The regular season has come to its conclusion, and what a finish it was! We were treated to three overtime games in which all three had massive playoff implications. One of those three games almost ended up being the greatest tie in the history of football. We had seedings in both conferences go in a chaotic state as scores were constantly changing. Just to sum it up nicely, this past weekend was chaotic and full of drama. After this weekend 18 teams have bowed out of the competition and only 14 remain. So, before we look towards the playoff matchups, let’s do one last winners and losers.
Winner #1 Pittsburgh Steelers
Entering this weekend, the Steelers only had a 10% chance of making the playoffs. Not only did they need to win, but they needed a variety of results elsewhere to go their way. After surviving an overtime showdown with the Ravens, the Steelers could only hope for the best. Well, the best is exactly what happened as things went the Steelers way. Every single result that they needed happened, and now Big Ben will get at least one more playoff game. It hasn’t been pretty and there have been plenty of times where this team appeared to be doomed. But this “never say die” team kept fighting until the bitter end. They’ve gotten their reward with a playoff spot and, who knows, maybe there is a storybook ending somewhere.
Loser #1 Indianapolis Colts
One of the main reasons the Steelers were able to sneak into the playoffs was the collapse of the Colts. I mentioned last week that they have had trouble playing in Jacksonville, and those struggles continued. In a win and you are in the scenario the Colts came out flat. Jacksonville dominated them from start to finish, and Indy could only watch as their season crashed and burned. A few weeks ago, this was the team in the AFC that nobody wanted to face in the playoffs. As it turns out, nobody will have to, since the Colts couldn’t get it done…and they only have themselves to blame. The Colts just needed to win one of their last two games and failed to do so. Indy will join 17 other teams watching the playoffs instead of taking part in it.
Winner #2 San Francisco 49ers
I’m sure Niner fans have a cliché that goes something like “death, taxes and beating the Rams.” For the 3rd straight season the Niners swept the Rams, and in doing so clinched the last playoff spot in the NFC. The win also knocked the Rams out of the 2 seed and made their playoff road significantly tougher. Securing their place in the playoffs at the expense of a division rival sounds like a job well done. This is especially true when you consider that the Niners were down 17-0 at one point in that game. They were down 7 with less than a minute to go in the 4th quarter but pulled off a season-saving touchdown drive. San Francisco enters the playoffs full of momentum and looks like a team others would like to avoid. An old school matchup against the Cowboys awaits them.
Loser #2 Arizona Cardinals
Coming into the day the Cardinals still had an outside chance of winning the division. They needed the Rams to win, and they needed to beat the Seahawks as well. As mentioned before the Niners defeated the Rams, opening the door for the Cardinals to snatch the division title away from LA. Unfortunately for Arizona fans, they saw their team waste a golden opportunity by losing at home against the Seahawks. The loss just about guarantees that this past Sunday was the last home game for Arizona this season. While missing out on the division title is a bit of a blow, Arizona has done better on the road than at home this season. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. That being said, you’d much rather be at home for the playoffs than on the road.
Winner #3 Chaos and Those Who Love Drama
Week 18 had just about everything you could want in a week of football. I mentioned earlier there were three overtime games that all had playoff implications. There was intriguing positioning for the number one pick; Jacksonville seemingly gave that away by beating the Colts, only to realize that they still had the number 1 pick thanks to Detroit winning over Green Bay. The Colts crashed and burned, while the Saints saw their season end with the Niners pulling off a win in overtime. The Dolphins completed a rare season sweep over the Patriots, denying them any chance of a division title. Big Ben had to wait until past midnight to find out he and the Steelers were making the playoffs – they had to wait so long because the Chargers and Raiders game went to overtime. It was an exhausting day, but an extremely entertaining one.
Loser #3 Los Angeles Chargers
After a season full of shooting themselves in the foot, the Chargers did it one last time to end their season. Going into this game the Chargers needed to avoid defeat to make the playoffs. That means a win, or a tie would be good enough for them to continue their season. Throughout the game they made some curious decisions, such as going for it on 4th down inside their own 20. Despite that, they found themselves in overtime after a furious late 4th quarter rally.
After trading field goals, the Raiders got the ball again and slowly moved their way down the field. It became a real question of whether the Raiders would run the clock out and take the tie. Well, since the Chargers called a timeout instead of letting the Raiders continue to run the clock out, we will never know. Thanks to the timeout the Raiders decided to go for the win, which they ultimately ended up doing.