This Week in: The NFL – Week 17 2012

AJ Green makes the catch that sets up the game winning field goal for the Bengals over the Steelers
AJ Green makes the catch that sets up the game winning field goal for the Bengals over the Steelers

With one week left in the NFL 2012 regular season, there are only two playoff places up for grabs – both of which are in the NFC, with all 6 representatives from the AFC now confirmed.  The Bengals claimed one of the WIld Card spots by beating their divisional rivals, the Steelers, for the first time since 2009, knocking Pittsburgh out of the playoffs in the process.  Cincinnati were aided by two crucial interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger – one of which was returned for a touchdown, the other set up the game-winning field goal – and it represents just the second time in the southern Ohio team’s history that they have made the postseason for two consecutive years.  The conference’s other Wild Card team will be the Indianapolis Colts, who confirmed their return to January football with a victory over the Chiefs in Kansas City.  It caps an impressive season for the Colts, who won just two games last year and also have been without the head coach, Chuck Pagano, for much of the campaign as he has been (successfully) battling against leukemia.

The Ravens beat the reigning Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, 33-14 in Baltimore to clinch the AFC North, while in the battle for first round byes in the AFC, the Texans lost at home to the Vikings; New England came from 10-0 down to beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville, 23-16; and the Broncos won their 10th straight game, this time beating the Browns 34-12.  Any of the three can still end up as the AFC’s number 1 seed – Houston will clinch it should they beat the Colts in Indianapolis; if the Texans fall, the Broncos can secure home-field advantage up until the Super Bowl by defeating the Chiefs; while the Patriots would need both to lose and then emerge victorious against the Dolphins if they are to claim the top spot.  Whoever misses out on the first round bye will host the Bengals in the Wild Card round of the playoffs and the other matchup of the first week of the playoffs in the AFC will see the Indianapolis Colts return to Baltimore – a city they left in the middle of the night when the franchise relocated in 1984 – to take on the Ravens.

In the NFC, the Falcons wrapped up the number 1 seed with a 31-18 win in Detroit, an encounter which also saw the Lions’ Wide Receiver, Calvin Johnson, break the record for receiving yards in a season – overtaking Jerry Rice’s total from 1995.  Green Bay moved into pole position to claim the conference’s other bye, as they thrashed the Titans 55-7, while the 49ers were defeated in Seattle, 42-13.  The Seahawks, who are now 7-0 at home, have an outside shot of being the number 2 seed themselves, but they would need the beat the Rams, along with losses for both the Packers – who play Wild Card chasing Minnesota, with Running Back, Adrian Peterson 208 yards away from breaking the single-season rushing record –  and San Francisco, who host the woeful Cardinals.

The last two remaining playoff spots in the NFC are the 4th and 6th seeds, the former of which represents the winner of the NFC East.  Currently, the Redskins are still in first place in that division, after they overcame the Eagles, 27-20 in Philadelphia, while the Cowboys were beaten at home by the Saints in overtime, 23-20, combined with the Giants loss in Baltimore.  This weekend, Washington host Dallas with the NFC East title on the line and, while a defeat for the Cowboys would see them eliminated, the Redskins could still take a Wild Card berth with a loss.  The Vikings take the 6th seed with a win over the Packers, Chicago requires a Green Bay victory combined with a success for themselves over Detroit, at the same time, the Giants could yet claim the final place, but they would need to beat the Eagles and hope for Minnesota, the Bears and Cowboys all to be defeated.

The Week 16’s encounters that had no postseason implications, the Dolphins beat the Bills in Miami, 24-10; the Jets benched Mark Sanchez but still lost to the Chargers at home, 27-17; St. Louis won in Tampa Bay; and the Panthers were victorious against the Raiders.  In the final week of the season, the matchups that have nothing riding on them include the guaranteed number 1 seed Atlanta Falcons host the reeling Buccaneers; the Jets are in Buffalo; the Ravens and the Bengals meet in Cincinnati, with both locked in to their current positions in the AFC of 4th and 6th respectively; New Orleans play the Panthers, the final game in the Superdome before the Super Bowl; the Titans entertain the Jaguars; Pittsburgh takes on the Browns; and the Chargers meet the Raiders in San Diego.

Predictions

Last week, 9-7; Season, 125-114

Home teams in bold

Buccaneers +3.5 over Falcons

Bills -3.5 over Jets

Bengals -2.5 over Ravens

Lions +3.5 over Bears

Titans -4.5 over Jaguars

Texans -3.5 over Colts

Saints -4.5 over Panthers

Eagles +7.5 over Giants

Steelers -6.5 over Browns

Broncos -15.5 over Chiefs

Vikings +3.5 over Packers

Patriots -10.5 over Dolphins

Chargers -4.5 over Raiders

Cardinals +14.5 over 49ers

Seahawks -10.5 over Rams

Cowboys +3.5 over Redskins

 

 

 

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