Week 17 of the NFL regular season has been the most discussed item at any venue this past week. My family Christmas parties were littered with win-and-you’re-in evaluations of this weekend’s big matchups. Our office water cooler was the platform for building the drama with crazy what-if scenarios and bold predictions. Truth be told, the talk of this week’s matchups, for a short while, became more exciting than the two Fantasy League Super Bowls I’m playing in. But as I looked into each NFC Division title game a little deeper, I realized that the hype and hoopla of the coming NFL weekend is simply overblown and that come Monday morning, there will be millions of disappointed viewers.
Despite the overwhelming number of potential playoff berths that could come from this weekend, there are only two that are main events; the Bears versus the Packers and the Cowboys versus the Eagles. Four teams whose playoff destiny is laid out as simply as it possibly can: win and you’re in.
Many are anticipating epic struggles as each team looks to clinch their shoddy division title and sneak into the playoffs by the slimmest of margins. Unfortunately, it won’t be so climactic. From where I’m standing, we already know the two teams that will continue playing into the winter.
Green Bay vs. Chicago
The biggest headline of this matchup is the return of Aaron Rodgers. Arguably the best quarterback in the league, Rodgers drives the Packer offense. His ability to stretch the field with the vertical pass means big plays against a suspect Chicago defense. Better yet for the Pack, Rodgers’ ability to spread a defense means Eddie Lacy has a big day.
Jay Cutler is back in the driver’s seat for the Bears, and I’m not the only one who’s not sold on Coach Trestman’s decision to bench Josh McCown. Cutler’s return was less than impressive, and with as hot as McCown was, I was getting flashbacks of last year’s situation in San Francisco.
McCown was running the Bears’ offense at a high caliber with 13 TDs, 1 INT, a completion percentage of 67%, and a QB rating of 109.0. Sitting the hot hand for Cutler seemed hasty and was not the best decision for the football team as a whole. Trestman’s decision haunts him this weekend.
The Pack have had a road of destiny laid out before them. Thanks to Detroit and Chicago literally handing the reigns of the NFC North over to Green Bay, the Packers have postseason opportunity. Injury-ridden, the Packers have hung in contention the past few weeks without A-Rodge. Now that he’s back expect Green Bay to do big things in a big way. Soldier Field won’t be loud for long as the Packers, behind Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy, roll 31-14.
Philadelphia vs. Dallas
Tony Romo’s out, no questions asked. The Cowboys attempts to conceal his status for Sunday failed. Kyle Orton, the veteran from Purdue will be the one forced to keep up with Philly’s explosive offense. If you hate defense, then this is your game. Despite Orton’s first start of the season, this game comes down to one matchup: DeMarco Murray vs. LeSean McCoy.
Dallas often neglects their Pro Bowl running back. But with Romo out, look for heavy doses of Murray. Averaging 5.4 yards per carry, should the Cowboys establish the run, they’ll limit Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, and the rest of the high powered Eagles offense; an offense set to shred the Cowboys D.
Even though Kyle Orton has spent this season watching Romo lead the up-and-down Cowboys, he’s seasoned and will do just fine in the starting role. It helps that he’s up against an Eagles defense that isn’t very impressive either. Ultimately the Cowboys offense will have some success. Dez Bryant will get touches, Jason Witten will find the end zone, and DeMarco Murray should have a big game.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys’ defense will spend most of their time on the field chasing DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. Nick Foles’ first matchup with the Cowboys was less than impressive and the ‘Boys won 17-3. Since then, the Eagles have averaged 31 points per game. Cowboys Stadium provides ideal conditions for Chip Kelly’s offense, and they’ll take advantage of it.
Look for a lot of yards, a lot of points, and a fantasy owner’s dream come true. And if you’re an Eagles fan, look for playoff tickets. The Eagles will simply be too much for the Cowboys. Chip Kelly’s first season as an NFL coach will prove successful as he leads the Eagles into the postseason, much like his predecessor Andy Reid consistently did. Philly rolls 48-30.