By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
We are down to the last 3 weeks of the NFL Regular season. This installment of Fourth and Long also includes a preview and prediction for this Saturday’s Army vs Navy game. Enjoy…
Best Two Minutes… Ever?
That’s been the phrase tossed around to describe the end of last week’s Baltimore-Minnesota game. The two teams combined for five touchdowns in the final 2:03 of the game, all of which changed the lead – the first time in NFL history that had happened at any point during a game, let alone during the closing moments. As a Jets fan, the result wasn’t good for my rooting interests, but watching that game was extremely exciting. I think I’ll stop short of calling it the greatest two minutes ever, since there’s still a decent chance that both teams will wind up missing the playoffs, but it definitely gets my vote for best end to a game for the 2013 regular season.
Speaking of exciting, as a non-DirecTV person, I had my first experience with the “Red Zone” channel on Sunday. Umm… why didn’t someone clue me in to this sooner? That channel is tremendous, and the minute I become a nationally-syndicated columnist, it will be my first purchase.
Jags to the Playoffs!
Don’t look now, but Jacksonville has now won four of their last five games since starting 0-8, and believe it or not the AFC is so terrible beyond the four division leaders and the Chiefs that they’re not only technically still alive for the postseason, it’s actually not even totally absurd to project the scenario that gets them into the playoffs. Here:
1) Jags win final three games – home to Buffalo, home to Tennessee, at Indianapolis
2) Ravens lose final three games – at Detroit, home to New England, at Cincinnati
3) Dolphins lose final three games – home to New England, at Buffalo, home to NY Jets
4) Jets lose other two games – at Carolina, home to Cleveland
5) Chargers lose any two of final three games – at Denver, home to Oakland, home to Kansas City
6) Steelers lose any two of final three games – home to Cincinnati, at Green Bay, home to Cleveland
Sure, that seems very improbable, but take a closer glance. First, it’s legitimately believable that the Jags may be favored in all three of their remaining games, since it’s almost assured that the Colts will be the fourth seed and may rest most of their starters, especially Andrew Luck, in the season finale. Baltimore may be underdogs in all three games remaining, and it’s not unthinkable to see the Jets lose their next two games and see the Chargers and Steelers finish their season as outlined above, given their opponents.
Where this all breaks down is hoping for Miami to lose their final three games, especially a potential playoff-clincher in week 17 at home against Geno Smith and the Jets. They may also very likely win in Buffalo the week before, so it’s definitely a highly unlikely scenario for the Jags to make the playoffs. But they’re technically still alive, and if Jacksonville, Detroit, New England, Carolina, Denver, and Cincinnati all win this week, just remember this paragraph…
My Favorite Game of the Year
No, it’s not an NFL game. As many of you probably know, I also write a college football column for the Ultimate Capper, but there’s only one game this weekend, so we’re putting it here. It’s also the annual gathering in my hometown of the United States Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy, better known as Army-Navy. Once again, it would appear that Navy is poised to continue their dominance in this series, having won the last 11 meetings to gain a 57-49-7 advantage in the series. In fact, Army hasn’t won a game since the last meeting at Veterans Stadium in 2001, dropping all 8 meetings that have been held at this year’s venue, Lincoln Financial Field. The Black Knights enter just 3-8 on the year, with wins over Louisiana Tech, Eastern Michigan, and FCS opponent Morgan State, while the Midshipmen are 7-4 with wins over BCS teams Pittsburgh and Indiana. If you like to see teams air it out, well this isn’t your game – Navy is the 122-ranked passing team in FBS, and they’re the better passing team (Army is 123). Meanwhile Army is number 2 in rushing, barely eeking out Navy, which is ranked third. Get ready for a lot of running up and down the Linc, with a little bit more of it happening while Navy has the ball. I had a grandfather that served in the Army and one that served in the Navy, so my leanings is objective – I pick with my heart, and the Midshipmen will continue their streak.
Pick: Navy 38, Army 21
If The Playoffs Started Today…
1. Denver Broncos (11-2)
2. New England Patriots (10-3)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4)
4. Indianapolis Colts (8-5)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)
6. Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
Notes: Baltimore wins the sixth seed over Miami because of head-to-head victory.
1. Seattle Seahawks (11-2)
2. New Orleans Saints (10-3)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-5)
4. Detroit Lions (7-6)
5. Carolina Panthers (9-4)
6. San Francisco 49’ers (9-4)
Notes: Detroit wins the fourth seed over Chicago because of head-to-head victory (2-0). Carolina wins the sixth seed over San Francisco because of head-to-head victory.
San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos
Thu, 8:30pm, NFLN
Line: Broncos by 10
I haven’t done very well with the Thursday night games this year, but I do feel confident in this one. It’s a short week, which favors the better coach and QB, both of which reside in Denver. Thursdays also favor the home team, which is also Denver. And finally, when in doubt take the more desperate team – and believe it or not, that is also still Denver, which has to continue to win to maintain the top overall seed in the AFC over New England. I’ll go with the Broncos here, and be very thankful that Thursday night games are finally coming to an end for the year.
Pick: Denver 38, San Diego 24
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