Quite often in this spot I take every opportunity to rip National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell and league offices. Today I’m praising him and them for making a significant schedule change that has proven to be great for the fans.
A few years ago, the league made it so that the final games of the regular season would pit teams from the same division against each other. The goal was to have exactly what we are going to see next week as the regular season comes to an end. While not every game next week will playoff implications, the NFL has succeeded in doing exactly what it set out to do and that is create must-see television and a ‘win or go home’ scenario.
Here’s what you have on the docket for the final week of the NFL season. The NFC will have two games that will decide division winners. The losers will have no wild-card opportunity thus the ‘win and you’re in’ situation.
Philadelphia will play at Dallas and the winner will take the division title and will be the three or four seed in the playoffs. The Cowboys won the earlier meeting this year in Philadelphia. If there is any pressure in this game it has to be on the Cowboys and Tony Romo. In case of a tie, the Eagles would win the division
Both the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears lost yesterday in very different fashion. The Packers had a chance to tie the Steelers on the final play of the game but the pass from Matt Flynn was incomplete. In Philadelphia, the Bears surrendered 54 points to an Eagles’ team that already knew the outcome of its’ game was meaningless.
Chicago will host the Packers on Sunday at 1pm Eastern although there is talk that the game could be flexed to late afternoon start.
I’m holding off on this because a San Francisco win tonight against Atlanta could make much of what I write a moot point. Basically, the Saints , Panthers and Cardinals are the ones waiting things out.
New England is the division champ and can clinch the one seed with a win and a Denver loss. Miami is still alive for a wild-card berth but must win and get losses from Baltimore and San Diego.
Indianapolis is your division champion.
The Bengals are the division champion. The Ravens can earn the final wild-card spot with a win over Cincinnati on the road where the Bengals haven’t lost all season. The Ravens also need the Chargers or Dolphins to lose.
Pittsburgh stayed alive in Green Bay yesterday and now needs a win over Cleveland at Heinz Field coupled with losses by the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers.
Denver is at worst a number two seed. A win or New England loss gives them the top seed. Kansas City has the number five seed as a wild-card. The Chargers need to win and get losses from Baltimore and Miami.
Basically, the AFC is set other than positioning and the final wild-card spot which will go to Baltimore, San Diego, Miami or Pittsburgh.
In recent years the NFL has toyed with the idea of adding two more teams to the playoffs. This season is the perfect illustration of why they shouldn’t. What makes the NFL unique from the NBA and NHL is that you aren’t going to see half or more of the teams make the playoffs. Yes, you could have an 8-8 team in but that is still far from what the other leagues offer.