It’s getting to the time of the NFL season where the experts begin to use phrases like “crunch time” or that every single game is a “MUST win” even though technically it’s not a must win unless your team will be mathematically out of the postseason. So for many teams (yes, including my Cowboys) what they do these last two weeks will significantly alter their position or lack of position in January. You know, the playoffs in the NFL or when “the real season” begins. First things are first, let’s take a look at the teams that have either clinched their divisions or have a good enough record to clinch a definite spot.
The AFC is a little more simple because the top 3 seeds have clinched the division (Texans, Broncos and Patriots in order) and I don’t see the seeding changing because even though Houston has the toughest schedule, I don’t see them slipping up knowing that both Denver and New England are hot on their heels with two very easy games for each team. Now, the Colts aren’t going to win the AFC South but they have clinched a spot and it’s pretty incredible that this team can go from 1st pick in the entire draft to participating in the postseason in the same year. Something else that’s incredible is that the Ravens, in a complete tailspin, actually clinched a playoff even thought they’ve lost 3 straight games. So it’s up to the Bengals whether they would like to take the division, which could come down to the final game this season but first they’d have to defeat the Steelers this weekend. The Steelers have been up and down since the Big Ben injury but they’ve proven that they can get it done when it matters most and they have the easiest remaining schedule of the three AFC North contenders.
The NFC gets a little more complicated because there are only 2 teams that have clinched their division (Falcons and Packers) and one team that has a spot (49ers) but there are still 6 teams in contention with the NFC East still completely wide open. Teams not named the Eagles in the NFC East are all tied at 8-6 and conventional thinking would have most people leaning toward the Redskins. The Giants do have the easier schedule (at Ravens, Eagles) but they don’t control their own destiny and for that reason alone, they’re the least likely to win the division. My gut feeling is that the NFC East is going to come down to the Redskins-Cowboys games in the final week but it’s also going to depend what happens with Seattle/Minnesota/Chicago for the wildcard. The Bears are in completely disarray and if ever they needed two easy games to save their season, it’s now. Despite a grueling final two games, i’m not going to pick against the Vikings because Adrian Peterson is their RB, enough said.
Let’s all take a minute to thank whatever higher powers you believe in and say thank you that Thursday night games are finally over. I love the NFL but the every single Thursday game was mediocre at best because it was painfully (for the players, literally) obvious that it’s impossible to play at full capacity with only 3 days rest. Thanksgiving is a tradition but every single week, no. Just toss in a random Friday or Saturday games. Speaking of Saturday, this week the Falcons try to move closer to the best record in the NFC as they take on the Lions who are only playing for Megatron’s record breaking performance (only 182 yards being Rice) so keep an eye out for that if you watch the game.