Tick Tock goes the clock, winding down the playoff hopes of teams on the bubble and counting down to the playoff huddle. Several teams have it locked up. Philadelphia, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and New England are assured of a playoff spot. Many more are either moving up the bubble or slipping dangerously close to the end of it. Meanwhile only Miami, Cleveland, Oakland, San Francisco and Tennessee have officially been eliminated from playoff contention.
The AFC has dominated the NFC this year, winning 35 times to only 19 losses in inter-conference matches, and it shows in the playoff picture. So far all but one of the teams eliminated are from the AFC with the exception of San Francisco. Fear not, as the Niners can expect some company shortly, and probably this weekend.
Each conference also has it’s own version of the phoenix, and no I don’t mean the Cardinals. In the AFC it’s Buffalo who, after starting out 1-5 including an 0-4 start, have put it all together by winning 6 of their last seven games and winning convincingly. In the NFC the Cinderella story from 2003 is making a case for a repeat at the glass slipper, winning five straight games with their 5th string running back and a patchwork offensive line that bears little resemblance to the one that began the season.
There is a bigger story, and one Peyton Manning would just as soon not be a part of. History seems to be making the choice however, with a pretty big boost from the only quarterback who calls his own plays. I have a feeling once his playing days are over, Peyton Manning will continue his record ways as an offensive coordinator and possibly head coach in the NFL. You heard it here first.
With history waiting impatiently in the wings and Dan Marino pacing nervously in the studio, Manning and the Colts will host Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens and a possible date with history in the
Great White Shark Game of the Week – Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts
Sunday December 19 th @ 8:30pm ET on ESPN
Ed Reed is having an MVP season, which is saying a lot with the talent the Ravens have on defense. A former Miami Hurricane, read has 61 tackles, 2 sacks and 8 interceptions, including a record 106 yarder returned for a touchdown in week 9 against the Browns. Throw in Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs at the linebacker spots with Deion Sanders and Chris McCallister in the defensive backfield and you have a nasty site for Manning and his fleet footed Colt receivers. The Colts aren’t slackers either, and sport by far the most potent offense in the NFL and a defense playing Dungy-Ball extremely well. Coach Tony Dungy’s teams have a knack for creating turnovers, and this year the Colts lead all teams with 33 takeaways.
Shark Sighting – Edgerrin James will be key in this game for the Colts. If they can keep the Ravens honest against the run in the 3-4 alignment, Manning will be able to pick apart even the most talented secondary. The Ravens will need to disrupt Manning’s rhythm if they are to have a chance to leave with a much needed W. Anything less will put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.
Whale of a Game – Seattle Seahawks @ NY Jets
Sunday December 19th @ 1:00pm on FOX
Seattle comes into the Meadowlands fresh from a huge win against the Vikings in the Metrodome. The Seahawks need to finish the season as they started, with tough wins on the road, if they want to hang on to the precarious lead they have on the St. Louis Rams. The Rams helped by laying down for Carolina, but as we’ve seen this race is far from over. The Jets, fresh off a 16-7 loss to AFC foe Pittsburgh, are hoping their rugged defense and stellar running game will help them hold off a suddenly potent Seahawks attack that has scored 66 points in the last two weeks.
Shark Sighting – The onus is on Seattle this week, who will be without defensive leader Grant Wistrom and DT Marcus Tubbs. The return of Chad Brown should help offset the loss, but he needs to be in top form or the Seahawks may limp back to the west coast needing a lot of help to grab a playoff spot.
Chumming the Waters – Tennessee Titans @ Oakland Raiders
Sunday December 19th @ 4:15 ET on CBS
There is no real purpose for playing this game, except to finish the season. Two of the five teams eliminated from the playoffs are here, and the Titans look like a platoon returning from Iraq with so many walking wounded. Kerry Collins has been up and down this season, but the Titans will be flat after burning a million calories trying to keep up with the Chiefs last Monday Night. Expect a nice game from Collins and Company.
The big story out of Tennessee is the imminent retirement of Steve McNair. One of the game’s all-time great warriors may have taken his last beating. Backup Billy Volek has taken the reins and done an outstanding job. He and Drew Bennett have made a cosmic connection lately, and the Titans will need it this week.
Shark Sighting – Derrick Mason may not play. If he doesn’t Bennett may be in for a tough game as the WR1. There is some talent on the bench but it remains to be seen if the Titans can muster enough juice to finish the game.