FOX Sports Betting Analyst
I love the final weekend of the NFL regular season. There’s always one or two games where a team playing for nothing ruins the season of a potential playoff team. There are players who need to hit incentives that are out there aiming to collect more money. In the betting landscape, season futures are most finalized today.
As usual, I have my stock up and down for Week 18 and beyond.
Well, the Bills did it. They entered Week 18 with the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl and yet were not guaranteed a playoff spot. The Jacksonville Jaguars losing to the Tennessee Titans earlier on Sunday gave the Bills a playoff spot, but a win over the Miami Dolphins would give the Bills the second seed and an AFC East division title. Well, the Bills beat the Dolphins. This was far from the Bills’ best game of the season, but there’s a quality to winning when it’s not going right. Quarterback Josh Allen threw two interceptions and was stripped of the football. The Bills mismanaged the end of the first half, resulting in zero points. None of that mattered in the end. A team-record, 96-yard punt return from Deonte Harty got the Bills back into the game, and then Josh Allen took over. For whatever warts the Bills have or had, they are the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Impressive.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers ditched Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the offseason to give the franchise to Jordan Love. This was Love’s fourth season but the first time he was given the offense. The Packers started slowly by losing five of their first seven games but finished with nine wins and a wild-card berth. The Packers offense is the youngest in the NFL, and combined with their defense, they are the fifth-youngest team to make the NFL postseason. The Packers tracked like a young team that improved with more reps. With a league that’s impatient to win ASAP, it can be forgotten that winning takes time, and maybe even more time with a young roster.
Love hit his stride in Week 10 with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers. In the final nine games, Love had a passer rating over 108 in eight of them, compared to just achieving that three times over the first eight Packers contests. Love threw 18 touchdowns to just one interception. While there are still some bad drives in the young quarterback, the Packers must be thrilled to see Love’s development this season.
NFC playoff matchups
The NFL was gifted with two outstanding playoff matchups in the NFC that will be played in the coveted late afternoon and night window on Sunday’s wild-card weekend.
The Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys will play in Jerry’s World and my 37-year-old self will be reminded of watching the playoffs as a child. A classic NFC matchup, with either team capable of winning this contest.
In a cruel twist of fate, the Detroit Lions win their first division title since 1993 and will host the Los Angeles Rams, who are quarterbacked by Lions legend Matthew Stafford. He is so beloved in Detroit that Lions fans were thrilled when Stafford was able to win a Super Bowl with the Rams. Now he’s got a chance to end the Lions’ season in Detroit. The drama in this game will be outstanding to watch.
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The Jaguars were 8-3 after 11 games and sitting in prime position to not only win the AFC South but also get a high seed in the AFC. The Jaguars had some warts, like the help around Trevor Lawrence being poor, and the defense was allowing more points than they’d like. But wins were happening. Then the wins stopped. The Jaguars lost five of their last six games, including on Sunday against the five-win Tennessee Titans. Lawrence’s body betrayed him down the stretch but he also wasn’t good enough. He can do everything on the field but he just hasn’t. To the end their loss to the Titans on Sunday, he had Ridley streaking free for a game-tying touchdown and he missed him. He made other poor throws on their final drive. The Jaguars defense didn’t pick up the slack while the offense struggled. They allowed 34, 31, 30 and 28 in four of their losses. It’s a disappointing end to a promising season. The Jaguars will have to look hard at what they need to improve this offseason.
The Eagles entered Sunday with the opportunity to win the NFC East with a win in New York and a Cowboys’ loss against the Washington Commanders. Their coach made it clear the Eagles were going into this game attempting to win but keeping an eye on the scoreboard. If the Cowboys got up large on the Commanders, the Eagles would decide to rest some starters for their wild-card game next weekend in Tampa Bay. So I was under the impression the Eagles were trying to win the game today against the Giants. The scoreboard would say otherwise.
The Eagles were down 24-0 at halftime and eventually lost 27-10 with backups playing a bulk of the second half. Make no mistake, this was another game the Eagles got their butts whooped in the final six games of the season.
Now, the Eagles limp into the playoffs with one win in their final six games, including losses to both the one and two seeds in the NFC as well as the Arizona Cardinals. Their defense is bad and that’s generous to the word “bad.” At one point during Sunday’s game, they allowed seven touchdowns over 10 possessions against the Cardinals and Giants. They cannot stop anyone, and their offense has taken a step back this season. The Eagles head to Tampa Bay for a wild-card game on Monday night, and I’m not sure they can win.
Coaches on the way out
Bill Belichick won six Super Bowls in New England. He will go down as the greatest head coach in NFL history. It will also be noted that his final two seasons with the Patriots were a dumpster fire. The Patriots had not lost to the New York Jets since Barack Obama was in the White House. The Patriots’ roster isn’t great, and it’s far better on defense than offense. I believe Belichick can still coach but his roster building is why the Patriots are drafting in the top five of the upcoming draft. Belichick likely won’t be around to make that pick.
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Ron Rivera is expected to be out in Washington after losing the final eight games of the regular season. Rivera never finished over .500 in Washington and the team’s failure to draft and develop a quarterback was the downfall of his Commanders’ tenure. Rivera had a tougher than usual coaching job with the Commanders seemingly always in scandal with former owner Daniel Snyder in charge. Rivera was often tasked with being the face of a franchise and the voice of the owner. He did that job admirably and deserves recognition for that part of the job he didn’t sign up for. But ultimately, it’s a wins and losses job and Rivera has more of the latter.
Geoff Schwartz is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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