Friday, December 30, 2011

NFL Week 17 Games to Watch and Playoff Scenarios

So, here we are…the last week of the season and the last edition of Games to Watch.  *sniff*  I know you all will miss it (but please don’t correct me if I’m wrong).

While the NFC’s side of the playoff bracket is nearly set—only one division, the NFC East, still needs a champ and the seeding of the top teams is pretty much set—the AFC is still a Wild West show.  Two divisions in the AFC are still lacking champions and the seeding of its confirmed playoff teams is still up in the air.  Since we’re going to focus our GTWs on those with playoff implications, this edition will therefore be AFC-heavy.

Tennessee Titans (8-7) @ Houston Texans (10-5) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS):  The Texans have the division title all wrapped up (and have for a few weeks now), but the Titans still have an outside chance at making the playoff via a wildcard spot.  To get into the playoffs, they need to win this game, but they also need help from some other teams.  Other than winning Sunday, here’s what the Titans need to avoid an early start to their offseason:  

·   The Baltimore Ravens need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals AND one of the following:

o  NY Jets beat the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders lose to San Diego; OR

o  Jets win and the Denver Broncos lose to the Kansas City Chiefs; OR

o  Jets lose and Oakland and Denver both win

New York Jets (8-7) @ Miami Dolphins (5-10) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS):  Though they haven’t been in the playoff race for quite a while, the Dolphins would L O V E to ruin the Jets’ postseason hopes.  To keep playing past Sunday, the Jets need almost as much help as Titans.  They need to win AND have: Cincinnati losing to Baltimore, Tennessee losing to Houston AND either Denver or Oakland losing their games.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-9) @ Denver Broncos (8-7) (Sunday, 4:15 PM ET, CBS):  The AFC West is one of the divisions that still needs a champion crowned.  The race is between the Broncos and the Raiders, and the loser may be out of the playoffs entirely.  The playoff implications for this game are simple:  for Denver to make the playoffs, they need to beat the Chiefs, or the Raiders must fall to the Chargers.  The added drama for this contest, though, comes from the same source of nearly all the drama in the NFL this year:  the quarterback position.  The starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs is none other than Kyle Orton, who the Broncos benched after five games to give Tim Tebow the reins of the offense.

San Diego Chargers (7-8) @ Oakland Raiders (8-7) (Sunday, 4:15 PM ET, CBS):  The Raiders have to win this game to even sniff at the postseason, but they need a LOT of help, too.  It would be great for Oakland if the Broncos lose because they would go into the playoffs as a division winner.  However, they could still claim a wildcard spot if the stars align just right.  Here’s what the Raiders need for that wildcard playoff berth:

·    Beat San Diego AND either:

o   Cincinnati and Tennessee both lose; OR

o   Cincinnati loses and the Jets win

With Chargers head coach Norv Turner feeling the heat and possibly coaching his last game for the team, there will be no shortage of motivation on the San Diego sideline on Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys (8-7) @ New York Giants (8-7) (Sunday, 8:20 PM ET, NBC):  The scheduling gods have smiled upon us, for there could be no better nationally televised primetime game than this one.  This is a “win and in” scenario for both of these teams.  In addition, feeling the discomfort of a very hot seat, Giants coach Tom Coughlin may also be coaching for his job Sunday night.  The winner claims the NFC East and makes it into the playoffs by virtue of being a division winner.  However, because that division, and their records, are so average, the loser won’t even qualify for a wildcard spot and will go home.  So, it all comes down to one game between bitter division rivals.  I don’t think the fans of either team would want it any other way.

What a great way to end the season!  Enjoy the games, everyone, and we'll see you back here in 2012!

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