Playoffs? We’re just trying to win a game in week 17 and you want to talk about playoffs? That’s right, folks, the NFL Playoffs are quickly approaching. We have one week of the regular season left with not much doubt of who is in and who is out. The entire AFC field has been set with not a lot of wiggle room in terms of seeding.
The Patriots and Raiders are looking to be the first and second seeded teams, but the Chiefs have a shot at gaining that two seed this weekend. Without Derek Carr, the Raiders are a good candidates to be a one and done this season in the playoffs and might even lose the division this weekend to the Chiefs. Seeing as how we’re in the midwest, this should please quite a few people to see the KC squad earn a first round bye to get their players completely healthy.
Health has been a big issue this season for the AFC squads. The Pats are without tight end Rob Gronkowski for the rest of the season which is completely fine with me. The less I see of the overgrown frat boy playing football is good. Not that I wish injury on anyone, poor sportsmanship, but I just cannot stand Gronk at all.
The Houston Texans have clinched the AFC South and look to be locked into that fourth seed where they’ll probably play the second place team in the AFC West. Houston wins the worst division in football again, and they’ll do it in the playoffs without the biggest free agent bust signing of the past five seasons when they gave an unproven quarterback $72 million. I see them dropping another playoff contest in the first round most likely.
The Steelers and Dolphins are currently slated for the other wild card game. It’s a rather big miracle that the ‘Fins were able to capture a playoff berth given the offensive line woes and the loss of quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the season. The Steelers, on the other hand, are coming together at just the right time and might be able to run the table. Should they get past the Dolphins, they would face the Raiders, Chiefs or Texans who they could dispatch without too many problems.
In reality, the AFC is going to boil down to the Steelers and Patriots this season. The Steelers at full health and the Pats have been the two best AFC teams all season long. Pittsburgh dropped a couple of more contests, but Big Ben was down for those losses. Injuries have stifled all six AFC teams this season, and the Pats lacking Gronk for a playoff run might be their undoing.
The NFC playoff picture isn’t as clear at the AFC. The Cowboys have clinched home field advantage for every game they’re in until the Super Bowl. This could finally be the year Jerry Jones gets another ring. If he does, it will not be because of the rookies in the backfield. The play of Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliot has been great, but they would not even be sniffing a possible Super Bowl run without that great offensive line that they have built over the past five or six seasons.
Dallas has reminded so many people that this is why you build from the offensive line out. Great skill players are rendered ineffective without blocking in front of them, a sad fact that most teams have had to find out the hard way this season. The Atlanta Falcons have clinched the second seed and a home playoff game. However, the Falcons shouldn’t get too far in the post season. Their defense is questionable, and Julio Jones has been hobbled at his WR position. Without a healthy Jones and a good defense, the Falcons are a prime one and done candidate this year.
The Packers and Lions are battling for the NFC North this weekend. The winner will be able to host a playoff contest and the other will have to go onto the road to Seattle. Everyone scoffed a little bit when Green Bay signal caller Aaron Rodgers said that they were going to run the table to make the playoffs. Looks like it might happen as the Lions have been battling some injuries the last few weeks. The Lions have been a surprise team this season anyways after the sudden retirement of wideout Calvin Johnson and a questionable defense.
It can be argued that Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford has been better without Johnson to throw to this season as he has no single target to rely on. The Lions have lost some of their top cornerbacks for a period of time this season which will harm them against whoever they might play. The Giants have clinched a playoff berth and will be settled in as the fifth seed. They’ll most likely end up playing the winner of the NFC North.
The ESPN talking heads will want you to believe that this Giants team can go on a run like they have before, but I wouldn’t put too much stock into that idea. The Giants have no ground game, a terrible offensive line, and Eli Manning has been playing some awful football the past few weeks as well. I’m not on their bandwagon at all.
The Seahawks are always a threat with Russell Wilson under center, and this year is no different. The defense has suffered through some injuries, and the offensive line isn’t great either for the Seahawks, but there’s just something about these guys you cannot discount in the playoffs. As long as they have Wilson, and coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks can never be discounted.
The NFC features two teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot but need help in order to make it in. Washington and Tampa Bay are both looking for that help to get in. However, both teams have been in control of their destiny and faltered down the stretch. The Redskins have been playing a little inconsistently the past few weeks, and Tampa is self-destructing down the stretch. Tampa QB Jameis Winston has thrown five picks in the last two games, both of which were losses for the Bucs.
The Redskins struggled a couple of Monday nights ago and dropped a game they should’ve won. They took their frustration out on the Bears this past Saturday. Both of these teams had a chance to clinch a playoff, or the division in Tampa’s case, but it’s looking very likely that both of these teams will miss the playoffs this year.
At the beginning of the season, I was remarking to some friends that the Raiders will make the playoffs while the Broncos would miss. They called me a couple of insulting names, but looks like I called that one correctly. About the only thing about this season I’ve gotten right. I figured Dallas was at least a couple of seasons away from contending. I thought Brock Osweiller would turn the Texans into a 12 win team.
This is why the game is played on paper and why we don’t talk about playoffs until late in the season.