The AFC field is almost all set. We know the six teams that are going to the playoffs from that conference, but there are still a few questions left to answer. The Raiders lead the AFC West, though the Chiefs have a chance to take that from them Sunday.
The Patriots could lock down the No. 1 seed with a win over the Dolphins, but the Raiders have an outside shot at that still if they win and the Patriots lose.
Over in the NFC, the big game of the week is the showdown between the Packers and Lions in Detroit. The winner takes the NFC North, though the loser could still make the postseason as a wild card team. That’s probably the least complicated of all the Week 17 playoff scenarios.
Let’s take a look at where the playoff races stands, starting with the AFC (Here’s a quick primer on tiebreakers for the playoff standings, just in case you need a refresher):
“Any American wants to get paid more at their job,” Bennett said. “I don’t think there’s anybody that goes to work and says: ‘Hey, I’m happy with how much I’m getting paid, and I love it. Don’t give me any more money.’ So that’s how I feel too.”
Bennett, 31, has never been one to hide his personality, but he’s backed up his words with excellent play on the field. In 2015, he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl with 10 sacks and two forced fumbles. While he struggled through injuries for much of 2016, Bennett started the season with three sacks in the first four weeks and got back on the board with a sack against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16.
The Seahawks are No. 2 in the NFL in points allowed and No. 7 in yards allowed through 16 weeks and close out the 2016 season against the San Francisco 49ers. Prior to joining the Seahawks, Bennett played four seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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Game Russell Wilson Jersey There are presently eight teams that are all in on a rebuilding program: the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics. Although there are other teams that are retooling, revamping or building, these eight are in more of a full rebuild.
Plus, the effect of supercharging a roster has lost some of its potency since Florida spent its way to glory. If we split up our data into two sets ¡ª one that covers the 1987 through 1997 seasons, and the other for every year since ¡ª a one-standard deviation increase in payroll and talent meant a 40 percent bigger bump in World Series odds back then than it would now.
Despite fears of a ¡°bought¡± championship dating back to the advent of free agency (if not earlier), baseball is a tough sport to rig with pure cash. Not only is the postseason incredibly random, but it¡¯s difficult to even predict whether a team will be good enough to get there in the first place.
Almost every season, the wafer-thin right-hander with the wispy goatee was as good as any starter in the American League for a stretch of 50 to 75 innings — even longer in 2010 and 2013.
In the two decades since, 36 teams have tried the same tactic ¡ª nearly 40 percent more attempts per season.7 With MLB teams¡¯ revenues exploding in the post-strike era, more and more teams began mounting Marlins-style tactical spending strikes.
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Just two weeks are between the Carolina Panthers and a perfect regular season. While the No. 1 seed in the NFC is technically still up for grabs, it’s unlikely that the Arizona Cardinals actually swipe it, so the only real motivation for head coach Ron Rivera to continue to play the Panthers starters in the final two weeks is to finish undefeated.
Outlook: The pendulum can go both ways for the Broncos. They still have an outside chance at the No. 1 seed, or they could miss out on the playoffs entirely.
Let’s start with the (annoyingly complicated) AFC West scenarios. Denver and Kansas City split their season series and the Chiefs have a better divisional record, but the Broncos are a game ahead. A Denver win over the next two weeks coupled with a Chiefs loss or tie, or a Denver tie coupled with a Chiefs loss, would deliver the division to the Broncos.
Game Carl Nassib Jersey But if they were to fall behind Kansas City, they’d need some help — specifically, a Jets or Steelers loss. If the Chiefs, Jets and Steelers all win their remaining two games and Denver drops one — a strong possibility considering the tough Monday night matchup in Cincinnati — then the Broncos will be sent home early due to tiebreakers.
Bold Prediction: Denver loses Monday night to the Bengals, but then, with Peyton Manning back under center, knocks off San Diego in Week 17. The Broncos make the playoffs as a Wild Card team but go down in the first round.
Minnesota has a Week 17 duel with the Green Bay Packers on the way, and if the Vikings earn a win against the Giants, the division will be on the line in the final week.
Limited Womens Sammy Baugh Jersey The Raiders did not make things easy on themselves with two turnovers inside the Chargers¡¯ 10-yard line in the first half — a Latavius Murray fumble and a Carr interception — but they had enough left to drive down for Sebastian Janikowski’s 44-yard game-winning field goal with 2:30 to play.
And the Raiders¡¯ much-maligned defense again came up huge late; Bruce Irvin with a key sack of Philip Rivers before Reggie Nelson picked Rivers off on fourth-and-15 to essentially end the game.
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And the Steelers’ defense deserves credit for adjusting in the second half after the Bengals scored on their first four drives of the game. In the second half, Pittsburgh found a way to create pressure, and the previously sloppy cornerback play tightened up. Early in the game, the Bengals’ running backs often had rushing lanes as big as a James Harrison weight room.
“We came out (the second half) and guys understood that we need to keep (Dalton) in the pocket and force throws into coverage,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said.
This Steelers team has shown the mettle to adjust late in games.
They’ll need to do that at least one more time to secure a playoff spot.
Hopefully, the Steelers say, with less penalties.
“A really good team will take advantage of that,” guard Ramon Foster said.
But Carr had to kneel down, first. Yes, out of the pistol.
Drink hot chocolate while you are getting dressed for the game and refuel on the sideline with some chicken broth. It’s a great way to keep your body temperature up. But you can’t just pound that stuff. No one wants to drink five cups of hot chocolate and then run down on the opening kickoff. That’s trouble, and it also leads to vomit all over the field. Yes, you have to continue to hydrate during cold-weather games (I once cramped up during a game in Buffalo), so Gatorade, Pedialyte and water are a must before and during the game. A cup of hot chocolate in the locker room and a cup of chicken broth while you get a break on the sideline, however, is a smart way to stay warm.
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Even with the advanced cold-weather gear, players need to add more layers to keep their core warm. In Green Bay, the equipment room was stocked with fleece turtlenecks. They’re warm as heck, and they even come sleeveless for the guys who want to show off their biceps. Check out Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He still wears the same fleece turtlenecks that were around in Green Bay back in the early 2000s when I played.
Logan Couture Mens Jersey He added: “I had never seen a darker period than the league was going through then — when accountability went from grading to an attack on integrity.”
Over the phone, Pereira pointed out the NFL appears to have backed off that aggressiveness. The most notable example: The NFL apparently did not discipline referee Walt Anderson for a series of miscues — which Blandino pointed out on Twitter in near-real time — in a Week 9 game at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
“You don’t want officials officiating out of fear of being suspended for a mistake,” Pereira said. “The normal process of evaluation, as it is, could take them out of the playoffs and could get them fired at the end of the season. Doing what they did last year wasn’t good and you’ve seen it ease up.”
Coughlin also seemed resigned to the fact that 2015 was his final season with the Giants:
Coughlin’s tenure in New York, and career overall, will always be remembered for his two Super Bowl victories over the New England Patriots.
The first came in the 2007 when the Giants, following a 10-6 campaign, earned a trip to Arizona by reeling off three postseason victories on the road. There they met an 18-0 Patriots team led by Tom Brady, who had thrown a then-record 50 touchdown passes during the regular season.
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And yet, behind a devastating pass rush, Coughlin’s crew was able to hold the explosive New England offense to 14 points. David Tyree’s now-famous miracle catch set up a late game-winning touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress, giving the Giants a 17-14 win over a Patriots team that was favored by 12 points coming into Super Bowl XLII.
“I never had much confidence as a player in this league before and I was always around coaches who didn’t seem to have that much confidence in me, either,” Parker said. “I took the rough road to get here and when I met up with coach Reid, I felt his belief in me. He built an atmosphere where I could relax, not be so uptight, just play and let my talent surface. I’m playing with confidence now. I love it here. I’m really glad that Andy trusted me.”
Parker arrives every day eager to work. Humble. Focused.
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Just the way Reid has built the Chiefs.
It’s still early, Reid says. It’s just the start.
“We’ve finished this regular season, and now we start the postseason,” Reid said. “I like that, start the postseason. I had some rough times in Philadelphia where they would be saying we are ending the postseason even before we started it.”
He can laugh about all of that now. No more fuming red.
Red, for Andy Reid, is more like a cozy blanket now.
A certain Red Sox ace has been hitting social media to answer his detractors. Chris Sale? He ignores them. That could be a blessing for him in Boston.
To each his own. But in a market like Boston, where two daily newspapers and two sports-radio stations cater to a fan base that has a white-hot passion about professional sports, Sale’s approach is probably healthier than Price’s.
Tuning out the external noise can only help an athlete concentrate on the things that matter most. Preparation and performance are more important than perception, and if Sale, Price or any other high-profile athlete gets too wrapped up in the latter, the former are bound to suffer.
Michael Conforto had a great month of April. Jay Bruce had a good nine days at the end of September. Otherwise, both had long stretches of major struggles. Both could be considerably better than they showed. But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
And then there¡¯s the pitching. Matt Harvey had thoracic outlet syndrome. Jacob deGrom had an elbow issue. Steven Matz seems to have continuous trouble staying healthy, the most recent issue being his shoulder. They could come back and throw a combined 550 innings next season. But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
Martin Jones Elite Jersey And do you feel comfortable that something won¡¯t happen to Syndergaard beyond the bone-spur issue of 2016?
Limited Youth Roy Halladay Jersey In the bullpen, where year-to-year inconsistency is the norm, Jeurys Familia is likely to be suspended for a chunk of the season. When he returns, let¡¯s remember that he has logged the most innings of any reliever over the past two regular seasons/postseasons and has the mental hurdle of the big home runs he¡¯s allowed to Alex Gordon and Conor Gillaspie to overcome. Familia might have the rubber arm and clear mind to be able to do that. But on a scale of 1-10, how certain do you feel about that?
Marquess Wilson Authentic Jersey If you play fantasy, you probably know Allen Robinson. If you drafted him, you probably know his stats a little too well ¡ª and have looked at your roster in disbelief for at least half the season wondering what happened to your fantasy title hopes.
Robinson isn¡¯t unaware of his performance. The Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver said it best himself in an interview with The Undefeated: ¡°I¡¯ve been one of the most hated people in the fantasy football world.¡± He added tongue in cheek, ¡°That¡¯s been kind of fun to look at on Twitter.¡±
Authentic Anthony Fasano Jersey After putting up phenomenal stats in the 2015-16 season, there is undoubtedly some frustration with not meeting expectations ¡ª in the real world that is, not from fantasy numbers. But that doesn¡¯t mean he doesn¡¯t have a sense of humor. A-Rob addresses his fantasy play this season and we have some fun with him as he reads a few critical tweets directed at him, inspired by Jimmy Kimmel¡¯s Mean Tweets.
For his part, Bill Belichick, who isn¡¯t one to tip his hand on those plans, has had nothing but good things to say about Bennett¡¯s contributions to this point.
Should they rest him? Can they really afford to rest him?
After watching Bennett (44 catches, 544 yards, 4 TDs) this season, there is no doubt where he stands on the topic: He wants in.
Similar to the Cleveland game, he later returned to action, but it’s almost been as if he is a powerful truck that is slowed by having a spare tire.
All of which brings us to this week, with Bennett among four players who were absent from the Patriots¡¯ Wednesday practice. It could be a one-day break, or perhaps the start of something a bit longer in hopes of getting the right ankle back to a healthier place.
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Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer picked a bad time to have his worst game of the season. Coming into this Wild Card matchup, he hadn’t thrown more than one interception in a game all season and had yet to give the ball away in the redzone this year. Well, he ended both of those streaks on Saturday, throwing four picks, including one from the Chiefs’ 3-yard line.
After a miserable 2-4 start during which they squandered a fourth-quarter lead in all four losses, the Seahawks rebounded to win eight of their final 10 games. They were even more dominant down the stretch, going 4-1 with a whopping plus-101 point differential in December/January. No other team in that span even had a scoring margin of at least 70 points.
If they can make it to Santa Clara, the Seahawks would be the first-ever NFC franchise to play for a Super Bowl crown in three straight years, and the first team from either conference to do it since the 1990-93 Buffalo Bills.
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Roethlisberger led the league in passing yards per game for the second straight year and threw 21 touchdown passes in just 12 contests. This may be the most dangerous receiving corps Roethlisberger has ever had, too, especially given how Antonio Brown has finished the season. He’s recorded well over 100 yards receiving in two of his last three games, and broke triple-digits nine times overall this year.
Due to the palpable disdain these two teams have for each other, Saturday night’s tilt should be a must-watch affair. Our experts at SB Nation are split about the outcome with CBS Sports’ analysts giving Pittsburgh a 5-3 edge. ESPN is leaning in the Steelers’ direction as well.
Starting quarterback Andy Dalton won’t be able to start Saturday for Cincinnati due to his broken right thumb, though that may be a blessing in disguise given how poorly he’s performed in playoff games. Dalton’s career passer rating in January is a putrid 57.8.
The 2015 NFL regular season is a wrap, and it is time for the 2016 NFL playoffs. That means four more weeks of picks against the spread. I suppose I could include the Pro Bowl for picks as well, but what am I, some kind of degenerate?
The Wild Card round saw all four road teams favored at one point or another, and all four won. The Divisional round features the return of the top four teams off their bye weeks. All four home teams are favored, but still face tough matchups. Whatever the case, here are my picks against the spread for the Divisional round. All lines and stats come courtesy of OddsShark, and as always the lines are subject to change, so check them out before making your wager.
Hoyer barely had time to blink, let alone get away, before this behemoth of a man was bearing down on him. If he actually had time to scan the field, Hoyer probably would have seen that Blue hadn’t run a great angle route in the first place and wasn’t all that open after trying to cut back across the middle. Maybe he would’ve tried to throw the ball elsewhere. Or maybe he would have thrown it away and lived to fight another day. Hell, maybe Hoyer’s next throw on third down would’ve been a touchdown. That could’ve been the start to getting his shitty day turned around heading into halftime.
Elite Youth Markus Naslund Jersey Unfortunately for Hoyer and the Texans, we will never know what might have happened. What we do know is that bad went to even worse after that play. They squandered their best opportunity to score and ended up with a goose egg on the day.
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Later today, we’ll have a look at the Steelers defensive lineman who barely got a mention in his team’s win over the Bengals. On Friday, we’ll switch over to the NFC.
I’m sure many of you will object to one or maybe even all of my choices, cuz hey this is the Internet, I just ask that y’all give me your own choices for Unsung Heroes last week in the comments section. That should be a hoot!