In the aftermath of the three Thanksgiving Day games, New Orleans became the first team to clinch a playoff spot. But it now appears that five of the six NFC playoff slots are set with 10-1 San Francisco, 10-2 New Orleans, 9-2 Seattle, 8-3 Green Bay and 8-3 Minnesota virtual locks.
The only question is which two wind up with wild card spots. The sixth spot goes to the NFC East winner – Dallas or Philadelphia. In the AFC, only three teams – 10-1 New England, 9-2 Baltimore and 9-3 Buffalo appear to be locks. Six teams – Houston and Kansas City at 7-4 and four 6-5 teams – Colts, Titans, Raiders and Steelers – are fighting for the final three slots.
Game of the Week (and Maybe the Season)
San Francisco goes to Baltimore in what may be a Super Bowl preview. The 49ers defense will try to stop Lamar Jackson from putting on another show.
Game of the Weak
Tampa Bay goes to Jacksonville for a battle of two 4-7 teams. The Jaguars have given up more than 200 yards rushing in three consecutive games, but that string will likely be snapped because Tampa isn’t a rushing team. The game will turn on whether Jameis Winston can avoid throwing interceptions and how the Jaguars react to reports of internal strife between the coaching staff and the front office.
What to Look For This Weekend
–If not for the 49ers-Ravens matchup, a duel between 9-2 Seattle and 8-3 Minnesota would get top billing. Both teams are fighting for division titles in their respective divisions.
–Third string quarterback Devlin Hodges replaces Mason Rudolph as the starter for the Steelers against Cleveland, but the real question about this game is whether the two teams can avoid mayhem this time in the wake of now suspended Myles Garrett hitting Rudolph with his helmet two weeks ago.
–The Colts-Titans winner can tie for first place in the AFC South if the Texans, as expected, lose to New England. The Titans play the Texans twice in the last four games while the Colts play only one more division game left against the Jaguars.
–Philadelphia is 5-6 for the second consecutive year. Last year they won four of last five to make the playoffs at 9-7 with Nick Foles at quarterback. In the wake of Dallas’ loss to Buffalo, they control their destiny and they are well positioned for a playoff run. After meeting Miami Sunday, they have two games against the Giants and one with Washington. The key is their Dec. 22 game against Dallas.