FOR some NFL teams, the end of the regular season can’t come soon enough. There are just two games remaining for most of the league as the 2019 schedule winds down to a close and while some are happy it’s nearly over, for a lot of squads, the fun is only just beginning. The majority of the playoff spots have been secured, the award races are still raging on and there is still plenty of movement that can occur in the AFC and NFC seedings. So just what is at stake over the seasons final 32 games?
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EIGHT of the 12 possible postseason berths have already been locked in, with half of the division battles over as well. In the ultra-competitive NFC, there is chaos amongst the playoff seedings with four squads tied with an 11-3 record at the time of typing. Right now the Seahawks are the top overall seed, locked in a battle with their NFC West rivals in San Fransisco for a valuable first-round bye. Of course, if they want to get to that position they’ll have to first take care of business against Arizona at home, who snapped a six-game losing streak last weekend. San Fran has their own fate to worry about in Week 16, with topping the L.A. Rams a tough task in itself. If both the Seahawks and 49ers can win this weekend, expect a ton of fireworks in the final game of the year when they clash at CenturyLink Field with the division title on the line.
NEW Orleans and Green Bay, the other 11-3 teams in the conference are glad that when the NFC West counterparts do meet it knocks one of them out of the running for the other first-round bye, currently owned by the Packers. On Monday night we will see them and another current playoff team in Minnesota take to the field, with a Green Bay win helping them to secure the NFC North title. Don’t sleep on the Vikings though, who with Kirk Cousins leading the charge look primed to contend for the Super Bowl, regardless of their seeding. Minnesota needs a lot to go right for them to move out of the Wild Card rungs on the playoff ladder, but they are clicking on all cylinders at the right time of year.
Image from newsweek.com
AS these division counterparts clash with one another the Saints are quietly going about their business and are arguably the best-poised team to leap into one of the coveted top-2 spots. A Week 17 game against Carolina doesn’t pose too much of a threat, however, their match this weekend against Tennessee is an intriguing one for both parties involved. A loss this weekend won’t eliminate the Titans from the postseason, but with the Houston Texans looming in their final game of the season, Tennessee would love to cause an upset against NOLA to enhance their chances of a playoff berth. Currently, the Titans are +115 underdogs against New Orleans at home, while the Steelers, their greatest competition for a Wild Card spot, are -180 favourites against the Jets (odds via Sports Betting Dime).
TENNESSEE would love to win out and claim the AFC South for the first time since 2002, stopping the Texans from repeating as division champs. That would leave Houston locked in a battle for a postseason place with the likes of Pittsburgh, who have resurrected their season despite losing their starting quarterback in Week 2. Their own division rivals in Baltimore haven’t got many worries left, with a W over the Browns on the weekend likely leading to them securing the top overall seed for the postseason. If that was to happen it would be tough to make a case for anyone other than Ravens second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson as the league’s most valuable player.
AS it stands right now, Jackson has more total touchdowns than 10 entire NFL teams and securing the best record in the league should see him claim the MVP award. Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson are bound to be his biggest threats for the award, but even if they drop back-to-back eye-popping box scores and Baltimore stumbles to the finish it still appears to be Jackson’s trophy to lose. The Ravens won’t be focused on individual accolades though, with little breathing room between them and the New England Patriots atop the AFC standings.
THE Pats are gunning for their 11th consecutive AFC East crown with their opponents this weekend in Buffalo, trying to stay in the division contention with a win against New England. The Bills have recorded double-digit wins for the first time since 1999 and if they could defeat the Patriots this weekend, the battle for the AFC East would come down to the final round of fixtures, with New England still holding the tiebreaker. Their division is one of the few intriguing ones remaining, however, I’ve saved the best for last – kind of.
DALLAS and Philadelphia clashing on Sunday is the biggest game remaining on the regular-season calendar with not only the NFC East title up for grabs but for both teams, their entire season basically boils down to this. Entering this weekend at 7-7 apiece, 2019 hasn’t gone the way Eagles and Cowboys fans would have liked. A win against their rivals will change that for one fan base and while their postseason stay may not be lengthy a win for one squad will mean their season won’t end in December.
THESE two have met already this season in Week 7, a match that Dallas claimed 37-10 and despite Philadelphia hosting this clash, the Cowboys are favourites heading into the contest. If Philly does win, then they can sew up the division title by beating the Giants in Week 17, a result that everyone expects to occur, but Dallas holds the power right now and they could help save Jason Garrett’s job by beating their rivals on the road.
Image from dknation.draftkings.com
WHILE we are on the topic, Jason Garrett isn’t the only coach who’s fate is up in the air with the season winding down. Dan Quinn has somewhat saved himself with an impressive past fortnight, but Freddie Kitchens is someone who isn’t so lucky. Cleveland appears set to retain Kitchens, but a season that offered so much promise has turned into a massive failure and the first-year head coach might be the casualty. The job security for the likes of Doug Marrone, Adam Gase and Pat Shurmur isn’t at an all-time high either, with the trio of coaches combining for a 13-29 record on the season so far. All three of them are expected to come under heavy scrutiny and potentially lose their jobs after failing to find success with their current squads.
AS I said at the leadoff, some teams will want to wash their hands with the 2019 season and move into the offseason ready to focus on the next decade. However, there is still so much on the line in the final 32 games of the year and a season that has provided us with plenty of thrills isn’t done with just yet.
Banner from star-telegram.com