Wild Card watch: Update on the race with three weeks remaining
Two weeks ago I posted a blog about the wildcard picture in both the AFC and NFC. With three weeks remaining in the season, I revisit some of my thoughts and update you on the Wild Card races.
By Dennis Olmstead
Panthers are all but done
I have been duped. I trusted the Panthers and what they have in Carolina. The talent on that roster is not translating to the field, which has caused them to go on a losing streak. That streak couldn’t come at a worse time.
The fifth seed is all but locked by Seattle, but the sixth seed is WIDE open right now. Even with Carolina’s poor play, they still miraculously have a shot at the playoffs. The issue is their chances of making it are slim to none. With three games remaining, the Panthers play the NFC leading Saints twice. They’re in New Orleans this Monday, finishing the season up with them coming to Charlotte. In between the two meetings, they have Atlanta at home.
The Vikings are the only reason the Panthers are still in the hunt. Minnesota has been matching the Panthers losses the last two weeks and also have no right to be mentioned in the same sentence as the playoffs. Back to back close losses to the Buccaneers and Browns have made the road to the playoffs for the Panthers very challenging, if not impossible. They need to play the best football they have played this season three straight weeks. Even that may not be enough.
Cowboys are proving it’s better to be lucky than good sometimes
It is so very hard for me to accept the fact that the Cowboy’s are good. I cannot and will not take away their wins against the Saints and Eagles, but they certainly made their lives a lot harder and the games more exciting by keeping them close. I get it, a win is a win, but their inability to close out games when they have the opportunity to is a sign the team may not be as good as advertised.
Let me provide you with some stat lines from the game against the Eagles:
Prescott: 42/54, 455 yards, three TD’s and two INT’s
Elliot: 28 carries, 113 yards, 12 catches and 79 yards
Cooper: 10 catches, 217 yards and three TD’s
With those great offensive numbers, they still needed OT to win the game. A defense that held Drew Brees to 10 points let up 22. You may be wondering why am I focused on the Cowboys when I am writing about the Wild Card Race. Legit question, but if you read my predictions two weeks ago, you would know then that I foresaw an epic collapse by the Cowboys. They have not done that and I am bitter. Them atop of the NFC East and the struggles of the Panthers and Vikings still leaves a window open for the Eagles to make playoffs. That window is extremely small and will most likely close quickly this Sunday against the Rams. Like the Cowboys’ victory against the Saints taught us, anything can happen.
The AFC race just got better:
With the Colts and Ravens going 1-1 in the last two games (Colts lost to the Jags and beat the Texans. Ravens beat Atlanta and lost to KC), the Dolphins and Titans capitalized on it by going 2-0, officially making it a four horse race.
This Sunday could be the week where one or two teams separate themselves from the pack.
Of the four teams, the Dolphins and Colts have the toughest matchups this week. Though their recent struggles, Minnesota is still a good football team with talent that keeps them in every game they play. Miami needs to refocus after a big win against New England and keep that momentum going. The Dolphins have been the most up and down team we have seen this season and could be in for a hangover and let down when they travel up north to Viking country. The Colts have the hottest team in football coming to town, the Cowboys. It is a tough matchup, but the Colts at home have been very good. After ending the Texans’ win streak, they will be looking to put out the fire surrounding the Cowboys.
Both the Colts and Dolphins can easily lose those games, leaving the Ravens and Titans an opportunity to separate themselves. I will admit, I have not given the Ravens enough credit this season. They are a gritty team that has proven to be a lot harder to beat than I thought. They played hard against the Chiefs, nearly stealing a big game. Tampa Bay proves to be an easier match-up than KC, but have been sneaky good at times and could give the Ravens fits if they are not ready for it.
The Titans also have a winnable game, at least if they show up the same way they did against the Jaguars Thursday Night. The Giants will give them problems, but I think last week’s win can fuel Tennessee for a big run to end the season. The Giants could be just a speed bump in the way of the last playoff spot. But just like the Dolphins, just when you think they have it all right, they don’t show up the next week.
If I had to guess, I’d say the Dolphins lose, Colts win, Ravens win and Titans lose. Making it Ravens (8-6) Colts (8-6) Titans (7-7) Dolphins (7-7)
These teams are still in the hunt, but I did not mention because they need a lot of help. Broncos (6-7) and Browns (5-8) in the AFC and Giants (5-8) and Packers (5-7-1) in the NFC.