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What We Learned From the NFL: Week 16 Edition

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr injured his leg Saturday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr injured his leg Saturday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

If you are a big fan of the NFL in general, you love the last few weeks of the regular because it practically gives us the playoffs, before the playoffs.

However, along with some festive holiday games that were great gifts, Week 16 also put some coal in the stocking of plenty of fans. QB’s Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota were lost for the season with leg injuries and neither will man their respective offenses in the postseason. More on that later.

Now, to the observations…

Green Bay and Pittsburgh will be dangerous in the playoffs

Okay, Green Bay has not officially clinched a playoff spot, as they still need to beat a reeling Detroit team on the road to win the division. The Packers can also get in via the wild card if they lose, but that would require Washington losing earlier in the day. Keeping it in the present however, Green Bay just thoroughly dominated Minnesota at home and now won 5 in a row since Aaron Rodgers said, “we can run the table.” Well, they are half way there if you include all of the games in the postseason en route to winning the Super Bowl. With Rodgers playing at this level, Green Bay seems unstoppable.

The Steelers clinched the division on Sunday in a thriller. Baltimore and Pittsburgh seemed to have developed the best rivalry in football as the Ravens took the lead with under two minutes to play and Big Ben himself marched his offense right down the field to score the winning touchdown with a fantastic play by Antonio Brown. Brown was stopped short of the goal line and if he had been stopped there, the clocked would have run out; but with fantastic effort and strength, he reached the ball over the goal line to score. Pittsburgh wins. Unreal effort and with an offense featuring Brown, LeVeon Bell, and Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers could be the best competition for the Patriots.

Dolphins in, Broncos out

Carolina and Denver, last years Super Bowl 50 pairing, will be missing the playoffs this season. Because Denver is out, that means Miami is in, despite what I thought they could do with Matt Moore at QB in place for the injured Ryan Tannehill. Denver’s ineptitude on offense was their ultimate downfall and Miami took advantage of an easier schedule and some stellar play by Moore. Now the Dolphins will be playing come wild card weekend most likely at Pittsburgh. I have to give credit where credit is due. Well done Adam Gase, well done.

It is way too hard to stomach the QB injuries

Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota. Two young budding star QB’s. Really NFL? This is so terrible beyond so many words. Carr has a recovery timetable from his broken fibula of 6-8 weeks. Now, in the unlikely event the Raiders are able to reach the Super Bowl, Carr reportedly has his eyes set on a return on the biggest stage. While both events seem unlikely to me, can you just imagine the dramatic theater that would provide? Matt McGloin holding down the fort just well enough to set up Carr’s return to help the Raiders capture a Super Bowl title. Hollywood type stuff right there.

Mariota’s injury was also a big shame to the league that needs new young QB’s to take over as the faces of NFL after guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers make their exit. Tennessee’s playoff hopes were dashed with a loss to Jacksonville and Houston’s late victory over Cincinnati. However, Mariota was the reason the Titans were relevant this year and will be relevant for years to come. Nearly 3,500 yards to go along with 26 TD and only 9 INT come to no surprise for the former Heisman trophy winner. Fans of the Titans, QB’s and the NFL should be thankful they have two QB’s like Mariota and Carr for a long time. Maybe the next Manning vs. Brady type rivalry?

Cleveland is a winner

Head Coach Hue Jackson finally delivered, with the help of his players obviously, a win for the Browns. A 20-17 victory over San Diego ended any possibility for the Browns to match the 2008 Detroit Lions as the second team to go 0-16 for a season. It was not stellar QB play from Robert Griffin III, nor was it a career rushing day for Isaiah Crowell, although he did have two touchdowns. It was a total team effort in all three phases to get a win for the home crowd. Cleveland may finish 1-15 this year but Hue Jackson might be the right man for the job to finally turn in a good draft class and turn the Browns into true winners.

Who takes out Dallas?

Dak Prescott is not going to throw for a lot of yards, but man is he going to be accurate. Prescott went 15 of 20 for 212 yards and 3 TD. Look out for the kid in the playoffs. With the best offensive line in football, a future multiple All-Pro running back in Ezekiel Elliot, and an improving defense led by coordinator Rod Marinelli, Prescott has some good company to help lead the charge into the playoffs.

Heck, this team has home field advantage throughout the playoffs and if they make the Super Bowl, they will not have to leave the state of Texas.

Green Bay seems like the biggest competition at the moment because they are on fire but who else can compete? The Giants could be that team because they are the only team to beat Dallas this season; and it was twice. But that would require a victory in the wild card round at the minimum to face Dallas in the divisional round or even the conference championship. Seattle is also deadly in the postseason, but that is mostly at home. On the road is a different story and it would not go over well in Arlington taking on the Cowboys. For the Cowboy fans, this must be fun. For the haters, you have 5 other teams come the beginning of wild card weekend that could take down Dallas.

So what do we watch in Week 17?

Well, the AFC playoffs are determined aside from some seeding issues. If you’re THAT into seeing where they end up, you could watch Oakland and how they look with Matt McGloin at QB. A Raiders win clinches the division and a first round bye at minimum. Couple that with a Patriots loss to Miami, the Raiders get home field advantage. But, lets take a look over in the NFC:

Green Bay at Detroit:

The final regular season game for the NFC North. If the Redskins win earlier in the day, they clinch a playoff berth and this will be a winner take all game with the winner going to the playoffs and the loser going home. What a way to end 2016.

New York Giants at Washington:

If the Redskins win, they are in. If they lose, they are out. It is as simple as that. With their playoff hopes looking slim just a week ago, Washington is in perfect position to make the playoffs for the second straight year. Then that will bring the next question: is Kirk Cousins going to be the true franchise quarterback?

The playoffs are almost upon us. For the teams that are not going to the tournament, enjoy one last week and then go play some golf and sit back and relax.

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Nick is an NFL Analyst at DoubleGSports.com as well as the Philadelphia Soul Beat Writer.
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