Column: Should NFC East’s struggles inspire change to playoff seeding?

One of the NFL’s hot topics leading into Week 15 was the status of the NFC East. Put simply, the division sucks, top to bottom.

With every team not named the Washington Redskins winning Sunday, the NFC East is comprised of two disappointing 7-7 teams (Philadelphia and Dallas) dueling for the division title, with the Redskins and New York Giants jockeying for the division basement at 3-11.

This leaves open the very real possibility the division winner will be an 8-8 underachiever blessed with home field advantage in the playoffs over either the San Francisco 49ers or Seattle Seahawks; either of whom will likely be 12-4.

This ramped up talk that the NFL is overdue for reseeding, or in a more drastic approach, eliminating divisions altogether so that scenarios like the above — or worse yet, the infamous “Beast Quake” wild card playoff game in which 7-9 Seattle hosted 11-5 New Orleans and won — are impossible.

After all, it’s not fair for a team that’s had an objectively good season to have to travel to face a mediocre team simply because the latter was the best team in an arbitrarily selected division, right?

Well, this isn’t necessarily about fairness. It’s about recognizing that trying to prevent a rare occurrence from ever happening will likely lead to worse unintended consequences. Remember the awful pass interference penalty that cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl? The NFL’s attempt at rectifying that has backfired in a major way, provoking anarchy and league-wide frustration.

Since the last NFL realignment in 2002, only five teams have won a division with eight wins or fewer. Four of those teams won their Wild Card matchup against a team with a notably better record.

That’s four bad breaks in 18 seasons.

In order to eliminate those bad breaks, the NFL would either have to drastically realign again or completely de-emphasize the importance of winning a division, similar to the NBA’s playoff format of seeding conference teams solely on record.

I’ll tell you straight up: Stopping a non-winning team from hosting a playoff game isn’t worth minimizing — or flat out ending — classic rivalries like the twice-annual Packers-Bears, Ravens-Steelers and (to a much lesser extent these days) Redskins-Cowboys tilts in a league that sells tradition more than any other professional sports league.

And as much as I hate being in agreement with a Dallas Cowboy, Stephen Jones said change isn’t coming.

“I don’t see that,” Jones said in his Friday appearance on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan.

“I think too many people are traditionalists here and believe in the way we’ve done things with divisions. You’re going to have the odd year where eight divisions all are not playing well. Historically, the [NFC] East has been strong in our league. But obviously this year certainly being pointed out that the East is struggling more than normal, but I certainly don’t see a big appetite for realignment.”

Aside from the fact that the strong history Jones is referencing largely took place three decades ago — and the dangerous notion that because “we’ve always done it this way” is a valid reason to continue down a certain path — there’s a pretty straightforward remedy that shouldn’t meet much resistance: Institute a rule that you need a winning record to host a Wild Card game.

Using the 2010 Wild Card game as an example, the 7-9 NFC West-champion Seahawks would play the 11-5 Saints in New Orleans, rather than enjoying a clear home field advantage despite being four games worse.

But if those same Seahawks were to somehow go 9-7, they get to host the game. An 8-8 record is the line of demarcation — anything above that earns a division-winner a home playoff game, no matter what the opponent’s record.

Personally, I believe a team capable of winning 12 regular season games should be good enough to go on the road and beat a mediocre team, even if that losing team has an extraordinary home field advantage, like Seattle does.

Any playoff team with real championship aspirations needs to be able to win on the road eventually — if that can’t happen against a non-winning team, what chance does it have against one of the top two teams in the conference coming off a bye?

The NFL has always wanted parity, and it’s got it. The last thing the league needs to do is start rearranging things to protect the interests of teams already among the elite.

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<p><b><i>Colts 7</i></b><br />
<b><i>Saints 34</i></b></p>
<p>Who loves Monday nights more than Drew Brees? A year after setting the all-time passing yardage record against the Redskins on MNF, Brees claimed the all-time touchdown mark and the single-game completion percentage record (96.7%). Unlike Tom Brady, Brees looks like he&#8217;s still got enough in the tank to carry New Orleans deep into the postseason.</p>
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Josh Hill, which broke the NFL record for career touchdown passes, surpassing Peyton Manning, in the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. (AP/Bill Feig)
<p><b><i>Bills 17</i></b><br />
<b><i>Steelers 10</i></b></p>
<p>Buffalo, in just their second appearance on Sunday Night Football and first since 2007, clinched its second playoff berth in three years and first 10-win season in 20 years. But that wasn&#8217;t the biggest drought that ended in Pittsburgh: <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/11/edmunds-brothers-will-be-first-brother-trio-to-play-in-same-nfl-game-since-1927/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Edmunds brothers&#8217; family reunion</a> was the first of its kind in 92 years and one of <a href="https://www.wgrz.com/article/sports/edmunds-brothers-make-nfl-history-as-they-face-each-other-on-sunday-night-football/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the greatest stories</a> of the weekend.</p>
Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, left, swaps his jersey with his brothers Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Terrell Edmunds, center, and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Trey Edmunds, right, following an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. The Bills won 17-10. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)
<p><b><i>Rams 21</i></b><br />
<b><i>Cowboys 44</i></b></p>
<p>Knowing full well Philadelphia won in Washington, and with <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/11/jason-garrett-meets-wade-phillips-again-sunday/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Wade Phillips back in Dallas</a> for revenge, the Cowboys put together their best win of the year — and only victory over a team with a winning record. Both of these teams are woefully underachieving, but L.A.&#8217;s payroll and star power makes it a massive disappointment they&#8217;re likely to miss the postseason.</p>
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — DEC. 15: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys runs for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 15, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Getty Images/Ronald Martinez)
<p><b><i>Falcons 29</i></b><br />
<b><i>49ers 22</i></b></p>
<p>Kyle Shanahan couldn&#8217;t complete the sweep of his former teams but still clinched his first playoff berth as a head coach thanks to the Rams&#8217; no-show in Dallas. The Niners better hope for another Rams no-show when they play in San Fran Sunday, or else the regular season-finale in Seattle will be moot.</p>
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA — DEC. 15: Wide receiver Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons and team celebrate the fourth quarter touchdown over the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 15, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Getty Images/Thearon W. Henderson)
<p><b><i>Vikings 39</i></b><br />
<b><i>Chargers 10</i></b></p>
<p>L.A. somehow managed to turn the ball over seven (7!) times to a Vikings team sporting a 1-6 record in the Mountain and Pacific time zones under coach Mike Zimmer. Philip Rivers looks done and Anthony Lynn might be too if he doesn&#8217;t give Tyrod Taylor a chance to show what&#8217;s he&#8217;s got in the Chargers&#8217; final two games.</p>
CARSON, CA — DEC. 15: Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks #54 of the Minnesota Vikings forces a fumble by running back Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers, allowing defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, #95, of the Minnesota Vikings to grab the ball and run for a touchdown in the second quarter of the game at Dignity Health Sports Park on Dec. 15, 2019 in Carson, California. (Getty Images/Jayne Kamin-Oncea)
<p><b><i>Browns 24</i></b><br />
<b><i>Cardinals 38</i></b></p>
<p><a href="https://wtop.com/national/2019/12/ap-exclusive-thousands-of-ohio-absentee-applications-denied/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kenyan Drake&#8217;s monster game</a> somewhat overshadowed the duel between the NFL&#8217;s last two No. 1 overall picks in what was likely Larry Fitzgerald&#8217;s final game in Arizona. Because, you know, <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/11/kliff-kingsbury-to-pitch-larry-fitzgerald-on-2020-return/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kliff Kingsbury&#8217;s pitch to keep Fitz</a> probably won&#8217;t include him stepping down as head coach.</p>
<p>Speaking of which, <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000001087466/article/browns-still-supporting-firstyear-coach-freddie-kitchens" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cleveland&#8217;s commitment to Freddie Kitchens</a> should get everyone in that building fired. The Browns clinched their 12th straight non-winning season despite coming into this season amid expectations every bit as big as their talk. It&#8217;s almost as if Cleveland is saying &#8220;hold my beer&#8221; in response to the Redskins&#8217; chronic dysfunction.</p>
Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake (41) runs for his fourth touchdown of the game during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP/Ross D. Franklin)
<p><b><i>Jaguars 20</i></b><br />
<b><i>Raiders 16</i></b></p>
<p><a href="https://www.raiders.com/video/nfl-100-greatest-no-17-the-sea-of-hands" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Sea of Hands</a> didn&#8217;t happen in Oakland one last time, as the Raiders lost their final game at Oakland Coliseum thanks to <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1206371703007383552?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gardner Minshew&#8217;s late-game heroics</a> amid <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/15/gardner-minshew-i-saw-more-middle-fingers-in-oakland-than-i-had-in-my-whole-life/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a sea of fingers</a>. The Silver and Black&#8217;s Bay Area bye-bye may have sucked but Minshew Magic certainly does not.</p>
Players go up for a pass thrown by Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr late in the second half of an NFL football game between the Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. Jacksonville won the game 20-16. (AP/D. Ross Cameron)
<p><b><i>Eagles 37</i></b><br />
<b><i>Redskins 27</i></b></p>
<p>Boy, where do I start? Adrian Peterson <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1206316694660165632?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">solidifying his case for the Hall of Fame</a>. Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin having breakout games with Urban Meyer in the owner&#8217;s box. The <a href="https://www.si.com/gambling/2019/12/15/eagles-redskins-last-second-td-bad-beats-nfl-season" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bad beat</a> to end all bad beats. But while people laud the Redskins for playing the Eagles close in a game that meant everything to Philly and nothing to Old D.C., I&#8217;m calling out Josh Norman — the league&#8217;s highest-paid corner finally on the field after weeks on the bench — for getting torched for the game-winning touchdown by a guy cut six times and then <a href="https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28308702/got-play-cards-dealt" target="_blank" rel="noopener">talking nonsense in the aftermath</a>. If I&#8217;m Meyer, I&#8217;m not touching this gig and if I&#8217;m the NFL, <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/dan-wolken/2019/12/15/urban-meyer-not-fit-nfl-coaching-job-skills-do-not-translate/2657883001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">I&#8217;m not touching Meyer</a>.</p>
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward (84) catches a touchdown pass beating out Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman (24) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Landover, Md. Eagles won 37-27. (AP/Alex Brandon)
<p><b><i>Dolphins 20</i></b><br />
<b><i>Giants 36</i></b></p>
<p>His three picks aside, Eli&#8217;s farewell was <a href="https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28306976/eli-manning-gets-special-win-giants-likely-final-home-start" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a helluva send-off</a> for a guy with a career .500 record and was really the catalyst for only one of the two Super Bowl runs he was a part of. Yeah, I said it.</p>
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) runs off the field during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP/Seth Wenig)
<p><b><i>Seahawks 30</i></b><br />
<b><i>Panthers 24</i></b></p>
<p>Seattle went from <a href="https://twitter.com/BradyHenderson/status/1203943076772761600" target="_blank" rel="noopener">falling off their high horse</a> to becoming the first team in 41 years to win 10 one-score games in a season en route to their first 11-win season since their 2014 Super Bowl campaign. If the Seahawks lock up homefield advantage, they&#8217;re almost certain to make a return trip.</p>
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA — DEC. 15: Luke Kuechly #59 of the Carolina Panthers goes after Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Getty Images/Streeter Lecka)
<p><b><i>Patriots 34</i></b><br />
<b><i>Bengals 13</i></b></p>
<p>New England certainly didn&#8217;t need to cheat to beat Cincinnati, posting their highest scoring output since Week 6 and clinching a playoff berth for the 11th straight season. But of course, that won&#8217;t stop the NFL from dragging the Patriots through <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/15/spygate-2-investigation-closer-to-beginning-than-end/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">another ridiculously-named investigation</a> into something blown completely out of proportion.</p>
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) runs in a touchdown off an interception in the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP/Frank Victores)
<p><b><i>Bears 13</i></b><br />
<b><i>Packers 21</i></b></p>
<p>In the 200th meeting between these storied rivals, Green Bay clinched a playoff berth at Chicago&#8217;s expense, sweeping the regular season series for seventh time in the last 11 seasons and 15th time in the last 26 years. The Bears have a lot to answer for.</p>
Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers runs for a first down during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP/Matt Ludtke)
<p><b><i>Broncos 3</i></b><br />
<b><i>Chiefs 23</i></b></p>
<p>Drew Lock’s homecoming had him seeing red … red jerseys pummeling him in Kansas City&#8217;s best defensive performance of the season to sweep Denver by a combined score of 53-9 and keep the Chiefs in position to grab the 2-seed in the AFC. Considering how much <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/15/patrick-mahomes-is-2-0-in-the-snow-and-hes-hoping-for-more/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Patrick Mahomes likes to play in the snow</a>, that&#8217;ll mean something.</p>
KANSAS CITY, MO — DEC. 15: Juan Thornhill #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs intercepts a Denver Broncos pass in the end zone during the third quarter at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 15, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Getty Images/David Eulitt)
<p><b><i>Bucs 38</i></b><br />
<b><i>Lions 17</i></b></p>
<p>I’m done calling Jameis Winston “The Human Turnover.” After <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1206337386420097026?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the NFL&#8217;s first</a> back-to-back 450-yard, 4-TD games (but still tossing four picks the last two weeks), he’s now &#8220;<a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/09/jameis-winston-could-lead-the-league-in-both-touchdowns-and-interceptions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Great Equalizer</a>.”</p>
DETROIT, MI — DEC. 15: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drops back to pass during the first quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Dec. 15, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Tampa Bay defeated Detroit 38-17. (Getty Images/Leon Halip)
<p><b><i>Jets 21</i></b><br />
<b><i>Ravens 42</i></b></p>
<p>In the last Thursday night game of the season, Lamar Jackson made what figures to be his closing statement for MVP by leading Baltimore to back-to-back AFC North titles with his third 5-TD performance of the season, and oh by the way, set the new single-season rushing record by a QB. No matter what <a href="https://twitter.com/TomBrady/status/1205308052880134144" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://twitter.com/TomBrady/status/1205308052880134144&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1576354544581000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEgKmzvL4DLpwCeV6iGqCPsVQzxVw">Tom Brady tweets</a>, he can&#8217;t catch Jackson and the Ravens — literally or figuratively.</p>
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson scrambles against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Baltimore. On the run, Jackson broke the single season record for most rush yards by a quarterback in NFL history. (AP/Julio Cortez)
(1/16)
<p><b><i>Colts 7</i></b><br />
<b><i>Saints 34</i></b></p>
<p>Who loves Monday nights more than Drew Brees? A year after setting the all-time passing yardage record against the Redskins on MNF, Brees claimed the all-time touchdown mark and the single-game completion percentage record (96.7%). Unlike Tom Brady, Brees looks like he&#8217;s still got enough in the tank to carry New Orleans deep into the postseason.</p>
<p><b><i>Bills 17</i></b><br />
<b><i>Steelers 10</i></b></p>
<p>Buffalo, in just their second appearance on Sunday Night Football and first since 2007, clinched its second playoff berth in three years and first 10-win season in 20 years. But that wasn&#8217;t the biggest drought that ended in Pittsburgh: <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/11/edmunds-brothers-will-be-first-brother-trio-to-play-in-same-nfl-game-since-1927/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Edmunds brothers&#8217; family reunion</a> was the first of its kind in 92 years and one of <a href="https://www.wgrz.com/article/sports/edmunds-brothers-make-nfl-history-as-they-face-each-other-on-sunday-night-football/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the greatest stories</a> of the weekend.</p>
<p><b><i>Rams 21</i></b><br />
<b><i>Cowboys 44</i></b></p>
<p>Knowing full well Philadelphia won in Washington, and with <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/11/jason-garrett-meets-wade-phillips-again-sunday/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Wade Phillips back in Dallas</a> for revenge, the Cowboys put together their best win of the year — and only victory over a team with a winning record. Both of these teams are woefully underachieving, but L.A.&#8217;s payroll and star power makes it a massive disappointment they&#8217;re likely to miss the postseason.</p>
<p><b><i>Falcons 29</i></b><br />
<b><i>49ers 22</i></b></p>
<p>Kyle Shanahan couldn&#8217;t complete the sweep of his former teams but still clinched his first playoff berth as a head coach thanks to the Rams&#8217; no-show in Dallas. The Niners better hope for another Rams no-show when they play in San Fran Sunday, or else the regular season-finale in Seattle will be moot.</p>
<p><b><i>Vikings 39</i></b><br />
<b><i>Chargers 10</i></b></p>
<p>L.A. somehow managed to turn the ball over seven (7!) times to a Vikings team sporting a 1-6 record in the Mountain and Pacific time zones under coach Mike Zimmer. Philip Rivers looks done and Anthony Lynn might be too if he doesn&#8217;t give Tyrod Taylor a chance to show what&#8217;s he&#8217;s got in the Chargers&#8217; final two games.</p>
<p><b><i>Browns 24</i></b><br />
<b><i>Cardinals 38</i></b></p>
<p><a href="https://wtop.com/national/2019/12/ap-exclusive-thousands-of-ohio-absentee-applications-denied/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kenyan Drake&#8217;s monster game</a> somewhat overshadowed the duel between the NFL&#8217;s last two No. 1 overall picks in what was likely Larry Fitzgerald&#8217;s final game in Arizona. Because, you know, <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/11/kliff-kingsbury-to-pitch-larry-fitzgerald-on-2020-return/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kliff Kingsbury&#8217;s pitch to keep Fitz</a> probably won&#8217;t include him stepping down as head coach.</p>
<p>Speaking of which, <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000001087466/article/browns-still-supporting-firstyear-coach-freddie-kitchens" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cleveland&#8217;s commitment to Freddie Kitchens</a> should get everyone in that building fired. The Browns clinched their 12th straight non-winning season despite coming into this season amid expectations every bit as big as their talk. It&#8217;s almost as if Cleveland is saying &#8220;hold my beer&#8221; in response to the Redskins&#8217; chronic dysfunction.</p>
<p><b><i>Jaguars 20</i></b><br />
<b><i>Raiders 16</i></b></p>
<p><a href="https://www.raiders.com/video/nfl-100-greatest-no-17-the-sea-of-hands" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Sea of Hands</a> didn&#8217;t happen in Oakland one last time, as the Raiders lost their final game at Oakland Coliseum thanks to <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1206371703007383552?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gardner Minshew&#8217;s late-game heroics</a> amid <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/15/gardner-minshew-i-saw-more-middle-fingers-in-oakland-than-i-had-in-my-whole-life/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a sea of fingers</a>. The Silver and Black&#8217;s Bay Area bye-bye may have sucked but Minshew Magic certainly does not.</p>
<p><b><i>Eagles 37</i></b><br />
<b><i>Redskins 27</i></b></p>
<p>Boy, where do I start? Adrian Peterson <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1206316694660165632?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">solidifying his case for the Hall of Fame</a>. Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin having breakout games with Urban Meyer in the owner&#8217;s box. The <a href="https://www.si.com/gambling/2019/12/15/eagles-redskins-last-second-td-bad-beats-nfl-season" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bad beat</a> to end all bad beats. But while people laud the Redskins for playing the Eagles close in a game that meant everything to Philly and nothing to Old D.C., I&#8217;m calling out Josh Norman — the league&#8217;s highest-paid corner finally on the field after weeks on the bench — for getting torched for the game-winning touchdown by a guy cut six times and then <a href="https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28308702/got-play-cards-dealt" target="_blank" rel="noopener">talking nonsense in the aftermath</a>. If I&#8217;m Meyer, I&#8217;m not touching this gig and if I&#8217;m the NFL, <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/dan-wolken/2019/12/15/urban-meyer-not-fit-nfl-coaching-job-skills-do-not-translate/2657883001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">I&#8217;m not touching Meyer</a>.</p>
<p><b><i>Dolphins 20</i></b><br />
<b><i>Giants 36</i></b></p>
<p>His three picks aside, Eli&#8217;s farewell was <a href="https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28306976/eli-manning-gets-special-win-giants-likely-final-home-start" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a helluva send-off</a> for a guy with a career .500 record and was really the catalyst for only one of the two Super Bowl runs he was a part of. Yeah, I said it.</p>
<p><b><i>Seahawks 30</i></b><br />
<b><i>Panthers 24</i></b></p>
<p>Seattle went from <a href="https://twitter.com/BradyHenderson/status/1203943076772761600" target="_blank" rel="noopener">falling off their high horse</a> to becoming the first team in 41 years to win 10 one-score games in a season en route to their first 11-win season since their 2014 Super Bowl campaign. If the Seahawks lock up homefield advantage, they&#8217;re almost certain to make a return trip.</p>
<p><b><i>Patriots 34</i></b><br />
<b><i>Bengals 13</i></b></p>
<p>New England certainly didn&#8217;t need to cheat to beat Cincinnati, posting their highest scoring output since Week 6 and clinching a playoff berth for the 11th straight season. But of course, that won&#8217;t stop the NFL from dragging the Patriots through <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/15/spygate-2-investigation-closer-to-beginning-than-end/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">another ridiculously-named investigation</a> into something blown completely out of proportion.</p>
<p><b><i>Bears 13</i></b><br />
<b><i>Packers 21</i></b></p>
<p>In the 200th meeting between these storied rivals, Green Bay clinched a playoff berth at Chicago&#8217;s expense, sweeping the regular season series for seventh time in the last 11 seasons and 15th time in the last 26 years. The Bears have a lot to answer for.</p>
<p><b><i>Broncos 3</i></b><br />
<b><i>Chiefs 23</i></b></p>
<p>Drew Lock’s homecoming had him seeing red … red jerseys pummeling him in Kansas City&#8217;s best defensive performance of the season to sweep Denver by a combined score of 53-9 and keep the Chiefs in position to grab the 2-seed in the AFC. Considering how much <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/15/patrick-mahomes-is-2-0-in-the-snow-and-hes-hoping-for-more/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Patrick Mahomes likes to play in the snow</a>, that&#8217;ll mean something.</p>
<p><b><i>Bucs 38</i></b><br />
<b><i>Lions 17</i></b></p>
<p>I’m done calling Jameis Winston “The Human Turnover.” After <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1206337386420097026?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the NFL&#8217;s first</a> back-to-back 450-yard, 4-TD games (but still tossing four picks the last two weeks), he’s now &#8220;<a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/12/09/jameis-winston-could-lead-the-league-in-both-touchdowns-and-interceptions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Great Equalizer</a>.”</p>
<p><b><i>Jets 21</i></b><br />
<b><i>Ravens 42</i></b></p>
<p>In the last Thursday night game of the season, Lamar Jackson made what figures to be his closing statement for MVP by leading Baltimore to back-to-back AFC North titles with his third 5-TD performance of the season, and oh by the way, set the new single-season rushing record by a QB. No matter what <a href="https://twitter.com/TomBrady/status/1205308052880134144" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://twitter.com/TomBrady/status/1205308052880134144&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1576354544581000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEgKmzvL4DLpwCeV6iGqCPsVQzxVw">Tom Brady tweets</a>, he can&#8217;t catch Jackson and the Ravens — literally or figuratively.</p>

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