OK, so this is how Week 16 appears to be shaping up, particularly how it affects Week 17, as I sit here pondering how the AFC Wild Card picture may have just been indelibly affected by a bungled would-be-game-tying extra-point by the Bengals:
The NFC playoff picture is wonderfully mediocre: It's a battle to see which .500 team will make the playoffs! (I love it: The inevitable result of the league's relentless pursuit of parity. Now watch the .500 playoff team win the freaking conference title.)
The AFC playoff picture is wonderfully competitive: Think about the teams that are involved -- Jets? Titans? Who would have predicted that back in August?
And it looks like next week's regular season finale is going to include a bunch of de facto playoff games for the Wild Card spots in both conferences, with 12 teams battling for 4 spots:
Looking ahead in the NFC: With at least 8 wins, the Eagles (controlling their own destiny) host the stumbling 7-8 Falcons. The other 7-8 contenders in action, in order of easiest-to-hardest match-ups: RAMS at Vikings, GIANTS at Redskins, PANTHERS at Saints, PACKERS at Bears.
Looking ahead in the AFC: The Jets have the inside track (especially if they can get win No. 9 on Monday night), playing Oakland. The Titans have it roughest, hosting the Pats. Intriguingly, the 8-7 Jags play the 8-7 Chiefs. Cincy hosts the looking-to-spoil Steelers. Denver (controlling their own destiny) hosts the 49ers.
Come on: Who doesn't love a complex "playoff scenario" breakdown?!
How can anyone NOT be rooting for the Titans and Vince Young to make the playoffs! What a story! 6 wins in a row and contention in the AFC!
And it appears the NFC has nearly mathematically assured that at least one playoff team will be no better than .500. If the Eagles beat the Giants tomorrow, it's a guarantee! Embrace mediocrity!
(The AFC Wild Cards, meanwhile, are totally up for grabs, making next week full of de facto playoff games and scoreboard-watching!)
Meanwhile: Texans shock Colts with Dayne Power! Chris Weinke: 4-7 32 yards FOR THE GAME... and he WON! Saints pummel the Giants! Ravens pummel the defending champs! Pats hold off the Jags to clinch the AFC East! Post your NFL analysis here!
Let me just jump in: What a Rookie of the Year race! All the top contenders took it up a notch today:
Maurice Jones-Drew? With today's 2 TDs, he's got 12, which on Monday will be Top 5 in TDs among all NFL RBs. And he's going to have nearly 900 yards rushing... on a team with another RB who has more than 1,100 yards. That's wild. If you factor in the expectations based on his draft status and backfield competition, he's been amazing.
Speaking of draft expectations, how about Marques Colston? He's got another TD today, and unlike MJ-D, Colston's team is a Super Bowl contender, certainly in large part thanks to the unexpected contributions of the rookie.
(Please stop pushing Reggie Bush as ROY. Even with today's 126 rushing yards and TD, he's not even the best rookie on his own team. The Saints ROY is Colston. If draft position and expectations actually did play into ROY voting, how could Colston be denied? A 7th-round pick from Hofstra? NO ONE saw his season coming. Continues to be one of the season's most amazing stories. Bush? Hell, wasn't this what everyone expected? His slow start puts him behind the others.)
Then there's Vince Young. QB is the hardest position for a rookie to step in and be effective in, but VY has made it look easy. Today's game was possibly his most complete yet: 2 TDs passing, 1 TD rushing. 13/20 for 183 yards, with 8 rushes at nearly 8 ypc. And, of course, managing a late drive leading to the winning FG, which is becoming a signature. Oh, and the Titans are suddenly an 8-7 playoff contender in the AFC, which is actually saying something huge. In the NFC right now, they'd be considered a Top 3 team. (Sort of makes you wonder if keeping VY on the bench to start the season enabled this late-season push... or cost the Titans early wins -- after that gruesome 0-5 start -- that will ultimately keep them out of the playoffs.)