New York Jets @ Buffalo
After falling short against the Patriots last Saturday, the Bills are now firmly entrenched as the AFC’s 5th seed in the playoffs. This means they’ll be traveling to either Houston or Kansas City for Wild Card Weekend. If Rex Ryan were still the Bills coach, this is where I would make a barbecue joke. He’s not though, which really leaves me twisting in the wind here. Then again, if he was still their coach it’s doubtful that they’d be in the playoffs at all, so the joke wouldn’t be relevant in that scenario either. Boy, what a catch 22. Ok, I’ll be honest, I’m not totally sure how catch 22s work. But I guarantee that this usage makes sense to me, and isn’t that what’s most important?
Cleveland @ Cincinnati
Come for the orange, stay for the ... hey where are you going?!? Well if you’d stuck around I could have told you about my one wish for this otherwise inconsequential game. As you may know, this is likely the last game Andy Dalton will play for Cincinnati, which means it’s the last chance he has to finally dye black stripes into his fiery orange hair to make his head look like a Bengals helmet. I’ve been waiting years for this, please make it happen Andy. I’ve never asked you for anything in my life, nor should I have, I don’t know you personally. If I did I would ask you for a large amount of money, but that’s irrelevant because, like I said, we’re not friends, nor are we even mere acquaintances. If somehow you read this and still want to give me that money (not as a loan, just a full gift) then fantastic, get in touch with me and I’ll give you my venmo details. But aside from all of that, the one thing I beg of you is that you put those stripes in your hair. Do the right thing Andy, thrill this adoring nation one last time.
Green Bay @ Detroit
If I were in the Lions’ PR department on January 1st I would launch a campaign proclaiming that the Lions will be the team of the new decade, the roaring 20s. This promotion basically writes itself. After that Detroit just has to go out and be the league’s premiere franchise for the next 10 years. But with such a clever bit of marketing behind them I’m not sure how they wouldn't go do just that. As for the Packers, yeah they’re in the playoffs and get a bye with a win. Big deal, that’s 2019 stuff; we’re not dealing with the present anymore, or the past for that matter, we’re in the future. And just as always, the history of the future will be written by the victors, and the victors will be the Detroit Lions. Remind me to check in with you guys in 2029 to see how this went. Also, I should temper this by saying this success is totally contingent on that marketing campaign. Without that I can’t promise anything.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City
Is the Chiefs defense good now, or have they just been playing bad offenses? KC is coming off consecutive wins in which they’ve only surrendered 3 points. Regardless of how cruddy the Broncos and Bears are, giving up a combined 6 points is about the best you can do. Of course, I think you and I both know what the best you can do really is ... That’s right, 0 points. Nicely done. You’re not quite as dumb as I thought you were. Ok smarty pants, answer me this: what would be the best result for the Chiefs’ offense? Bingo, infinity points. Jeez, you’re on fire. If Patrick Mahomes catches fire himself over the next month, coupled with continued success from the defense, this team could indeed be going to infinity ... and beyond?
Chicago @ Minnesota
The Vikings’ first home loss of the season against the Packers on Monday night has rendered this game meaningless; Minnesota is locked in at the 6th seed. A more cynical writer might suggest that a meaningless game is just the type of environment that Kirk Cousins will thrive in. Luckily for you, that’s not the kind of guy I am. Not anymore at least. New decade, new me! And for all you critics who want to bring up Kirk’s Monday night failures again, like I did last week (again that was 2010s me, I’m a different guy now, can’t stress that enough) chew on this: they don’t play playoff games on Mondays dummy.
Miami @ New England
Well they did it, the patriots won the AFC East again. Big effing whoop. You want to do something really impressive New England? Why don’t you win the Super Bowl again! No wait, don’t do that! Damn it! Well that’s that. Sorry everyone.
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay
Jameis Winston saved some real pure Jameis moments for a national audience last Saturday. In the first half he threw 3 interceptions, yet still managed to go to halftime tied with the Texans. It was a perfect microcosm of Winston’s season; he makes mind-boggling throws, terrible decisions, and then you look at the score and the Bucs are right in the game. Winston currently leads the league in passing yards and has thrown the 2nd most touchdowns, while also throwing the most interceptions. His 28 picks on the season are 10 more than his nearest competitor. If Jameis manages to throw two more on Sunday he’ll become only the twelfth man to throw 30 interceptions in a season, and the first since 1988. If it happens I sincerely hope that the game is temporarily halted so that the Falcons can ceremonially present the ball back to Winston. It would be a historical moment, and should be treated as such.
New Orleans @ Carolina
We often talk about who the hottest teams in the league are, but we rarely discuss who are the coldest. Let’s take a minute to appreciate the Panthers, who have now lost 7 straight, the second longest active streak in the league. These guys have played themselves into the 7th pick in the draft as of right now, and could climb even higher with another loss to close out the season. It’s rare that a team can have a winning record in one half of the season and go winless in the other. How rare, you ask? That’s a great question, and I think you’re just the type of industrious young scamp to go figure out the answer on your own, because I certainly don’t know it. To lock down a bye in the playoffs, the Saints need this win, and Carolina will be more than happy to oblige.
Washington @ Dallas
Well they did it, the Cowboys tricked us good. It seemed like they were finally putting it together after Week 15’s drubbing of the Rams, but no, that was just a mirage, a grift, a flim flam. Dallas followed up that triumph with a tumble in Philly, and now they’re teetering on the edge of destruction. Nothing would be more fitting for the 2019 Cowboys than to lose to Washington at home and have the Giants beat the Eagles, meaning they blew yet another opportunity. But with starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins out for Washington, the question now is can Case be keen? Umm, I don’t know. I tend to doubt that he’ll lead them to victory, but then again this Dallas team has taught me to never underestimate their ability to lose games.
Oakland @ Denver
Guys, I don’t know how to tell you this, but the Raiders can still make the playoffs. I know, I didn’t think it was possible either. In fact, I think I may have explicitly stated that it wasn't possible last week, but I was wrong. If Oakland wins in Denver, the Colts win in Jacksonville, the Ravens beat the Steelers, and the Texans beat the Titans, the Raiders will make it into the playoffs at 8-8. I didn’t know this was a possibility minutes ago, but now I want it to happen very badly. No, not Dalton tiger stripe badly, but it would be a real hoot.
Arizona @ Los Angeles Rams
One year removed from a trip to the Super Bowl and here the Rams are not even mounting a defense to their NFC crown. It’s just sad. Everybody’s pretty broken up about it. The good news for LA is that they still have a lot of talent on their roster. The bad news is that they’re paying through the nose for that talent, and they may soon have to part ways with a number of key contributors. I’m just assuming that, I haven’t looked at the numbers, and probably wouldn’t even understand them if I did. All I know is this, when you build a Super Bowl loser, eventually you start running out of money. Maybe the Rams got a bunch of cash from their grandmas for Christmas though, that would help. Then again, their grandmas would have to also figure out a way to restructure some contracts and convince the NFL to increase the salary cap even more than they already are. Hmm, I don’t know, I’m starting to think grandma might be in over her head on this one.
Philadelphia @ New York Giants
After losing to the Dolphins in Week 13 to fall to 5-7, the Eagles have scratched and clawed (or should it be taloned? Can “taloned” be used as a verb?) their way to first place in the NFC East. And how have they done it? By playing other teams from the NFC East. As we’ve all come to understand, that division is total garbanzo, so having a schedule that’s backloaded with those squads has been a real boon for Philly. That’s not to say that they’ve cruised through December though. Each game has been tightly contested, requiring season-saving plays on a regular basis. I expect nothing different from this match-up against a Giants team coming off an overtime win over Washington in one of the more thrilling games between 3-11 teams you’ll ever see. I say that hypothetically of course, because odds are you didn’t actually see it at all. It’s cool, I don’t even think the league monitored it at all either. The teams were on the honor system; just go play, then come back and tell us who won. If you ask me the Giants got a little overzealous by claiming Daniel Jones threw 5 touchdowns, but hey, shoot your shot. A closer eye will be kept on this game, one that I expect Philly to pull out late once again.
Indianapolis @ Jacksonville
A lot of people would tell you this game is meaningless, but don’t tell that to the Colts! They’re going for .500 here, and ya know what, that would be pretty darn impressive. So go open up your Twitter app, and delete that tweet you sent to the Colts’ official team account in which you wrote “@Colts this upcoming game you’re going to play against Jacksonville will be meaningless. #Kony2012” and delete it! Also, why do you still use that Kony2012 hashtag? Move on. A win here would help Indy move on from an unexpectedly tumultuous season into a hopeful future. So get off their backs already.
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
The Ravens have clinched the top seed in the AFC, and thus may throw the rest of the conference’s playoff picture off balance with their strategy in this game. Well ok, not the whole picture, but definitely the part of the picture with the 6 seed in it. With Lamar Jackson resting the Steelers have a much better chance of winning this game and sliding into the postseason with a Titans loss in Houston ...
Tennessee @ Houston
... That being said, if the Chiefs win their morning game over the Chargers the Texans will be locked into the 4th spot regardless of the outcome here. So, it stands to reason that Houston may rest some players as well. Of course, that would leave the Titans with an easier path to the playoffs, because they need only to win here to get in. So the Steelers need to root for the Chargers to win and John Harbaugh to exercise extreme caution with his roster. None of that will matter though if Tennessee simply wins, which will undoubtedly be the case, because for the Texans to prevail it would require them to win a third straight game, something they’ve refused to do all season. They also haven’t lost consecutive games either, so if we follow the win-win-loss pattern that they’ve laid out for us that means that they’ll definitely get to the AFC championship game and lose. Can’t argue with that!
San Francisco @ Seattle
If Lynch does anything to positively impact this game I'll probably cry. And if things don’t go great, I’ll probably cry too. Also, if the wind blows in the right direction I’ll probably cry. You guys, I think something is wrong with my eyes.