It’s here! The final week of the season! I couldn’t be more excited for the drama that will ensue here on Sunday. This added seventh seed has given us a race for multiple playoff spots, unlike years past. We also don’t have teams resting players for the last two weeks because byes are already locked up. This was an excellent idea from the NFL and I hope it stays.
We have multiple division titles on the line and, quite possibly, an 11-5 team missing the playoffs, while a 6-10 team makes it. I honestly couldn’t have it any other way. Nothing speaks 2020 more than that.
Some teams are playing for the future of their franchise, while others are hoping to give young players that much needed experience. With so many make or break games, I couldn’t just pick my favorite three. So here is every crucial playoff determining matchup on Sunday, and a look at who I think will make the playoffs!
Miami Dolphins 10-5 @ Buffalo Bills 12-3 (-4)
Miami is in a win and get in kind of situation. They are currently sitting at fifth place in the playoff standings, but Buffalo isn’t going to just roll over here. The Bills are second, and fighting, with the Steelers for that seed. They need to win in order to fully lock that in. Buffalo won the first matchup but this is a different Dolphins defense. We are talking about the league leader in points against and takeaways. This is the hungriest Miami team I’ve ever seen in my life. So hungry for a taste of the playoffs, that they benched the future of their franchise last week. Some people can hate them for that, but you are knocking on the door of the playoffs. Go get that win! Players are going to rally around that. Yeah, this will hurt Tua, but this can also harden him – making him a better professional and hopefully inspire him to work. With that said, I still believe this Buffalo team is no joke. They rank second in scoring over the last three weeks. Each one of those wins were dominating. This team is hitting a stride that is eerily similar to the Titans of last year. A solid core of guys who believe in the scheme, have a great coaching staff, and have star players thriving in the moment. Stefon Diggs is on a legendary streak right now. Over his last three he is averaging 10 catches, 140 yards, one touchdown. Xavier Howard is an elite cover corner. My eyes will be glued to that matchup. Ultimately, I think Miami actually comes out and somehow stops this Buffalo offense. Fitz will win this game, helping Miami make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Baltimore Ravens 10-5 (-11.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals 4-10-1
This kind of seems like a gimme for the Ravens. Winners of four straight and in a situation where it’s win and get in. How do they not come out strong and dominate the Bengals? Buffalo may be second in scoring, but Baltimore is number one. Lamar has this offense absolutely rolling, averaging 213 rushing yards over the last three. Hollywood Brown has caught a touchdown in four of the last five games, and Mark Andrews has averaged the most yards in the previous four. So they are moving the ball on the ground m, like always, but Lamar is actually completing the required throws. His quarterback rating is 115.5 since coming off the Covid list. I’m not saying he had an injury, but I’m impressed with what I’ve seen. He knew he needed to come out and be better if Baltimore was going to make the playoffs. Cincinnati has won their last two. The offense just put up 540 yards of total offense. Let me repeat that, THE BENGALS SOMEHOW MANAGED 540 YARDS OF TOTAL OFFENSE. Cincinnati isn’t that good – Houston is just that bad. Baltimore isn’t as bad as Houston defensively, and because of that will keep this team in check. Will they cover the double digit spread? Maybe, but I’d stay away. Baltimore wins.
Pittsburgh Steelers 12-3 @ Cleveland Browns 10-5 (-7.5)
Well, once again we are gonna have to sit here and wonder which Steelers team is gonna show up. Yes, the division is on lock, but Pittsburgh has to come ready to play. Right now it’s looking like a matchup with Baltimore, and you want to avoid that at all cost in my option. Take the playbook out of Randy’s hands, let Ben and Matt Canada go to work. Canada has a background of getting guys moving and executing in open space. Let Ben take advantage of zone, or allow our talent to prove they’re better than the opposing team. Either way, the pieces are in place. We saw that in the second half of last week’s game when the offense realized that everyone knew they were going to throw short. You can also speculate which Browns team will show up as well. After the Titans game, TV personalities crowned the Browns the best team in the AFC North. Yet, this team got embarrassed on Sunday when they choked away clinching a playoff berth. Now, that may be because they had a replacement group at wide receiver, but we have to expect them to come out ready – right? One thing Pittsburgh is bad at, is scoring fast and early. Cleveland’s specialty is to score early and run the clock out. Baker has to get this playoff monkey off his back. He is also due for a payday. There is something dangerous about a man who knows a huge sum of money is at stake. I truly think this can have a large impact on his future with the franchise. With big names out in free agency, it’s possible they move on and get a winner in there. There is winning talent on this roster. Now, they are getting a crucial gift for this game. Tomlin said Mason Rudolph is starting this game. Pittsburgh must believe that if they get two or three touchdowns, then it’s the same outcome. Taking everything into consideration, I’ll take the Browns to win and make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Dallas Cowboys 6-9 (-3) @ New York Giants 5-10
What a travesty this division has turned into. A nine loss team is going to win this division. That means a losing team is going to make the playoffs because the whole division is awful. Even though it seemed bleak after the Dak injury, Andy Dalton has somewhat turned this team around. I say somewhat because he finally passed Dak up on passing yards last game, even though he has played in four more games. The Giants are a team who probably have no business winning this division and probably don’t want to. They have a lot of holes still on this offense. They almost need to lose this game and take the top ten pick as opposed to falling back to the 20’s. Still, Daniel Jones has had another up and down season. This one impacted by injuries, but we still saw the athleticism, the arm strength, and a will to win. The defense is a solid building block that is maybe a better pass rusher away from taking a big step. Is it beneficial for the Cowboys to win? Jerry Jones would love it, but what would they gain? I see a defense with a lot of holes and a team that isn’t going to make noise in the playoffs. Either way, whoever wins this still needs the WFT to lose. Give me the Cowboys to win a close one.
Green Bay Packers 12-3 (-5.5) @ Chicago Bears 8-7:
Is there any way Green Bay actually loses this game? The team has a chance to receive the only first round bye in the NFC. Personally, I think it’s crucial to give your team rest. Allow their bodies to recover. These are professionally athletes, but they are still human. You also have Aaron Rodgers fighting for an MVP trophy. Knowing that his biggest competitor is taking the week off, I’m sure he’ll want to come out, ball out, probably do an interview after the game about why he should be MVP, and then walk off the field like the true boss he his. Chicago was torched for four touchdowns in the last meeting. Chicago also had three crucial turnovers. One of which was returned to the crib early, and that really sucked the energy out of Chicago. Regardless, this Bears team is scrappy. David Montgomery is finally producing. The offense has scored 30 or more in their last four games. So, can the Bears beat the Packers? I believe the answer is no. They could maybe win out against another team, just not this one. Packers win and win the NFC regular season crown for the second straight year.
Arizona Cardinals 8-7 (-1) @ LA Rams 9-6
I understand injures are a part of the game, but seeing Goff and Kupp be ruled out for this deciding game is heartbreaking. Goff just had successful surgery on his thumb, while Kupp was placed on the Covid list with a positive result. Does that mean you can count out the Rams? Hell no! They still have a top tier defense that can win them games. If the Patriots defense could win Cam Newton games, why can’t this group? They will have their hands full with the high powered offense of Arizona rolling in. Only just a couple weeks ago, this Rams team beat the Cardinals 38-28. Hopkins had an alright game to his standards but the Rams did a solid job of neutralizing Murray. He was only able to get 188 yards of total offense. Drake was able to get another 49 on the ground, but they just couldn’t seem to click. The Rams, however, couldn’t be stopped, having over 460 total yards. If you think that John Wolford is going to repeat those numbers, please think twice. He brings a very athletic and mobile play style, similar to Murray. He was used in practice as a mimic for Murray, but will that be enough? As much as it pains me to say this, because most of you know I love the Rams – I believe it will! The Cardinals have taken a lot of huge leaps for this teams future, but this growth is something to build on. The Rams’ nucleus is still relatively intact. I think the studs on the defense will carry this team in a close one. Rams win.
Jacksonville Jaguars 1-14 @ Indianapolis Colts 10-5 (-11.5)
So if I’m the Jaguars, I’m sending the Jets some sort of thank you gift. Them winning, and giving Jacksonville the chance at Trevor Lawrence, will put their franchise in the drivers seat for success. But this team isn’t going to give him a lot of help. They have decent weapons on offense, but a very average line for protection. The defense, sadly, has holes everywhere. They give up the most yards in the NFL, second worst in scoring, and overall you just don’t see people swarming to the ball. That’s ok, because this was a lost year anyways. Hang your hat on the fact that you will be getting your franchise quarterback in the offseason. I expect the Colts to come out and dominate this game. They need to win this game alongside some help to make the playoffs. They are on the outside looking in even if they finish at 11-5, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make it. Cleveland and Miami both have very tough matchups this week. So can a team who in my opinion is one of the most well rounded teams, actually miss the playoffs? With a Hall of Famer at QB, the best offensive line, a rookie running back hitting his stride, and a defense who has been stout all year – The Colts will win, but even with all of those tools, they will still miss the playoffs.
Tennessee Titans 10-5 (-7.5) @ Houston Texans 4-11
The Titans were probably hoping to have the division locked up by now, but they have to be thankful they, at the very least, control their destiny. Win a win here, the Titans are going to win the division and host a playoff game, maybe even against a Baltimore team looking for revenge. But the real question is, are the Titans legit? I mean, I think they have a winning recipe in place offensively. Henry is a punisher, Tannehill can manage the game, and the wideouts are oozing with talent. Corey Davis and A.J. Brown both have a chance to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark on Sunday, with just 55 yards needed for Davis and 76 for Brown. Issue is, I don’t believe the defense will help them out. T.J. Watt leads the league in sacks with 15 sacks and the Titans only have 15 total. This passing defense is just atrocious. Watson isn’t the type of quarterback they should sleep on either. Despite all of the downturns this Houston team has faced, Watson has been great since the departure of O’ Brian. It just sucks that this team has a top five talent at quarterback and nothing else around him. Hell, they don’t even have a first or second round pick this year. How do you expect this man to blossom and be great if you have him surrounded by practice squad-level talent. This Houston team screams a dumpster fire to me. I feel for the fan base and so do the players. Watch the JJ Watt interview about his team’s hustle and tell me they don’t see it as well. Even with that spark, I don’t see a world where Tennessee loses this game. The play style should dominate a horrendous rushing defense. Players know what’s on the line here. They believe they can win the division, and if the defense can get lucky here and there, why the hell not! Titans win.
The Washington Football Team 6-9 (-2) @ Philadelphia Eagles 4-10-1
Is this the most important game of the week? I know, how can I say that when we are talking about arguably the two worst teams in the article, but this has huge impacts on the future of a couple franchises. WFT just released the future of their franchise in Haskins. Alex Smith is coming off a life saving surgery, while being 36 years old. So yeah, this team in Washington has a ton of talent but is it beneficial for them to be in the playoffs? Especially with this upcoming class being deeper at QB. Their best two offensive weapons are hobbled with injures. Why not just take the L and know that better things are on the way. While doing that, you also allow a division rival to move back 10-15 picks in the draft, making their future seem murkier. But river boat Ron is a winner. In his first season he has taken this team to a level no one saw coming. That front seven is vicious. Chase young looks like a future DPOTY winner in just his rookie season. This team has the talent and the coaching, but they are just missing the captain for the ship. Maybe they should of taken the guy opposite of them last year. Jalen Hurts has won the job away from a guy who is one of the highest paid athletes in the game. A man who was in MVP conversations before he tore his ACL. Yeah, this has been an ugly season for Philly. There’s also a possibility the coaching staff won’t make it out either, but there is something to hang their hat on. This team’s questions will come as soon as the regular season is over. Ultimately, I think they find a suitor for Wentz and allow Hurts to lead this team moving forward. He has shown the ability to run and pass, throwing for over 300 yards just last week. He beat a red hot Saints team who was looking to win the NFC crown. That’s a tough ask, especially in your first start. So I’m going to take the Eagles to win here, giving the Cowboys the NFC East crown, and a first round loss in the playoffs.