On the one hand, the Bears don’t necessarily need a quarterback. They can stick it out with the uber-talented Justin Fields for another year. But plenty of other teams would surely like to take a swing on a quarterback, and the Bears could hold the first pick for a king’s ransom and put the Texans in danger of losing out on who they want.
Nobody wants to settle for their second choice when it comes to drafting quarterbacks, but that’s where the Texans might be. It’s the same place the Jets were two years ago when they won meaningless Week 15 and Week 16 games to lose the right to draft Trevor Lawrence. There’s no clear star like Lawrence in this class, and the Texans may end up with their guy anyway, but now the off-season comes with all sorts of headaches.
Around the N.F.L.
Bengals 27, Ravens 16: The Ravens sacrificed a chance at better playoff seeding to rest their key players for the wild-card round. Quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley both stayed on the sideline, giving way to the undrafted rookie Anthony Brown. The Bengals terrorized him for most of the affair, resulting in Brown completing less than half his passes and tossing two interceptions. It didn’t take much from the Bengals’ offense to outscore the Ravens under those conditions, but Joe Burrow went above and beyond to make difficult throws under pressure and leave no doubt.
Bills 35, Patriots 23: There aren’t many times two kick return touchdowns are the difference in a game, but that was the case here. Bills running back Nyheim Hines took back the opening kickoff for a score, giving the team a jolt after a long and difficult week. Hines didn’t stop there, eventually returning another kickoff for 6 points in the middle of the third quarter. His second return and the extra point put the Bills up by 21-17 and were the final lead change of the game, handing the Patriots a loss that dropped them out of the playoffs.
Dolphins 11, Jets 6: A Week 18 game with Skylar Thompson and Joe Flacco playing quarterback, in which one of the teams has no chance to make the playoffs, went exactly like you would expect. Both offenses struggled to move the ball save for a handful of special plays here and there, like Jets receiver Garrett Wilson’s 36-yard tackle-breaking extravaganza late in the second quarter. The Dolphins squeaked by in the end, though, and snagged the A.F.C.’s final wild-card berth.
Falcons 30, Buccaneers 17: In terms of playoff implications, this game meant nothing. Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady started the game, but he eventually stepped aside and took a seat on the bench — though not until after he broke the N.F.L.’s single-season completion record. The Falcons had nothing to play for either, but they at least saw some flashes from their young players on offense. Running back Tyler Allgeier ran hard, quarterback Desmond Ridder once again improved on his previous performance, and receiver Drake London snagged a tough 50-50 ball down the field in the second half.
Panthers 10, Saints 7: Neither team could make the playoffs, and it showed. Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold struggled mightily, ending the game 5 of 15 for 43 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. Darnold was lucky to have the run game supporting him, as well as a defense that remained stout. The Saints’ offense moved the ball efficiently until third downs, when they converted on just 4 of 13 opportunities.