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GB @ DET
This matchup is quite interesting not only because of the playoff implications for both teams, but also because of the fact that a tie results in a playoff berth for both teams. With this in mind, there is quite a unique scenario in which both teams attempt to tie the game. However, I stick with my prediction from a few week ago. Rodgers leads his team back to a winner takes all game (division championship), followed up by a win in Detroit.
It’s simple, when both teams are playing at their best, Green Bay is going to win. The ceiling is much higher for Aaron Rodgers than it is for Stafford. The Packers have undoubtedly been playing great football as of late and that is all thanks to Aaron Rodgers, so we know we are going to get him at the top of his game.
Amazingly, Aaron Rodgers is back in the MVP race. I don’t think he deserves to be in the race because he hasn’t had a consistent year with his slow start, but his consideration is a testament to how good he has played over the team’s last 5 games. The Aaron Rodgers from the last 5 games is the Rodgers that will show up and that’s why they get the win. With a better QB and a 5 game winning streak playing a team that has lost 2 straight, it is Green Bay all the way.
NYG @ WAS
Well, this game should have been brilliant. However, New York just doesn’t care enough. They are stuck with the 5 seed no matter what and it doesn’t matter if Washington makes it into the playoffs because they would be the 6 seed. The chances that a 5 seed or a 6 seed face are extremely low and there is an argument to be made that a team would rather play Washington in the playoffs than Green Bay or Detroit.
I don’t think the Giants should play most of their starters the whole game and would be shocked if they did. Therefore, I don’t think there is anything meaningful that can come out of this game for the Giants. However, it is a must win game for Cousins, and as a quarterback that I am skeptical of, a win on Sunday would really help his case for being a franchise QB. On the other hand, a loss would be extremely detrimental: Losing to a team with little to play for on your home field for a playoff bid. It’ll be interesting to see what Cousins is made of because New York is a top tier defense and it won’t be an easy task to make it into the playoffs. Despite this, Cousins is expected to do so.
DAL @ PHI
I don’t know if there is anything interesting outside of the Romo story. The Cowboys have locked up home field and the Eagles are out of the playoffs, so the game doesn’t matter. It is one more game for Wentz to get experience and there is a possibility that Romo plays. Those are the only storylines.
I’d vote for playing Romo. After seeing all these young quarterbacks go down, coaches and GMs will be looking to rest starters and get their backups some reps.
I understand the money side of it. If Romo gets hurt then it is possible that they would be stuck with his contract, but the ultimate goal in sports is to win. Therefore, giving up a chance at extra reps for Romo hurts their chances of winning a super bowl. Give Romo a few extra reps. Not a ton, but enough to get him in a rhythm.
Side note: They also have to be careful if he plays too much because of the fact that if he plays well there will be a QB controversy, the last thing the Cowboys want.
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NE @ MIA
This is an intriguing game to see what potential the Dolphins have. A few weeks ago they lost their starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and their season seemed over. However, they were unfazed and have won every game since. The Dolphins seem like they are a good team, but I am still extremely skeptical and view them as a one and done team in the playoffs. This game Sunday will be a good measuring stick for the Dolphins. They are playing possibly the best team in the league at home in a game that is still important to both teams. Everyone thinks that they will be blown out, but a close game and possibly a win will go a long way for Miami’s confidence in themselves and to prove that the past few weeks have not been a fluke.
OAK @ DEN
A huge game for Oakland that doesn’t matter for Denver at all. The Raiders need to win for a bye and a home playoff game (still have a shot at the 1 seed if the Patriots lose), whereas a loss could drop them all the way to the 5 seed. In addition, Oakland needs to get valuable reps for their current starter, Matt McGloin. It is a perfect warm up game before the playoffs, on the road, against a very good defense in an important game. It will also show the Raiders what they can expect from McGloin, depending on how he plays.
Denver, on the other hand, is treating this game more like a preseason game. Many of their star players are resting because of injury (TJ Ward, Derek Wolfe, Demarcus Ware, and possibly Brandon Marshall). Normally these players would be able to give it a go, but since their season is over, it just doesn’t make sense. They also plan to split reps between Lynch and Siemian, a formula frequently used for preseason games, not when the team is trying to win the game.
Luckily for the Raiders, I think they will come out on top. The team is going to come out aggressive and inspired to get a win for Derek. Their opponents, on the other hand, seem like they might come out flat given that their playoffs hope were just erased and their coaching staff does not appear to be treating this game like they normally would.
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Ryan is currently a student at the University of North Carolina. He grew up in the Bay Area and has had Raiders season tickets his entire life fostering his love for the NFL. He has founded his own sports website, thejrreport.com and works at the Sports Desk for the Daily Tar Heel. You can follow Ryan on twitter @rytime98 if you want to discuss anything sports.