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Best NFL Week 16 Performances: Who Needs Christian McCaffrey Anyway?

Panthers churn out more than 300 yards rushing thanks to D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard. Plus, Greg Joseph’s 61-yard field goal lifts Vikings to another dramatic win.

Week 16 on the NFL schedule is almost in the books (we still have a Christmas Day tripleheader and Monday Night Football) and the best performances deserve to be recognized by our MMQB staff. Even if you’re feeling down because your team didn’t win, maybe one of your favorite players or coaches gets awarded a game ball by our staff.

Here are this weekend’s standouts:

Mitch Goldich: D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, RBs, Panthers. The Panthers stunned the Lions 37–23 Sunday, and yes, I’m using the word stunned, given how hot the Lions have been and how quickly this upstart Carolina jumped out in front. Both Panthers running backs topped the 100-yard mark—in the first half. Foreman finished with 21 carries for 165 yards, and Hubbard ran it 12 times for 125, amassing most of a franchise record 320 yards on the ground between them. Who needs Christian McCaffrey anyway? And this is one of those games where the numbers are impressive, but the way they did it said even more. Ignore the final score; the Panthers set the tone early and never looked back. Carolina improved to 6–9, a record that matters because a Buccaneers loss on Christmas Day would create a three-way tie atop the NFC South. The Panthers face the Bucs and Saints the next two weeks and control their destiny, making this a potentially season-altering win for a team that fired its coach and traded its best player.

Panthers running back D'Onta Foreman scores a touchdown against the Lions in Week 16.

Foreman scores on a four-yard TD run in the second quarter. Foreman rushed for 165 yards on 21 carries.

Michael Rosenberg: Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings. You would think that at some point, somebody would figure out a way to game plan Jefferson into submission. Shade a safety over by him, double-team him, triple-team him, quadruple-team him, interfere with him on every play and hope they stop calling it, pull his pants down … something should work, right? The Vikings rely on Jefferson more than any offense relies on any nonquarterback, and he still manages to put up obscene numbers every week. He is a master at getting open. He catches damn-near everything. Against the Giants, Jefferson had 12 catches on 16 targets for 133 yards and a touchdown. On the drive that set up Greg Joseph’s game-winning 61-yard field goal, the Vikings went 33 yards in six plays (not counting a spike), and Jefferson contributed … 33 yards.

John Pluym: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs. Let’s end the debate: Mahomes is the best quarterback and the best player in the NFL. Just give him the MVP right now. Mahomes was at his best against the Seahawks, completing 16-of-28 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. And six of his completions went to Travis Kelce, who is also the best tight end in the NFL. We talk a lot about Mahomes’s ability to throw the football from any angle. But, his running is also something to behold. In fact, his best play on Sunday was probably his three-yard run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Facing pressure from the Seahawks’ defense, Mahomes stepped up in the pocket, rolled to his right and then sprinted for the corner of the end zone. He then dove for the end zone, using his left arm to hold himself up while stretching the ball toward the pylon for a score. Yes, he’s amazing at throwing the football. And he’s also not too shabby running it, either. Too bad we have to wait until February to give him his MVP trophy.

Gary Gramling: Steve Wilks and Ben McAdoo, brain trust, Panthers. Have you heard? Sean Payton is assembling an all-star team of freelance coaches (will time-traveling Drew Brees circa 2011 come with them?) to dazzle easily distracted owners and terrorize embattled coaching staffs. Panthers owner David Tepper best pay attention to what he has in his building right now, because Wilks and McAdoo are getting winning—sometimes dominant—football with the remnants of Matt Rhule’s roster. In retrospect, Wilks’s firing after one season in Arizona is something that should be worn with a badge of honor, and McAdoo was both the last head coach to lead the Giants to the playoffs and seemingly the only coach in the league to recognize Geno Smith’s talent (daring to play Smith over the twilight version of Eli Manning is one move that cost him his job with the Giants) and is now figuring out how to build an offense around Sam Darnold. The one thing the Panthers have in place right now is a good defensive-minded head coach and an accomplished offensive coordinator.

John Pluym: Greg Joseph, K, Vikings. The Vikings live on the edge almost every week. They are now 11–0 in one-score games, an NFL record, after going 6–8 in such games in 2021, the most one-score game losses in NFL history. For Joseph, it’s been an up-and-down season. He’s missed as many extra points (five) as he’s missed field goals. And before his game-winning 61-yarder against the Giants, he was only 2-of-7 on the season from 50-plus yards. And kicking has always been an adventure in Minnesota; I think most Vikings fans remember Gary Anderson’s only missed field goal of the season in the 1998 NFC championship game and Blair Walsh’s miss against the Seahawks in a 2015 wild-card game. Joseph now has five game-winning kicks on the season. 

Mitch Goldich: George Kittle, TE, and Nick Bosa, DE, 49ers. The Niners won their eighth straight game, so I’m cheating and picking one player on each side of the ball. This game was tied 7–7 at halftime, and then Kittle scored two TDs in the third quarter to put San Francisco in front 21–7. On the first one, Brock Purdy fired a strike more than 40 yards in the air, and Kittle hauled it in as he was streaking across the goal line. The second was a bootleg where Purdy rolled left and found Kittle along the left sideline, and the tight end then cut toward the center of the field and ran around traffic to find the end zone. Bosa stuffed the stat sheet with two sacks, two tackles for loss and four QB hits. He had a strip-sack early in the fourth quarter, before the Commanders switched from Taylor Heinicke to Carson Wentz. The Niners won 37–20, and can run their winning streak to 10 if they finish out perfect against the Raiders and Cardinals.

Michael Fabiano: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Vikings. Hockenson delivered an early fantasy Christmas gift. One of the top players at a very thin position, Hockenson made like Santa Claus for fantasy managers with 13 catches, 109 yards, two touchdowns and 35.9 points in a win over the Giants. It’s the second time this season he’s had at least 35 points, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. His teammate, superstar wideout Justin Jefferson, also came up huge with 12 catches, 133 yards, one touchdown and 31.3 fantasy points.