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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES - DEC. 26

By Joe Nelson
Posted 12/27/2011 at 04:13 PM

Usually there is more set in stone entering the final week of the NFL season but the playoff picture still has a lot of unknowns. Green Bay will be the #1 seed in the NFC but that is the only spot that is set. The Giants and the Cowboys will face off for the #4 seed and Atlanta and Detroit are in the playoffs but still don’t know the spots yet. Monday’s game between the Saints and Falcons will provide some clarity as to whether or not the Saints are still in the mix for the #2 seed and whether or not the Falcons are still a player for the NFC South title. The Dallas/New York game Sunday night will be one of the biggest of a great rivalry and has to have NBC thrilled after the week 17 dud between the Seahawks and the Rams last season to decide the NFC West title. Tony Romo is expected to play despite missing most of last week’s game with an early hand injury, ruining several fantasy championship runs in the process as well.

 

Nine teams are still in the mix for the playoffs in the AFC. The team most expected to be there needs the most help as the Jets need to win and have Cincinnati and Tennessee lose, as well as either Denver or Oakland losing. It certainly is not impossible as none of those teams will be more than slight favorites this week. While New England looks like the clear favorite for the top seed, they will need to beat a Bills team that already defeated them this season. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are both still in the mix for the #2 seed depending on how things play out. The Steelers can actually still be the #1 seed but could also fall to the #5 spot and have to play on the road the first week. Houston is the lone team set at #3.

 

As was mentioned in the Sunday night telecast, the Packers, at 14-1 have allowed more yards than they have gained. Green Bay has one of the top offenses in the NFL posting over 395 yards per game but they surrender nearly 401 yards per game. Some of that is due to garbage time yardage playing with big leads but it truly is an incredible set of statistics that seems like it should be impossible. Being +22 in turnovers also helps the cause. It is likely that the top seed in both conferences will be the two teams that have allowed the most yards in the NFL this season as Green Bay and New England rank #31 and #32.

           

Much was made of the Colts winning on Thursday night to put the #1 draft pick in jeopardy but it really was a non-story. With the Rams playing the Steelers last week and the 49ers this week their schedule was going to increase substantially in the difficulty rating that determines the tiebreak. Minnesota has played the toughest schedule in the league so they were going to be third in that tiebreak no matter what. As it stands the Colts will pick first unless they beat Jacksonville and the Rams lose to San Francisco.

           

Underdogs have gone 5-2 in the first seven bowls and the general unscientific rule in recent years has been to take dogs early and favorites late in the bowl season. Obviously that is far too simplistic and there are certainly cases to do the opposite every year but that trend appears likely to hold up to some degree this season. A key in the bowl season can be monitoring the coaching changes as there are so many head coaches and assistant coaches shuffling around. Some stay on to coach the bowl game, others leave immediately. Arizona State was the first team to play with a lame duck coach as Dennis Erickson coached his final game and the result was a lopsided loss. Southern Miss in a similar situation won but failed to cover although it was a different scenario with Coach Fedora upgrading to the North Carolina position. It is certainly not an automatic go-against and certainly the situation is accounted for in the spread. Interim coaches will lead Arkansas State, Illinois, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, and UCLA in upcoming games. Toledo and Houston are both keeping their interim coach for the future. Best of Luck and on to this week’s slate…

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