The 2017-18 NFL playoffs have progressed to the second round. Division playoff weekend is arguably the best of any NFL season.
The four best teams of the season are all playing.
At the same time NFL fans are treated to a four-game weekend, unlike the rest of the playoffs. And as opposed to this last weekend, we get to watch all of the best teams.
In what may be an unprecedented occurrence, the number six wild card team is a road favorite over the number one seed this post season.
The 2017 NFL regular season wraps up on Sunday afternoon. There is not as much drama this year compared to the week 17 of many previous seasons. The 2017 NFL playoff picture is relatively settled. In the AFC there are four teams battling for two wild card spots. The NFC still has one division title up for grabs, but has just two teams competing for one final playoff slot.
In Week 16 ten road teams are favored to win. That number falls back to a more typical number in Week 17, with five home dogs. The Saints are the biggest road favorite, minus 8½ points at Tampa Bay. The largest spread of the week is in Foxboro, where the Patriots are favored by 16 versus the Jets. That game is one of four double-digit spreads. The narrowest odds are with Houston as a one-point underdog at Indianapolis.
Entering Week 16 five teams have clinched a playoff spot. The Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Eagles and Vikings have all punched a ticket for the post season. Philadelphia is the only team thus far to earn a first round bye.
In the AFC six teams have been eliminated: the Browns, Colts, Texans, Broncos, Bengals and Jets. The Dolphins and Raiders are technically alive, but comatose and on life support. The Chargers are not in much better shape, even though they are only one game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. Most likely it is Ravens, Titans and Bills battling for two wild card spots.
The Giants, Bears, Forty Niners, Bucs, Cardinals, Skins and Packers are all officially eliminated. Dallas, Seattle and Detroit face tall odds to get in. Philadelphia and Minnesota have won their divisions and will host at least one playoff game. The only way the Rams don’t win the NFC West is to lose twice while Seattle wins twice. The NFC South is probably going to send three teams to the playoffs. Games involving the Saints, Panthers and Falcons are the most intriguing over the next two weeks. Atlanta is at New Orleans this week, and then the Falcons host Carolina next week.
While we anxiously await the start of the 2017 NFL season, here is a peek behind enemy lines. For Pats fans, a bit of schadenfreude for one of the co-conspirators in the scheme to frame the Patriots by those that never learned the Ideal Gas Law.
Although it is only two games in to the preseason, the 2017 Indianapolis Colts appear to be closer to their ‘Suck for Luck’ 2011 team than the club that won 33 games from 2012 to 2014 and made it to the AFC championship game. The Colts have not had a winning season since then.
Consider this: from their inception in 1933 through 1971 the Steelers made the playoffs only once. Pittsburgh had a total of only seven winning seasons, and managed only four years where they were two or more games above .500.
Then Dan Rooney took a bigger role in the organization, running the football operations in 1969 and finally formally being announced team president in 1975. He hired Chuck Noll and the team quickly went from annual cellar dwellers to perennial contenders.
Sunday’s American Football Conference Championship Game pits the two teams that have ruled the AFC this millennium. Including next month’s game in Houston, either the Steelers or Patriots will have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl ten times since 2001.
The Patriots will methodically do what they need to do to win, while also minimizing opportunities for Houston to come away with an upset victory. Houston has had issues this season with their special teams coverage. That could set the Patriots up with a short field and a quick score. Once the Pats take a lead this Texan team is in trouble. Their offense does not have the talent to keep up with the Patriots.
Pittsburgh and Houston are locked in as the number three and four seeds respectively. That leaves three games to determine the conference playoff seeding. The three AFC games that actually matter today are Miami at New England, Kansas City at San Diego and Oakland at Denver. There are a total of eight possible combined outcomes to those games.
The Buccaneers deserve their own category simply because their playoff scenario is stranger than Rex Ryan’s proclivity for hidden cameras in an orthopedic surgeon’s office. Not only do the Bucs need a game to end in a tie, they also need two meaningless non-conference games to end in their favor. Oh, and for the Niners to beat Seattle too.
The bad news is that Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will again be calling the Pats game. If you have surround sound set up as part of your entertainment system just mute (or unplug) the front center speaker. Voila! No more insane commentary from the Bird and the Beard.
On the other hand the mood in Denver is somber, as would be expected. As is the norm in every city, fans and writers focus blame on the home team for losing while neglecting to credit the opponent for a job well done. Here are a few reactions from both Denver and some national media sites in the aftermath of the Patriot defense shutting down Denver en route to their 12th win of the season.
It is mid-December and we are in the final stretch of the 2016 NFL season. In recent weeks weather has played a role and that could be the case again this weekend. With only bowl games remaining for college football the NFL can now play on Saturdays. As a result the work crew at the Meadowlands will be busy, with a Jets game Saturday night and then a Giants game Sunday afternoon.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has published their Advanced Lines for NFL Week 16. Once again the New England Patriots are listed as the heaviest favorite of the week.
Heading into Week 15 only the Dallas Cowboys have clinched a playoff spot. After this weekend that is bound to change. Six other teams, including the New England Patriots, can punch a ticket to the post-season this weekend.
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