They had their chances and couldn’t close the deal. The Carolina Panthers could have clinched the division and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Giants had other ideas. Now, with one week to play, those same Panthers will have to win or hope the pesky Atlanta Falcons lose. Meanwhile, one team was already out of playoff contention while another seems to be backing its way out.
Looking Back: Do you get the feeling that this team would be the only one standing if we experienced Armageddon? Nothing can stop them. The Vikings were cruising along and even surprising themselves with solid play from Tarvaris Jackson. Then somebody told Matt Ryan he could fly like a…um…Falcon. So he didn’t actually score and a fumble resulted that his teammates had to secure. But don’t you get the sense that Matt Ryan feels like there’s nothing required of an NFL quarterback that he can’t do?
Looking Forward: They’ve clinched a spot in the playoffs. Next up, the Rams stand in their way of a potential division title. If you’re looking for the lock of the week, look no further. The Falcons are at home in the bird’s nest to take on one of the worst teams in the league. This will be a showcase of Michael Turner and Matt Ryan.
Carolina Panthers (11-4):
Looking Back: Each week for three weeks straight now, the Panthers have been playing in bigger and bigger games as the stakes grew weekly. It finally caught up to them in the landfill known as the Meadowlands. Now owners of a 3-4 road record on the season, they have to answer some questions…quick.
Looking Forward: The engines will be kept warm for the trip to New Orleans to visit with Drew Brees and the Saints. This is no gimme by any stretch. Forget everything that happened in Charlotte nine weeks ago. The spoilers live down on the Bayou and they would love nothing more than to take the division title away from the Panthers. Besides that, the Saints still have something to play for. Keep reading.
New Orleans Saints (8-7):
Looking Back: It is what it is. So they were playing one of the worst teams to ever suit up for an NFL game, so what? The Saints walked on and threw over the pathetic Lions and flexed their offensive muscle. They are guaranteed of a non-losing season. Maybe that will help win Brees the MVP. He deserves it as much as any player in the league if you’re just talking stats.
Looking Forward: Now, the fun part for New Orleans – they can play for a winning record and some pride. Plus, they can knock the Panthers down a peg by potentially sending them backing into the playoffs as a wild card. Don’t think for a moment that they won’t be up for this one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6):
Looking Back: Speaking of teams backing up. If the Bucs make the playoffs, they’ll have to correct whatever it is that has been ailing them for three weeks. The loss in Carolina was one thing but to get pummeled like they did in Atlanta and then follow that up with a painful loss to the underachieving San Diego Chargers has to cause ulcers for Tampa Bay fans. They certainly got an up-close look at Philip Rivers and the Chargers passing game.
Looking Forward: Do they want to be in the postseason? If so, they’ll have to earn it the hard way by winning. The obstacle in their way is Oakland. Not so bad provided that Darren McFadden doesn’t get revved up and run over the Bucs suddenly purous defense. The problem? The Bucs will have to win and need help from other teams. From 9-3 to 9-6 and desperate.