NFL Week 18 in review

The NFL’s last weekend of the regular season looked like it might be a lackluster weekend because so many teams had already clinched playoff spots or were heavily favored to clinch them.

But things changed when Jacksonville stunned the Colts, who would have made the playoffs if they had won.

Pittsburgh then stayed alive with a 16-13 overtime victory over the Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger completed a fourth-and-nine pass to keep the field-goal drive alive. If he missed it, it probably would have been the last pass of his career since a tie would have knocked both the Steelers and Ravens out.

So the Steelers victory ended the playoff hopes of both the Colts and Ravens, and all the Steelers needed was the Raiders and Chargers not to play for a tie for them to make it.

The Steelers’ chances seemed good when the Raiders took a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter. Then the Chargers rallied for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion to send the game into overtime.

And the game remained tied as the teams traded field goals, the game was tied in the final minutes. Suddenly the Steelers looked like they could get knocked out by a tie.

Then things changed again. On the Raiders final drive, they appeared to be running out the clock to take the tie. They had a third-and-four at the Chargers 39 when the Chargers called timeout with 38 seconds left.

It may have been the most controversial move of the season after Josh Jacobs ran for 10 yards to put the Raiders in good field goal territory. They ran the clock down and Daniel Carlson kicked game-winner on the final play.

The Chargers said they called a timeout to get their run defense in but the real mistake by the Chargers was giving up the 10-yard run. If they had stuffed the Raiders, the Raiders probably would have punted and the game would have ended in a tie and both teams would be in the playoffs.

Instead, the Raiders and Steelers were in as the Chargers joined the Colts and Ravens on the outside looking in.

The Ravens started out 8-1 and lost their last six, five by a total of eight points. Twice coach John Harbaugh went for two at the end of games and the Ravens didn’t convert and lost both games.

Another surprise was San Francisco’s win over the Rams that knocked the Saints out of the playoffs and gave the 49ers a wild card berth. The Rams had already clinched the division title but are now the fourth seed.

Tennessee, as expected, clinched the top seed by beating the Texans and Buffalo clinched AFC East by beating the Jets. That relegated New England to a wild card spot although they lost to Miami anyway and limped into the playoffs, losing three of last four.

Miami fired Coach Brian Flores despite the victory. They were eliminated last week. He became the first coach to win seven in a row after losing seven in a row and wound up winning eight of his last nine games and was still fired.

Green Bay had clinched a bye and lost a meaningless game to Detroit and that cost the Lions the No. 1 pick since the Jaguars clinched it despite the win over Indianapolis.

So the Packers and Titans will be home this weekend enjoy a bye while the other six division winners will host the six wild card teams. Now the question is whether any of the six wild card teams, including the two seventh seeds – Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

They wouldn’t be in the postseason if they had added a seventh team in each conference to the playoffs. They get a chance to show they deserved to be playoff teams.

Previewing NFL Week 18

The NFL added a 17th game this year, but it didn’t add much drama to the final weekend of the season.

The only game where the winner makes the playoffs and the loser goes home is the Sunday night game between the Chargers and Raiders.

In the unlikely event that Jacksonville would upset the Colts, they could both get in with a tie. The game was shifted to Sunday night because it has the most at stake.

The Colts can not only clinch a wild card spot with a win in Jacksonville, but they would eliminate the Pittsburgh-Baltimore winner.

Green Bay has already clinched the top seed in the NFC and Tennessee can clinch top seed in AFC by beating Houston.

Buffalo is expected to clinch the AFC East title with a victory over the Jets. If the Jets pulled off an upset, the Patriots can win the division with a win at Miami. If Buffalo wins, the Patriots get a wild card spot.

The Rams can clinch the NFC West by beating the 49ers. If Rams lose, Arizona can win the division by beating Seattle. If 49ers lose to Rams, New Orleans can win the final NFC wild card spot by beating Atlanta.

So if the favorites all win, Buffalo wins the AFC East, the Rams win NFC West, and the Colts get and Saints get wild card spots.

And winner of the Chargers-Raiders game gets a wild card spot.That means unless there are some upsets, there won’t be much drama in the last weekend of the season.

NFL Week 17 in review

The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC now goes through Green Bay.

The Packers clinched the top seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record with the easy win over Minnesota, which was playing without Kirk Cousins. He was sidelined by a positive Covid test.

It is the third year in a row the Packers have gone 13-3 although this year they have one game left that is meaningless for them because the NFL is now playing a 17-game schedule.

But having home playoff games is no guarantee of success for the Packers. They are only 7-6 in their last 13 home playoff games since 2002.

And they have lost the conference title game two years in a row, including last year’s home loss to Tampa Bay. Two years ago they lost the title game at San Francisco.

Five more NFC teams – Dallas, Tampa Bay, Rams, Cardinals and Eagles – have clinched playoff spots. Dallas was the only one of the five teams to lose as the Cowboys lost to Arizona, which broke a three-game losing streak.

The Rams at least have a wild card spot and can win the division by beating the 49ers or if the Cardinals lose to the Seahawks. If Rams lose and Cardinals win, the Cardinals will win the division. And Rams will be a wild card team.

The 49ers and Saints are vying for the last wild card spot. The 49ers get it if they beat the Rams. If they lose to the Rams, the Saints can grab the spot by beating the Falcons.

There was a change at the top of the AFC when Tennessee moved into the No. 1 seed by ending the Dolphins’ seven game winning streak while the Chiefs were upset by Cincinnati. Tennessee can now clinch the No 1 seed by beating Houston in its finale. The bye is especially important for the Titans because it gives Derrick Henry another week to heal.

The Bills, Patriots, Chiefs and Bengals have also clinched playoff spots and the Colts figure to get a wild card spot by beating the Jaguars.

That would leave the Chargers and Raiders – two old rivals with new homes in recent years – fighting for the last spot. If the Jaguars pull the upset of the year and beat the Colts, the Chargers and Raiders could both get in by playing to a tie. That is also unlikely.

Previewing NFL Week 17

NFL teams are now going down the home stretch … playoff spots – six in the AFC – are still up for grabs going into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Kansas City, which plays Cincinnati in the early game on CBS Sunday, is the only AFC team to clinch a division title. The Chiefs at 11-4 are only playing for the top seed while Cincinnati is playing for a division title or a playoff spot if they don’t win the AFC North.

The game will match Patrick Mahomes vs. Joe Burrow in what is likely to be only the first of many matchups they will play over the coming years. They could play again in the playoffs this year.

The Bengals are 9-6 with a lead over the 8-7 Ravens, who host the Rams, and the 7-7-1 Steelers, who host the 7-8 Browns Monday night in what is likely to be Ben Roethlisberger last home game.

Buffalo and New England are 9-6 in a tie for the AFC East lead and both are expected to win with the Bills hosting Atlanta and the Patriots hosting Jacksonville. Since the Bills have the tie-breaker, they clinch the division by winning their last two against the Falcons and Jets. The Patriots would then be the wild card team.

Tennessee at 10-5 has a one-game lead over the 9-6 Colts in the AFC South with the Titans hosting Miami and the Colts hosting Las Vegas. Miami is at 8-7 with seven wins in a row. The Raiders are also at 8-7. Neither can afford another loss if they are to stay in the playoff hunt.

The Chargers at 8-6 are fighting for wild card when the host Denver.

The NFC picture is a big clearer with five teams in the playoffs. Three of them – the Packers, Cowboys and Bucs– have clinched division titles and two more – Rams and Cardinals – have clinched playoff spots. One will win the division title and the other will be the wild card team.

The Rams have a one-game lead and play the Ravens while the Cardinals have a tougher task against Dallas.

San Francisco and Philadelphia are both 8-7 and have the inside track on the final two wild card spots. The Eagles go to Washington and San Francisco hosts Houston so they should both with win.

NFL Week 16 in review

Who are the real Buffalo Bills?

Are they the team that started off 4-1 and then fell to 8-6 including losses to Jacksonville and a home loss to New England in the wind when the Patriots threw just three passes?

Or are they the team that crushed New England last Sunday and didn’t have to punt once. That has never happened to a Bill Belichick team.

The Bills are now tied for first place in the AFC East with New England but they have the tie breaker and can win the division title by beating the Falcons and Jets in their final two regular season games.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs clinched the AFC West title for the sixth consecutive year with a 36-10 rout of Pittsburgh and are 11-4 with the top seed in the AFC. The Chiefs are aiming for their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

The Steelers, meanwhile, fell to 7-7-1 and are in full rebuilding mode. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may have reached the end of the line.

Cincinnati took a one-game lead over the Ravens at 9-6 in the AFC North as Joe Burrow passed for 525 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-21 over the Ravens. They made no apologies for continuing to throw with a big lead. We find out how good the Bengals are when they take on the Chiefs.

The Ravens are still in the playoff hunt at 8-7 but those two costly decisions to go for two instead of playing for overtime may come back to haunt them.

The Chargers fell to 8-7 with a stunning loss to the Texans and now face two division games against 8-7 Las Vegas and 7-8 Denver to finish the season.

The Raiders beat the Broncos 17-13 to stay in the wild-card race, although Denver hasn’t been eliminated. Kansas City is the only AFC team to clinch a playoff spot but the Bills, Bengals, Titans, Colts and Patriots are in good position to make it.

That just leaves one spot likely open with the Chargers, Raiders and Dolphins all at 8-7. The Dolphins are the first team to win seven in a row after losing seven in a row.

Green Bay has the top seed in the NFC at 12-3 while four other NFC teams — Cowboys, Bucs, Rams and Cardinals — have clinched playoff spots. The Cardinals clinched despite a loss to the Colts.

The 49ers and Eagles, both 8-7, have the inside track on the final two spots while three 7-8 teams –Falcons, Saints and Vikings — have their playoff hopes hanging by a thread. The 49ers have the Texans and Rams left, while the Eagles have Washington and Dallas.