Sunday, December 25, 2016

Giants among three team to punch ticket to NFL Playoffs

We learned a lot about the 2016-17 NFL postseason brackets on Christmas Eve, with three spots firmly clinched, and one other spot just about clinched after Miami's overtime win in Buffalo. It was incredible interesting theatre. Not only did we see playoff berths formalize, but we also saw two young franchise quarterbacks go down that could alter the state of both franchises.

New to the Playoff Picture: 
New York Giants: The Giants punched their ticket to the postseason thanks to the Buccaneers losing 31-24 to the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. The Giants needed either Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Detroit or Washington to fall on their sword this week after their debacle in Philly on Thursday. Thanks to the Saints, the Giants get the biggest Christmas gift they could ask for. Now New York plays a meaningless game in Week 17. Big Blue is in the playoffs and cemented as the NFC's number 5 seed. The game will mean a lot to Washington; more on that later. 

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons sure had a great Christmas. Atlanta dismantled the Panthers on the road 33-16 to inch closer to a playoff berth. Then they got a ton of help in the late afternoon when Tampa Bay lost and Seattle lost. Tampa Bay's loss to New Orleans gave the Falcons the NFC South crown. Seattle's loss to Arizona put the Falcons (10-5) into the number two seed in the NFC. All Atlanta needs to do is win at home next week against New Orleans and they will have a first round bye. Merry Christmas Atlanta. 

By the way Jets fans, Dan Quinn, the same guy the Jets didn't want to wait on before hiring Todd Bowles as head coach, is in the playoffs as Falcons head coach. Just saying...

Houston Texans: The Texans were this close to watching their playoff hopes come down to a Week 17 match-up with the Titans. Holding a slim 12-10 lead over the Bengals at home, Cincy was in position to win the game on a filed goal, but ex-Texan kicker Randy Bullock missed it wide right, sending Houston to a division title and playoff berth. Earlier in the day the Texans got a bigger gift when Tennessee lost to the Jaguars 38-17. More on that later. 

On the Doorstep of the Playoffs: 
Miami Dolphins: After a classic 34-31 win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday the Dolphins are a step closer to getting to the playoffs. While it is all but locked up, Miami must get a loss by the Denver Broncos on Sunday in order to get in before the end of Week 16. The Dolphins could still miss the playoffs IF the Broncos win out and Miami loses next week against New England, or IF the Ravens win tomorrow at Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh wins in Week 17, and Denver wins out could put both AFC North teams in and leave Miami out if they lose in Week 17. 

Kansas City Chiefs: Win on Sunday night and they are in the playoffs. That simple. They can still win the AFC West by winning out and getting a lose by Oakland in Week 17. 

Still with a lot to be decided: 
Detroit Lions: The Lions are not guaranteed anything. If they win on Monday in Dallas they are a step closer to getting into the playoffs. If they lose on Monday, they could still miss the playoffs if they lose next Sunday night against Green Bay, and Washington beats the Giants. 

Green Bay Packers: The Packers have put themselves in position for a win or else match-up with the Lions next Sunday. Green Bay disposed of Minnesota on Saturday afternoon 38-25 in a game that was never close. The Packers could get the wild card thanks to Tampa Bay losing on Saturday, but they will need Washington to also lose to the Giants next Sunday in order to assure there is a back door to the postseason. 

Washington Redskins: Washington 41-21 win over Chicago keeps the hope alive. They need a win against a Giants team playing for nothing in Week 17 in order to steal a wild card berth from the loser of the Green Bay-Detroit game. 

Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers: Sunday's divisional matchup is for one spot in the playoffs. The winner wins the AFC North. The loser needs to get creative in Week 17 just to steal a slot away from Miami. 

Left for Dead: 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Losing to Dallas and New Orleans the past two weeks has put the nail in the coffin on the Bucs magical ride this season. 

Denver Broncos: Still with a slight heartbeat, but a loss tomorrow night ends the run for the defending champs. 

Tennessee Titans: The Titans lost to the Jaguars 38-17 in a disappointing Week 16 loss that will haunt this team for a long time. Why? Not only did they blow a great shot at making the playoffs this year, but Marcus Mariota fractured his fibula in the second half of the lopsided loss. He will obviously not play in a meaningless Week 17 game against Houston next week. Now begins months of rehab and his availability for training camp next July will be under heavy scrutiny. Now begins one of the biggest story of 2017 Training Camp. Can Mariota bounce back, and can the Titans finish the job this time? 

In Big Trouble this January: 
Oakland Raiders: Speaking of losing a franchise quarterback, the Raiders lost their franchise quarterback, Derrek Carr when he broke his fibula on a sack against Indianapolis on Saturday. The Raiders are going to miss Carr big time. He was having an MVP season, and the Raiders were considered one of the few teams in the AFC that could dethrone the New England Patriots. That picture now changes dramatically. 

With Matt McGloin likely the starter, the Raiders will be underdogs next week against Denver. Should Oakland lose next week, and Kansas City win out, the Chiefs will win the AFC West and take the two seed away from the Raiders. Oakland would then be forced to travel to Houston for a wild card game. With the Texans finding new life lately, this game is no slam dunk win for Oakland. What a shame. When everyone woke up on Christmas Eve the Raiders were a serious Super Bowl contender. Now they look like a team that could be one and done in the playoffs. 

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