by Michele Christopher
Much like the way that the Ghost of Christmas Present seemingly ages before our eyes in Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, so does the NFL Regular Season seem to grow old and grizzled right before our eyes over the course of a few short weeks.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that the days were still long and warm, with just a hint of that crisp, cool Fall air? Those days are gone and we have entered into the last few iron cold weeks of December. There are only two more weeks of regular season football left before the playoffs start.
(I know, I know. It can be hard to take, but don’t worry. It will be ok… There’s still the playoffs and The Superbowl)
At this point, there are several teams that have clinched their divisions and have locked themselves into a playoff spot.
In the AFC, Baltimore, Indianapolis and San Diego have all clinched their respective divisions. New England can clinch their division with one more win or one more loss by the NY Jets.
In the NFC, things are in a similar state, with New Orleans and Chicago having clinched their divisions. Seattle and Dallas can both clinch their divisions with a win.
That leaves the two remaining Wildcard games in each division up for grabs. In the AFC, there’s a logjam with 4 teams at 8-6 vying for 2 open spots. Things are a little less complicated in the NFC with Philly as the sole wildcard contender with a winning record (which, I have to say, is sad) and the NY Giants and Atlanta Falcons fighting for the final spot, both at 7-7.
Even with only two weeks left, there are still about a gazillion different playoff scenarios at this point. I’m not going to try and explain it all here, I’ll just keep things simple. Win and you’re in. If you really want to get all the different breakdowns on the various playoff situations that are still up in the air, check out the NFL’s site: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/9817776
Ok, lets check out this week’s games!
Minnesota at Green Bay – Two non-playoff teams but it still has the inklings of being an enjoyable game in this classic NFL rivalry. Should be a good one to watch if you happen to have the NFL Network, (which I don’t.)
Kansas City at Oakland – Kansas City still has a slim hope of getting into the playoffs, but it’s more like slim and none at this point. They’ll need to win against Oakland to keep their hopes alive. This is a Saturday game, on the N fucking F L Network. (Don’t mind me. I’m just annoyed because I don’t have the N fucking F L Network at my house.)
Baltimore at Pittsburgh – Baltimore has already won their division and is looking to move up into the number two spot if they can. Pittsburgh is going to do everything they can to play the spoiler as their reign as Superbowl champs draws to a close.
Carolina at Atlanta – Carolina is pretty much out of it at this point but Atlanta is still in the hunt and is tied for the last spot in the NFC. They will need a win here to keep themselves alive in the playoffs chase.
Chicago at Detroit - Chicago has already clinched not only their division, but also home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Detroit is just hoping to get a win. Expect Chicago to pull the starters early in what is essentially a meaningless game for them.
Indianapolis at Houston – Indy is another team vying for the number two seed in the AFC. They can clinch the bye week with a win and a Baltimore loss. (Go Houston!)
New England at Jacksonville – At 10-5, The Pats have yet to clinch the AFC East. They need either one more win or a loss by The NY Jets to lock in. Jacksonville is fighting for a Wildcard spot with three other 8-6 teams. They are a dangerous team, though they are also an inconsistent team. With a playoff spot on the line, The Jags will give The Pats all they can handle, though the same could be said of New England who will be looking to build on last week’s 40-7 win over Houston and eliminate the Jets from the AFC East race once and for all this weekend. The Patriots do not want to allow the outcome of the division race to come down to the final game of the year.
New Orleans at N.Y. Giants – New Orleans has won their division and now is looking to keep their spot in the number two seed in the NFC. The Giants are fighting for their playoff lives and are clinging to the final wildcard spot in the NFC.
Tampa Bay at Cleveland - Two non-playoff contenders who are playing for pride at this point. This could still be a good game, even though there is nothing on the line for either team, except to try and finish the year on a good note.
Washington at St. Louis - Ditto
Arizona at San Francisco – Ditto. Ok, technically San Fran is still alive, but all it will take is one more loss or a Seattle win and they are out of it. So let’s not kid ourselves huh?
Cincinnati at Denver – This should be a very good game with two 8-6 teams that are currently the 1 and 2 wildcard teams in the AFC. These final games are basically must win games for both of these teams if they want to keep their spots for the playoffs.
Philadelphia at Dallas – Dallas has clinched a playoff spot. A win for them clinches the NFC East. Philly is looking to hang onto that Wildcard spot and a win gets them in. With a lot on the line for both Philly and Dallas, this has the potential to be a good game. Note that the game is on Christmas Day. Maybe Santa will bring a late present for Philly fans.
N.Y. Jets at Miami - Another Christmas Day game, The J-E-T-S are in a must win situation here against a bitter divisional rival who would like nothing better than to ruin NY’s chances for a playoff spot. It’s a home game for The Fish who, after shellacking New England 21-0 two weeks ago, were embarrassed by the same score against Buffalo last week. They are going to be looking to bounce back from that embarrassing loss as well as try and finish the season on a good note with a .500 record at 8-8. I don’t think it bodes well for The Jets, but you never know what’s going to happen…
I’d like to wish everybody out there a great Holiday! Happy Festivus everyone!! A Festivus for the rest of us! And if you’re around on Sunday, stop by and join in the Gameday Open Thread and leave us some comments on what’s happening with your favorite team!
Ernie swears to his Rooster Sauce Picks