And so it comes to this – Week 17, the final slate of regular-season games, with some play-off spots still to be determined in the NFL.
The six teams that will be representing the AFC – New England, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Kansas City and Miami – are all locked in, though the top two seeds are not yet set, while in the NFC all eyes will be on the NFC North clash between Green Bay and Detroit.
Ahead of kick off in Motor City, Green Bay and Detroit will already be assured of play-off spots if the New York Giants beat Washington earlier in the day. However, even in that scenario, this is a crunch clash that will decide who has a home post-season game and who has to go on the road.
Detroit, without a divisional title and a home play-off game in 23 years, may just be running into the NFL’s most in-form player right now in Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In a five-game winning streak, Rodgers has thrown 11 touchdowns and no interceptions to catapult himself into consideration for a third MVP honour while Lions QB Matthew Stafford, once in the discussion himself, has as many TDs as INTs over the past half-a-dozen weeks.
With the Lions also having been demolished 42-21 by the Cowboys last week, the Packers should inflict more misery with a convincing victory to take the NFC North title once again.
Dallas’ destruction of Detroit was a statement and so too was Kansas City’s Christmas cruise past the reigning Super Bowl champions Denver.
In putting up 484 yards of offence against the Broncos – which included a touchdown pass thrown by 346-pound lineman Dontari Poe – the Chiefs showed that they do have the offensive firepower to make serious waves when the season enters knock-out territory, and they will know they can do even move damage if they secure a bye and a home divisional game.
To do so, they need Oakland to lose in Denver – something which became a lot more likely the moment promising quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg last week – and then take care of business themselves against the Chargers.
This is the same San Diego team that lost to the previously winless Cleveland Browns last weekend and may be playing their final game before relocating to Los Angeles. The Chargers appear to have clocked off for the off-season long ago so consider the Chiefs certs to win big again.
In the NFC South, the two highest-scoring offences meet in the Georgia Dome and look set to once again light up the scoreboard.
Atlanta, who will clinch a first-round bye with victory, are averaging a league-leading 33.5 points per game and another huge performance from Matt Ryan may win him the MVP gong.
Meanwhile, the Saints have accumulated 29.1 points per game, while giving up 27.7 to opponents, ensuring they have been involved in several shootouts. One of those came against the Falcons in the second week as Atlanta won 45-32.
With 77 points scored on that occasion, the 56-point spread looks a low bar for these two offences to overcome.