One week to go in the NFL regular season and we have all kinds of playoff implications going into the last week. Let’s look back and see what we learned in Week 16.
5 Things We Learned in Week 16
1. Peyton Manning’s record breaking season continues. Manning threw three of his four touchdowns in the 4th quarter to set the record for touchdown passes in a season (51). It’s the record-breaking 13th time he has thrown at least 3 touchdowns in one quarter. The Broncos will need Manning to continue his MVP performance through the postseason if they hope to win a Super Bowl as their defense is ranked 22nd overall. With a win on Sunday (or a Patriots loss), the Broncos can clinch home field throughout the playoffs. The Broncos are 7-1 at home this season so this is of the utmost importance for Denver.
2. Kansas City loses against a quality opponent yet again. A lot has been made of the Chiefs’ inability to beat quality opponents. The Chiefs beat the Eagles (9-6) and the Cowboys (8-7) back-to-back in Weeks 2 and 3. Since, the Chiefs have failed to beat a team with a winning record. Even at home, the Indianapolis Colts handled the Chiefs quite easily. Because the Chiefs will not play at home in the postseason, odds are their postseason will end quickly.
3. Arizona wins at Seattle. The Cardinals needed a win to stay alive and delivered perhaps the biggest road win of any team in the 2013 season. The Seahawks had not lost at home since the 2011 season. As we will talk about below, the Cardinals still need some help to get into the postseason.
4. NFC North and NFC East go down to the wire. Perhaps the two worst divisions in football will each have showdowns to determine who gets into the postseason. The Packers and Bears have both had problems at the quarterback position in the second half of the season due to injuries. The Cowboys and Eagles have had problems on defense (both teams ranked at the bottom of the NFL). Still, these play-in games will be great theatre and it’s exactly what the NFL wants.
5. The quest for the final playoff spot in the AFC will be exciting to watch. There will be 4 games on Sunday that will help determine who makes that last spot. The Dolphins, Ravens, Chargers, and Steelers will all be trying to win their respective games. Along with trying to defeat their respective opponents, all 4 teams will be scoreboard watching all day Sunday.
Week 17 Meaningless Power Rankings
1. Denver Broncos
2. New England Patriots
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Carolina Panthers
5. Indianapolis Colts
6. Cincinnati Bengals
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. New Orleans Saints
9. Kansas City Chiefs
10. Philadelphia Eagles
5 games to watch in Week 17
Last week’s record (2-3) Season Record (45-34)
Sunday, December 29th: Baltimore Ravens (8-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-5)
As stated above, the Ravens need to win if they want to make the postseason. The Bengals are also hoping to improve their playoff position as a win and a Patriots loss would give them the two seed. The Ravens have not been very good on the road (2-5) while the Bengals have not lost at home (7-0). As mentioned before, Flacco is no stranger to winning important games on the road. The Bengals are strangers to any kind of meaningful game. The Bengals will try to reverse this trend on Sunday and I believe they are out to prove themselves.
My pick: Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, December 29th: Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) at Chicago Bears (8-7)
It’s hard to believe that these teams are where they are. When Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler were injured, it seemed like the Detroit Lions would run away with the division. Unfortunately for the Lions, they completely choked away a great opportunity. So now it comes down to the Packers and Bears for the NFC North crown. The Packers and Bears are no strangers to each other and continue to be one of the fiercest (and oldest) rivalries in the NFL. This will be another chapter in a historic matchup. Aaron Rodgers is still a question mark for the game and may not play. With Rodgers’ status up in the air and with the game being played in Chicago I am leaning towards da Bears.
My pick: Chicago Bears
Sunday, December 29th: San Francisco 49ers (11-4) at Arizona Cardinals (10-5)
The 49ers clinched a playoff spot with a win in the final game at Candlestick Park on Monday night against the Falcons. As mentioned before, the Cardinals pulled off an upset against the Seahawks last week to stay alive for the final NFC playoff spot. The Cardinals will need a win and a Saints loss to clinch a postseason spot. The Cardinals are 6-1 this year at home and have been one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season. The 49ers aren’t bad on the road (5-2) and will need to continue that if they want to win in the postseason. The Cardinals may be emotionally spent after last week’s win over the Seahawks while the 49ers are on a 5 game win streak. I am going to go with the team that has had previous success.
My pick: San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, December 29th: Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) at San Diego Chargers (8-7)
This game is important for 2 reasons. The Chargers will be trying to get the final spot in the AFC (even though they could be eliminated by the time this game kicks off). The Chiefs really need to get a quality win before the postseason begins. The Chargers scored 41 points at Kansas City in their earlier matchup. Philip Rivers has had an outstanding season and I think he ends the regular season with a win against the Chiefs. The Chiefs in the postseason will be one-and-done.
My pick: San Diego Chargers
Sunday, December 29th: Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at Dallas Cowboys (8-7)
The final game of the 2013 regular season will be between these two enigmas from the NFC East. Both defenses are bad (Philly ranked 30th; Dallas ranked 32nd). The Eagles’ offense has been explosive all season (ranked 2nd overall). This past week has been full of questions surrounding Tony Romo’s health for this game. Regardless of his health, Romo has not exactly been a great quarterback historically in the month of December. Neither have the Cowboys for that matter. I have picked the Cowboys to win twice in December and I am not ever making that mistake again.
My pick: Philadelphia Eagles
The final week of the NFL season will be full of drama. Unfortunately, for many fans, it will be bittersweet knowing that the end of football is near. Enjoy it while it’s still here and have a safe and happy New Year.
Because of circumstances (I’m getting married next week), the status of my next column is unknown. Stay tuned to my Twitter page @GabePride for updates (or if you want to send me a nice wedding gift. Just kidding. But not really kidding.).