The regular season comes to an end today, with a few playoff spots still up for grabs. In the AFC, four teams are playing for the last entry into the postseason, while the number one seed is still in doubt. The NFC has three teams in the playoffs, but no one has clinched their division or even a first round bye. There are two winner take all games and several more that have playoff implications. The only thing for certain at this point is that by midnight, it will all be set.
Last Week: 10 - 6
Overall: 163 - 94 - 1
Carolina (11 - 4) 27 @ Atlanta (4 - 11) 21: The Panthers wrap up the NFC South and a first round bye with a win. They can also clinch home field throughout the playoffs by beating the Falcons and getting a Seattle loss to St. Louis and a San Francisco victory over Arizona. Cam Newton and his team are on a roll, winners of ten of their last eleven games. Atlanta has had a very disappointing season and can go out with a little bit of satisfaction by keeping the Panthers form a division crown. I don't think that's happening, though.
Baltimore (8 - 7) 17 @ Cincinnati (10 - 5) 23: Cincinnati has already clinched the AFC North title, but needs a win and a loss by New England to get a first round bye. The Ravens will advance to the playoffs with a win and by getting some help. They can still get in with a loss if the other three teams in the hunt for the sixth playoff spot also lose. With both teams having something to play for, I'll take the Bengal defense to shut down the Ravens and leave them in contention for a bye.
Houston (2 - 13) 20 @ Tennessee (6 - 9) 27: The Texans are looking for a new coach and the Titans are trying to avoid double digit losses. Not much to play on either side, but I'll take the home team in this one.
Jacksonville (4 - 11) 13 @ Indianapolis (10 - 5) 28: The Colts can still get a first round bye, but they need to win and hope for losses by New England and Cincinnati. Not much chance there, but they also want to continue momentum from last week's big win over Kansas City. The Jags are done and I'll be surprised if they give Indy much of a game.
New York Jets (7 - 8) 17 @ Miami (8 - 7) 23: The Jets are eliminated from the playoffs, but they may still be playing to save coach Rex Ryan's job. Miami advances to the playoffs with a win and any scenario other than a San Diego loss and a Baltimore win, in which case they lose the head to head tiebreaker with the Ravens. In their first meeting, the Dolphins dominated in a 23 - 3 win. I have to think this one will be very similar.
Detroit (7 - 8) 24 @ Minnesota (4 - 10 - 1) 27: The Lions really let this season get away from them and the Vikes will be saying goodbye to the Metrodome. I'll take Minnesota over what will probably be a very uninspired Detroit squad in a meaningless game.
Washington (3 - 12) 24 @ New York Giants (6 - 9) 30: After two consecutive one-point losses, the Redskins may be ripe for a blowout. The Giants shocked the Lions last week and knocked them out of the playoff race. Neither of these teams has much to play for, so I'll stay with the Giants at home.
Cleveland (4 - 11) 17 @ Pittsburgh (7 - 8) 27: The Steelers will still have a playoff pulse at kickoff, needing a win and losses by the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers . They got help last week to stay alive, so who knows?
Green Bay (7 - 7 - 1) 24 @ Chicago (8 - 7) 27: This is a winner take all game for the NFC North crown and the a home playoff game next week. The Packers expect to have QB Aaron Rodgers back in action for the first time in almost two months. The Bears were blown out in Philadelphia last week and need to regroup against their long-time rival. This one will probably hinge on how sharp Rodgers is in his return from a collarbone injury. I'm taking the Bears.
Denver (12 - 3) 37 @ Oakland (4 - 11) 24: The Broncos need to take care of business in Oakland to secure the number one seed in the AFC. They've laid a couple of eggs during the season, but I think they'll drill the Raiders to stay ahead in the AFC playoff picture.
Buffalo (6 - 9) 20 @ New England (11 - 4) 31: The Patriots need a win to clinch a first round bye unless the Bengals and Colts lose. I doubt that will happen, so Tom Brady and company will need to avoid a big upset at home. Although the Bills have played well at times, this one means way too much to New England
Tampa Bay (4 - 11) 17 @ New Orleans (10 - 5) 27: The Saints were flying high after defeating the Panthers three weeks ago, but two road defeats have resulted in New Orleans needing a win today to make the playoffs. The Buccaneers started the season with eight straight losses, putting coach Greg Schiano's job in jeopardy. They will need to pull a big surprise to finish with a win.
San Francisco (11 - 4) 24 @ Arizona (10 - 5) 27: The Cardinals need to win and then hope New Orleans stumbles at home against Tampa Bay. The Niners are in the postseason, but can improve their position with a win and a loss by the Seahawks. They can even get home field advantage if the Panthers also lose. Arizona has been playing extremely well, including an upset of the Seahawks in Seattle. I'll take the home team, even if the win will be futile as far as the playoffs are concerned.
Kansas City (11 - 4) 27 @ San Diego (8 - 7) 30: The Chiefs can't improve their playoff position today, so they might use the opportunity to rest some starters today. San Diego will know at kickoff whether they still have a shot at continuing their season. Miami and Baltimore both have to lose to give the Chargers any hope of making the playoffs. This is a tough pick, because it could end up that neither team has much to play for. I'll stick with the Chargers to expose weaknesses in the Chief defense.
St. Louis (7 - 8) 19 @ Seattle (12 - 3) 24: The Rams have been giant killers down the stretch, but the Seahawks were given a wakeup call in their home loss to the Cardinals last week. They still need to win to secure the number one seed in the NFC, which should provide plenty of incentive for them to get the bad taste of last week's game out of their mouth. I would tend to think they won't lose two in a row at home.
Philadelphia (9 - 6) 31 @ Dallas (8 - 7) 21: The NFL regular season will end with this winner-take-all battle in Dallas. The Cowboys will be without starting QB Tony Romo, who will be replaced by backup Kyle Orton. The Eagles are coming off a dismantling of the Bears and have some momentum in their favor. Nick Foles has played well and the Dallas defense is vulnerable, especially against the run. So this one is pretty easy, but since it's a big rivalry game, anything could happen, especially since Orton is a bit of a wild card.