December 27, 2011
A Terrific NFL Finishing Weekend Awaits
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
This is even better than that new rule on flex scheduling.
Heading into the final regular season weekend, twelve of the sixteen games have either playoff implications or seeding implications. Some of the matchups involving these teams will provide for some very compelling football on New Year's Day 2012, right up to the very end when Dallas and the Giants decide the NFC East championship on Sunday night.
Not much has been clinched right now. In the AFC, Houston is set as the three seed, the AFC West champ will be the four seed, and the AFC North runner-up will be the five seed. In the NFC, Green Bay has clinched home field, and the NFC East champ will be the four seed. Other than that, it's still pretty much wide open and several teams can still make the playoffs or be eliminated, mostly in the AFC.
Here is a look at these matchups, what the playoff implications are, and who should win the game.
Buffalo at New England
Like 2003, the last time Buffalo beat the Patriots, the Patriots will be looking to avenge the earlier defeat at home on the final weekend with a chance to lock up the one seed. All the Patriots have to do is win and the one seed is theirs for the second straight year. If they lose, they will do no worse than the two seed unless both Baltimore and Pittsburgh lose. Despite the uneven performance last week against Miami, Buffalo doesn't look to put up as much resistance and the Patriots will be looking for a solid performance going into a bye week. Pick: Patriots
NY Jets at Miami
Rex Ryan told everyone that if the Jets get into the playoffs, "watch out". Right now, after last week's loss to the Giants, the Jets look as woebegone as ever. Miami is coming off a nice performance against the Patriots on the road in which they played well but didn't finish well. At home, Miami will be looking to finish well and gain some momentum going into 2012. The Patriots will be praying for a Dolphin win, anything to get the Jets out of the playoffs. The Jets have to win and hope for a ton of help elsewhere; a loss eliminates them. Pick: Miami
Baltimore at Cincinnati
This is one of the toughest games of the year to pick. Despite being a substandard road team, Baltimore is gunning for the division title and a first round bye against a Bengal team that can clinch the six seed with merely a win. The big story surrounding this game seems to be whether or not they can bang out Paul Brown Stadium to get the game televised locally. But in the end, despite everyone in New England rooting like crazy for the Stripes, it's simply too hard to pick against the Ravens despite being on the road against a divisional opponent obsessed to win. Pick: Baltimore
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
It's a bitter divisional foe, and they're on the road. The Steelers are taking busses to Cleveland instead of a plane because they feel Ben Roethlisberger will handle bus travel better than air travel. Cleveland has had moments this year of good play, and no division in football has such unilateral hatred between the four teams than the AFC North. But Pittsburgh wants a first round bye and the division, and in case Cincy rises up and knocks off Baltimore, the Steelers have to be ready to take over as division champs. Pick: Pittsburgh
Tennessee at Houston
Houston has locked up its first division title, and the first postseason berth, in franchise history. Unfortunately, the entire nation saw a hideous performance against Indianapolis last Thursday night, taking away any chance the Texans had to get a first round bye. It was so bad, it was the first time in NFL history that a one-win team beat a team with ten or more wins. Now the Texans, still struggling with third string quarterback T.J. Yates, play host to a Tennessee Titans team which needs a win and lots of help to get the six seed in the AFC. Since Cincinnati plays later, Tennessee will be playing like crazy to win, while the Texans have to either get their bearings or just avoid injuries and prepare for uncharted playoff waters. Pick: Tennessee
Kansas City at Denver
Nobody in Denver could have predicted this whole scenario. They release Kyle Orton in favor of Tim Tebow, and Orton winds up in Kansas City instead of somewhere in the NFC. Now here comes Orton to Denver in the season finale, fresh off of handing Green Bay its only loss of the season. With Romeo Crennel as interim head coach already having made a difference in the Chief defense, and with Tebow coming down to earth with losses to New England and Buffalo, all signs point to a Chief win despite Denver needing only to win to nail down the AFC West title. Look for Orton to make a statement and Crennel to eradicate the word "interim" from his job title. Pick: Kansas City
San Diego at Oakland
Oakland wins the AFC West if they win and Denver loses. They can also clinch a Wild Card if they win and other things happen elsewhere. So, if our prediction comes true and Kansas City wins in Denver, then Oakland is really playing for the division title. San Diego was blown out of Detroit last week, and if Oakland gets up early, San Diego might be thinking about that bus ride home and not make it real tough on the Raiders. Pick: Oakland
Dallas at NY Giants
This is the second toughest game to pick. Winner gets the NFC East, loser is out. The Giants are perfectly capable of cutting a stinker at home. Tony Romo is perhaps the most overrated quarterback in the NFL, especially in the clutch. Eli Manning is capable of playing big when he has to, that fact is well known in New England. This one is a real crap shoot. The team that wins will do so likely because the other team did better to lose the game than the winner did. Pick: NY Giants
Detroit at Green Bay
The Lions, in the postseason for the first time since 1999, is in a battle with Atlanta for the fifth seed. Detroit finishes its season at Lambeau Field, against a Packers team which has already locked up the one seed and may wind up resting Aaron Rodgers and other starters. If Green Bay plays hard and doesn't rest anyone, they should win. But Detroit has more to play for, and the Packers already know how to win a Super Bowl. Lions get the five seed if they win. Pick: Detroit
Carolina at New Orleans
This will be a fun game to watch. New Orleans locked up the NFC South on Monday night, but can still nail down a first round bye with a win and a San Francisco loss. Drew Brees did break Dan Marino's passing yardage record on his final pass of the game, so all Brees needs to concentrate on is getting the win without worrying about how. But Cam Newton, the presumptive rookie of the year, will want to light it up against the Saints to cap off arguably the best rookie season performance in league history. Newton will enjoy this matchup with the Saints, but he can't play defense. Pick: New Orleans
Tampa Bay at Atlanta
The Falcons sit at the six seed right now. They can move up to five if they win and Detroit loses at Green Bay. This may not seem like much, but it means having either Dallas or the Giants as your first playoff opponent instead of either San Francisco or New Orleans. The Detroit-Green Bay game will be over before this game begins, so if Detroit wins, the Falcons may rest starters. But if the Packers win, Tampa Bay will be in for a rough afternoon at the Georgia Dome. Pick: Atlanta
San Francisco at St. Louis
Only the 49ers' lack of scoring touchdowns in the Red Area shines any doubt on this game. The Rams have had a lousy season, might fire head coach Steve Spagnuolo at game's end, and the 49ers lock up a first round bye with a win. Pick: San Francisco
Now, one more game which will bear watching, but for the wrong reasons.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
The Colts must lose this game to clinch the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. If they win and the Rams lose, the Rams then get the top pick. The Rams would not be likely to take Stanford's Andrew Luck because they already have Sam Bradford. The Colts played very well last Thursday night against a hapless Houston team, and showed some mettle in that final game-winning rally. But this game is at Jacksonville, and there won't be any sentiment to please the home fans. If Curtis Painter goes in at quarterback for the Colts, you know what the organizational thinking is. Pick: With the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Colts select quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford
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