Add the Steelers to the playoff party. With their win tonight, the Steelers are now 8-3 and even though I figured they would make it to January football, they sealed the deal with a romping of the 1-9-1 Bengals.
The Giants, Cardinals, Titans, and Steelers are in, so there are eight spots left to fill over the last six weeks of the season.
This weekend is going to be nuts. And when I mean nuts, I mean it is going to the best week of the NFL season so far. There is so much at stake in every single game as playoff dreams will be created and destroyed this Sunday.
Take a look at the AFC East.
Wow. What a mess. And what makes it better is that there are still five games left within the division:
NYJ vs MIA
NYJ vs BUF
NE vs MIA
NE vs BUF
MIA vs BUF
And what makes that better is that the most important game is being played this week with New England at Miami. If Miami wins, the Patriots season is over. Finished. Done. At 6-5 the Patriots would have to win four of their last five games and even that might not be enough given the fact that they would have lost the head-to-head tie breaker to the Dolphins and the fact they would have a 4-5 conference record. It’s win or go home for the Patriots on Sunday and while it is almost win or go home for the Dolphins, it isn’t quite as bad if they lose as it is if the Patriots lose.
The Jets have the second most important game in the division since they are trying to hold onto first place in the East and trying to clinch a seed that would give them a first round bye in the postseason. And not to mention they are playing the 10-0 Tennessee Titans who are trying to remain undefeated in their quest for the perfect season.
Now the AFC East is an absolute gongshow. It appears to be anybody’s division right now, even though the Jets have a one game lead on the other three teams. But if you want to see real chaos in a division, just look at the NFC North:
DET 0-10 (They don’t really matter)
Ok so take away the Lions because at 0-10 they are going nowhere.
But how about that, three teams all with the same record, separated by the head-to-head tiebreaker.
There are two important games left within the division:
GB vs CHI
CHI vs MIN
But what is more important than these two games? That would be who has games left against the Lions. And the only teams with games left against the Lions are the Packers and Vikings. And that is very, very bad news for the Chicago Bears. Because when you think about, the Bears have played to the same record as the Packers and Vikings and they have already played the Lions twice.
Here are the remaining schedules for the three teams:
GB – NO, CAR, HOU, JAC, CHI, DET
CHI – STL, MIN, JAC, NO, GB, HOU
MIN – JAC, CHI, DET, ARI, ATL, NYG
From this I would say Green Bay finishes at 10-6 with a 4-2 finish.
I would say Chicago finishes at 8-8 with a 3-3 finish and that is being generous.
And I would say Minnesota finishes at 7-9 with a 2-4 finish.
Now obviously this is all speculation, but none of the teams have a really easy schedule and with the Vikings finishing against Arizona, Atlanta, and the G-Men, they have a good chance of going 0-3 right there.
Buttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt, and this is a big BUT, Minnesota could actually benefit from the schedule at the end of the season because all three of those teams have a chance to make the playoffs and therefore might not be playing the varsity team. But in prediction the Vikings finish to the season, I am going on the assumption of how every team has played so far this season and not whether they will or won’t play their starters at the end of the season.
Here is how I ranked the importance of the games in Week 12:
1. New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
This game can make one team’s seasons and break the others, and it will. How the AFC East race finishes out lies in the hands of this highly important game.
2. Philadelphia Eagles @ Baltimore Ravens
There has been talk all week of the job security of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb after their tie at Cincinnati. At 5-4-1 the Eagles are trying to stay alive and at 6-4 the Ravens are trying to hang on.
3. Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
The Panthers are first in the South. The Falcons are third. This game could decide if the Panthers get the two seed in the NFC and if the Falcons will have a shot at a wild card.
4. Indianapolis Colts @ San Diego Chargers
The Colts are back in the picture and looking to distance themselves from the herd that is the AFC East. The Chargers have been the league’s biggest disappointment, but given their division and schedule they have a chance, or at least much of one as Lloyd Christmas had.
5. New York Jets @ Tennessee Titans
A win for the Jets would cause panic in both Miami or New England and would also end Tennessee’s perfection. The current 1 and 2 seeds going at it for the postseason and perfection.
6. San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys kept their season alive with a win at Washington. It’s win or go home the rest of the way for the Big D, and considering the fact that they are home for this game, if they lose they might want to actually go away rather than home.
7. Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks
This game has the same important as No. 6, but given the fact that the Redskins are held to a lesser standard they take the backseat. But the same thing goes for Washington. Win or go home. And a loss would be a third straight and basically mean they choked away what was a promising 6-2 start.
8. New York Giants @ Arizona Cardinals
This game is only important because the Giants can close up the 1 seed and put a dagger into the NFC East. Both teams are going to the playoffs and both teams are going to win their division.
9. Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints
The Packers can stay atop the North with a win over the Chargers of the NFC. The Saints season is over. All they have left is to play for pride.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions
The Bucs are going to the playoffs, led by who else, but Jeff Garcia, the most underrated player in professional sports. The Lions, well they just might go 0-17.
11. Minnesota Vikings @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Vikings are trying to stay alive and the Jaguars are trying to just not get embarrassed. Both teams will the postseason, but look to be good in the coming seasons.
12. Chicago Bears @ St. Louis Rams
The Bears are going to win this game. And they are going to win by a lot. After getting blownout by 34 to the Packers you can expect a big win from the Bears. The Rams will lay down once again.
13. Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Bills are still in it, but their loss to the Browns ended their season in my opinion. The Chiefs are no pushover even if they have one of the worst records in the league. I think the Chiefs win this one and put an end to the dreams of Buffalo.
14. Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders
The Broncos are going to the playoffs and representing the West. The Raiders are going nowhere and might as well forfeit the remainder of their schedule.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
This game took place already, but the Steelers are going to the playoffs and the Bengals aren’t. Pretty easy to figure out.
16. Houston Texans @ Cleveland Browns
And last and also least, the only game on the schedule in which neither team has a chance to make the playoffs.
And finally, here is how I think the playoffs will shape up:
1. New York Giants (East) – Bye
2. Carolina Panthers (South) – Bye
3. Arizona Cardinals (West)
4. Green Bay Packers (North)
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6. Washington Redskins
1. Tennessee Titans (South) – Bye
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (North) – Bye
3. New York Jets (East)
4. Denver Broncos (West)
5. Indianapolis Colts
6. Miami Dolphins