So this is it. The final week of the season. Where does the time go? No Matter, we are now entering the best time of the year; play-off territory, and it starts tonight. The AFC is wrapped up but there are still the important matter of SEEDINGS to be dealt with. For now though the focus is NFC.
SKY SPORTS, 6PM
CHICAGO BEARS (9-6) @ DETROIT LIONS (4-11)
Pretty simple this one, Bears have to win and hope the Vikings fall. The Lions are smarting from a hugely frustrating season but I can't imagine them laying back and letting their division rival Bears come into their house and walking it. That said, Calvin Megatron Johnson has already broken Gerry Rice's receiving yard season record, so it's not like the Lions have much to play for. (CHI by 4-5)
SKY SPORTS, 9:25PM
GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-4) @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS (9-6)
Now this should be fun. Packers may have the NFC North and thus playoffs in the bag, but they are still to wrap up the number 2 seed and with it a first round bye. Either San Francisco or Seattle could still steal it from them should they slip up in Twin Cities today. And it could be possible too. The Vikes have been great this year, after saving their season from the brink of extinction and now controlling their own destiny for the 6th spot going into the last game of the season. It's fairly simple, win and the Vikes are in. Lose and (probably) go home as at least three other teams are hoping. It will be tough seeing as the Packers have reasons to play, but they are also a very banged up team and perhaps cannot afford any more going into the play-offs. Get through this though and they get a whole week to rest those sore ones. A lot will depend on whether A.P (who is chasing Eric Dickerson's season rushing record, but needs a particularly monster day of 200 yards, which though not impossible is still a big ask. But also on the Vikings pass rush, if they can get to Rodgers early and often, they could have a great day. (Vikes by 3)
CHANNEL 4, 1:20AM
DALLAS COWBOYS (8-7) @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS (9-6)
Well this is it, it all boils down to this. Turns out despite the Cowboys losing to the Saints at home last year they can still get in on conference record if they can just beat their oldest rivals away from home. The Redskins are a much better team, at home, and the Cowboys have a phenomenal record at buckling under pressure at the worst possible moments, but crazier things have happened. The Cowboys have had a strange season which has seen them face certain death a couple times already, and yet, here they are. It would be a shame to see the Redskins lose out at this point (however they can still get the 6th seed if BOTH Chicago and Minnie lose) as they've been thoroughly entertaining to watch and played with a lot of heart under RG3 (also because the Cowboys would get in at their expense, and no one wants that). But honestly, let the best team win tonight, this is the second (after Cincy eliminating Pittsburgh) playoff game of the season. (WAS by 4-5)
Other NFC Notables:
The New York Giants are alive still, just. They need to beat the faltering but still dangerous (and more importantly hated) Eagles and then pray a whole load of results go their way. Detroit, Green Bay and Washington won't hear bigger cheers from New York like this again.
San Francisco and Seattle are still battling a week later. Both could take a number 2 seed if Green Bay lose, and whoever has the better day takes home the NFC West title. San Fran are still in the lead despite last week, but would need to fall to the extinct Arizona Cardinals at home to lose the division. Not likely, particularly when there's a bye-week to be playing for, but Seattle could do worse than beat St. Louis and hope the other two results go their way.
As far as the AFC goes, playoff teams are decided, with an almost identical line-up last year, with Andrew Luck's Colts replacing a disappointing Pittsburgh Steelers. So let's talk seedings and projections. The four games involving these 6 teams are:
Houston (12-3) @ Indianapolis (10-5) - After a hugely disappointing end to the regular season, Houston are in danger of missing a bye-week, let alone the home-field advantage they had all but sealed a couple weeks ago. The Colts are ending at number 5 whatever happens today, and will probably looking to rest some of their thin squad, but uprooting their division rivals could be mighty tempting as they could end up third and tired before a potential rematch in a couple weeks time. (HOU by 3)
Kansas City (2-13) @ Denver (12-3) - Denver just need to beat one of the two teams "competing" for the number one draft pick (the other being Jacksonville who travel to Tennessee, but neither have been throwing games which is nice to see) to secure a bye week. And should Houston lose to Indy, they would secure home-field advantage too. Intriguing but I'm sure Denver won't stretch themselves too far. (Den by 7)
Miami (7-8) @ New England (11-4) - Miami could end on a .500 record, which would be some achievement for a team of perceived no-hopers. New England could still see the AFC play-offs run through Foxborough with a win (and Houston, Denver loss) but given Denver's match-up is not that likely. New England have announced Gronk will be back for this one however, it just depends how seriously they take today. (NE by 3)
Baltimore (10-5) @ Cincinnati (9-6) - Here's a strange one. Neither team has much to play for here but if Baltimore win and Miami did happen to beat New England, then these two would meet again this time next week in Baltimore. Cincy would be slightly more preferable than the Colts in the divisional round, but at home Bmore should be able to deal with either of them (likewise New England, Denver but maybe not Houston). Hard to predict but will go with Baltimore making a statement (by 4-5).
So things probably will stay as they are, but Houston could end up playing Cincy in a re-match of last years divisional round game. Food for thought.
Sad to see the season go?