Huge Knockouts Dominate “Boxing Day”

In most of the countries that comprised the former British Empire, the day after Christmas — December 26 — is observed as a holiday known as Boxing Day.

While it is certain that the sport in which the late Muhammad Ali made his mark is not the origin of the name, accounts vary as to what the name's origin actually is. What we do know is that it is related to charity of one sort or another: one theory states that the name refers to the "alms boxes" that were set up in churches that day; another theory hypothesizes that the name comes from boxes containing gifts to be donated to poor children who might not otherwise receive one over the holidays.

In any event, several NFL teams were in no giving mood this Boxing Day.

To start with the early games, the Eagles found themselves tied 3-3 with the Giants at halftime — slow starts on offense having been a virtual registered trademark of this team in the Nick Sirianni/Jalen Hurts era — only to reel off 31 unanswered points before the lovely and talented Mike Glennon, replacing the benched Jake Fromm, engineered a classic garbage-time touchdown drive with four minutes remaining. The Eagles defense, playing far and away its best football of the year, held the Giants to a Scrooge-like 192 total yards (not since November 3, 2019 had Philadelphia allowed less than 200 yards in a game), including the 75 gained on the above garbage-time drive.

The 34-10 victory, coupled with yet another loss by Kirk Cousins to an over-.500 team (Cousins is now 10-43 lifetime when facing such competition) has placed the Eagles in total control of their own destiny for a playoff berth — which they can clinch as early as this coming week, with a win and a loss by Cousins and the Vikings to the 12-3 Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, along with, ironically, a win by San Francisco over the lowly Texans (they are also in with a win plus losses by both the Vikings and Saints).

Meanwhile, 507 miles away as the crow flies, in the City of Satan — so nicknamed because it houses the headquarters of Procter & Gamble — Joe Burrow missed Norm Van Brocklin's single-game passing-yards record by a mere 29 yards. But he missed very little else as he went 37 out of 46 for 525 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions, which works out as an NFL passer rating of 143.2 (the highest is 158.3), a QBR of 89.3 (highest is 100), and a college passer rating of 205.0 in Cincinnati's 41-21 thumping of the Ravens.

(In the run-up to the game, Ravens defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale blithely advised Burrow not to get sized up for a Hall of Fame jacket just yet — and you may recall that Martindale threw a temper tantrum that would have made John McEnroe blush last year after the Bengals kicked a field goal with 32 seconds remaining to break up a shutout in a 27-3 Baltimore win).

So no matter how you slice it, Burrow really sliced up Baltimore's defense (again, as Burrow & Co. won 41-17 at Baltimore in Week 7), setting up a potential AFC North title-clinching victory next week at home against the Chiefs — a possibility that is nowhere near as far-fetched as one might think, considering the fact that dating all the way back to 1998 Kansas City is 23-37 on artificial turf.

If both the Bengals and Eagles do punch their respective tickets to the postseason this Sunday, deciding whether Sirianni or Cincy head coach Zac Taylor should be Coach of the Year will be an intriguing decision indeed.

In Charlotte, the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers sailed into the safe harbor that is the playoffs, clinching their first NFC South title since 2007 (remember that the Bucs were a wild card last year) by spanking the Panthers 32-6, also (keeping with the theme of this opus) knocking out Cam Newton (he was actually benched during the game) and the redoubtable Sam Darnold finished up for Carolina.

Turning our attention to the late games, the Chiefs earned themselves a Boxing Day gift in the form of their sixth consecutive AFC West crown, made possible after the Chargers pulled off an unforgivable choke in their early game in Houston. So dominant were the Chiefs in every phase of the game that they even stuffed Steelers running back Najee Harris, who belongs in any discussion as to who the NFL's most physical running back is, for a 3-yard loss on 4th-and-inches in the second quarter.

But as per Vanessa Williams, Week 16 saved the best — or should we say the worst? — for last.

Jerry Jones was lucky indeed that the roof at his stadium didn't get ripped clear off (and the roof was closed, by the way) in his team's 56-14 obliteration of the Washington Football Team — the largest margin of victory by either side in the history of this 124-game series. Obviously, the fact that Dallas had clinched the NFC East title when the Raiders beat the Broncos an hour before this game kicked off (only in the NFL!) did not lull "America's Team" into any false sense of security.

Thus, with the exception of the Chargers, most of the teams that needed a victory to keep their momentum going into the playoffs not only got one, but did so, as former President Donald Trump likes to say, bigly.

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