Rovin’s NFL Preview: Final Week # 17 + Playoff Scenarios
posted at 7:50 am on December 31, 2011 by Rovin
As a prelude to Ed Morrissey’s Sunday NFL Open Thread, (and a dull College Bowl line-up—so far*), I thought I’d throw out some predictions and supply some final playoff scenarios heading into this last weekend of the regular season.
National Football Conference
Playoff picture almost set, and all roads end up in Green Bay (provided they don’t get upset before the NFC Championship game). The Forty Niners can clinch the #2 seed in the NFC with a win over the Rams in Saint Louis. A Niner loss and a New Orleans win puts the Saints in the #2 spot. I predict both the Niners and the Saints will win their games on Sunday.
The last NFC playoff spot (still not decided) will be between the Cowboys and the Giants in the late game on NBC—winner takes the Division, loser goes home to wonder what might have been. Both teams have potentially explosive offenses and “shaky” defenses, with a slight edge to the Cowboys. I’ll take the Giants to win in a close game, 27-23.
Green Bay should finish 15-1 by defeating Detroit in the frozen tundra. Aaron Rogers may play only the first half when/if the Packers get out to a comfortable 20-point lead. If the Lions are with in 7 points at the half, Detroit pulls this game out in a wild finish, as the Packer’s coaching staff pulls their starters in this meaningless game.
American Football Conference
The AFC Playoff picture is a bit muddier with Denver in the driver‘s seat—win, and they clinch the Division. Denver is at home against Kyle Orton and those pesky Chiefs who ended the Packer’s perfect season two weeks ago. Ironically, Orton was released from the Broncos roster November 22nd, and the move, (saving 2.5 million), may come back to haunt them. Oakland and Cincinnati would prefer a Denver loss, yet the Bengals get the final wild card slot by just winning. Believe it or not, the Jets and the Titans still are mathematically “in the chase” for the final wild card spot, but they’ll need a lot of help.
Finally, the Ravens and Steelers are vying for the Division title and a first round bye. However, the Ravens could seal home field throughout the playoffs with a win and a Patriot loss, but I don’t see the Pat’s losing at home to the Bills who are 1-7 in their last eight games. (yeah, they beat Tebow, but really, how good are the Broncos?) Since the Steelers “should” beat the Browns, the Ravens/Bengals game might be the best game of the weekend with much on the line for both teams.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs:
1) NE win or tie
2) BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie
Baltimore clinches AFC North Division and a first-round bye:
1) BAL win
2) BAL tie + PIT loss or tie
3) PIT loss
Baltimore clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs:
1) BAL win + NE loss
Pittsburgh clinches AFC North Division and a first-round bye:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie
2) PIT tie + BAL loss
Pittsburgh clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie + NE loss
Denver clinches AFC West Division:
1) DEN win
2) DEN tie + OAK loss or tie
3) OAK loss
Oakland clinches AFC West Division:
1) OAK win + DEN loss or tie
2) OAK tie + DEN loss
Oakland clinches a wild-card spot:
1) OAK win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie
2) OAK win + CIN loss + NYJ win
Cincinnati clinches a wild-card spot:
1) CIN win or tie
2) NYJ loss or tie + OAK loss or tie
3) NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
NEW YORK JETS
NY Jets clinch a wild-card spot:
1) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + OAK loss or tie
2) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
Tennessee clinches a wild-card spot:
1) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + OAK loss or tie
2) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + DEN loss or tie
3) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ loss or tie + OAK win + DEN win
One final note: Tom Brady did not practice Wednesday or Thursday to rest his left shoulder that got banged up in the game against Miami last week. Brady is still in the running to pass Drew Brees’ passing record that was held by Dan Marino for the past 27 years. Brees now has 5,087 passing yards this season, (190 more yards than Brady) heading into the final week. The Saints might be doing a bit of “scoreboard watching”. If the Forty Niners are “handling” the Rams early, the Saints may rest Brees and some key starters, since the game would/could also become meaningless.
* College Football note: 15 7-5 and 14 6-6 Teams ???? 29 teams in bowl games, (counting UCLA 6-7)
So, with 119 FBS schools, out of the 35 Bowl Games this holiday season, 29 teams have “qualified” for a bowl game by the BCS/NCAA with either a .500 record or one game better. On Monday, January 2nd, the college bowl games do “heat up” with some good match-ups, leading us up to the grand finalee in the Superdome on January 9th. And of course, if Alabama beats LSU in the Championship Game…….who’s NUMBER ONE??? Playoffs? Playoffs? We don’t need no stinking playoffs!
Happy New Year Everyone! And please, if you go out tonight to celebrate, remember that a Cab Driver—or even a Limo Driver—is way cheaper than a DUI. Stay safe.