Wild Card Races Are Still Getting Interesting- As the NFL enters it’s 15th week of play in their 17 week schedule the wild card chase is alive, well and getting more interesting by the week. There are a few clubs who managed to weed themselves out in Week 14 while others have all but revived their seasons. The last three weeks of the regular season will no doubt feature games that not only decide who gets in and who does not, but also where they will be situated once the dust all settles the morning of December 30th. Here is a look at each Division and how things are looking with the NFC first:
NFC West 1)Seattle 11-2 (virtual lock for top seed); 2 San Francisco 9-4 (6th seed, outside shot at 5th seed, will clinch post season if they can win out); 3) Arizona 8-5 (Outside looking in, will need help, still possibility for post season at this time); 4) St Louis 5-8 (eliminated in Week 14, can still be a spoiler)
NFC North 1)Detroit 7-6 (4th seed currently, a not so firm grip on 1st place); 2)Chicago 7-6 (loses tie breaker with Detroit, must win out and get help); 3) Green Bay 6-6-1 (not a factor without Aaron Rogers) 4) Minnesota 3-9-1 (It’s hockey season now in Minnesota)
NFC South 1)New Orleans 10-3 (2nd seed in NFC, huge win over Carolina after huge loss in Seattle) 2) Carolina 9-4 (eight game streak snapped, hold tie breaker over 49ers for 5th seeding) 3) Tampa Bay 4-9 (could play spoiler); 4) Atlanta 3-10 (2012 NFC Title Game; 2013 WTF)
NFC East 1)Philadelphia 8-5 (3rd seed currently quietly has won five in a row, must stay ahead of Dallas to win division) 2) Dallas 7-6 (a team that can get in it’s own way like no other); 3) NY Giants (eliminated in Week 14, just not their year); 4)Washington 3-10 (franchise in danger of becoming irrelevant)
...and for the AFC:
AFC West 1)Denver 11-3 (top seed in AFC, but in danger of losing it after shocking Thursday night loss to Chargers); 2) Kansas City 10-3 (5th seed in AFC, needs help if want to win west and get a higher draw); 3)San Diego 7-7 (Chargers shockingly are still relevant and in the hunt for the 6th seed in AFC, will need to win out and get help); 4)Oakland 4-9 (eliminated in Week 13)
AFC North 1)Cincinnati 9-4 (3rd seed in AFC, outside shot at top seed will need help with Denver, wins any tie breaker with New England); 2) Baltimore 7-6 (defending champions atop the chase for the final seed in AFC and will clinch it if they can win out); 3) Pittsburgh 5-8 (eliminated in Week 14); Cleveland 4-9 (eliminated in Week 13, but could still be a spoiler)
AFC South) 1)Indianapolis 8-5 (4th seed won division by default); 2) Tennessee 5-8 (eliminated in Week 14, could play spoiler); 3) Jacksonville 4-9 (eliminated awhile ago, but has salvaged a good deal of pride in the end); 4) Houston 2-11 (from pre-season division favorite to easily the worst team in the NFL...worse than the 2002 expansion Texans)
AFC East 1) New England 10-3 (2nd seed currently, with a win this weekend will be the top seed in AFC as Patriots hold tie breaker over Broncos); 2) Miami 7-6 (tied w/Ravens for 6th seed in AFC, but do not hold tie breaker. Needs to win out, and get help with Baltimore); 3) NY Jets 6-7 (very “outside” shot at the post season but is way to inconsistent); 4) Buffalo 4-9 (eliminated in Week 12, just playing out the string)
The Kingshark Line- The KSL in Week 14 was 11-5 and for the season sits at 141-69 maintaining a winning percentage of .671. We took some risks in Week 14 where some paid off while others did not. The Saints handled the Panthers and the Chargers manhandled the Giants, two picks we were wrong on. We also took the 49ers in what some would call a risky pick over the Seahawks. We felt it was worth the gamble as Seattle tends to be still a strong team yet a slightly different team on the road at times (which really is true of most NFL teams). Eli Manning, who wanted nothing to do with the Chargers when he was drafted in 2004 is 0-3 lifetime against San Diego. However his two rings probably make that more than okay with him. As for the Saints, they simply opened a can on the Panthers in almost the same fashion that a can got opened on them just six days earlier. The Patriots beat Cleveland, but got a lot of help from the officials in the end (and judging from the post game news conferences it was clear they knew it too). The Bears took care of business Monday night against Dallas. I would have picked the Bears had I known Mike Ditka was going to be honored. So much for Week 14. Now on to Week 15 and how the KSL sees the week unfolding. The Kingshark Line enters Sunday 0-1 after San Diego’s stunning Thursday night 27-20 upset of Denver (took the Broncos to win 38-24). Here is how we see things shaping up in Week 15...
New England@Miami (CBS)- The Dolphins held a 17-3 halftime lead against the Patriots the last time these two teams met and could not finish it. Miami is fighting for their playoff life and are coming off of two impressive road wins at the NY Jets and Pittsburgh. New England has had two very narrow escapes in games with the Browns and Texans. “The Hoodie” can’t be all that pleased. The Patriots are not playing great right now and know this can’t continue into January. The Dolphins despite all that has gone on internally are still a viable team at this point of the season and will be looking at this game as an opportunity, and they should. If the Patriots come out flat and Miami gets the jump on them they will have a wide open door. The Dolphins have one shot here and need this game to boot. The will take this opportunity by a boot. Upset Special: Dolphins 23 Patriots 20.
Seattle@NY Giants (FOX)- The Seahawks enter this game coming off only their second loss of the season giving the 49ers all they could handle. The NY Giants are coming off a bad loss in San Diego and are no longer in the playoff picture. For the Giants it’s all about pride. For the Seahawks it’s another chance to clinch the NFC West and lock down home field in the NFC. The Giants maybe a proud franchise but their pride has taken a hit this season. This game won’t be any different. Seahawks 33 Giants 14.
San Francisco@Tampa Bay (FOX)- The 49ers are fresh off of an emotional win over the arch rival Seahawks in Week 14. The 49ers here are looking not to have a let down game against a Tampa club that has won four of their last five games after an 0-8 start. The 49ers cannot afford to take the Buccaneers lightly as Tampa comes in as the team with nothing to lose. Since taking the reins as Tampa’s starting QB Mike Glennon has actually been one of the hottest QB’s over the last six weeks. The same cannot be said for Colin Kaepernick, though with Michael Crabtree back it has taken some pressure off the passing game. Overall the 49ers have the better team on both sides of the ball and if they can handle this game as a business trip they should be fine. 49ers 26 Buccaneers 17. For more on this game please go to this link: http://goldengatereport.com/articles/49ers-to-test-the-waters-in-tampa
Chicago@Cleveland (FOX)- The Bears are going back to QB Jake Cutler after five weeks of Josh McCown at the helm. Cutler could be a little rusty but the cold air may also revive him enough to give the Bears the shot in the arm that they need. If could also backfire if handled wrong. If the plan works out the Bears have a shot at overtaking the Lions, which is what they will need to be able to do to get into the post season. The Browns are coming off of one of their best games of the season despite a one point loss at New England which honestly they should have won. Weather could also be a factor here too. This is a must win for the Bears. A win here and they are factor for certain. Bears 20 Browns 13.
Philadelphia@Minnesota (FOX)- The Eagles have the quietest five game winning streak in the history of the league practically. The Eagles beat out the Lions in a blizzard in Philly last Sunday while the Vikings and Ravens were engaged in the craziest final two minutes in league history. The Vikings have shown some pride over the last few weeks and could play a spoiler here. The Eagles with their win last Sunday in a game that seemed difficult at halftime come into this game with a great deal of confidence. The Eagles know they need to win here to stay ahead of Dallas in the NFC East race. Both teams have some fire power in reserve, the Eagles have the hotter hand. The Vikings at home will make a game of it. Eagles 24 Vikings 21.
Houston@Indianapolis (CBS)- As mentioned earlier in this column, the Colts won the AFC South by default. There main concern is playoff seeding though it’s most likely they will be the AFC’s fourth seed when it’s all said and done. The Texans are one of the reasons the Colts won the division by default having lost 11 straight. Make that an even dozen. Colts 27 Texans 13.
Washington@Atlanta (FOX)- Two 3-10 teams wondering where it all went wrong. If you live in the Atlanta area and opt to do some Christmas shopping instead of watching this game nobody will blame you. Sitting RGIII for the rest of the season is the one of the very few smart moves the Redskins have made this season. If you live in the DC area and opt to go Christmas shopping instead of watching this game, you’re excused as well. We understand. Falcons 31 Redskins 17.
Buffalo@Jacksonville (CBS)- The Jaguars have turned things around after an 0-8 start and despite still being 4-9 deserve mad props for not giving up on a season that was pretty much lost back in September. The Bills are 4-9 and basically are playing like a team that has all but given up. Jaguars should pick up an unfathomable fifth victory here. Jaguars 23 Bills 13.
NY Jets@Carolina (CBS)- The Panthers are looking to rebound after seeing their eight game winning streak snapped last Sunday night in New Orleans. The Jets beat the Raiders at home last week and are still a mathematical post season shot in the AFC. Cam Newton last week had his first tough day at the office since a Week 5 loss to Arizona. When Newton rebounds he does it like few others. The Jets defense is a hot and cold unit that the Carolina offense should be able to move the ball on. Geno Smith versus the Panthers defense, not a good match up for the Jets. The Panthers rebound at home...big. Panthers 30 Jets 13.
New Orleans@St Louis (FOX)- The Saints enter this game fresh off of a huge win against a hot division rival. The Rams have fallen out of playoff contention however can still play the role of a spoiler. The Saints know they want to gain any extra ground they can get before their Week 17 rematch versus the Panthers. The Saints are a team that can score from anywhere on the field, but sometimes run into problems against motivated defenses. The Rams defense can be one that could give the Saints some issues. Offensively the Rams have become too inconsistent once again which is one reason they are on the outside looking in. Saints win, Rams give them a game. Saints 27 Rams 24.
Green Bay@Dallas (FOX)- If Aaron Rogers were to play it would have been nice for Green Bay. However Rogers has been ruled out in this game as well. If the Packers lose this game and are eliminated from the post season look for them to just put Rogers on IR, which is something they probably should have already done. The Cowboys are coming off a tough loss in Chicago while Green Bay snapped a five game winless streak against hapless Atlanta. The Cowboys defense took a hit and was badly exposed which probably does not help their long term prospects. However the good news for the Cowboys is that Rogers is not playing and the Packers are anemic without him. Cowboys may find a way to win this one behind QB Tony Romo, but the Packers will show up and make them work for it. Cowboys 24 Packers 17.
Arizona@Tennessee (FOX)- The Cardinals are looking to keep their post season hopes alive as they travel to Nashville to take on the Titans. Last weekend Arizona handled the Rams at home while the Titans got rolled in Denver. Tennessee now eliminated from the post season can still play spoiler for Arizona if the Cardinals are not on top of their game. The Titans have played several games tough this year despite their hard luck and can give the Cardinals a lot of problems. Arizona needs to bring their “A-Game” on the road here unlike their last roadie in Philly two weeks ago. The Cardinals are a better team on paper and need to execute in a tough road environment. The elements could be a factor too. Cards in a close one. Cardinals 20 Titans 17.
Kansas City@Oakland (CBS)- The Chiefs with Denver’s shocking Thursday night loss have a window of opportunity to tie the Broncos for first place in the AFC West with a win in Oakland Sunday. The Chiefs lose all tie breakers to Denver, however can take the division if the Broncos continue to falter. Hence Kansas City has plenty to play for here. The Raiders are a team that has talent but needs a few seasons to start cultivating a team that can challenge for the post season. The Chiefs showed last weekend that they can be all business on the road and will most likely do the same here though the Raiders will make it a much closer contest. Chiefs 34 Raiders 24.
Cincinnati@Pittsburgh (NBC)- The Bengals have a golden opportunity before them to where if things play out in their favor they can actually steal the top seed in the AFC. However for that to happen the Bengals must show that they can win big games on the road especially in the event that they seed third or lower. Pittsburgh was eliminated from post season contention with last Sunday’s home loss to Miami. The Steelers are playing for pride and an outside shot at a .500 season. With this game being in the national spotlight the Bengals can prove they are very legitimate as far as being a Super Bowl contender goes. The Bengals are playing a division rival who would love to play spoiler and need to be ready for that. If Cincinnati wants to show the nation that they are as advertised, this is their chance and their golden ticket. Bengals 27 Steelers 20.
Baltimore@Detroit (ESPN)- Monday night in Detroit, where else would you want to be? The Lions host the Ravens with both teams having playoff hopes that will be put on the line in this game, making it in essence a defacto playoff game of sorts. The Lions need this game to stay atop of the NFC North while Baltimore needs the game to stay atop the race for the AFC’s sixth and final playoff seed. The Lions at home can bring some strong fire power to the table as Matt Stafford has thrown for just under 4000 yards and 27 touchdowns on the season. The Lions know after a tough loss in Philly last week they need to have a strong rebounding game. The Ravens last week won a three point decision over Minnesota in a game that had one of the NFL’s all time craziest finishes. If the Lions offense can best the Ravens defense it will certainly bode well for their chances here. However with the Ravens they have shown they can play with the heart of a champion and will be tough to deny. If the Ravens lose they could fall behind in the post season race depending on what happens in Miami Sunday. The Lions at home is the ultimate edge for Detroit, and really their only edge here. It will be enough if only “just enough”. Should be fun either way. Lions 28 Ravens 24.
Follow Me on Twitter @Kingshark49
*Mandatory Disclaimer: The Kingshark Line is stickily for entertainment purposes only. I have the same exact information that anyone else has and do not claim to know any more or less than the next guy. This is not to promote or encourage gambling on football or any other sport. No point spreads are played here or implied in any way. Scores are for entertainment purposes only and are only based on team trends, team reports, etc. There is no inside information given here or implied. This is just for your information and entertainment. Enjoy the games.