Here we are then. The final week of regular season action in the National Football League
Who’s looking forward to the play-offs, and dreaming of Lombardi trophy glory in the desert next month? Whose Super Bowl hopes went up in smoke weeks ago, and can now only look forward to getting some sand between their toes ASAP?
Here’s a list of who’s in, and those that are still praying ..
Chiefs (having clinched the AFC West); Bills (clinched AFC East); Bengals, Chargers, Ravens.
That leaves TWO playoff spots still available. The Jags might be best-placed to make it, but Dolphins, Steelers, Pats and Titans all continue in varying degrees to hope for favourable results.
Eagles, 49ers (having clinched the NFC West), Vikings (clinched NFC North), Bucs (clinched NFC South), Cowboys, Giants.
That leaves just ONE playoff spot up for grabs – with the Seahawks, Lions and Packers involved.
In a glorious piece of late-season symmetry, Green Bay and Detroit meet in the early hours of Monday UK-time at Lambeau Field. Should the Pack win, they’re in. If Detroit win, they still need Seattle to lose.
Super Bowl outrights? It’s now 4/1 the field – jt-favs Chiefs and Bills – and remains wide-open.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers, early hours Mon UK, 01.20am
Both these NFC North rivals stand at 8-and-8. Neither has proved capable of challenging the Vikings in the Division, but one just might accompany them into postseason. The hapless Bears, meanwhile (3-and-13, ouch), have been busy making up the numbers this time around.
There’s one simple way into this match which is very compelling, logic-wise. Future Hall of Fame shoo-in Aaron Rodgers is at his beloved Lambeau in a one-match shoot-out to get another look at the play-offs, and the opponent isn’t, say, the Chiefs, or the Bills. Job done then!
The betting seems to concur in the main with that view. Pack 4/9, Lions 9/5. Game total? 49.5. Spread? Pack -4.5, Lions +4.5. Stats-wise, Detroit have the higher-ranked offense – one of the most productive in the NFL. The Lions are way less effective on the other side of the ball though, with Green Bay having the edge.
So – the master locksmith Rodgers should have plenty of joy against the Lions’ D, but can his defenders cope with Jared Goff, Jamaal Williams, D’Andre Swift and company? That’s the proverbial 64,000 dollar question.
This will be crackling with tension, the Pack are on a 4-win streak, and I do think Rodgers will probably find a way. Wisconsin is notoriously nippy at this time of the year so it might be a chilly one – another local knowledge factor in Rodgers’ favour.
Can’t wait for this one.
Selection – Green Bay to win @ 4/9. Winning margin – Packers to win by 1-6 points inclusive @ 19/5
I say it pretty much every week, but prices/lines can fluctuate between now and game-time. Please check in at betfred.com for all the very latest.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars, early hours of Sunday UK-time, 01.15am
It’s ‘in and you’re in’ for the Jags, but they could yet squeeze through if Steelers, Pats and Dolphins all lose. Should they win, they’ll clinch the AFC South, and wonder what all the fuss was about – but will they? On the other hand, if Tennessee win THEY win the Division, and are ‘in’ themselves!
On this season’s stats, the Trevor Lawrence-inspired Jags are in a different class offensively, averaging around 7 points per game more than their rival here. Defensively they’re both among the relative also-rans, so on paper at least this looks a gilt-edged opportunity for TL and his offensive weaponry to make hay.
Tennessee lean incredibly heavily on the force of nature that’s Derrick Henry. He’ll rush for all he’s worth, as per, and eat up the clock while he’s doing it. Titans’ have issues at QB though, and Josh Dobbs steps up. He’s certainly excited, and his performance will of course be crucial in determining the winner.
I like Lawrence – he’s got something of the Josh Allen about him for me. Betting-wise it’s around 2/5 Jags and 2/1 Titans. Total is pitched at 40.5, and on the spread it’s Jags -6.5, Titans +6.5.
Jags come into this having won 4 on the spin. Titans have lost 6. Someone’s going to be crowned AFC South champs, and I rather think it might be the team from Jacksonville, at TIAA Stadium at weekend.
Selection – Jags to win @ 2/5. Jags on the spread -6.5 @ 20/21. Winning margin – Jags win by 7-12 points inclusive @ 4/1.
Next time we say ‘hi’ it will be knockout, postseason, play-off football. For now the stakes are high enough – but it’s about to be turned up to a whole new level. Have a great weekend.