And with this, Rivalry Weekend, the 2012 campaign is over for almost everyone.
As with the last few seasons, this final weekend sees teams playing their division rivals. Supposedly this was started by Roger Goodell to encourage viewers to, you know, care about what sometimes amounts to a slew of junk games. And this season we’ve got…what amounts to a bunch of junk game, as the majority of the playoff slots are filled and teams are entering this Sunday with one eye on their tee time this Monday. Those who still have a hope of sliding into the playoffs are facing a very, very narrow window to sneak through indeed.
Before we begin, I want to once again remind everyone I’m looking for knowledgeable superfans to talk to me about what their teams need to improve for 2013. Contact me through TricycleOffense.com.
That out of the way, let’s get to it…
Sunday Games, 1:00 p.m.
Buccaneers (6-9, lost v. Rams) vs. Falcons (13-2, won v. Lions, 1st Seed NFC South)
This is pretty much a junk game if it wasn’t for Tampa Bay being one of those teams that played, thanks to Greg Schiano, tougher than their record indicated. There’s no way for the Bucs to play spoiler, as Atlanta has the 1st Seed locked in, but there’s always pride. Given that Schiano is a bit of a, ummmm, hard coach not above doing some low things (remember that kneel down surge in their game versus the Giants?), I can almost see the Bucs trying some pretty desperate schemes so they can exit the season on a high note.
Doesn’t mean they’ll win, though. Expect Atlanta to win by a possession and a half.
Paper Planes (6-9, lost v. Chargers) vs. Our Bitch (5-10, lost v. Dolphins)
And speaking of ending the season on a high note…grumblemutter…
Given their terrible season, there’s going to be some shake-ups on both ends. It looks like Buffalo’s coach is gone, and The Repeater will be driven out of New Jersey on a rail. There’s nothing to play for here–not even pride, as that left these teams a long time ago.
When all is said and done, there’s a reason why I call Buffalo ‘Our Bitch.’ Expect the Paper Planes to soar into a one possession or less victory.
Ravens (10-5, won v. Giants, 4th Seed AFC North) vs. Bengals (9-6, won v. Steelers, Projected 6th Seed Wild Card)
The only thing that can be decided here is Cincinnati’s Wild Card position. And given how Football Spock and his crew have been surging, and the way the Bengals seem to be able to smack around the AFC North fellows at will, expect Da Tigers to win by a possession.
Browns (5-10, lost v. Broncos) vs. Steelers (7-8, lost v. Bengals)
I still hold a lot of affection for what has developed in Cleveland. Even though it seemed like a joke that the Browns were going to go with over-aged rookie Brandon Weeden and unproven running back Trent Richardson, both have proven more than up to the task, and have helped the team surprise everyone by playing tough and garnering a bigger record than anyone expected.
…and I was going to call the game for them, because they’ve got the Steelers at a time when they’ve very beatable. The always injury-prone Ben Roethlisberger seems to have had trouble bouncing back from his latest trip to the doctor and their defense is so banged up they’re actually porous. A Cleveland Browns team as configured could easily beat Pittsburgh if they were healthy. So I guess it’s lucky for Mike Tomlin that both Weeden and Richardson are out for this game. Expect the Steelers to squeak by in a painful to watch game by a field goal or less.
Bears (9-6, won v. Cardinals, Potential NFC Wild Card) vs. Lions (4-11, lost v. Falcons)
And here are the dregs of the NFC North. And don’t get me wrong–even though the Bears were on top of creation for a brief period this season, they squandered this lead away with shaky offensive play. And the Lions have just regressed thoroughly this season, seeming to play more like the national joke they were and not the playoff team they showed they could be last year. I think that Chicago will barely win over the Lions by about a possession and a half.
Gerbils (2-13, lost v. Sucking Black Hole Of Evil) vs. Titans (5-10, lost v. Packers)
Oh, Lord…talk about junk games. This is a pointless little match-up which will decide nothing except which AFC South team will suck the least. And the toughest thing about choosing a winner here is that since Chad Henne has been starting for the Gerbils, their QB play is about even. I suspect that by the sheer dint that the Titans have all their mediocre offensive weapons while the Gerbils don’t, Tennessee will take this ugly game by a possession or less.
Eagles (4-11, lost v. Native Americans) vs. Giants (8-7, lost v. Ravens, Potential NFC Wild Card)
Much like the Bears/Lions tilt, this is a game between the dregs of the NFC East. The Eagles are just a total mess, and it saddens me that this awful team will be the final moments of Andy Reid’s formidable CV. And the Giants managed to piss away their division championship by playing as if they’re suffering from epilepsy. The only reason–the only reason–the Giants are going to win this game by a possession or less is simply because they’re more organized than the Eagles.
Panthers (6-9, won v. Raiders) vs. Saints (7-8, won v. Cowboys)
This is a lot tougher to call then you’d think. Carolina has been surging in this last handful of games, and that’s built a confidence that made them on par with this year’s bloody, limping but unbowed Saints team. I think that the Panthers’ confidence combined with their Ric Flair desire to ‘beat the man to be the man’ might actually put them over New Orleans by less than a possession.
Texans (12-3, lot v. Vikings, 1st Seed AFC South) vs. Colts (10-5, won v. Chiefs, Projected 6th Seed Wild Card)
Who knew at the beginning of this season that Andrew Luck would lead his team into the playoffs–well, besides the Polians? The Colts have had some natural luck come their way, but the bulk of the responsibility for this success is just really great ball play. It almost seems cruel that their last regular season appearance is against the nigh unstoppable Texans….especially given that The Texans have something to play for. If they don’t win, after all, Houston potentially loses their first-round bye and their home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I suspect that the superior Houston defense (which features one of my favorite non-Paper Planes players, J.J. ‘The J is For Juggernaut’ Watt) will step up and prevent Luck from doing his thing, allowing Matt Schaub and Co. to run up a two possession or more victory.
Sunday Games, 4:30 p.m.
Packers (11-4, won v. Titans, 2nd Seed NFC North) vs. Vikings (9-6, won v. Texans, Projected 6th Seed)
This is one of the better potential games this week, because both teams have something to play for. The Packers get a first round bye if they win, and the Vikings–another team like the Colts that a lot was not expected–gets a Wild Card if they win. So I expect a very hard fought three hours, with a couple of lead changes. In the end, I expect Adrian Peterson will carry this team on his back to slip past the Pack by a possession or less.
Rams (7-7-1, won v. Bucs) vs. Seahawks (10-5, won v. 49ers, Projected 5th Seed)
I could give you a whole lot of reasoning, but the two facts that matter are this:
1) Seattle needs this game to remain a playoff team and
2) Seattle never loses with Russell Wilson under center on their home field.
So the Seahawks will win, assuring us the sight of those ugly-ass jerseys for at least another week. It’s as simple as that. I anticipate a possession and a half differential.
Dolphins (7-8, won v. Our Bitch) vs. The Sucking Black Hole Of Evil (11-4, won v. Gerbils, 3rd Seed AFC East)
I think we can all safely say that every other team in the AFC East hates The Sucking Black Hole with a passion. And when all the other teams have had substandard, losing seasons, nothing pleases those teams more than the chance to deny The Sucking Black Hole something they want….which is why you should expect the Dolphins to pull out all stops in doing what they can to beat the crap out of New England and, through a loss, deny them a chance for a first round bye. And as we’ve seen in past seasons, Miami knows how to give their most hated foes fits. So expect a Dolphins win by a possession, New England to have to play in a Wild Card game, the Crybaby Quarterback to make that stupid pouty-puss face on the sidelines, the Sinister Sweatshirt to disappear, and me jumping up and down for joy.
Chiefs (2-13, lost v. Colts) vs. Broncos (12-3, won v. Browns, 2nd Seed AFC West)
A lot of the scenarios for other teams in the AFC playoffs requires a Denver loss.
They’re playing the Chiefs.
That isn’t going to happen. Expect Fetus Head Peyton Manning to still be scoring touchdowns late Monday morning on Kansas City. From his home.
Raiders (4-11, lost v. Panthers) vs. Chargers (6-9, won v. Paper Planes)
Do I really have to speak on this game? I don’t care how San Diego might be crowing over their win last week–they suck. So do the Raiders. There’s no reason to watch this game, even if you are a fan of either the Raiders or the Chargers. I am going to give it to Oakland because they’re putting Spaghetti Arm on the bench, and because I want Kelen to have something to cheer about this dismal week.
Cardinals (5-10, lost v. Bears) vs. 49ers (10-4-1. lost v. Vikings, 3rd Seed NFC West)
Dear NFL Schedulers,
Thank you for giving us Arizona for our last game this season, as you’ve assured us we’ll be in the playoffs for the second straight year.
Your fans, the 49ers.
Sunday Game 8:30 p.m.
Cowboys (8-7, lost v. Saints, Potential NFC Wild Card) vs. Native Americans (9-6, won v. Eagles, 4th Seed NFC East)
And here’s the other game with serious implications. Namely, if you win, you’re in. Not only are you in, you win the NFC East. I think that when all is said and done, Washington has been playing tougher than the shaky ‘Boys, which means that they will enter the postseason to flame out on Wild Card Weekend by roughly a possession and a half.
See you for Wild Card Weekend!