The Morning Call (Sunday)
Many races for playoffs still uncertain, and league loves it
As the calendar turns to 2021, the NFL is experiencing pretty much what it covets. Try two division races, and five wild-card berths out of six still undecided.
Not to go unnoticed, naturally, is that the league is about to finish an entire schedule on time, with a few postponements but not nearly the disruptions plaguing the other major sports organizations in 2020.
The focus in Week 17 will range from coast to coast. Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, Tennessee and Indianapolis are chasing postseason qualification in the AFC, while the Cardinals, Rams, Bears, Giants, Cowboys and Washington seek NFC spots.
Both contenders for this division face NFL tailenders. The Titans have everything in their control, while the Colts need assistance.
Tennessee (10-5) at Houston (4-11): “It doesn’t get any more clear than it is for us right now,” Titans quarterback Ryan Tanneill says. “We win this game, find a way to win, win the division. That’s one of the things we set out to do this year. It’s pretty clear what weneed to do. We just have to go out and make it happen.”
Jacksonville (1-14) at Indianapolis (10-5): Indy lost a direct path to the postseason by falling at Pittsburgh last week. So the Colts need to handle the league’s worst team, then get help. Indianapolis needs a win and a loss by Baltimore, Cleveland, Miami or Tennessee to make it. But Colts veterans claim they won’t be watching the scoreboards.
It’s quite simple, really — at least in this woeful division. A Washington victory gives it the division crown. Otherwise, the winner of the game at the Meadowlands gets in; we’re not getting into any scenarios with ties.
The Steelers broke an ugly three-game skid with a massive second half to beat Indianapolis and earn the division title. Cleveland gets a wild card with a win, would need help should it fail.
Baltimore also heads to the postseason by beating the Bengals.
The Seahawks own the division crown and could get the top overall seed. In LA, the winner of Cardinals-Rams advances.
Arizona (8-7) at Los Angeles Rams (9-6): The Cardinals need a win to get a wild-card spot, while the Rams require a win or a loss by the Bears. Normally, with Rams coach Sean McVay 7-0 against Arizona — six wins by double digits and a 233-84 aggregate score — that would not seem too challenging. But quarterback Jared Goff, as inconsistent as he has been, could be severely missed after thumb surgery.
Seattle (11-4) at San Francisco (6-9): The high-scoring Seahawks have won 12 of the past 14 in the series. They will be no worse than the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs, can move up to No. 2 with a win and loss by Green Bay, and could be the No. 1 seed with a win and losses by both the Packers and Saints. With 20 points on Sunday, the Seahawks would set a franchise record for a season with 453.
No, not the Patriots on top. For the first time since 1995, Buffalo won this division, snapping New England’s 11-year run. Of course, the Patriots had Tom Brady for those seasons.
Miami (10-5) at Buffalo (12-3): The Bills have won the past four meetings to match their longest win streak over the Dolphins since a team-best six-game run spanning the 1987-89 seasons. But with a victory, Miami would clinch only its third postseason berth since 2001. It can even get in with a loss and help elsewhere.
Should the Packers beat their biggest rivals, they secure the NFC’s only bye, ensuring the path to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau Field. SHIVER!!!!
A Chicago win puts the Bears into the postseason and eliminates the loser of Cardinals-Rams.
The Saints clinched even if they finish with the same record as the Bucs because they swept Tampa Bay.
Not much suspense here, as the Chargers take on the Chiefs and Raiders face Broncos.