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NFL Week 16: Sundays -- The “prime time” slot for sports columns

December 28, 2013
By SHAUNNA DUNDER-HERSHBERGER - Times Leader Lifestyles Editor (sdunder@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

Do not adjust your newspapers.

Yes, you ARE reading my NFL column on a Sunday. Yes, it's weird for me too.

And because it seems like eons since the hijinks of week 16 took place, I'm not really sure what to do here. Review the action, which at this point would become something of a history lesson? Preview week 17, which substantially increases the difficulty in making snarky comments about stupid things players did? Ah, what the heck -- I'll just wing it!

Let's start with a quick rundown of week 16. It went something like this:

- "He-who-must-not-be-named" is now the holder of the NFL record for touchdown passes (51), besting Tom Brady's 50 TDs in 2007.

- The Ravens, Bears and Lions royally screwed up their playoff chances. The Lions, whose last win came on Thanksgiving, played themselves right out of contention all together. The Eagles blew the hinges off of the Bears doors, but yet the Bears can still win the NFC North. And the defending champs slipped out of the 6th and final playoff slot in favor of, surprisingly, the Dolphins, who moved up despite getting totally waxed by the Bills (if you're losing 19-0 to Buffalo, you don't belong in the playoffs. C'mon - even the BROWNS beat the Bills!).

- The Saints can't win on the road.

- The Seahawks, who always win at home, lost at home to the Cardinals.

Also this week:

- And yet somehow, the Cowboys are still in the playoff hunt.

Tony Romo had back surgery and the Cowboys will place him on IR. The Cowboys battle the Eagles for the NFC East title in the night game. Kyle Orton "Hears a Who" will start for Dallas. I don't know about anyone else, but the Cowboys do not have the look or feel of a playoff team. And for as good as Philadelphia has looked the last few weeks, it could wind up out of the playoffs if it loses in Dallas. Furthermore, the Cowboys would get the 4th seed, being a division winner, and would get to host a playoff game on wildcard weekend. Jerry Jones has been quite surly about his team all year. Perhaps his team can give him a last minute Christmas gift -- otherwise, Jason Garrett may want to make a resolution to find a new job next year.

- Cheeseheads the world over are smiling.

Aaron Rodgers is back for the Pack! Cheeseheads rejoice. Bears fans cry. You have to believe that Bears blowout loss to the Eagles was hugely deflating to a team that was flying pretty high headed into the game. That supposedly good defense got blitzed for 54 points - 21 of them coming before most viewers got comfortable on their couches. Now Chicago has to deal with a team that's no doubt rejuvenated by Rodgers' return. The Packers, though, aren't exactly scaring anyone with their defense, giving up more than 20 points a game since week 9. Clay Matthews is out again with a broken thumb, and their top cornerback Hayward is done for the year. Might be time for Rodgers to pull a fancy discount double check out of his bag of tricks!

- Get your pencils ready. Here are your playoff scenarios.

Sigh. I have a love-hate relationship with this part. I love the excitement of the final week playoff push but hate trying to figure it all out. But let me try to simplify this for you as best as I can. In the AFC, Denver, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Kansas City are all in. There's only one spot left, and there are four teams fighting for it (in order of who needs the least help to who needs the most help): Miami (vs. NY Jets), Baltimore (at Cincinnati), San Diego (vs. Kansas City) and Pittsburgh (vs. Cleveland).

In the NFC, Seattle, Carolina and San Francisco are in. This one is a little messier. Either Philadelphia or Dallas will get in, depending on who wins their matchup, which also determines the NFC East winner. Also, either Chicago or Green Bay will get in, depending on who wins their matchup, which also determines the NFC North. So that leaves just one more spot, which will go to either New Orleans or Arizona. New Orleans (vs. Tampa Bay) just needs to win and they're in. Arizona (vs. San Francisco) needs a win and a New Orleans loss to get in.

Got that? Good, because there's going to be a test later. Amaze your friends as you watch games and knowledgeably rattle off playoff scenarios. They'll think you're really something special. Or they might think you need to get a life and stop memorizing playoff scenarios. Either way, enjoy the games, and happy New Year, my friends!

 
 

 

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