NFL games stepped up a level of intensity this week with teams trying to make their final playoff push. Some are simply trying to secure a playoff spot while other teams high in the standings are aiming for first-round byes and a major advantage.
Twelve teams are vying to clinch playoffs spots and have an opportunity to compete for the Lombardi trophy at February’s Super Bowl LI.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 16-3 DENVER BRONCOS
The Patriots (12-2) beat the Broncos (8-6) in the Mile High city with a surprising defensive onslaught. Tom Brady historically has struggled against the Broncos, especially in Denver where he is 2-7 in his career.The Broncos offense struggled throughout the game but the defense put clamps on New England’s passing game.
Brady had no touchdowns and threw for 188 yards with some key passes to his receivers. Running backs LeGarrette Blount and Deion Lewis combined for 126 yards and a Blount touchdown; the Patriots defense did the rest to clinch the win that secured them a first round bye and another AFC East title, the franchise’s 8th in a row.
The Raiders (11-3) are finally returning to the playoffs after an agonising 14-year absence after beating the Chargers (5-9) thanks to a Sebastian Janikowski field goal kick from 44 yards out. Derek Carr threw for 213 yards with one touchdown to Michael Crabtree, while Oakland’s running back Latavius Murray rushed for 81 yards. The loss sees the Chargers knocked out of playoff contention .
DALLAS COWBOYS 26-20 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliot bounced back this week with a spectacular performance for The Cowboys (12-2) as he rushed for a career-high 159 yards and a touchdown to help Dallas beat Tampa (8-6). Dak Prescott threw for 279 yards on the day and a rushing touchdown. The Buccaneers playmaker Jamies Winston threw three interceptions in the loss, which snapped the team’s five-game winning streak. The Cowboys are still ahead of the New York Giants in the NFC East and need one more win to clinch home field advantage in the playoffs.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 30-27 CHICAGO BEARS
The Packers (8-6) beat the Bears (3-11) after another clutch performance by Aaron Rodgers. With 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Rodgers threw a 60-yard bomb to Jordy Nelson that lined up Mason Crosby’s 32-yard field goal for the win. This was an important win for Green Bay against a Bears team that is out of the hunt for the playoffs. The Packers now hold second place in the NFC North, right on the heels of the Detroit Lions, who are 9-5 after a loss to the New York Giants.
The NFL regular season is winding down to its last two weeks, so have a look at where you team would be if the playoffs started today:
NBA coaches and executives have a statistic that illustrates the overall efficiency of a player, with the EFF ranking taking into consideration offensive contributions to calculate a player's overall efficiency during the game.
The list will surprise some fans as they might not find their favourite players in the top five; aside from just scoring and rebounding in high numbers, the player must have a high field goal percentage to upgrade his efficiency numbers.
20) ANDRE DRUMMOND (Detroit Pistons) - EFF 22.9
Playing at center, Drummond is averaging 14.9 points per games (PPG) and 13.6 rebounds per game (RPG) this season. When Andre dominates the Pistons are a tough team to beat, though the team has been struggling at .500 for the season.
19) KYLE LOWRY - (Toronto Raptors) - EFF 23.3
The Toronto Raptors are 17-7 this season and are contenders in the Eastern Conference. Lowry is averaging 21.3 PPG and 7.3 assists per game, as well as shooting a solid 43.3% from 3PT. Playing with Demar Derozan on the wing gives Toronto a strong one-two punch.
18) BLAKE GRIFFIN - (Los Angeles Clippers) - EFF 23.7
The Clippers are sitting at 18-7 and beat the defending NBA champions Cavaliers soundly on the road. Griffin is averaging 20.7 PPG and 9 RPG. The power forward has also become more efficient from the FT line at 74.7%.
17) DEMAR DEROZAN - (Toronto Raptors) - EFF 23.8
The high-flying guard has been averaging ridiculous numbers this season. His 27.8 PPG are winning Toronto many games.At the beginning of the season Derozan averaged 30 points or more in his first five games, the feat has not been accomplished since Michael Jordan in the 1986-87 season.
16) KEVIN LOVE - (Cleveland Cavaliers) - EFF 24.1
Playing with Lebron James will definitely help your game. The 17-5 Cavaliers depend on Love's interior presence as well as his outside shooting; he is averaging a double-double this season at 21.7 PPG and 10.3 RPG.
=14) KAWHI LEONARD - (San Antonio Spurs) - EFF 24.4
The Spurs have an all-round star in Leonard; the forward can do it all from shooting to lock-down defense. He has been recording 24.7 PPG and six rebounds, to add to his efficiency he shoots 91.4% from the FT line.
=14) KARL ANTHONY TOWNS - (Minnesota Timberwolves) - EFF 24.4
Last season's rookie of the year made an impression on the NBA; Towns is an all-round center who can shoot and rebound while stretching the floor for his team-mates. He is averaging a double double for the T-wolves despite the team's poor record of 6-18.
13) JOHN WALL - (Washington Wizards) - EFF 24.5
The star point guard is putting up good numbers this season: 23.6 PPG 9.6 APG and 4.3 RPG. But the Wizards are underachieving so far, holding a 9-14 record in the Eastern Conference, which is less competitive than their counterparts in the west.
12) HASSAN WHITESIDE - (Miami Heat) - EFF 24.9
At 7 feet-tall and 265lbs Whiteside is a force to be reckoned with in the center position. The big man is collecting 14.3 rebounds a game and scoring 17.3 PPG while patrolling the paint on defense with 2.4 blocks per game.
=10) DAMIAN LILLARD - (Portland Trail Blazers) EFF 25.2
One of the top scorers in the NBA and an All-Star, Lillard can score on any team with ease. The hybrid point guard is averaging 27.8 PPG and 5.6 APG, but the team is not performing well with a 14-12 record so far.
=10) STEPHEN CURRY - (Golden State Warriors) - EFF 25.2
The back to-back MVP is having another great season, with his team sitting atop the Western Conference at 21-4. Even with the presence of Kevin Durant on the roster, which means less shots from time to time,"Chef Curry" is still averaging 25.4 PPG with 5.8 assists.
9) CHRIS PAUL - (Los Angeles Clippers) - EFF 25.8
The multi-faceted point guard is the Clippers coach on the court, orchestrating the offense and distributing the ball around. Paul has 9.4 assists per game and is logging 17.8 PPG, as well as rarely turning over the ball. He achieved a historic feat against the Pelicans on Dec. 11 (??)
8) JIMMY BUTLER - (Chicago Bulls) - EFF 26.4
The small forward is the best player on his team, even with Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo playing for the Bulls. Butler is the leading scorer on the team with 25.6 PPG and 46.7% from the field and though the Bulls are 13-10 at the moment, the team was assembled to make a deep playoff run despite their rough start.
=6) DEMARCUS COUSINS - (Sacramento Kings) - EFF 28.5
One of the best big men in the league is having another great season so far. 28.3 PPG and 10.9 RPG are all-star numbers, however his individual performance has not propelled the team above .500 in the standings.The Kings are 9-15 and in 9th place in the Western Conference.
=6) GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO - (Milwaukee Bucks) - EFF 28.5
'The Greek Freak' is Milwaukee's number one option on the team and it's easy to see why as he is averaging 22.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG and 5.9 APG. Giannis is in the top 10 of efficiency for his ball safety plus his excellent 52.4 field goal percentage.
5) LEBRON JAMES - (Cleveland Cavaliers) - EFF 28.9
Considered the best player on the planet, James is coming off a historic NBA finals in which he led the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors to clinch a first NBA championship. 'The King' is on a mission this season, averaging 25 PPG with 7.7 RPG and 9.1 APG.
4) KEVIN DURANT - (Golden State Warriors) - EFF 31.0
Imagine Kevin Durant getting wide open shots; a player who demands the opposing team's best defender is now playing with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors are an offensive juggernaut and teams are struggling to cover these three superstars. Durant's stat line is 25.8 PPG 8.4 RBG shooting 53.6% from the field - a career best.
3) JAMES HARDEN - (Houston Rockets) - EFF 31.3
'The Beard' led his team to a seven-game win streak with 28.1 PPG, setting his team up with 11.6 APG. The Rockets are 18-7 so far this season and are looking impressive, winning nine of their last 10 games. The Rockets are scoring a 112 points per game but are allowing 106.2 from opposing teams; defense will be the key to their success this season.
2) RUSSELL WESTBROOK - (Oklahoma City Thunder) - EFF 33.0
Westbrook is averaging a triple double 25 games into the season. The hyper-athletic point guard is a machine on the boards, racking up 10.9 RPG. He's setting up his team-mates as well with 11 APG, and scoring 31.1 PPG. If Westbrook keeps up this level of performance, he would be the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double for a whole season.
1) ANTHONY DAVIS - (New Orleans Pelicans) - EFF 33.3
'The Brow' had the best two -game start in NBA history this season, tallying up 95 points and surpassing Michael Jordan's previous record of 91. Davis is a force at the center - forward positions. Scoring 30.6 PPG and 11.4 RPG, with 2.7 blocks, the star needs more help around him for the team to succeed. The Pelicans are 8-18, putting them 13th in the standings and their playoff hopes are looking slim if the team can't rally behind him.
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