Sunday, December 24, 2006

NFL Week 16 Observations

Another week, and the playoff picture in the NFL is just as muddled as ever. Here are some observations with the two Christmas day games still left in Week 16.

- It is conceivable, (and maybe more than just conceivable considering the state of the conference these days) that the NFC could have 3 playoff participants at .500 or worse.
  • Seattle (8-7), which wouldn't have a shot if it played in any other division, will be the favorites against Tampa Bay next week, but they have virtually nothing to play for, locked into the #4 playoff seed- add to that the fact that the Bucs have been playing well of late, and you may be looking at an 8-8 division winner.

  • In the mess that is the race for the final playoff spot, whichever team backs into the #6 seed can have no better than an 8-8 record.

  • Philadelphia, 8-6 at the moment, will likely throw a wrench in this comedy of errors with its quality play of late, but in this season, anything is possible.

- Count me among the growing legions of football fans who are rooting for the Titans to make it into the AFC playoffs. If Tennessee does make it, I will clear my calendar to watch Vince Young do his thing. If it does happen, they'd likely play the Colts, a team they've already beaten this season, way back when it was improbable to even mention playoffs in the same sentence as Titans.

- Speaking of the Titans, their late season run reminds me a little bit of the Jaguars' streak in 1997, their second season of existence. The Jags were 4-7 before winning their last 5 to close the season, sneak into the playoffs, and somehow, advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game. This Titans team was at 2-7, and now has won 6 in a row. The Titans need help to get in, even if they win, but so did the Jags back in '96, when they needed a rare missed field goal from Morten Andersen to win their final game. It could happen....

- I have a feeling that the Colts, now in the #3 slot in the AFC, will win their first playoff game at home, silencing doubters....for one week before they go out and lose to either the Ravens or Chargers on the road. It's hard for me to even say that this adversity will galvanize the team toward a deep playoff run, because united or not, the defense still can't stop the run. It's just a weakness they can't get over this late in the game.

- Baltimore may be on its way to one of the quietest 13-3 campaigns in NFL history. If they win next week and the Chargers lose, they believe it or not, will gain home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. I wasn't a believer earlier in the season, but they just keep winning, with a formula made for a deep playoff run - great defense and a steady offense. And this isn't the weak sister Trent Dilfer offense of the 2000 Super Bowl run. With Steve McNair at QB, weapons like Todd Heap and Mark Clayton to catch the ball, and - perhaps most importantly - head coach Brian Billick calling the plays, the Ravens can air it out too. I wouldn't be surprised if this team makes it all the way to Miami.

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