by Kent Sterling
The media coverage of the NFL regular season’s final day is just phenomenal. The run up to the final regular season Sunday beats the hell out of the playoffs by any measure. Almost every team plays for something, many teams play for their lives, and many players are fighting for their careers.
That makes today through 1p Sunday, December 29th the most fun a sports fan can have.
As if the drama needed another element, the Dallas Cowboys are ready to announce that Tony Romo will sit out the rest of the season with a winner takes the NFC East coming Sunday.
The Bears host the Packers with a quarterback controversy ready to explode in Chicago if Jay Cutler can’t get the Bears past the Pack, and Rodgers hoping to be cleared to play. Back-up Josh McNown played his ass off to keep the Bears from falling apart after Cutler suffered a groin injury followed by a high ankle sprain, and Bears fans have never expressed their undying devotion to Cutler regardless of injury.
The AFC is total chaos with the Patriots in as the champion of the AFC East, but a team that could ascend to the #1 seed or drop to #4 if they lose at home to the Bills and the Colts and Bengals both win their games.
Going into the game tonight, the 49ers could fall all the way out of the playoffs with a loss tonight and then a loss at Arizona in the season finale. Arizona, at 10-5, needs some help to get into the postseason, even if they win the final game against the 49ers if the 49ers win tonight at home against Atlanta. If the 49ers win tonight and the Saints win at home against Tampa Bay, the Cardinals are out.
And what about the wild cards in the AFC. Kansas City is the only team locked into a postseason seed at #5, but the sixth spot is up for grabs among Miami, Baltimore, San Diego, and Pittsburgh. The combination of wins and losses needed for each to get in is so complex that it would drive my Finite Math professor at Indiana University to the Clock Tower armed with the laundry basket full of water balloons.
After 16 weeks of football, only Detroit @ Minnesota, Houston @ Tennessee, and Washington @ Giants have no effect on the postseason, but the Texans and Redskins are playing for the #1 draft pick. If the Texans lose, they earn the top pick. If the Redskins lose and the Texans end their losing streak at 13, the Rams will own the #1 pick by virtue of the last piece of compensation in the trade for the #2 pick in 2012 used to draft RG3. If the Rams trade down again, they could receive a similar bounty in another trade, which would likely make the RG3 trade one of the worst in the history of the NFL.
That leaves only one game on the schedule during the last day of the season that has no significant bearing on the season. As with great books, the last chapter should bring some magic, and Week 17 pays off exceptionally well year after year.
There is just no way not to head to a Buffalo Wild Wings or similar bar with a wall of TVs to watch the celebration and mourning.
If the MLB, NBA, and NHL lament the ascension of the NFL to the top spot among American sports fans, they need only look at Week 17 to determine why.
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett just uttered the unlikeliest combination of words, “I feel great about Kyle Orton.” If that doesn’t communicate the stress and wonder of this magical sports week, I don’t know what does.