It’s the end of the regular season in the 2014 National Football League season. While most know that their seasons will come to an end when things wrap up Sunday afternoon, others will prepare for that second season.

2014 has been one of those seasons where we have two teams (Carolina and Atlanta) with below .500 records fighting to be in the post-season party, while teams like San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and others find themselves on the outside looking in. Some teams got better, while others digressed. While those that made it to the next round, which starts January 4, others that didn’t make it will do some soul searching and if needed, some housecleaning.

THE NEW 30: Dallas’ Tony Romo (32), San Diego’s Philip Rivers (31) and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (30) all reached 30 touchdown passes over the weekend, bringing the season total to eight quarterbacks to reach the mark. 2014 now has the most quarterbacks (eight) with at least 30 TD passes of any season in NFL history (five in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013).

Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck (38), Denver’s Peyton Manning (37), Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (36), New England’s Tom Brady (33) and New Orleans’ Drew Brees (32) have also thrown 30+ TD passes this season.

RECEPTION PARTY: Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown caught seven passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers’ 20-12 win over Kansas City, while Chicago running back Matt Forte had six receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown against Detroit.

Brown (122 receptions) is tied for the fourth-most catches in a season in NFL history (Calvin Johnson, 2012; Wes Welker, 2011; Cris Carter, 1994 & 1995; Jerry Rice, 1995).

The most receptions in a season in NFL history:
PLAYER – TEAM, YEAR (RECEPTIONS)
Marvin Harrison – Indianapolis, 2002 (143)
Wes Welker – New England, 2009 (123)
Herman Moore – Detroit, 1995 (123)
Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh, 2014 (122)*
Calvin Johnson – Detroit, 2012 (122)
Wes Welker – New England, 2011 (122)
Cris Carter – Minnesota, 1995 (122)
Jerry Rice – San Francisco, 1995 (122)
Cris Carter – Minnesota, 1994 (122)
*Through 15 games

Forté surpassed Charlie Garner (91 in 2002) and Roger Craig (92 in 1985) for the fourth-most catches by a running back in a season in NFL history.

The most receptions in a single season by a running back:
PLAYER – TEAM, YEAR (RECEPTIONS)
Larry Centers – Arizona, 1995 (101)
LaDainian Tomlinson – San Diego, 2003 (100)
Larry Centers – Arizona, 1996 (99)
Matt Forté – Chicago, 2014 (94)*
Roger Craig – San Francisco, 1985 (92)
Charlie Garner – Oakland, 2002 (91)
*Through 15 games

SACK ATTACK: Houston defensive end J.J. Watt recorded eight tackles and a sack in the Texans’ 25-13 win over Baltimore, bringing his career total to 54. Watt (54) surpassed De Marcus ware (53.5, 2005-08) for the third-most sacks in a player’s first four seasons since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

The players with the most sacks in their first four seasons since 1982:
PLAYER – TEAM, YEARS (SACKS)
Reggie White – Philadelphia, 1985-88 (70)
Derrick Thomas – Kansas City, 1989-92 (58)
J.J. Watt – Houston, 2011-14 (54)*
DeMarcus Ware – Dallas, 2005-08 (53.5)
Dwight Freeney – Indianapolis, 2002-05 (51)
*Through 15 games

TOP BILLING: New England (12-3) and head coach Bill Belichick clinched a first-round playoff bye with a 17-16 road win against the New York Jets. The victory marked Belichick’s 230th career win, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Curly Lambeau (229) for the fourth-most total victories by a head coach in NFL history.

The head coaches with the most total wins in NFL history:
HEAD COACH – TEAM(S), RECORD
Don Shula – Baltimore Colts and  Miami Dolphins, 347-173-6
George Halas – Chicago Bears, 324-151-31
Tom Landry – Dallas Cowboys, 270-178-6
Bill Belichick – Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots, 230-117-0*
Curly Lambeau – Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cardinals and Washington Redskins, 229-134-22
*Active

COMEBACKS GALORE: The 2014 season has featured many close games and great comeback victories.

On Saturday, San Diego overcame a 21-0 deficit against San Francisco to earn a 38-35 comeback victory in overtime. There have been five comeback victories of 21+ points this season, the most in a single season in NFL history.

The most comeback wins of 21+ points in a single season in NFL history:
SEASON – 21+ POINT COMEBACK WINS
2014 – 5
2013 – 4
2011 – 4
1999 – 4

Through Week 16, there have been 41 comeback wins of 10+ points, tied for the most through 16 weeks of a season in NFL history (41 in 2013).

The most comeback wins of 10+ points through Week 16 in NFL history:
SEASON – 10+ POINT COMEBACK WINS
2014 – 41
2013 – 41
2011 – 39
1980 – 37
2012 – 37

YARDS APLENTY: NFL games have averaged 697.4 total yards per game in 2014, which is on pace to surpass the single-season record set in 2013 (697.0 per game).

The seasons with the most total yards per game in NFL history:
YEAR – YARDS PER GAME
2014 – 697.4*
2013 – 697.0
2012 – 694.4
2011 – 693.7
2010 – 672.0
* Through Week 16

Three NFL teams – New Orleans (416.3), Pittsburgh (415.4) and Indianapolis (408.5) – are averaging more than 400 total yards per game, which is on pace to tie the most of any season in NFL history (three teams in 2011, 2012 and 2013).

DECEMBER DOMINANCE: Carolina defeated the Cleveland Browns 17-13 on Sunday, the third consecutive December victory for the Panthers this season. Carolina has won 13 of its last 15 December games dating back to 2011.

With a 51-32-0 (.614) all-time record in December, Carolina has the highest winning percentage of any team during the month in NFL history.

The teams with the highest winning percentage in December in NFL history:
TEAM (W-L-T, Pct.)
Carolina (51-32-0, .614)
San Francisco (134-85-1, .612)
New England (111-80-0, .581)
Green Bay (137-100-9, 578)
Miami (103-78-0, .569)

Note: tie games prior to 1972 do not count in winning percentage

· In the AFC, four of six playoff teams have been decided. New England, Denver and Indianapolis have clinched divison titles, while Pittsburgh has claimed a playoff spot, with the Patriots clinching a first-round bye. Baltimore, Kansas City, San Diego and Houston are playing to see if they can advance into the post-season as well. It’s getting a bit crowded in the AFC. Think of it as three girls fighting over the same prom dress. Two are going to get clawed up and wind up in tears (and probably chip a fingernail and cuss like a drunken Marine on shore leave), while one will get the dress.

New England, which defeated the New York Jets 17-16, has clinched a first-round bye

In Week 17, Cincinnati will play at Pittsburgh to decide the AFC North division title.

In the NFC, things are a little calmer as five teams have clinched a playoff berth: Arizona (11-3), Detroit (11-4), Dallas (11-4), Green Bay (11-4) and Seattle (11-4). There is one spot left and it involves the zany (but somewhat enteraining) NFC South.

Arizona can secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win tonight over Seattle. Dallas clinched the NFC East with a 42-7 win over Indianapolis. Detroit, who won 20-14 at Chicago, secured a playoff berth last night. Green Bay clinched a playoff spot with a 20-3 win at Tampa Bay. Seattle, who beat Arizona Sunday night 35-6 in the desert, locked up a playoff berth today with the results from other games and can take the top spot in the NFC if they beat St. Louis.

In Week 17, Detroit will play at Green Bay with the NFC North division title on the line and the NFC South will be decided when Atlanta hosts Carolina.

· New England clinched a first-round playoff bye with a 17-16 road win against the New York Jets. The Patriots have earned a first-round bye for the fifth consecutive season, the longest streak of any NFL team since the current playoff format began in 1990, surpassing Dallas (1992-95) and San Francisco (1992-95).

Pats head coach Bill Belichick earned his 230th career win, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Curly Lambeau (229) for the fourth-most total victories by a head coach in NFL history.

· Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for 318 yards and a touchdown in the Packers’ 20-3 win at Tampa Bay. Rodgers has passed for 4,155 yards and 36 touchdowns, his third career season with at least 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns and he is tied with Drew Brees for the second-most such seasons in NFL history, trailing Peyton Manning (four).
Packers running back Eddie Lacy rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown, pushing his season totals to 1,039 rushing yards and 13 scrimmage touchdowns. Lacy is the first player in franchise history to rush for at least 1,000 yards and score 10+ scrimmage touchdowns in each of his first two seasons.

· Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant had a 19-yard touchdown catch in the Cowboys’ 42-7 win over Indianapolis. Bryant has a touchdown catch in 12 consecutive games against the AFC, extending the longest inter-conference streak since the 1970 merger.

· Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson had six catches for 103 yards in the Lions’ 20-14 win at Chicago. Johnson now has 44 career 100-yard receiving games, the second-most in a player’s first eight NFL seasons. Only Randy Moss with 45 has more.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell notched his 11th win, tying Potsy Clark for the most victories by a first-year head coach in franchise history. Clark won 11 games (11-3) for the 1931 Portsmouth Spartans, who would later move to the Motor City and become the Lions.

· New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. had eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the Giants’ 37-27 win at St. Louis. He has 79 receptions, the most in NFL history for a player in his first 11 career games.
Beckham is the first rookie in NFL history with at least 130 receiving yards and a touchdown catch in three consecutive games.

Beckham (11) and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans (11) each have at least 10 receiving touchdowns, the first time in NFL history two rookie wide receivers have done so in the same season.

· Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson had six receptions for 65 yards in the Texans’ 25-13 win against Baltimore, becoming the 10th player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career catches. Johnson, who has 1,002 receptions in 168 career games, is the second-fastest player to reach 1,000 catches, trailing only Marvin Harrison, who reached the milestone in 167 games. Johnson also surpassed Hines Ward (1,000) for number 9 on the all-time receptions list.

There is one contest on week 17’s docket that’s for all the marbles.

All the chips.

Winner moves on.

Loser goes home.

It doesn’t get any simpler and Hollywood can’t write a better script.

When things end Sunday night, most teams will be returning home and cleaning out their lockers, coaches will be fired and move on to other things and other teams. 12 survivors will march on to play in the biggest game of their lives in Glendale on February 1st in Super Bowl 49. For those 12 teams, it’s win and move on.

Lose and your next game’s in 2015.

As far as the teams fighting for playoff spots, some things are clear, while others are as clear as a cup of black coffee without the cream. Five teams in the NFC have 11-4 records and while those five teams have already punched their playoff tickets, it’s a matter of who’s going where and who’s playing who. Sunday’s going to be really confusing and the scenario presented could cause more confusion than a mouse in a burlesque show (apologies to Foghorn Leghorn!) but it is what is it.

Pay attention and take notes if you have to.

2014 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 17

AFC

CLINCHED
New England – AFC East and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs
Denver – AFC West
Indianapolis – AFC South
Cincinnati – playoff berth
Pittsburgh – playoff berth

Denver vs. Oakland

Denver clinches a first-round bye with:
1) Denver win OR
2) Denver tie + Cincinnati loss or tie OR
3) Cincinnati loss OR
4) Cincinnati tie + Indianapolis win

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Cincinnati clinches AFC North with:
1) Cincinnati win or tie

Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:
1) Cincinnati win + Denver loss or tie OR
2) Cincinnati tie + Denver loss + Indianapolis loss or tie

Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North with:
1) Pittsburgh win

San Diego at Kansas City

San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:
1) San Diego win OR
2) San Diego tie + Baltimore loss or tie

Baltimore vs. Cleveland

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:
1) Baltimore win + San Diego loss or tie OR
2) Baltimore tie + San Diego loss

Kansas City vs. San Diego

Kansas City clinches a playoff spot with:
1) Kansas City win + Baltimore loss + Houston loss or tie

Houston vs. Jacksonville

Houston clinches a playoff spot with:

1) Houston win + Baltimore loss + San Diego loss

NFC
CLINCHED:
Arizona – playoff berth
Seattle  – playoff berth
Detroit – playoff berth
Green Bay – playoff berth
Dallas – NFC East

Dallas at Washington

Dallas clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) Dallas win + Arizona loss or tie + Detroit/Green Bay tie OR
2) Dallas win + Seattle win + Detroit/Green Bay tie

Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:
1) Dallas win + Seattle loss or tie + Arizona loss or tie OR
2) Dallas win + Detroit/Green Bay tie OR
3) Seattle loss + Arizona loss OR
4) Dallas tie + Seattle tie + Arizona loss or tie + Detroit/Green Bay does not end in a tie

Detroit at Green Bay

Detroit clinches NFC North with:
1) Detroit win or tie

Detroit clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) Detroit win + Seattle loss or tie + Arizona loss or tie OR
2) Detroit tie + Seattle loss + Arizona loss + Dallas loss or tie

Detroit clinches a first-round bye with:
1) Detroit win OR
2) Detroit tie + Dallas loss or tie OR
3) Detroit tie + Seattle loss + Arizonaloss

Green Bay vs. Detroit

Green Bay clinches NFC North and a first-round bye with:
1) Green Bay win

Green Bay clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) Green Bay win + Seattle loss or tie

Seattle vs. St. Louis

Seattle clinches NFC West with:
1) Seattle win OR
2) Seattle tie + Arizona loss or tie OR
3) Arizona loss

Seattle clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) Seattle win + Detroit/Green Bay game does not end in a tie OR
2) Seattle win + Dallas loss or tie OR
3) Seattle tie + Arizona loss or tie + Dallas loss or tie + Green Bay/Detroit tie

Seattle clinches a first-round bye with:
1) Seattle win OR
2) Seattle tie + Arizona loss or tie + Dallas loss OR
3) Seattle tie + Arizona loss or tie + Green Bay/Detroit tie

Arizona at San Francisco

Arizona clinches NFC West with:
1) Arizona win + Seattle loss or tie OR
2) Arizona tie + Seattle loss

Arizona clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) Arizona win + Seattle loss or tie + Green Bay loss or tie OR
2) Arizona tie + Seattle loss + Dallas loss or tie + Green Bay/Detroit tie

Arizona clinches a first-round bye with:

1) Arizona win + Seattle loss or tie OR
2) Arizona tie + Seattle loss + Dallas loss or tie OR
3) Arizona tie + Seattle loss + GreenBay/Detroit tie

Carolina at Atlanta

Carolina clinches NFC South with:
1) Carolina win or tie

Atlanta vs. Carolina

Atlanta clinches NFC South with:
1) Atlanta win

It’s the final push for NFL teams as the regular season ends on Sunday, December 28. All 16 games are division contests. And with one week to go, there are still 16 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLIX. Entering Week 17, 10 of the 16 games have playoff implications.

“This is why you play the game,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford told the Detroit Free Press. “You play the game to play meaningful games in December.”

In the AFC, three of the four division winners have been determined: New England (AFC East, home-field advantage), Denver (AFC West) and Indianapolis (AFC South). Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have both clinched a playoff spot and will face one another for the AFC North title on Sunday night in the final game of the 2014 regular season.

New England (12-3) has locked up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Denver (11-4) can secure a first-round bye with a win or a Cincinnati loss. Cincinnati (10-4-1) and Pittsburgh (10-5) will meet for the AFC North division crown. The Bengals will also earn a first-round bye with a win and a Denver loss. Four teams are battling for the final playoff berth in the AFC: San Diego (9-6), Baltimore (9-6), Kansas City (8-7) and Houston (8-7). The Chargers are in control for the remaining postseason spot and can advance to the playoffs with a win.

In the NFC, only one of the four division winners has been determined: Dallas (NFC East). Four teams have clinched at least a playoff spot: Arizona, Detroit, Green Bay and Seattle. Green Bay hosts Detroit and the winner will claim the NFC North division title. Seattle is in control of the NFC West by holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Arizona. The NFC South will be determined by a “win-and-you’re-in” game between Carolina and Atlanta.

Seattle (11-4) can clinch the NFC West and a first-round bye with a win. In addition to a Seahawks win, if the Detroit-Green Bay game does not end in a tie or Dallas loses, Seattle will also claim home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs for the second consecutive season. Detroit (11-4) visits Green Bay (11-4) in Week 17 with the winner taking the NFC North and locking up a first-round bye. The winner would also have a shot at the number 1 seed – Green Bay would need a Seattle loss and Detroit would need both Seattle and Arizona to lose. Dallas (11-4) has won the NFC East and can earn a first-round bye with either a win combined with the Detroit-Green Bay game ending in a tie or losses by both Seattle and Arizona. If the Cowboys win, Detroit-Green Bay ends in a tie and either Arizona loses or Seattle wins, Dallas would clinch home-field advantage in the NFC. Arizona can still win the NFC West and gain a first-round bye with a win and a Seattle loss. If Green Bay also loses, the Cardinals will be the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Carolina (6-8-1) and Atlanta (6-9) will meet in Week 17 with the winner moving into the postseason as the NFC South champion.

“Week 17 is a huge game and that’s what our focus is on,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman told KING-TV and KIRO-TV. “We’re going to keep our sights on that next game. Every victory in this league is very hard to come by and it’s hard fought. You appreciate the wins and the grind and sacrifice that everybody makes.”

Finish up that after-Christmas shopping and return that ugly sweater your cousin Sarah got you (and she wonders why she’s still single…) Make sure you paid the cable and/or satellite bill this month. There’s going to be a lot of football between now and February 1st, when things end with Super Bowl 49 in the desert. Everything’s a rematch, so if nothing else, the revenge factor is in play for some, while others would like nothing more than to finish off their rivals once and for all for 2014.

For week 16, decent but not great as we went 8-8, which means for the year we’re 143-85

Carolina (6-8-1) at Atlanta (6-9), 4:25 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 705) Georgia Dome. It’s “winner-take-all” in the NFC South as a pair of rivals separated by a 4-hour, 359-mile drive down I-85. The NFC South will be decided in the Big Peach. Winner advances as the four seed in the NFC Playoffs. Loser? They get lovely parting gifts and a long winter’s vacay. Both teams enter the contest in the Georgia Dome with huge wins under their belts. “We have a game at home and if you win, you’re in,” Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV. “We are where we are and we’re excited about our chances.”

The winner advances to the postseason while the loser’s season comes to an end. Panthers QB Cam Newton told the Charlotte Observer, “We’re prepared for this moment and hopefully we’ll seize it.”

Carolina welcomed Cam Newton back to the lineup after his auto accident two weeks ago that forced him to miss their contest with Tampa Bay (back) and led his Panthers to a 17-13 win over Cleveland and fellow Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Carolina led 10-3 at halftime and then trailed 13-10 before Newton and RB Jonathan Stewart connected on a 9-yard TD pass with 7:07 left to play to take the lead for keeps (Newton also ran for a TD in the contest). Stewart ran for 122 of his team’s 209 yards rushing in the contest, while holding Cleveland to 84 and the Panthers defense eventually knocked Manziel out of the contest early in the game when he left with an injury. Manziel’s replacement, Brad Hoyer, did manage to throw a TD pass but was sacked three times by Carolina, throwing an interception. Carolina on third down tries went 9-16 and held the ball for 38:03, while the Browns, who were eliminated from the post-season with the loss, went 3-12 and kept the ball for 21:57.

The Falcons overcame an early kickoff return by Josh Saunders, which led to a 1-yard TD run by RB Mark Ingram to take a 30-14 win over the Saints, sweeping the series. Atlanta led 13-7 at halftime, thanks in part to a 3-yard TD pass from Matt Ryan to rookie RB Eric Weems with three seconds left before the intermission. The Falcons would go on to outscore New Orleans 17-7 in the second half and held off two New Orleans second half rallies, forcing Saints TE Jimmy Graham to fumble at Atlanta’s 1-yard line (Atlanta’s Kemal Ishmael returned the ball 18 yards) and then put the nail in New Orleans’ coffin in the final minutes of the game when LB Osi Umenyiora lived a linebacker’s dream when he scooped up a fumble and ran it back 86 yards untouched for a TD as time ran out. Atlanta outrushed the Saints 81-57 and Ryan out-passed Drew Brees 322-313 (Brees was sacked five times and picked off twice, while Ryan was unsacked and threw no interceptions). Atlanta was 7-15 on third down conversions in the Big Easy and kept the ball for 32:09 to New Orleans’ 27:51, with the Saints going 7-14 and 1-2 on third and fourth down tries.

In their first meeting in the Tar Heel State, the Falcons led 6-3 at the half and then held off the Panthers, who outscored them 14-13 in the second half to take a 19-17 win. Atlanta was outrushed by Carolina 106-86 and Newton out-passed Ryan 292-268 (both were sacked twice) but the Falcons needed some last second luck in the first meeting at Bank of America Stadium when they blocked a 63-yard FG try by Graham Gano with 2 seconds left to play. Atlanta in the first contest in Charlotte in week 11 was 5-15 and kept the pigskin for 31:58, while Carolina held on to the ball for 28:02, going 3-13 on third down tries.

In the week 11 contest, the Falcons won by 2, covering the 1 1/2 point spread (Carolina was favored) but both clubs missed the 46 over/under by 10. Atlanta’s favored by 3 in the Big Peach and the over/under is 47 1/2. A lot’s on the line here. It’s winner goes on and winds up being the fourth seed and one playoff game at home. History is on the side of Atlanta here and while they may not cover the 3 at home in the dome, they take the NFC South’s big prize.

Jacksonville (3-12) at Houston (8-7), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 712) Reliant/NRG Stadium. They meet again and this time, it’s in the Lone Star State as Jacksonville takes the 872-mile trip westward to face Houston in a key contest for the Texans and their playoff hopes. Both the Jaguars and the Texans come into the final meeting at Reliant/NRG Stadium with wins under their belts at home. The Texans can clinch a playoff spot with a win, a San Diego loss and a Baltimore loss.

Jacksonville fought back from a 10-7 deficit against Tennessee last Thursday night to take the 21-13 win at home against the Titans. The Jaguars went on to outscore Tennessee in the second half 14-3 and outrushed their guests from Music City 177-95. Rookie QB Blake Bortles, despite getting sacked four times, did manage to throw a TD pass to TE Marcedes Lewis late in the first half. Jacksonville would then add a 1-yard TD run by Toby Geheart and 61-yard romp by Jordan Todman to take the lead for keeps. The Jaguars then proceeded to seal the win when LB Sen’Derrick Marks sacked Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst to end the contest. The sack not only gave Jacksonville the win, it put $600,000 in Marks’ bank account. Jacksonville was 5-13 on third down tries last Sunday night in the Sunshine State and kept the ball for 25:08, while the Titans were 7-15 and 0-1 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 34:52.

Houston led Baltimore 16-0 at the half last Sunday and held off the Ravens 25-13. Houston outrushed the Ravens 123-33 in the win and Texans QB Case Keenum (185 yards), playing just minutes away from his alma mater, did reasonably well, despite throwing one interception but was not sacked, while the J.J. Watt-led defense picked off Joe Flacco three times and sacked him twice. The Texans were 7-21 on third down tries and kept the ball for 34:58, while the Ravens held the ball for 25:02 and went 4-15 and 0-2 on third and fourth down tries.

They met in the Sunshine State in week 14 and the Texans held Jacksonville to 74 yards rushing, while they ran for 169 (Foster had 127 of those yards) in their 27-13 win. Houston sacked Blake Bortles four times in the 14-point win at EverBank Field and picked him off once, while the Texans played turnover-free football. Houston was 3-14 and 2-2 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 32:29, while Jacksonville on third and fourth down went 5-15 and 0-2, holding the ball for a mere 27:31. Houston covered the 4 1/2 point spread, winning by 14 but both clubs missed the 42 over/under by 2 points. Houston’s favored by 10 in the Lone Star State and the over/under comes in at 40 1/2. Jacksonville’s playing with house money and knows that knocking the Texans out of the playoff picture would make their season. Houston’s improved from last year and fighting for their playoff lives and will be doing scoreboard watching to see what San Diego, Kansas City and Baltimore are doing. Texans may or may not make the post-season party but they take the win at home and cover the 10.

San Diego (9-6) at Kansas City (8-7), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 713) Arrowhead Stadium. It’s “winner-takes-all” in Kansas City as the Chiefs host San Diego in a contest that could decide the fate of one of these clubs. Both the Chargers and Chiefs are still alive for the final playoff berth in the AFC and San Diego holds the advantage and will advance to the postseason with a win. Kansas City can qualify for the playoffs with a win along with losses by both Baltimore and Houston.

The Chargers kept their playoff hopes alive last Saturday evening in Santa Clara when they beat San Francisco 38-35 in overtime. The Bolts trailed 28-7 at half against the 49ers before they went on a tear in the second half, outscoring San Francisco 31-7 the rest of the way, tying things up in regulation when Philip Rivers and WR Malcom Floyd connected on an 11-yard TD pass with 29 seconds left. Then after San Francisco won the toss in overtime, they had the ball for two plays before WR Quinton Patton fumbled and the Chargers recovered it. The Chargers, with new life and knowing that a field goal would win the contest, marched down the field, taking them nine plays and only 40 yards before K Nick Novak connected on a 40-yard field goal to send 49ers fans hope somewhat unhappy. Although they were outrushed by San Francisco 355-98, Rivers managed to out-pass Colin Kaepernick 356-114 with four TDs in the contest, despite being sacked twice and picked off three times. San Diego on third and fourth down conversions went 8-16 and 3-3, keeping the ball for 34:19, while the 49ers, who saw their playoff hopes die in the overtime, went 5-11 and 0-1 on third and fourth down, holding the pigskin for 30:35.

The Chiefs kept things close against the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger in the Steel City but still lost 20-12. All of Kansas City’s scoring came at the foot of K Cairo Santos, who connected on four field goals (his longest was 35 yards), including a 23-yarder that narrowed the gap with 1:37 left to play. Kansas City will be without the services of QB Alex Smith (spleen) and Chase Daniel will take his spot under center. Kansas City in the loss in Pittsburgh was held to 39 yards rushing at Heinz Field, while the Steelers didn’t do much better, rushing for 68. Pittsburgh went 5-10 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 28:53, while the Chiefs, who saw their QB get sacked six times, was 6-14 and 1-2 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 31:07.

It’s a rematch from week seven on the West Coast and Kansas City came away with a 23-20 win at Qualcomm Stadium. Rookie K Cairo Santos nailed a 48-yard field goal with 21 seconds left to give Kansas City the lead for keeps after Chargers K Nick Novak nailed a 48-yarder with 1:57 left. The Bolts led 14-10 at halftime before the Chiefs rallied to take the win on the road. San Diego was held to 69 yards rushing, while the Chiefs tallied 154. Both Smith and Rivers struggled to stay upright in the AFC West contest (Smith was sacked three times, Rivers was sacked twice) but Rivers did manage to throw two TD passes in the loss (including one to Antonio Gates). Third down tries in the first meeting? Kansas City was 7-14, San Diego was 3-10 and the clock was the ally of Kansas City at 39:00 to San Diego’s 21:00. In the first meeting, the Chargers were favored by 4 1/2 and Kansas City won by 3 and both clubs missed the 44 1/2 over/under in the contest. The Chiefs are favored by 2 1/2 in the Great Midwest and the over/under’s 42 1/2. The Chiefs may not make the post-season but they’ll make sure that San Diego doesn’t crash the party either. All the Chargers have to do win and they’re in. The Chiefs? Win and get help. Not sure if that help will come but Kansas City wins at home and covers the 2 1/2.

New York Jets (3-12) at Miami (8-7), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 714) Sun Life Stadium. In what could be Rex Ryan’s final game as head coach, the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins.

Although GangGreen led in almost every offensive category, they still lost to New England in the Meadowlands 17-16. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! led New England 10-7 at the half before New England took the lead for good in the second half. New York almost had the contest won before blocked a 52-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk that would have given the home team the win. Although both Brady and Geno Smith threw an interception, they also threw a TD pass in the contest (Brady was sacked four times in the win over the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!). New York outrushed New England 116-85 and out-passed the Pats 210-182 but New England came out on top anyway. New England on third down tries went 6-13 and kept the ball for 27:39, while GangGreen was 5-13 on third down (neither club had a fourth down try) and kept the ball for 32:21.

Miami trailed Minnesota 17-14 after 45 minutes of play in the Sunshine State last weekend before the wheels came off the Viking bus. Even though they were eliminated from the post-season party, the Dolphins took matters into their own hands (and fins), outscoring the Vikings 23-18 in the fourth quarter to take a 37-35 win. The Vikings did manage to outrush Miami 119-116 (with Matt Asiata rushing for a pair of TDs) but Miami’s rally to the win was made complete when reserve DE Terrence Fede blocked a Minnesota punt for a safety to take the win with 41 ticks left to play. Ryan Tannehill out-passed Teddy Bridgewater 396-259, with Tannehill connecting on four TDs, including the game tying score when he and WR Damian Williams connected on a 3-yard pass with 71 seconds left in the game. Both clubs ruled the roost on third down conversions in the Sunshine State, as Miami was 9-12, while Minnesota was 7-12 and the Dolphins ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 33:06 to Minnesota’s 26:54.

Miami and GangGreen met in the Meadowlands in week 13 and the Dolphins left upstate New Jersey with a 16-13 win. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! led 10-3 at the intermission before they were outscored by Miami 13-3 in the second half. New York’s Chris Johnson ran for 105 of their 277 yards and held Miami to 74 and both Tannehill and Smith were sacked twice. New York was 7-15 on third down tries, keeping the ball in a holding pattern for 32:35, while the Dolphins held the ball for 27:25 and went 5-13 on third down. Miami was favored by 4 1/2 and did win but won only by 3 and did not cover the spread and both clubs missed the over/under of 29. The Dolphins are favored by 5 1/2 and the over/under is 42. There’s not a lot at stake here in this one. The Jets have been struggling almost all season, while the Dolphins are already better than what they were last year but will miss the post-season. Miami covers the 5 1/2 and closes out the season with the win.

Chicago (5-10) at Minnesota (6-9), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 707) TCF Bank Stadium. A pair of NFC North foes close out the 2014 campaign in the cold and outdoors of the Twin Cities as Minnesota hosts Da Bears in the Vikings’ temporary headquarters on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Da Bears fell to Detroit 20-14 after the two teams went into the intermission tied at 7-7 at Soldier Field. Detroit outrushed Chicago 138-64 and sacked Jay Clausen twice while Matthew Stafford was sacked four times. Detroit on third and fourth down tries went 5-13 and 2-2 while Da Bears were 5-13 and 1-3. The clock was the ally of Detroit, who kept the ball for 31:56 to Chicago’s 28:04.

Minnesota led Miami 17-14 after 45 minutes of play in the Sunshine State last weekend before the wheels came off the Viking bus, as the Dolphins (who were eliminated from the playoffs themselves) outscored the Purple Gang 23-18 to lose 37-35. Minnesota outrushed Miami 119-116 (with Matt Asiata rushing for a pair of TDs) but Miami’s rally to the win was made complete when reserve DE Terrence Fede blocked a Minnesota punt for a safety to take the win with 41 ticks left to play. Ryan Tannehill out-passed Teddy Bridgewater 396-259, with Tannehill connecting on four TDs, including the game tying score when he and WR Damian Williams connected on a 3-yard pass with 71 seconds left in the game. Both clubs did quite well on third down conversions in the Sunshine State (Minnesota was 7-12, Miami was 9-13) and the Dolphins ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 33:06 to Minnesota’s 26:54.

Da Bears won the first meeting in the Windy City in week 11 21-13 at Soldier Field. Chicago led 14-10 at halftime and never looked back, taking the win at home. Matt Forte ran for 117 of Chicago’s 138 yards, while the Monsters of the Midway held Minnesota to 96 yards on the ground and Jay Cutler, despite throwing a pair of picks, threw for 330 yards and three TDs without being sacked. (Bridgewater threw for 158 with a TD and was sacked twice.) Da Bears were 10-17 on third down conversions (2-3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 38:38, while Minnesota kept it for 21:22 and went 2-11 and 2-2 on third and fourth down. In the week 11 contest, Chicago won by 8, covering the 3 1/2 point spread but both clubs missed the 47 over/under in the Windy City. The Vikings in the rematch are favored by 6 1/2 and the over/under’s 44 1/2. There’s a strong chance that Marc Tressman could coach his last game as a Bears’ head coach. The Vikings are already better than what they were last year. Minnesota puts Bears fans out of their misery in 2014 and wins at home, covering the 6 1/2.

Buffalo (8-7) at New England (12-3), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 715) Gillette Stadium. A pair of AFC East rivals meet to close out the 2014 season as Buffalo travels to Foxboro to take on the Patriots and Tom Brady.

Buffalo fell to Oakland 26-24 in northern California last Sunday, ending their playoff hopes on the road. The Silver and Black led 13-10 at halftime but Buffalo circled their wagons and rallied to make the contest closer, outscoring the Raiders in the second half 14-13. Buffalo’s rushing game was somewhat weak, as they ran for only 13 yards in the contest, while Oakland ran for 140 yards in the win. The Bills did win the air game as Kyle Orton out-passed rookie QB David Carr 329-214 with Orton throwing three TDs and was sacked twice, while Carr threw two TDs and suffered only one sack. Neither club did anything to write home about on third down tries (Buffalo was 4-15, Oakland was 5-16) and the Raiders won the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 33:47 to Buffalo’s 26:13.

New England picked up the AFC East title, barely squeaking by the New York Jets in the Meadowlands 17-16. The Pats trailed GangGreen at halftime 10-7, took the lead in the second half and then blocked a 52-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk that would have given the home team the win. Although both Brady and Geno Smith threw an interception, they also threw a TD pass in the contest (Brady was sacked four times in the win over the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!). New York outrushed New England 116-85 and out-passed the Pats 210-182 but New England came out on top anyway. New England on third down tries went 6-13 and kept the ball for 27:39, while GangGreen was 5-13 on third down (neither club had a fourth down try) and kept the ball for 32:21.

Buffalo and New England met in upstate New York in week six and the Pats left the shores of Lake Erie with a 37-22 win. After a scoreless first quarter, New England took a 13-7 lead with them to halftime and never looked back. Buffalo outrushed New England 68-50 but Brady burned the Bills for 361 yards and four TDs in the 15-point win and the Pats defense sacked Orton five times in the first meeting. New England was 7-15 on third down conversions in upstate New York and held the pigskin for 30:20, while the Bills on third and fourth down were 8-15 and 1-2, keeping the ball for 29:40. New England was favored by 3 in the first meeting and won by 15, covering the spread and both clubs covered the 45 over/under, scoring a combined 59 points. New England in the second meeting in western Massachusetts is favored by 10 and the over/under is 47 1/2. While the Bills are out of the playoff picture, New England can’t take them lightly and they’re a lot better than what they were last year. This might be one of the better games to watch. If the contest is close, expect the starters to stay in; if it’s a blowout one way or the other, expect the Pats to rest Brady and the boys. New England might not cover the 10 but they take the win in Foxboro.

Philadelphia (9-6) at New York Giants (6-9), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 708) MetLife Stadium. The Eagles make the 95-mile, 1:35 drive up I-95 to take on the Giants in the season finale for both clubs.

Washington ended Philadelphia’s playoff hopes last Sunday in Landover as the Redskins came out on top 27-24. Leading 14-10 at the half, Philadelphia let things slip from their grasp as the Redskins would outscore them in the second half 17-10. Philly managed to outrush the ‘Skins 134-100 and Mark Sanchez out-passed Robert Griffin III 372-200 but Sanchez was sacked three times in the loss. Washington sealed the Eagles fate when K Kai Forbath nailed a 26-yard field goal with five seconds left. Washington was 2-9 on third down tries and kept the ball for 27:56, while the Eagles actually ruled the clock, nesting the pigskin for 32:04 and went 9-16 on third down conversions.

New York made life somewhat miserable for the Rams last Sunday in St. Louis as they came away with the 30-20 win. WR Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning connected for a pair of TDs in the 10 point win in the Show-Me-State and the Giants took a 20-10 lead with them to the break and never looked back. The key moment in the contest was what took place off the field. Beckham caught a Manning pass late in the second quarter and ran it back for 16 yards. St. Louis’ Alec Ogletree pushed Beckham out of bounds, well into the Giants bench. That did not set well with the Giants and then punches were traded faster than ugly Christmas sweaters. Two Giants players and a Rams player were tossed out of the game and cooler heads eventually prevailed. New York’s Andre Williams ran for 110 yards (Big Blue tallied 128, while St. Louis had 106) and Manning threw for 391 yards and three TDs (Beckham caught eight passes for 148 yards) for the win. On third down tries, the Giants were 8-17, while the Rams were 1-6 and the clock was the ally of Big Blue, who held the ball for 34:47 to St. Louis’ 25:13.

Philly shut out the Giants in their week six meeting 27-0 in the City of Brotherly Love. LeSean McCoy ran amok, tallying 149 of his team’s 203 (the Giants were held to 85) and Nick Foles, not Sanchez was under center (Foles threw a pair of TDs, while the Eagles defense sacked Manning six times) for the Eagles. Philly was 4-13 on third down tries and kept the ball for 32:26, while the Giants were 2-14 and 0-1 on third and fourth down conversions, holding the ball for 27:34. The Eagles won by 27, easily covering the 3-point spread but both teams only combined for the 27, which meant that the 50 1/2 over/under was not reached. This time, the Giants are favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under comes in at 52. Neither teams are going on when this one ends. Philly closes out the 2014 campaign with the win in upstate New Jersey and covers the 2 1/2.

Cleveland (7-8) at Baltimore (9-6), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 711) M&T Bank Stadium. Cleveland and Baltimore meet for the second time in Charm City and while the Browns had their invitation to the post-season party taken from them in Carolina last Sunday, the Ravens look to take the win at home and hope that San Diego, Kansas City and Houston slip along the way.

Cleveland was eliminated from post-season play with their 17-13 loss at Carolina last Sunday. The Browns, who had Johnny Manziel under center before he left with an injury, trailed 10-3 at halftime in Charlotte and led 13-10 in the fourth quarter before Cam Newton connected on a 9-yard TD pass to give the Panthers the lead back for good. Manziel was 3-8 for 32 yards before his departure and his replacement Brian Hoyer came into the contest. Hoyer did manage to throw an 81-yard TD pass to Jordan Cameron but was sacked three times and picked off once. Cleveland was held to 84 yards rushing, while Stewart ran for 122 of Carolina’s 209 yards in the win (Newton also had a rushing TD in his return). Cleveland was 3-12 on third down conversions in the Tar Heel State and kept the ball for 21:57, while the Panthers kept the pigskin for 38:03 and went 9-16 on third down tries.

Although Baltimore lost at Houston last Sunday, their playoff hopes are still alive. The Ravens fell to the Texans 25-13. Baltimore trailed 16-0 at halftime but managed to outscore Houston in the second half 13-9. Joe Flacco had his problems, as he was sacked twice and picked off three times, while the Ravens rushing game was held to 33 yards (Houston tallied 123). Baltimore on third and fourth down tries went 4-15 and 0-2, while the Texans in the same category was 7-21 and the clock was the ally of Houston, who kept the ball for 34:58 to Baltimore’s 25:02.

The Browns and Ravens met along the shores of Lake Erie in week three and the Ravens came away with a 23-20 win on a 32-yard field goal by Justin Tucker as time expired. The Ravens trailed 21-20 after Tucker nailed a 21-yarder with 5 minutes left to play before his game winner later in the contest. Baltimore took a 10-3 lead at the half and trailed 21-17 after 45 minutes of action. The Ravens outrushed Cleveland 160-91 and Hoyer out-passed Flacco 290-217, with each man throwing a TD pass. Baltimore was 4-12 and 0-1 on third and fourth down conversions and held the ball for 30:55 to Cleveland’s 29:05 (the Browns were 5-11 on third down). In the week three contest, Baltimore covered the 1 1/2 point spread, winning by 2 and both teams covered the 41 1/2 over/under with 44 points. Baltimore’s favored at home in Charm City by 9 and the over/under is 42 1/2. Cleveland would like nothing more than to knock the Ravens out of the post-season party, while Baltimore is looking for a chance to play more football next Saturday or Sunday. The Ravens can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a San Diego loss and it’ll be closer than the 9 but Baltimore takes the win at home in Charm City.

Indianapolis (10-5) at Tennessee (2-13), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 717) LP Field. The Colts and Andrew Luck travel to Music City to right their ships as they take on the Titans in a game that really means nothing to either ball club.

Indy trailed at Dallas 28-0 last Sunday and could never really recover, losing to the Cowboys in Arlington 42-7. The Colts were held to 1 yard rushing (that’s not a misprint) and Andrew Luck was picked off twice before he was eventually pulled and Matt Hasselbeck took his spot. Hasselbeck and RB Zurlon Tipton connected for Indy’s only score in the contest, a 1-yard pass with 5:24 left to play after things were all but settled and done. Luck threw for 109 yards, while Tony Romo burned Indy for 218 yards and 4 TDs (including one each to WRs Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams and TE Jason Whitten) and the Cowboys rushed for 127 yards (DeMarco Murray led all rushers with 58 and a TD, despite a broken finger). Indy was 5-13 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 24:31, while the Cowboys were 5-10 and held the pigskin for 35:29.

The Titans let a 10-7 lead at half against Jacksonville slip away and fell to the Jaguars 21-13 in the Sunshine State. Jacksonville held Tennessee to 95 yards on the ground, while the Jaguars tallied 177 in the win. Jacksonville further added insult to injury at EverBank Field when QB Charlie Whitehurst was sacked by LB Sen’Derrick Marks to end the contest. The sack gave Jacksonville the win and it put $600,000 in Marks’ bank account. Jacksonville was 5-13 on third down tries last Sunday night in the Sunshine State and kept the ball for 25:08, while the Titans were 7-15 and 0-1 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 34:52.

The Colts and Luck beat Tennessee in Indy in week four 41-17. Indianapolis led 20-10 at the break and outscored the Titans 21-7 in the second half, holding Tennessee to 85 yards (the Colts ran for 105), while sacking Whitehurst three times (Luck threw four TDs in the win). As far as third down in the first meeting? Indy was 7-14, Tennessee was 1-9 and the clock was the ally of the Colts, who held the ball for 42:21 to Tennessee’s 17:39. Indy covered the 7 1/2 point spread, winning by 24 and the 45 1/2 over/under was easily covered, as both clubs combined for 58 points. This time, the Colts are again favored on the road by 7 and the over/under”s 46 1/2. You might want to take a pass on this one (unless you are a fan of one of these teams) and go shopping for next year’s Christmas gifts and get that Christmas candy at half price. Colts put Titans fans out of their misery and cover the 7 with the win on the road.

New Orleans (6-9) at Tampa Bay (2-13), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 709) Raymond James Stadium. A pair of struggling NFC South teams meet in the Sunshine State when New Orleans travels to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers at the new Sombrero (apologies to ESPN’s Chris Berman!).

The Saints let their playoff hopes and a 7-6 lead against Atlanta slip out of their hands and they would eventually fall to the Falcons 30-14. RB Mark Ingram and TE Jimmy Graham accounted for both of New Orleans’ TDs in the contest and the Saints would trail 13-7 at the half. Things then went from bad to worse for New Orleans, who was outscored by Atlanta 17-7 in the second half and would eventually be done in thanks in part to a pair of turnovers at key moments in the game. First, Graham fumbled on what would have been a score at the 1-yard line. That fumble was recovered by Atlanta’s Kemal Ishamel, who took the ball back 18 yards to the 20. After the play was reviewed, the fumble stood. Then insulted was added to injury when Brees was sacked and fumbled the ball. Falcons LB Osi Umenyiora then proceeded to scoop the ball up and run it back 86 yards without being touched as the clock ran down to :00. The Saints were outrushed 81-57 and out-passed 322-313, with Brees being sacked five times and picked off twice (Ryan was unsacked and did not throw an interception). New Orleans was 7-14 and 1-2 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 27:51, while Atlanta, who swept the Saints for the first time since 2005, went 7-15 on third down and hoarded the ball for 32:09.

Tampa Bay was held to a second quarter field goal by Patrick Murray and fell to Green Bay 20-3 in Tampa last Sunday. Tampa Bay trailed 10-3 at halftime and were shutout by the Packers the rest of the contest, as Green Bay scored their final 10 points in the fourth quarter unchallenged. Eddie Lacy (44 yard run), Jordy Nelson (1 yard TD pass from Rodgers) and a pair of Mason Crosby field goals were all the scoring the Packers needed in the win over Tampa Bay. The Packers tallied 121 yards on the ground (Lacy had 99 of them), while Green Bay’s defense held Tampa Bay to 16 yards rushing and sacked Case McCown seven times and intercepting him once (Rodgers threw for 318 yards in the win). Randall Cobb and Nelson each had 100 yards receiving in the Sunshine State (Cobb had 11 catches for 131 yards, while Nelson had nine catches for 113) for the Packers, who bounced back from their loss in upstate New York to the Bills the week prior. Third and fourth down? Not a lot to write home about as Green Bay was 6-13 and 0-1, while Tampa Bay was 4-14 and 1-1 but Green Bay did manage to rule the clock, keeping the ball for 38:38 to Tampa Bay’s 21:22.

They met in week five in the Big Easy and the Saints barely survived, taking a 37-31 overtime win over Tampa Bay. New Orleans led 13-10 at half before they scored their final 23 points of the contest unchallenged, including the overtime. The Saints trailed by as much as 24-13 late in the third quarter before they rallied to tie things up and then took the lead and the win for good in the overtime when RB Khiry Robinson scored on a 18 yard TD run to give the Saints the win. New Orleans outrushed Tampa Bay 140-66 and Drew Brees out-passed Mike Glennon 371-249 (Brees was picked off three times and both men threw a pair of TD passes) in the overtime contest. Tampa Bay was 3-9 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 27:04, while the Saints were 6-13 on third down (neither club had a fourth down try) and held the pigskin for 38:32, including the overtime. New Orleans was favored by 10 but won by 6, which meant they didn’t cover the spread but both teams easily covered the over/under of 48 by 20 points. New Orleans’ favored by 4 and the over/under’s 47. Not much to play for here, since both are out of the post-season picture and if things stay the way most think they will, Tampa Bay will pick first in the 2015 draft. Saints march out of Tampa with the win and covers the 4.

Dallas (11-4) at Washington (4-11), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 710) FedEx Field. Even though one team’s in the post-season, while the other will be watching on TV, forget the records. These two STILL don’t like each other and nothing’s going to change that. For the second time, Dallas and Washington meet and this time, it’s in Landover and Dallas would like nothing more than get revenge on their rivals, while Washington wants to somehow slow the Cowboys’ playoff express down.

Dallas clinched the NFC East title at home in Arlington last Sunday, manhandling Indianapolis 42-7. The Dallas defense finally decided to show up last week against Andrew Luck, holding the Colts to 1 yard rushing, while the Cowboys ran for 127 (DeMarco Murray led all rushers with 58 yards and a TD). Tony Romo out-threw Luck in passing yardage 218-109 and threw for four TDs (WR’s Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Dez Bryant and TE Jason Whitten were his targets). Dallas was 5-10 on third down tried and kept the ball for 34:52 (Indy had it for 24:31), while the Colts were 5-13 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries. Dallas will secure a bye with either a win combined with the Detroit-Green Bay game ending in a tie or losses by both Seattle and Arizona. If the Cowboys win, Detroit-Green Bay ends in a tie and either Arizona loses or Seattle wins, Dallas will clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

The Redskins ended Philadelphia’s playoff hopes last Saturday afternoon in Landover, with Washington (with Robert Griffin III under center) taking a 27-24 win over the Eagles. Washington trailed 14-10 at the half and rallied to take matters into their hands, outscoring the Eagles 13-10 in the final 30 minutes of play. RB Darrell Young scored a pair of TDs for Washington but it was Kai Forbath’s 26-yard field goal with five seconds left to play that sent Redskins fans home happy. Although they were outrushed by the Eagles 134-100 and Griffin was out-passed by Mark Sanchez 374-220, Washington escaped the contest with the win when Eagles K Chris Parkey missed two field goals that would have given them the lead and then held off a late Eagles rally in the closing seconds of the game. Washington was 2-9 on third down tries and kept the ball for 27:56, while the Eagles actually ruled the clock, nesting the pigskin for 32:04 and went 9-16 on third down conversions.

Dallas and Washington met in Arlington in week eight on a Monday night and the Cowboys let a 7-3 lead at the half get away from them, falling in overtime to the Redskins 20-17. Washington rallied to tie things up on a 5-yard run by RB Alfred Morris and a 7-yard run by Colt McCoy and won the contest in the overtime when they recovered a Cowboys fumble and wasted very little time, with K Kurt Hobart connecting on a 40 yard field goal for the win. Murray ran for 141 of Dallas’ 166 yards in the Monday night affair, while Morris tallied 73 (Washington had 123) for the Skins, who sacked Romo five times and eventually drove him out of the contest with a back injury. Washington was 6-13 and 1-1 on third and fourth down conversions and held the ball for 38:12, while the Cowboys were 5-12 and 0-1 on third and fourth down, holding the ball for 28:37. In the first meeting in the Lone Star State, Dallas was favored by 9 (Washington won by 3) and the over/under was 50 1/2, which was not reached as both teams only scored 37 points combined. The Cowboys are favored again, this time by 6 and the over/under is 49 1/2. Washington knows that this is the end of the line for them and they would love nothing more than to stall Dallas’ playoff hopes (the last time Washington swept Dallas? 1987). Washington will make this one interesting to watch but Dallas gets revenge and takes the Redskins to task and covers the 6.

Oakland (3-12) at Denver (11-4), 4:25 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 718) Sports Authority Field. A pair of old AFC/AFL rivals close out the 2014 campaign in the Mile High City as the resurging Raiders travel to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Oakland picked up its third win of the 2014 campaign when they beat Buffalo 26-24 in northern California. The Silver and Black led 13-10 at halftime and then held off a late Bills rally last Sunday as Buffalo would outscore Oakland in the second half 14-13. Oakland ran for 140 yards in the win, while the Bills were held to 13 yards on the ground but Kyle Orton out-passed rookie QB David Carr 329-214 (Orton threw three TDs and was sacked twice, while Carr threw two TDs and suffered only one sack). Neither club did anything to write home about on third down tries (Buffalo was 4-15, Oakland was 5-16) and the Raiders won the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 33:47 to Buffalo’s 26:13.

Denver’s hopes for the two seed in the AFC playoffs took a hit last Monday night in Cincinnati as the Bengals took Peyton Manning and the Broncos to the woodshed, losing 37-28. That’s the bad news, Broncos fans. The good news is they have already clinched the AFC West and can earn a first-round bye with a win. Denver can also secure a first-round bye with a Cincinnati loss.

The Broncos trailed 20-7 at the half and led 28-27 after 45 minutes of play, before Cincinnati went on to score 10 fourth quarter points unchallenged, with K Mike Nugent connecting on a 23-yard field goal and CB Dre Kirkpatrick picking Manning off and ran it back 30 yards untouched to put the nail in Denver’s coffin. Rookie RB Jeremy Hill ran for 147 yards and a TD (Cincinnati ran for 207 yards, holding Denver to 85) for the Bengals, while Cincinnati’s secondary picked Manning off four times. Third and fourth down tries actually favored Denver, who went 5-12 and didn’t attempt a fourth down try, while the Bengals were 2-11 and 1-1 and the clock was on the side of the Bengals, who kept the ball for 31:38 (Denver kept it for 28:22).

Oakland and Denver met in northern California in week 10 and the Broncos and Manning thumped the Raiders 41-17. Denver broke a 3-3 first quarter tie and outscored the Raiders in the final three quarters 38-10 to take the win. Manning threw for 340 yards and five TDs in the game (connecting with TE Julius Thomas on two of them), while the Denver defense forced three turnovers and held Oakland’s rushing game to 30 yards (Denver ran for 118). The Broncos on third and fourth downs were 7-15 and 1-1, while Oakland was 5-18 without a fourth down attempt and Denver won the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 32:22 to Oakland’s 27:38. In the week 10 contest, Denver was favored by 11 1/2 and covered the spread as they won by 24 but both clubs BARELY missed the 49 over/under by 1. Denver’s favored by 14 and the over/under’s 48. The Raiders are bad but not 14 points bad and they’ve won two of their last three games. Still, the Silver and Black will not make the post-season party, while Peyton and the boys will see if they are the two seed in the AFC. Denver wins this one at home but expect the Raiders to give them all sorts of trouble.

Arizona (11-4) at San Francisco (7-8), 4:25 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 719) Levis Stadium. A pair of NFC West foes meet in Santa Clara with one team knowing they’re going to play more football, while the other team will end their season. Arizona has secured a playoff berth and can still win the NFC West, earn a first-round bye and claim home-field advantage in the NFC. With a win and a Seattle loss, the Cardinals will win the division and lock up a bye. If Green Bay also loses, Arizona will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

The Desert Angry Birds were held in check by Seattle last Sunday in Glendale, falling to the Seahawks 35-6. Arizona was held to 29 yards rushing, while the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch ran for 267 yards (Lynch had 113 yards and a pair of TDs) in the lopsided win. Arizona went through their third QB of the season when Russell Lindley was forced out with a knee injury and Logan Thomas (who will start this Sunday) took over. Seattle in the win (which allowed them to sweep the series) went 5-12 on third down tries, while Arizona was 3-15 (1-1 on fourth down) and the Seahawks ruled the clock, holding the ball for 33:30 to Arizona’s 26:57.

San Francisco let a 28-7 lead at the half against San Diego get away from them and the 49ers saw their playoff hopes die with a 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Santa Clara last Saturday night. San Diego went on to outscore San Francisco 31-7 the rest of the way and pulled even up in regulation when Philip Rivers and WR Malcom Floyd connected on an 11-yard TD pass with 29 seconds left. Then after San Francisco won the toss in overtime, they had the ball for two plays before WR Quinton Patton fumbled and the Chargers recovered it. San Diego took advantage of the mistake, knowing that a field goal would win the contest and marched down the field, taking them nine plays and only 40 yards before K Nick Novak connected on a 40-yard field goal for the win. San Francisco outrushed San Diego 355-98 (Frank Gore ran for 158 yards, while Colin Kaepernick chipped in with 151; each had a rushing TD) but Rivers managed to out-pass Kaepernick 356-114 with four TDs in the contest, despite being sacked twice and picked off three times. San Diego on third and fourth down conversions went 8-16 and 3-3, keeping the ball for 34:19, while the 49ers, who saw their playoff hopes die in the overtime, went 5-11 and 0-1 on third and fourth down, holding the pigskin for 30:35.

They met in the desert in week three and the Desert Angry Birds rallied from a 14-6 halftime deficit to outscore the 49ers 17-0 in the final 30 minutes of action, coming away with the 23-14 win in Glendale. Neither club cracked the 100-yard barrier but Arizona did manage to barely outrush 84-82 and Kaepernick barely out-passed Drew Stanton 245-244 in the contest. Arizona was 8-13 and 1-1 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 27:40, while the 49ers held the ball for 32:20 and went 6-13 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries. The Desert Angry Birds won by 9, covering the 3-point spread (San Francisco was favored) but neither club reached the 42 1/2 over/under, combining for only 37. This time around, Arizona’s favored by 5 1/2 and the over/under’s 36 1/2. Arizona’s already in the playoff photo, while the 49ers are looking to finish .500 and hope that Jim Harbaugh stays for at least another year. San Francisco gets revenge on the Desert Angry Birds and closes out the 2014 season with a win at home.

St. Louis (6-9) at Seattle (11-4), 4:25 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 708) CenturyLink Field. They meet in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks this time and the Rams are looking to spoil Seattle’s party as they march on to perhaps a second Lombardi trophy. Seattle has the edge in the NFC with one week to play. With a win, the Seahawks will lock up the NFC West and a first-round bye. In addition to a Seattle victory, if the Detroit-Green Bay game does not end in a tie or Dallas loses, the Seahawks will secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs for the second year in a row.

St. Louis fell to Eli Manning and the New York Giants 30-20 in St. Louis last Sunday. The Giants outrushed St. Louis 128-106 and were out-passed 391-290 (Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. connected on a pair of TD passes, while RB Andre Williams ran for 110 yards) and led from start to finish. The Rams were a dismal 1-6 on third down tries and kept the ball for only 25:13, while the Giants were 8-17 and ruled the clock, possessing the pigskin for 34:47.

Seattle put itself into the post-season party when they beat Arizona 35-6 in Glendale last Sunday evening. After a scoreless first quarter, the defending Super Bowl champs took a 14-3 lead with them to the half and made it last, outscoring the Desert Angry Birds 21-3 in the final 30 minutes of action. Arizona was held to 29 yards rushing, while Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch went into “Beast Mode,” rushing for 113 yards and a pair of TDs, including a 79-yard run in the fourth quarter (Seattle had 267 yards rushing). Wilson contributed with 339 yards passing, throwing a pair of TDs and rushing for a TD himself, while Arizona’s Russell Lindley was knocked out of the contest, forcing Logan Thomas to lead the Cardinals. Seattle was 5-12 on third down conversions in the desert and kept the ball for 33:03, while Arizona was 3-15 and 1-1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 26:57.

The Rams and the defending Super Bowl champions met in St. Louis in week seven and the Rams shocked the football world that afternoon, beating Seattle 28-26. The Rams led 21-6 at half time but Seattle made things interesting, outscoring the Rams 20-7 in the second half. Wilson ran for 106 yards and a TD, outpacing the Rams’ 102 (Seattle wound up with 171) and threw for 313 yards and a pair of TDs but it was the Rams defense that stopped Seattle on a drive that would have given them the lead for keeps. Seattle on third down tries was 6-12 and held the ball for 32:24, while the Rams were 4-9 and 1-1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 27:36. Seattle was favored by 6 1/2 and the Rams came away with the 2 point win in the first meeting but both teams managed to cover the 43 over/under by scoring 54 points. This time around, in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, Seattle’s favored by 11 1/2 and the over/under’s 41. The Rams really have nothing to play for and would like to knock Seattle out of the number one spot in the NFC. After all, they’re playing with house money but it’s usually the house that wins. Seattle covers the 11 1/2 and wins at home and takes the top spot in the NFC playoffs.

Detroit (11-4) at Green Bay (11-4), 4:25 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 706) Lambeau Field. The Lions and Packers are both in the postseason but the division is still up for grabs. The winner will claim the division title and also earn a first-round bye. The NFC North champion can also secure the No. 1 seed with some help – Green Bay would need a Seattle loss and Detroit would need both Seattle and Arizona to lose.

“I think playing in a playoff-type game is exactly how you want to go into the playoffs,” says Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. “It’s great that we’re playing for the division title. I think this is exactly how you’d want it. I know this is the way I’d prefer it,” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The game marks the first time since the 1993 season in which two teams with at least 11 wins will play each other in the regular-season finale to determine the division champion (Dallas at New York Giants, January 2, 1994).

“Any time you get to play for a division championship, especially in the NFC North, it’s huge,” Lions guard Rob Sims told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s going to be a good one.”

Detroit and Green Bay won on the road last week to set up the “winner-take-all” showdown at Lambeau. The Lions broke a 7-7 tie against Da Bears at Soldier Field, coming out on top 20-14. Detroit outrushed Chicago 138-64 and sacked Jay Clausen twice while Matthew Stafford was sacked four times. Detroit on third and fourth down tries went 5-13 and 2-2 while Da Bears were 5-13 and 1-3. The clock was the ally of Detroit, who kept the ball for 31:56 to Chicago’s 28:04.

Green Bay held Tampa Bay to a second quarter field goal by Patrick Murray and came away with a 20-3 win over the Bucs in Florida last Sunday. The Packers led 10-3 at halftime and shutout Tampa Bay the rest of the contest, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter unchallenged. Eddie Lacy (44 yard run), Jordy Nelson (1 yard TD pass from Rodgers) and a pair of Mason Crosby field goals were all the scoring the Packers needed in the win over Tampa Bay. The Packers tallied 121 yards on the ground (Lacy had 99 of them), while Green Bay’s defense held Tampa Bay to 16 yards rushing and sacked Case McCown seven times and intercepting him once (Rodgers threw for 318 yards in the win). Randall Cobb and Nelson each had 100-yards receiving in the Sunshine State (Cobb had 11 catches for 131 yards, while Nelson had nine catches for 113) for the Packers, who bounced back from their loss in upstate New York to the Bills the week prior. Third and fourth down? Not a lot to write home about as Green Bay was 6-13 and 0-1, while Tampa Bay was 4-14 and 1-1 but Green Bay did manage to rule the clock, keeping the ball for 38:38 to Tampa Bay’s 21:22.

They met in the Motor City way back in week three, when things were a bit warmer and there was no snow to shovel and it was the Lions coming out on top at Ford Field 19-7. Detroit led Green Bay 12-7 at the intermission and never looked back, shutting out the Packers in the second half. Detroit rushed for 115 yards (Reggie Bush led all rushers with 61), while holding Green Bay to 76 and sacked Rodgers twice. The Lions, who clinched a playoff spot last week after Philadelphia lost at Washington, went 11-18 on third down tries, holding the ball for 38:13, while the Packers went 4-10 and 0-1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 21:47. Detroit covered the 1-point spread with their 12-point win but their 26 combined points came nowhere near the 52 over/under. The Packers are favored by 7 1/2 and the over/under’s 47 1/2.

(For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 55 and dates a 40-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

The stakes couldn’t be any higher. The winner? NFC North champions. The loser? Wild card. Green Bay rarely loses at home (Green Bay’s last loss at home was against the Steelers last year in week 16 by a final of 38-31), Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at home since 2012 against the Vikings and Packer fans don’t expect either of those things to change. Detroit keeps it close but Packers take the NFC North at home on the frozen tundra, even though they may not cover the 7 1/2.

Cincinnati (10-4-1) at Pittsburgh (10-5), 8:30 p.m. (NBC) Heinz Field. The final game of the 2014 regular season will decide the AFC North division. Both know they’re going into the post-season. It’s now a matter of who’s going to be the division champion and who will be the wild card teams.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” says Cincinnati defensive end Wallace Gilberry about playing for the division title. “It’s always good to be playing meaningful football in December.”

Both the Bengals and Steelers have already clinched a playoff berth. But the division title and a home playoff game are at stake.

“They know us and we know them,” head coach Mike Tomlin told KDKA-TV. “It’s a big football game. It’s going to be a good, classic AFC North football game. How else would you want it? I know our guys are excited.”

Cincy ended Denver’s hopes of being the AFC’s top seed in the post-season with a 37-28 win over the Peytonicus last Monday night. Trailing 28-27 after 45 minutes of play (the Bengals led 20-7 at halftime), Cincinnati went on to score 10 fourth quarter points unchallenged, with K Mike Nugent connecting on a 23-yard field goal and CB Dre Kirkpatrick picking Manning off and ran it back 30 yards untouched to put the nail in Denver’s coffin. Rookie RB Jeremy Hill ran for 147 yards and a TD (Cincinnati ran for 207 yards, holding Denver to 85) for the Bengals, while Cincinnati’s secondary picked Manning off four times. Third and fourth down tries? Denver went 5-12 and didn’t attempt a fourth down try, while the Bengals were 2-11 and 1-1 and the clock was on the side of the Bengals, who kept the ball for 31:38 (Denver kept it for 28:22).

The Steelers advanced to the AFC post-season party with a 20-12 win over Kansas City last Sunday afternoon in western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh RB LeDeveon Bell ran for 63 yards and a rushing TD, while Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown connected for the other TD in the contest. The Steelers held Kansas City to four Cairo Santos field goals and 39 yards rushing (Pittsburgh ran for 68), sacked QB Alex Smith six times (Smith would later leave with an injured spleed) and forced a turnover in the 8-point win, while going 5-10 on third down tries and held the ball for 28:53. Kansas City ruled the clock, ironically, keeping the ball for 31:07 and went 6-14 and 1-2 on third and fourth down tries.

They met two weeks ago in Cincy and the Steelers erased a 14-10 deficit, outscoring the Bengals in the second half 32-7 to take the 42-21 win in the Buckeye State. Bell ran for 185 of Pittsburgh’s 193 yards, while holding the home team to 86 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh also made Andy Dalton’s life miserable, sacking him twice, while Roethlisberger threw for 350 yards and three TDs with no sacks or interceptions. Pittsburgh was 50 percent on third down tries at 8-16 and kept the ball for 32:45, while the Bengals were 3-11 and 0-1 on third and fourth down conversions, holding the ball for 27:15. In the first meeting, Pittsburgh’s 21-point win allowed them to cover the 3 1/2 point spread (Cincinnati was favored in that contest) and both clubs covered the 47 1/2 over/under when they combined to score 63 points. That was then. Pittsburgh is favored in the second meeting in the Steel City by 3 points and the over/under this time around? 48. With the AFC North on the line and both clubs knowing they’re in the post-season, it’s not only possible that this one is DRILL WORTHY, we would probably get lumps of coal in our stockings if we didn’t. That being said… (refer to the Detroit-Green Bay game for instructions). Both teams are in the playoffs and while the winner gets at least one home game, while the loser plays next weekend in the first round of the Wild Card. If revenge is a dish best served cold, then expect the Bengals to go back for seconds. Cincy pulls the upset in western Pennsylvania and comes away with the win.

Advertisements