The Washington Redskins showed signs of life last week as they beat the Jaguars to keep hope alive. However, it had more to do with the Jaguars playing hideous football than any sign they were turning their season around. The Tennessee Titans at 8-6 are in great shape to make the playoffs in the AFC and are playing solid football with Derrick Henry leading the way. After shutting out the Giants last week they could get another big defensive effort for fantasy league playoff participants with Josh Johnson and the Redskins coming down to Nashville.
This one will go a long way in determining playoff positioning in the AFC. The Los Angeles Chargers are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the lead in the AFC West and have at least clinched a Wild Card spot. The Baltimore Ravens are sitting in the sixth seed but are just a half game behind the Steelers in the AFC North for first place. Both teams have shown resiliency winning through key injuries and staging big comebacks. The Chargers though appear to be building something special after their win in Kansas City and could get home field if they win the West.
The Carolina Panthers have the right decision in shutting down Cam Newton. He was clearly not right and with six straight losses, the playoffs are a longshot for Carolina. Newton was likely risking further injury by playing with his sore shoulder now he can focus on getting fixed for 2019. The Atlanta Falcons ended a long losing streak last week and had their best offensive showing. This game could go either way, but I trust Matt Ryan more than I trust Taylor Heinicke.
Call it the Hue Jackson factor, but before he was fired by the Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals had beaten their Ohio rivals seven straight times. After Jackson joined the Bengals staff the Browns drummed Cincinnati 35-20. The Browns are also 4-2 since the coaching change overall, while the Bengals have become the Browns losing seven of their last nine. Not only that the Browns can get to .500 with a win, as interim coach Gregg Williams makes his case to get the full job.
Last week the Dallas Cowboys were shutout for the first time is 16 years as they saw a chance to clinch the NFC East slip away in Indianapolis. Returning home, they look to rebound against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have played better in recent weeks after a change of defensive coordinators. However, at 5-9 they are still far from being a contender, as coach Dirk Koetter will be sweating it out on Black Monday. I expect a big game for Dallas, as they pick apart Tampa’s secondary and slam the door shut on their offense.
After scuffling most of the season, the Minnesota Vikings found their offense last week as Kevin Stefanski took over for John DiFilipo as offensive coordinator. The question is how can the Vikings sustain that success after scoring 41 points against the Dolphins. The Detroit Lions always seem to give the Vikings a hard time. However, with Minnesota needing to finish strong to secure a playoff spot I sense they give a better effort and beat the Lions in Detroit to all but clinch the sixth seed in the NFC.
Last week the Indianapolis Colts showed just how good their defense could be as they handed the Cowboys their first shutout in 15 years. At the same time that was happening the New York Giants were getting blanked at home by the Titans. Its hard to have two straight shutouts on either side of the ball, but the Giants won’t be able to muster much, while the Colts go into the final week with their playoff hopes alive and well.
At 7-7, the Miami Dolphins are a considerable longshot to make the playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars meanwhile are just hoping the season ends. After starting 3-1 with Super expectations the Jaguars have been an epic disappointment as everything has crashed and burnt under Doug Marone who may have done the worst coaching job in NFL history. The Dolphins will look great in more ways than one as they got permission to wear their throwbacks again, please make these fulltime Miami.
The New England Patriots have shown some serious cracks, first with a stunning loss in the Miracle in Miami and then with a 17-10 loss to the Steelers. Returning home, they can still clinch the division by beating the Buffalo Bills. At one time this was a rivalry game, but it is hard to consider this a rivalry when Buffalo shows less fight than a punching bag. This game will get the Patriots back on track fast, as they take out their frustrations and beatdown the Bills for the 32nd time in 36 games.
The Green Bay Packers have struggled all season away from Lambeau Field, losing all seven heading into their final road game. The New York Jets are wrapping up their final home game, and their fans wish it was a swan song for Todd Bowles. The Packers have not decided to shut down Aaron Rodgers who all season has been affected by the knee he sprained in Week 1. The Jets have played better lately, but unless Rodgers is really off can’t win this one.
The Houston Texans not only can with the NFC South they have a chance to get a first-round playoff bye. However, the road to finishing with the second seed will not be easy as they have to face the defending champions on the road. The Philadelphia Eagles kept their playoff hopes alive last week with an impressive win on the road against the Rams as Nick Foles continued his amazing play in reserve. With Foles magic continuing it’s hard to pick against the Eagles as they get back above .500 with a chance to get in the postseason entering the final game of the season in Washington.
The Los Angeles Rams suddenly are struggling after losing their last two games as they have lost the grip on the top seed in the NFC. The Rams should be able to get back on track this week as they face the Arizona Cardinals, a team they stomped 34-0 in Week 2. In fact, in their last three games dating back to last season, the Rams have outscored the Cardinals 99-16. Look for that trend to continue.
The San Francisco 49ers again are finishing strong, winning their last two games against the Broncos and Seahawks. Once again at home, they look to get their fifth win as they host the Chicago Bears. The Bears have already won the NFC North, they just need to keep the pressure on the Rams in the pursuit of getting a playoff bye. The Niners will have their work cut out for them as Khalil Mack returns to the bay area and looks to wrap up defensive player of the year as the Bears keep their raps on the Niners.
The Pittsburgh Steelers stopped their slide last week by beating the Patriots for the first time in seven years. They still have work to do to get in the playoffs, as the Ravens remain a half game back. The New Orleans Saints meanwhile survived a scare in Carolina and need just one win in their final two games to get home field throughout the playoffs. The Saints offense should be able to pick apart the Steelers secondary as Drew Brees tries to make his case for NFL MVP.
It’s beginning to look a lot like the playoffs, the Kansas City Chiefs are choking aging. Soon they will be one and done as Andy Reid has failed to win the big game again. The Chiefs after their late collapse last week now need to win their last to hold off the fast charging Chargers. It won’t be easy as they have to play on Sunday Night in the home of the 12th Man. The Seattle Seahawks have been just good enough to be in the playoffs and should be able to seal a spot with a win over the Chiefs.
Do the Oakland Raiders have any pride? In what could be their final game in Oakland, with their 2019 home up in the air the Raiders are hosting the Denver Broncos in the Monday Night Finale. In terms of football, this game is like getting coal in your stocking on Christmas Eve. The Denver Broncos have lost their last two after making a brief run, once again putting Vance Joseph in the hot seat. That chair will get even hotter after another lackluster loss in primetime.