Whether or not the Jets are involved (not, more often than not), I always enjoy the final weeks of the NFL leading up to the playoffs. I enjoy playoff scenarios (this team needs this team to lose, but this team can get in if it just keeps winning....). I enjoy them so much that the one of the biggest reasons I created FAMILEAGUE, my fantasy football league, was so I could keep track of stats and playoff positioning and scenarios. But Sunday of Week 16 of the real NFL was one of those weeks where you almost wished you were a fan of the Titans or the Redskins....because they must have done something right this year.
Both Tennessee and Washington entered Week 16 needing a team to lose, in order to stay alive for the playoffs. For the Titans, it was the Browns, for the Redskins, it was their opponent, the Vikings. Both teams lost, keeping both Tennessee and Washington alive...and not only that, but now they both control their own fate!
Cleveland is in the midst of pulling a minor Detroit job - Detroit was sitting pretty around Thanksgiving, then proceeded to lose 8 games in a row, putting themselves out of contention. The Browns were on the verge of passing Pittsburgh for the division title, and now, after losing a very winnable game in Cincinnati, need Indianapolis to beat Tennessee next week in order to make the playoffs. It doesn't matter what the Browns do against the 49ers - they just need the Titans to lose.
The Jets could have been a major spoiler for the Titans on Sunday - and could have been heroes for the Browns. After the Browns stunk it up in Cincinnati, all the Jets had to do was win, and Cleveland would have had a playoff berth. But the Jets are 3-12 for a reason...as we have documented...and the Titans snuck out a win. (If the Titans are really only a narrow 10-6 victory better than the Jets, by the way, the Browns shouldn't have much to worry about next week when Tennessee plays the Colts. At least Cleveland beat the Jets by six.)
The NFC is a mess...that's how I'll start off talking about the Redskins and Vikings. But the Vikings showed they deserved a playoff spot the past couple of months, and could have clinched one last night at home against the Redskins. Instead, Washington came out and crushed them. So now the Vikings need to beat Denver and hope a Dallas team with everything locked up can beat Washington. Meanwhile, the 'Skins only have to beat a Dallas team that has nothing to play for. If somehow the Redskins and Vikings lose, the Saints, who have no right making the playoffs this year, will get the spot if they beat the Bears.
Obviously, I would love these playoff scenarios a lot more if the Jets were involved. But I like figuring out the ways a team can get in, or out, and I like seeing the unlikeliest scenarios play out. That's fun for me. I guess creating all of these mini-games within the football season is the byproduct of rooting for a team each year that is most likely not going to be playing in January.
I will be updating regularly during the playoffs - at least to give some predictions. I welcome my readers to send me their playoff picks - I think I'm going to predict the over/unders and winners vs. the spread in each game (with a score). That's always fun come playoff time. I challenge all five of you to join me in this venture.