NFL 2014 Week 16: The Dominoes (and Playoff Spots) Fall
As the National Football League’s season winds down to a halt, the search for weekly winners and losers subsides, In its place the debate over the playoffs takes over. Who is going? What matchups look likely? Who looks tough to beat in the postseason? These are the debates the NFL loves; they ensure high ratings and the advertising sales revenues that make the League the surest thing in television programming. These questions don’t require anyone to talk about who beat his wife or kids. In contrast to the dullness of many of the late-season games, every game in the playoffs means something and is what football fans eagerly await from the opening kickoff of the season.
In answer to the first question, all but two postseason openings have been filled. This does not mean there will be a lack of important games for the final weekend. In the American Football Conference, the New England Patriots has won the Eastern Division, the Indianapolis Colts the Southern and the Denver Broncos the Western. San Diego finished second to Denver and will earn a wildcard spot with a win Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The other two playoff teams come from the Northern Division. The Pittsburgh Steelers earned their spot on Sunday, then the Cincinnati Bengals with a Monday-night upset of Denver. Only when the two teams meet in Cincinnati this weekend will we know which one is the division winner and which the wildcard. New England and Denver locked up the top two seeds, so each will get the first week of the playoffs to rest up and scout their opponents for the next week. Most of these teams march into the postseason looking like they are playing their best footbal,l but the beast of the East should represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. New England has been playing steady, winning football for much of the season. They have home-field advantage, play solid defense and still have Tom Brady leading the offense.
The National Football League still has one undecided playoff spot. The conference’s Southern division has been so lame that to win it seems something of an embarrassment rather than an honor. Despite that, the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers face off for the division title on Sunday. Since both teams have losing records, the loser of this game is going home for the year. Too bad they both won’t be. Dallas has won the Eastern Division after a solid thumping of the Indianapolis Colts. Green Bay and Detroit both won on Sunday and will face each other on “the frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field to decide which wins the Northern Division and which is a wildcard. The other wildcard is the Arizona Cardinals, who for much of the season had the League’s best record but fell to the late-season juggernaut of the Seattle Seahawks. The defending Super Bowl champions completed a late-season recovery from injury by slamming the Cards in Arizona 35-6. Also having won the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Seattle looks as strong entering the playoffs as they were last season. The prediction here is that this team will line up for the National Anthem in Arizona once more this season, on Super Bowl Sunday. Patriots versus Seahawks; it should be a great game.
In the midst of this success, one team stands out among the disappointments. The Philadelphia Eagles looked like a solid playoff team for much of the season, not terribly surprising since the team won the NFC East last year. Their coach, Chip Kelly, brought a high-powered, quick-snap offense to Philly from his highly successful run coaching the Oregon Ducks. Despite this, the team went into a late-season tailspin and lost an embarrassing game to Washington on Saturday. Since this team lost its starting quarterback there may be good excuses for this disappointing season. There is no excuse for the high number of turnovers committed by the Eagles this year; the miscues cost the team dearly in many games. Despite the strong probability that this was a one-season hiccup for the team, it still falls far short of justified expectations this year. Because of that, Chip Kelly is this week’s winner of this site’s highest (dubious) honor, the NFL WOW (Weasel of the Week). Remember to keep looking at the award when putting your 2015 team together, Coach Kelly.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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