Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 |
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Of the 16 games played last week, 13 had playoff implications. With just one day of NFL regular season action remaining, the same is true for Week 17. So in a grand tradition spanning two full weeks, let’s again rank today’s full slate of games from least importance to most pressing.
16. Washington at New York Giants – The Redskins (3-12) don’t even own their first-round draft pick. Oy.
15. Detroit at Minnesota – If you love watching Jim Schwartz coach, tune in. It’s your last chance. Ever.
14. Houston at Tennessee – The Texans (2-13) could lock up the first pick! Pass.
13. Cleveland at Pittsburgh – The Steelers (7-8) must beat the Browns (4-11) and see the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers all lose to make the playoffs in that jumbled finish for sixth-seed supremacy in the AFC. It seems very unlikely, as Mike Tomlin probably can’t step on the field in four cities at once.
12. Kansas City at San Diego – The Chargers (8-7) must win and have the Ravens and Dolphins both lose. The Chiefs (11-4) are already locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC, so they have nothing to play for. Baltimore and Miami will be watching this one and hoping for opposite results.
11. Jacksonville at Indianapolis – The Colts (10-5) have a chance to improve from the No. 4 seed, needing to win and see the Patriots and Bengals both get upset at home to gain a first-round bye as the 2-seed.
10. Buffalo at New England – The Patriots (11-4) could fall from the 2-seed, or could overtake the Broncos for top spot in the AFC. A loss to the Bills (6-9), who will be without QB EJ Manuel, puts them at risk of having to play next weekend in a Wild Card game. A win secures a bye and will force the Broncos to win to hold the top seed.
9. Denver at Oakland – The Broncos (12-3) will be playing at the same time as the Patriots, but if Denver builds a big lead, we could see some starters pulled in both games. A Denver win clinches the No. 1 seed.
8. Carolina at Atlanta – The Panthers (11-4) locked up a playoff berth, but they would clinch the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win over the Falcons (4-11). Stumbling on the road leaves them vulnerable to having to play an extra round.
7. St. Louis at Seattle – The Seahawks (12-3) are human! Arizona went into CenturyLink Field and got a win last week, holding Seattle to just 10 points. Seattle still controls its first-round fate and will secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs with just a win over the Rams (7-8), but they could slide with another loss.
6. New York Jets at Miami – This sixth spot in the AFC is so weird. If the Dolphins (8-7) beat the Jets (7-8), they get in if the Ravens lose OR if the Chargers WIN. Yeah. They can clinch with a win and a win for one of the other teams trying to get the same playoff spot. I’m just trusting that this isn’t some accounting error. Carry the two …
5. Tampa Bay at New Orleans – The Saints (10-5) can be as high as the 2-seed in the NFC, or miss the playoffs completely. A win over the Buccaneers (4-11) clinches at least a wild card, but they can jump to the 2-seed if the Panthers also lose to the Falcons. Yet a loss to Tampa Bay would keep New Orleans at home for the winter if the Cardinals were to win against the 49ers.
4. San Francisco at Arizona – For a minute, this looked like it would be an elimination game for both teams, but the 49ers (11-4) clinched when Navorro Bowman ran back an interception for a touchdown against the Falcons on Monday night. The Cardinals (10-5) had a huge win in Seattle to stay alive and another big win gets them in only if the Saints also lose. San Francisco can improve from the 5-seed to the 2-seed with a win and a loss by the Seahawks and all the way to the 1-seed if the Panthers were to also lose in that scenario.
3. Baltimore at Cincinnati – One is looking to get in, one is looking to get a bye. The Ravens (8-7) need to win and have the Dolphins OR Chargers lose to get the coveted 6-seed. The Bengals (10-5) can move past the Patriots with a win and New England loss and they would drop to the 4-seed with a loss and an Indianapolis win.
2. Philadelphia at Dallas – Now we get to our two “loser leaves town” situations. Or more appropriately, “loser can’t even win their terrible division.” After beating the Redskins, the Cowboys (8-7) got bad news that QB Tony Romo had a herniated disk that required surgery. Dallas will go with Kyle Orton and his 35-34 record as an NFL starter. The Eagles (9-6) are humming along and scored 54 points last week against the Bears. They now get the one defense maybe even worse than Chicago’s, so the odds seem to be against Dallas despite being at home. The victor wins the NFC East and will host a game next weekend.
1. Green Bay at Chicago – One quarterback exits and another returns. Aaron Rodgers will be back to start for the Packers (7-7-1) after missing seven games with a broken collarbone. Green Bay was 5-2 with Rodgers to start the year, so getting the former Super Bowl MVP back comes at the perfect moment. The Bears (8-7) were thumped by the Eagles in a game that could have locked up the division crown, so they’re not exactly entering on a high note. The winner is NFC North champ and gets a home playoff game next week. The loser sees its season hit the muck.
One day, 16 games. What better way to close out 2013?
• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to email@example.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI
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