The 2023 NFL season hit the home stretch in Week 16 with several dramatic finishes that shook up the playoff picture across the league. The action was headlined by the Miami Dolphins’ thrilling last-second victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Christmas Eve.
Dolphins Keep Playoff Hopes Alive With Walk-Off Touchdown Against Cowboys
In one of the most exciting games of the year, the Dolphins pulled off a dramatic comeback win over the Cowboys to keep their postseason dreams alive. Down 30-24 with just over 2 minutes remaining, third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson engineered a masterful drive, connecting with tight end Mike Gesicki for the winning touchdown with 9 seconds left to seal a 31-30 Miami victory .
The win clinched a playoff spot for the Dolphins for the first time since 2016. Miami overcame injuries to starting QBs Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater to stay in contention behind the poise of rookie Thompson. The Dolphins defense also came up with a crucial late stop against Cowboys QB Dak Prescott to set up the game-winning drive.
“It was about finishing,” said Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel. “On the last drive, I said, ‘No matter what has happened, we’re going to finish this game.’ And the guys believed that.” 
The outcome deals a huge blow to the playoff hopes for Dallas, which fell to 6-5 on the road this season. This loss also continues a disturbing late-season pattern for the Cowboys, who have struggled in December throughout Prescott’s career.
|Dolphins 31, Cowboys 30
|Dolphins clinch playoff spot, Cowboys playoff hopes take hit
Flacco, Browns Dismantle Texans for Third Straight Win
The Cleveland Browns continued their shocking mid-season turnaround under veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, destroying the Houston Texans 24-3 for their third consecutive victory . Flacco tossed two more touchdown passes while the Browns defense forced four turnovers against Texans QB Jeff Driskel.
Since taking over following Deshaun Watson’s season-ending suspension, Flacco has led a revived Cleveland offense. The Browns have scored 30+ points in three straight games, their longest such streak since 1968. At 7-8, Cleveland remains in the mix for both an AFC North title and wild card spot.
“Joe is doing a great job spreading the ball around and our guys are making plays,” said Browns coach Kevin Stefanski. “We’re executing efficiently and that all starts with Joe.”
Flacco, 38, is making a case for Comeback Player of the Year while keeping Cleveland’s season alive. The Browns finish against Pittsburgh and at home versus Baltimore, setting up a possible Week 18 division title game.
|Browns 24, Texans 3
|Browns push playoff case, Flacco continues hot streak
Gritty Lions Clinch NFC North For First Time Since 1993
The Detroit Lions overcame a early 13-point deficit to beat the Minnesota Vikings 34-23, securing their first NFC North title since 1993 . Quarterback Jared Goff had his fifth straight standout performance, throwing for 330 yards and three touchdowns as the Lions rallied past Kirk Cousins and the stunned Vikings.
Rookie wideout Jameson Williams was the star of the show with a breakout 116-yard, two touchdown game while Detroit’s much-improved defense forced Cousins into a pair of turnovers.
First year coach Dan Campbell has engineered a massive turnaround after the Lions started 1-6. Detroit has since won seven of eight games behind Goff’s efficient quarterback play and big improvements on both sides of the ball.
At 9-6, the Lions will clinch the NFC’s #2 seed with a win over Chicago next week. This young Detroit team suddenly looks dangerous entering January football.
“We’re far from finished but this is a big step,” said Campbell. “I told them winning the North was just the beginning.”
|Lions 34, Vikings 23
|Lions win division, take control of #2 NFC seed
More Notable Week 16 Results and Playoff Ramifications
Jets Blow Big Lead But Hit Game-Winner Over Jaguars: The New York Jets nearly collapsed after building a 20-3 lead but came back to beat Jacksonville on a field goal in the last seconds, 27-24 . The win keeps the Jets in contention for an AFC wild card at 7-8.
Saints Dominate Eagles To Damage NFC Hopes: The Philadelphia Eagles offense stalled with Jalen Hurts sidelined by injury as New Orleans dominated in a 20-10 upset . The loss denied Philly a chance to clinch home field in the NFC. The banged up Eagles have dropped two straight games.
Rising Steelers Beat Raiders: Pittsburgh continued its push for a playoff spot by handling Las Vegas 24-16 . The Steelers have quietly won four of five games to get back to 8-8. They’ll face Cleveland next week in a showdown that will have huge implications on the muddled AFC playoff picture.
Banged Up Bills Beat Struggling Bears: Backup QB Case Keenum led Buffalo to a comfortable 35-17 win over Chicago , keeping the AFC’s top seed on pace for home field in the playoffs. The loss assured a losing season for the Bears in coach Matt Eberflus’ first year.
Inconsistent Bengals Handle Bucs: Cincinnati forced four turnovers against Tom Brady on the way to a 27-15 road win at Tampa Bay . The Bengals improved to 8-6 but still face an uphill battle for another AFC North title behind the Ravens.
Seahawks On Brink Of Playoffs After Win Over Chiefs: Rookie sensation Kenneth Walker III rushed for two touchdowns to lead surprising Seattle past struggling Kansas City 24-20 . At 8-7, the Seahawks can clinch their first postseason berth since 2020 by beating the Jets in Week 18. The loss snapped a 5-game win streak for the Chiefs, who fell behind Buffalo for the AFC’s top seed.
The playoff races will go down to the wire with teams fighting for division titles, wild card spots and seeding in a jam-packed final week. The Dolphins and Lions showed that anything is possible with the right mix of late-game magic and determination.
What This All Means For Week 17 and Beyond
Based on the Week 16 results, the final two weeks of the regular season should provide plenty more twists and turns:
The AFC North and NFC South remain totally up for grabs. Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland all have division title hopes, while Tampa Bay and Carolina are still battling in a weak NFC South race.
Wild card battles in both conferences are fierce. Miami now looks playoff bound but nothing else is certain among the logjams in both the AFC and NFC.
Buffalo, Kansas City and Philadelphia still have unfinished business to secure playoff positioning and first-round byes. Injuries could still derail these contenders.
Get ready for a drama-filled final two weeks! If Week 16 was any indication, buckle up for more exhilarating finishes, fantasy surprises and playoff clinchers as the 2023 postseason draws near.
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