Just two weeks remain to this wild and weird 2020 NFL season and much is still to be determined.
Teams are surging. Teams are struggling. For many, the chase for a spot in the expanded postseason remains a realistic goal.
The final push begins Christmas evening with New Orleans hosting Minnesota. The Saints have already punched their ticket as they sit atop the NFC South at 10-4. The Vikings at 6-8 need to win out and get lots of help as Green Bay has locked up the NFC North at 11-3 and will have a bye.
Seattle has already secured its playoff spot and the 10-4 Seahawks are hosting the Los Angeles Rams Sunday in what is one of the big games on the Week 16 slate. The Rams are wounded after inexplicably losing to the previously winless New York Jets, 23-20 last week at SoFi Stadium. And at 9-5, they’re no lock to get into the postseason. They are one of the floundering teams at the moment.
So are the New York Giants, who beat the Seahawks three weeks ago but have looked listless offensively in consecutive losses to Arizona and Cleveland. Someone has to win the NFC East and it appears that Washington, which is playing better in the second half of the season, could emerge as the division champion. Ron Rivera’s team is 6-8, one game ahead of New York, and hosts 4-10 Carolina Sunday in Landover, MD. They hold the upper hand in the division.
.So are the New York Giants, who beat the Seahawks three weeks ago but have looked listless offensively in consecutive losses to Arizona and [email protected]‘ Week 16 NFL Power Rankings:
5-32: https://t.co/7l4I0W2VDy (by @Energizer) pic.twitter.com/VmGT8UEini
— NFL (@NFL) December 22, 2020
Over in the AFC, The Kansas City Chiefs are positioning themselves to make a successful defense of their Super Bowl championship. The Chiefs went into New Orleans last Sunday and took out the Saints, 32-29, to improve to 13-1. A win over Atlanta at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday will lock up the No. 1 seed and the road to Tampa for Super Bowl LV in the AFC will go through Kansas City.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are quickly fading following their 11-0 start. Yes, they remain atop the AFC North, but at 11-3 and losers of three straight, something’s amiss with the Steelers. They were handled by Cincinnati Monday night, 27-17, and while they’re in the playoffs, they may be limping in unless things quickly turn around.
Buffalo is headed to the playoffs with its first Division win since 1995 and the Bills, who lead the AFC East at 11-3, may be the team that can take out the Chiefs next month. Things are clicking on both sides of the ball for Buffalo and the Bills have won four straight heading into Monday night’s matchup at New England. The Patriots’ run of making the playoffs 11 years in a row has come to an end as injuries and inconsistent quarterback play from Cam Newton will have New England on the outside looking in. It makes you wonder what Bill Belichick will do with himself next month with no games to prepare for.
The best race in the NFL is in the AFC South. Indianapolis and Tennessee are both 10-4 and both are on the road Sunday in Week 16 — the Colts at Pittsburgh, the Titans at Green Bay in the NBC Sunday Night Football contest.
Neither team is dominant, yet both have the ability to win a game with ease. If Indy QB Philip Rivers is playing well, the Colts are a tough out. Same for Titans RB Derrick Henry, who leads the NFL in rushing with 1,679 yards, has scored 15 touchdowns and averages 5.2 yards per carry. When he’s got it in high gear, Tennessee is a much different team.
As you handicap the final two weeks of the season with the usual factors such as late-season weather, which teams are trying and who has packed it in, injuries and the health of key performers, there’s the omnipresent COVID-19 list to consider. Players jump on and off the list daily and tracking that intangible is a puzzle unto itself. But as our Gaming Today NFL columnists have been saying since Week 1, pay attention to the COVID list. It could be the difference between cashing or ripping up your bet.
Suffice to say, we can expect a wild finish as the expanded playoff slate is finalized.