A Tale of Two Football Games
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be in Buffalo Sunday Night to take on the 9-3 Bills, while the Kansas City Chiefs will be in Miami (they definitely won the weather lottery for the weekend) to take on the Dolphins. Why do I bring this up? Come with me on a playoff-implication journey.
The Steelers and Chiefs have identical records at 11-1, but the Steelers currently hold the tie-breaker and the #1 seed in the AFC. With the new playoff format, only one team per Conference gets a first-round bye. So, seeding matters.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills hold a one-game lead in the AFC East over the, you guessed it, Miami Dolphins. If the playoffs started today, the Bills would be the third-seed and the Dolphins would be the sixth.
The Bills are playing at a very high level, and quarterback Josh Allen and wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley put on a clinic at their respective positions in Monday night’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The Steelers are coming off their first loss but can’t afford to wallow. This one will come down to who makes the fewest mistakes, and with the Steelers leading the league with 16 takeaways, the Bills will need to stay on their A-game.
The AFC North in Prime Time
Monday Night Football is gonna be lit, as the Baltimore Ravens travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns. Yes, the same Browns who got flexed into Sunday Night Football next week, as the Cowboys and 49ers got flexed out, just as we all predicted.
Anyhoo, Monday Night’s match-up has all sorts of playoff implications, as the Browns currently hold the fifth-seed in the AFC and the Ravens are fighting to get in and will have an uphill battle to do so.
The Ravens are averaging 169 rushing yards per game, and the Browns have the league’s eighth-ranked rush defense, allowing 104.3 yards per game. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown in Tuesday’s victory over Dallas, so add in J.K. Dobbins, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards and this will be a good test for Cleveland.
That being said, the Browns have Myles Garrett and his 10.5 sacks on their side, so that’s a plus. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has thrown 21 touchdowns on the season, including four in last week’s win over the Titans. This one will be fun and this one will be close.
What Happens in Vegas Affects the Playoffs
It must be that time of year, because we’ve got more playoff implications when the Indianapolis Colts face the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday afternoon in Sin City. As it stands today, the Colts are 8-4 and hold the final AFC Wild-Card spot, while the Raiders are 7-5 and one place back.
Las Vegas needs to re-establish a running game that has faltered a bit, as the Raiders have run for a total of 201 yards in their last three games. The Colts need to find a way to stop Las Vegas tight end Darren Waller, who had 13 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the Raiders Week 13-barely victory over the New York Jets.
For Indianapolis’ part, the Colts will look to rookie RB Johnathan Taylor to get things going on the ground and veteran QB Philip Rivers to get them going in the air, despite dealing with a toe issue and being behind an offensive line that has been dealing with many an injury. If DeForest Buckner and the defensive line can bring pressure to Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr and if Rivers can avoid turning the ball over, Indy should have the advantage.
Meanwhile in the NFC
What would the NFC look like if the playoffs started today? See below for the top seven teams and their Week 14 opponents:
- New Orleans Saints (1st in the South) @ Philadelphia Eagles
- Green Bay Packers (1st in the North) @ Detroit Lions
- Los Angeles Rams (1st in the West) beat the New England Patriots on TNF
- New York Giants (1st in the East) vs. Arizona Cardinals
- Seattle Seahawks (Wild Card) vs. New York Jets
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Wild Card) vs. Minnesota Vikings
- Minnesota Vikings (Wild Card) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears are on the bubble and play the New York Giants and the Houston Texans, respectively, on Sunday.
The Los Angeles Clippers had a disappointing end to their season, but Paul George is going to be around for a while to make up for it. Yesterday, the six-time All-Star signed a four-year, $190 million contract extension, which includes a player option for the 2024-2025 season.
Though “Playoff P” didn’t have the type of playoffs that were expected of him in the bubble, he is still a top player, and he and Kawhi Leonard have a mission to accomplish. That being said, Leonard could become a free agent after this season, so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
It’s Hollywood, friends. There has to be some drama.