MUST WATCH GAMES
Patriots at Jets
11 wins might not be enough for the Jets to make the playoffs. I think eventually the NFL will expand to a 14-team field once they figure out the logistics for two reasons.
1. Money. An extra playoff game would mean more money from television.
2. We could have TWO division champions host a home playoff game with a .500 record or worse. Jacksonville is at 5-9 and if they win their final two games as well as the Colts and the Texans lose their last two games, the Jaguars could host an 11-win Kansas City team. If the Eagles, Giants, and Washington all end up 7-9 in the NFC East, it would be the Eagles crowned division champion due to tie breakers and would host Seattle. Already the NBA has altered their playoff selection with the top 8 teams in each conference making the playoffs regardless of winning the division.
I will probably revisit this in another post.
The Jets are definitely an entertaining team to watch and who knows what kind of havoc they could cause if they make the playoffs.
Cowboys at Bills
In the 1990s this was a must watch matchup. Dallas and Buffalo faced each other four times in the decade, with the Bills winning the two regular season matchups in 1993 and 1996 and the Cowboys winning the other two in consecutive Super Bowls over the Bills.
Since then both teams have been unable to recapture the magic from the 1990s. The Bills have not won a playoff game since 1995. The last time Buffalo was the site of a playoff game was December 1996 when the Bills lost to the Jaguars in the Wild Card round. The last time the Bills were in a playoff game, this happened:
The Cowboys have not fared better in the 20 years since their last Super Bowl appearance. Since then, the Cowboys have only won three playoff games (1996, 2009, 2014) as well as a six playoff game losing streak (1996, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2006, 2007) where five of those instances were one-and-done affairs. The last time Dallas won a divisional round game was the same season they won the Super Bowl. The last time the Cowboys won a ROAD playoff game was in January 1993 against the 49ers in San Francisco after a 10-year absence from the conference championship game and was capped with their first Super Bowl win in 15 years.
Both teams were eliminated from playoff contention last week. Pretty much both teams are playing out the schedule and seeing what is on their rosters to see what can be built on for next season.
For the Bills, they may have found their quarterback.
As for the Cowboys, it might be time to consider what to do when Tony Romo decides to hang it up. This is the second time in his career that he has suffered a broken collar bone injury. Rumors are circulating that Jerry Jones is considering making a deal for Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel or Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III. Though both played their college football in Texas with Manziel winning the Heisman at A&M and Griffin doing the same at Baylor in Waco, I’m not sure that is a wise choice. For starters, the Browns will probably want a high price for Manziel as well as the media circus that surrounds him. As for Griffin, there is no way that Washington will trade him to a division rival.
If you are unfortunate to have to watch this game, I suggest watching the recent ESPN 30 for 30 film The Four Falls of Buffalo about the Bills making it to four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s only to come up short each time. For Cowboys fans, I would suggest The Great Trade Robbery about how then-coach Jimmy Johnson masterminded the 1989 in-season trade of running back Herschel Walker to the Vikings and in exchange the Cowboys received draft picks that were used to quickly rebuild the team and turn it into a champion.
Panthers at Falcons
The Panthers perfection pursuit continues as they travel down I-85 from Charlotte to face the Falcons in Atlanta. Hard to believe that the Falcons were once 5-0, but here we are right now. Atlanta could become the first team to start 5-0 and finish the season with a below .500 record.
Meanwhile the Panthers still have something to play for: homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The highest seed the Panthers ever obtained was the 2-seed and it was done twice in the team’s history. The first time was in the team’s second season in 1996 as NFC West division champions as they defeated Dallas for the franchise’s first playoff victory before losing in the NFC Championship Game at eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay. In 2013, Carolina was the NFC 2-seed but lost to San Francisco.
Carolina can ensure the path to Super Bowl 50 in California will take a southern route with a win over the Falcons or the Packers defeat the Cardinals in the late Sunday window. There is another issue: if the Panthers wrap up homefield, do they go for a perfect regular season in Week 17 against the Buccaneers?
Rams at Seahawks/Packers at Cardinals
Playoff positioning as well as playing well heading into the playoffs are key in these two late Sunday games.
The Seahawks were written off as has-beens after their 39-32 loss to Arizona at home in Week 10 that dropped their record to 4-5. Since then, Seattle has won 5 straight games and earned their 4th consecutive playoff berth. Much of that credit goes to the play of Russell Wilson in this time period. Seattle has lost the services of Marshawn Lynch and (backup) in the running game, but Wilson has taken on the offensive production. During this winning streak, Wilson has thrown for 20 touchdowns and no interceptions. He certainly should be in consideration for a few league MVP votes, if not then certainly offensive player of the year.
Wilson was a third round pick in 2012 and many general managers have commented that they really missed on that one.
For the first time since relocating to Phoenix, the Cardinals have won 12 games in the regular season. The last time the Cardinals franchise has won 12 or more games… it wasn’t during the period when they were the Phoenix Cardinals from 1988-93… nor was it during their 27 years in St. Louis. It wasn’t even during their time as the Chicago Cardinals during the NFL’s founding.
It was actually… never. Until this season.
The Cardinals were the definition of NFL futility for many years. The most number of games the Cardinals won in a single season prior to this one was 11 and that was accomplished in 1925, 1948, 1975, and 2014. Occasionally there would be reminders that there is a team called the Cardinals when they posted three consecutive 10 or more win seasons from 1974-76 and made the playoffs in 1974 and 1975 only to lose in the first round each time and entered the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1982 season.
The Cardinals won their first playoff game in 51 years when they upset the Cowboys (then, their NFC East rival) in Dallas 20-7 in January 1999. It would be 10 years later before the Cardinals would win another playoff game. In 2008, Arizona not only won the NFC West but hosted the NFC Championship and played in the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. Though the Cardinals had a lead at the 2-minute warning of the fourth quarter of that game, it was Pittsburgh who came away with the championship.
After seeing the Cardinals play in a couple of games this season and especially after their win over the Eagles in Philadelphia, they have to be considered a threat to Carolina’s championship chances. It was last season that an 11-win Cardinals team failed to advance in the playoffs in part due to injuries severely depleting the quarterback position. Now that Carson Palmer has been relatively injury free this season, Arizona could have a chance at their first championship since 1947.
I mentioned playoff positioning with these games and here it goes.
Arizona can claim the 2-seed with a win and keep their slim hopes for the 1-seed alive if the Panthers lose their final two games to the Falcons and Buccaneers. The Packers could earn a bye week with a win in Phoenix followed by a win at home against Minnesota and the Cardinals losing their finale at home against the Seahawks.
Back to the Seahawks, they are already in the playoffs as one of the two NFC Wild Card teams. Seattle is currently the 5-seed and would keep it as long as the Vikings don’t finish with a better record or if the Seahawks and Vikings end the season with the same record, Seattle would play the NFC East winner in the first round while the Vikings would be the 6-seed due to the Seahawks 38-7 victory in Minnesota.
The scenario that would drop the Seahawks to the 6-seed is if Green Bay loses their lead in the NFC North to Minnesota. If Minnesota wins the division and Green Bay and Seattle are tied, it would be Green Bay with the 5-seed against the NFC East winner while Seattle would make a return trip to Minneapolis.
As for the Cardinals and Packers game, there is the chance that these two teams will face each other again in the playoffs with this game determining where the rematch will take place.
Washington at Eagles/Giants at Vikings
Washington just might get into the playoffs and could be a challenge for whoever ends up with the NFC 5-seed. It will likely be Seattle, but as I mentioned earlier there is a scenario where Seattle could drop to the 6-seed.
Washington is 6-2 at home this season and has made everyone ALMOST forget their racist team name. Unfortunately for Washington, teams play 8 home games per season and they already did that with a 35-25 win in their home finale against Buffalo. Their final two games are at two division rivals: Philadelphia and at Dallas who beat them in Washington earlier this month and are looking to play spoiler next week. I’m not liking Washington’s chances against an Eagles team that was embarrassed at home last week on national television.
Both the Eagles and Giants are still in the NFC East race. Pretty much it is win out and do something pretty low for any other NFC East team: root for the Cowboys.
Gotta love those end of season games where you have to cheer on your most hated team to help you make the playoffs.
Tom Coughlin’s future comes down to these final two games. In previous instances where Coughlin was thought to be on the way out in New York, the Giants made a late push to the playoffs and ran the table en route to Super Bowl wins in 2007 and 2011. There is not an “E” next to the Giants yet, but there is not much time left in the season. The loss of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a one-game suspension will not make things easier for the Giants.
Bengals at Broncos
It’s Brock Oswiller against A.J. McCarron on Monday Night Football!!! This is what will determine the AFC 2-seed.
And now the picks.
Kickoff times are Mountain Time
Sunday afternoon games airing in Denver are noted by (DEN)
Picks are in BOLD
THURSDAY NIGHT, NFL 6PM
Chargers at Raiders
SATURDAY NIGHT, NFL 6PM
Washington at Eagles
Panthers at Falcons (DEN)
Bears at Buccaneers
Colts at Dolphins
Cowboys at Bills
49ers at Lions
Patriots at Jets (DEN)
Texans at Titans
Browns at Chiefs
Steelers at Ravens
Packers at Cardinals (DEN)
Rams at Seahawks
Jaguars at Saints
SUNDAY NIGHT, NBC 6:30 PM
Giants at Vikings
MONDAY NIGHT, ESPN 6:30 PM
Bengals at Broncos
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!!