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.

Previewing NFL Week 16

The NFL’s premiere attraction of this holiday weekend won’t be played in primetime.

The 9-5 Patriots and the 8-6 Bills will battle for control of the AFC East at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Although it will be shown to much of the country, there will be three other games being shown on CBS at the same time including the Ravens at Cincinnati. Both teams are 8-6, and the winner will take the lead in the AFC North at 9-6.

The other two games being played at the same time are the Chargers at Houston and the Jaguars at the Jets.

The 8-6 Chargers, who trail the 10-4 Chiefs by two games, need a victory to stay in the wild-card race.

The significance of the Pats-Bills game is that a Pats victory would give them a two-game lead over the Bills with two left and would likely mean they will win the division and resume their dominance of the division without Tom Brady. Since the Patriots play the Jaguars next week, it is almost a certainty that they will win the division if they beat the Bills.

Kansas City and Green Bay, currently the top two seeds, will both be home and favored. The Packers host Cleveland on Christmas afternoon and the Chiefs host Pittsburgh Sunday.

Tennessee remained on top of the AFC South by rallying to beat San Francisco Thursday night. The Titans are 10-5 with a game lead over the Colts, who play at Arizona Christmas night. They are 8-6 and can remain a game behind the Titans.

The AFC wild card race is wide open with only three of the 16 teams having losing records going in the Christmas games. They are the Jaguars, Jets and Texans.

Dallas, which clinched the NFC East title Thursday night, hosts Washington Sunday night. The 10-4 Cowboys went into the Christmas games as one of four NFC teams with 10-4 record along with the Cardinals, Bucs and Rams. Green Bay is on top at 13-3 and those five teams are likely to make the playoffs.

The other two NFC spots are wide open with three teams at 7-7. The 7-7 Vikings face the toughest task against the 10-4 Rams. The 7-7 Eagles host the Giants and the Saints host Miami in a game in which both teams are 7-7. Miami and the Saints will play Monday night in a game that will have a playoff feel since the loser falls to 7-8. Washington goes to Dallas in the Sunday night game and the Washington team falls to 6-9 if it doesn’t pull an upset.

One factor that makes it difficult to handicap the weekend is because so many teams are losing players to Covid. That could have a big impact as teams may not know until Sunday morning which players will be available.

NFL Week 15 in review

The Green Bay Packers played the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl in Los Angeles.

Now they have a chance to meet again in the 56th Super Bowl next February in Los Angeles.

They almost had a rematch in the 55th game last year but Green Bay failed to make it when they lost to Tampa Bay in NFC title game.

This year with three games left, the Packers and the Chiefs are the two top seeds. Three more wins and they are in.

And the top seed is more important this year because in the era of seven game playoff formats, only one team gets a bye.

Kansas City took over the top seed with its overtime victory over the Chargers and losses by the Patriots to the Colts and the Titans to the Steelers. The Chiefs are now 10-4 and the Titans and the Patriots are 9-5. The Chiefs have the Steelers, Bengals and Broncos in their last three games.

The Packers are now the only team with an 11-3 record in the NFL after their victory over Baltimore, which went for a two-point conversion at the end for second time in three weeks instead of kicking an extra point and going to overtime.

The Ravens didn’t convert either time and are now 8-6. Cincinnati, which beat Denver, is also at 8-6 in the division but has the tiebreaker over Baltimore. The two teams meet Sunday in Cincinnati. If the Bengals win, they can lose to Kansas City the following week and still wrap up the division title with a win in the finale over Cleveland.

There is another AFC division game in which first place is on the line. The 9-5 Patriots face the 8-6 Bills in that game.

Tennessee has a one game lead over Indianapolis, which beat the Patriots, in the AFC Central but faces a tough Thursday night game against San Francisco.

In the NFC, Dallas has a four-game lead in its division and is a game behind Green Bay in the race for the top seed. The Cowboys beat the Giants to boost their record to 10-4.

Arizona also is 10-4 after being stunned by Detroit and the Rams improved to 10-4 to tie Arizona for first place with the Tuesday night win over the Seahawks.

Tampa Bay was blanked by New Orleans but is still 10-4 and leading the division by three games over the Saints. Tampa Bay has two games left with Carolina and a game the Jets so it is likely to finish at 13-4 and have a shot at top seed if the Packers falter. The Packers finish with the Browns, Vikings and Lions so they are likely to finish 14-3.

The Packers Cowboys, Bucs, Cardinals and Rams figure to get five of the seven NFC playoff spots. San Francisco at 8-6 is likely to get the sixth slot and Eagles, who beat Washington Tuesday night, Saints and Vikings at 7-7, will battle for the final spot. Three of the four NFC West teams – Cardinals, Rams and 40ers — could get playoff spots.

The only NFC division title up for grabs is in the West where the Cardinals and Rams are 10-4.

They don’t play each other rest of the way. Cards play Colts, Cowboys and Seahawks and the Rams play the Vikings, Ravens and 49ers.