With two weeks to go in the NFL’s regular schedule, the NFC playoff picture is coming into focus, but the AFC outlook just gets muddier and muddier.
After a day of wild finishes and outstanding individual performances, the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals have all clinched their NFC division titles. The Philadelphia Eagles, with a win over San Francisco yesterday, claimed at least a wild card slot and still have the inside track to claim the NFC East title.
Green Bay has an easy road to a wild card berth, despite its last-second loss to Pittsburgh yesterday. Dallas or Philadelphia will likely claim the other wild card. The New York Giants, who play tonight, are the only other team with a real shot to make it, and they’re essentially on life support.
In the AFC, the Colts have locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. San Diego owns the West title and Cincinnati, while not yet confirmed, have what amounts to a two-game lead in the AFC North because of their perfect record within the division. New England has also separated itself in the AFC East.
From there, the AFC wild card derby is in chaos. Denver, which inexplicably lost to Oakland yesterday, and Baltimore have the inside track at 8-6 but there are six other teams -- Miami, the Jets, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Houston at 7-7, lurking in the weeds.
The Steelers, after losing five in a row, saved themselves from elimination with their last-gasp victory over the Packers. They must play Baltimore next week in what amounts to an elimination game for Pittsburgh.
Dumb And Dumber
Winning erases a lot of sins, especially if you’re an NFL coach.
What were Mike Tomlin and Jeff Fisher thinking?
Fisher’s Tennessee Titans were tied 24-24 with Miami in the last minute of the game. They had the Dolphins backed up to their own goal line and still three timeouts left.
Instead of forcing the issue by calling those timeouts in the hope of getting the ball back, perhaps in field goal position, Fisher chose to let the Dolphins drain the clock. His poor judgment was wiped away when the Titans got a turnover and turned it into the game-winning field goal.
Tomlin’s gaffe was even more perplexing. With under four minutes remaining, after a Jeff Reid field goal had given Pittsburgh a two-point lead, Tomlin chose to try an onside kick, rather than kick it deep. The Packers then got the ball and proceeded to regain the lead with Aaron Rogers turned the stategy into a Green Bay touchdown with just over two minutes remaining.
When Ben Roethlisberger engineered a frantic last-minute drive to produce the game-winning touchdown, it got Tomlin off the hook.