Week 15 Review
The most exciting game in the NFL last weekend was the contest in Dallas, which saw the Cowboys leading the Packers 26-3 at half-time, but Green Bay – who would have been on the brink of elimination from playoff contention with a loss – rallied back behind back quarterback Matt Flynn to win 37-36. They were aided by the game plan of Dallas in the second half, as they ran the ball only 7 times when a more rush-orientated offense would have not only allowed the clock to run down and give the Packers less time to make their comeback. More of a ground attack would also have avoided the turnovers that ultimately cost the Cowboys a much-needed victory. Tony Romo threw two interceptions in the final three minutes, the first giving Green Bay the opportunity to take the lead, the second allowing them to run down the final 90 seconds by taking a knee. Even before those turnovers, after the Packers had edged ahead for the first time in the contest with a James Starks fourth-quarter touchdown, on the subsequent drive Romo was lucky to avoid an interception when Tramon Williams took away a pass intended for Jason Whitten, but was adjudged to have allowed the ball to touch the ground and the decision was reversed on a Dallas challenge. Despite having gotten away with that near giveaway, the Cowboys continued to pursue an aerial attack even after they had the lead back and it was Williams who made a spectacular catch for the interception that ended the game.
It remains to be seen whether or not that loss will end up costing the Cowboys a place in the postseason, but for now they remain a game back of the Eagle in the NFC East, as Philadelphia were beaten by a Adrian Peterson-less Vikings team in Minnesota, 48-30. Meanwhile, the Packers are still half a game behind the Bears in the NFC North, after Chicago scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat the Browns in Cleveland, 38-31; while the Lions slipped to a one back of the division lead, as they lost to a last second field goal against the Ravens on Monday night, with all of Baltimore’s 18 points coming from Justin Tucker kicks.
Of the six teams who were in the top three seed positions in each conference heading into the weekend, only Seattle emerged victorious, as they blanked the Giants in their own stadium, 23-0. New Orleans, who had still hoped to catch the Seahawks for home-field advantage in the NFC, were beaten 27-16 in St. Louis, meaning that this season, the Rams have both won and lost five different games by double digits. In the AFC, (Philadelphia, who as mentioned above lost to the Vikings, were the number 3 seed in the NFC heading into week 15) Denver were the first of the teams with the best records to lose, as they allowed San Diego to keep their postseason hopes alive with a 27-20 win on Thursday night; then the Patriots were defeated in Miami 24-20, as the Dolphins intercepted a Tom Brady pass in their own endzone to end the game; and the Bengals failed to take advantage of New England’s loss, as they fell to the Steelers 30-20 in Pittsburgh on Sunday night.
The Saints loss in St. Louis allowed the Panthers back into the NFC South divisional race and Carolina are now tied with New Orleans on 10-4 following their 30-20 victory over the Jets, who are now eliminated from the playoff race. Elsewhere, the Cardinals remain in the hunt thanks to a 37-34 overtime victory against the Titans, who had forced the extra period by scoring 10 points in the final 47 seconds (and 17 in the final 192); the Colts remain a possible 3 seed after their 25-3 defeat of the Texans in Indianapolis; Washington had the chance to tie their game against Atlanta if they went for an extra point after a touchdown in the final minute, but opted to go for two to try to win the contest and failed – an aggressive move that was a smart choice, even if it did not work out; Jamaal Charles scored five touchdowns for the Chiefs to propel them to a 56-31 victory over the Raiders; the 49ers prevailed 33-14 in Tampa Bay; and the Bills beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville, 27-20.
Week 16 Preview and Playoff Picture
With two games remaining, this is how the 32 teams line up:
- Four have already booked their place in the playoffs (AFC: Denver, Kansas City and Indianapolis. NFC: Seattle)
- Thirteen are eliminated from postseason contention (AFC: Houston, Cleveland; Jacksonville; Oakland, Buffalo; Tennessee; NY Jets. NFC: Washington, Atlanta; Tampa Bay, Minnesota, NY Giants; St. Louis)
- Eleven have their fate in their own hands and will be in the playoffs if they win out or, in some cases, win 1 of 2. (AFC: New England; Cincinnati; Baltimore, Miami. NFC: New Orleans; Philadelphia, Dallas; Chicago, Green Bay, Carolina; San Francisco)
- Four need to win their final two contests and require other results to go their way (AFC: San Diego; Pittsburgh. NFC: Detroit; Arizona)
Here is a run down of how everything is looking by conference, including potential seedings.
Denver: Wins AFC West and number 1 seed with victories in final two games (@Houston, @ Oakland)
Kansas City: If the Broncos lose, Chiefs can gain number 1 seed with two wins (Indianapolis, @ San Diego), otherwise they will be number 5 seed.
New England: Two wins (@Baltimore, Buffalo) guarantees them a first round bye and the number 2 seed, they take top spot if the AFC if they win out and both Denver and Kansas City lose at least once each. One victory confirms the Patriots will be in the playoffs, but two losses and they could lose top spot in the AFC East to the Dolphins.
Cincinnati: The Bengals will be a 3 seed if they can win both their final two contests (Minnesota, Baltimore) and a victory over the Ravens in Week 17 is enough to guarantee them the AFC North title, but a loss in that fixture could see them miss out on the playoffs altogether.
Indianapolis: Already guaranteed at least a four seed as AFC South winners, could end up as a three seed if they have one more victory than the Bengals and there is a very small chance they could claim a first round bye, or even the top seed in the AFC, but that would require everyone above them losing their final two games while the Colts win theirs (@Kansas City, Jacksonville)
Baltimore: Two wins (New England, @Cincinnati) sees them into the playoffs as the AFC North winners, while they hold the edge of Miami if the two teams end up tied on 9-7 for the wild card, having beaten the Dolphins earlier in the season, but a three-way tie involving those two plus the Chargers would see Miami go through.
Miami: Victories in their final two fixtures (@Buffalo, NY Jets) sees them take the six seed, or the AFC East title if the Patriots lose both of their final games.
San Diego: Need to win their final two games (Oakland, San Diego) and Baltimore & Miami to lose their final two in order to sneak in as the six seed.
Pittsburgh: Virtually eliminated since they need to win their last two (@Green Bay, Cleveland), then Baltimore and Miami to both lose both of their fixtures and San Diego to be defeated at least once more also.
Seattle: A singe win guarantees the Seahawks home-field advantage in the NFC and both of their final games (Arizona, St. Louis) are at home, where they have not lost since the 2012 season.
New Orleans: If the Saints can prevail at Carolina this Sunday, they will claim the number 2 seed in the NFC (assuming the Seahawks don’t go 0-2), but a loss would see them drop to a wild card. If they lose both of their final contests and Arizona win out, then New Orleans would be eliminated from the playoffs, but that is unlikely with the Cardinals in Seattle this Sunday and the Saints hosting the Buccaneers in Week 17.
Carolina: As with New Orleans, two victories for the Panthers (New Orleans, @Atlanta) guarantees them the 2 seed, but if they lose to the Saints this Sunday, then they will need a victory in the final contest to make the playoffs. Two losses and a single win for the Cardinals and 49ers would see the Panthers lose out on the postseason.
San Francisco: Their hopes of catching the Seahawks are virtually zero, so the 49ers will have to settle for a Wild Card. They will assure themselves of that with a victory over the Falcons on Sunday or against Arizona in Week 17.
Arizona – Probably the most complicated of all the different teams’ scenarios. If they lose to Seattle then beat the 49ers, the Cardinals will claim a wild card if the Panthers lose their final two fixtures (but not if New Orleans loses their final two). Should they beat the Seahawks then lose to the 49ers, the Cardinals will claim the Wild Card if New Orleans loses their final two fixtures (but not if Carolina loses their final two). Two victories for Arizona means that they will be in the playoffs if the loser of the New Orleans/Carolina contest is also defeated in Week 17.
Dallas/Philadelphia: Dallas and Philadelphia meet in Week 17 and if the Eagles with that contest, they take the division, while the Cowboys need to also beat Washington this week to keep their chances alive. Should they lose, then Philadelphia could wrap up the NFC East by beating the Bears on Sunday night.
Green Bay/Chicago/Lions: Which brings us to that NFC North race – if either the Packers and Bears win out then they claim the NFC North title and victories for both this Sunday (Packers vs Pittsburgh, Chicago @ Philadelphia) would eliminate the Lions from the playoffs and make the meeting between the two in Week 17 a division decider. The downside for Green Bay and Detroit is that, if Dallas beats Washington early on Sunday, then the Eagles could well rest players against Chicago, since the result of that game will be irrelevant to Philadelphia, as they will need to beat the Cowboys in Week 17 regardless of their result against the Bears.
Week 16 Predictions
Last week, 6-10; Season, 113-111
Home teams in bold
Bills +2.5 over Dolphins
Bengals -7.5 over Vikings
Browns +2.5 over Jets
Cowboys -3.5 over Washington
Broncos -11.5 over Texans
Jaguars +5.5 over Titans
Chiefs -6.5 over Colts
Buccaneers +5.5 over Rams
Saints +3.5 over Panthers
Lions -9.5 over Giants
Seahawks -10.5 over Cardinals
Steelers +2.5 over Packers
Chargers -10.5 over Raiders
Ravens -2.5 over Patriots
Bears +2.5 over Eagles
49ers -11.5 over Falcons