The final weekend of regular season action is upon us, and there are a staggering 18 teams vying for a place in the playoffs
13 of the 16 matches played on Sunday could have playoff implications, so expect plenty more drama to unfold, in what has been an enthralling season already. With divisional match-ups across the schedule, rivals will be facing up around the country, with four games in particular that look sure to entertain.
Sunday - 6:00pm - Ravens (8-7) at Bengals (10-5)
The Cincinnati Bengals have already sealed a place in the post-season and they will be hoping to move up to the No. 2 seed if they win, and the Patriots lose to the Bills. For the Baltimore Ravens, it is a must-win game. Lose, and they are all but out of the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins host the Jets at the same time and the Ravens will be desperately hoping for a Jets win to help ease their task. Flacco and co. will have to be at their very best to topple the Bengals, who are 7-0 when at home this season. Expect this one to go down to the wire.
After last week’s remarkable victory in Seattle, the Arizona Cardinals remain in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the NFC. They must win this game to have any hope, needing the Saints to lose at home to the Buccaneers. San Francisco have secured a wild card spot and will be fighting for home-field advantage, as long as they win this one and other results go their way. The Cardinals will be fired up for this in front of their own fans, and I expect them to improve to 11-5 for the season, but despite the impressive record, they could still miss out. All eyes will be on the Saints game, as New Orleans play at the same time as Arizona.
An incredible game here, as the winner will take the NFC North and will march into the playoffs. The Green Bay Packers will be confident as Aaron Rodgers returns at quarterback for the first time since week 9, when he injured his collarbone against the Chicago Bears. With the return of Rodgers, the Bears find themselves as slight underdogs for this one, but their offensive play has improved greatly as the season has progressed, and they also have home-field advantage on their side. This will be good.
Another winner-takes-all situation here in what is set to be a fascinating watch with plenty of points sure to be scored. The Philadelphia Eagles will take the No. 3 seed in the NFC with a win and they are strong favourites to do so, having won 6 of their last 7, scoring 54 points against the Bears last weekend. The Dallas Cowboys will progress to the playoffs as division winners with a win, as they will have a perfect divisional record. But they may have to do so without quarterback Tony Romo, who looks set to miss this one. The Cowboys will have strong home support and have a chance, but the Eagles look to be too much on paper. But when did paper decide the playoffs?
image: © Mike Morbeck