Tier I: Packers Game
Packers 10-5 vs. Cardinals 10-5
A Packers blowout win vs. Seahawks plus Giants losing to Carolina last week= Playoffs. With the NFC participants set, the significance of this game is more for positioning and match-ups than anything else. The Packers are either gonna be a 5 or 6 seed while the Cardinals will fall anywhere between 2 and 4. A win here would be nice but ending the Vikings post-season would be even sweeter. Packers are the hotter team and I see this translating to a victory.
Packers 28 Cardinals 17
Tier II: The 8-7 Club (AFC Edition)
Ravens 8-7 vs. Raiders 5-10
Not sure where to start delving into the 8-7 club and picked the Ravens to arbitrarily go first. The Ravens have had a relatively weak follow-up to their strong showing last year but a win and a playoff appearance would absolve them of any bad will. The Raiders have actually showed a pulse since figuring out that JaMarcus Russell is pretty useless on the football field. The Raiders may be a bad team but they have shown they have the potential to beat playoff-caliber teams. Raiders have a chance to play spoiler and I see them ending '09 on a positive note.
Raiders 24 Ravens 21
Chiefs 3-12 vs. Broncos 8-7
The Cheifs have been stuck in epic fail mode for 2+ years. The Broncos were supposed to be terrible, then won six in a row, they were supposed to be great and then they lose 7 of 9 and look unlikely to make the playoffs despite a 6-0 start. On the bright side, Jay Cutler isn't their problem anymore. The Broncos are struggling but not bad enough to lose to the Chiefs.
Broncos 14 Chiefs 10
Steelers 8-7 vs. Dolphins 7-8
The Steelers have been an epic fail, but on a smaller scale. A win here and they may make the playoffs despite losing five in a row. The Dolphins are a better team than their 7-8 record indicates but that doesn't change the fact that anything short of divine intervention, they ain't going to the playoffs (though they'll probably be back in 2010). The Steelers may have struggled this year but Big Ben thrives in the clutch and I see him coming up big late in this game.
Steelers 31 Dolphins 24
Patriots 10-5 vs. Texans 8-7
Patriots are in don't need to win but it wouldn't hurt to do so mode. The Texans? All I gotta say is there are few guarantees in life. Those being death, taxes, the Vikings not winning the super bowl and the Texans going 8-8. It's just the way it is, some things will never change.
Patriots 21 Texans 7
Bengals 10-5 vs. Jets 8-7
Just like the NFL, I saved the Bengals-Jets match-up for last in Tier II. The Jets win and they can make many of the above games irrelevant. The Jets lose opens the door for about a million different playoff scenarios. The Bengals may be looking ahead to the playoffs and Carson Palmer's first chance to show what he can do on the playoff stage. The Jets have more incentive to win but the Jets just don't strike me as a playoff caliber team. I don't see Mark Sanchez up to the task of stepping up.
Bengals 17 Jets 14 (OT)
Tier III: Other Games Of Interest
Giants 8-7 vs. Vikings 11-4
The Giants take the award for doing the least despite starting 5-0. The Vikings are playing for positioning. Some teams "peak" at the right time. The Vikings are not one of those teams. When your getting outplayed by Cutler in December, this should set up for an awesomely epic fail.
Giants 35 Vikings 21
Saints 13-2 vs. Panthers 7-8
Losing to Dallas is one thing, losing to Tampa, the Saints suddenly look less invincible. The Panthers main mistake this year was sticking with Delhomme for too long. The Panthers are looking to close out the season on a strong note. Out of the non-playoff teams in the NFC, I would peg them and the 49ers as the two teams most likely to be in the post-season next year.
Eagles 11-4 vs. Cowboys 10-5
A lot on the line for this game. Positioning, the NFC East and bragging rights. More of a tune-up before moving to a bigger stage. Could go either way, Eagles have been one of the hotter teams in the league and this gives them the slight edge.
Eagles 24 Cowboys 20
Tier IV: Close Games, Bad Teams
Colts 14-1 vs. Bills 5-10
No, the Colts are normally not a bad team. Bad teams do not win 14 games. However, the chance of seeing significant playing time from many of the players who contributing to those 14 wins is somewhere between slim and none. I was reading one of the local papers around here (New Times)...I saw a particularly tacky advertisement for a local bar (Buffalo Pub and Grill) that had the tagline of what happens in Buffalo stays in Buffalo. Not sure what this has anything to do with anything but this is about the only circumstance where a team like the Bills actually has a chance against a team like the Colts. The Bills will capitalize on this but this ability to beat the Colts will be constrained to Week 17.
Bills 17 Colts 10
Jaguars 7-8 vs. Browns 4-11
The Jaguars somehow had a shot at the post-season and to the shock of nobody, made absolutely nothing of it. The Browns have actually started to not be terrible (but made the mistake of not showing up for about 3 months). Really, not much incentive to watch here.
Browns 24 Jaguars 17
Bears 6-9 vs. Lions 2-13
Speaking of players/teams that no showed for months at a time, Jay Cutler. Coming off his first good game since September and playing the second worst team in the NFL, the Bears will inexplicably end the season on a 2-game winning streak. Another season where the closest Jay Cutler will get to a playoff game is by watching it on tv.
Bears 27 Lions 20
Titans 7-8 vs. Seahawks 5-10
A battle of two teams that were absolutely atrocious in Week 16. In fairness to the Titans, the officiating seemed highly biased in favor of the Chargers and if that didn't happen, things may have not been so bad. I would like to thank the Seahawks for doing absolutely nothing to prevent the Packers from locking up a playoff spot.
Seahawks 10 Titans 0
Falcons 8-7 vs. Buccaneers 3-12
Falcons, greater things were expected, greater things were not delivered. Tampa, wow things have gone downhill fast. The Raheem Morris era didn't exactly start great.
Falcons 14 Buccaneers 7
Tier V: The Blowouts
49ers 7-8 vs. Rams 1-14
The 49ers have been inconsistent but have the pieces to have an explosive offense. The Rams in no way shape or form have the talent or ability to prevent this from happening.
49ers 35 Rams 10
Redskins 4-11 vs. Chargers 12-3
The Jim Zorn era ends here. When a coach is on their last straw (game), you get an 95% chance of blowout. I've seen this in person. In December '08 I ended up attending what happened to be the last game of the Reggie Theus era. Seriously, the Sacramento Kings played so bad they would have lost to a D-League team. They happened to be playing the Knicks that night and proceeded to fall behind by 20+ in the first quarter thus ending the game before it started.
The Redskins are playing a team much better than the Knicks in the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers don't lose in December and happen to be one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. Like that fateful Kings-Knicks game, this game will be over before it begins.
Chargers 49 Redskins 3