By Brent “The Hawk” Walker
Six of the twelve playoff spots are now locked in as we enter the final two weeks of the regular season. A slight improvement over the 3 straight 9-7 records to 10-6 puts me at 125-99 for the year. Should be an interesting week as several teams are fighting for their playoff lives.
Saturday Night Football
Washington Redskins (7-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-8) (-3.0)
Say what you will about how you feel about teams in poor divisions with bad records hosting a playoff game, but the rules are the rules, which means this game is HUGE for these teams. The NFC East title could very well be decided by the victor here. Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is starting to play a little more consistent and overall the Redskins just seemed to be more balanced.
Indianapolis Colts (6-8) at Miami Dolphins (5-9) (-2.5)
So much for my preseason pick of the Colts winning the AFC. It might have been different if Andrew Luck didn’t go down in week 9. Luck is ruled out this week too and Dan Campbell is still going to try to make a case that he should be Miami’s head coach next year so he will have his guys ready to go.
Blaine Gabbert is trying to make a case that he should be the 49ers next starting QB, but a 3 interception performance against the Bengals last week won’t help his cause.
Cleveland Browns (3-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-5) (-12.0)
Kansas City was 1-5 to start this year and now they could overtake the Broncos in the division after rattling off 8 straight wins. I know I bring this up just about every week, but I can’t talk about it enough because I’ve never seen anything like it before.
They have a real gem in rookie Marcus Peters too, the former Washington Huskies standout now has 7 interceptions which is second only to the Bengals Reggie Nelson’s 8.
Going to be another long night fo Johnny Football.
Houston Texans (7-7) at Tennessee Titans (3-11)
Houston is now in the driver’s seat for the AFC South title after defeating the Colts and goes up against a Titans team that just lost Marcus Mariota for the year with an MCL sprain. This means Zach Mettenberger will get the start and face off against the monster that is J.J Watt, who trolled him hard last year by taking a fake “selfie” after a sack. This was in reference to Mettenberger’s habit of taking pregame selfies and posting them on the social media.
Carolina Panthers (14-0) at Atlanta Falcons (7-7) (+7.0)
After narrowly escaping with a 38-35 win against the Giants last week and with games against the Falcons and Buccaneers left, it seems all but certain that the Panthers will finish the regular season undefeated.
Hard to believe that a team that lost their best receiver Kelvin Benjamin before the year started was able to do that this year. They have had a lot of really close calls during that streak so I still say the win streak ends in the playoffs.
New England Cheaters (12-2) at New York Jets (9-5) (+3.0)
New England has a first round bye all locked up and despite an impressive 9-5 record thus far the Jets are still on the outside looking in at a playoff spot because the red hot Chiefs and Steelers have the tiebreaker over them. I think this will be the difference and the Jets will get it done.
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) at Baltimore Ravens (4-10) (+10.0)
This is the best rivalry in football. Has been for a long time. From 2009-2014 they played each other 11 times and 9 of them were decided by 3 points or less. Which is why watching the Steelers mop the floor with them this week is going be very strange.
It doesn’t look like anyone can stop this Steelers offense and the Ravens defense hasn’t stopped anyone all year. Pittsburgh’s defense hasn’t looked a whole lot better than the Ravens’ but Baltimore’s offense is so decimated by injuries it won’t matter. I fully expect a 30+ point beatdown.
Dallas Cowboys (4-10) at Buffalo Bills (6-8) (-6.0) (42.5 O/U)
It looks like former Boise State Bronco Kellen Moore will get the start for the Cowboys as the quarterback carousel in Dallas continues. Moore will be the 4th Cowboys quarterback to start a game this season and wants to prove he can play in this league. That could be the difference against a Bills team that has underachieved all year.
Chicago Bears (5-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) (-3.0) (45.5 O/U)
Two inconsistent teams that have no shot of going to the playoffs will face off here. coin flip
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9) at New Orleans Saints (5-9) (-3.5) (52.0 O/U)
Despite being 5-9 with only two weeks left, the Jaguars still have not been eliminated from playoff contention and still have something to play for. It would require them to win their final two games and for the Colts and Texans to lose their final two games but I have seen a lot stranger things than that happen in the NFL before.
Green Bay Packers (10-4) at Arizona Cardinals (12-2) (-4.5) (49.5 O/U)
For the first time in franchise history the Cardinals have won 12 games and for the first time since 2009 have won the NFC West.
Green Bay is starting to get back on track with a 3 game winning streak. I suspect that the winner here will get a 2 seed and first round bye, and I expect it to be the Cardinals, because the team is more complete and balanced than the Packers.
St Louis Rams (6-8) at Seattle Seahawks (9-5) (-13.5) (40.5 O/U)
Seattle clinched a playoff berth with a win against the Browns last week, which also officially eliminated the Rams. It’s no secret that the Seahawks have struggled mightily against the Rams the last 5 years or so. In fact I am convinced that Rams head coach Jeff Fisher would be perfectly happy with a 2-14 season if those two wins were against the Seahawks.
It seems like the same story every year. Seattle goes to St. Louis early in the season and narrowly loses because something weird happens. This year a Seahawks defender tripped in the final couple minutes which lead to the Rams tying the game and taking it to overtime where they won. Last year it was because of a game changing fake out punt and a late game fumble that appeared to be recovered by the Seahawks but for reasons I still don’t understand was not reviewed. The year before it was a fake field goal that led to a game changing TD and the year before if I remember correctly it was because Greg Zuerlein the Rams damn kicker nailed like 3 field goal between 50 and 60 yards.
Despite those losses the Seahawks always still makes it to the playoffs, while the Rams narrowly miss it, and Seattle always seems to play them at home late in the year and win. I don’t expect that to change here as Russell Wilson continues to put up video game like numbers. He now has 19 TDs in the last 5 games with no interceptions.
St. Louis will play them tough at first because they always do but Seattle will pull away and most likely still cover the massive 13.5 pt spread.
Sunday Night Football
New York Giants (6-8) at Minnesota Vikings (9-5) (-5.5) (45.5 O/U)
The Giants overcame a 35-7 deficit against the Panthers last week and tied it up late, but came up just short of ending the Panthers undefeated season when Cam Newton lead his team into field goal range in the final 2 minutes for a 38-35 victory.
Despite being one of the better games of the year all anyone is talking about is Giants receiver Odell Beckham and Panthers cornerback Josh Norman who were going at it all game. Looked more like a wrestling match than a football game at times between those two. Eventually it lead to Beckham taking a cheap shot at Norman’s head away from the ball and 3 Beckham unnecessary roughness calls. He has since been suspended for one game so I think Giants are probably going to lose.
Eli Manning really doesn’t have a whole lot of other weapons and the Vikings will clinch a playoff spot with a win.
Cincinnati Bengals (11-3) at Denver Broncos (10-4) (-3.5) (40.5 O/U)
Despite their 7-0 start the Broncos could still miss the playoffs completely, but a win here and they would overtake the Bengals in the 2 seed. Denver’s number 1 defense struggled to stop the Steelers last week (like every other team in the league) but they won’t have that same problem against a backup QB in A.J McCarron this week.