by Ryan Meehan b/w Joshua Cavazos
The last week of the NFL season is upon us, and it all happens on New Years’ Day so I can imagine that everyone will be bright-eyed and bushy tailed Sunday morning. This week I’m pretty stoked because I’m joined by guest correspondent and new father Josh Cavazos. He has a beautiful new baby daughter named Sawyer and he’s going to be a great Dad so congratulations to him on that. We haven’t worked together in fifteen years, so if any of this seems like it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense get used to it as I plan to milk that excuse as far as I can drag the cow.
I must have missed this for a couple of days, but apparently television host and author Bill Maher tweeted something foul about Tim Tebow after the Broncos 40-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills. We’re not going to reprint it here because you can just Google it and we don’t want our website to come up when other people Google it. I’m usually a fan of most well placed profanity, but this was kind of out of place and very obviously a publicity stunt for Maher’s TV show that returns to HBO in January. Although I have agreed with a couple of things that Maher has said over the course of his career, this was not one of them, and it made me realize the irony that he still continues to be out pitching a show called “Politically Incorrect” by going to all of these networks and discussing how they can make it just politically correct enough to put it on the air so that everyone involved can make a lot of money off of it. What a douchecanoe. But I digress.
In week seventeen everything will be sorted out and we’ll know who’s in and who’s not. So here’s just a quick wrapup of the possibilities that exist:
AFC Playoff Scenarios:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) NE win or tie OR
2) BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie
Baltimore clinches AFC North division and a first-round bye with:
1) BAL win OR
2) BAL tie + PIT loss or tie OR
3) PIT loss
Baltimore clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) BAL win + NE loss
Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division and a first-round bye with:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie OR
2) PIT tie + BAL loss
Pittsburgh clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie + NE loss
Denver clinches AFC West division with:
1) DEN win OR
2) DEN tie + OAK loss or tie OR
3) OAK loss
Oakland clinches AFC West division with:
1) OAK win + DEN loss or tie OR
2) OAK tie + DEN loss
Oakland clinches a playoff spot with:
1) OAK win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie OR
2) OAK win + CIN loss + NYJ win
Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:
1) CIN win or tie OR
2) NYJ loss or tie + OAK loss or tie OR
3) NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
NEW YORK JETS
New York clinches a playoff spot with:
1) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + OAK loss or tie OR
2) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
Tennessee clinches a playoff spot with:
1) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + OAK loss or tie OR
2) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + DEN loss or tie OR
3) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ loss or tie + OAK win + DEN win
Since all but one of the playoff spots are secured for contention, the best way to look at the NFC Playoff Scenarios is as viewed from an Atlanta Falcons fan:
Scenario 1: If the Lions can beat the Packers in Week 17, the Falcons will have to hope the third time against New Orleans is their time to shine.
Scenario 2: If Green Bay wins and the Falcons beat the Buccaneers, then it’s a trip to play either Dallas or the Giants. That one will be settled quite easily: those two teams play each other.
Simple enough, right? Oh, and by the way the Pro Bowl selections were this week. Don’t even think for one minute I’m going to waste your time with that. Instead, let’s take you through the matchups.
Tampa Bay (4-11) at Atlanta (9-6)
Meehan: It kills me to pick the Falcons but I have to do it. And I’m only doing it because the Buccaneers are as useful as a garbage fire. If for some strange circumstance Atlanta has to play New Orleans a third time this year I will laugh my ass off. If you don’t believe me, just picture the neighbor that you don’t like getting three flat tires in the same week. See? You know what, after further review a garbage fire can generate power so I retract my previous statement. Could be a long offseason in Tampa for Bucs fans, whereas I’m sure Falcons fans still believe that they’re actually the best team in that division which is insane. Which begs the question: If Atlanta and Tennessee played in the forest and no one was there to hear it, would I still have to act like it happened? God I hope not. I can respect Michael Turner because he plays with a lot of heart but I have no love for anyone on that defense at all.
Meehan’s Pick: Falcons 30, Buccaneers 24
Cavazos: I really want to trust the Falcons. My gut tells me that Atlanta nearly loses this game to a Tampa Bay team that solicits a new coach at halftime.
Josh’s Pick: Falcons 20, Bucs 17
Baltimore (11-4) at Cincinnati (9-6)
Meehan: This could be where we find out if the Bengals really have it. If they win and the Jets lose, they’re in. If both of them lose and Tennessee wins, then the Titans are in the playoffs and Meehan’s pissed and that’s saying a lot because I don’t usually refer to myself in the third person. It would do wonders for the Bengals’ self esteem to get off to this kind of a start with a rookie quarterback. If Cincinnati does get in, I can’t help but think of the emotional damage it will do to the Cleveland Browns. I realize that these are all big tough guys who aren’t known for broadcasting their feelings, but no matter how tough you think you are that has to hurt if you’re the only team in your division that doesn’t make it. Where were we? Oh right, the Ravens…I have to believe the Bengals win this game because Baltimore doesn’t care. And, has anyone else noticed a very reduced amount of Joe Flacco related information in the past month or so?
Meehan’s Pick: Bengals 23, Ravens 21
Cavazos: Ray Lewis killed someone. Am I the only one who remembers that? Anyway, I love Andy Dalton in all of his ginger glory. I also love AJ Green. On the opposite side of the coin, I hope Ray Lewis adds Cedric Benson to the list of people he’s killed.
Josh’s Pick: Ravens 24, Bengals 17
Pittsburgh (11-4) at Cleveland (4-11)
Meehan: Pride game although it doesn’t mean much. The Browns are playing a lot of teams closer than you’d expect but I can see them blowing all of their energy in the first quarter thinking they’re going to make a statement heading into next year, then just run out of steam and get smoked. Fortunately for them the Steelers offense has looked average at best lately. But what’s scary about that is the Steelers have looked sort of average in previous years, only to come out strong like a completely different team once the second season starts. They can go on a tear at any point, and now would be a great time to establish that. The Browns are like the kid who doesn’t get invited to all the birthday parties because he shit his pants at one of them last year. And in this case, the kid didn’t score a touchdown the entire time he was at the other parties. I like to use analogies like that because children soiling themselves is something we all struggle with, and because I’m a shitty writer.
Meehan’s Pick: Steelers 23, Browns 9
Cavazos: The Hines Ward farewell tour dances into Cleveland where Colt McCoy and the Browns take on Charlie Batch and the Steelers. Man, I can’t wait to not watch this game.
Josh’s Pick: Steelers 20, Browns 3
Detroit (10-5) at Green Bay (14-1)
Meehan: Only because it won’t matter. And I mean this in no disrespectful way towards Matt Flynn, whom I like very much. It will be a great opportunity for Matthew Stafford to put up some decent numbers like he did last week. And you have to figure no matter how long Green Bay plays their starters, that it’s going to be good practice for a team that hasn’t played a playoff game since ’99. This won’t show us anything at all other than a blueprint on how to beat the Lions, which is a lot easier than people think. They’ll play Rodgers for a series or two, struggle a bit and end up getting outscored by a team that in no other way is better than they are. That’s life.
Meehan’s Pick: Lions 35, Packers 22
Cavazos: Green Bay’s second unit squeaks by as Detroit limps into the playoffs. My rabid sense of homerism causes me to wish significant injuries to both teams.
Josh’s Pick: Packers 24, Lions 13
San Francisco (12-3) at St. Louis (2-13)
Meehan: One of my favorite sports clichés is “the invincible force vs. the immovable object”. It’s used whenever there is a football game where a really high powered offense and a stifling defense meet in an intense battle of wills. This game is the exact opposite in the sense that in this case San Francisco’s defense is the invincible force, allowing only the bare minimum of yardage possible to make the other team just short of a first down. And the Rams are the immovable object in the sense that it seems like an almost inconceivable idea that they’re supposed to somehow get this football shaped thing down a field in order to receive seven points. The score was 26-0 last time these two teams met, so why change anything?
Meehan’s Pick: 49ers 26, Rams 0
Cavazos: San Fran rolls in a game no one living outside of the Bay area cares about. Spagnuolo gets canned.
Josh’s Pick: 49ers 34, Rams 6
NY Jets (8-7) at Miami (5-10)
Meehan: Although it may seem totally stupid, I’m putting all of my eggs in one basket and taking the Dolphins by 10 points. I have to. I realize that the Jets are going to probably show up ready and focus all of their energy towards sneaking into the playoffs much like they seem to do every year, but I have to believe that there is a God, and he is good, and he really, really hates the Jets. Miami seems to like playing spoiler in a lot of the years where they’re already out of the race. I’m guessing that Mark Sanchez will throw two interceptions on the day. I’m hoping for five, but two seems more reasonable. If the Jets win the game I expect to hear plenty of bravado-style preaching from Rex Ryan about how this is the year they win it all. Which is par for the course, because if the Jets lose this game I expect to hear plenty of bravado style preaching about how next year is the year they win it all.
Meehan’s Pick: Dolphins 21, Jets 11
Cavazos: Miami wins and during his postgame presser, Rex Ryan vows to go to the Super Bowl if only to eat the shit out of some hotdogs.
Josh’s Pick: Dolphins 24, Jets 17
Chicago (7-8) at Minnesota (3-12)
Meehan: Tough breaks for the Bears, but that’s football – you’ve got to be able to bounce back from injuries to be successful, and they just never really recovered. Speaking of injuries, a torn ACL for Adrian Peterson will likely bleed over to next season leaving the Vikings confused as to what to do with everything. After last week I like what I see out of Minnesota just enough to give them an edge over Josh McCown. How could you honestly like anything the Bears are doing on the offensive side of the football? Just a heads up to the Vikings: The Adrian Peterson injury might be what they need in disguise because they finally might wise up and realize that they’re going to need more offensive weapons in a division that gets more and more brutal every year, what with people stepping on each other’s heads and kicking each other in the nuts and all.
Meehan’s Pick: Vikings 20, Bears 17
Cavazos: Chicago closes out their realistic season and Joe Webb sparks one of the least interesting quarterback controversies that will carry into next year.
Josh’s Pick: Vikings 19, Bears 10
Buffalo (6-9) at New England (12-3)
Meehan: You have to like New England here in at least one of the halves of play. The funny/sad/odd/trivial part is it may not matter which half. See, that’s why NE is so dangerous: They can play the first half and then tell everyone to go half speed (Indianapolis a month ago) or do nothing until it’s absolutely necessary, then show up in the second half to a gun fight carrying a knife. (Miami a week back) That can also make your team extremely vulnerable, and be too reliant that the second one of those things is going to happen for sure. If you get to that second half and whip out a knife, this is the time of the season where you don’t get a third half to make up for your mistakes. In all honesty, I believe that after the resurgence of the AFC in the 00s, it is now the weaker conference, and the Patriots benefit from not being in the NFC because there are three teams in that conference that can beat them at the moment. The AFC doesn’t have that: Don’t tell me for one fucking second that the Houston Texans can go right up there to Massachusetts while it’s freezing against a three time Super Bowl winner and turn the franchise around. It’s not going to happen.
Meehan’s Pick: Patriots 31, Bills 24
Cavazos: How bad can it get for the Bills? A few months ago this matchup looked like it was going to be for the AFC East crown. Now it’s harder to watch a Bills game than it is to sit through an episode of “How I Met Your Mother”.
Josh’s Pick: Patriots 31, Bills 17
Carolina (6-9) at New Orleans (12-3)
Meehan: Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t Cam Newton look like the type of guy who would own a ferret? Look, I already mentioned in the follow up article that Carolina will be .500 plus next year, but that’s next year. The Saints are playing for a week off and they’re on a goddamned roll. And there’s not even any real reason if the Saints are playing anyone BUT the 49ers for me to pick them to score less than 30 points. If they make it to the Championship round and play the Packers? They’ll score 30. I can’t guarantee they’ll win but they’ll score 30. Make it to the Super Bowl and have to face New England? New England is ranked dead last against the pass, the Saints could do 35 against them with their eyes closed. And seeing as how the Panthers are also not a very good defensive squad this is a perfect opportunity for Brees to make sure that nobody touches that new record of his for a while.
Meehan’s Pick: Saints 44, Panthers 23
Cavazos: Cam “Fig” Newton devours the Saints defense after Drew “Check Out this birthmark” goes 5 for 6 with 65 yards on his only drive of the game. Upset of the Week.
Josh’s Pick: Panthers 27, Saints 24
Dallas (8-7) at NY Giants (8-7)
Meehan: This one’s for all the marbles. Only problem is, the marbles don’t seem to be as coveted as they once were. There was a golden age in the 80’s and 90’s where the NFC East was the place to be. Then there was an era where it was still the place to be unless everyone wound up finishing with ugly records, and it was assumed that the teams just beat the devil out each other. (As Bob Ross might say if he wasn’t racing squirrels in the afterlife) But now, the teams are finishing with awkward records and there’s really nothing to blame it on anymore. They play sloppy football and just because somebody has to go doesn’t mean they deserve it. That said, New York has done something really interesting the last couple of games to rattling the opposing kickers. They’ve put five or six guys that could play either defensive line or linebacker up in the center of the special teams unit, which they can afford to do because of the athleticism of guys like Jason Pierre Paul and Justin Tuck. It appears to be working, and why stop now? Homer pick but I like the Giants barely sliding by aided by the down by down play of that brilliant defensive line.
Meehan’s Pick: Giants 30, Cowboys 27
Cavazos: Truly the game of the week. This game could decide the future of Tony Romo under the Jerry Jones big top. I can’t help but think that he comes up short where Eli steps up and takes a win for his teams further cementing the validility of his name being included in MVP discussions.
Josh’s Pick: Giants 27, Cowboys 17
Washington (5-10) at Philadelphia (7-8)
Meehan: If Michael Vick really cares about his team first, he’ll lead the Eagles to a throttling of the Redskins in this game. Remember that Monday Night Football game last year? That kind of victory. If not, it’ll just seem like he’s giving up in addition to not respecting his coach. Not that respecting the coach seems to be a big issue in Philadelphia. And yes, I do realize that Jon Gruden just signed a five year deal with ESPN, but all of those ex-coach analyst agreements are total bullshit, and contain out clauses so that they can pretty much leave whenever the hell they feel like it. He’s expressed interest in coaching as late as this week, and I’ve read his book and can see him taking the job in a heartbeat if offered. As for the Redskins, they should be stuck with Shanahan for a while but they may end up unloading him as well. You can’t say Daniel Snyder didn’t give him a chance…after all Snyder hooked him up with Rex Grossman, and who wouldn’t want to have him as a franchise quarterback?
Meehan’s Pick: Eagles 37, Redskins 16
Cavazos: Ugh, I wish I could skip writing about this game. Just thinking about the sloppy execution makes me feel like shit. This one might be the only thing sloppier than Andy Reid eating a sack full of deep fried butter.
Josh’s Pick: Eagles 17, Redskins 10
Indianapolis (2-13) at Jacksonville (4-11)
Meehan: If this game is a thousand times more interesting than last week’s games that either of these two teams played I doubt they’ll do anything other than print the score of this one. Why would they? I don’t really care who gets the first pick four months away. Am I the only one who thinks that this game will really be decided early Saturday morning in a dark alley at 2:30AM by someone who works for both of these teams as well as the Rams and that there will be a suitcase full of money changing hands? It’ll be just like the X-Files – Trust No One. Maybe starring Peyton Manning as Smoking Man? Sure he’s hurt, but I’m sure he’s well enough to help out with a shady business deal so that the Rams “get” Andrew Luck. I have no idea where all of this conspiracy theory BS is coming from other than I have space to fill and this game won’t be that interesting otherwise.
Meehan’s Pick: Jaguars 27, Colts 23
Cavazos: Insider source claim that Peyton Manning is currently in talks to kill Dan Orlovsky and then play QB “Weekend at Bernie’s” style.
Josh’s Pick: Jaguars 24, Colts 14
Tennessee (8-7) at Houston (10-5)
Meehan: I don’t want to do this, but I expect the Texans to loaf this one out. There has to be some kind of missing intangibles issue there, as Houston is 3rd in the league against the pass and 4th against the rush. (?) They’ve lost two straight and will be playing a Tennessee team that’s fighting for their lives. Is Houston for real? I thought so earlier on, but now I don’t know that that’s the case. I guess I wasn’t sure that they would have finished on the weak end of the spectrum like they have. On the other hand, this could be a huge statement game for them: If they win big, not only do they keep a division rival out of the playoffs but they also let some of those higher-echelon AFC teams know that they are for real. But are they for real? Until Sunday I’m going to be pretty back and forth on this one because of the way they’ve played in the last two weeks.
Meehan’s Pick: Titans 24, Texans 21
Cavazos: Houston trounces the Titans. My advice to Chris Johnson is that while tempting, he should break the Sunday tradition of his morning wake n’ bake as it has not helped him since he signed his very, very, large deal.
Josh’s Pick: Texans 28, Titans 10
Seattle (7-8) at Arizona (7-8)
Meehan: I feel sort of bad here because both of these teams could be right in this if they’d have gotten a much better jump out of the gate. The consolation prize will be a .500 record, which is going to be really weird if Seattle wins because last year they could get to a .500 record and still made it. This shows just one of the many flaws in the system. How do you explain to a team that wins as many games as they lose that they don’t get in and get to beat the defending Super Bowl Champions at home that they don’t get to come to the playoffs this year when they won just as many games as they lost? It doesn’t make any sense. And don’t give me any of this shit about how “Well, the competition was thicker this year” because I’m not listening. If the playoff teams are selected based on who responds to the competition the best annually, why even guarantee the division winners a playoff spot? You can go ahead and have the divisions, and I think it’s a great idea because it keeps these rivalries going, but if you’re going to say one year the competition is stiffer than the last just go ahead and take the top six teams and everyone else can go to hell. Seriously. Even after that rant, I expect the Seahawks to lose. Go figure, I’m a dick like that.
Meehan’s Pick: Cardinals 20, Seahawks 14 (OT)
Cavazos: This one should be a barnburner. Seahawks pull out the victory behind Lynch and Baldwin.
Josh’s Pick: Seahawks 31, Cardinals 28
San Diego (7-8) at Oakland (8-7)
Meehan: I like the Raiders here but it might have a little bit to do with my hatred for the Chargers. That’s not true, it likely has everything to do with my hatred for the Chargers. But in a way, I’d be fine with them winning because I don’t want to see Oakland make the postseason. Let’s just put it this way: Do you? I didn’t think so. I think the other issue here is how many years of mediocrity are the Chargers committed to with regards to Philip Rivers? Don’t get me wrong he’s put up some amazing numbers but has also choked a lot? I don’t really like the idea of the Chargers as a franchise because they don’t look like a team that is that bummed out when they don’t get to the Super Bowl. (Every year) I do like the idea of the Raiders as a franchise because it’s good to see those guys on the field instead of in prison. You’ll know when the Raiders fold when even the kicker is breaking into your car. I like Oakland by a safety that doesn’t happen.
Meehan’s Pick: Raiders 28, Chargers 26
Cavazos: I’m rooting for the Raiders in this one because I hate the Turner family of coaches and I welcome the chance for their complete removal from the NFL. The Turners make the game bad for everyone: The fans, players, and owners. Even the cheerleaders perform worse with a Turner on the staff. They must interview well.
Josh’s Pick: Raiders 24, Chargers 17
Kansas City (6-9) at Denver (8-7)
Meehan: KC plays inspired football but when they do it’s at home and this game isn’t. That Broncos defense will bounce back after an embarrassing showing last week. I’m saying Denver does it. Apparently there’s a storyline here because the Broncos dumped Kyle Orton earlier in the season for Tim Tebow, but I don’t buy that there is. The Chiefs have nothing to play for except to get beer bottles thrown at them by Broncos fans when they score next year, and they’ve been so up and down all year even if they do win and Oakland also wins and gets in I’m not sure that it’s going to matter much. They’re in a rough spot because they shocked everybody last year and even if they do finish 7-9 that’s almost as bad as losing 11 or 12 games. Since last week was the birth of Jesus and I believe that Jesus hates Bill Maher so I’m taking the Broncos by 8.
Meehan’s Pick: Broncos 26, Chiefs 18
Cavazos: Go get you some revenge Kyle Orton. Who doesn’t love an athlete sticking it to their former employer? Pro Bowl snub Brandon Flowers and the rest of the KC defensive backs prove that Tebow can’t throw a football.
Josh’s Pick: Chiefs 24, Broncos 10
Bonus Comment this week – My criticism of the Chicago Bears:
If you’re reading this thanks for all the support, but as you well know we operate out of what is essentially Chicago Bears country. Koz is a New England fan, and I’m a Giants fan, and we don’t have a whole lot of company out here in Southeastern Iowa and Northwestern Illinois. It probably looks like I am a Bears hater and would be glad to see the Monsters of the Midway not make it as was the case this year.
There’s some truth to that, but I’d also like to clarify something: Comparatively speaking, I think that other than the current options we have more people would have liked to see the Bears make it. Think about it: If Jay Cutler doesn’t get hurt, everything is more interesting. Maybe not a Scorcese film, but when you compare it to the Giants, Falcons, Lions, or Cowboys, you’d have to argue that you’d much rather see Cutler and the Bears going forward. Plus, it may have given them the opportunity to play the Packers with a healthy Cutler so we wouldn’t have to listen to this “Well, if he hadn’t gotten hurt” statewide shouting match for another whole offseason.
Now in football you’re going to have injuries, so let’s just say for the sake of this argument that both Cutler and Forte don’t get hurt. That team is more exciting than the Giants and the Cowboys, one of which will make it as we discussed earlier. When it comes to the Falcons, I’d think most fans would be impartial but still agree that the Bears would be the more interesting team to watch. Now the Lions is a different story, and about 90% of my case: The Lions are without a doubt the least likable team in the league. They play dirty football, and in some cases it goes into the “intent to do serious bodily harm” realm. There aren’t a whole lot of honest non-biased fans in the country that would rather see the Lions play now instead of the Bears play healthy. America should be up in arms because of all the hardships the city of Detroit has had to endure over the last decade or so, and we just view the Lions as kind of this rude kid who skateboards through the flowers. And I stand behind that: If you woke up tomorrow morning and Philip Rivers was the quarterback of the Detroit Lions, they would have to be the most hated team in NFL history.
So my point is, yes, although I don’t think that it would be good for the NFL if the Bears had still been in the playoff hunt the way they are now, when you compare it to what we’ve ended up with it kind of makes you think a little. A healthy Bears team sounds better than an obnoxious Lions team. And if you think the Lions aren’t obnoxious, that’s when it’s “time to” start drinking cleaning products.
What to Watch For this final week: All of the coaching staff firings that will happen directly following the games, but not just limited to the head coaching positions. All of the playoff implication games are a must watch and since everything happens on New Year’s Day it’s totally okay if you sleep in, you’ll be caught up if you wake up by 3PM and drink plenty of water.
Make sure to check out my year in review piece that should be happening within a day or so of this piece being posted, and continue to check out Cal’s Weekly Hockey Doctrine. I’ve checked out some hockey blogs and I must say we now have some of the best on-ice related coverage that you’ll find in the blogosphere, so continue to take advantage of that free of charge.
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content. Happy New Year.