16 weeks ago I was excited, but this week I am amped! The NFL regular season finale concludes Sunday January 3, 2010, so grab some popcorn and a drink because with the playoffs on the line, we are in for quite a dramatic finish.
1:00 PM Games
Jacksonville at Cleveland: The Jaguars lost their chance prior to Christmas in order to make themselves a lock for the playoffs, but after their performance last weekend against the New England Patriots, do they even stand a chance?
Playing against a Cleveland Browns team, which has had a horrific season should not mean this game should be a cakewalk, yet who knows what Cleveland Browns team will show up and play today?
Jacksonville will need to rely heavily on running back Maurice Jones-Drew, along with quarterback David Garrard.
Expect a big day, especially fantasy wise too for Browns running back Jerome Harrison. Harrison has shown signs of greatness and will be a player to watch in the coming years, but due to the fact that the Jaguars need so much to occur in order to at least snag the sixth seed in the AFC second season, I like the Cleveland Browns in this game. Cleveland 24 – Jacksonville 13
New England at Houston: To play your starters or not to play your starters is the question on coach Bill Belichick’s mind.
All week New England fans have been harassing sports talk radio hosts about the status of Tom Brady, along with every starter. Will Randy Moss play? Will Wes Welker play? Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren ready to go too were just some of the constant jabber that occurred.
Who knows how long the Patriots starting unit will last in this contest, whether it is 20 or 60 minutes, this game means as much to them as it does to the Texans.
The Texans have been inconsistent this entire season, winning then losing and then winning again, so who knows what team, similar to the Cleveland Browns will show up on Sunday.
Expect a big game from quarterback Matt Schaub, who has had a career year. Throwing for 4,467 yards and 27 touchdown passes, 9 of them to wide-out Andre Johnson, exhibits that the Texans offense will put up some points against an up and down Patriots secondary.
Expect this game to be closer than many may think, but in the end, the Patriots will pull this one out. New England 27 – Houston 24
New York at Minnesota: This game should be an interesting one, especially how the Vikings have been humiliated the past few weekends in front of a live studio audience… excuse me, national televised audience.
Brett Favre has been sacked 9 times in the last three games, as well as only thrown 2 interceptions. The key for the Vikings is to protect their quarterback, Farve making good decisions and hoping that Adrian Peterson won’t fumble the ball or possibly the game. This young offensive unit has looked great at times throughout the fall, but maybe this is just another team that will fall down with Favre like the New York Jets did last season.
The Giants are 10-13 against the Purple People Eaters and won’t be participating in the 2009 NFL Playoffs, so consider this the Giants version of their NFC Championship or Super Bowl. New York 24 – Minnesota 20
Pittsburgh at Miami: The Steelers season has been far from perfect.
Injuries, big plays that fell apart quickly and of course, losing 5 games in a row. Today their task will be challenging, daunting even, especially because the Miami Dolphins want to make it two back-to-back seasons of playing playoff football.
The Steelers will most likely be without safety Troy Polamalu while the Dolphins most likely won’t see running back Ricky Williams, but who knows if these two stars will remain in their street clothes because this is a BIG game!
Both teams will need a win, plus lots of help later today. Expect this game to be somewhat of a high scoring affair, but in the end, I don’t see either of these teams locking up a wild-card playoff berth. Pittsburgh 27 – Miami 21
4:00 PM Games
Philadelphia at Dallas: Everyone is revved up for this season finale contest, especially because of last years, 44-6 thrashing by the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys this time around seem a bit more focused and the way that Tony Romo has played this December, many may consider him the key to winning this contest. Protecting Romo will be what Dallas needs to do in order to be successful this afternoon. Also, their running game needs to be in prime form come game time too.
As for the Philadelphia Eagles, their last loss came during week 10 against the San Diego Chargers, but ever since, this team has been unstoppable. With the young wide receiving core leading the way, (Jackson and Maclin), expect quarterback Donovan McNabb to stretch the field early and often.
Don’t expect a blow out this afternoon, but a similar match-up that took place in November in week 9.
Both teams know a division championship and possibly a week of rest is on the line, so overall, it should be a great game. Dallas 27 – Philadelphia 24
Kansas City at Denver: Denver started 6-0 this season, but ever since have never been the same. A sure lock for at least the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs although those dreams have drifted away rapidly in the snowy wintery wind.
Don’t expect Denver to be flawless today, especially since their squad has been high school drama central this entire week.
Kansas City has surprised some teams this season and this week, they will do it again. Kansas City 20 – Denver 14
Baltimore at Oakland: This game seems similar to the Browns-Jaguars contest, but I think the Ravens will pull this one out, as long as they remain focus.
The Ravens are 5-1 against the Silver and Black, but don’t underestimate Coach Tom Cable’s squad that is playing for jobs next season.
Expect great leadership to come from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis who will want to take his team back to the playoffs again. Baltimore 19 – Oakland 13
Green Bay at Arizona: A possible early playoff preview, but who really knows?
The Green Bay Packers are clearly one of the best wildcard teams this season and will give many higher seeds a run for their money in the wildcard and divisional rounds.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, pro-bowl bound has had a terrific season, which makes me think he will have another great game today against a decent Arizona Cardinals defense.
The Arizona Cardinals are in, but will they end 2009 the same way they did in 2008 with a win against the Seahawks? Green Bay 31 – Arizona 21
Sunday Night Football
Cincinnati at New York: Hopefully after six hours of football, you will still have some energy left to watch another important contest that will solidify the AFC playoff picture.
Who would have imagined that the New York Jets would be playing for a final playoff spot? I certainly did not, but from what it seems is that this game is theirs, especially because Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis will rest most of his starters mid-way through this contest. Possibly we could be watching Colts-Jets part deuce! New York 23 – Cincinnati 17