The 9-3 New York Jets are, obviously, still smarting from the national embarrassment of Monday night’s 45-3 lathering by the New England Patriots. The Jets can go a long way toward soothing their wounded feelings this weekend, however, if they can defeat the Miami Dolphins.
That is because the Jets are one of four teams that clinch playoff berths this weekend. The others are New England, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Let’s break down the scenarios:
New England Patriots: A victory in Chicago against the Bears and they are in. Even a tie will do. A Miami loss or tie combined with a Jacksonville loss or tie would get the Pats into the dance, as would a Miami loss or tie combined with an Indianapolis loss or tie.
New York Jets: They need some help to clinch a playoff berth this weekend, but it could happen. A Jets’ victory combined with a loss or tie by both San Diego and Jacksonville will get the Jets in. A victory, plus losses or ties by San Diego and Indianapolis will also do the trick. If the Jets tie, an Oakland loss or tie plus losses by the Chargers and Colts would get them in.
Pittsburgh Steelers: This one is guaranteed to have you reaching for the Excedrin. There are five ways the Steelers can get in this week. 1. A Pittsburgh win plus Jacksonville loss/tie, New England win/tie and Miami loss/tie. 2. Steelers win, plus Indianapolis loss/tie, Patriots loss/tie and Miami loss/tie. 3. Pittsburgh wins, plus the Colts lose or tie, the Patriots win or tie and both Oakland and San Diego lose or tie. 4. Steelers win, and Oakland, Miami and Indianapolis lose or tie. 5. Steelers tie, Indainapolis loses and Miami, Oakland and San Diego lose or tie. Phew!
Atlanta Falcons: Here are the four most likely scenarios for the Falcons to become the first NFC team to grab a playoff berth. First: Falcons win, Giants and Eagles lose. Second: Falcons win, Giants and Packers lose. Third: Falcons win, Eagles and Packers lose (Giants fans should love this scenario). Fourth: Falcons tie, Giants, Eagles and Packers lose, Tampa Bay loses or ties.
The Patriots in the AFC East and the Steelers in the AFC North have established themselves as the best teams in the conference. The AFC South and West look like they will get only one playoff team apiece. In the South, Jacksonville (7-5) looks to have the edge over the reeling Indianapolis Colts (6-6). In the West, Kansas City (8-4) has what should be a comfortable lead over Oakland (6-6) and San Diego (6-6).
That leaves the Jets and Ravens, losers of highly anticipated Week 13 showdowns, as the wild card teams. It also means that, unless something changes, the road to the Super Bowl will go through New England. That, of course, is bad news for the rest of the AFC as the Patriots almost never lose at home.
For the Jets, the question now is whether or not they can recover from Monday night's beating. Or whether they have been exposed as a pretender who has spent the season eking out victories over bad teams.
So, where do we go from here? The good news is that the Jets have a three-game lead in the wild card with four games left to play. It would take a meltdown of epic proportions for the Jets not to make the playoffs. Yet, right now can you really see this team finishing any better than 2-2? How can you expect a team that was so over-matched in New England to go on the road, in the freezing cold and beat the 9-3 Pittsburgh Steelers or the 9-3 Chicago Bears? If you even dare look past that, this team's road to a Super Bowl will ultimately have to go through New England at some point, which is a prospect that is currently impossible to feel confident about.
The New York Giants are 8-4, right in the middle of both the race for the NFC East title and a wild-card berth. After Week 13's NFL action, though, is remains true that if they want to ensure getting into the NFC playoffs it would be a good idea for the Giants to wrest the NFC East title away from the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Giants did exactly what they needed to do Sunday, defeating the Washington Redskins, 31-7, to stay tied with Philadelphia atop the NFC East.
Here is a look at the Giants four remaining games: at Vikings (5-7), vs. Eagles (8-4), at Packers (8-4), at Redskins (5-7).
Here is a look at the Eagles four remaining games: at Cowboys (4-8), at Giants (8-4), vs. Vikings (5-7), vs. Cowboys (4-8)
Needless to say, Giants' fans need to gulp and root -- hard -- for the hated Dallas Cowboys in their two meetings with the Eagles over the next four weeks. The Giants also need a win at New Meadowlands Stadium when the Eagles come to town in two weeks. Philly won the first meeting between the two teams, so a win is needed to gain control of the division and erase an Eagle tie-breaker advantage.
When it comes to the wild-card picture in the NFC, there are still a lot of teams in the race. Atlanta (10-2) leads the NFC South, Chicago (9-3) leads the NFC North, and St. Louis and Seattle are tied atop the West at 6-6. Neither the Rams or Seahawks are real wild-card threats.
Other teams in the picture, though, are New Orleans (9-3), Green Bay (8-4) and Tampa Bay (7-5). The Giants game vs. the Packers at Lambeau Field in three weeks shapes up as a critical one for the playoff hopes of both teams.