NFL TEAMS PREPARE FOR FINAL STRETCH
Time is running out. With two weeks to go in the NFL regular season, it’s time for teams to make their final playoff push.
“The way the schedule is put together with all the division teams playing one another, it makes for a great finish to the regular season,” says Atlanta head coach MIKE SMITH. “You want to be playing your best football in December. One of the things that we talk about as an organization and as a football team is we want to be relevant in December. To be relevant, you have to be playing good football. The playing field has shrunk in terms of teams still in contention, so it’s very important that you win the games down the stretch.”
While seven postseason berths have been clinched – Baltimore, Green Bay, Houston, New England, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and San Francisco – there are still 22 teams overall in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. That is tied for the third-most teams in Super Bowl contention with two weeks to play in a 16-game regular season (26 in 2004, 24 in 2006, 22 in 1994).
Four of the divisions – AFC North, AFC West, NFC East, NFC South – are going down to the wire.
“One thing that stays true in all scenarios is that we have to win our next two games,” says Chargers quarterback PHILIP RIVERS, whose team is one-game behind Denver for first place in the AFC West. “Let’s just worry about what we can control and if that’s not enough, we’re going to go down fighting.”
And with two weeks to go, the only thing left to expect is the unpredictable.
For instance…this past Sunday marked just the third time in NFL history in which a team without a loss (Green Bay) was defeated and a team without a win (Indianapolis) was victorious on the same day at least 11 games into a season (December 13, 1953 and November 18, 1984)…the Detroit Lions erased a 27-14 deficit to defeat Oakland 28-27, the fourth time this season that the Lions won a game in which they trailed by at least 13 points; that’s the most such victories in a season in NFL history…and the Arizona Cardinals overcame a 17-7 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Cleveland 20-17 in overtime, the sixth time this season the Cardinals trailed in the fourth quarter and came back to win; that’s tied for the second-most such wins in a season since 1970.
Week 16 kicks off on Thursday when the AFC South champion Houston Texans travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts (NFL Network, 8:00 PM ET). The action continues with 13 games on Saturday, a Christmas night showdown between NFC North rivals Chicago and Green Bay on Sunday (NBC, 8:20 PM ET) and a Monday night matchup featuring the top two teams in the NFC South – Atlanta and New Orleans (ESPN, 8:30 PM ET).
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