December 28, 2013 by The Waterboy Report
Another NFL season is almost in the books, but until we can put a nice bow tie on a spectacular season that was, we have one final chapter to play out: Week 17. In short, week 17 in the NFL is crazier than a freshman at their first college party. There are three main categories for teams playing this weekend. The first category is for the teams who just want this season to end, are playing for pride, as a spoiler, or positioning itself for next year’s draft or all four. The second category sees teams that are already in the playoffs trying to either move up the playoff standings or secure a top seed. Lastly, the third category is for the teams that are desperately trying to squeeze into the post-season and either just need to win, or need to win and have some outside help as well.
It is a love/hate relationship for fans everywhere during this time. However, for the majority of fans it will be a hate relationship come Sunday. This is where that entire first category of teams comes into play. Sorry people, your teams suck. That was a bit harsh let me try that again. Sorry people, you are a Lions fans.
To begin, how many people thought coming into this season that the Houston Texans, the early Super Bowl favourites, would wind up with the worst record entering week 17 and would be on the verge of securing the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft? Who expected the Atlanta Falcons to fall apart the way they did this season? A team that was a game away from the Super Bowl just a year ago and were so close to giving TE Tony Gonzales, the greatest TE of all time, the story book ending he deserved. The dreadfulness of the Lions era continues. I do not know of too many teams who annually stink up the place as often as the Detroit Lions. I am very surprised that the fans did not throw stuff onto the field after the Lions completed its epic collapse with a loss to the Giants in week 16 at home. This was the one year that the Lions were in control of its own destiny and were supposed to cruise to a division title but somehow blew it. Again. The Redskins will try to forget this awful season that was horrific in every sense of the word. RG3 and Mike Shanahan obviously were not on the same page all season long and all arrows are pointing to Shanahan’s termination. Redskins fans just hope RG3 can get back to his prime form and lead the ‘Skins back to a division title next season. The Redskins, Falcons, Texans, Lions, and even the Giants had high expectations coming into the season and just want this season to end.
The Jets are playing for pride and as a spoiler this weekend. Rex Ryan has already made it public that he believes he will be fired at season’s end, so maybe for Jets fans this will spark a strong finish to a turnover driven season. The Jets travel to Miami this Sunday as the Dolphins are still in playoff contention. What a feeling it would be for the Jets if they can somewhat salvage its disappointing season by knocking off a division rival and prevent them from making the playoffs. The Jets mentality right now has to be: if we can not make the playoffs, neither can you. The Titans, Raiders, Rams, Vikings, and Buccaneers are playing for the draft and are hoping for better days ahead. Especially, the Oakland Raiders.
I am putting the Jags, Browns and Bills in its own category because for the longest time these have been some of the worst teams in the league, year in and year out. If you are a fan of one of these teams, I envy you. It must be tough having to admit that you spend your Sunday afternoon watching the Jacksonville Jaguars play football. All jokes aside though. These three teams have actually shown some nice progression this season. For so long these teams have been so bad, however all of a sudden the future looks a little brighter for all three of these franchises. The Jaguars had a slow start to the season in typical Jaguars fashion; however, they have looked like a much better team of late. They are 4-3 in its last seven games. Not a terrific record, but hey anything over 500 during a medium sample size of games for the Jags is an improvement. Henne has been moving the ball consistently and Jones-Drew is back from injury running well. I expect them to play the Colts tough this weekend and I think they can actually win outright in Indianapolis. (You heard it here). Of course, they are going to need to find a lot more talent via draft or free agency but ending the season on a positive note for Jacksonville could lead to a much better 2014 campaign.
The Bills have endured another losing season and have not made the playoffs since 1999, but (Bills fans are crossing their fingers) the Bills seem to have its QB of the future in EJ Manuel. Yes, E.J was injured throughout the season, but when he did play, he looked like a solid fit. The Bills have already proven to be one of the best home teams in the league, so if they can make some fixes on the road, come out of the gates stronger next season and of course stay healthy, the Buffalo Bills could be playoff bound soon. They have the talent and run game do so.
For the Browns, they were actually in playoff contention for the first part of the season and were looking sharp with Hoyer at the helm. However, once Hoyer tore his ACL, the Browns season toppled. The Browns should get a nice draft pick and could beat the Steelers this weekend on the road as a spoiler (Another one of my bold predictions). Also, remember that Trent Richardson trade? Yeah, it looks like the Browns will reap the benefits from that deal nicely. Finally, they have a solid building piece in Josh Gordon. Do not know who he is? Go watch the highlights.
If you are a fan of the second category of teams I have mentioned, life is pretty good right now. Congratulations, you do not need to worry (for now) or jump any bandwagons because your team has qualified for the playoffs. Chances are your team is a real contender and will be resting this week or needing a win to secure a top playoff seed. For instance, if you are a Broncos fan, it is a major love relationship. I bet you will be inviting your friends over, will order large quantities of fattening foods and have the champagne ready in anticipation for Peyton Manning and the Broncos possibly breaking some more records this Sunday. Manning needs only 266 passing yards to break Drew Brees’ single season record for passing yards in a season (5,476). Manning and the Broncos can also break the NFL’s single season scoring record of 589 points, which was set by the New England Patriots in 2007. Denver is currently 18 points away from breaking that mark. Of course, the Broncos still need to win or need a Patriots loss to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but in case you have forgotten, they play the Raiders this week. Enough said.
Easy Peyton, you still have to win a playoff game as a Bronco.
Finally, this is where that third category of teams fits into the mix for fans. This category represents the / in the love/hate relationship. This is the absolute middle. Fans will either cry their way to sleep or will stay up all night trying to convince the entire world on social media that their team is this year’s Cinderella story.
AFC teams in the hunt:
Dolphins, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers
Jets vs. Dolphins-The Dolphins missed a huge opportunity when they laid an egg against the Bills in week 16. It is simple for the Dolphins. MIA win + BAL loss OR MIA win + SD win = playoffs for the fish. I expect the Jets to play well here and Miami does have a tendency of dropping big games, especially when conceived as the favourite. Playoffs or no playoffs just remember Tannehill, you still get to go home to Lauren. Too bad your fans do not.
Ravens vs. Bengals-Similar to the Dolphins, the Ravens missed a gigantic opportunity and failed to clinch a playoff birth because they were dismantled by what seemed to be a rejuvenated Patriots offence. However, the defending Super Bowl champions are still alive but need some outside help. BAL win + SD loss OR BAL win + MIA loss OR PIT loss + SD loss + MIA loss = playoff football. Clearly, the easiest way for the Ravens to advance to the post-season is to beat the Bengals this Sunday and hope for a SD or MIA loss. Cincinnati is undefeated at home with a 7-0 record and will still be playing for something come kickoff time. A Cincy win + Patriots loss would give the Bengals a first-round bye. The Ravens usually play well in big game situations but still have a tall task ahead of them. Hold your breath Ravens fans; you will be watching the game and keeping an eye on the scoreboard all day long.
Browns vs. Steelers- If you are like me you must be wondering how on earth do the Steelers still have a chance at the playoffs. Really? However, with a huge win at Lambeau in week 16 the Steelers are still very much alive. It is going to take A LOT of outside help, but Pittsburg can clinch a playoff spot with: PIT win + BAL loss + MIA loss + SD loss. To keep it short, it will take a miracle for the Steelers to graze post-season play. Do not feel too bad for the Steelers in this situation, they have six Super Bowl rings, including two this decade. Steelers fans always have the last laugh.
Steelers fans this Sunday be like…
Chiefs vs. Chargers-The Charges are one of the hottest teams in football right now. They have won three games in a row, which includes a win at Denver and have kept its slim playoff hopes alive. They host a Chiefs team this week that really has nothing to play for. Kansas City is locked into the fifth seed in the AFC and will most likely rest its players for Wild Card weekend, so the Chargers should make it four in a row here. A SD win + BAL loss + MIA loss is all it will take for the Bolts to enter post-season play. Easier said than done.
NFC teams in the hunt:
Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, Packers, Saints, Cardinals
Buccaneers vs. Saints-The Saints endured a tough loss last week at Carolina and now need to win or need an Arizona loss just to make the playoffs. The Saints can still win the NFC South and could secure a first-round bye but do not control its own destiny. They need to win at home and need the Panthers to lose against the Falcons. The Saints are perfect at home this year and should get into the playoffs one way or another. However, if they enter the playoffs as a road team the Saints could see an early playoff exit.
49ers vs. Cardinals-One of the biggest surprises this season has to be the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards could finish the season 11-5 and STILL miss the playoffs. That is how good the NFC West and Wild Card has been this year in the NFC. Arizona clinches a playoff birth with a win + NO loss. As mentioned before the Saints are undefeated at home and host the dismal Buccaneers, so it will be tough for Arizona fans to see playoff football. But hey, it is week 17 and crazy things are known to happen. If the Cardinals do receive the short end of the stick all is not lost because they sure do have a very bright future ahead.
Packers vs. Bears-Calling Mr. Rogers. It has been confirmed that the former MVP Aaron Rogers will start on Sunday after missing his last seven games due to a collarbone injury. For the Packers it could not have come at a better time. Sorry, Matt Flynn. Ironically, Rogers fractured his collarbone in the last meeting between these two teams in Green Bay back in week 9. The winner of this game will win the NFC North and will enter the playoffs. This bad blood rivalry between these two historic franchises will see another chapter unfold this Sunday. If the Packers can pull off the huge road victory in Rogers’ return to the field, the Packers enter the playoffs as a dangerous sleeper team. It will be interesting to see if Rogers is fully healthy because you know the Bears are going to try to hit him hard on every chance they can get. This game will also be a defying moment in Cutler’s career and could very well be his last game as a Bear. Cutler will be a free agent in 2014 and if he fails to beat out the Packers at home on Sunday, the Bears could go a different route at QB. They have given Cutler many opportunities to prove himself as “the guy” but another disappointing outcome could spell the end for Jay Cutler in Chicago. This game will be an awesome spectacle no matter how you draw it up. Both of these teams are not too fond of one another and the fans despise each other as well. Consider the fuel added to the already heated fire.
Jay Cutler is 1-8 all-time against the cheeseheads.
Eagles vs. Cowboys-This game is what football is all about. WIN AND YOU ARE IN. The biggest Sunday nighter of the year and it is only fitting that it involves the Cowboys, who will play in its third straight week 17, do or die game Sunday night. (lost previous two). The winner of this game will head to the post-season as the NFC East champions. The Eagles have been one of the most explosive offenses all season long under Chip Kelly’s new offense and the Cowboys have been America’s most scrutinized team. To add even more pandemonium to this game, the Cowboys earlier this week have shut down Tony Romo for the rest of the season due to a back injury. Yup, you know what that means- it is Kyle Orton time in Dallas and John Kitna will be the slated backup. This could get ugly, Cowboys fans. If Orton does find a way to win the game Tony Romo will receive even more criticism than ever before and he will not even be playing. The guy just can not win.
At least Romo does not have to worry about this.
No matter what category your team is in come Sunday, week 17 as always should deliver to the fans and the football world. The last category I forgot to mention features the teams you gamble on. If you find yourself in this category heading into week 17, you automatically lose.