Okay, with two weeks to go in this puppy, here's how the NFC South Division standings shake out (excluding the Buccaneers, who are 2-12 and neither here nor there):
New Orleans – 6-8
Carolina – 5-8-1
Atlanta – 5-9
Whoever comes out on top out of this mess will be the #4 seed in the NFC playoffs, and will be at HOME in the first round of the playoffs against the #5 seed, who will, at the very worst, have 10 wins. This is the most exciting division race ever!
The Falcons are at the bottom of the pole right now, and it's very simple for them. Their last two games are against the two teams ahead of them in the South, and if they lose one – they're out. But if they win them both – they will be the 2014 NFC South Division Champions at 7-9!
I detailed Carolina's scenario in the last week's column, but to revisit – they just have to win their last two games and hope the Saints lose one of their last two, and the Panthers will be the 2014 NFC South Division Champions at 6-8-1!
As for New Orleans, they're in the driver's seat at the moment, and a pair of wins to close the season would make them the 2014 NFC South Division Champions at 8-8! Respectable, right? Even Stephen? Good enough for jazz?
(7-7) Cleveland @ (5-8-1) Carolina
The era of Johnny Football, Savior of Cleveland has begun! Yeah, no.
Carolina was kept alive on life support all season by the top-to-bottom incompetence of this historically lowly division, and now they've come too far back to taste the candy and they have grown mens work to do.
(5-9) Atlanta @ (6-8) New Orleans
Per the aforementioned scenarios above, the playoffs have begun for the Falcons and this week's tilt with the Saints is an elimination game for them. As such, I was perfectly prepared to pick them to win this bad boy on account of the need/desperation factor.
But then I did a little digging and figuring... and as best as I can figure... IF Carolina beats Cleveland this week... this game is also an elimination game for the Saints, as well.
The Panthers and Falcons are going to play each other in the season finale next week. As I've explained above, if the Panthers win this week's game and next week's game against Atlanta to finish 7-8-1, if the Saints lose this game to the Falcons, the best they could finish is 7-9 = Panthers win the division.
Meanwhile, as alluded to above, if the Falcons beat the Saints and give them a 9th loss and Atlanta wins the next two, Atlanta would own the head-to-head tie-breaker on the Saints on account of sweeping them this year.
That was probably TMI, but the point is: While this is 100% an elimination game for the Falcons, a Panthers win on Sunday would make it one for the Saints, as well. And at the end of the day, in a playoff elimination game between these two teams... I'll take the team playing on their own home dome turf.
(8-6) Kansas City @ (9-5) Pittsburgh
It's Week 16 and no Kansas City wide-receiver has caught a single touchdown pass so far this season. Why, Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown has pulled in 11 of them all by himself!
I'm finished with taking the Chiefs seriously. (And I'm especially lifetime-finished with Chiefs WR, Dwayne Bowe, whom I draft in fantasy every year – in the 4th round this year, mind you – for my team that failed to make the playoffs yet again).
You can't go to the playoffs without throwing a touchdown to one of your wide-receivers during the entire season. You just can't.
This is football, people.
Not pickle ball.
The FBJ Absolute Slam-dunk, 10-Out-of-10-Times, Pig’s-in-The-Poke Guarantee: (10-4) Indianapolis @ (10-4) Dallas
The Colts clinched the AFC South division title last week, so they'll be a' dancing in the playoffs. But there's not much else they can accomplish before then. The only way to improve their current position would be to earn one of the two byes in the AFC... but the problem with that is, see... they would need either Denver or New England to lose both of their last two games to achieve that. Denver and New England, mind you, are both 11-3 and are sweating out a race to the end as they both desperately want that 1-seed and home advantage over the other. So, I feel pretty safe in saying that neither of those teams are going to lose both of their last two games, here.
On the flip side, Dallas's 10-4 record isn't nearly as comfy as Indy's is. It's good enough to have the Cowboys sitting on top of the NFC East presently, but not only have they not clinched the division yet – if they drop one down the stretch here, they could miss the playoffs altogether!
In conclusion: You might say that Dallas needs
this game more.
The FBJ Upset Dandy of the Week: (6-8) Minnesota @ (7-7) Miami
While the Vikings are mathematically eliminated from the postseason, the Dolphins are still alive by a manatee's whisker.
And while this game obviously holds more significant meaning for Miami, the fish are fading down the home stretch. They've been outscored 69-26 in the last two games, and haven't scored more than 16 points in their last three. They've been out to sea defensively even longer, forcing only five turnovers in their last six games and gathering only six sacks in their last five games.
The Vikings, meanwhile, just lost to Detroit 16-14 last week in a game that they missed three field goals. Just one of them would have done the trick.
Furthermore, since Week 7, every game the Vikings have lost has been by 8 points (a touchdown and 2-point conversion away from tying) or less. In our first year under coach Zimmer... we're “getting there.”
The moral of the story is: the Vikings are just beginning to crest; the Dolphins are beginning to regress.
Photos via: Wikipedia -- Pantherfan11 -- Football Schedule -- Brock Ward -- +
-- Minnesota Vikings