Assuming that everyone is a dolt who blindly roots for their local team, the NFL makes no provision for the general football fan. This is especially true when it comes to the way they schedule games. The game of the “market” team is always shown, despite the competitiveness of that game or any simultaneous games. Also, the league tends to have an unbalanced Sunday afternoon schedule with many more games scheduled in the 1:00 hour than in the 4:00 hour. But for the final Sunday of the 2011 regular season (which is New Year’s Day 2012), the NFL has decided to stack the deck with all the meaningful games late so that the true fan will not have the opportunity to see them in turn. Why?
For this week’s article, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to analyze each of this week’s upcoming games, classified by their level of “meaningfulness”. All games will be played on Sunday, January 1st.
Totally Meaningless Games
Washington (5-10) @ Philadelphia (7-8), 1:00pm
The “dream team” heads into the off-season to watch the dozen “dreamier” teams in the playoffs.
Chicago (7-8) @ Minnesota (3-12), 1:00pm
Virtually all the top skill players on both teams are out due to injury in a game that will affect absolutely nothing in the standings.
Seattle (7-8) @ Arizona (7-8), 4:15pm
This game may have meant something had either of these teams won last weekend, but they both lost.
Barely Meaningful Games
Indianapolis (2-13) @ Jacksonville (4-11), 1:00pm
The only significance here is the #1 overall pick which Indy has a chance to secure by losing.
Carolina (6-9) @ New Orleans (12-3), 1:00pm
This game is only meaningful if somehow the hapless Rams (who have more to win by losing) upset the 49ers and open the door for the Saints to take the #2 slot and a first round bye in the NFC with a win over the Panthers. But this is an extreme long shot.
Tennessee (8-7) @ Houston (10-5), 1:00pm
The Titans have the slightest of slight chances to get that last Wild-card spot, but they need a lot of help. This game will not effect Houston in any way as they are locked into the #3, but a victory could help pyschologically because they have been in a slide lately.
N.Y. Jets (8-7) @ Miami (5-10), 1:00pm
Like the Titans, the Jets have the slightest of chances and need help elsewhere. This game is totally meaningless for the Dolphins.
Pittsburgh (11-4) @ Cleveland (4-11), 4:15pm
Much like with the Saints, the Steelers game is only meaningful if Baltimore loses to Cincinnati. Otherwise, this is totally meaningless as the Steelers will be locked in at #5 in the AFC. The fact that this was moved to 4:15 along with the Baltimore-Cincinnati game is baffling as this will cause a lot of fans to miss more meaningful games scheduled at that same time.
Tampa Bay (4-11) @ Atlanta (9-6), 4:15pm
This game is only meaningful for the Falcons if the Lions lose to the Packers. Then Atlanta can move up to the #5 slot in the NFC with a victory.
San Francisco (12-3) @ St. Louis (2-13), 1:00pm
This game is meaningful to both teams as the 49ers need to win to secure the #2 spot in the NFC and the Rams need to lose to be eligible for the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft. You would think they have a common interest in a certain result here.
Detroit (10-5) @ Green Bay (14-1), 1:00pm
The Lions need to win this game in order to secure the #5 seed, else they may slip to #6. The Packers are trying to be only the fifth team ever to win 15 regular season games and Aaron Rodgers still has an outside chance of reaching the single season TD pass record.
Buffalo (6-9) @ New England (12-3), 1:00pm
The Patriots will secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs if they beat the Bills. Otherwise, they will likely fall to #2 behind the Ravens or Steelers.
Kansas City (6-9) @ Denver (8-7), 4:15pm
The Broncos will win the AFC West with a victory over the Chiefs and will be locked into the #4 seed. Otherwise, they will need help to make the playoffs.
San Diego (7-8) @ Oakland (8-7), 4:15pm
The Raiders have a couple of ways of making the playoffs either as division champions at the the #4 seed or as the final wild-card at the #6 seed. In either case, they must win and need a little help elsewhere.
Extremely Meaningful (Playoff Caliber) Games
Baltimore (11-4) @ Cincinnati (9-6), 4:15pm
The Ravens will win the division with a victory and will secure a first round bye at #2 with a shot at #1. The Bengals will be the #5 wild-card with a victory but are likely out with a loss. This important game should have been highlighted by the NFL but is tossed in as one of four late games on CBS. How stupid!
Dallas (8-7) @ N.Y. Giants (8-7), 8:30pm
Finishing off the NFL season will be a de-facto playoff game where the winner wins the division and is the #4 seed in the NFC and the loser is completely out. No grey area or outside help needed here.
Tuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.