32 things we learned from Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season
The 32 things we learned from Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season:
1. Beginning with playoff expansion in 1990, the NFL postseason field has had at least four entrants every season that failed to qualify the previous year. Among the 2020 season's qualifiers, the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington were all golfing early in 2019.
2. With the Browns and Buccaneers making the playoffs, the New York Jets now own the league's longest postseason drought – one that dates to 2010.
3. The Browns will face the Steelers in the wild-card round. Cleveland's last playoff appearance occurred in 2002 – when the Browns lost 36-33 … at Heinz Field.
3a. Tom Brady will face Washington in the wild-card round. TB12 is 1-3 vs. NFC East teams in postseason … though those games came on slightly bigger – even Super – stages.
4. Titans RB Derrick Henry became the eighth 2,000-yard rusher in league history.
4a. Henry's 2,027 yards on the ground are the fifth-highest total ever.
4b. Henry became the first man to win consecutive rushing crowns since Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson did so in 2006 and 2007.
5. Titans K Sam Sloman is the anti-Parkey.
JUST LIKE THEY PLANNED!!!
Sam Sloman doinks it in for the Titans to win the AFC South ⚔️🔥
(via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/cdKRu1ClSJ
6. Momentous Sunday for Brady, who made his 299th regular-season start – breaking Brett Favre's record among quarterbacks.
6a. Brady also reached 40 TD passes in a season for the second time in his career. He and Peyton Manning are the only players in league history to throw 40 TDs for multiple teams.
6b. Brady, 43, is the first to throw 40 TDs despite being older than 40.
Tom Brady reached another impressive milestone Sunday. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
7. The Buccaneers scored a franchise record 492 points, breaking the previous team record of 458.
7a. The Bills scored a franchise record 501 points, breaking the previous team record of 458.
8. Baltimore could be set up for quite a redemption tour. The AFC's No. 1 playoff seed last season after going 14-2, the Ravens were a one-and-done postseason flameout, losing their opener 28-12 to Tennessee. But after winning their fifth in a row to end the 2020 campaign, they enter the playoffs hot … starting in Nashville.
9. Titans vs. Ravens could be the best playoff matchup of wild-card weekend, the winner – both teams have devastating ground games – arguably are best positioned to trip up the Chiefs in a keepaway-style offensive approach.
10. Baltimore's Lamar Jackson is the first quarterback in league history with multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
10a. The Ravens rushed for 404 yards at Cincinnati, making them only the second team to surpass 400 in a game in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
11. Rams QB John Wolford, a former Arizona Hotshot in the defunct AAF, helped L.A. secure a wild-card berth in his first NFL appearance. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Wolford is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his debut in the regular-season finale with a playoff spot hanging in the balance.
12. The Saints swept their NFC South opponents for the first time in franchise history.
13. The Bills swept their AFC East opponents for the first time in franchise history.
14. The Miami Dolphins entered Sunday with the league's stingiest scoring defense. They wound up surrendering 56 points and the AFC's final playoff spot.
14a. But the Fins did become the first club since the 2012 Patriots to get at least one takeaway in all 16 regular-season games.
15. Giants DL Leonard Williams racked up three sacks in Sunday's defeat of Dallas, finishing the season with a career-best 11½. Williams, who is playing on a $16.1 million franchise tag, had a half-sack in 2019.
16. The Bears are 0-6 all-time against the Packers in Week 17. Chicago backed into the playoffs anyway. Thanks, Arizona.
17. Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders caught nine passes Sunday, getting him to 61 for the year – and a $500,000 bonus for reaching 60.
18. New Orleans rushed for 156 yards, its third-highest total of the season, despite its top running backs being shelved for COVID-19 concerns. Now the worry is whether Alvin Kamara will be available for the wild-card opener against the Bears next Sunday.
19. Game of the day? Arguably a purportedly meaningless contest between the Vikings and Lions, won by Minnesota 37-35 after seven lead changes. The Vikes finished with 508 total yards.
19a. Unless it was Raiders-Broncos, an equally inconsequential game won by Las Vegas thanks to a TD and two-point conversion with 24 seconds to go gave them a 32-31 advantage … even though the defense tried to subsequently give it back with a dopey delay-of-game penalty, the team's 14th infraction of the day.
20. TE Darren Waller's 107 catches are a Raiders single-season record, eclipsing Tim Brown's mark (104 in 1997).
21. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson became the first rookie in the Super Bowl era to finish with 1,400 receiving yards. Hall of Famer Randy Moss previously held Minnesota's rookie record (1,313 yards in 1998).
21a. Not a great day for Moss overall, who used to share a record with Buccaneers WR Mike Evans for most consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start a career. Evans holds that by himself after hitting the plateau for the seventh straight year Sunday.
22. Now Evans and the Bucs are hoping the knee injury that knocked him out of the game against the Falcons won't prevent him from making his playoff debut.
23. Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's playoff debut will have to wait until at least 2021.
24. Chargers QB Justin Herbert became the first rookie to throw for 30-plus TDs, but fell 39 yards shy of breaking Andrew Luck's record for most rookie passing yards (4,374). Luck played in 16 games in his first season, one more than Herbert, who did set the record for most games (8) by a rookie with 300-plus passing yards. Herbert's 396 completions are also a new rookie standard.
25. Speaking of exciting rookies, RB Jonathan Taylor almost single-handedly ran the Colts into the playoffs, hanging 253 yards and a pair of scores on the Jaguars. Taylor, who's scored in four consecutive games, is the third Indianapolis rookie to rush for at least 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. Hall of Famers Edgerrin James and Marshall Faulk are the others.
26. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' league-high 48 TD passes broke his previous franchise record (45 in 2011, when he was league MVP).
26a. Packers WR Davante Adams' 115 catches are also a new Green Bay record for one season.
27. QB Russell Wilson is the first Seahawks player with 40 TD passes in a season.
27a. WR Tyler Lockett is the first Seahawks player with 100 catches in a season.
27b. WR DK Metcalf is the first Seahawks player with 1,300-plus receiving yards in a season.
28. The 49ers went 0-3 this season while playing "home" games in Arizona.
29. Texans WR Brandin Cooks reached 1,000 receiving yards for his fourth different team, something only Brandon Marshall had done previously.
30. The Steelers' record of consecutive regular-season games with at least one sack now stands at 73.
31. Lions K Matt Prater connected on his 59th career field goal from at least 50 yards, breaking a tie with Sebastian Janikowski for the NFL career record.
32. The NFL managed to get in all 256 of its regular-season games despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Next challenge, playing its 13 most important games with minimal viral disruption.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
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