This thread is for discussion of week 17 plus the playoffs all the way through the Superbowl.
Some interesting matchups going into week 17, where teams will have to decide whether or not to rest their starters. IMO, teams that have clinched their spots should treat it exactly like the third preseason game: rest anyone who is dinged up, otherwise play your starters into the 3rd.
Titans @ Colts (Sunday Night)
Tony Dungy had a long history of resting his starters after clinching their spot, and then getting eliminated in the playoffs. Last year, IIRC, he didn’t rest anybody and they won it all. Did he learn his lesson? (Or am I mis-remembering?) The Titans and Browns are surely interested in what he wants to do. For the Titans, it’s simple: win and you’re in, lose and stay home. Let’s see if Young can pull it together in the dome.
Cowboys @ Redskins
With Romo and TO both hurt, I expect the Cowboys to keep them out, effectively conceding this game. Meanwhile the Redskins are in if they win, though with help they could still make it even if they lose. Personally I’m rooting for Washington to make it, since that would be the second consecutive year the NFC East sends three representatives to the post-season.
I’m not liking the sound of Brett Favre’s post-game comments yesterday where he complained about it being cold. Uh, Brett, you’re aware you play in Green Bay, right? I mean, I get that Chicago probably has more severe wind chills, but come on, man. You aren’t instilling confidence in your ability to weather the elements after your first round bye.
Cleveland is in a bit of an odd position. They not only haven’t clinched a playoff birth, but their fate is completely out of their hands. They are in with a Titans loss, stay home with a Titans win. (And the Titans play after the Browns.) It doesn’t matter either way if the Browns actually lose to the 49ers. Well, it doesn’t matter for playoff implications, but I’d think they’d want to try and re-establish a little momentum after the turd they laid yesterday. I just find it odd that a team could miss the playoffs AND legitimately rest their starters. That doesn’t happen very often.
I can’t think of a less-appealing wildcard opponent in recent memory. They give both the Steelers and Chargers solid motivation to play for the #3 seed to avoid them, with their ability to play well anywhere under any weather conditions.
With still something left to play for, the Bucs rested their starters in the second half against the 49ers yesterday, resulting in a loss. Some would say the Bucs intentionally sandbagged in order to get the 4 seed instead of the 3, meaning they would face the Giants instead of the Vikings/Redskins. I can’t really fault them for that. Jeff Garcia in particular has been a Giant-killer, and it is of interest that this will be the third time he’s faced the Giants in the playoffs on three different teams: 49ers, Eagles, and now Bucs. He is 2-0 so far, with both games going down to the wire. We’'ll see a week from next if this gambit pays off.
Patriots @ Giants
This is the historic matchup of the weekend, but most won’t be able to see it. I have argued before that the NFL Network Thursday games don’t change any game’s availability, because they are usually games that wouldn’t be broadcast outside their home markets anyway. I forgot about the traditional Giants late-season Saturday games, though. Those have always been nationally televised games, but now on NFL Network (both last year and this) most of the country is being denied a game they would otherwise be able to see. (I didn’t notice because I get to see them, being in a local market.)
Mike Francessa made a pretty compelling argument about why the Giants should try their hardest in this game. First, the Giants aren’t going to the Superbowl, but even if they did, ending the Patriots bid for a perfect season would be more memorable. While I agree that beating the Patriots would be one for the history books, I don’t necessarily agree that the Giants have no chance in the playoffs.
I don’t hate the Giants chances against the Bucs in the wildcard round. The Giants biggest weaknesses are wind, rain, cold, and playing at home, none of which should be part of the wildcard game in Tampa Bay. The Giants have won seven straight on the road, so going on the road in the playoffs is probably a good thing.