In these weekly previews, I’ll highlight the results that I found shocking from the previous week, as well as preview the game I am most looking forward to from the weekend ahead. As we get later into the season, I may add some other sections to this, including playoff positioning and a look forward to the upcoming draft.
The Top Games From Week 16
New Orleans Saints 31 – Pittsburgh Steelers 28
The Saints clinched a first-round bye with the victory, while the Steelers fell out of the playoff picture after the loss, falling behind the Baltimore Ravens (for the AFC North title) and the Tennessee Titans (for the second wild card), who had both won Saturday.
The Steelers entered the fourth quarter, leading 28-24. And for most of the fourth quarter, that lead remained in place, with the Steelers failing to add points, while the Saints went 3-and-out and had a blocked field goal. After that blocked field goal, the Steelers were holding onto the ball, trying to get a first down to run some time off the clock. On 4th-and-5, the Steelers seemingly lined up to punt, only to fake the punt and come up a yard short.
The Saints took control of the ball with 4:06 left on the clock at the Pittsburgh 46 yard line, and unlike their opponents, they were able to run down the clock, driving the field and scoring a touchdown with 1:25 left on the clock. This left the Steelers with plenty of time left to score, and after a converted 4th-and-15 (upheld on review), the Steelers were on the drive to at least attempt a game-tying field goal. Instead, JoJo Smith-Schuster fumbled after a reception, allowing the Saints to fully run out the clock and earn the victory.
Seattle Seahawks 38 – Kansas City 31
With the Los Angeles Chargers losing on Saturday night to the Ravens, the Chiefs entered Sunday Night Football with an opportunity to clinch the AFC West. The Seahawks, on the other hand, could clinch a playoff berth with a victory, while a loss would require them to win during Week 17 to give them a chance at the playoffs.
The Seahawks entered the halftime break in the lead, as well as at the end of the third quarter. Then the fun began. After the Chiefs pulled within four points with a field goal, the teams exchanged touchdowns for the next 10 minutes, and the Seahawks led 38-28 after a 1-yard touchdown run with about 2:30 left in the game. The Chiefs quickly drove for a field goal to get back within a score, then sent the attempted onside kick, giving the Seahawks the chance to run out the clock. As a result, the Seahawks are in the playoff, most likely in the fifth spot, while the Chiefs will need another win (against the Oaklnad Raiders) or Charges loss (to Denver Broncos) to clinch the division and a first-round bye.
Week 17 Game of the Week
Instead of focusing on one game, I’m going to do a quick run through the various playoff scenarios for the remaining three spots in the next section.
NFL Playoff Picture
Seeding is still up for grabs this weekend, as well as three of 12 playoff spots (two in the AFC and one in the NFC). Also, all the divisions in the NFC have their champions, while only the New England Patriots have clinched their division in the AFC.
1. x-Kansas City Chiefs (West) – 11-4
2. y-New England Patriots (East) – 10-5
3. x-Houston Texans (South) – 10-5
4. Baltimore Ravens (North) – 9-6
5. x-Los Angeles Chargers (WC #1) – 11-4
6. Indianapolis Colts (WC #2) – 9-6
In the hunt: Tennessee Titans (9-6) and Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)
The Ravens and Colts have the upper hand in clinching a playoff spot and control their destiny. A win by either club – the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns and the Colts play Tennessee – clinches a place in the playoffs for them, with the Ravens winning the North and the Colts settling in as at least the 6th seed (they can win the AFC South with a win and a Houston loss).
If the Titans manage to defeat the Colts, and they will be playing at home, they clinch the remaining wild card, and would also clinch the AFC South with a win and a Houston loss. The Colts managed to win in their first matchup this season – a 38-10 victory in Indianapolis during Week 11 – so this will probably be the game to watch on Sunday (which is probably why it’s been moved to Sunday Night Football).
The Steelers, thanks to their loss to the Saints, need to win against the Bengals and hope for the Ravens and Titans to lose or tie to end up in the playoffs, either as the AFC North champion or the #6 seed.
1. z-New Orleans Saints (South) – 13-2
2. y-Los Angeles Rams (West) – 12-3
3. y-Chicago Bears (North) – 11-4
4. y-Dallas Cowboys (East) – 9-6
5. x-Seattle Seahawks (WC #1) – 9-6
6. Minnesota Vikings (WC #2) – 8-6-1
In the hunt: Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
The NFC is much more straight forward. Minnesota hosts Chicago, and will clinch a playoff spot with a win against a team that could clinch a bye with a win. The Eagles, on the other hand, travel to Washington needing a win, as well as a loss by the Vikings in order to make the playoffs and have a chance to defend their Super Bowl title from last year. Minnesota is expected to make it, but anything could happen.
Note: z- clinched first round bye; y-clinched division; x- clinched playoff berth
2019 NFL Draft Order
With the Oakland Raiders winning their fourth game on Monday night, the Cardinals have all but clinched the first overall pick in next summer’s NFL draft. They travel to Seattle to face off against a team that might be resting players now that they’ve clinched a playoff spot. However, if they end up winning and tied with four victories with other teams, they would likely miss out on that top pick because of their strength-of-schedule.
Note: I have calculated strength of schedule for the team’s entire season’s worth of opponents (instead of just through the first 15 games), so my numbers will be slightly different from what might be elsewhere.
|2||San Francisco 49ers||4-11||0.504|
|3||New York Jets||4-11||0.506|
|6||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5-10||0.521|
|7t||New York Giants||5-10||0.525|
|14||Green Bay Packers||6-8-1||0.483|
Until next time…