least has good “SpongeBob” integrations.

The afternoon game could be even worse. If the Rams and Broncos are the biggest disappointments in the league, the Cardinals are in third place. No Kyler Murray, no Colt McCoy and no dreams of a playoff berth: Arizona took a big step back in 2022, with conflict everywhere. The Buccaneers? Well, they’re technically in first place in the NFC South, despite being two games under .500 at 6-8 and having a couple of ugly losses.

Aaron Rodgers optimistic

Aaron Rodgers optimistic

The “First Things First” crew reacts to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers showing optimism about Green Bay’s chances of making the NFL playoffs.

Which leaves us with Miami-Green Bay (1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app). Miami (8-6) has lost three straight on the road, but has faced formidable opponents in all three games (the 49ers, Chargers and Bills). The loss in Buffalo was by no means an embarrassment or cause for concern. The Dolphins, leading by eight in the fourth quarter, showed they can both run the football and play with the elements and looked worthy of the prime time stage.

Miami currently holds the third and final wild card spot in the AFC, and the playoffs are very possible.

The Packers, meanwhile, have won back-to-back games for the first time all season, and have Aaron Rodgers and a suddenly gelled defense looking to make a miraculous run to the postseason.

Tua, Rodgers and two head coaches who used to work together in Houston, Washington and Atlanta — this one could be offered. If not? We could be 0-for-the-holidays and look for some NBA talk the next morning.

2. More Kayvon Thibodeaux

The Giants were reeling, having won just one game since Halloween and on the precipice of a 2022 collapse that would translate into another year without the postseason for Big Blue fans. But then a New York team went to Washington, beat a Commanders team playing at home and got a bye and took firm control of the NFC’s sixth playoff spot.

“You can be awesome anywhere”

"You can be awesome anywhere"

Kayvon Thibodeaux shares his thoughts on why young athletes need to play college football wherever they want and not just a big name school.

The best player on the field Sunday night wasn’t Saquon Barkley or Terry McLaurin. It was Kayvon Thibodeaux, the Giants’ 22-year-old pass rusher. The No. 5 overall pick had his national coming-out party, scoring on a strip-sack recovery for a TD and making the big goal-line save on Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke on the ball end

The best part? Thibodeaux’s performance this season has proven his pre-draft critics completely wrong. The wrap on KT was that he didn’t have a high motor, would blow off plays and was more about his personal brand than the team. That has been the complete opposite of what the rookie from Oregon has been in his stellar debut campaign in New York.

When I spoke with Joe Schoen on my podcast, “The Season with Peter Schrager,” earlier this year, the Giants’ first-year general manager said both he and coach Brian Daboll loved Thibodeaux in the build-up to draft, and that they made their own account. work and did not read or listen to the harsh criticism. They felt safe making Thibodeaux their first draft pick, and he has more than delivered.

What’s scary? It gets better every week. Thibodeaux was impressive on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys and even better on Sunday in Washington.

The Giants (8-5-1) head to Minnesota (11-3) on Saturday (1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), and a win would all but guarantee them a playoff berth. Don’t be surprised if Thibodeaux makes a big play.

3. The James Houston The experience continues.

I had never heard James Houston’s name in the pre-draft process. The Jackson State linebacker, a transfer from Florida, was a Day 3 pick, going in the sixth round to the Lions as what was considered somewhat of a project player.

Looking a bit raw, Houston didn’t dress for the Lions until Thanksgiving against the Bills. He was on the practice squad for the first 10 weeks of the season, impressing in practice but not getting a call-up on game days. When he finally got a chance in Week 12, Houston made an impact with two sacks.

And every week since then, it’s gotten better. Houston has five sacks and has had at least one in each of his first four career games. Only two other players had sacks in their first four career games: Terrell Suggs, the 2003 Defensive Player of the Year, and Santana Dotson, who had 10 sacks in his rookie year in 1992.

In the Lions’ win over the Jets on Sunday, Houston had a sack and made the game-changing block on Detroit’s first-half punt return for a TD. The Lions have won seven of eight games, and second-year GM Brad Holmes deserves a ton of credit.

In addition to Houston, rookies Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Kerby Joseph and Malcolm Rodriguez are making plays. And guess what? Detroit has the Rams’ first-round pick in the 2023 draft, as well as its own.

The Lions are a young, fast and entertaining team. They are also a few Washington losses away from being a playoff team. The Lions have a lot going for them, and if they can handle their business Saturday against the Panthers (5-9) in Carolina (1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), they could be looking at at least one more week. of football at the end of January.

4. Haason Reddick get some love

The Cowboys-Eagles game (Saturday, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) is being touted as a possible NFC Championship preview, and that’s even with Dallas (10-4) after of a defeat and Philadelphia (13-). 1) potentially being without their starting quarterback.

Too risky to play Jalen Hurts?

Too risky to play Jalen Hurts?

Jalen Hurts is questionable this Saturday when the Eagles travel to Dallas. Craig Carton, James Jones and Cody Decker discuss whether it’s too risky to play the injured Hurts.

The guy I’m seeing on Christmas Eve? Haason Redick. Last week, the Eagles linebacker had two sacks, a tackle for loss, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. In doing so, Reddick became the first player to have 11 or more sacks with three different teams.

Reddick was with the Cardinals, the team that drafted him 13th overall in 2017, and had a breakout season of 12.5 sacks in 2020. When he hit free agency, there were surprisingly not many suitors .

He went on to play for his college coach at Temple, Matt Rhule, in Carolina. With the Panthers on a one-year contract, he had 11 sacks last season.

Free agency again! And few suitors…again.

The kid from South Jersey and Temple returned home to Philadelphia, where Reddick now has double-digit sacks again. good story

Look for him on Saturday to put the “bigger” names on the stage and do his thing against the Dallas O-line. I’m looking for Kevin Burkhardt, another South Jersey guy, to give Reddick his flowers on Christmas Eve.

5. A SteelersRaiders game that does some justice to the 50th anniversary of “Flawless Reception”.

I went back and did a ton of research on the 1972 Immaculate Reception game, and a few things stuck out.

A fan pays respects to Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris at the Immaculate Conception memorial outside Acrisure Stadium. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Here are five things to know about the miraculous feat of Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, who died Wednesday at age 72:

  1. It marked Pittsburgh’s first NFL playoff win in the Super Bowl era. The Steelers would win seven division titles and four Super Bowls in the next eight years.
  2. It was Terry Bradshaw’s first touchdown pass of the postseason. I would throw 29 more.
  3. Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler did not start the game. He came on in the third quarter and had a 30-yard TD run to put the Raiders up 7-6 with less than two minutes left.
  4. Steelers fans were celebrating at a local bar when one fan, Michael Ord, climbed onto a table and, with a spoon, hit a glass and proclaimed that this day would be known “as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception “. Ord told a friend they should call Myron Cope, the Steelers’ radio broadcaster, and Cope mentioned it on the local 11 p.m. news. The nickname stuck.
  5. The Steelers did not win the Super Bowl that year. They lost to the Dolphins in the AFC Championship the following week. The following week, Miami beat Washington 14–7 in Super Bowl VII to complete the first and only undefeated season in NFL history.

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Peter Schrager is an NFL writer for FOX Sports and host of “Good Morning Football” on NFL Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @PSchrags.

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