I love the last week of the NFL season, as there are always many different playoff scenarios to figure out before the playoffs are set. Sure, we know 10 of the 12 teams that will be in the playoffs, but the two remaining coveted berths plus the “Who” and the “Where” pieces all need to be put together in Week 17.
For the 14th consecutive NFL season, five or more teams qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before (Saints, Bengals, Cowboys, Patriots, and Packers are in, and the Broncos, Jets, Texans, and Jaguars still have playoff aspirations).
One thing is for sure—expect a wacky ending to the 2009 NFL Season. Remember the 2008 Philadelphia Eagles, who were 8-6-1 coming into Week 17, had a myriad of wins and losses come together so they could make the playoffs and they eventually ended up in the NFC Championship Game. Let’s hope the AFC’s last wild card spot, being contended for by five or more teams, doesn’t come down to league tiebreaker No. 11, a coin flip.
Also, it is “Just Lose, Baby” time for the St. Louis Rams as RB Steven Jackson and company need to lose against the 49ers so they can claim the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, which will more than likely be Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh.
The Philadelphia Eagles (11-4) lead the Dallas Cowboys (10-5) by one game in the division race. Ironically the Eagles and Cowboys will face off for the NFC East crown in Week 17 at Jerry Jones’ billion-dollar Cowboys Stadium (4:00 PM EST on FOX).
If the Eagles win, they will be NFC East Champs. There is also the added incentive if the Vikings lose, then the Eagles will be the NFC’s No. 2 seed. However, if the Cowboys win, then they will be NFC East Champs by virtue of their head-to-head wins tiebreaker over the Eagles. Dallas can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Eagles, a Vikings loss, and a Cardinal loss or tie.
The Giants (8-7) and Redskins (4-11) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
The Arizona Cardinals (10-5) have already clinched their second straight NFC West crown. But the Cardinals still have incentive when they host the Packers in Week 17, as they still have a slim chance of winning the NFC’s No. 2 seed. Arizona clinches a first-round bye with a win over the Packers, a Viking loss, and an Eagle loss.
The Niners (7-8), Seahawks (5-10), and Rams (1-14) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
The New Orleans Saints (13-2) lost for the second time this season as the Tampa Bay Bucs surprised them by a score of 20-17 in overtime. But all was not lost, as the Vikings’ loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football assured the Saints the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed, which includes a bye and home field advantage.
Expect the Saints to go for a “momentum” win against the host Carolina Panthers this weekend, but if they get a lead, QB Drew Brees and other key players could be relegated to the bench.
The Falcons (8-7), Panthers (7-8), and Bucs (2-13) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
An interesting note from the NFC South (created in 2002) is that in six out of seven NFL seasons including 2009 with the Saints, the division winner was a worst to first team (the only exception being the Falcons going from worst to second place in 2008).
The Minnesota Vikings (11-4) are the NFC North champs, but they appear to be limping into the playoffs after another loss, this one being a 36-30 defeat to the Bears in overtime.
With an eye still on winning the NFC’s No. 2 seed, expect the Vikings to play hard in their regular season finale when they host the New York Giants. Minnesota clinches a first-round bye with a win over the Giants plus an Eagle loss or tie, or the extremely unlikely scenario of a Viking tie against the Giants and a Philadelphia loss.
The Green Bay Packers (10-5) have already clinched a wild card berth, but they are unsure if they will be the NFC’ s fifth or sixth seed. The Bears (6-9) and Lions (2-13) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
After three straight wins, the New England Patriots (10-5) clinched the AFC East title. However, the Patriots may still put up a fight against the Houston Texans (8-7) as New England has playoff seeding issues to work out.
The NY Jets (8-7), who were recipients of the Colts resting players in Week 16, have a very good chance of clinching an AFC Wild Card berth. The NY Jets clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals, who have already clinched the AFC North crown and may be resting QB Carson Palmer and company.
The Miami Dolphins (7-8) still have a playoff shot too. Miami clinches a playoff spot with a win over the Steelers plus a Jets loss, Ravens loss, Texans loss, and a Jaguar loss or tie. The Buffalo Bills (5-10) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
The San Diego Chargers (12-3), who have won 10 consecutive games and are the hottest team in the NFL, have already wrapped up the AFC West crown and the AFC’s No. 2 seed.
Even though there is talk of the Chargers resting some veterans, expect head coach Norv Turner to seek a “momentum” win and get some of his players to key stats when San Diego hosts the Redskins in Week 17. If the Chargers win against the ‘Skins, they will be riding an 11-game win streak on top of the fact that the Bolts have eliminated the Colts from the playoffs the last two years.
The Denver Broncos (8-7), after a glorious 6-0 start have crashed back down to Earth, but they still have a playoff chance. The Broncos can clinch a playoff berth with a myriad of scenarios:
1) A Broncos win over the Chiefs + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
2) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + PIT loss or tie OR
3) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + HOU win OR
4) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie OR
5) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + HOU win OR
6) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie OR
7) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss OR
8) PIT loss + BAL loss + JAC loss or tie + NYJ loss OR
9) PIT loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie + NYJ loss OR
10) NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie
The Raiders (5-10) and Chiefs (3-12) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
With their “rested” 29-15 loss to the Jets, the Indianapolis Colts (14-1), in my opinion, gave away their opportunity of being the NFL’s only 19-0 team in history…but that is a debate for another day.
Even though the Colts’ NFL-record 23-game winning streak is over, they still are the AFC South division champs and have clinched AFC home field advantage plus a first-round bye. To the dismay of many, expect to see the Colts’ JV team against the Buffalo Bills in Week 17.
The Houston Texans (8-7) are attempting to not only end their 8-8 streak (2007 and 2008), but are also trying claim one of the AFC’s wild card berths. In order to clinch a playoff spot, the Texans need some help.
1) A Texans win over the Patriots + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
2) HOU win + NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss or tie OR
3) HOU win + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
The Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8), after seemingly heading for a playoff spot after 13 weeks–record of 7-5 at the time–have limped home and need a lot of help just to make the playoffs.
1) A Jaguars win over the Browns + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + HOU loss OR
2) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + NYJ loss OR
3) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss OR
4) JAC win + PIT loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss OR
5) JAC win + NYJ loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + BAL loss
The Titans (7-8) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
The Cincinnati Bengals (10-5), after their Week 16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, claimed their second division title under head coach Marvin Lewis (other coming in 2005). You can probably expect the Bengals to be resting players by the time they face the New York Jets on NBC Sunday Night Football, as there may not be any incentive (playoff seeding) for Cincinnati.
Another AFC North team that looks to have a good chance to join the Bengals in the playoffs is the Baltimore Ravens (8-7). All the Ravens need to do to make the playoffs is to win at Oakland, which would give them one of the AFC’s two wild card berths.
The other AFC North team with playoff dreams is the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7). The Steelers need a bevy of events to occur just to have a chance to return to the Super Bowl chase.
1) A Pittsburgh win over the Dolphins + HOU loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie OR
2) PIT win + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
3) PIT win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
The Browns (4-11), who have won three straight games and are dangerous, have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
A great tool for sorting out all of the “What If” scenarios surrounding the 2009 NFL Playoff matchups can be found on the Yahoo Sports website .
Sunday, Jan. 3
Indianapolis at Buffalo 1:00 PM (CBS)
Jacksonville at Cleveland 1:00 PM (CBS)
Chicago at Detroit 1:00 PM (FOX)
Atlanta at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)
New Orleans at Carolina 1:00 PM (FOX)
New England at Houston 1:00 PM (CBS)
San Francisco at St. Louis 1:00 PM (FOX)
Pittsburgh at Miami 1:00 PM (CBS)
NY Giants at Minnesota 1:00 PM (FOX)
Green Bay at Arizona 4:15 PM (FOX)
Washington at San Diego 4:15 PM (FOX)
Tennessee at Seattle 4:15 PM (CBS)
Baltimore at Oakland 4:15 PM (CBS)
Kansas City at Denver 4:15 PM (CBS)
Philadelphia at Dallas 4:15 PM (FOX)
Cincinnati at NY Jets 7:35 PM (NBC)
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)Posted in 2009 NFL Playoff Picture, 2009 NFL Playoffs, 2009 NFL Season, 2009 NFL Week 17 Tagged: 2009 NFL Playoff Picture, 2009 NFL Playoffs, 2009 NFL Season, 2009 NFL Week 17, Football, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sports