Coming down the home stretch

By Lloyd Vance, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: December 31, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — I love the last week of the NFL season as there are always many different playoff scenarios to figure out on the way to the playoffs. Sure we know 10 of the 12 teams that will be in the playoffs, but the two remaining coveted berths plus the “Who” and the “Where” pieces all need to be put together in Week 17.

For the 14th consecutive NFL season, five or more teams qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before (Saints, Bengals, Cowboys, Patriots, and Packers are in with the Broncos, Jets, Texans and Jaguars still having playoff aspirations).

One thing is for sure expect a wacky ending to the 2009 NFL Season – remember the 2008 Philadelphia Eagles, who were 8-6-1 coming into Week 17, had a myriad of wins and losses come together so they could make the playoffs and they ended up in the NFC Championship Game.

Let’s hope the AFC’s last wildcard spot, being contended for by five or more teams, doesn’t come down to league tiebreaker Number #11, which is a coin flip.

Also it is “Just Lose, Baby” time for the St. Louis Rams as RB Steven Jackson and Company need to lose against the Niners so they can claim the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft – more than likely Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh.

NFC East The Philadelphia Eagles (11-4) lead the Dallas Cowboys (10-5) by 1-game in the division race. Ironically the Eagles and Cowboys will face-off for the NFC East crown in Week 17 at Jerry Jones’ billion-dollar Cowboys Stadium (4:00 PM EST on FOX).

If the Eagles win they will be NFC East Champs plus there is also the added incentive if the Vikings lose, then the Eagles will be the NFC’s No. 2 seed. If the Cowboys win then they will be NFC East Champ by virtue of their head-to-head wins tiebreaker over the Eagles.

Dallas can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Eagles + MIN loss + ARI loss or tie. The Giants (8-7) and Redskins (4-11) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

NFC West — The Arizona Cardinals (10-5) have already clinched their second straight NFC West crown. But the Cardinals still have incentive when they host the Packers in Week 17 as they still have a slim chance of winning the NFC’s 2nd Seed. Arizona clinches a first-round bye with a win over the Packers + MIN loss + PHI loss. The Niners (7-8), Seahawks (5-10), and Rams (1-14) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

NFC South — The New Orleans Saints (13-2) lost for the second time this season as the Tampa Bay Bucs surprised them by a score of 20-17 in overtime. But all was not lost as the Vikings’ loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football assured the Saints, the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed which brought a bye and home field advantage. Expect the Saints to go for a “momentum” win against the host Carolina Panthers, but if they get a lead QB Drew Brees and other key players could be relegated to the bench. The Falcons (8-7), Panthers (7-8), and Bucs (2-13) have already been eliminated from playoff contention. An interesting note from the NFC South (created in 2002) is that in 6 out of 7 NFL seasons including 2009 with the Saints, the division winner was a worst to first team (only exception was the Falcons going from worst to 2nd place in ’08).

NFC North – The Minnesota Vikings (11-4) are the NFC North champs, but they appear to be limping into the playoffs after another loss (36-30 defeat to the Bears in overtime). With an eye still on winning the NFC’s No. 2 seed, expect the Vikings to play hard in their regular season finale when they host the NY Giants. Minnesota clinches a first-round bye with a win over the Giants + PHI loss or tie or the extremely unlikely scenario of a Viking tie against the Giants and a Philadelphia loss. The Green Bay Packers (10-5) have already clinched a wildcard berth, but they are unsure if they will be the NFC’s 5th or 6th seed. The Bears (6-9) and Lions (2-13) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

AFC East – The New England Patriots (10-5) after three straight wins clinched the AFC East title. The Patriots still may still put-up a fight against the Houston Texans (8-7) as New England has playoff seeding issues to workout. The NY Jets (8-7), who were recipients of the Colts resting players in Week 16, have a very good chance of clinching an AFC Wildcard berth. The NY Jets clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals, who already clinched the AFC North crown and maybe resting QB Carson Palmer and Company. The Miami Dolphins (7-8) still have a playoff shot too. Miami clinches a playoff spot a win over the Steelers + NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie. The Buffalo Bills (5-10) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

AFC West — The San Diego Chargers (12-3), who have won 10 consecutive games and are the hottest team in the NFL, have already wrapped up the AFC West crown and the AFC’s No. 2 seed. Even though there is talk of the Chargers resting some veterans, expect head coach Norv Turner to seek a “momentum” win and get some of his players to key stats when San Diego hosts the Redskins in Week 17. If the Chargers win against the ‘Skins, they will be riding an 11-game win streak plus the Bolts have eliminated the Colts from the playoffs the last 2 years. The Denver Broncos (8-7) after a glorious 6-0 start have crashed back down to Earth, but they still have a playoff chance. The Broncos can clinch a playoff berth with a myriad of scenarios:

1) A Broncos win over the Chiefs + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR

2) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + PIT loss or tie OR

3) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + HOU win OR

4) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie OR

5) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + HOU win OR

6) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie OR

7) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss OR

8) PIT loss + BAL loss + JAC loss or tie + NYJ loss OR

9) PIT loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie + NYJ loss OR

10) NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie.

The Raiders (5-10) and Chiefs (3-12) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

AFC South – With their “rested” 29-15 loss to the NY Jets, the Indianapolis Colts (14-1), in my opinion, gave away their opportunity of being the NFL’s only 19-0 team in history…but that is a debate for another day. Even though the Colts’ NFL-record 23-game winning streak is over, they still are the AFC South division champs and have clinched AFC home field advantage plus a first-round bye. To the dismay of many, expect to see the Colts’ JV team against the Buffalo Bills in Week 17.

The Houston Texans (8-7) are attempting to not only end their 8-8 streak (2007 and 2008), but also trying claim one of the AFC’s wildcard berths. In order to clinch a playoff spot, the Texans need some help.

  1. A Texans win over the Patriots + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
  2. HOU win + NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss or tie OR
  3. HOU win + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie

The Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8) after looking very good for a playoff spot after 13 weeks – record of 7-5 at the time – have limped home and need a lot of help just to make the playoffs.

1) A Jaguars win over the Browns + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + HOU loss OR

2) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + NYJ loss OR

3) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss OR

4) JAC win + PIT loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss OR

5) JAC win + NYJ loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + BAL loss

The Titans (7-8) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

AFC North — The Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) after their Week 16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, claimed their second division title under head coach Marvin Lewis (other in 2005). You can probably expect the Bengals to be resting players by the time they face the NY Jets on NBC Sunday Night football as there may not be any incentive (playoff seeding) for Cincy.

Another AFC North team that looks to have a good chance to join the Bengals in the playoffs is the Baltimore Ravens (8-7). All the Ravens need to do to get in the playoffs is to win at Oakland, so they can claim one of the AFC’s two wildcard berths.

The other AFC North team with playoff dreams is the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7).

The Steelers need a bevy of events to occur just to have a chance to return to the Super Bowl chase.

1) A Pittsburgh win over the Dolphins + HOU loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie OR

2) PIT win + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR

3) PIT win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie

The Browns (4-11), have won 3 straight games and are dangerous, have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Week 17

Sunday’s games

Indianapolis at Buffalo 1:00 PM (CBS)

Jacksonville at Cleveland 1:00 PM (CBS)

Chicago at Detroit 1:00 PM (FOX)

Atlanta at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)

New Orleans at Carolina 1:00 PM (FOX)

New England at Houston 1:00 PM (CBS)

San Francisco at St. Louis 1:00 PM (FOX)

Pittsburgh at Miami 1:00 PM (CBS)

N.Y. Giants at Minnesota 1:00 PM (FOX)

Green Bay at Arizona 4:15 PM (FOX)

Washington at San Diego 4:15 PM (FOX)

Tennessee at Seattle 4:15 PM (CBS)

Baltimore at Oakland 4:15 PM (CBS)

Kansas City at Denver 4:15 PM (CBS)

Philadelphia at Dallas 4:15 PM (FOX)

Cincinnati at N.Y. Jets 7:35 PM (NBC)

NOTE: A great tool for sorting out all of the “What If” scenarios surrounding the 2009 NFL Playoff match-ups can be found on the Yahoo Sports website .