The 2018 NFL regular season rolls into its last week with a number of teams facing do-or-die scenarios with regard to securing a Wild Card berth. Regional games Sunday, Dec. 30, on CBS and Fox will bring final resolution to that playoff picture.
One of the more hotly contested showdowns figures to come in the AFC South, where the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans were both in the running at this writing. In a regional match-up on CBS, Marcus Mariota and the Titans hope to use the home field to their advantage against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, who defeated them 38-10 in Week 11.
Also fighting for their postseason lives that day on CBS are Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins, who hope their road contest against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills will prove to be just the tonic to vault them into January. They have history on their side, having beat the Bills in Florida in Week 13, 21-17.
Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens also need a win and a prayer to get to the postseason, and their home game on CBS against Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns just might do the trick. But the Browns squeaked past the Ravens 12-9 in overtime in Week 5.
Over in the NFC (and on Fox), Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings figure to have an uphill climb in their quest for a playoff berth in their home game against Mitchell Trubisky and the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears, having lost to their division rivals 25-20 in Week 11.
Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles would like to get back to the postseason to defend their first Super Bowl championship, but they’ll first have to go through the homestanding Washington Redskins to get there. The Eagles defeated the ‘Skins 28-13 in Week 13.
Also on the outside looking in are Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, who need a victory over the New Orleans Saints to have any chance at continuing their season. But they have two things going against them: They’ll be facing one of the best teams in the league in Drew Brees and his mates. And the Saints are motivated, as they may be looking to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Away from the gridiron, the most noteworthy sporting event this week is the annual NHL Winter Classic Tuesday, Jan. 1, on NBC, which this year pits the Boston Bruins against the Chicago Blackhawks outdoors at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., in a clash of “Original Six” teams.
Hockey like it oughta be, indeed.