Week 17: It's Come Down To This

Aaron LiebmanAnalyst IDecember 27, 2008

Wow, the final week of the NFL's regular season.  And what a week it is.  There are at least three key matchups that decide not only playoff spots, but divisional titles.  The NFL couldn't have planned this better back when making the schedule.

Don't Miss Games

San Diego over Denver: Three weeks ago, who would've guessed that this game would have more on the line than just who would make the most "yo momma'" jokes against each other.  Even though Denver is only a game over .500 and San Diego is a game under, whoever wins takes the woeful AFC West, which just barely edges the NFC West as the worst division in football. 

Adding to that is the fact that the Broncos literally got away with a win in Week Two when referee Ed Hocka—I can't spell his last name, called a fumble an incomplete pass.  The Chargers won't forget that.  They're playing great right now, while the Broncos are clearly stumbling and on the verge of missing the playoffs for the third straight season, a first under coach Mike Shanahan. 

Yes, it seems likely that an 8-8 team will not only be in the playoffs, but be a divisional winner and HOST a playoff game.

Green Bay over Detroit: Only because it's a moment in history getting to see the first 0-16 team.  There should be a pity prize though.  If the Lions don't lose by more than two touchdowns they should count it as a tie in the record books.  The only intrigue is whether Rod Marinelli will be fired right after the game or the next day...

Houston over Chicago: The Bears have lived life on the edge these past two weeks, winning two overtime games at home.  But the Texans are not the same old team.  Sure, they lost to the Raiders last week, but that'll give them even more drive.  Have a good offseason, Chicago.

Carolina over New Orleans: The Panthers can go from the second seed with a first round bye and guaranteed home playoff game to a fifth seed wild card team on the road.  The Saints have the best offense in the league, so one has to ask why they themselves are in last place?

Local Action

Jets over Miami: This game just demonstrates how much drama and theater there really is in the NFL.  Brett Favre, the man who changed his mind about retirement more times than Michael Jordan, could be playing his last game.  Chad Pennington, the quarterback who was dissed in favor of Favre coming back to the Meadowlands for the first time with a chance to not only secure a division title for his team but knock his former one out of the playoffs. 

Although I'll be rooting for Chad, I just think that Favre won't let his team lose this one.  They may not make the playoffs, but they'll at least take care of business against the Dolphins.  But that doesn't mean Eric Mangini should make a down payment on a house in New York just yet.

Minnesota over Giants: The Giants may have nothing to play for while the Vikings are playing for their first division title since 2000.  But hold on a second.  The Giants are carrying around a lot of baggage right now.  First let's examine the opponent.  The Vikings were the team Eli Manning threw four interceptions against and got the name "Eli the Terrible."

Eli is 0-2 against them, and might have a little motivation going.  Add to the fact that if the Giants lose, they'll be heading into the playoffs having lost three of their last four games.  I think the Vikes prevail, but it won't be easy.

Dallas over Philadelphia: Let's see.  I picked the Cowboys to lose to the Giants and they win.  I picked them to beat the Ravens last week and they lose.  Therefore, I am picking them to win.  These are the only two times a year I am an Eagles fan.  The Eagles blew a major opportunity in Washington last week and will pay for it now. 

I can't imagine anything more humiliating than not only losing to the Cowboys at home in the last game of the season, but to see Terrell Owens do some kind of arrogant dance at the crowd.

If There's Nothing Else On TV

New England over Buffalo: There have been many teams that were flops this year, but the Bills have been a different kind of flop.  Although they came in basically with no expectations, their fast start had people talking Super Bowl.  Now though, they won't even be talking .500 record.

Baltimore over Jacksonville: Hard to believe a 10-5 team is in a must win game while a 7-8 team can clinch its division Sunday, but it's what realignment has done to the NFL.  Luckily for the Ravens, their only obstacle to a playoff spot is the Jags.

San Francisco over Washington: The 49ers are playing for next season while the Redskins are wondering what the heck happened.  Mike Singletary is all but guaranteed the official job of head coach and his team will play like it this week.

Tampa Bay over Oakland: If the Bucs win and get some help, they will become the first defending NFC South division winner to actually make the playoffs the next season.  The Raiders well...hey, at least they got a win against Houston last week.

Indianapolis over Tennessee: There is absolutely nothing at stake here.  Except for the Colts to avoid a sweep and claim that the AFC South still belongs to them.

Toiler Bowl Games

Arizona over Seattle: Only because my mind cannot fathom TWO 8-8 division winners.

Atlanta over St. Louis: After winning his first two games as interim coach, the Rams' Jim Haslett looked like coach of the year.  Problem is they haven't won since then and won't win this Sunday.

Kansas City over Cincinnati: Battle over the potentially fired head coaches.  I'm sure during the post game handshake, both coaches will swap resumes. 

Pittsburgh over Cleveland: Sure, the Steelers have nothing to play for, but with the Browns placing a craigslist ad for a quarterback, you've got to wonder how they can win.