Everyone’s all running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to find the perfect Christmas present, and I’m like “Pick up some gift cards, we’ve still got two more weeks left of football.”
Often times, by this point, all but one or two postseason slots are wrapped up and clinched, but Santa’s left football fans an early gift this year as an incredible eight positions are still up for grabs. Only the Indianapolis Colts have clinched their division, and home field advantage is yet to be settled in either conference. Buckle up and get ready for plenty of action in the waning moments of 2013.
Without further ado, let’s break it down:
In Like Flynn
Three AFC teams are guaranteed to see action in the postseason. Along with the Colts (9-5) who have won the AFC South, the Broncos (11-3) and the Chiefs (11-3) are both assured of January games. Denver holds the tie-breaker in the AFC West and should win out with easy match-ups against the Texans and Raiders. In all likelihood, this week’s Chiefs-Colts tilt will be a preview of an AFC Wild Card game, but Kansas City will still hold out hope that the Broncos will suffer one more upset loss, opening the way for the Chiefs to take the division.
Quite incredibly, in the NFC, only the Seahawks (12-2) have clinched a postseason berth. A win this week against Arizona at home will secure home field advantage and the NFC West crown, as will a win in week 17 against the Rams.
One Win & They’re In
The New England Patriots (10-4) can clinch the AFC East with a win this week at Baltimore. Should the Pats lose to the red-hot Ravens, a Miami loss renders the same results. Similarly, a Cincinnati loss guarantees New England of at least a Wild Card slot.
New Orleans can clinch the NFC South by sweeping the Panthers this weekend in Carolina. A victory will also give the Saints a first-round bye. The Panthers are hoping for a different result this time around, however, as a win over the Saints guarantees them no worse than a Wild Card game. Both New Orleans and Carolina will be hoping for Arizona and San Francisco losses to aide them in their postseason quests.
The 49ers should coast into the playoffs this week, as all they need to do is beat the hapless Falcons at home. Even if they fail in this endeavor, Arizona will have a hard time pulling out the upset in Seattle and a Cardinals loss also gives San Francisco a chance to defend their NFC title.
Controlling Their Own Destiny
In the AFC, the Bengals and the Ravens control their own destiny. Win their last two games and no one can catch them (the only problem is that Cincinnati and Baltimore meet each other in week 17). This coming weekend the Bengals take on the Vikings at home, a week after Minnesota nearly put up a 50-burger on the Eagles. The Ravens won’t have it easy in week 16 either as they get the Patriots fresh off a loss to the Dolphins.
Assuming Cincinnati handles the Vikes, they can clinch the AFC North with a Baltimore loss or tie. Should the Ravens down the Pats, they can get in this week if both Miami and San Diego fail to come up with a victory.
Out of all the teams on the outside looking in, Miami’s the only one with a shot of clinching a playoff slot in week 16. They’ll need to win at Buffalo and then hope for Cincy and Baltimore to both lose. Because the Ravens and Bengals meet up in week 17, the Dolphins do actually control their own destiny, as winning their last two games will assure them no worse than a Wild Card.
In the NFC, the Bears and the Eagles both top their divisions, barely. But win out, and they’ll both be playing at home against Wild Card teams. The Bears can also take home the crown if the Packers and the Lions both lose. Philly will be hoping for another Cowboys collapse as a win for them and loss for Dallas gives them the NFC East.
Believe it or not, things don’t look as grim for the Cowboys as you’d expect after the debacle against the Packers. A Dallas win or Philadelphia loss this week sets up a winner-take-all Cowboys-Eagles game in week 17 for the AFC East. This means that Romo and the rest of the ‘Boys still have a shot to right what went wrong.
Here’s Where Things Get A Little Dicey
In the NFC, the Cardinals currently sit in the 7th slot. The problem is that they’ll need a huge upset win over the Seahawks to stay alive. Arizona takes on San Fran in week 17, which could be a mammoth match-up should the cards fall in the right places.
The Cardinals hold the head-to-head tie-breaker against the Panthers, should Carolina fall to New Orleans, but again, they need to first win at Seattle and then worry about the rest of the scenario.
Umm, Yeah, We’re Gonna Need Some Help
The NFC North will end wildly, one way or another. Green Bay simply needs to win against the Steelers and they’ll get a shot at the Bears in week 17 in a game that will most likely decide the division. The Lions need to win out and hope for losses by both Green Bay and Chicago, but since the two teams play each other to close out the season, Detroit will need the winner of the week 17 game (whoever that is) to lose in week 16.
Yes, it’s complex, but Detroit had this division handed to them on a silver platter and they blew it, so there’s no sympathy here for Matthew Stafford and Co.
The Chargers need a lot of help. Needing to win out goes without saying, but they’ll need both Miami and Baltimore to lose out as well, as they lost to both squads during the regular season.
For Pittsburgh to squeak in, all these dominos must crash down in just the right order: two Steeler wins, two Ravens losses, two Dolphins losses, one Chargers loss and two wins by the Jets. But hey, it’s better than nothing for a team that started out (0-4).