WE’VE made it to the regular season finale after an eventful four months of football. There is still a lot to play in Week 17, with playoff spots, seeding implications and job security all on the line. Enjoy the last weekend of regular season action and to help, I suggest brushing up on all the important lines in this list of sites, as nearly two-thirds of the league end their 2018 campaigns on Sunday.
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BEFORE the season began I thought Kirk Cousins, would be the final piece of an NFC championship Minnesota Vikings. A dominant running game has fueled their recent success, but Cousins was the big offseason splash that was supposed to make the playoffs a formality. Things haven’t gone smoothly for the Vikes both on and off the field and they now have to fight for the postseason lives in the regular season finale against an imposing Chicago Bears team, who still has a potential first-round bye to play for. A ton of pressure is on Cousins to perform in the high-stakes scenario, with a loss on Sunday likely spelling the end of Minnesota season especially with Nick Foles and the Eagles breathing down their necks.
Coaches On The Hot Seat
WITH Black Monday fast approaching there are a ton of coaches who will be out to impress their front office brass and avoid being fired. Even a dominant victory might not save Vance Joseph (Broncos) or Adam Gase (Dolphins) from the axe but there are another half a dozen dudes clinging to faint hope. It wouldn’t surprise me if any combination of Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Dirk Kouter (Buccaneers), Doug Morone (Jaguars), Jay Gruden (Washington), Steve Wilks (Cardinals) and Todd Bowles (Jets) were let go after coming up short in 2018, but one lasting impression might see them earn another chance. Albeit a slim one…
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Indianapolis Colts/Tenessee Titans
THE math is pretty simple for the Colts and the Tiants, win and you’re in, making Sunday’s nightcap must-watch football. Both teams are under a ton of pressure with Indianapolis (probably) the better and more deserving team fueled by a surging Andrew Luck. It won’t be an easy task for he and the Colts though as they travel to face a Tenessee team who featured in the playoffs a year ago and seem to be peaking at the perfect time. All the NFL eyeballs will be on two teams duking it out in the last game of the year for a playoff spot, so if you only watch one game on Sunday make sure it’s this one.
COULD we really be seeing the end of Eli in New York? Or more importantly, could the Giants really be entertaining the idea of starting him in 2019? One more good start might save the 37-year old from extinction with the 2x Super Bowl champ Manning having spent his entire career in NYC. It’s no secret that Eli’s career is coming to an end with Giants fans and the NFL community seemingly divided over Manning potentially squeezing another year out of his ailing body as the Giants QB. A succession plan needs to be established ASAP, but Eli could force the front office’s hand if he lights it up against Dallas.
Cleveland Browns Offense
FOR the first time in what seems like an eternity, Cleveland still has something fight for in the final week of the season. Should Cleveland upset Baltimore on the road they would end with a record above .500 for the first time since 2007. The Browns offensive side of the ball is what people will have their eyes on as Baker Mayfield looks to sew up the Offensive Rookie of the Year honours with another impressive showing.
MAYFIELD needs just three touchdown passes to break Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson’s record (26 TD’s) for the most ever by a rookie. His OC Freddie Kitchens deserves a boatload of credit for Mayfield second half success and if they can find the secret sauce to put points on the board against THIS Ravens D it might lead to Kitchens earning the full-time reigns next season, or even be in line for a promotion as head coach. Baltimore won’t make things easy, but that just makes the storyline even more fun to watch.
ON the other sideline in that Browns-Ravens game is a team that will be out for redemption following their heartbreak a season ago. Eliminated from the postseason on almost the final play of the season, Baltimore has had a sour taste in their mouth for the last 12 months and they will be out to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again this year. A win at home against Cleveland would not only give them a spot in the postseason, but it sews up the AFC North crown with a home playoff game in the wild-card round. Expect the Ravens to come out breathing fire to lock up their spot in the AFC postseason race.
OVER half the league has already been eliminated from playoff calculations, with some learning their fate months before their rivals. For five squads who own 5-10 records, there could be some light at the end of the tunnel, as long as they find a way to lose this weekend. This shouldn’t be hard considering their double-digit L tally so far this season, but a loss on Sunday could guarantee a spot inside the top-5 come draft night. The Bills, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Lions and Giants are all in line to snag that spot and with gaping holes over their roster the 5th overall pick could be a game changer, should they come up short on the seasons’ final weekend. Don’t stuff it up.
I’LL admit I was dead wrong about Seattle, who have already sewn up a playoff spot with a surprising 9-6 season to date. However, they still have something to play for in their final game of the regular season to avoid sliding into the 6th seed and the final wildcard spot. If that occurs, they’ll be forced to go on the road to take on either the Chicago Bears or the L.A. Rams, two teams who are expected to have deep postseason runs. A win over the lowly Cardinals keeps them in the 5th seed and sets up a date against a far less intimidating Dallas Cowboys outfit. They should paste Arizona, but they can’t get complacent with Steve Wilkes fighting for his job, as a loss paves a significantly harder road to Super Bowl LIII.