I'm obviously a huge Steelers fan, but I'm also a huge fan of the NFL, in general. And this time of year, when we're heading to the finish line of the NFL regular season, and the playoff picture is starting to come into focus, well, it's Heaven for me.
9 of the 12 playoff spots are already accounted for as we head to the final week, but there are many questions still unanswered, not only with those three available playoff spots, but with regards to when and where many of the teams will be playing their January football.
Will the Steelers, currently the 5th seed in the AFC, jump over the Ravens and claim the AFC North title and first round bye for the third time in the last four seasons? Heck, for that matter, could the Steelers even climb as high as the number one overall seed? Will the Steelers get a week off to lick their many wounds, or will the Black and Gold have to take their show on the road during Wildcard Weekend?
Will Baltimore finally take advantage of a situation that has them in control of their own destiny by beating the Bengals this week and winning their first division title since 2006? Or will they, once again, be sporting their road whites when the postseason begins?
Can the Bengals seize the final playoff spot in the AFC by knocking off the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium this coming Sunday? Will enough people in the Cincinnati area even show up to create an actual homefield advantage for the Bengals?
If the Steelers do lose out on the AFC North title, will they have to travel to Denver the following week, and will Ryan Clark stay behind? If the Broncos make it, how many times will we hear the name "Tim Tebow" the week leading up to the game? How many features will Sally Wiggin do on the Mile High Messiah?
If it's the Raiders who are the Steelers opponents for the wildcard game, how many times will we see the footage of Kemo crashing into Carson Palmer's knee during that playoff game from a number of years ago? Will the Raiders fans crash Steelers blogs talking smack and acting like it's 1976? How many Raiders fans will be banned from Steelers blogs and vice versa during the week leading up to the big game in the Black Hole?
Will the Jets, once again, beat all of the odds and somehow make it into the playoffs as a wildcard? Right now, they need the Bengals, Titans and Broncos/Raiders to all lose or tie. If I bet a $100 that it would happen, how much could I win? If the Jets make it to the playoffs again, what team will they be playing in the AFC Championship game?
In the NFC, the only playoff spot available is a "win and you're in" scenario. The Giants and Cowboys will be playing for the NFC East title. The winner gets the number 4 seed in the NFC. If the Cowboys advance to the postseason, how many times will network execs, salivating over the prospect of Jerry Jones' ratings-juggernaut being in the postseason, force their on-air talent to say stuff like, "Right now, if I'm in the NFC, I wouldn't want to face the Cowboys in the playoffs"?
Even though there is only one spot up for grabs in the NFC, a few seeds are still very much undecided. The 49ers are in the driver's seat for the 2nd seed and a bye. Will they close it out and earn that bye, or will they lose their final game to the god-awful Rams and fall down to the 3rd seed? If that happens, will the Lions lose their final game to a Green Bay team that has everything wrapped up and will surely be resting most of their key personnel? The Lions are currently the 5th seed in the NFC, but if they finish in a tie with Atlanta, the Falcons would leap over them for the 5th spot. If the 49ers are the 3rd seed and the Lions the 6th, my God, we would spend another week rehashing the postgame dust-up between Lions coach Jim Schwartz and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh from earlier in the year. I never thought I'd say this, but please earn that number 2 seed, Jim Harbaugh! I'll be rooting for you!
Made me sick just typing that.
Yes, I think the final week is shaping up just fine. I can't wait!
Happy holidays to me!