If the NFL season were to end yesterday......oh wait, it did.
Yesterday started off with seven different AFC teams having a shot of clinching one of the two remaining Wild Card berths prior to kickoff. Houston, the Jets, Jacksonville, Denver, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Miami were still mathematically alive at the start of the day, but in most cases many of the aforementioned teams would need additional help even if they were to win.
The Colts, Chargers, Patriots and Bengals had pretty much wrapped up their respective division titles the week before, so it was a question of how much playing time the starters on each team were going to see.
A pretty convincing argument for a team resting their starters when they've already clinched a playoff berth took place in the first half of the New England/Houston game when Wes Welker was carted off the field with a torn ACL. Reports were also circulating that Tom Brady was playing with 3 broken ribs towards the end of the regular season. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer came in for New England in the 2nd quarter and played for most of the second half in the 27-34 loss to the Texans. Naturally, I'm more upset at Welker's season being over than I am losing to Houston after already clinching the Division.
Baltimore beat the Raiders 21-13 Sunday, which earned them a date with the Patriots at Foxboro next weekend.
Pittsburgh beat Miami 30-24, but the defending Superbowl Champions were eliminated by virtue of the Ravens win at Oakland.
Jacksonville, Miami and Denver were eliminated by virtue of their losses on Sunday and after Houston beat New England, they awaited the winner of the Sunday Night game between the Jets and Bengals. The Texans needed Cincinnati to win to clinch the final playoff spot, but the Jets beat Cincy (who had little to play for and probably viewed what happened to Welker as a cautionary tale) 37-0, eliminating Houston from the playoffs and giving the final postseason berth to the Jets.
So Wild Card Weekend will look something like this:
NY Jets @ Cincinati- 4:30PM Saturday 1/9/10
Baltimore @ New England- 1:00PM Sunday 1/10/10
Philadelphia @ Dallas- 8:00PM Saturday 1/9/10
Green Bay @ Arizona- 4:40PM Sunday 1/10/10
1st round byes: Indianapolis, San Diego, New Orleans, Minnesota
Interestingly, the Baltimore New England game is the only Wild Card weekend game that won't be a rematch of Week 16.