The Big “If”
By Amy Lignor
If this one wins one and this one loses one, we clinch. If this one loses and this one loses, we claim a wildcard berth. If this one loses and we win, and Mom makes fruitcake we get home field advantage. If…if…if… The list is endless. We are at that time where everyone must work to separate the sheep from the goats, or Rudolph from the herd, if you like that scenario better.
Then, of course, when the playoffs begin and people lose, you will hear things such as: Would we have won with Brock? Or…Thank God Manning was back. Why can’t Brady go away? Or… The Seahawks AGAIN? Come on, man! (Oh, yeah…all this is still to come).
But before even getting to the postseason, heading into this week the standings are in such a state of disarray that only two division titles have been won. Leads in other divisions are held by the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals, but there are still challengers out there. Going into this week, those are the three teams that can clinch which means the AFC at the end will most likely (again) be Peyton Manning against Tom Brady. And the Green Bay Packers will have the best shot at going to Carolina for the NFC Championship.
The Cardinals will play tonight for the NFC West trophy. They have already locked down the postseason berth, but Arizona would love the title. And if they win against the Eagles on the road, the Redskins will be extremely happy being atop the NFC East. But there is another scenario. If Seattle loses against the Browns, Arizona will also win the division without even having to beat the Eagles. The Broncos become division champions if the Chiefs lose (which they did not). And the Bengals will need to win, the Pittsburgh Steelers to lose, and the Broncos to win. Getting this so far?
All Green Bay has to do is beat the Oakland Raiders today to head to postseason and most likely the division title. They will beat Oakland. But if the Raiders did the work and actually beat them, Green Bay would still get a spot in the playoffs with a New York Giants loss (which has happened), so the Pack is officially in. Now, if either of the NFC East teams lose (which the Giants did) and Seattle manages to beat Cleveland, the Seahawks are in. For the Vikings, they are hanging on by a thread. Vikings need a win (got it), a loss from New York (got it) and a Seahawks loss against the Browns. And a partridge in a pear tree.
A battle between the 6-7 Texans and 6-7 Colts decided the leader in the AFC South today, with the Texans nailing it. The only easy team to talk about is the Dallas Cowboys and the 49ers who can basically sit home and watch TV.
Most fun game of the weekend? The “NFC Least” Giants met up with the undefeated Panthers. Easy for the Panthers, right? Wrong. The Giants were not going to be stepped on by Cam Newton and his dancing team. Odell Beckham, Jr. proved that right away. In fact, his play made the game look a lot like the UFC and not the NFL. Josh Norman was chosen to cover him, and he and Beckham had some nasty fights. Punches thrown, flags flew, and made the game extremely exciting. Carolina did shake a couple of times in this one. First, Cam Newton almost came away hurt. Secondly, praise Eli Manning. Think about this: You are the Panthers up 35 to 7 at the end of the third quarter. Game’s done. Pull Cam out and keep him safe. Nope. Manning ties the game with less than two minutes left on the clock. Unfortunately, the Panthers scored a field goal and the game was over. The Panthers keep their undefeated season one more week but, note to coach, figure out which one you want more. If an undefeated season is a must-have for you, then put your QB on the field. Want a Super Bowl? Let him sit on the bench.
The three-way tie in the NFC East was looked at by everyone as the NY Giants having the most skill to win the division. So what do the Redskins do? They and their YOU LIKE THAT! QB Kirk Cousins came out on fire versus the pathetic Bills and chalked up another win.
Big Ben from Pittsburgh wants the Broncos out. The coach of the Broncos wants it all…but the challenge will be when he has to decide between a young gun and a seasoned player for the Big Game. Vikings still have that ray of hope after beating the Bears, and when it came down to the most boring game of the day – the Patriots win that one. They have their division title (something they will continue to have until Brady retires at the age of sixty). They are now playing for home field advantage. And, basically, they could have won while sitting at home in their living rooms watching the game on TV. Brady to Gronk. Brady to Gronk. They were up 24 to 3 at the half. Do you even need to ask how it turned out?
We’ll see if the Patriots secure home field advantage in the AFC. If they do, the scenario of the Super Bowl being the Carolina Panthers versus the returning champion New England Patriots seems like a heck of a bet. But there’s still more football to be played…and if you believe everything from the experts to omens, the Panthers will lose along the way. Let’s just hope for their fans’ sake that they don’t save their only loss of the season for the Super Bowl stage.