The playoff picture is pretty much set for the NFL as only two spots is open heading into the league’s last weekend of play. Surprisingly both of the open spots are in the NFC. The only thing up for grabs in the AFC is homefield advantage. This season has been interesting for the league as it’s really the first complete season (full off-season camps) under the new collective bargaining agreement and it’s had mixed revues; but that’s a post for another day.
This is post is going to take a look at the teams that clinched berths in the playoffs and to look at the match-ups next week that help determine division champs/the final wild card spots next week. For starters let us take a look at the teams that clinched playoff spots last weekend.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are probably the most heart wrenching/inspiring story this season. They’ve missed their head coach for most of the season as he was battling cancer; the team is breaking in a rookie quarterback; and this team clinched a playoff berth the year after they went 2-14. One of the most interesting things about this squad is that most of the starters from the 2-14 squad are still starters this season, the primary difference is the quarterback Andrew Luck.
Last year the Colts were without future hall of famer Peyton Manning and it showed; this year they have first overall pick Andrew Luck, widely the considered to be one of the best QBs coming out of college ever. Now they are 10-5 with one game left, heading back to the playoffs AND head coach Chuck Pagano is back the saddle, cancer free.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals’s curse is broken, Marvin Lewis has finally done it, and the Bengals are going back to the post-season in back-to-back seasons. It’s a young squad in Cincinnati, a city that has seen its sports squads struggle with consistency. They have a second year QB in Andy Dalton who reminds me of 2007 Matt Hasselbeck; a pretty solid defense; and a stud running back. In other words don’t be shocked I the Bengals are in the post-season with more consistency in the future.
Seattle Seahawks: The Hawks dominating 42-13 win over the 49ers on Sunday Night was their third straight blowout victory and this one was on national television. They have scored the second most points in a three game stretch in NFL history (150) and have only allowed 30 points during that same stretch. This team is on a tear right now and they are doing it with a QB who is in the midst of one of the best seasons in franchise history.
Currently Matt Hasselbeck holds the franchise record for QB rating in a single season at 98.2; currently Russell Wilson’s (Rookie) QB rating is sitting at 98.0. Wilson currently is one touchdown away from tying Peyton Manning’s Rookie season TD record (three away from Hasselbeck’s highest TD total in a single season with the Hawks). Not bad for a third round draft pick.
Matchups that will determine division titles/wildcard spots next week:
NFC West Title:
- St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (10-5) and Arizona Cardinals (5-10) vs. San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1); if the Cards and Seahawks win then the Seahawks are the NFC West Champs. If the Niners beat the Cards they win the NFC West, no matter what happens in the Rams/Seahawks game.
NFC East Title:
- Cowboys (8-7) vs. Washington (9-6); winner wins the NFC East Title and is guaranteed a playoff berth. The loser only gets into the playoffs if the dominoes fall their way.
NFC Wild Card:
- Bears (9-6) vs. Lions (4-11), Packers (11-4) vs. Vikings (9-6), and Eagles (4-11) vs. Giants (8-7); the Vikings control their fate; if they win they are in. If the Vikings lose then all hell breaks loose as the all sorts of tie-breakers are going to come into play. These are the match-ups most worth watching in my opinion, after all who wants to see if Tony Romo loses the title of “Choke King”.
Arthur should have a more detailed breakdown of the playoffs and Week 17 match-ups up soon. Stay tuned. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and Happy Kwanza.