The Race to Minnesota: Week 12
At first glance, Week 12 had little to no impact on the post season picture, with the same 12 teams occupying the Play Off spots as coming in to the week’s football action. However, there were several teams who did themselves no harm in the race, and a couple who shot themselves in the foot (again).
Here is how the Play Off picture looks after Week 12:
In the AFC, the Steelers and Patriots still head the race for home field advantage and I don’t see anyone outside of these two either taking that from them, or even forcing them to play a Wild Card game. Those two look set for a weekend off come the end of the season I think.
The Chiefs continue to slide backwards toward the chasing pack and, on current form, could miss the Playoffs all together if they aren’t careful. Another dismal performance from them this weekend and unless Alex Smith and that offense can shake their funk, I think there will be plenty of questions asked come the (premature) end of the season.
The Jaguars and Titans flip flopped this weekend in their division, so the Titans now hold the higher seeding as they lead the division. Did I mention they play each other in Week 17?
The Ravens still occupy the sixth spot courtesy of their MNF victory over Houston, who are now cooked in terms of the race. Mathematically, maybe. With Savage at the helm? Unlikely.
In the hunt
Buffalo Bills (6-5) – Tyrod Taylor got the starting job back and proceeded to secure the win over KC. Sean McDermott’s decision to bench him still looms large however as the Bills are now relying on others to be able to finally enjoy some January football. With four of their last 5 being divisional games (including TWO against the Patriots) they are going to need all the help they can get.
Oakland Raiders (5-6) – the Raiders finally showed some fight at the weekend. Unfortunately it was in all the wrong places. With Crabtree likely suspended and Cooper injured, it’s a bad time to be without your WR1 and WR2, especially when you are in a tight race in your division with the…
Los Angeles Chargers (5-6) – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I think the Chargers are winning the AFC West. They dismantled the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and are the hot team in the division. They do have the Browns this week who secured their only win of 2016 over the Chargers in Week 16 however. Lightning couldn’t strike twice. Could it?
Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) – Cincinnati are still hanging around but, sitting third in the division, will need some teams ahead of them to trip up. They have a tough one at home to Pittsburgh this week, but their game at the Ravens in Week 17 could be pivotal.
There are a few other teams still mathematically in the hunt in the AFC, but realistically I think they are too far back and need too much help from other teams to be realistic contenders. Of course, that could all change come next week in a conference where no one seems to want to take control!
In the NFC, the Eagles continue to blow everyone aside, the Bears being their latest victims. Minnesota are keeping the pressure on them in terms of the race for the number one seed, but there don’t appear to be many chinks in the Eagles armour right now.
The Rams and Saints went head to head in Week 12 and the Rams emerged victorious to put them back in to third overall. It doesn’t make a huge difference in terms of post season action, but it was a big victory given the Seahawks are on their tails.
Carolina dodged a bullet in New York with a little help from the officials in a game they could quite easily have lost. Instead they close the gap on the Saints and are now tied atop the division at 8-3.
The Falcons had a comfortable won over Tampa Bay, but now have the Vikings, Saints (twice) and Panthers to contend with before season end. If they make it to the post season, they will be coming in hot, and that’s dangerous for whoever they play.
In the hunt
Seattle Seahawks (7-4) – Russell Wilson continues to drag this team along kicking and screaming in the West and showed his teflon-esque skills against San Francisco this week. The Rams’ win over the Saints means Seattle are still the hunters rather than the hunted, but you can bet they’ll be there should the Rams slip up before season end.
Detroit Lions (6-5) – a tough loss on Thanksgiving against the Vikings dents the Lions’ hopes somewhat. They were my outside bet to squeak a wild card spot, but I think perhaps they have too much to do now and are relying on other teams a little too much.
Green Bay Packers (5-6) – two games back of the play off spaces and a game behind the Lions, but it’s the Packers. Even without Rodgers, you can’t write them off just yet. I don’t think they make it, but I do think they need to take a long hard look at their franchise at the end of the season.
And that’s about it. You could argue Dallas and Washington are still contenders, but I don’t see the Cowboys getting a three game turnaround on the Falcons before season end, and Washington are just too unreliable to think they can string a series of wins together. They do have a relatively easy run in though…
So there we have it. Those in the posh seats remained pretty much as you were, but the chasing pack are coming hard and jostling for position. This Play Off race is far from over as we head in to Week 13.
Until next week…