With a win the Panthers can not only clinch the NFC South, they can get a first round bye and with some help may even home field in the NFC. The Falcons are just ready to end a miserable season, but a win this game could give them some satisfaction in ruining the Panthers division title hopes. However, the Panthers defense is too strong and they will prevent any upset by shutting down the Falcons one dimension offense.
With a win the Bengals have a chance to get a first round bye, the Ravens meanwhile need a win and some help to get into the playoffs to defend their Super Bowl Championship. However, they have to win in Cincinnati where no road team has won all year and have to do so with a hobbled Joe Flacco. Last week against the Patriots Flacco could barely move and the Ravens offense struggled unless he gets 100% better it is hard to see the Ravens winning this game.
The Colts have a slight chance to get a first round bye, but even with a win they are likely locked into the fourth seed in the AFC. This could prevent them from making too much of an effort as they will be more concerned with staying healthy for the playoffs. The Jaguars have shown no sign of quitting in the second half as they won four games after a 0-8 start. The Colts nonetheless should be able to win this game, though it made be close.
Last week the Dolphins laid a big fat goose egg in Buffalo, as they were held under 100 yards in total offense. Despite that disaster they have the easiest path to the sixth seed needing a win and either a Ravens loss or Chargers win to get in. A month ago it was the Jets that nearly had a goose egg against the Dolphins defense, and with the playoffs in reach I see the Dolphins putting up a strong game at home to get the win as they get the help they need from Cincinnati and make the playoffs for the first time in five years
It’s the end of an era as the Metrodome closes its doors forever following the game. The next two seasons will see the Vikings venture outside as they play at the University of Minnesota, while their new stadium is built on the site of the Metrodome. The Lions will also be making changes in coaching staff as a second half collapse will likely cost Jim Schwartz his job. The sloppy Lions have been their own worst enemy with turnovers and penalties. This trend will continue as the Vikings close out the dome with a win.
It has been a season full of disappointments for these two NFC East rivals, as this is just one of three games without playoff implications. Following the game Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan is likely to be one of the first casualties of black Monday. The Giants with a win can avoid ten losses and end a terrible year on a positive note. The Redskins had a chance for a positive finish but lost in the final seconds to the Cowboys last week. That was their last gasp, the Giants are at home and have the pride the Redskins who have quit on their coach lack as they get the win.
The Steelers can sneak into the playoffs with a win, if a chain of events break right for them, namely the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers all losing. The Steelers will take care of their part of the deal as they beat the Browns for the second time this season. The Browns have been blunderful for the last few weeks seeing first half leads disappear quickly. The Steelers offense has been playing solid football down the stretch and the Browns defense has been struggling this trend will continue as the Steelers finish the season strong.
Two other teams closing out disappointing seasons, and are likely to make wholesale changes on the off-season. The Texans have not won since Week 2 a win that came in overtime against the Titans. The Titans have struggled ever since losing Quarterback Jake Locker. The Texans have long since mailed it in and in the final game of the season that will not be any different. The Titans will have several players trying to audition for other teams and will end the year with a win at home.
With a win the Cardinals can finish 11-5, which will be the most wins they had in a season since 1975 and it may not be enough for the playoffs as they also need the Saints to lose. Making matters worse the champs in the NFC East and NFC North will both have worse records. The Cardinals have won seven of their last eight beat the Seahawks in Seattle, beat the Panthers and Colts and may still fall short of the postseason. The 49ers can still win the division, but the Cardinals sending a message for next year get their 11th win and go home despite their best ever record since moving to the desert.
Nearly two months ago the Packers were well in control of the NFC North, when Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collar bone at home against the Bears. Now he returns just in time for the final game of the season with the division on the line. The Bears defense also beset by injury has been shredded over the last few weeks, will get burnt again as Rodgers comes back strong to lead the Packers to a win in Soldier Field, as Jay Cutler drops to 1-8 in games against the Bears biggest rivals.
The Patriots still need a win to get a bye and can get home field if the Broncos slip up in Oakland. The Bills coming off a masterful defensive effort can end the year on bright note by beating two division rivals to end the season. However, the Bills have won just one game since 2003 against the Patriots and that likely will not change any time soon. Look for the Bills to keep the game close most of the way, but too much Tom Brady will get the Patriots to close the year at 12-4.
When the month began the Saints were playing for home field advantage, now they need a win just to make the playoffs. Fortunately for them this game is being played at the Superdome where they have dominated winning all seven games. The Buccaneers are just looking to end an ugly season that began with eight straight losses. The Saints offense just gets cranked up too much at home and their defense is able to use the crowd noise to shutdown the other team and that will continue as the Saints march into the playoffs with an easy win.
The Broncos need a win in their final game to assure themselves of home field throughout the playoffs, while Peyton Manning with the single season Touchdown record already in his back pocket needs 256 yards to set the record for passing yards in a season. With the Raiders defense being buttery soft the Broncos will get both done easily, as the only concern the Broncos have is their defense. The Raiders offense may put up some points, but their defense is too poor to stop the Broncos from putting up another 40 points on the way to setting the team scoring record for a single season.
The Chiefs are locked into the fifth spot in the playoffs, and the Chargers with some help can still slip into the playoffs. Before they even take the field the Chargers will have some idea of their fate, but whether or not the playoffs are on the line, I think the Chargers will like to finish the year on a strong note. The Chargers beat the Chiefs earlier in the season at Arrowhead Stadium. With the Chiefs likely to rest some players and struggling already against teams with winning records it’s hard to see them getting a win in San Diego.
Last week the Seahawks lost their first home game in two years as the Cardinals defense came in and shutdown the Seahawks offense. The Rams did the same earlier in the year in St. Louis, but the Seahawks still managed to get the win. Needing to win this one to assure home field, I see the Seahawks offense playing much better this week as they make sure the road to the Meadowlands is through the Pacific Northwest, as their defense sets up a score or two against the inconsistent Rams.
It’s like déjà vu all over again, as the Cowboys will play on the final game of the season, a Sunday Night play in game with the NFC East on the line for the third straight season. Just like 2011 and 2012 at the end it will be the Cowboys singin’ the blues. This time they will not be able to blame Tony Romo as a back injury will keep him in street clothes. Even if Romo were to play the concern is the Cowboys defense, who is without Sean Lee, and getting torn up on a weekly occasion. Look for another big game by Nick Foles and LaSean McCoy who both have big games to send the Eagles into the playoffs.