Previewing NFL Week 17

The playoff picture will become a bit clearer this week, but at least one division title will still up be for grabs in the final weekend of the season in two weeks..

Regardless of how the Titans, who have lost five in a row, and the Jaguars do against the Cowboys and Texans this week, their game in the final weekend of the season will decide the AFC South.

Tampa Bay can clinch the NFC South by beating Carolina although the 6-9 Panthers could still win it with an 8-9 record by beating the Bucs and Saints in their final two games. A Tampa Bay victory would put Tom Brady back in the playoffs after his team struggled much of the year.

Buffalo, Kansas City have clinched division titles in the AFC while Cincinnati is a game ahead of Baltimore in the AFC North but both teams have clinched playoffs spots. Philadelphia, Minnesota and San Francisco have clinched NFC division titles. 

The 8-6-1 Giants can clinch a wild card spot by beating the hapless Colts. Coach Jeff Saturday fell to 1-5 when he started Nick Foles, who was rusty after seeing little action the last two years and threw three picks in a loss to the Chargers. The 7-7-1 Commanders can keep the lead in the battle for the final wild card spot by beating the Browns, who are eliminated at 6-9. The Commanders need to win their last two against the Browns and Cowboys to clinch a playoff berth.

The key game of the weekend is the Monday night game with the 12-3 Bills at the 11-4 Bengals. The Bills need a victory over the Bengals to keep its tie break lead over 12-3 Kansas City in the battle for the top seed. The Bengals need a victory to keep a game ahead of the Ravens, who play the Steelers, in the fight for the AFC North Division title. A Bengals victory would also put them in play to get the top seed.The 7-8 Steelers are still alive in the playoff race but are a longshot because of theri 3-7 conference record. 

One of the more interesting games pits the sagging 8-7 Dolphins against the 7-8 Patriots. The Dolphins can clinch a playoff berth with a victory but the Dolphins will probably be going with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback because Tua Tagovailoa is in the concussion program. The Patriots make the playoffs if they beat Miami and Buffalo in their last two regular season games.

The Chiefs should have an easy game against the Broncos, who fired Coach Nathaniel Hackett after they were routed by the Rams.

The Jets meet the Seahawks with both teams at 7-8fighting for a wild card spot in their respective conferences.

The surging 11-4 49ers figure to eliminate the 6-9 Raiders.

Philadelphia can clinch the top seed in the NFC by beating the Saints.

The Vikings have wrapped up the division title with a 12-3 mark but they have 11 one score victories and the skeptics wonder if they are for real. They are actually underdogs against the 7-8 Packers, who are still alive in the wild card race.

The 7-8 Lions stumbled against Carolina last week but hope to stay alive by beating the Bears.

Only one game — Cardinals at the Falcons – will pit two teams that are already eliminated.

NFL Week 16 in review

Nine down, five to go.

That’s the way the playoff picture looks after the Los Angeles Chargers became the ninth team to clinch a playoff spot Monday night when they beat the Indianapolis Colts to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and the first time in the Justin Herbert era.

Five teams are now guaranteed spots in the AFC playoffs. The sixth spot will go to the winner of the AFC South, which will decided in the final weekend of the season when the Jaguars play the Titans. Both teams are 7-8.

The seventh spot will go to the final wild card team. The Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Raiders and Steelers are all fighting for that spot but Miami suffered a blow when Tua Tagovailoa suffered his third concussion of the season. His status is listed as uncertain for the Patriots game but it is difficult to believe the Dolphins will risk his health by putting him back on the field so their playoff hopes are in the hands of Teddy Bridgewater.

Three teams — Buffalo, Kansas City and Cincinnati — are all battling for the top seed. Buffalo can clinch by winning its final two games Cincinnati and Baltimore are still battling for the AFC North title. One will win it and the other will be a wild team. The Bengals are currently 11-4 while the Ravens are 10-5. The Ravens can winthe division but are out of the winning for the top seed. Buffalo and Kansas City have clinched division spots.

In the NFC, Philadelphia failed to clinch the top seed when it lost to Dallas, but still needs to win only one of its last two games to wrap it up and will be favored to do it against the Saints in their next game.

Minnesota and San Francisco have clinched division titles and Tampa Bay can clinch by beating the 6-9 Panthers. The Panthers can still win the division if they beat the Bucs and Saints in their last two games. The Panthers ran for 320 yards to beat the Lions to stay alive.

Dallas has clinched one wild card spot but the other two are up for grabs. The Giants at 8-6-1 and the Commanders at 7-7-1 currently have the two spots but the 7-8 Packers, Lions and Seahawks and the 6-9 Panthers and Saints are still alive.

The Rams-Broncos game was not expected to be significant since both teams were eliminated but when the Broncos were routed 51-14, the new owners had seen enough and fired Nathanial Hackett.

Previewing NFL Week 16

There was a time the NFL didn’t play on Christmas Day.

Times are changing. The NFL has a tripleheader scheduled for Christmas Day but the matchups aren’t very good.

Green Bay plays at Miami on Fox at 1 p.m. while Denver is at the Rams at 4:30 on CBS and the Bucs are at Arizona on NBC Sunday night.

Three of those teams – Denver, the Rams and Arizona –have been eliminated and Green Bay has a slim wild card spot at 6-8 so the games aren’t compelling.

The Christmas Eve late game Saturday night has the Raiders at Pittsburgh the day after the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception on the NFL network.

It will now be a tribute to Franco Harris, who snared the ball inches off the ground and ran for the touchdown. He died Wednesday. The Steelers had already planned to retire his number 32 at the game.

The Thursday night Amazon Prime game is features the struggling Jets against the surging Jaguars, who can win the division if they win their final three games.

The Monday night game pits the Chargers against the Colts, who have benched Matt Ryan a second time and will start Nick Foles.

CBS main single game Sunday is Cincinnati at New England. In the other CBS early games, Buffalo, which needs a win to stay on top in the battle for the top seed, goes to Chicago, Houston goes to Tennessee, which will start rookie  Willis Malik because Ryan Tannenhill is injured,  and New Orleans is at Cleveland.

In the late game, Washington is at San Francisco. Washington is fighting for a wild card spot while the 49ershave clinched their division.

The Fox leading early game has Seattle, trying for a wild card spot, going to Kansas City, which is still trying to get the top seed. The other three are the Giants at Baltimore and Detroit at Carolina. 

Their only late game has Philadelphia going to Dallas, a game that has lost much of its significance since Philadelphia needs to win only one of its late three to get the top seed and Dallas has clinched a wild card spot.

NFL Week 15 in review

Don’t touch that dial.

That seemed to be the message from the NFL last weekend as it showed that no lead is ever safe.

The Minnesota Vikings came back from a 33 point deficit to beat the Colts in the biggest comeback ever, overshadowing the Jaguars and Bengals both coming back from 17 point deficits to beat the Cowboys and the Bucs.

And the Bills made an interesting move to beat the Dolphins and clinch a playoff spot as time expired. Instead of trying to score a touchdown with about 30 seconds left and giving Miami time for a comeback, they let the clock run down before Tyler Bass kicked a field goal to win it.

The Bills took the chance he would make it in a snowstorm and he did. The Bills obviously remembered their playoff loss last year to the Chiefs when they scored to take the lead with 13 seconds left in regulation and lost in overtime.

And then there was the wild finish to the Raider-Patriot game.

Despite all that drama, there isn’t a lot of drama involving the race for the top playoff spots.

The Eagles victory over the Bears combined with Dallas loss to Jacksonville means the Eagles only have to win one of their last three to clinch the top seed. They have already clinched a playoff spot. So their Christmas Eve game with the Cowboys doesn’t have much at stake for either team. Despite their loss the Jaguars, the Cowboys clinched a wild card spot.

The Vikings and 49ers have clinched division titles so the Eagles, Cowboys, Vikings and 49ers are all in and one of them figures to be in the Super Bowl. The other three spots will be window dressing.

In the NFC South, for example, the Bucs lead at 6-8 while the other three teams are 5-9. The Giants and Commanders currently have the sixth and seventh spots at 8-5-1 and 7-6-1. The Lions and Seahawks both have a shot at the final spot. They are 7-7. 

The team with the best chance of stopping the Eagles is the 49ers, who may have the best team. But they have a rookie at quarterback in Brock Purdy, who has played d well but it is difficult to imagine a rookie drafted on the seventh round getting to the Super Bowl. 

In the AFC, only two teams – Buffalo and Kansas City – have clinched a playoff spot. They are both 11-3 after the Chiefs had to go to overtime to beat the Texans. Buffalo has the tie-break because they beat the Chiefs. The two teams figure to meet in the AFC title game.

The Bengals, attempting to become only the second Super Bowl loser to win it the following year since 1972, are the one team that could have a shot to upend one of the top two after their comeback against the Bucs. they are 10-4 and have a game lead in the AFC North on the 9-5 Ravens, who could wind up as a wild card team.

The Chargers and Dolphins figure to get wild card spots. They’re both 8-6 and currently have the sixth and seventh spots.

Tennessee at 7-7 and the Jaguars are 6-8 are likely headed towards playing for the division title in the season finale. At one point the Titans were 7-3 and the Jaguars were 3-7 but the Titans are struggling while the Jaguars are surging.

Only five teams – Texans, Bears, Browns, Rams and Arizona – have been eliminated with five games left. The Rams suffered the worst Super Bowl hangover ever after winning it last year.

Jags finally playing meaningful December games

The Jaguars will play their biggest game in four or five years Sunday when they host the Dallas Cowboys for the first time in 16 years.

Not since their 2017 playoff game against the Bills or the 2018 regular-season game against the Patriots has a game had so much anticipation and buzz for the Jaguars.

But the interesting thing is that it is not the only important game for the Jaguars on Sunday.

Even if they beat the Cowboys, they need the Titans to lose to the Chargers on Sunday.

A Jaguars win and a Titans loss would leave the Jaguars at 6-8 and the Titans at 7-7. That would mean if the Jaguars beat the Jets and Texans and Titans beat Houston and lose to Dallas, both teams would be 8-8 and they would play for the division title in the season finale.

Shades of 1999.

Surprisingly enough, the Jaguars could lose to the Cowboys and beat the Jets and Houston and if the Titans lose to the Chargers and Cowboys and beat Houston, the two teams would still play for the division title.

The Titans would be 8-8 and the Jaguars 7-9 and if the Jaguars won they would win the division title at 8-9 because they would have the tiebreaker by sweeping the Titans.

But if the Titans beat the Chargers and the Jaguars lose to the Cowboys, the Titans would be 8-6 and the Jaguars 5-9. The Titans would then win the division by beating the Texans. Either way, the important thing is the Jaguars are playing meaningful games in December.

And the bottom line is that win or lose against the Cowboys, the Jaguars focus will turn to the Tennessee-San Diego game.