Eric Weddle is showing "great energy" after coming out of retirement and is primed to play a part against the Arizona Cardinals, says Sean McVay.

In a stunning move, six-time Pro Bowler Weddle re-joined the Los Angeles Rams this week for the playoffs, having previously retired after the 2019 season.

The safety will make his comeback against NFC West rivals the Cardinals on Monday, which will be 750 days since his last NFL appearance.

The roster move with Weddle came with the Rams having issues in their secondary.

Jordan Fuller was ruled out for the season due an ankle injury, while free safety Taylor Rapp has not cleared concussion protocol and will miss the game.

That could lead to significant snaps for the 37-year-old Weddle, who quit two years ago after 13 successful seasons in the league.

Rams head coach McVay revealed there are a range of outcomes over how involved Weddle will be in his first game back but is convinced the veteran will be ready.

"He's done a great job," McVay said, per ESPN, when asked about Weddle's progress. "He's brought a great energy. He's a great communicator. He's a great leader. 

"He'll be ready to go. What exactly that role looks like, we're still working through, but I do know as a competitor when he's out there, if he's going and he gets into the flow, he's gonna want to go.

"If he's feeling good and there's no risk and we're in a good flow, we'll kind of just take it a snap at a time. 

"It's hard for me to realistically put a parameter around it because this is something that's never been done before. 

"It could be 10 [snaps]; it could be 30. I think in a lot of instances too, it depends on what kind of personnel groupings we're presenting to the Cardinals' offense as well.

"[Rapp] is a big loss. He's doing everything in his power to get back as quickly as possible, but we have got a lot of confidence in Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess as well."

 

Weddle discussed his return earlier this week, insisting he had kept physically fit in retirement.

He said: "Even though I haven’t been playing football, I still train like I’m playing football.

"It [returning] was never even a remote possibility ever over the last year and a half because I was pretty much set in my decision and very happy. 

"This is by no means me having an itch or anything like that. It was just the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I just kept coming back to I would regret it if I didn’t come and take this chance to try to help out the guys that I love, a coach that I love and try to help this team out, whatever role that is.

"It didn't take much persuading. It was kind of just going through the avenues with all the coaches and reaching out to some players.

"I didn't want to come in and ruffle any feathers or be someone who gets in the way, but once all that was on the same page, it was a no brainer in my mind."

The Rams are at home for the Wild Card game after edging the Cardinals to win the NFC West.

Two games between the teams in the regular season were split, with each team winning on the road (37-20 Cardinals in L.A., 30-23 Rams in Arizona).

Arizona fared well on the road this season, going 8-1, but struggled to a 3-5 record at home.

Per Stats Perform data, in modern NFL history (since 1933), the only other team to have as many as five more road wins than home victories in a season is the Miami Dolphins, who went 6-2 on the road and 1-7 at home in 2010.

Eric Weddle is coming out of retirement to rejoin the Los Angeles Rams for the NFL playoffs.

The former All-Pro safety's agent, David Canter, on Wednesday revealed that Weddle will return to the Rams almost two years after calling time on his career.

With Jordan Fuller out for the season due an ankle injury and Taylor Rapp in concussion protocol, Los Angeles have turned to a familiar face for the postseason.

The 37-year-old Weddle quit following the 2019 season after just one campaign with the Rams, who take on the Arizona Cardinals in a wild-card clash at SoFi Stadium on Monday.

A six-time Pro Bowler, the veteran had brought his playing days to an end following 13 seasons in the league.

Weddle has tallied 29 interceptions, five defensive touchdowns, eight forced fumbles and 1,179 tackles in 201 career games.

He spent nine seasons with the then-San Diego Chargers, before joining the Baltimore Ravens and the Rams.

The Arizona Cardinals remain uncertain on the availability of running back James Conner for their Wild Card game against the Los Angeles Rams due to injured ribs.

Conner left Sunday's 38-30 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks nursing his ribs after 15 carries for 52 yards and two touchdowns.

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said the side's medical staff were still evaluating Conner's condition ahead of Monday's game.

"He’s still being evaluated . . . hopefully, it’s not too serious," Kingsbury told Arizona Sports 98.7. "But we won’t know for the next couple days."

Conner had missed the Cardinals' previous two games due to a heel injury before making his comeback against the Seahawks.

The 26-year-old finished the regular season with an NFC-high 18 touchdowns, 15 rushing and three receiving. He ranked third in the NFL, behind only Austin Ekeler and Jonathan Taylor (both 20).

Conner has had 202 carries for 752 yards this season along with 37 receptions for 375 yards.

Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers revelled in a win they won't forget for a long time after claiming a dramatic 27-24 overtime triumph over the Los Angeles Rams to punch their ticket to the postseason.

The Niners went into Sunday's clash at SoFi Stadium knowing a victory would clinch a place in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. A loss would have allowed the New Orleans Saints, who cruised past the Atlanta Falcons, to sneak in at their expense.

Quarterback Garoppolo, playing with a torn ligament in his left thumb, struggled early and the Niners fell into a 17-0 hole, a Robbie Gould field goal all San Francisco could muster before half-time.

But Deebo Samuel ran for a touchdown and then threw one to Jauan Jennings on a trick play to tie things up, with the same receiver on the end of a pass from Garoppolo to force overtime after Jalen Ramsey's endzone interception followed by Matthew Stafford's touchdown strike to Cooper Kupp had put the Rams back on top 24-17.

The 49ers won the coin toss and Garoppolo led a 12-play drive that ended in a Robbie Gould field goal to give them their first lead of the game, one they clung on to as rookie Ambry Thomas intercepted a Stafford deep shot intended for Odell Beckham Jr. to give San Francisco a sixth successive win over the Rams, securing a Wild Card matchup with the Dallas Cowboys.

Garoppolo was limited in practice throughout the week after missing the 23-7 win over the Houston Texans in Week 17, but felt his hand improved over the course of an instant classic.

Asked about his thumb, Garoppolo told a media conference: "It feels great right now, after a win of course. It got better as it went I would say.

"Obviously with injuries like that your body's just learning and adapting the whole time. Early on it was pretty numb so it felt alright and then just got better and better as it went and I think my arm just kind of learned how to adapt to it.

"[There were] a lot of emotions, throughout the whole game, getting off to a slow start and just coming back like we did.

"It took everything, we say that a lot of weeks but this one really did. I felt it after the game I know a lot of guys in that locker room did, it was one of those games that you won't forget anytime soon."

Shanahan, who said Garoppolo's strong week of practice made it an easy decision to start him over rookie Trey Lance, echoed his quarterback's sentiments.

"Our guys are real resilient, I've been very proud of them," Shanahan said. 

"I'm just glad we get to go into the tournament and be a part of it because regardless of what happened today I was going to be very proud of those guys.

"Our goal every year is to get into the tournament so you've got a chance at the ultimate one. I think it's real hard when you have a season where you lose four in a row [as the Niners did Weeks 3-7].

"Most places when you lose four in a row it's tough to keep guys together. The character in our building and the players and everyone around it makes easy, you can just focus on your job and keep fighting and that's what our guys have done all year, they've just kept fighting, not worried about it anything else, in the meantime I think we've gotten better each time doing that and we've been able to overcome some injuries too."

The San Francisco 49ers punched their ticket to the postseason as Ambry Thomas' overtime interception clinched a dramatic comeback win over the Los Angeles Rams.

San Francisco went into the Week 18 clash knowing a win would see them reach the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. A loss would allow the New Orleans Saints, who cruised past the Atlanta Falcons, to sneak in and claim the final Wild Card berth.

The latter outcome looked the more likely when the Rams surged to a 17-0 lead and, even though the Niners got a field goal before half-time, San Francisco still faced an uphill battle.

However, Deebo Samuel scored a touchdown on the ground and then threw another to Jauan Jennings on a trick play to tie things up.

A juggling interception of Jimmy Garoppolo by Jalen Ramsey in the endzone followed by a Matthew Stafford strike to Cooper Kupp put the Rams in a seemingly commanding position at 24-17.

However, Garoppolo - playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb - led a five-play, 88-yard drive that finished with him connecting with Jennings, forced overtime at SoFi Stadium.

The 49ers won the coin toss and a 12-play, 69-yard drive on which Jennings featured heavily set up a Robbie Gould field goal to give San Francisco the lead for the first time.

And it was an advantage they held as Stafford's deep shot for Odell Beckham Jr. was plucked out of the air by rookie cornerback Thomas to set up a mouth-watering Wild Card matchup with the Niners' historic rivals the Dallas Cowboys.

For Los Angeles, it is a sixth successive defeat to the 49ers, though they still won the NFC West after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Arizona Cardinals, whom the Rams will host in the opening round of the playoffs.

Kyle Shanahan refused to reveal who the San Francisco 49ers will start at quarterback with Jimmy Garoppolo listed as questionable ahead of their critical Week 18 clash with the Los Angeles Rams.

The Niners visit SoFi Stadium on Sunday aiming to extend their winning streak over the Rams to six games. A victory in the regular-season finale will clinch a playoff berth for the second time in three seasons.

Should the 49ers lose, then they would need the New Orleans Saints to suffer defeat to the Atlanta Falcons to secure their spot in the Wild Card round. A San Francisco loss and a Saints win would put New Orleans in the playoffs.

They will be facing a Rams team looking to clinch the NFC West title for the first time since the 2018 season.

And it remains unclear whether the Niners will do so with Garoppolo or rookie third overall pick Trey Lance under center.

Garoppolo missed the 49ers' 23-7 win over the Houston Texans in Week 17 after suffering a torn ligament in his right thumb in San Francisco's Week 16 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

After a shaky first half, Lance impressed in his stead, throwing for 249 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while adding 31 yards on the ground.

The 21-year-old, making only his second start, averaged the most air yards per attempt (11.91) of any quarterback last week and delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 82.6 per cent of his attempts.

However, Garoppolo has practiced in a limited capacity for three straight days, boosting hopes of a return to the starting line-up that head coach Shanahan would not confirm.

Garoppolo was listed as questionable and Shanahan told a media conference: "He had a good week. Yeah, a good week of practice when he was in there. I feel good with where he is at right now."

He added: "I know what we're doing. I just don't feel like telling you right now.

"I'm not deciding Sunday morning. We don't have any practice left. I know where Jimmy's at today. I know where Trey's at. I know where our team is at and I feel pretty good about where we're at, so I'm excited to get to Sunday. I am really glad I don't have any press conferences after today.

"I think you guys understand why you don't announce it. But regardless, especially with Trey playing last week, we've got two guys here with some experience that our team feels good with and we'll see how it plays out."

San Francisco's Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams has not practiced all week and is listed as questionable. In the secondary, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is expected to return from an ankle injury while rookie corner Ambry Thomas came off the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Corners K'Waun Williams, Dontae Johnson and Deommodore Lenoir and starting free safety Jimmie Ward remain on the COVID-19 list, though both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have expressed confidence more members of their secondary will be activated off the list on Saturday.

Cooper Kupp is closing in on what he concedes would be an "incredible" achievement of earning the NFL triple crown.

The Los Angeles Rams wide receiver leads the league in catches, touchdown receptions and receiving yards going into Week 18 of the regular season.

Only three players in the Super Bowl era have ever finished top of the standings in all three categories in the same year: Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe and Steve Smith. It is 16 years since the feat was last achieved.

Kupp has 138 receptions for 1,829 yards, totals which look highly unlikely to be caught in the last week of action before the playoffs.

His total of 15 touchdowns also looks strong, although the Cincinnati Bengals' rookie sensation Ja'Marr Chase has closed to within two behind him in that category after finding the endzone three times against the Kansas City Chiefs last time out.

Kupp's shot at history will come when the Rams host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the team still looking to wrap up the NFC West title with the Arizona Cardinals in hot pursuit behind them.

"It would be a pretty incredible thing," Kupp said, per ESPN, of the prospect of earning the triple crown.

"There are a lot of good football players in this league, a lot of really good receivers who I've got a ton of respect for, so it would be very cool."

Kupp will also have the chance to set the single-season receiving yards record, which is currently held by Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson (1,964 in 2012).

The 28-year-old could also surpass the receptions record set by Michael Thomas (149) two years ago.

But Kupp concedes those records would come with an asterisk given the NFL is now playing a 17-game regular season.

"We're in a new age of football here," he said. "We're playing 17 games of football a year, and a lot of the stuff that happened before that, those records hold a different weight, being played in those 16 games.

"What those guys did in 16 games, it wouldn't seem right to, I don't know, for those to be broken in 17 games.

"It wouldn't hold the same weight to me as it does for guys that have done that in a 16-game season and the accomplishments those guys had and the seasons they put together. 

"Those are incredible things, incredible accomplishments. You kind of have to separate the two.

"I just have an incredible respect for what those guys were able to do, what they were able to accomplish, what they were able to produce for their teams in those 16 games."

The Rams are assured of a place in the playoffs regardless of the outcome against the Niners, but the prize of a home playoff game in Wild Card Weekend and a division title mean the stakes are still high.

"My priorities are going out and winning this game this week, whatever it takes to win it," added Kupp, when asked if setting records were his priority.

"If it means spending more time blocking defensive ends and being able to get [running back] Sony Michel sprung for some big gains, that would be huge. 

"I just want to do my job, whatever they ask of me, I just want to do my job over and over again and be a part of helping this team win."

The Rams face a Niners team who are looking to seal their own postseason berth. 

To progress, Kyle Shanahan's team must win or tie against the Rams or hope the New Orleans Saints fail to beat the Atlanta Falcons.

Matthew Stafford inspired the Los Angeles Rams to move one step closer to securing their second straight NFC West title with a 20-19 win over the slumping Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The defeat for the Ravens, who were without quarterback Lamar Jackson for the third straight game, leaves them perilously close to slipping out of the Wild Card hunt after their fifth consecutive loss.

Justin Tucker's field goal had put the Ravens up 19-14 with 4:33 left but Stafford launched a game-winning 75-yard drive to overhaul the deficit.

Stafford completed a 15-yard pass to Tyler Higbee and a 24-yarder to Cooper Kupp, before finding Odell Beckham Jr twice in a row, with the latter being the decisive TD.

The Rams QB finished with 26 of 35 passes for two touchdowns but also two interceptions, including a Chuck Clark first-quarter pick six, as well as a sack.

Clark's TD was the Ravens' only for the game, as QB Tyler Huntley completed 20 of 32 passes for 197 yards.

Rams running back Sony Michel had 19 carries for 74 yards including a TD along with wide receiver Kupp with six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown.

Over a month ago the Ravens had been 8-3 and looking good for the AFC top seed but now they are scrapping for a playoffs spot after a series of narrow defeats and desperate for Jackson's return.

Carlson field goal gives Raiders edge in Wild Card race

The Las Vegas Raiders claimed a crucial last-gasp win from Daniel Carlson's 33-yard field goal in the AFC Wild Card race with a 23-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz cleared protocols for the game but completed 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown, while running back Jonathan Taylor had one TD from 20 carries for 108 yards, with the defeat marking the first this season when he has rushed more than 100 yards.

The Raiders pipped the Colts in the final quarter, trailing 17-13 at the final break with QB Derek Carr hitting Hunter Renfrow on a fourth-down play for a TD, before Michael Badgley squared the game with a 41-yard field goal, only for Carlson to win it with one from 33 yards as time expired. The Raiders improve to 9-7, pulling ahead of the 9-7 Colts in the AFC Wild Card race.

 

Bengals clinch maiden AFC North title

The Cincinnati Bengals clinched their first-ever AFC North title as Evan McPherson kicked a late 20-yard field goal to secure a 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase set an NFL rookie record and franchise record with 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches, while QB Joe Burrow threw 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

Burrow got the better of opposing QB Patrick Mahomes who completed 26 of 35 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs, who have already won the AFC West title, moved to 11-5.

 

Brady cool after Brown meltdown

Tom Brady was cool in a crisis after Antonio Brown stormed off the field as the NFC South-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied to win 28-24 over the New York Jets.

Brady completed 34 of 50 attempts for 410 yards and three touchdowns, including leading them on a 93-yard drive in the final minutes to clinch the victory.

The game was marred after Brown's meltdown, storming off the field in the third quarter with the Bucs 24-10 down, with head coach Bruce Arians confirming "he is no longer a Buc" after the game.

Matthew Stafford inspired the Los Angeles Rams to move one step closer to securing their second straight NFC West title with a 20-19 win over the slumping Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The defeat for the Ravens, who were without quarterback Lamar Jackson for the third straight game, leaves them perilously close to slipping out of the Wild Card hunt after their fifth consecutive loss.

Justin Tucker's field goal had put the Ravens up 19-14 with 4:33 left but Stafford launched a game-winning 75-yard drive to overhaul the deficit.

Stafford completed a 15-yard pass to Tyler Higbee and a 24-yarder to Cooper Kupp, before finding Odell Beckham Jr twice in a row, with the latter being the decisive TD.

The Rams QB finished with 26 of 35 passes for two touchdowns but also two interceptions, including a Chuck Clark first-quarter pick six, as well as a sack.

Clark's TD was the Ravens' only for the game, as QB Tyler Huntley completed 20 of 32 passes for 197 yards.

Rams running back Sony Michel had 19 carries for 74 yards including a TD along with wide receiver Kupp with six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown.

Over a month ago the Ravens had been 8-3 and looking good for the AFC top seed but now they are scrapping for a playoffs spot after a series of narrow defeats and desperate for Jackson's return.

Carlson field goal gives Raiders edge in Wild Card race

The Las Vegas Raiders claimed a crucial last-gasp win from Daniel Carlson's 33-yard field goal in the AFC Wild Card race with a 23-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz cleared protocols for the game but completed 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown, while running back Jonathan Taylor had one TD from 20 carries for 108 yards, with the defeat marking the first this season when he has rushed more than 100 yards.

The Raiders pipped the Colts in the final quarter, trailing 17-13 at the final break with QB Derek Carr hitting Hunter Renfrow on a fourth-down play for a TD, before Michael Badgley squared the game with a 41-yard field goal, only for Carlson to win it with one from 33 yards as time expired. The Raiders improve to 9-7, pulling ahead of the 9-7 Colts in the AFC Wild Card race.

 

Bengals clinch maiden AFC North title

The Cincinnati Bengals clinched their first-ever AFC North title as Evan McPherson kicked a late 20-yard field goal to secure a 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase set an NFL rookie record and franchise record with 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches, while QB Joe Burrow threw 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

Burrow got the better of opposing QB Patrick Mahomes who completed 26 of 35 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs, who have already won the AFC West title, moved to 11-5.

 

Brady cool after Brown meltdown

Tom Brady was cool in a crisis after Antonio Brown stormed off the field as the NFC South-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied to win 28-24 over the New York Jets.

Brady completed 34 of 50 attempts for 410 yards and three touchdowns, including leading them on a 93-yard drive in the final minutes to clinch the victory.

The game was marred after Brown's meltdown, storming off the field in the third quarter with the Bucs 24-10 down, with head coach Bruce Arians confirming "he is no longer a Buc" after the game.

Odell Beckham Jr is relishing the prospect of a postseason run with the Los Angeles Rams after explaining he felt "deprived" during his spell at the Cleveland Browns.

The Rams travel to play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday leading the NFC West with an 11-4 record, already assured of a place in the playoffs.

Despite some spectacular play over the course of his NFL career, Beckham has only ever played one game in the playoffs – with the New York Giants in 2016 – and has never been on a division-winning team.

Beckham has made four touchdown catches in his last five appearances with the in-form Rams, who are looking to win a fifth straight game against the Ravens.

He did not have any TD catches in six games with the Browns before his release earlier this season and had just seven in 23 games across the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Having joined the Rams on a short-term deal, Beckham is enjoying the chance to play a key role and savouring his team's success.

"It's been great," Beckham said, per ESPN, about his run of TDs. "Over the last couple of years, I've felt deprived. 

"I've definitely missed the end zone for sure, and it just hasn't been as easy and seamless as it could and should be. 

"I'm someone who I feel like I should score once or twice every single game. I feel like I can get 100 yards every single game.

"I came late to the party but still have celebrated like I've been here for the whole time, so it's definitely a special opportunity, not just to win the division but to go for it all. 

"This is the only reason that you put in these hours of work in the offseason, to dedicate and sacrifice our lives for this is for these moments."

Beckham believes his support of teammate Cooper Kupp proves he is a team player even though he has not always been perceived in that way.

Kupp has a chance to make NFL history with a 2,000-yard season and the receiving triple crown of most catches, yards and TDs.

"Man, I find it funny, all the talks about me being a me guy," Beckham added. "People are going to say whatever but they just have no idea.

"When I chose to come here, I'm knowing that Coops on pace to break a record. 

"I didn't come here thinking, 'Oh, I got to get my targets.' That's just not being me - yeah, I want the ball, I'm a competitor, but like I said, I came late to the party.

"It's just funny, all the backlash that I get about the type of person that I am. I think you just see me in an atmosphere where success is around and these people are on pace for history. 

"I want to watch him break [the record] - I told him I want him to get 2K yards so I can come and break your record. 

"That's how it happens - records are meant to be broken – and we're just witnessing something very, very special."

While the Rams could clinch the division title this week, Baltimore is the only franchise in the league against whom they have never won a road game (0-3).

The Baltimore Ravens are in danger of letting their season get away from them after a four-game losing run and things do not appear to get any easier with the Los Angeles Rams visiting on Sunday.

John Harbaugh's men have a positive recent record against the Rams though, and will need to properly utilise the impressive form of Mark Andrews.

The Indianapolis Colts can clinch their playoff spot with a win against the Las Vegas Raiders, while a potentially fascinating encounter in the race for the playoffs between the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos will take place at SoFi Stadium.

Stats Perform takes a look at the standout statistics ahead of the penultimate week of the NFL's regular season.

Los Angeles Rams (11-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

The Rams have lost four straight games against the Ravens (outscored 120-29 in those games) and are 2-5 all-time against them - Baltimore the only franchise in the league the Rams have never won a road game against (0-3).

Rams running back Sony Michel ran for 131 yards and a touchdown in last week's win against the Minnesota Vikings, two yards from tying a career-high set in 2018 with the New England Patriots. He has 423 yards in his last four games after a combined 305 in his first 11 games.

The Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 41-21 last week, allowing 525 passing yards, the most in franchise history. They also finished with just 39 rushing yards of their own, their fewest since a franchise-low 11 in 2016.

Andrews had eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown last week. He now has three straight games with at least 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown. He is the only Raven to ever have three such games in a row, and just the second tight end in NFL history (Jimmy Graham in 2013).

Las Vegas Raiders (8-7) @ Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

The Raiders were 7-2 in their first nine games against the Colts but have gone just 2-6 since then (dating back to 2004). They won 31-24 in their last trip to Indianapolis in 2019 but lost at home the following season.

After beating the Broncos last week, the Raiders have won back-to-back games despite scoring 17 points or fewer in each. It is the first time they have done so since 1991 – those victories came against the Broncos and the Colts.

The Colts beat the Arizona Cardinals 22-16 last week, improving to 8-2 in their last 10 games after starting the season 1-4. Their 31.2 points per game since Week 6 leads the NFL.

Jonathan Taylor had 108 rushing yards in his last outing, his ninth display this season with at least 100 yards – the Colts have won all nine of those games. Indianapolis has not won a game in which he has been held under the century mark this season.

Denver Broncos (7-8) @ Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

The Broncos beat the Chargers 28-13 in Week 12, their largest win over them since a 23-7 triumph in the 2005 season. Fourteen of the last 21 games between these teams have been decided by one possession (eight points or fewer).

Drew Lock is expected to start at quarterback again after starting his first game of the season last time out. Since the start of 2020, Lock has the lowest completion percentage among the 29 quarterbacks with 500 or more pass attempts (57.6 per cent).

The Chargers allowed 189 rushing yards in a 41-29 loss to the Houston Texans, who entered the game ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards per game. The Chargers are allowing 140.3 rushing yards per game, on pace for their worst mark since the 1987 strike season (144.7).

Justin Jackson had a career-high 162 scrimmage yards against the Texans while filling in for Austin Ekeler. He has 261 scrimmage yards in his last two games, which Ekeler has done just once in a two-game span this season (264 yards from Weeks 4-5).

Elsewhere...

Atlanta Falcons (7-8) QB Matt Ryan will look to add to his 3,555 yards thrown overall this season when he faces the Buffalo Bills (9-6). It is his 12th consecutive season with at least 3,500 passing yards. He joins Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady in an exclusive club to achieve the passing milestone in that many straight campaigns.

The Patriots (9-6) have lost at least two December games in each of the last four seasons (3-2 in 2018, 2-3 in 2019, 1-3 in 2020, 1-2 in 2021). New England, who host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13), have more December losses over the last four seasons (7-10) than in the previous 15 seasons combined (56-9, 2003-2017).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) star Brady is 30-7 as a starter against the New York Jets (4-11) in his career (including postseason). That is the second-most wins by any QB against a single opponent behind only his own record against the Bills (33). Brady is 7-0 in his last seven against the Jets, winning by an average of 23.3 points. 

The Kansas City Chiefs - who can clinch the AFC's top seed if they avoid defeat against the Bengals and the Tennessee Titans lose in Miami - have lost their last five games in Cincinnati, with their last win there coming in September 1984.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson returned to practice on Wednesday but remains in doubt for Sunday's must-win game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Jackson has been battling a right ankle injury over the past fortnight having missed their past two games and practiced with a visible limp on Wednesday.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh indicated it is expected the 24-year-old QB will have limited preparation ahead of Sunday's game.

"I'm really hopeful," Harbaugh told reporters. "I'm hopeful for all our quarterbacks, starting with Lamar.

"I really want to see him out there on Sunday. I know the fans do, and I know most of all, Lamar does.

"He's going to do everything he can to be out there. You can't make a promise because we don't know what tomorrow is going to bring."

Jackson has not played since sustained the injury in the 24-22 loss to the Cleveland Browns on December 12.

The Ravens have lost their past two games without Jackson, stretching their losing run to four games and leaving them with an 8-7 record and in danger of missing the playoffs.

Tyler Huntley will stand in for Jackson if he is not deemed fit, given he is expected to be activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday.

Jackson has thrown for 2,882 yards and 16 touchdowns this season along with a career-high 13 interceptions. The 24-year-old has also rushed for two scores – the lowest of his career – on 133 carries in 2021.

The Buffalo Bills took control of the AFC East standings as they held firm to defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Bill Belichick's men, winners in the reverse game this month, had hoped to avenge a 38-9 defeat in Week 16 in Foxborough last season – that 29-point margin is the second largest the Patriots have suffered in their coach's storied 21 years in charge.

Yet despite threatening a fightback in the third quarter, the Patriots succumbed 33-21 Josh Allen inspired Buffalo to a valuable win.

Allen completed 30 of 47 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. In so doing, he joined Peyton Manning as the only other player with multiple three-passing-touchdown games at New England since Belichick's arrival in 2000.

The Bills quarterback was instrumental in a 13-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter that helped to quash hopes of a New England comeback after they had pulled to within five points on the scoreboard.

"The offensive line must have liked their Christmas presents because they played great today. I'm so happy for them and our team to go on the road and get this win," Allen said.

Buffalo (9-6) will see out the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets, while the Patriots (also 9-6) face the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins.

Bittersweet for Odell Beckham Jr as Jefferson breaks record in Rams win

The Los Angeles Rams moved clear at the top of the NFC West as they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 30-23 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Odell Beckham Jr's touchdown helped the Rams move to 11-4 and edge clear of the Arizona Cardinals, who lost 22-16 to the Indianapolis Colts, although they and Los Angeles are still guaranteed a playoff spot.

His Griddy celebration was especially pointed as, with just under 13 minutes left in the third quarter, OBJ saw his record for most receiving yards in a player's first two NFL seasons surpassed by Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

Bucs end 14-year wait for division title

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take their Super Bowl defence into the postseason after securing the NFC South title on Sunday.

The Bucs' 32-6 victory over the Carolina Panthers sealed their first division title since 2007 as they advance into the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2002.

Tom Brady threw for 232 yards and one touchdown as they made it back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time.

Much like the fight for the Lombardi Trophy, this season's MVP race is wide open.

A lack of consistently convincing performances from quarterbacks, who have enjoyed a monopoly over the MVP award since running back Adrian Peterson won it in 2012, has led to discussion over a skill-position player potentially taking home the most prestigious individual NFL honour. 

And among the leading non-quarterbacks in the conversation is Los Angeles Rams star Cooper Kupp.

Kupp has established a phenomenal rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford in the latter's first year with Rams.

That connection has seen Kupp emerge as the clear number one receiver in the NFL from a statistical standpoint.

However, with reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers on a charge for a Green Bay Packers team with the number one seed in the NFC in their sights, the prospect of Kupp actually taking home the prize look slim.

Yet he could still end the 2021 NFL season with a slice of league history.

Kupp has 1,625 receiving yards and 122 receptions so far this season, making him the first NFL player to have 1,600+ receiving yards and 110+ catches through his first 14 games of a season.

With one first already secured, another is not out of the realms of possibility.

No wide receiver has ever totalled 2,000 yards in a single season and Kupp would need to average 125 yards over the final three games to achieve that feat.

Given he is averaging 116.1 yards per game, that aim may prove to be out of his reach, but Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving record could be attainable.

Johnson racked up 1,964 yards in the 2012 season. That would likely also be beyond Kupp in a 16-game season, but with the advent of the 17th regular-season game, Kupp has a clear opportunity to overhaul him.

Indeed, if Kupp averaged 116.1 yards over the next three games that would take him to 1,973 yards and a place atop the all-time list.

And the schedule is a favourable one as Kupp looks to continue producing at such a rate.

Week 16 sees the Rams face a Minnesota Vikings defense conceding 380.6 pass yards per game, the third-most in the NFL, before they then face a Baltimore Ravens team that has given up more passing plays of 20 yards or more (61) than any other in the league.

A matchup with a San Francisco 49ers defense that entered Week 16 ranked 12th in yards per pass play allowed with 5.31 would present a distinctly tougher challenge. However, even in the Rams' blowout loss to the Niners in Week 10, Kupp still caught 11 passes for 122 yards.

Kupp has received double-digit targets in all but one game in 2021 and is doing an excellent job of continually creating separation from defenders.

He has registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, 63.6 per cent of the time, above the average of 60 per cent for wideouts with at least 25 targets.

His burn yards per route average of 4.1 is the best among receivers who meet that threshold, indicating that no wideout in the NFL is generating more separation than Kupp when he beats his defender.

Kupp is a skilled separator who receives a consistently heavy workload. That may not be a recipe for him winning MVP but, given what he has done with his target share to this point, it is a mix that can put him in position to end the regular season in record-breaking fashion.

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