I love the final two weeks of the NFL season. There are always plenty of wacky playoff scenarios that keep a large number of teams alive for the post season. The teams that theoretically have nothing to play for wind up pulling off the biggest upsets of the season. The final week of the 2009 NFL season is no exception as very few teams will have the luxury of resting players with little to play for.
The biggest game of the week takes place Sunday afternoon in Dallas, Texas. The new Texas Stadium will host the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles playing for the NFC East title. Both teams have already clinched playoff spots, but the post season road for each team would be much easier with a win. For the Cowboys, they will be guaranteed a home game. For the Eagles, they can clinch the overall second spot and would only play one game on the road in New Orleans if the Saints win their divisional game. Needless to say, both teams have plenty to play for and nobody will be sitting starters in Texas.
Oh the irony of this game for Eagles and Cowboys fans. Last year both teams played in the final week of the season in a very similar situation. Last year’s situation was a bit more desperate as it was a win-and-in scenario. How did that turn out? The Eagles crushed the Cowboys and jumped on the road to the NFC championship. While the loser of this game still gets in, I have to think that this game is a bit more about revenge for the Cowboys after that embarrassing game in Philly last season.
[adinserter block=”1″]Are the Eagles the hottest NFC team entering the playoffs? This game will answer that question. As a matter of a fact, I would venture to say that the winner of this game will be crowned with that honor. The Eagles have won six straight games. The birds had a close call at home against Denver last week, but the birds prevailed in the end. Donovan McNabb has done something this season that he hasn’t done in years and that is win games in the fourth quarter. He has had numerous fourth-quarter winning drives and looks to have shed that black mark of his career. Andy Reid continues to make questionable calls, yet his team has continually bailed him out. There is just something about this Eagles team that looks like a team destined for their best post season run since their Super Bowl run.
The Dallas Cowboys have been a fascinating team to watch this season. Every time you think they are done and out of the playoffs, they come back and remind you why they are the Dallas Cowboys. As much as it pains me to write it, Tony Romo has been great down the stretch. If there is one flaw with the Cowboys it is their defense. The fact that their head coach was one of the best defensive coordinators in football and his team’s defense is terrible is a mystery all in itself. This is a team that can be beat by the long ball. The Eagles are a home run team and will be looking to put this one away early with some bombs to D-Jax in the first quarter.
The Cowboys won the first meeting between these two teams. Both teams did a great job of shutting down each other’s offenses for most of the game. Unfortunately for Eagles fans, this game will be remembered as a showcase of Andy Reid at his worst. Reid made terrible challenges with the red flag and went for it on fourth down in ridiculous situations. It was amazing to watch Andy Reid outcoached by Wade Phillips for four quarters. The game ended with the Cowboys killing the clock for over four minutes and Reid having no timeouts to stop them, due to wasting a time out and blowing his challenges. Quite frankly, it may have been Andy Reid at his absolute worst.
I can sit here and make excuses all day long as a birds fan, but the bottom line here is that this was a very winnable game for the Eagles barring their coach’s stupidity. I think the Eagles are too hot right now for the Cowboys to stop them. These teams rarely sweep one another so the split with the birds winning in Big D shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. I see another very tight game, high scoring unlike their first meeting, and a lot of NFC teams shaking in their pants as the Eagle green slides into second and takes a week off. Maybe Romo can get Donovan a good travel deal on Mexico for next week?
The New York Jets are in the most enviable position in the AFC. The fate of several AFC teams rests in the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals who play the Jets on Sunday night. The Jets are in a win-and-in scenario thanks to Jim Caldwell pulling one of the biggest disgraces in NFL history last Sunday and handing a playoff opportunity to the Jets. Living in the northeast I have seen a lot of Jets games this season. This is not a playoff team and unless Marvin Lewis decides to rest some key players, they won’t be.
The Jets and Bengals are very similar teams. Both teams rely on a steady running game and strong defenses. Neither team gives up a lot of points, nor do they score a lot of points. As a matter of a fact the Jets are the overall number one defense while the Bengals are overall number four in the NFL. The Jets have a slight edge in stopping the pass, while the Bengals are a better team against the run. This is a great situation for the Cincinnati Bengals to be in against the Jets.
Mark Sanchez and Carson Palmer are going to have to make plays. At some point, the run is going to stop working for one of these teams. Who do I trust between the two? Carson Palmer has been here before and rarely makes mistakes. He is truly the ultimate quarterback for this type of an offense. Sanchez is not and is exposed when the Jets have to rely on him to get the offense going. I also think that with all of the crap the Colts got last week, no way Lewis sits his starters unless he is in a comfortable position going into the fourth quarter. I look for a Bengals win which opens up the doors for a lot of AFC teams.
The most intriguing AFC game this weekend has to be the New England Patriots vs. the Houston Texans. As the owner of a few Texans in my fantasy leagues over the last two seasons, I have become something of a Texans fan. In the AFC, I think they are the second most dangerous offense behind the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately a rash of injuries and a head coach that plays musical chairs with his running backs have hurt this offense badly over the last few weeks. However, the Texans have done something they haven’t done the last few seasons. The Texans are finally starting to win meaningful games in December.
For the Patriots, it is really hard to get a read on these guys. They beat the teams they are supposed to beat and struggle or lose to the better teams in the AFC. The Patriots have been a terrible road team this season, coming away with two wins (one of those in England which was considered a home game). The Patriots have already clinched a spot. Bill Belichick could sit his starters and be in the same position when the playoffs start as he would be with a win. However, I would be shocked to see him do anything but play to win the game. He didn’t sit his guys in 2007 so I can’t see him doing it now. Tom Brady has been rather outspoken this week about wanting to play to win this game. Once again, with all of the criticism that the Colts got last week I’d be stunned to see anyone sit for a reason other than injury from the New England Patriots.
Even without Steve Slaton and Owen Daniels, Matt Schaub continues to get it done in the air. Arguably, Schaub has had a better season this year than Brady and should be in the Pro Bowl over Lord Tom. I think that is a minor, yet motivating factor. A win does not guarantee anything for the Texans. They need a combination of ties or losses from the Jets, Broncos, and Ravens to slip into the playoffs. A loss completely eliminates the Texans. I find it very hard to pick the Texans against the Patriots in a meaningful December game. I won’t start now. I am going to pick the Patriots in what could be one of the most fun offensive games of the weekend.
Oh what a difference a year makes. The Steelers are on the verge of missing out on a chance to defend their championship. Inconsistent play on offense and defense in the middle of the season has put this team into a terrible position. The Steelers will be playing the Miami Dolphins this weekend in a game that could decide the final playoff spot. Both teams need a lot of help, but won’t go anywhere without a win on Sunday.
[adinserter block=”2″]One would think that there wouldn’t be much of a home advantage for the Dolphins. However, several ex-NFL players have shockingly called Miami the hardest place to play in December and January. Those ex-players cite the warmer temperatures as the difference when it comes to cramping and dehydration. The line of thinking is that an NFL player can bundle up and adjust his body temperature better to colder conditions than they can for warmer conditions. Hey, I think it sounds ridiculous as well but enough former NFL players have corroborated this interesting tidbit.
The Dolphins had a nice run but their season is over. They had a chance last week to make their destiny a lot easier with a win over the Texans. Not only did they lose, but they were decimated for three quarters. Injuries to multiple starters have this team looking like a pre season team. Ricky Williams will likely play but was pulled from last week’s game due to an injury. I can’t see him being too effective injured and against this great rushing defense. It just isn’t Miami’s year this season.
<!–adsense–>The Steelers will bring their revitalized air attack into Miami with them. After struggling for weeks to put up numbers, Ben Roethlisberger looks to be back in sync with his receivers and his offensive line. The Steelers were able to squeak past a pretty good Baltimore Ravens team last week. The problem for the Steelers this season has been playing down to opponents. How they are able to beat the Ravens and Packers back-to-back and lose to the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders is anyone’s guess.
Are the Miami Dolphins the Ravens or the Browns? I don’t think they are a terrible team, but it is really hard to judge them when half of the team is injured. It is really hard to fathom the Steelers blowing what should be an easy win in a must-win situation. At the same time, this is exactly the kind of game where upsets happen at the end of the season. I am going to go out on a limb here and pick the Miami Dolphins to upset the Steelers at home this Sunday.
CamelClutchBlog.com Fantasy Football Playoff Standings
Team The Nice Guys 3-0 (Jeff Porrini)
Dusty’s RedBellySpot 2-1 (Eric Gargiulo)
Winner’s Consolation Ladder
…Not You!!! 0-3 (John Yomtov)
Havertown Spoilers 1-2 (Bryan Reigel)
1st Place 1-2 (Derek Sabato)
Team Wheelhouse Radio! 2-1 (Jeff Peck)
Team Nuetral Zone 2-1 (Brett Clendaniel)
Team We Own You 1-2 (Erik Espenberg)
The Kings of Krista 2-1 (Josh Usher)
Team Rowland 1-2 (Justin Rowland)
NFL Week 17 Picks!
I slipped a game last week going 10-6. Now I did qualify my Colts pick by picking the Jets if Manning sat, but in fairness I’ll take it on the chin as a loss. There are similar issues this week. The Cardinals have already said that if the Vikings win, they will sit their starters. The last three weeks I have gone 10-6, 11-5, and 12-4, so overall it has been a great final stretch. I refuse to go down with anything less than a double-digit week. I am 155-87 overall on the season straight up in games. Now for the NFL Week 17 Picks (Picks in BOLD) –
Indianapolis at Buffalo
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Cleveland Browns
Chicago Bears vs Detroit Lions
San Francisco at St. Louis
Pittsburgh at Miami
New York Giants vs Minnesota Vikings
Atlanta at Tampa Bay
New Orleans at Carolina
New England Patriots vs Houston Texans
Green Bay Packers vs Arizona Cardinals
Washington at San Diego
Tennessee at Seattle
Baltimore at Oakland
Philadelphia Eagles vs Dallas Cowboys
Kansas City Chiefs vs Denver Broncos
Cincinnati Bengals vs New York Jets
Happy New Year to you and yours.
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