This Is It- We are finally here. The last weekend of the NFL’s 17 week regular season has arrived. As we close out 2013 on the calendar, we also close out 17 weeks and 256 games worth of NFL action as the league moves forward into the race for the Super Bowl which begins next weekend with the Wild Card Weekend games. For 20 teams, it will be a rap once play finishes Sunday. For 12 other teams, things get real once play is done on Sunday. In anticipation of teams fighting for playoff positions or even playoff spots on the final weekend, the NFL has made Week 17 nothing but divisional games. This is a smart move that will not only peak fan interest, but also is set up in the event that divisions are either yet to be clinched or wild card candidates who may have yet to qualify for January football. There are also games on the board this weekend that involve match ups between one team going to the post season while the other isn’t. Even in these games though keep in mind the team which is not going to the post season is still suiting up 53 professionals and they are playing for jobs, which means they are not taking this as a week off prior to their off-season. For the team that is in the post season, they may have seeding and positioning to play for that could be meaningful towards any success they may have in January.
Playoff Scenarios- In the AFC the only real race left is the race for the sixth and final spot in the post season. The Baltimore Ravens (8-7), Miami Dolphins (8-7), San Diego Chargers (8-7) and Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) are the remaining teams that have just the weekend to qualify. Of those four teams, the Dolphins may have the best chance as they are hosting the Jets at home. A Miami win combined with a Baltimore loss gets them in the post season. If the Ravens win and Miami loses, Baltimore is in. If both Baltimore and Miami lose, and San Diego wins, the Chargers are in. Pittsburgh gets in if they win and the Ravens, Dolphins, and Chargers all lose through a system of tie breakers that would take until next week to explain.
In the NFC it’s not quite the same scenario. The 49ers with their win over the Falcons Monday night clinched a playoff spot and avoided a play-in situation with Arizona Sunday. The 49ers could be the fifth or sixth seed, and if the Rams can pull of a major upset in Seattle, the 49ers could even seed first or second. If Seattle wins they win the NFC West and will have home field throughout the playoffs. In the NFC South if Carolina wins, they capture the NFC South and New Orleans is a wild card candidate. If New Orleans somehow loses to Tampa at home Sunday, it opens the door for Arizona providing the Cardinals beat the 49ers. If the Saints win, Arizona is eliminated. If New Orleans wins and Carolina loses in Atlanta, the Saints win the NFC South and the Panthers are a wild card team. In the NFC North, Green Bay and Chicago are meeting in a defacto playoff game. The winner takes the division, the loser goes home. Same scenario in the NFC East where Philadelphia and Dallas meet in a play-in game to decided the division winner and the team going home.
The Kingshark Line- In Week 16 the KSL went 10-6 and stands at 160-82 for the season. There were obvious disappointments with the Ravens, Dolphins, Packers and the Seahawks (which honestly we didn’t mind so much). Week 17 will offer as many twist and turns as the regular season draws to a close. It’s all Sunday games this weekend plus the night game between the Eagles and Cowboys. Here’s how the KSL sees the events of Week 17:
Cleveland@Pittsburgh (CBS)- The Steelers with the very remotest of playoff possibilities host the Browns who despite the rivalry game are playing out the string. Look for the Steelers to at least give their home fans one last good showing whether or not they make the post season. The Steelers have a lot of pride and an 8-8 finish though not acceptable by standards set a long time ago still is better than 7-9. If the Browns lose, at 4-12 they are likely where they should be anyway. Steelers 24 Browns 10.
Baltimore@Cincinnati (CBS)- The Ravens last chance to defend their title in the regular season after a woeful performance in the final home game against New England. The Ravens have something to play for but so do the Bengals. A Bengals win and a Patriots loss means an invaluable bye week next weekend and the #2 seed in the AFC. The Bengals have had Baltimore’s number in Cincinnati over the last few seasons and are looking to finish strong and with purpose. The Ravens title defense ends here, they just don’t have the horses they had a year ago. Bengals 31 Ravens 17.
Carolina@Atlanta (FOX)- Carolina comes into this game with a chance to clinch the NFC South and the #2 seed in the NFC post season (with an outside shot at the #1 seed). The Panthers are the NFL’s hottest regular season team having won 9 of their last 10. The Falcons are ending a disappointing season currently sitting at 4-11, however gave the 49ers a helluva fight this past Monday night being within 10 yards of a huge upset. The Panthers probably paid attention to what the Falcons did Monday night and should be well prepared. The Falcons will give it another fight but this could end up just being a microcosm of their 2013 campaign. Panthers 27 Falcons 23.
Washington@NY Giants (FOX)- The Redskins and Giants are playing out the string. The only things really at stake here are pride and bragging rights for whatever they are worth. Likely Mike Shanahan’s last game as head coach for Washington win or lose. The Giants on the other hand have great respect for Tom Coughlin and will go to war for him. Giants 31 Redskins 10.
NY Jets@Miami (CBS)- The Dolphins with a win and a Baltimore loss clinch the sixth seed in the AFC. The Jets are playing for their Head Coach Rex Ryan. The Dolphins are playing for a lot more, but can they handle the pressure that comes with it? They laid an egg in Buffalo last week and that makes one wonder which Dolphin team will show up here. This should be a different game then their first meeting where Miami owned the Jets at the Meadowlands all afternoon. Miami is a better team than the Jets but have to show it Sunday. Somehow they find a way. Dolphins 16 Jets 13.
Jacksonville@Indianapolis (CBS)- The Colts enter the game with playoff seeding at stake. Though most likely the #4 seed in the AFC, if certain outcomes or upsets happen they could move up. Jacksonville is tired and playing out the string. The Jags at best are sparing partners here. The Colts showed their potential in an impressive outing in Kansas City last week. The Colts at home again should be able to handle their business here. Colts 26 Jaguars 10.
Detroit@Minnesota (FOX)- Detroit has fallen hard in December after looking unstoppable on Thanksgiving. Minnesota has long since been out of it and is looking to give their fans something to smile about in this season finale (and give season ticket holders a reason to renew). This will be the final ever Vikings game or event at the Metrodome which will be torn down this spring. The Vikings will have a new stadium in 2016, and will play the next two seasons at U of Minnesota (yes, the return of outdoor football in the Twin Cities.) The Vikings will close out the Metrodome in grand style against a team that can’t wait for this to be over with. Vikings 34 Lions 14.
Houston@Tennessee (CBS)- The Texans are one of the biggest (if not the biggest) disappointments in NFL history. Favored by some to win their division, instead they are threatening to tie the 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers record for most consecutive losses in one season (14). The Texans have at least won two games, but that’s all they are getting this season. The Titans are playing for pride and jobs in 2014. This will most likely be Mike Munchak’s last game as Titans Head Coach regardless of the outcome. Again the home team sends it’s fans home happy and gives them a reason to renew season tickets in 2014. Titans 20 Texans 9.
Tampa Bay@New Orleans (FOX)- The Saints need to win this game to secure a playoff spot and a possible division title of Carolina falters in Atlanta. The Buccaneers are looking to close a negative campaign on a positive note and are able to hang tough with most teams. Look for Tampa to battle in this one, look for New Orleans to take care of the task at hand. Saints 27 Buccaneers 20.
Buffalo@New England (CBS)- The Patriots with a win and a Broncos loss take the top seed in the AFC playoff bracket. A loss could leave them anywhere between the second and fourth seed in the post season. The Patriots last week handed defending champion Baltimore their worst home loss in some time and were very businesslike in the process. The Bills had an impressive outing in their final home game of the season in shutting out the Dolphins. The Bills here will show up, be professionals and fight the good fight. The Patriots will simply be the Patriots and are ready for it. Patriots 35 Bills 14.
Green Bay@Chicago (FOX)- The first defacto playoff game of the day. Aaron Rogers will start for the Packers which is a dynamic game changer here. The only question is how must rust will Rogers have in this first game in eight weeks. The Bears with a chance to clinch the NFC North at Philly last Sunday night got boat-raced by an Eagles team who just seemingly wanted it a lot more. The Packers have a recent history of success in Chicago including some rather easy looking wins. The Packers are on the road with nothing to lose. Green Bay is looking for some hard payback against a venerable Bears team where Rogers was injured in their first meeting two months ago. A rusty Aaron Rogers vs. Jay Cutler with the season on the line only makes it more fair for Cutler. Packers take this game and the NFC North. Just cannot trust the Bears after last Sunday. Packers 34 Bears 20.
Denver@Oakland (CBS)- The Broncos need this game to secure home field advantage in the post season for the AFC bracket, which may come in handy in the event of a rematch against a team who’s coach wears a hoodie. Since the Patriots play the Bills, don’t look for the Broncos to rest anyone unless they get a rather sizeable lead. The Raiders are a team that has simply run out of gas. Oakland has talent but will have the opportunity to build it up this off-season. That means Raiders players on the current roster are playing for jobs in 2014. However they are simply and decidedly overmatched by Peyton Manning and the Broncos offensive fire power. Denver’s defense however has some question marks heading into the post season. Broncos 38 Raiders 24.
St.Louis@Seattle (FOX)- As we all found at last week, the Seahawks are human afterall. The bad news is that the loss to Arizona in someways be used by Pete Carroll’s crew as fuel for this game and the post season as well. The Rams gave Seattle all they could handle in a Monday night game several weeks ago. The Seahawks are looking to regain their swagger and this time around are likely going to be a lot more than the Rams can realistically handle. Seahawks 41 Rams 16.
Kansas City@San Diego (CBS)- The Chargers need help to get into the post season and if the Dolphins and Ravens lose that will open the door for San Diego. The Chiefs are locked into the AFC’s 5th seed here win, lose or draw. Since the Chiefs will be playing in the wild card round next weekend on the road, look for Head Coach Andy Reid to rest most starters. The Chargers meanwhile have to be all hands on deck. If the Chargers find out before the game they are not going to the post season, they will probably go all out anyway as the team has totally bought into Head Coach Mike McCoy. Chargers 28 Chiefs 19.
San Francisco@Arizona (FOX)- The 49ers survived a big time scare against the Falcons this past Monday night before a NaVorro Bowman’s pick-six saved the red and gold at the last moment. The 49ers with a win here and a major upset in Seattle by the Rams will take the NFC West and either the top seed or number two seed. If Seattle wins (please be prepared for that possibility) the 49ers with a win clinch the 5th seed. The Cardinals have something to play for too providing that Tampa Bay somehow can beat the Saints in New Orleans. If the Saints lose that opens the door for Arizona. The Cardinals are the second hottest team in the NFL now (behind the Panthers) and have won seven of their last eight, including being the first team in two years to beat the Seahawks in Seattle. The last time the 49ers and Cardinals met in October Arizona gave San Francisco all they could handle. Both defenses are very strong, both offenses can put points on the board. This game will be a battle of wits and wills. Could be one of the more entertaining games of they day even in a defensive struggle. 49ers 20 Cardinals 17. For more on this game please go to this link: http://goldengatereport.com/articles/49ers-close-out-regular-season-in-the-desert-vs-cardinals
Philadelphia@Dallas (NBC)- The second defacto playoff game is the Sunday night matchup between the Eagles and Cowboys. In October these two teams met in Philly with the Cowboys winning decisively 17-3. The Eagles in that game were in the midst of a huge offensive slump and still trying to figure out their QB situation. Since then Nick Foles has emerged as the Eagles leader picking up the baton and having run with it since. The Eagles have gone from a team that couldn’t score to a team that can’t be kept off of the scoreboard. The Cowboys since the first meeting in Philly are 3-5 and have missed opportunities to take control of the NFC East. To make matters worse QB Tony Romo was injured last week in Washington and is at best very questionable for this game. Kyle Orton is the backup which means the Cowboys are forced to rely on Mr. August to get them into the post season. Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather have Nick Foles. Eagles win and advance at Jerryworld. Eagles 37 Cowboys 29.
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Happy New Year in 2014!!!
*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.