Eight NFL playoff positions remain to be determined

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With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, eight playoff spots still remain to be determined.

Seattle is the only NFC team to have officially clinched a spot in the post season and is likely to be the top seeded team in that conference.

Three teams – Denver, Indianapolis and Kansas City – have clinched playoff spots in the AFC. Only the Colts have locked up a division title, winning the AFC South with its current 9-5 record in a group so weak that none of the other three teams can finish better than 7-9.

New England blew an opportunity to wrap up the AFC East when the Patriots failed to hold a late lead in Miami. Although improbable, Miami could win the division if they are victorious in their final two games against Buffalo and the Jets, while New England loses at Baltimore and at home to Buffalo.

Cincinnati could wrap up the AFC North on Sunday if Baltimore lost at Detroit on Monday night. But a Ravens win could mean the Division comes down to next week’s game in which the Bengals host Baltimore.

A win by Baltimore at Detroit would also keep the Ravens in control of the second AFC Wild Card but a loss would put them a game behind Miami and tied with San Diego.

Carolina, New Orleans and San Francisco are likely to make the playoffs in the NFC although the loser of this week’s game between the Saints and Panthers could be tied with Arizona at 10-5 heading into Week 17 if the Cardinals manage to pull a major upset in Seattle.

Philadelphia could win the NFC East with a win Sunday night over Chicago if Dallas loses earlier in the day at Washington. A Cowboys win, however, would make the result of the Eagles game against the Bears moot from Philly’s standpoint. Even with a win the Eagles would take a one game edge into next week’s game at Dallas needing a win to earn the Division Title. A loss would tie the teams at 8-8 but the Cowboys would earn the NFC East title by virtue of its season sweep over the Birds.

The most intriguing race is in the NFC North. Only the division winner will make the playoffs. The 8-6 Chicago Bears lead 7-6-1 Green Bay by one game and will host the Packers in Week 17.

Detroit played Monday night and a win would tie the Lions with the Bears. Detroit won both games against the Bears this season and split with Green Bay. But barring a tie in one of its last two games tie breakers will not come into play against Green Bay due to the Packers’ tie with Minnesota last month.

The high level of scoring remains the hot topic of conversation. After setting a record of 859 total points scored in Week 14, an average of 53.7 per game, a new record could have been established on Monday night if the Ravens and Lions combined to score at least 50 points. The previous 15 games in Week 15 averaged exactly 54 total points per game.

As a result we’ve seen many more OVERS than UNDERS this season. Through Sunday the OVER holds a 119-98-6 edge using the closing lines at the LVH Race and Sports Book. Included in those results are the 21 OVERS and just 10 UNDERS of the past two weeks.

Of special note are the results of interconference games. Such games between an AFC and NFC team have historically been higher scoring that intraconference or intradivision games. But the results this season are off the charts.

Heading into Monday night’s game, another interconference game between Detroit and Baltimore, games between an AFC team and an NFC team have produced 46 OVERS and just 15 UNDERS. The 61 games have produced an average of 51.3 total points.

Here’s a look at the 16 games to be played in the penultimate week of the regular season.

Miami -3 at Buffalo (43): It’s hard to find fault with how Miami has been playing over the past couple of months. At the same time there are many positives for Buffalo in the rookie seasons for both coach Doug Marone and QB E J Manuel. This is Buffalo’s last home game of the season and their first game at home in over a month. In their last true home game they routed the Jets back in mid November. BUFFALO.

New Orleans +3 at Carolina (46): The rematch. Carolina has won 6 straight home games. 5 have been by double digits and the other by 4 points over New England. New Orleans’ road woes continued last week in what was a favorable setting for the Saints – on turf and indoors. Yet the Saints were held to just 3 points through three plus quarters. Carolina reacted better to the “sandwich” situation enveloping both teams last week and merit being FG favorites in this key game. CAROLINA.

Dallas -3 at Washington (52½): Dallas’ questionable fourth quarter play calling combined with QB Tony Romo’s habitual key mistake cost the Cowboys, again, a much needed win their race with Philadelphia. The Dallas defense was unable to stop the Bears all game two weeks ago and Green Bay throughout the entire second half. This is a perfect spot for the Redskins to build momentum for the offseason with a big effort against their most bitter rival. WASHINGTON.

Tampa Bay +5½ at St. Louis (42½): Both teams have suffered key injuries throughout the season that have affected their offenses more than the defenses. The Rams have been better balanced with a solid running game that has gained at least 100 yards in seven straight games after doing so just once over their first seven games. The overall statistics show St. Louis as having made greater progress on both sides of the ball over the second half of the season than have the Bucs. ST. LOUIS

Chicago +3 at Philadelphia (56): Chicago has the more experienced QB and getting a FG or more in a game between a pair of teams that otherwise are similar in most respects is the most attractive option. Especially after their tough road win in Cleveland this past Sunday. CHICAGO.

Cleveland +2 at NY Jets (41): After a promising 3-2 start Cleveland has lost five in a row and 8 of 9. Only one of those losses has been by less than a FG and that was the bitter loss at New England two weeks ago. The Jets have excelled at running the football and are third in the NFL at stopping the run. The Jets’ overall statistical profile looks rather ugly due to their truly horrendous play on the road which cannot be offset by their positive play at home. NY JETS.

Indy +6½ at KC (43½): Kansas City has rebounded from its 3 game losing streak by outscoring Washington and Oakland by a combined 101 to 41, looking even more impressive and confident than they did when they started the season 9-0. The Colts, who have alternated wins and losses over their past six games, are off of a much needed confidence boosting 25-3 win over listless Houston. KC returns home after two road wins while the Colts could be adversely affected by inclement weather. KANSAS CITY.

Minnesota +7 at Cincinnati (48): The Bengals were in a tough spot Sunday night in Pittsburgh yet did rally in the 30-20 loss after falling behind 24-0 early in the second quarter. Now they are home where they are 6-0 both SU and ATS with five of the wins by 7 points or more. They are on pace to make the Playoffs and possibly have a first round bye but have yet to clinch a post season berth. They are in their most favorable and most comfortable position and are the much better defensive team. CINCINNATI

Denver -10½ at Houston (52½): Denver leads the NFL in gaining 454 total yards per game and averaging 38.2 points per game. The Broncos are rested following their upset home loss to San Diego last Thursday. With both teams showing an ability to move the ball the total may present a better opportunity than trusting either team to cover a surprisingly high, yet justified, spread. OVER.

Tennessee -5½ at J’ville (44): Jacksonville had made progress over the past month and a half, especially in cutting down on mistakes. Tennessee has done the reverse, turning the football over 14 times in its last 7 games compared to just 7 turnovers lost in their first seven games. It makes it hard to justify the Titans this large a road favorite. JACKSONVILLE.

Arizona +10 at Seattle (45): The Seahawks won the first meeting, 34-22, in Arizona, limiting the Cards to just 30 rushing yards and 234 total yards while rushing for 135 yards, the second highest total allowed by the Arizona defense this season. After a pair of road games Seattle will be pumped by their frenzied home fans. SEATTLE

NY Giants +10 at Detroit (50½): The Giants are the only NFL team to have been shut out this season – and it’s happened twice! The Lions have been solid, but not explosive, on offense, providing a nice corridor for this game to feature less scoring. UNDER.

Oakland +10 at San Diego (50½): Oakland has lost four straight and 6 of 7. Six of their losses have been by double digits and the defense has been woeful. The Raiders have allowed 124 points in their last three games. The improving Chargers have allowed just 51 points over that same stretch. QB Philip Rivers continues to put up Pro Bowl numbers for San Diego and the running game has been potent over the second half of the season. SAN DIEGO.

Pittsburgh NL at Green Bay: The status of Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers keeps this game off the boards although backup Matt Flynn finally had a breakout game last week against Dallas, leading the Packers to five second-half touchdowns in their dramatic 37-36 comeback win. Even if Rodgers does not play the Pack now can take the field with confidence off of last week’s effort from Flynn. GREEN BAY.

NE +1½ at Baltimore (45): Baltimore suffered the typical post Super Bowl hangover early in the season while it dealt with the departure of several key players from last season on both sides of the football. But they’ve regrouped and regardless of the result of Monday night’s game at Detroit they will take the field with great confidence against a still formidable foe but one that is clearly in decline. BALTIMORE.

Monday

Atlanta +12 at SF (45): Atlanta’s offense has struggled against the top defenses its faced, scoring just 10 points against both Seattle and Carolina and just 13 and 17 points in a pair of games against New Orleans. UNDER.

RECORD

Last Week: 8-6-1

NFL: 105-109-8

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

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About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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