Five observations on the final weekend of the NFL season:
1. The top two seeds in the NFC go into the playoffs with 13-3 records and backup quarterbacks, but that is the only thing the top seeded Eagles and second seeded Vikings have in common. The Eagles have to be worried if they can win with Nick Foles at quarterback. He only played a quarter in the team’s ugly 6-0 loss to Dallas and was only four of 11 for 39 yards and pick. Meanwhile Case Keenum played most of the season, going 11-3. The Vikings seem the better bet in the playoffs with Keenum than the Eagles are with Foles. The Vikings also could become the first team to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium.
2. The Patriots nailed down the top seed with a 26-6 victory over the Jets. They finished at 13-3 with an 11-1 record after a 2-2 start. They figure to play the Steelers in the AFC title game and will be favored at home. Assuming they make the Super Bowl, their quest for a sixth Super Bowl victory will be more challenging because the NFC appears to be the better conference. What could change everything is if Tom Brady gets injured because their backup is Brian Hoyer.
3. Steeler coach Mike Tomlin rested key starters against the Browns, figuring the game was meaningless because the Patriots figured to beat the Jets. The Patriots did and the Steelers got the meaningless win with a 28-24 victory over the hapless Browns, the second team to go 0-16 and the first to go 1-31 over two seasons.
4. The window seems to be closed for the Seahawks, who lost their finale to the Cardinals, 26-24, and failed to make the playoffs. The Seahawks were a yard away from back to back Super Bowl victories three years ago and you know what happened. They haven’t been back since and it is rebuilding time. Coach Pete Carroll said he is too young to retire so he will have the task of heading the rebuilding program.
5. Jimmy Garoppolo finished the season 5-0 by leading the 49ers to a 34-13 victory over the Rams, who rested several starters. He has created buzz for a franchise that was going for the top pick when he took over. Getting him for a second round pick was a steal. Now the 49ers will see if he can pick up where he left off next year.