This whole week just feels weird, doesn’t it? We’re here to talk about football and what could impact the NFL Playoffs, but so much of the league is wracked by Covid outbreaks that the competitive balance is in disarray.
This would be bad at any time of the season, but with so many games mattering this much, it’s left it all feeling a little flat. So, even with this week feeling like a gut punch, let’s break down what I want answered this week.
What the heck will happen with Raiders vs. Browns?
The anticipated matchup between the Raiders and Browns, which has major playoff implications for both teams, has now become the saddest game of the year. As it stands Cleveland will be without over 20 players due to Covid protocols, leaving the team to start Nick Mullens at quarterback and prompting conversations about whether even playing the game is fair.
This is the first Saturday NFL game of the season due to the break in college football ahead of bowl games, even making the Covid problems more pronounced. As it stands I don’t think the Browns have a remote chance, but they could also see players return in time. This is going to be a weird, wild spectacle.
Will we see a playoff preview?
Colts vs. Patriots is a legendary NFL matchup that conjures images of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but this is the new generation of these two teams. What makes it more fascinating is that the Patriots are currently 2nd in the AFC, and the Colts are in 6th.
Should New England win they’ll move to 1st, Indianapolis to 7th — potentially leading to a divisional playoff round matchup, should the Colts make it through the wild card. It’ll be interesting to see how the Pats plan to stop Jonathan Taylor, and whether Carson Wentz can continue his progression.
Can the Bills avoid embarrassment?
Buffalo is left reeling after some recent crushing losses, and now potentially find themselves out of the playoffs unless they get back on track. Honestly, it would take a complete collapse because of their soft schedule down the stretch.
That said, this team has shown a knack for bad beats. Hell, don’t forget they lost to Urban Meyer and the Jaguars. So this week against Carolina would need be a dumpster fire to lose, but assume it happens for a moment. What the heck would that mean for the Bills and their perception? That alone makes this a curious case.
Is the NFC East’s battle of the bubble the game of the week?
The most stakes for the playoffs this week comes in Eagles vs. Washington. Philadelphia is on the outside looking in, Washington is currently seeded. However, Washington has been bitten by the Covid bug too and finds themselves missing swathes of personnel.
Another game that’s a shame it’s being affected in this way, we really could see a playoff spot being decided by the Reserve/Covid list in this one. Still, I think event a depleted Washington is good enough to stand with the inconsistent Eagles, so this is all really interesting.
How to the Jaguars look without Urban Meyer?
This is the perfect week to show something without Meyer. The Jaguars play the Texans in a game they absolutely can will, but will they is another story. Rather than wondering too much about the winner, I’m more interested to see how the players respond to their new head coach, and whether this team shows more joy.