We didn't learn much about the 2010 NFC playoff scenarios, that we didn't maybe already know going into week 16. Although maybe we'll learn more when week 16 finally ends, which won't happen until late Tuesday night. But we can review what we have learned, while we wait for later results.
The Bears won an unexpected shootout with the New York Jets (who still secured an AFC playoff berth, thanks to the Jaguars loss). They lead the Philadelphia Eagles in the race for the number two seed in the NFC. They play the Green Bay Packers to close out the regular season Sunday. The Packers gave the other New York team, the football Giants a beating in Lambeau Field yesterday, 45-17.
Fox has elected to move this game to 3:15 P.M. with flex scheduling, to take advantage of the match-up. Aside from the rivalry between these two teams, which generally provides plenty of excitement on it's own, both teams have something on the line for this game. The Bears would like to seal the deal on the number two spot. The number one seed is technically possible, but depends on the Atlanta Falcons losing to the Carolina Panthers in week 17, and the Packers need a win to guarantee themselves a berth.
Tonight's Monday Night Football match-up between the Falcons and the New Orleans Saints is mainly important for the Saints and where they end up in the seedings. The sixth playoff seed will have to travel to either Philly or Chicago to take on the East or North division leader, while the fifth seed will travel to either Seattle to meet the Seahawks, or St. Louis to take on the Rams.
Speaking of the NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers were officially eliminated from playoff contention yesterday. The anemic West has some people shouting for an overhaul of yet another NFL system. People don't find it fair that a poor quality team, like whoever does end up winning the division, should get to host a wildcard team with a better record.
While the NFL seems poised to do handsprings to show their willingness to please all the people all of the time, they should leave this particular system alone. It works far more often than it does not, and it's important to the NFL and it's broadcast partners to engage all its regions. The West for instance, is already far more spread out than it's counterparts that it can lead fans to feel somewhat isolated. The last thing the league needs to do is make a rule change that further removes those fans from the excitement.
Sure the West is weak, but by taking a playoff home game from them (or eliminating the teams from contention altogether) would be a knee-jerk reaction to a fan base (or more correctly, society) that places undue emphasis on the situational concept of 'fairness'. The regional divisions is part of what makes the playoffs great. If all the teams came from one or two areas, it would disengage a great deal of the national audience.
Having the superior Saints travel to take on the Seahawks, for example, is the price you occasionally have to pay to keep everybody involved.
Tuesday night, the postponed Vikings-Eagles game takes place. After that game ends, putting week 16 in the books for good, we'll know better what to look for in the final week of regular season play.
We'll keep updating this stream as the results come in.