The regular season has come to a close, the NFL playoffs schedule has been set, and we know which teams will be competing for a Super Bowl title.
Here's what went down in Week 17:
The AFC and NFC playoff fields are set. Your Wildcard weekend matchups in the AFC are the Bengals-Texans and Steelers-Broncos. In the NFC it's Falcons-Giants and Lions-Saints. The games take place on Saturday and Sunday next weekend. The winners of those games will move onto the Divisional round the following weekend. Here's a printable NFL playoffs bracket.
Tim Tebow and the Broncos are in the playoffs. This comes despite losing their last three games. So, yeah, that tells you the state of the AFC West if someone couldn't steal the top spot from Denver. This team was 1-4 at one point and now they're division champs. That any team can win any week and win the division any year is why the NFL is so great (even if it did result in the over-saturation of Tebow).
The Jets are officially eliminated from the playoffs. The team that's made an appearance in the AFC Championship game the last two years has been eliminated. They couldn't beat the Dolphins on Sunday after Mark Sanchez committed multiple turnovers. They could have been a dangerous playoff team, even with their inconsistencies this year, because of their experience in the big games. But they'll be sitting at home, which makes us wonder what Rex Ryan will start boasting about now.
Three quarterbacks finish the year over 5,000 yards. Yeah, three of them -- Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford. Before this season, only two guys had ever thrown for 5,000 yards -- Brees and Marino. The record falls this year and after the numbers we've seen from these guys I wouldn't be surprised to see it in jeopardy next year as well.
On the flip side, teams giving up a lot of passing yards, too. But I don't think a defense giving up a bunch of passing yards really means anything. I say that because the four teams with the most passing yards given up this year -- Packers, Patriots, Saints and Giants -- are all in the playoffs. The Packers and Patriots both broke the 1995 Falcons NFL record for passing yards allowed. It doesn't really matter, apparently. Those are your two No. 1 seeds.
So just how good is Aaron Rodgers? That's what I'm wondering after seeing Rodgers' backup Matt Flynn throw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-41 victory over the Lions. Rodgers has had one of the all-time great quarterback seasons but it did give me pause that his backup put in perhaps the best performance of the season. And speaking of Flynn, he made some money on Sunday. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and there are only so many of them. Flynn's performance surely drew the attention of NFL executives around the league looking for the next quarterback.
Cardinals win in overtime, again. That's four overtime victories for the Cardinals, which is a new NFL record. What's even more impressive is that this is the same team that started the season 1-6. They've won seven of their last nine to end the year and look like a playoff contender next season. The same goes for the Dolphins, who were once 0-7 and finish the season at 6-10. Momentum can carry into the following season so that's good for those teams heading into 2012.
Raiders break the all-time penalty record. The Raiders needed 4 penalties and 11 penalty yards to break the 1998 Kansas City Chiefs record for most penalties and most penalty yards in a season. Those Chiefs set the record at 158 penalties -- nearly 10 per game on average -- and 1,304 yards, which the Raiders passed early in Sunday's game against San Diego. It seems fitting that Oakland holds that record.
The Patriots need to start playing 60 minutes. Yeah, they dominated the Bills 49-21 on Sunday but they were also down 21-0 at one point. This comes a week after getting down 17-0 to the Dolphins. The Patriots have a tendency to start slow and at some point they're going to have to fix that. The teams they see in the playoffs will be better than Buffalo and Miami so they can't afford to start slow and catch themselves down by two or three touchdowns.
The Colts earn the No. 1 pick. It was close, but the Colts did it. They're officially the worst team in the NFL and will have the first pick in April's draft. This sets up the situation we've all been talking about -- deciding what to do with Peyton Manning and ultimately drafting Andrew Luck. This will be the story of the offseason.