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2018-2019 NFL Divisional Round Preview and Picks

In case you haven’t looked at my overall playoff picks, I have missed on both of my Super Bowl teams, and in certain cases by the slimmest of margins. But, I wouldn’t be any good at what I do if I couldn’t get right back on my feet and predict again. You bet that’s just what I’ll do this week: bring you picks that are most likely incorrect and influenced by my own biases as a human and football fan. After consulting with my inner Schwami and a friend at a favorite delicatessen of mine, I have arrived at these conclusions (success of results may vary, and I am not responsible for any losses on your part because you listened to my picks)

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts

Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET on NBC

This represents one of the most intriguing matchups as it presents a challenge that will be the Colts’ surging offense against a Chiefs defense that doesn’t look sexy on paper. However, the Colts could find it hard to throw against a Chiefs secondary led by Kendall Fuller, who will most likely try to lockdown T.Y. Hilton all game long. However, the key will be how well the Chiefs are able to pressure Andrew Luck as the Houston Texans found life on defense very miserable owing to the protection by the Colts offensive line. Should the Chiefs defense not hurry Luck, it could be a long game for Chiefs fans. However, the Chiefs will also have to stop the Colts’ running game headlined by Marlon Mack’s monster week during Wild Card Weekend. The bright side for Chiefs fans is that their offense can score too. They have the likely MVP, Patrick Mahomes II, at quarterback, and should be able to attack an above-average Colts defense. Comprehensively, I’d argue that the Chiefs played some of the most coherent football throughout the entirety of the season. Last time out against the anemic Oakland Raiders, Mahomes & Co. showed little signs of late-season fatigue, and put in a solid display that doesn’t always come out in games against lesser opposition in the final regular season game (look at the Seahawks vs. Cardinals). Their defense is also better than most people give them credit for when you consider that playmaker Eric Berry missed virtually the entire season due to injury. There is talk that he could return in time to face the Colts which would add a dimension to the Chiefs secondary that has been missing in his absence. For the neutral fan, like myself, it should be an entertaining game.

Prediction: Chiefs 35-31 Colts

Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys

Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET on FOX

As a Cowboys fan, I am happier with this matchup than I was with the potential reunion with the Saints in New Orleans. That said, I really get jitters when I look at what my Cowboys will be facing. The Cowboys come in looking pretty good as they were able to navigate the challenges of the Seahawks defense, but they weren’t stringing drives together like they will have to this week. On defense, the secondary looked very vulnerable with Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie looking the most exposed. If the Cowboys can establish the run using Ezekiel Elliott and use play-action to their advantage, they stand a good chance. They will also need a defense led by the play of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to step up if they hope to beat the Rams. The Rams come into this with most of their guys getting about three weeks’ rest as their starters only played about half of a game against the listless San Francisco 49ers. As demonstrated last year, that extra rest didn’t benefit the Rams; rather, it hurt them against an Atlanta Falcons team that got after them from the start. I expect one of the most complete offenses in the NFL, boasting the likes of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley II, and Brandin Cooks to look better this time around, but don’t underestimate a defense led by youngsters John Johnson III and Cory Littleton. The result I am picking is more in tune with my heart, but there is a legitimate shot that the Cowboys have to win the game, but they will need to play a flawless game in order to best the Rams.

Prediction: Cowboys 24-23 Rams

New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET on CBS

In thirty years, this would be one of the dream shuffleboarding championships in the world. Why do I say this? This matchup of quarterbacks pits the equivalent of two NFL senior citizens against one another and gives us the oldest combined ages of any starting quarterback matchup in NFL history. That said, this game should be an exciting chess match. On one side, you have Philip Rivers, whose Chargers found a way to navigate past a stout Ravens defense. The part that scares me is that it seems like the wheels could fall off of this offense at any point which would give them almost no chance of beating the Patriots this week. Fortunately, the Chargers appear to have solved their postseason kicking woes as Mike Badgely was the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Chargers fans last week after proving that he hadn’t failed like his predecessors in the postseason. However, the Chargers are going to need guys like Melvin Ingram to step up again on defense and create plays if they hope to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots. On the other side, is the Empire. Much like the villains in Star Wars, this is a juggernaut helmed by a ruthless tyrant (Bill Belichick) and it continues to be the be all, end all in the NFL. It seems like the Patriots are always in the hunt to play in the Super Bowl, and while that has to do with having Brady as a quarterback, Belichick and the Patriots front office have found ways to plug in players using the Patriot Way. So long as the Patriots can keep this close, Brady can find a way. Much of that will be up to the defense which has been average, but could find joy against the struggling offense of the Chargers. I believe the Patriots will emerge victorious and prove why they have earned a reputation of being a postseason team over the past two decades.

Prediction: Patriots 24-10 Chargers

New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday 4:40 p.m. ET on FOX

This matchup is really intriguing because of the regular season result that saw the Eagles leave New Orleans with their tails tucked after a 48-7 thumping by the Saints. Although that matchup is only from two months ago, these two teams are both different. The Eagles have shown why they won the Super Bowl last year having finally awoken from their Super Bowl Slumber following that infamous defeat, while the Saints have had to grind a little bit harder to claim home-field advantage in the NFC. This matchup also makes my heart hurt as a Cowboys fan because I really don’t want either of these teams in the next round for their own specific reasons. As much as I would like for Nick Foles to wake up Sunday morning with agonizing neck stiffness making him inactive, I have never believed in rooting for guys to get injured because I was an athlete, and I’ve either seen of had enough injuries to know that they aren’t fun. If you do find yourself rooting for injuries, please consider revising that stance because that can ruin these guys ability to work for a living. You would’t want someone to make you unable to work, athletes want the same thing. Back to the football game at hand. The Eagles come in riding the coattails of Foles who has turned this team around. Don’t let their record fool you, this is a very solid and dangerous football team with playmakers on both sides of the ball. One area of concern for me is the Eagles’ secondary which was torn asunder by a resurgent Bears offense in the second half, particularly when double moves were used by the Bears receivers. Specifically, Avonte Maddox could be targeted as he repeatedly bit hard on the initial move by Bears receivers and he should see plenty of the ball his way against Drew Brees and the Saints offense. In order for the Eagles to stand up to the Saints, they will need their front seven to get after Brees and contain the ability of Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara to dominate them on the ground. Since their woes in past seasons, the Saints have done a marvelous job constructing a team that has allowed Brees to continue playing at an elite level. A revamped defense headlined by Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore will be essential if the Saints hope to stifle the Eagles offense much like they did during the regular season. The Saints will also need to score touchdowns rather than field goals because this Eagles team was efficient with the chances it created against a much stronger Bears defense. I really don’t like what I am picking in this, but I live for making picks that are only 53.2% accurate.

Prediction: Saints 27-17 Eagles

2018-2019 NFL Playoff Predictions

With the NFL Playoffs upon us, I thought it best to give you all my predictions for the playoffs and my predictions on who will win awards at the NFL Honors.

NFL Honors Predictions

NFL Most Valuable Player: Patrick Mahomes II, QB Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees, QB New Orleans Saints

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT Los Angeles Rams

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Baker Mayfield, QB Cleveland Browns

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Darius Leonard, LB Indianapolis Colts

Comeback Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, QB Indianapolis Colts

Coach of the Year: Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

NFL Playoff Predictions

Now, while I did not publically state who would win on Wild Card Weekend (better late than never right?), I would like to state that I did not get any of my picks right, as I chose the Texans over the Colts, Seahawks over the Cowboys, Ravens over Chargers and the Bears over the Eagles. I would have gotten the Bears game right if a certain event did not take place at the end of the game (thank you very much Cody Parkey and thank you Cris Collinsworth for your words of wisdom and your Double Doink play call).

Now allow me to provide you with my playoff predictions BEFORE this weekends activities.

Saturday @ 4:35 ET: Colts @ Chiefs

Pick: Chiefs 38-21

Saturday @ 8:15 ET: Cowboys @ Rams

Pick: Rams 35-20

Sunday @ 1:05 ET: Chargers @ Patriots

Pick: Chargers 31-28

Sunday @ 4:40 ET: Eagles @ Saints

Pick: Saints 41-21

Here’s to hoping I get all of my picks right this week. Stay tuned next week where I’ll provide my Championship weekend picks.

-Marcus Jacobs

Wild Card Weekend Predictions and Awards Season

Well, that was an exhilarating Week 17, wasn’t it? For those of you who read my Week 17 predictions post, you now know to take (some) of my picks with a grain of salt. But, that does not mean that I will stop making them. After you all let out a collective sigh, here are my predictions for awards and the highly anticipated Wild Card Weekend games.

Awards

MVP: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (this was not very hard)

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Darius Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts

Comeback Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Coach of the Year: Matt Nagy, HC, Chicago Bears

Wild Card Weekend Picks

Saturday 4:35 PM EST: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

The pick: Texans 27-19

Saturday 8:15 PM EST: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

The pick: Seahawks 17-14

Sunday 1:05 PM EST: Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

The pick: Ravens 20-10

Sunday 4:40 PM EST: Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears

The pick: Bears 24-13 (no bias here, I promise…)

As we start 2019 off (hopefully) on the right foot, let us be thankful for a few things; we have PLAYOFF football (yes Jim Mora, playoffs) on both Saturday and Sunday for the next 2 weeks, the matchups are very good, and most remotes have a mute button for when Joe Buck gets his turn to call one of the four Wild Card Weekend games. Enjoy Wild Card Weekend everyone!



2018-2019 NFL Playoff Predictions

As I am sure most of you who read our articles know, I am extremely bad at predicting what will happen, and what scores might be in games. In case you haven’t had a chance to check out Marcus’ post, this is up the same alley, and yet another try at predicting things correctly (what could possibly go wrong?). I will also give you my take on who will win awards in February along with why I think that.

NFL Awards Predictions

NFL MVP: Drew Brees, QB New Orleans Saints

Yeah, yeah. Patrick Mahomes threw for 50 touchdowns, and managed to keep the Chiefs rolling after a certain story came out about a running back who shalt not be named. However, hear me out on this one because Drew Brees still had a solid year even though he didn’t finish in the upper echelons of the sexy offensive categories. Brees finished the year with 32 touchdown passes, 5 interceptions, and 4 rushing touchdowns. He also only lost one fumble the entire season. He turned the ball over a total of 6 times by himself which is elite level ball security for any NFL quarterback. His interception totals are the lowest among quarterbacks who made it through the end of the season, and he finished with SEVEN fewer interceptions than Patrick Mahomes. His touchdown to interception ratio is 6.4 compared to Mahomes who had a 4.2 despite tossing 18 more touchdowns. Ball security is paramount to winning games in the NFL, and Brees is better all around, even if his passing yards and touchdowns are less than Mahomes. One more thing, Mahomes played one more game than Brees did meaning that his stats are from 16 games as opposed to Brees’ 15. Not convinced? I won’t hold it against you, but you shouldn’t write Brees off simply because his picture doesn’t top NFL stat lists.

Offensive Player of the Year: Patrick Mahomes II, QB Kansas City Chiefs

I think this award is more fitting for Mahomes simply because there was not a more dynamic playmaker in the NFL. He is also my runner-up for MVP. Ezekiel Elliott accounted for 2,001 total yards for a running back, but even his production pales in comparison with that of Mahomes. Although Mahomes didn’t exactly pile up the rushing yards, it is his mobility that terrorizes defenses much like Russell Wilson does. At 50 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, and 5,097 passing yards on the season, it is no wonder that the Chiefs had such a dynamic offense. There is a running game, but the quarterback sets the tone on offense, and he was steady at the helm as he consistently marched his team downfield for touchdowns.

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT Los Angeles Rams

There isn’t much about this guy that you don’t know (prepares Jon Gruden impression). This guy is amazing, man. His hands are lightening quick, great strength for a defensive lineman, and he really makes plays on defense for you, man (stops with the impression). Donald nearly broke Michael Strahan’s sack record with 20.5 sacks this season (Strahan had 22.5 in 2001). Personally, that’s just about enough to hand him the award right there. Beyond that, Donald accounted for 59 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, and 1 pass defensed. He is as dynamic of a defensive lineman who has ever played in the NFL, and teams are unable to stop him despite constantly gameplanning on how to neutralize him on offense. Just give him the award now, he deserves it.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley, RB New York Giants

Once again, the New York Giants had a season to forget, but you can’t point your finger at Barkley as the problem. Barkley accounted for 2,028 total yards on offense finding the end zone 15 times (11 rushing, 4 receiving). At times, Barkley looked unstoppable running the ball, and has established himself as a key component in the Giants offense for years to come. Right now, there are only a handful of running backs in the same conversation as Barkley. For a rookie to produce this much in his first season, he could carry the offense much like Elliott does for the rival Cowboys while the Giants groom a young quarterback.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Leighton Vander Esch, LB Dallas Cowboys

This kid can do it all, and he flies around with fellow young linebacker Jaylon Smith making tackle after tackle for a resurgent Dallas defense. Vander Esch finished the year third in the NFL in tackles with 140, when he started off the year as a rotation linebacker for the Cowboys. Colloquially, I call him the “tackling Dutchman” although “The Flying Dutchman” would fit just as well. He paired his 140 tackles with 2 interceptions and 7 passes defensed. There is a case to be made for Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts, but I urge voters to consider the impact of the Cowboys’ first-rounder out of Boise State, especially because he didn’t have a starting job until Sean Lee went down in Week 4.

Comeback Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE Houston Texans

This is a player who has seen his fair share of years ravaged by injuries despite being recognized as one of the most dynamic playmakers on defense. As the captain of the Texans on defense, he sets the tone well as he accounted for 61 tackles, 16 sacks (second to Aaron Donald), and 7 passes defensed from his defensive end spot. While a lot has been said about the year Andrew Luck put together, Watt helped turn around a Texans defense and provide it with a pass rushing consistency that is paramount in the pass-heavy NFL. His return took a team that ranked 20th in total defense and 23rd in defense efficiency rating in 2017 when he played five games and catapulted it to 12th in total defense and 7th in defense efficiency rating in 2018 when he played a full season. He has a clear impact on this Texans defense, and voters should take that into account when they fill out their ballots.

Coach of the Year: Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles

Maybe I like being different on these picks, but some variety is important in life. Matt Nagy is most likely the man who will hoist this award. I have nothing against what the Bears did this year, but Nagy benefited from an incredibly healthy starting defense that happened to be the best in the NFL led by Khalil Mack, and an offense that was able to find the end zone frequently enough for the defense to deliver them games. Pederson had to deal with a year in which he only got 11 games from Carson Wentz, had to explore numerous options at running back, and then had to win his final three games with Nick Foles to make the playoffs. To me, that signals an incredible job coaching a team that had health problems on both sides of the ball and dealt with a Super Bowl hangover for most of the year. Maybe he isn’t a popular bet to win the award twice in a row, but he has proven that he knows what he is doing when it comes to coaching a football team to win games.

Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Weekend

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
Prediction: Colts 24-20

Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys
Prediction: Cowboys 31-28

Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens
Prediction: Ravens 18-12 (OT)

Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears
Prediction: Bears 24-10

Divisional Round

Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs
Prediction: Chiefs 30-23

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Prediction: Ravens 24-23

Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints
Prediction: Saints 17-10

Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams
Prediction: Bears 27-24

Conference Championship Round

Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs
Prediction: Ravens 17-16

Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints
Prediction: Bears 26-20

Super Bowl

Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears
Prediction: Ravens 27-20

Do you have your own ideas about predictions? Feel free to leave us a comment with who you think will win and where I went wrong.

Week 17 Picks

Week 17 is finally upon us and I know, personally, I will be watching all day long from a local Buffalo Wild Wings with my good buddy and some family. Please enjoy these mediocre picks!

1:00 EST Slate

Dolphins at Bills (Buf -5.0): Josh Allen has been running all over defenses all year long (yes, you heard that right). This game is at Buffalo and Miami is never great in the cold. This game has no real implications from a playoff standpoint, but division games are always important for bragging rights. A somewhat stingy Buffalo defense limits Miami’s subpar offense well, and Allen makes a few plays; The Pick: Bills 19 Dolphins 7

Lions at Packers (GB -8.0): Again, another game with absolutely no playoff implications, but Aaron Rodgers has garnered my respect for continuing to play despite having little to no motivation to do so. I think Rodgers will pick apart a weak Lions defense, and although Stafford might put up a few numbers and points, Packers take this one easily; The Pick: Packers 31 Lions 10

Jaguars at Texans (Hou -7.0): The Texans have quite a bit to play for, and although this has been an incredibly disappointing year in Jacksonville, pride is most definitely on the line. This could result in a hard fought battle from the big-name Jags D (and the once again starter Blake Bortles), or a complete meltdown. Regardless, Watson is hot right now, and getting the ball to Hopkins has been a major part of that. I’m taking the Texans in a semi-blowout; The Pick: Texans 28 Jags 12

Jets at Patriots (NE -14.0): Wow, look at that line. I think we can all agree that the Pats haven’t been AS good as we’re used to seeing, but with a chance to lock up a first round bye and POSSIBLY a 1 seed, Brady will shine against a poor Jets D. While Darnold has shown flashes of good quarterback play this year, I think a very motivated Pats D shuts him down reasonably well. Pats big; The Pick: Patriots 38 Jets 7

Panthers at Saints (NO -8.0): Just a few weeks ago, this game looked as if it would have had major playoff implications. Now, Carolina is starting Kyle Allen at QB, and the Saints are sitting almost everyone, including Brees, Kamara and Cam Jordan. I still expect Teddy Bridgewater to prove what he is capable of against a fairly rugged Carolina D, and McCaffrey will look to finish off his strong year. Plus, this is a division rivalry after all so pride is on the line. Expect a fairly close game; The Pick: Saints 32 Panthers 24

Cowboys at Giants (NYG -7.0): Dallas, having already clinched the division and is locked into the 4 seed in the NFC, has absolutely nothing to play for other than bragging rights against a major rival. The Giants, who have been playing BETTER of late, would love nothing more than to end another disappointing season on a high note with a win, at home, against their hated foe. Dallas has already announced that Zeke will sit this one out, indicating that maybe other starters will not see as many snaps. I expect the G-men to win this one big; The Pick: Giants 35 Cowboys 17

Falcons at Buccaneers (ATL -2.5): Another mud bowl, division game with little to no interest outside of fans of these teams and fantasy owners still alive. The Falcons have more weapons offensively than the Bucs do, but the inconsistency of this team is unreal. Possibly playing for a job next year, I think James will do just enough to cover for a bad defense who will not be able to stop Julio; The Pick: Buccaneers 21 Falcons 10

4:25 EST

Browns at Ravens (BAL -7.0): This matchup has quite a bit of intrigue for a lot of reasons. First off, the playoff implications for Baltimore cannot be understated. Second, Cleveland has ACTUALLY been fun to watch this year with the Baker show coming into effect. I expect Baker to make a few plays, but this Baltimore D is nasty, and will lead them to victory, and a division title. I think it will be close, plus who wouldn’t want to watch Baker Mayfield vs. Lamar Jackson (no, not sarcasm); The Pick: Ravens 20 Browns 17

Eagles at Redskins (PHI -6.0): This is a crucial, crucial game for Philly. With a win and some help, they are back to defend their title, with that good ole Foles magic. The Skins, on the other hand, had their season effectively ended last week, but always look forward to division matchups. Expect to see some life out of that Redskins D, but expect Foles to make enough plays to come put on top; The Pick: Eagles 21 Redskins 17

Raiders at Chiefs (KC -14.0): Can you say blowout? I understand the Raiders have shown signs of life lately, but they are no match for this KC offense, with a lot to play for still. At Arrowhead, it will be close for all of about a quarter. Way too much Patty Mahomes; The Pick: Chiefs 41 Raiders 17

Bears at Vikings (MIN -6.0): The fact that Minnesota is favored by a TD is laughable. The Bears clearly have the best D in the NFC and maybe the whole NFL and are playing for a bye. However, if the Rams game gets out of hand, Chicago will take starters out. the Vikes have everything to play for, but I think the Bears ruin their party; The Pick: Bears 17 Vikings 10

Bengals at Steelers (PIT -14.0): At home, with everything to play for, against a terrible Bengals D, the Steelers win this one over the Driskel led Bengals by a huge margin; The Pick: Steelers 38 Bengals 10

Chargers at Broncos (LAC -6.5): It is always hard to win on the road in Denver, and with the Chiefs likely to win their game, one might think that the Chargers would have little motivation and might come out flat. They’re wrong. I think Rivers elevates his game even more today, and pulls out a close one against a Lindsay-less Broncos squad; The Pick: Chargers 20 Broncos 17

49ers at Rams (LAR -10.5): With the Bears breathing down their neck for the coveted first round bye (2 seed) in the NFC, the Rams will have to survive a 49er squad who has been playing hard, despite their record. Expect a close one in the Coliseum, with Goff making just enough plays to come away with a win, and a bye; The Pick: Rams 24 49ers 13

Cardinals at Seahawks (SEA -14.0): Seattle, playing for seeding, still has every reason to win. Coming off a big win last week, momentum carries over into this one and they, fairly easily, beat a bad Cardinals team; The Pick: Seahawks 27 Cardinals 13

8:20 EST

Colts at Titans (IND -5.0): Road favorites in an essentially win-or-go-home game, I think Andrew Luck has one of the best games of his season, and puts his team into the playoffs scorching hot; The Pick: Colts 31 Titans 23

NFL Week 17 Breakdown and A Look Ahead To The Playoffs

Week 17 is (almost) upon us, and personally, I cannot wait. Playoff scenarios are set in both conferences, and even though the amount of teams that are still mathematically alive for the playoffs is very small, this is the last time fans of non-playoff teams can watch their beloved squads compete until the end of summer next year. Oh, and of course, it is a very important week for those who still have fantasy football championships on the line. Nevertheless, let’s break down these games and scenarios, shall we?

NFC

The NFC playoff picture is a bit more clear cut than its AFC counterpart. This is what we know so far; The Saints clinched the NFC South (rather handily at that) and will also be the number 1 seed, receiving a bye and home field throughout the duration of the NFC playoffs (as long as they remain in, of course). Next, we know that the Rams, Bears, and Cowboys each clinched their respective divisions and that the Cowboys are locked into the 4 seed, and will play the 5 seed (the first wildcard). As for the Rams and the Bears, in all likelihood, the Rams will be the 2 seed and be on a bye in the Wild Card round, seeing as all they need is to beat the 49ers (who are a good candidate to spoil, but are clearly the lesser team) to obtain such bye privilege. However, the Bears are still alive in the race for that coveted 2 seed; if they can beat the Vikings and somehow get some help from their friends in San Fransisco, the Bears will not play until the Divisional round.

Here is where it gets a bit hairy. The Seahawks have clinched a wild card spot, we just don’t know whether they will be the 5 or the 6 seed. If they beat Arizona, as they should, they will be the 5th seed, and head to Dallas for a date with Dak and company. If they lose and the Vikings beat the Bears, Minnesota gets the 5 and Seattle would be the 6. Following so far? Good, I’m glad. Finally, if the Vikings lose and the Eagles beat the Redskins, Philly will have a chance to defend their crown as the 6 seed. However, if Philly loses, Minnesota will have the final Wild Card regardless of their outcome against Chicago.

AFC

The AFC has quite a few scenarios (actually a lot more than “quite a few”), so I will only go through the less complex ones. The Chiefs clinch the AFC West with a win over Oakland, and more importantly, will have the 1 seed and play all AFC games at Arrowhead. If they lose and the Chargers beat the Broncos, the Chargers will win the division and clinch the 1 seed. The Patriots, already having clinched their division, can lock up the 2 seed with a win, and even sneak into the 1 seed with a win and KC loss and a Chargers loss. However, there is a chance that the evil empire (New England, of course) would have to play on Wild Card weekend; If Houston wins, KC or the Chargers win, and New England loses, Houston gets the 2 seed and New England gets the 3 seed. Now onto the AFC North; Baltimore clinches the division and, most likely the 4 seed, with a win against Cleveland. The Ravens could even potentially get the 2 seed, with a win and a lot of help (Houston, New England losses and tiebreaker scenarios based on strength of victory). On the flip side, if the Ravens lose and the Steelers win, Pittsburgh would clinch the North division (and be the 4th seed). Pittsburgh could also clinch the 6 seed with a win and the Indy-Tennessee game ending in a tie. However you look at it, Pittsburgh needs a good amount of help to make it into the tournament even with a win. Symbolically, the final scenario(s) possible all stem from the final game that will be played in the 2018 NFL regular season; the Titans hosting the Colts. Simply put, the winner of this game will get the 6 seed, and the loser misses the playoffs. If this game ends in a tie, there are a number of different scenarios that could potentially play out, but for the sake of your time and mine, I will refrain from going there. A few other things that could come out of this game… If the Titans win and Houston loses, Tennessee would clinch the AFC South and would be the 3 or 4 seed. Coincidentally, the Colts have this same scenario (this speaks to how closely fought this division was week in and week out). Regardless, all 3 teams in the AFC South have had incredible seasons; Houston started out 0-3, and now sits in a position to POTENTIALLY have the 1 or 2 seed (or drop to a wild card); The Colts started 1-5 and miraculously have a win-and-in game; The Titans have not had a healthy Marcus Mariota all year for the most part, and have battled the inconsistency (and injury) bug all year. Hats off to all 3 of these teams, even the one that potentially is left out of the playoffs.

5 Games With the Biggest Implications

I understand that all games are important for one reason or the other, but these are my 5 most important games of this very eventful Week 17:

Colts at Titans (8:20 PM EST Sunday)

Bears at Vikings (4:25 PM EST Sunday)

Jags at Texans (1 PM EST Sunday)

Raiders at Chiefs (4:25 PM EST Sunday)

Browns at Ravens (4:25 PM EST Sunday)

Projected Playoff Field

Now that we have gone through *most* of the scenarios involving the playoffs for Sunday, I will provide my unprofessional opinion about who will end up where after the conclusion of the Sunday Slate.

NFC

  1. Saints
  2. Rams
  3. Bears
  4. Cowboys
  5. Seahawks
  6. Eagles

AFC

  1. Chiefs
  2. Patriots
  3. Texans
  4. Ravens
  5. Chargers
  6. Colts

Yes, I know that my picks reflect the least exciting outcomes of this upcoming Sunday’s games, but we will see how it all comes together. Whether your team is fighting for a playoff spot, or already knows their playoff destiny, Week 17 is always fun. It is (obviously) the last time that we will see all 32 teams play in the same week for a while. Enjoy watching this Sunday my fellow football fiends!

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How the NFL Can Fix Its Meaningless Week 17 Problem

I recently wrote about the NFL Playoff Picture and it’s relative stability in terms of the lack of playoff spots available, and the stable nature of the playoff seedings. That all spells meaningless games for Week 17, and for any sport to not have drama in the final week, it’s dangerous, and it has already become far too common in competitions such as UEFA’s Champions and Europa leagues.

However, all is not lost for I have a solution to this problem. It does not have a major reshuffling such as something dynamic like weighted seeding where teams with similar records continuously play another which has built-in mechanisms to establish clear tiebreakers. Rather, it is a relatively simple concept that is built on already existing models in collegiate sports.

Here goes:

1. Have all the teams play a non-conference schedule 

This already exists in the NFL, but under my solution, there would be four non-conference games against a particular division in the AFC for an NFC team, and the opposite for a NFC team. This model comes from Major League Baseball By having teams from opposing conferences, there is exposure between the two conferences, and its makes seeing certain teams more exclusive. That translates to more money for franchises and the NFL (who wouldn’t watch the Cowboys play the Steelers if it was a primetime game every three years?). That also makes these games more interesting because there will be less familiarity among the teams which helps even out the playing field. Additionally, the NFL could assign teams to play a regional rival from an opposing conference where you could regularly see a Cowboys/Texans or even Steelers/Eagles game

2. Have all the teams play a conference, non-division schedule

The second part helps with an already existing tiebreaker and is similar to the first item. Using the above premise, all NFC teams would play other non-divisional NFC teams while AFC teams play other non-divisional AFC teams. This makes these four games the more important than they currently are where teams have longer same conference, non-divisional opponents which allows for a greater margin for error. Under this new system, conference games would matter more because there would be fewer of them, and you could get potential conference championship matchups in the regular season earlier in the season. Like the non-conference schedule, it also places a premium on certain teams because there is room for alternation in location for the game whenever these teams play each other. This creates a greater excitement around these games, and greater financial profitability for the franchises from these games.

3. Finish the season with a divisional schedule

This is where the similarities to collegiate athletics occur. One thing that makes these games the best is that they have the greatest implications both in terms of sentiment and playoff importance as this is the first tiebreaker in deciding a division winner at the end of the year. Even for teams who may have nothing to lose in Week 17, a rivalry could create extra motivation that could knock a team out of a playoff position. This format also allows for classic Thanksgiving games to occur because the games that occur on those days are almost always divisional contests.  This format also leads to several different permutations that fit nicely into the last six games of the season, and potentially being the most important games.

This may not be a perfect format, but it does create a greater impetus on games that are usually lackluster during the final week of the season. The bye week could still slot in at any point in the year which means that teams will still have byes scattered throughout the year. It also helps combat the lack of interesting games that inevitably occurs in the NFL season because each segment of the schedule has a unique importance.

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