After a wild weekend of upsets, controversial decisions and big time plays, we’re down to just one more week of the NFL regular season, with two playoff spots still up for grabs (just barely). Here are my 10 thoughts on a wild week 16:
Coin Flip Fiasco: The most notable conversation topic coming out of week 16 came about during a coin flip. As you most likely have heard by now, Bill Belichick instructed Matthew Slater to select a direction (effectively select to kick) at the start of overtime, hoping his defense could slow down the Jets and then kick a field goal. This decision will be debated and it is hard to second guess a head coach as successful as Belichick. But I personally prefer to live by the “play to win the game method,” especially when you have Tom Brady under center.
Underrated Dynamic Duo: What people should be talking about coming out of that Jets game is how Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have quietly been one of the top WR duos in the NFL this season, combining for 24 TDs and over 2,000 yards. The Jets largely get labeled as a defensive team with a run focused offense, but these two players give the Jets big play-ability that will make them a tough out in the playoffs (if they can beat Buffalo in week 17).
Steelers Stumble: For weeks now, fans labeled the Steelers as “the team you don’t want to see in the playoffs.” But after losing to a struggling Ravens team as 10 point favorites, they now find themselves needing a win at Cleveland and a loss from the Jets to get into the playoffs. The biggest disappointment from this game, and maybe this season has to be Roethlisberger; while Ben has received lots of praise thanks to gaudy passing yard numbers, his TD:INT ratio is the highest its been since 2008, having thrown 14 INTs in just 11 games this year.
Chiefs Keep Rolling: With the Steelers in trouble, are 9 straight wins enough to label the Chiefs as “the team you don’t want to see in the playoffs?” Sure, a 17-13 victory over Cleveland won’t intimidate playoff teams, but this team is rolling behind a strong defense and mistake free offense.
Broncos Clinch: As hot as Kansas City is, they will still need help to clinch the AFC West after the Broncos wild over time victory on Monday Night Football. But there are still lots of questions surrounding this team, most notably at the QB position. Brock Osweiler played well enough to earn the “Gruden Grinder,” but I’m not sure he did enough to earn the start in week 17. If Peyton Manning is healthy he will certainly be motivated to put on a show after the false HGH allegations he dealt with this week.
Colts Epic Playoff Chances: After tons of tinkering on the playoff machine, I could not figure out how the Colts had not been eliminated. And that’s because they needed 10 games to go their way heading into last night. The Broncos hit part one last night, but the Colts still have a long way to go.
You Like That? Over on the NFC side, all that’s left is jockeying for position. A big reason why is Kirk Cousins, who excelled once again with an impressive stat line against the Eagles: 31/46 for 355 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INT (despite one horrifically dumb decision). He certainly was not the QB Washington fans thought would be leading them after the 2012 draft, but he likely will be the QB for years to come and has set himself up for a nice pay day this off-season. A playoff win would help earn him even more money.
Panthers Lose: It took 15 weeks, but Carolina finally lost a game, a hard-fought 20-13 loss on the road to a division rival. Losing may be a blessing in disguise, as it will alleviate the pressure that comes with an undefeated season, and force the team to evaluate its flaws. But they need to get back on track quick, as the #1 seed is no sure thing thanks to…
Cardinals Soaring: Arizona may be on the quietest 9 game winning streak you’ll ever see. With the Panthers pursuing perfection all year long, the talk has rightfully been focused on Carolina. But after mauling the Eagles and Packers in back to back weeks, this Cardinals team may have overtaken the Panthers as the team to beat in the NFC. And if Carolina slips up and allows Arizona to end up as the #1 seed, Carson Palmer may end up as the league MVP.
NFC North Showdown: Green Bay and Minnesota head into the final week of the season after polar opposite weeks; the Packers got embarrassed in Arizona while the Vikings rolled over the Giants. But the last time these two teams met, the Packers were coming off of a three game losing streak, yet managed to handle the Vikings 30-13. I expect this game to be much closer though, as Teddy Bridgewater has played much better down the stretch, and Green Bay’s struggles have continued. It will certainly be a fun way to wrap up the regular season, and there is a good chance that these two teams face off again in the first round of the playoffs.