There is nothing quite like an NFL playoff game to end the regular season, certainly if your life centers around a nice sofa, carbonated beverages and finger foods from August to February.
No Week 17 game is as compelling as Tennessee-Indianapolis. The winner gets an AFC Wildcard, the loser licks their wounds. But if Houston loses on Sunday, the winner is the AFC South champion. This is the definition of a huge game.
The Titans are 6-1 at home. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has never lost to the Titans (10-0). The oddsmakers are similarly split, calling the Colts a slight favorite. And the reason might be Marcus Mariota.
Tennessee’s QB might not play because of a stinger that originally numbed half his body. If he can’t, the well-traveled Blaine Gabbert will need to lead, although the Titans attack has been distinguished by its running game of late. Then again, Jacksonville beat Indianapolis 6-0 a few weeks ago with backup QB Cody Kessler playing.
This Might Be It For Bowles
The New York newspapers have already announced the firing of Jets coach Todd Bowles, so it seems there is little he could do against New England, short of a 50-0 win, that might save his job. Don’t bet on it, even though it’s now legal in New Jersey.
Who will the Jets hire? The odds are on former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. You don’t think Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wants the job, do you?
The Pats stink on the road (3-5) but have not lost at home and they will be highly motivated to improve their playoff seeding. If the Pats win, when the Pats win, the customary first-round bye will be theirs. If they win, and San Diego and Kansas City lose, the Pats will be the top seed in the AFC. Perhaps Tom and Gisele will head to Costa Rica for a few days.
Can the Jets win without receivers Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa? Why does it matter? Rookie Sam Darnold has played great the last three weeks, but the Jets don’t have enough around him to deny the Pats what they rightly deserve – a vacation week.
Eli Manning: In Or Out?
Dallas settled the score in the NFC East by beating Tampa Bay. Jerry Jones could have blown a fuse. Instead he popped a cork. That’s Jerry being Jerry.
There is nothing left for them to play for. The end product is the same whether the Cowboys beat the New York Giants or not. Dallas is the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The bottles of bubbly are on ice again. Imagine how cold it will be if they win the Super Bowl?
The only thing left for Giants fans to wonder about is Eli Manning. Should he stay or should he go? Not only is the question a valid one, it’s a song by The Clash. Giants coach Pat Shurmur said he thinks Manning can start for another two seasons. What will 5-11 say after 3-13 in 2017?
Texans Hope To Lasso Division
There is only one reason were talking about the Jacksonville-Houston matchup. It has nothing to do with Blake Bortles return as Jags QB. Heck, hardly anyone cared when he was benched for Cody Kessler a few weeks ago.
This all about the Texans’ chance to win the AFC South, which they will if they win, or a Titans-Colts tie if they lose. A first-round bye comes with a win and Patriots loss, or a win combined with Chiefs and Chargers losses, and a tie in the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Chiefs. They also have an outside chance at AFC home-field advantage. They would need a win and losses by the Patriots, Chiefs and Chargers.
Quiz in the morning. Either way, it’s a heck of a story after an 0-3 start.
Houston’s defensive line is awesome and without Josh Wells, the Jags competent right tackle, or possibly without running back Leonard Fournette, Titans defensive end J.J. Watt might play the part of Jaguar hunting prey (Bortles). As National Geographic taught us, a hungry Jaguar rarely go homes home hungrier.
Chargers Seeking Home Field
You might add Denver coach Vance Joseph to the list to endangered head coaches. Really, you wonder why John Elway took the chance in the first place. The Broncos have been up and down as much as an Otis (Armstrong) elevator.
The Chargers have already clinched at least a Wildcard and will win the AFC West – and top seed – with a win and Chiefs loss. If they lose, they will open the playoff on the road next week. So don’t expect them to kick up the leg rest.
San Diego will have Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler back. Gordon needs only 157 rushing yards to pair with LaDainian Tomlinson as the only Chargers to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. The Broncos will not have Philip Lindsay, tantamount to their past teams not having Floyd Little, Armstrong, Mike Anderson or Terrell Davis. Plus, Philip Rivers has already thrown for over 400 yards against the Broncos this season.
The Broncos are terribly banged up. Lindsay, the prized rookie, is Velcro on another of their adhesion wraps. Denver can’t win this one. Joseph will likely be back as a defensive coordinator next season, where he rightfully belongs.
Time For Chiefs To Snap Out Of It
Kansas City began the season like Secretariat at 1973 Belmont. You thought no one could stop them and no would catch them when they hit full stride (9-1) on Nov. 11. Now they come down the stretch looking like Mr. Ed running to first base during his 1963 tryout with Dodgers (YouTube it kids).
If they weren’t playing Oakland this week, there might be reason for concern. If the Chiefs (2-3 in their last five) lose again, and the Chargers beat the Broncos, they will lose the top-seed and open their postseason next weekend on the road.
The Chiefs have not lost this season in nine tries against non-playoff teams. No one conjures ineptness more than the Raiders, more black and blue than silver and black in their first season with Jon Gruden back in charge.
Rams Need A Win
Like the Chiefs, the Los Angeles Rams have applied the brakes recently. They are on the verge of losing their first-round bye if they lose to the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears win.
It’s interesting to note, as ESPN did, that the 49ers have beaten the Rams four straight in Week 17 games. Of course, the Rams weren’t in crisis mode in any of those finales and they certainly are now.
One thing to watch – as if you could possibly avoid him – is defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s chase of the league sack record. It’s currently held by TV star Mike Strahan, who watched Brett Favre fold in his grasp with reprehensible effortlessness to help his buddy set the record (22 ½) in 2006.
In 2011 and 2014, respectively, the Vikings Jared Allen and Kansas City’s Justin Houston came within a half-sack of tying Strahan. Houston did so by getting four sacks in his season-ending game. Donald needs three sacks to tie Strahan.
Steelers Win Might End It For Lewis
We believe this might be it, as well, for Marvin Lewis. He has been the head coach of the Bengals since 2003. In terms of tenure, he’s been around for 16 years, one shy of the time Johnny Bench spent with the Reds.
Besides time, there is another distinction: His teams lost all seven postseason games he coached. At some point, logic must prevail over loyalty.
It’s appropriate that me might say so long against the Pittsburgh Steelers, perennially the Bengals archrival in the AFC North. And there’s no better time for him to beat them.
The Steelers win the AFC North with a victory and Baltimore loss. If the Ravens win, there is only one Pittsburgh path to the playoffs. They must win and the Colts and Titans tie. That is not promising.
Fly Eagles Fly
Philadelphia built a statue of Rocky and he was make-believe. Imagine what might be commissioned if Nick Foles comes out of nowhere to take the Eagles to a second-straight Super Bowl title.
Since Foles returned to replace the injured Carson Wentz, the Eagles (8-6) have defeated the Rams and Texans and have scored 62 points. Now this: The Eagles need a victory and a Vikings loss to clinch a Wildcard. And who knows what might happen next.
Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins have lost five of six, 23 players to injured reserve, and now have Josh Johnson, their fourth QB, pulling them to the finish line. Owner Dan Snyder must be apoplectic.
Maybe Ravens Can Shut Mayfield’s Mouth
Baker Mayfield can be a pain in the butt. He’s a wiseass. But the rookie QB has been fabulous and has led a franchise that was 1-31 the last two seasons to five wins in its last six games.
If they win a sixth, the Baltimore Ravens might be in trouble. They have their own rookie QB, Lamar Jackson, and has changed the culture and stoked the confidence of his team since replacing Joe Flacco.
While the Browns have been soaring, so have the birds. Baltimore’s defense is vicious and leads the league. It has scored a TD in three of its last five games. It can harass Mayfield and then give the kid a piece of its mind.
The Ravens can clinch the AFC North with a win or a Steelers loss.