Looking ahead to critical NFL Week 17

A slight change in format as we offer random thoughts on this weekend’s games:

Will it be the Giants or the Cowboys from the NFC East? Neither has looked like a playoff team on a consistent basis and this week’s winner-take-all game at the Meadowlands features two squads just lucky to be in the postseason conversation.

Tony Romo will play for Dallas with his swollen passing hand while Felix Jones will carry the bulk of the rushing load. Meanwhile, Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora looks like he may return this week from the injured ankle that’s kept him on the sidelines. His return alongside Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul in the defensive front would be a significant lift for the Giants.

Receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham did not practice on Wednesday, giving the Giants something to worry about on offense.

Congratulations to the Saints’ Drew Brees for breaking Dan Marino‘s 27-year-old single-season mark of 5,084 passing yards. Others such as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers could follow suit this week as the Year of the Quarterback winds down.

Marino was a true gunslinger in his day and surely would have racked up more yards if he played under today’s conditions. Still, the Brees accomplishment is literally one for the books.

The Broncos and Bengals can make the playoffs this weekend and both would be sensational stories. With Denver left for dead in last place in the AFC West at the time Tim Tebow was elevated to No. 1 quarterback, few would have predicted they would be in the hunt in the final week of the season.

Tebow and the Broncos got schooled by the Patriots in Week 16 and clearly have their work cut out for them against former teammate Kyle Orton and the Chiefs. Look for a low-scoring defensive tussle.

Meanwhile, the Bengals were supposed to be in rebuilding mode this year with a rookie quarterback and a core of young players. Instead, strong seasons from first-year QB Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green and a defense put together by one of the best coordinators in the business in Mike Zimmer, and Cincinnati is knocking hard on the playoff door.

The Bengals get the Ravens this week and if they win they’ll secure the No. 2 wild card. With a loss, Baltimore would drop from the No. 2 to the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Clearly there’s a lot riding for both teams.

With Todd Haley (Chiefs) and Tony Sparano (Dolphins) already fired, at least four other head coaches who started the season could be on their way out after this week’s games: Norv Turner (Chargers), Raheem Morris (Bucs), Steve Spagnuolo (Rams) and Jim Caldwell (Colts).

Of the four, Turner and Spagnuolo would seem to be the most endangered. Turner and the Chargers can dash the Raiders’ playoff plans with a win on the road.


  1. Hy Hollinger says:

    Thanks Howard for keeping me up to date on the NFL season. Looking forward to your playoff analysis.

  2. Hy Hollinger says:

    Thanks Howard. I’m all set for Sunday’s game after reading your perceptive analysis.

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