By Ron Johnson
One may not believe it, but we only have a full month of NFL regular season football left. The crazy part is that those we expected to dominate this season have not, yet those we didn’t expect to step up and show out are doing just that.
With playoff implications, every game from here on out does indeed count.
Thursday Night Football
LA Chargers vs. Vegas
These two teams are just going through the motions to this point. With Justin Herbert gone for the season, and Antonio Pierce trying to piece together a winning formula for his squad, the division isn’t out of reach, and neither is the playoffs. That is the irony of this season. Despite both teams having losing records under their belts, neither of them are eliminated from playoff contention yet. For the Raiders, it is about doing better than they showed on Sunday (a 3-0 loss to the Vikings). For the Chargers, it is about trying to finish the season with some dignity. But for LA, it is also about trying to get rid of the man responsible for this downfall, and that is their coach.
Saturday Triple Header
Minnesota vs. Cincinnati
While Josh Dobbs is trending downward, Jake Browning is trending upward. Browning has the Bengals thinking postseason with his efforts on the field, while the Vikings will look to raise the stakes in their push for the NFC North. As for the Bengals, they are looking to climb out the basement of a positive division (meaning everyone has winning records and could see the postseason). Dobbs will need to turn it around in record time with the absence of Justin Jefferson who may become a game time decision following a concussion last week.
Pittsburgh vs. Indianapolis
If there is any team that deserves the Sports Karma they are getting, it’s the Steelers. After utilizing the refs to bail them out a month ago, they are losers of two straight to sub-.500 teams (Arizona and New England), and this is even AFTER they gave Matt Canada his walking papers. The Colts could not get it together last week, but they are still in the playoff hunt heading into Saturday. They will need to raise the stakes in every facet of their game and avoid TJ Watt altogether. If Gardner Minshew is given time, he will make Pittsburgh pay. I can honestly say I don’t expect much from Mitch Trubisky or whoever has to don the black and yellow this weekend.
Denver vs. Detroit
Two teams with playoff intentions will collide on Saturday night. On one side, you got the surprisingly good Denver Broncos, who started the season looking terrible and now find themselves a game back in the AFC West. On the other side, you got the reinvigorated Detroit Lions, who are trying to figure out which version of Jared Goff is going to show up. The Lions lost to the Bears, while the Broncos bounced back from the fiasco in Houston to take down the Chargers (who legit should’ve fired Brandon Staley after the wild card last season). Now this game means a little more for both teams. A win for the Broncos coupled with a loss by the Chiefs puts them in the driver’s seat of their division. A win for the Lions coupled with a loss by the Vikings should punch their ticket to the postseason at least. Prepare for Unlimited Anxiety!
Atlanta vs. Carolina
This game may not mean much as far as standings go, but don’t tell that to the Falcons. The Falcons lost a shocker to the Bucs last week and are now sitting on the outside looking in for the postseason. As for the Panthers, they are just trying to make it through the remainder of the season without giving Bryce Young more nightmares. Carolina will be looking to play spoiler, but they should be very wary. A win could prove costly for the Panthers in terms of the NFL Draft’s top spot. A win for the Falcons along with a loss by the Bucs should put them back in control of their own destiny.
Chicago vs. Cleveland
The Bears are feeling good after making Jared Goff a liability for the Lions last week. So we should expect more of the same this week, right? The Browns were in panic mode for the last few weeks. Despite coughing up a game against the Rams two weeks ago, Joe Flacco has proven that he indeed still has it. The Browns are believers as well as Flacco was signed to a one-year deal earlier today (or late last night depending on your time zone). While the Bears are just playing for their draft lives, Cleveland is eyeing a playoff berth. They also happen to be the closest team in the division to Baltimore, and the way that Flacco has been playing, we all should see the Browns in the postseason come January.
Tampa Bay vs. Green Bay
One lifetime ago, you would have to sacrifice your first born to get tickets to this game at Lambeau. But nowadays, pretty sure all you need is a twinkie to go through the gate. The Bucs are still searching for Life after Brady, while the Packers are searching for Life after Rodgers. Both teams had Future Hall of Fame Quarterbacks under center, and you cannot replace those guys. Sadly, Tampa Bay has been the Baker Mayfield Saga, and Green Bay has been trying to Feel the Love. Neither team can afford a loss in this game as both are still in the playoff picture. Tampa Bay is trying to keep its position at the top of the NEW NFC East aka the NFC South. For the Packers, they need the win to keep in pace with Minnesota and Detroit, as well as Tampa Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans, LA Rams and Seattle (all at 6-7 and hoping for some help in Week 15).
NY Jets vs. Miami
The Jets are flying high after a beatdown to the Texans last week. Zack Wilson actually looked like an NFL Quarterback in this game. As for Miami, they just couldn’t get it together as they lost to the Titans on Monday night (Yes, they lost to the guy who puts Mayo in his coffee). The Dolphins are still the No. 2 seed in the AFC right now, and they will look to bounce back and hope that the Ravens stumble in an effort for the top spot. And do not be surprised if there is an Aaron Rodgers sighting on Sunday. One lifetime ago, we couldn’t find him. This time around, we can’t get rid of him. He truly is a cockroach during nuclear winter.
NY Giants vs. New Orleans
Tommy DeVito has become the talk of the town in New York. Having some wins under your belt will remove the guy that continuously plays TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ during Giants games. The Saints are a true enigma in the NFL right now. One week we get the Derek Carr New Orleans wanted, and the next, we get the heavily lighter version of Jameis Winston. The Saints are in a three-way tie for the NFC South Division, and the Giants are looking to play spoiler. Their win on Monday night should give them a little more motivation.
Houston vs. Tennessee
We got old school Houston versus new school Houston as the newly invigorated Texans look to erase that stain from last week and focus on Tennessee. The Titans are either really good or really bad, and that usually depends on how many times they give the ball to Derrick Henry aka their entire offense for the last few years. Houston is currently in a tie with Indy (7-6) for second place, but the Colts hold the tiebreaker which is why they would be in the playoffs if it started today. Despite the win last week against Miami, the Titans will need a lot of help if they even want to sniff the postseason this time around. The only thing that gets these Titans on my radar is how long will they make Henry suffer before they send to a team with championship aspirations.
Kansas City vs. New England
The Chiefs have lost back-to-back games (although one of those was because the refs absolutely sucked), and they will look to right the ship in Foxboro. The Patriots are just happy to have a win, and now they know that Bill Belichick is riding off into the sunset after this. The Chiefs need to strike back quickly. With Baltimore getting in its groove, there is a good chance that Kansas City could be playing in the Wild Card Round. As for New England, they will always be known as the dynasty of this generation.
San Francisco vs. Arizona
San Francisco defeated Seattle on Sunday. On Tuesday, they officially became the first team to punch their ticket to the NFL Playoffs. Now they will focus their attention on clinching the NFC West. That starts with their showdown with Arizona. While the Cardinals don’t really have much to play for at this point, they still wouldn’t mind playing spoiler for the toughest team in the NFL right now.
Washington vs. LA Rams
The Commanders are a sinking ship. Don’t be surprised if Ron Rivera is relieved of his duties either before or after the season. While they have tried to stay in tow with the rest of the NFC East, they have not been able to find their footing. They now head to Los Angeles to face a Rams team that is still very much alive in the playoff picture. Despite an overtime loss to the Ravens last week, the Rams are still in the driver’s seat of their postseason future.
Dallas vs. Buffalo
This is a game that should be on Monday night. But we get it for the afternoon game which should more than make up for it. The Cowboys have been on a tear at home, but questions are circulating which Dallas team is going to Buffalo. The Bills are hanging on by a thread when it comes to the postseason, and they cannot afford to lose this game. But considering Dallas tends to start declining around this time. If they can stay focused on the goal, and get Micah Parsons to quit whining and complaining, they should keep the keys to the NFC East now that Philly is being considered an afterthought to their fanbase.
Sunday Night Football
Baltimore vs. Jacksonville
The Ravens are the hottest team in the AFC and possibly the NFL. Despite needing overtime to defeat the Rams last week, they are grateful to the Bills for handing the Chiefs a loss. They now turn their attention to Duval and the slumping Jaguars. It must be something about demanding someone to put some respect on their name, and even though Trevor Lawrence was out there last week, he reverted to the Lawrence that was inconsistent. Lamar Jackson is playing his best ball, and despite OBJ being irrelevant to this point, the Ravens are still finding ways to win. This will definitely help them keep their stranglehold on the AFC North and possibly the top seed.
Monday Night Football
Philadelphia vs. Seattle
Two teams that suffered embarrassing losses last week will do battle on Monday night. For the Seahawks, it is all about getting back in the groove. Geno Smith will most likely be a gametime decision, which means we could see Drew Lock back out there at QB. The Eagles failed to launch sky high in Big D, which has many wondering if the Niners and Cowboys have officially exposed them. Come Monday night, one team will get back in the saddle, while the other will be left in the dust. The Eagles need this win to right ship after back-to-back losses, and the Seahawks need this win to break their own losing streak as well.