The National Football League turns for home and comes down the stretch with the 2017/18 season coming to a garrison finish and a climactic ending. Will your team cruise into the playoffs with room to spare and a wind at its back? Is your team’s postseason future still an open question, decided in the days to come by the football Gods? Is your team hanging by a bare thread? Are you already thinking about the draft? Gildshire Magazines’ Sports Division examines the big picture, looking for insight and clarity.
AFC Teams Safely Invited to the Postseason Dance: Pittsburgh is the Number One seed right now, but New England can take the top spot back with a win this Sunday in the Steel City. The Patriots are pointing toward the game against the Steelers, as they looked flat Monday night against the Miami Dolphins. The surprising Jacksonville Jaguars fit the safe profile, as well. The Jags are 9-3 and riding the top spot in the AFC South. They may not be able to hold off Tennessee, but ought to make it as a Wildcard even if they don’t capture the southern flag.
AFC Teams in the Playoffs…For Now: Just a few weeks ago the aforementioned Tennessee Titans looked to be safely in the AFC South driver’s seat. Jacksonville? They would fade away because they always fade away. Well, not so fast, my friend. With just a few weeks left, Jacksonville pried the lead away from Tennessee. The Titans joined Buffalo and Kansas City in the danger zone when they lost last Sunday at Arizona. The Bills climbed from out-of-the-picture into the picture with their snow globe win over Indianapolis. Kansas City reversed their month-long slide with a much-needed victory over Oakland.
AFC Teams on the Outside…For Now: The San Diego Chargers were one of the hottest teams in the league until Philadelphia derailed them last Sunday. Now they have to scramble back in. Baltimore has that certain Cinderella smell about them since they got hot at the right time. Oakland is still breathing but needs help from other teams. Miami has a pulse, but just a thread of one.
NFC Teams Safely Invited to the Postseason Dance: Philadelphia clinched the NFC East last Sunday but did it at a horrible cost. Starting quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a torn knee ligament and is therefore out for the season. The Eagles are still good, but are they transcendent without Wentz? Minnesota is the second seed right now, having vanquished the NFC North pretenders.
NFC Teams in the Playoffs…For Now: One would think a 9-4 record and first place in the division would make a team pretty comfortable down the stretch. Yet, for fans of the Los Angeles Rams, there is a nagging feeling of something slipping away. L.A plays at Seattle this Sunday. If they lose, the Seahawks take their place as the three seed in the NFC, because of sweeping the season series. Carolina and New Orleans have the same 9-4 record the Los Angeles has, but they are a bit more secure. They can’t fall asleep, though, because the teams in the next category are waiting to pounce. Speaking of not sleeping, Atlanta is in the most precarious NFC playoff spot of all, residing now in the sixth spot.
NFC Teams on the Outside…For Now. We mentioned Seattle, who could vault from out of the picture to the Number Three spot with a home win this week over the Rams. Behind the Hawks are Detroit, Green Bay, and Dallas, all with identical 7-6 records and waiting for one of the playoff teams ahead of them to falter. The Packers have quarterback Aaron Rodgers coming back from injury. The Cowboys have running back Ezekiel Elliott coming back from suspension.
Didn’t see your team listed in bold as we come down the stretch? Ah, too bad, but there is always next year. On Dec. 10, 2016, Jacksonville was where your team is this year. Now, they’re a real-live contender. That’s what makes football such a compelling sport to follow. Next year, when we come down the stretch, your team may be right there. For now, though, enjoy the drama.