This is the final week of the NFL Regular Season. There are still slots up for grab. This is the last chance that teams will have to get their ticket punched for next week. No more ands and buts, no more speeches, just line up and play. 60 minutes remain for teams to say what they have left to say, after that it’s playoff time.
(7-8) Miami Dolphins v (5-10) Buffalo Bills
This is it for these two teams, and one of them is wanting to go into the regular season feeling good about how they ended. The Dolphins can go in at .500 with that memorable victory over the Patriots. While the Bills go in feeling like they were a bounce or two away from a better record. This is when you see who stays around for next year and who will not be a fit.
(5-10) Detroit Lions v (6-8-1) Green Bay Packers
We are use to seeing the Lions not be in the post season, but not the Packers. This was the year Aaron Rodgers would come back off of injury and get this team into the thick of the playoff race. Instead, this disappointing season cost their head coach his job. And now Green Bay will go into the off season with a lot to think about, starting with who will run the team next season. Detroit, on the other hand, will go into the season thinking about the games they coulda/shoulda/woulda won if they….. Thing is Detroit can truly be a solid team next year, they just need to be consistent and have a team that believe they will win
(5-10) Jacksonville Jaguars v (10-5) Houston Texans
The Colts and the Titans will be watching this game close, as they could end up stealing the division if the Texans lose. But the Texans know what is at stake, and that is a division title. They already clinched a playoff spot, but I am betting the Texans are not wanting to choke this title away to either Tennessee or Indianapolis.
(4-11) New York Jets v (10-5) New England Patriots
With all the talk about Brady being hurt, and questions circling Gronk’s health and (possible) retirement, this truly could be the last ride. The Patriots would need this win to maintain their first round bye. Should they and the Texans lose, the Titans could steal that bye with a victory over the Colts.
(6-9) Carolina Panthers v (13-2) New Orleans Saints
This game is going to feel a little like a pre-season game. Carolina will be without their starting quarterback (Cam Newton), and backup (Taylor Heinicke) for the final game of the season. Cam Newton will be nursing his shoulder, and Taylor Heinicke went out on IR with an elbow injury. So getting the ball for the Panthers will be undrafted free agent Kyle Allen. And opposite of him will be Teddy Bridgewater starting for the Saints. With the Saints having a first round bye, they will be wanting to take as much advantage of resting their stars as possible. And given the state of the Panthers, I suspect that will be even more likely. Minus fantasy players, I do not expect a lot of attention to be on this game.
(9-6) Dallas Cowboys v (5-10) New York Giants
The Cowboys already clinched the division. Even with a loss, they still maintain their seating. But that do not mean they should you this game to rest their starters. They need to go into the playoffs with a little momentum. This game against the Giants will be the last time they can get things right before they enter the playoffs. Seeing the Eagles hoist the trophy last season has made Dallas players (and fans) envious. You can bet they are eying partying in Atlanta as the champions. They have the pieces to beat any team in the playoffs, they just have to eliminate the mistakes.
(6-9) Atlanta Falcons v (5-10) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This game is for pride, as both teams would like to go into the off season with a win over their division rival. Both teams, especially the Falcons, will have a lot to think about come off season.
(7-7-1) Cleveland Browns v (9-6) Baltimore Ravens
The Steelers will be the biggest cheerleaders for Baker Mayfield and the Browns this week. They need for the Browns to upset the Ravens, and for them to take care of business against the Bengals, to earn both the division and a playoff spot. Should the Ravens win, their playoff hopes are over. The thing is, the Browns CAN beat the Ravens. They have been red hot as of late, and if they were to go into the off season beating the Ravens. Wow, that would be a big momentum boost going into next year.
(4-11) Oakland Raiders v (11-4) Kansas City Chiefs
This game may look lopsided on paper, and probably could be on the scoreboard, but the Raiders could steal one. You know the Chiefs are going to want to put this game away as soon as possible, to get their starters out, but that pressing could open them up to mistakes. Mistakes can lead to frustrations, playing out of their element, and pressing to get that big play, which could lead to more mistakes and an upset. The Raiders closed out their (possible) last home game in Oakland with a win, they could now up that by closing out the season with an upset win over the Chiefs.
(11-4) Chicago Bears v (8-6-1) Minnesota Vikings
Given that these two teams will likely play each other next week, one would have to wonder if they would not want to tip their hat. The victor of this game will not change the playoff picture for Chicago, but it could for Minnesota. Philly will be needing a Vikings lost to get a shot at the last slot. Question for the Bears would be whether to rest their starters and prep for the Vikings next week, or play hard to host the Eagles?
(6-9) Cincinnati Bengals v (8-6-1) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers put themselves in this hole, and they will have to play their way out. That slide of losses to teams they should have (easily) beaten led them here. And now they are having to beg for help to stay alive. They need to beat the Bengals and have the Brown beat the Ravens. Fans will have one eye on this game and the other eye on the Browns-Ravens game.
(8-7) Philadelphia Eagles v (7-8) Washington Redskins
The Eagles need the Bears to “Bear up”. Thanks to a game winning field goal last week against the Texans, the Eagles still have a chance. And on paper, this is the best case scenario to get them in, as the Bears should beat the Vikings. Thing is the Bears do not have anything to play for this week, and may very well rest their stars. If the Vikings win. No matter what the Eagles do against the Redskins, they are done.
(11-4) Los Angeles Chargers v (6-9) Denver Broncos
The Chargers could very well take the #1 seed. If they beat the Broncos, and have the Pats and Chiefs lose, they would be looking at home field throughout the playoffs. Now that is a lot of “ifs”, but the scenario is there. Even if they ignore what the Pats do, if the Chargers handle business, and the Raiders pull off a miracle, the Chargers will be the AFC East champs.
(4-11) San Francisco 49ers v (12-3) Los Angeles Rams
With New Orleans clinching home-field last week, the Rams may rest their stars this game. With a few players being banged up, they do not need to risk further damage just to win this game. For the niners, this game is all or nothing, but the Rams have more to play for. Win or lose, the Rams are still going to the playoffs and the niners are still going home.
(3-12) Arizona Cardinals v (9-6) Seattle Seahawks
Another NFC West matchup that will not change either team’s outcome. The Seahawks have a wild card game to get ready for, and a victory against the Cardinals will not change much for them. I would rest my starters here and just go into the playoffs healthy. If they draw the Cowboys, they will need to be at their best, especially Russell Wilson. They will be relying on his scrambling ability to open up plays against that Dallas defense.
Sunday Night Game: (9-6) Indianapolis Colts v (9-6) Tennessee Titans
This game was flexed to the Sunday night game, and for good reason. For one, this game in itself is practically a playoff game. The loser continues on while the loser goes home. So this is a great appetizer for the playoffs. And depending on the outcome of the Jacksonville-Texans game, this game could decide the AFC South Division winner. So with so much on the line, this being a division rivalry game, this is a game that is prime time worthy.