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All but 3 games during the NFL’s Week 17 will have some sort of playoff implications. I’m a Giants fan, so I’ll probably be one of the 10 people in the United States to be tuning into the big G-Men Redskins tilt. But if you’re smart, you’ll tune in to the 3 most entertaining and significant games of the day:
1) Bears vs. Packers – 4:25 PM, FOX
– I think despite the crazy playoff scenario going on in the AFC and the annual ‘division championship’ going on in the NFC East, this is a much more entertaining game than any one of them based on the amount of question marks going into the game. I give the Packers a ton of credit for holding on to their playoff chances in the absence of Aaron Rodgers over the past month (by a thread, albeit). We all know Aaron Rodgers is a stud, but given the high-pressure situation and the circumstances with his injury, I would expect Rodgers to start out a little bit rusty. Mike McCarthy and Rodgers have urged their team all week to still bring their absolute A-game if they want to come out with a win – who knows the quality of play that Rodgers will bring to the table after being away from the game for over a month. To help bring Rodgers back to steam, the Packers will need a big game from their talented rookie Eddie Lacy, who has rushed for over 1,100 yards this season on over 4 yards a carry. It also doesn’t hurt that the Bears allow a league-high 162 rushing yards per game. Like I said, I would expect Rodgers to start off a bit rusty the same way any quarterback does coming off an injury like this. As the game goes on, however, it should be interesting to see if Rodgers truly is the Packers’ savior or if the Bears can withstand his firepower and come away with a win. I put this game at #1 because this game has the most question marks based on who’s going to come to play (Rodgers, Lacy, Bear’s defense). With all that being said, I think the best matchup is obviously the Packers offense against the Bear’s defense. I know that’s a fairly broad category of a matchup given the many different facets of it, but the success of the run game will dictate how easy it is for Rodgers to have success against the Bears pass defense and get back to his elite status. That’s why I think this is the most intriguing of Sunday’s games.
2) Eagles at Cowboys – Sunday night, 8:30 PM – NBC
– This game also has obvious importance, but given Romo’s absence and how hot the Eagles are, I think most people are picking the Eagles in a pretty easy win. This is another win-and-in game for both teams. The NFC East has been decided by the last game of the season the last 2 years, and the Cowboys have been on the losing end of this “division championship” both times. Even without Romo, don’t expect the Cowboys to pack it in against the red-hot Eagles. At this point, “America’s Team” HAS to feel tired of being the butt of every joke there is known to man. Also, Jerry Jones’s “vote of confidence” of Jason Garrett may seem more like a kiss of death based on the way he’s handled coaches in past years (just an aside – someone needs to put the pillow over Jerry Jones’s face while he’s sleeping. It will only help the Cowboys in the long term. The guy is comparable to how bad Al Davis was when he was close to kicking the bucket). Anyway, that being said, if Jason Garrett’s job is on the line you would have to expect the Cowboys to give their best for their coach. Never underestimate the fact that It’s a divisional matchup too – these teams see each other twice a year and also hate each other. They’re all pros… Anything can happen … Last thing, I watched most of the Cowboys/Eagles game earlier in the year in Philadelphia, and the Cowboys pretty much dominated the Eagles on both sides of the ball. Who knows, maybe the Cowboys have the Eagles number this year.. Despite how horrendous the Cowboys defense has been this year, the one thing you can say about Monte Kiffin is that he’s seen his fair share of Chip Kelly-led offenses during his time at USC. In the end, I don’t expect the Cowboys to have enough talent or firepower to slow down the red-hot Eagles, but I think it will be entertaining going into the 4th quarter. Then again I could be way off and the Cowboys could get blown out of the building from the very beginning. Regardless of what happens, I think fans will know within the first couple drives from each team whether or not this is going to be a dog fight or a blowout. Teams have a way of showing if they have come to play based solely on the first couple of possessions.
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3) Redskins at Giants
– Just kidding, lol
The real 3) Bengals vs. Ravens – 1:00, CBS
— Like the top 2 games, this game is the most significant because both teams have a great deal to play for. The defending champion Ravens are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive (they need a good amount of help). As crazy as this sounds, the Bengals could steal the #2 spot in the AFC with a win and a Patriots loss to the Bills. That blows my mind and would actually piss me off to see the Bengals at #2. Nothing against the Bengals, but I fully see them shitting the bed the second they get into the playoffs. I think we’d see better football with the Patriots at #2. This game is a toss-up for me. The teams are evenly matched and both have something to play for. Both teams have also had their share of ups and downs throughout this season. I’m still not sold on Cincinnati, so my money is on Baltimore based on their experience and their upside.
— Basically every other game today has a playoff implication. To name a few, in the NFC the Panthers can enter the playoffs as either the #1 seed (with a win and a 49ers and Seahawks loss), the #2 seed (if they win and Seattle wins, if both 49ers and Seahawks lose, or if they lose and the Saints lose), or the #5 seed (with a loss and a Saints win). Seattle is in the driver’s seat for the #1 spot. The Cardinals are on the outside looking in; they need a win against the 49ers (who have a lot to play for) along with a Saints loss to the Buccaneers. I can go into much more shit about the possible scenarios but I’ll spare you.
In the AFC, the fight for the #6 spot is a complete mess. The Patriots are still in line for the #1 spot with a win against the Bills and a Broncos loss against the Raiders. Also, let me explain the AFC fight for the #6 spot if I haven’t made it clear already…
AFC Teams in the hunt:
Dolphins (8-7): Best chance – They get in with
-A win against the Jets (shouldn’t be too hard) and a Chargers win against the Chiefs (who have already locked up the #5 spot in the AFC)
-A win and a Ravens loss to the Bengals
– Wins from all 3 teams (Dolphins, Ravens, Chargers)
Chargers (8-7): They get in with
-A win against the Chiefs along with a Baltimore loss AND a Miami loss.
Ravens (8-7): They need quite a bit of help (By the way, they could be playing for the AFC North championship today against the Bengals had they beaten the Patriots last week). The Ravens can get in if
– All 4 teams in the AFC playoff hunt lose (Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers, Steelers)
– Ravens win and Dolphins lose
– Ravens & Dolphins win and Chargers loss
(Have to admit, that one is a little fucked up and hard to wrap my head around)
Steelers (7-8): They need the MOST help. They get in with..
– A win against the Browns AND a loss from the 3 other teams in the hunt (Dolphins, Ravens, and Chargers)
By no means is any of this clear, so my best advice for Sunday’s games is to sit back, turn your brain off, and enjoy the shows.