It should be a fun week around the National Football League as teams, like the Chicago Bears (WR/KR Devin Hester pictured), are looking to get their ticket to the playoffs
(Philadelphia, Pa) — Hard to believe, but the final week of the 2012 NFL season is upon us. With cries of “Where did the time go?” all around the NFL — except for places like Jacksonville, Kansas City, and Detroit – the most exciting time in sports, the NFL playoffs, is almost upon us. The regular season ends on Sunday for all 32 teams with all 16 games being division contests. And with one week to go, there are still 15 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
There are still more storylines to be written and told in Week 17. There five teams scrambling for the last two available NFC playoff berths, postseason awards are waiting to be claimed, possible records to be broken, and draft slotting to be finalized. Though some teams have already clinched playoff spots, there are still first round byes and home field advantage, which may drive some coaches away from resting selected players.
The most important aspect of NFL Week 17 is getting your card punched for January’s playoff dance by any means necessary — getting help from other teams losing, winning yourself, and key tiebreakers (head to head, conference record, common opponents, etc). Cowboys QB Tony Romo summed up NFL Week 17 and the opportunity to make the playoffs best when he said, “It’s amazing how you play every week and you don’t think about what’s ahead but your opponent. But, in a lot of ways, the only reason you play is to get your team into that position and to get in the playoffs so you have a chance. When you get in, anything can happen.”
Romo and his Cowboys (8-7) teammates should take his comments to heart as the “America’s Team” needs to take care of business in Washington DC in a “Winner Takes it All” match-up against a gritty Redskins (9-6) team to make the playoffs by winning the NFC East. Other teams looking to play their way-in in Week 17 – with or without help — are the NY Giants (8-7), Chicago Bears (9-6), and Minnesota Vikings (9-6).
Speaking of the Vikings, I am sure that the squad currently leading in the race for the NFC’s No. 6 seed in the playoffs will be leaning heavily on NFL-leading rusher Adrian Peterson (1,898 yards) — needs 102 yards to join the 2,000 –yard club and 208 yards to break Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2105 yards set in 1984 — against the Green Bay Packers staunch defense (currently ranked 7th overall in the NFL) as they attempt to clinch their first playoff berth since 2009 when future Hall of Famer Brett Favre was their quarterback.
It is great for the NFL and their fans that playoff scenarios are still involved in the last week of the regular season as it gives more credence to the “Every Game Counts” mantra of the league. Teams only need to look at last season’s magical Super Bowl championship run by the New Giants (9-7 record) to see how playing hard in Week 17, can ignite a team’s fire in the playoffs – defeated the Cowboys 38-35 to barely win the NFC East. But then went on to beat Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco, and New England to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The Packers-Vikings is not the only game on tap that should keep everyone glued to their seats from 1:00 PM to 11:30 PM EST on Sunday to find out “Who is in and Who is out”. A programming note all NFL games in Week 17 are played on Sunday December 30th — no Monday Night Football — meaning all playoff destinations will be known right after NBC Sunday Night Football (Cowboys-Redskins).
Current 2012 NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 17
1. Texans (12-3) — @IND — AFC South Division winner, but have to win in Week 17 to secure conference home field advantage. Don’t expect HC Gary Kubiak to rest his guys as Houston wants the No. 1 seed and some momentum entering the post-season. If Houston were to lose with Denver and New England winning, they could fall to No. 3 and a possible rubber match with the Colts.
2. Broncos (12-3) — KC — AFC West Division winner, but they need to win and have Houston lose in WK 17 for home field… remember Texans defeated Broncos, 31-25 in Week 3. There is no chance of Peyton and the Broncos not extending their winning streak to 11 games against the Chiefs, who will soon be on the clock for the 2014 NFL Draft, and at least attaining a bye.
3. Patriots (11-4) — MIA — AFC East Division winner, but still have a shot at conference’s No. 2 seed. New England needs help to get a bye, otherwise Belichick and Brady will be playing a dangerous team on Wildcard weekend.
4. Ravens (10-5) — @CIN — AFC North Division winner and they are pretty much locked-in as AFC No. 4 seed. Baltimore could technically jump New England, but a lot of things need to happen. I am sure HC John Harbaugh wants a good showing, because the Ravens and Bengals could meet down the line in the playoffs.
5. Colts (10-5) — HOU — Clinched playoff spot and will look for revenge vs. Texans. A great story got even better this week as head coach Chuck Pagano will return to his squad. Indianapolis will want to win in front of their home crowd versus the rival Texans to gain some momentum going into the playoffs.
6. Bengals (9-6) — BAL — Clinched a playoff spot and will be playing for seeding purposes in Week 17. Cincy is already in, but HC Marvin Lewis wants more and his team is looking like a dangerous bunch. If young quarterback Andy Dalton plays well, the Bengals could pull a surprise in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.
Out: The AFC is all done in terms of teams chasing and the other 10 franchises in the conference will be getting ready for April with either the Jaguars (2-13) or Chiefs (2-13) on the clock soon
1. Falcons (13-2) — TB — NFC South Division winner. There really isn’t much for the Falcon to be playing for in Week 17 other than pride as they have already clinched home field advantage through the NFC Championship Game. But when the playoffs do start, they better be careful as Mike Smith / Matt Ryan are 0-3 together in the postseason and Atlanta lost at home to the Green Bay Packers in 2010, the last time they were the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
2. Packers (11-4) — @MIN — NFC North Division winner and they have a good chance to clinch NFC’s No. 2 spot. You can expect quarterback Aaron Rodgers to play for most of the game as the Packers try to clinch a bye, stop Adrian Peterson, and knock the hated Vikings out of the playoffs.
3. 49ers (10-4-1) — ARI — NFC West Division winner. Need to thump the Cardinals to have a chance at moving-up seeding wise and getting a much-needed bye. The Niners are good, but they will need more consistency from QB Colin Kaepernick (4-2 as a starter) and the entire team to fulfill the promise that they showed in beating the Patriots in Foxborough in Week 15.
4. Redskins (9-6) — DAL — Need to beat the Cowboys in Week 17 to clinch NFC East crown. All eyes will be on FedEx Field as a good old-fashioned rivalry game will also be for the division title. Washington will need to get another spectacular performance from Rookie of the Year candidates QB Robert Griffin III and RB Alfred Morris, same as on Thanksgiving, to put the Cowboys away…. BTW, I believe the Redskins will beat the Cowboys and RG3 will be one of the bigger stories entering the postseason.
5. Seahawks (10-5) — STL — It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks, who have already pretty much clinched the No. 5 seed, will line-up versus the Rams, given that a lot of the playoff seeds maybe decided by the time they kickoff at 4:25 PM ET. Anyway, you can expect to see a lot of QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch as Seattle has an outside shot at the NFC West crown, if the Niners stumble.
6. Vikings (9-6) — GB — After their big Week 17 win in Houston, Minnesota is poised to win their way into the postseason. However the Vikings have drawn the tough assignment of playing the surging Green Bay Packers. But at least the game is at home in the Metrodome and RB Adrian Peterson will be running on all cylinders as he tries to catch NFL legend Eric Dickerson. BTW: I think the Packers will beat the Vikings, which could setup the Bears or Giants claiming the NFC’s last spot.
In The Hunt:
Bears (9-6) — @DET — Need Green Bay to beat Vikings and a win vs. Lions to claim NFC No. 6 spot
Cowboys (8-7) — @WAS — If they beat WAS in Week 17, they will be the NFC East Champs
NY Giants (8-7) — PHI — Need a win vs. PHI and a lot of help – need loses from Vikings, Bears, and Cowboys — to get in playoffs. Don’t count them out as the Eagles back in 2008 also faced long Week 17 odds, but still made the playoffs with a record of 9-6-1 and a ton of help.
Out: Rams (7-7-1), Saints (7-8), Bucs (6-9), Panthers (6-9), Cardinals (5-10), Lions (4-11), and Eagles (4-11) are “officially” out of playoff race and can now start getting ready for the 2013 NFL Draft
Houston clinches a first-round bye with:
1) HOU win or tie OR
2) NE loss or tie OR
3) DEN loss
Houston clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) HOU win OR
2) HOU tie + DEN loss or tie OR
3) NE loss or tie + DEN loss
Denver clinches a first-round bye with:
1) DEN win or tie OR
2) NE loss or tie
Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) DEN win + HOU loss or tie OR
2) DEN tie + HOU loss
New England clinches a first-round bye with:
1) NE win + DEN loss OR
2) NE win + HOU loss
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) NE win + DEN loss + HOU loss
Green Bay clinches a first-round bye with:
1) GB win OR
2) GB tie + SF loss or tie OR
3) SF loss + SEA loss or tie
San Francisco clinches NFC West division with:
1) SF win or tie OR
2) SEA loss or tie
San Francisco clinches a first-round bye with:
1) SF win + GB loss or tie OR
2) SF tie + GB loss
Seattle clinches NFC West division with:
1) SEA win + SF loss
Seattle clinches a first-round bye with:
1) SEA win + SF loss + GB loss
Washington clinches NFC East division with:
1) WAS win or tie
Washington clinches a playoff spot with:
1) CHI loss + MIN loss
Dallas clinches NFC East division with:
1) DAL win
New York clinches a playoff spot with:
1) NYG win + DAL loss or tie + CHI loss + MIN loss
Minnesota clinches a playoff spot with:
1) MIN win OR
2) MIN tie + CHI loss or tie OR
3) DAL loss or tie + NYG loss or tie + CHI loss
Chicago clinches a playoff spot with:
1) CHI win + MIN loss or tie OR
2) CHI tie + MIN loss
- The NFL’s 16-season trend of at least 5 new playoff teams will over as several of last season’s contenders (*HOU, *DEN, *NE, *BAL, *CIN, *ATL, *SF, *GB, and NYG) have either clinched or are in contention for a 2012 playoff berth…. Sorry Steelers (7-8), Saints (7-8), and Lions (4-10), it is over for you.
- Remember 10-6 (Bucs and NY Giants in 2010) does not guarantee making the playoffs. This season the Chicago Bears could be a 10-6 team sitting at home.
Lloyd Vance is the Editor for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Lloyd can be reached on Twitter (@lloydvance) or view email (Lloyd@takingit2thehouse.com)