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The Final Four Weeks of the NFL Regular Season

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The Final Four Weeks of the NFL Regular Season
By Alex Kuhn (Sports Editor)

There are only four weeks left in the NFL regular season and there are a lot of big games during that span. As exciting as the playoff race is going to be, the playoff positioning battle is far more interesting, especially on the NFC side of things.

The NFC is brutally tough, a 13-3 team, either Seattle or San Francisco may have to start the playoffs on the road.

Looking at the possible contenders out of the NFC you could make a case for five of the six teams (Seahawks, Saints, Packers, Vikings, Niners) winning it all. Of the bunch, the Seahawks and Packers are the scariest.

The Rodgers Reckoning is near and people aren’t ready for it. The Green Bay defense has slipped but they can still make plays and create turnovers. Getting Rodgers an extra possession doesn’t hurt the cause.

Seattle reminds me of that 2015 Broncos team. They kept pulling out close win after close win until they won the final game of the season. Winning close games is usually a 50-50 deal but they turned it into a skillset. The Seahawks have been doing the same thing all season, the defense comes up big at the right time and Russ works his magic when it’s all on the line.

A Packers-Hawks NFC title game would be a lot of fun.

On the AFC side of things, it’s a two-horse race between the Ravens and Chiefs. I know it’s crazy to think the Pats are out of it but they’re just not good. The defense is awesome but you still need to score points and if New England falls behind by a touchdown, do you have faith that this offense could score 10-14 points to take the lead? Because I don’t.

As for the other AFC teams, the Texans defense isn’t very good and their offense goes on mini-droughts. The Bills, actually, depending on how they fair against Baltimore this week, I could put them up there with the Ravens and Chiefs. But if they can’t hang, they’re one of those surprise season teams that flame out in the playoffs, same with the Titans. The Steelers are good but limited like the Pats and I don’t think they could keep up with Baltimore or K.C offensively.

The Ravens are the best team in the NFL going into Week 14. Lamar Jackson looks like he’s playing a different game. It’s amazing how he’s making some of the league’s best defenders look as if they’re playing football for the first time.

Of all the potential playoff teams, AFC and NFC, the Chiefs are the only team that still have gears left. They haven’t been able to play to their potential since the early part of the season due to injury. The offense is getting healthier and going to finish strong. And their defense, which has been a weakness, is getting sneakily better. A lot of that has to do with playing the Chargers and Raiders but they’re making plays. If that unit can force turnovers at a decent rate, the AFC is K.C.’s for the taking.

TOMLIN AND THE STEELERS DEFENSE

Mike Tomlin is the coach of the year. It doesn’t matter if the Steelers were to miss the playoffs, this team was 0-4 with a porous defense. Now, they’re 7-5, in control of their playoff fate and have a Top 5 defense according to DVOA.

During last week’s Cleveland game, the Steeler defenders said Tomlin was drawing up plays on the fly that they hadn’t even worked on. That’s legend-making stuff.

Tomlin’s an elite-level coach and should finally be recognized as such.

TIME TO CLOSE THE “SOUP KITCHENS”

From one of the best coaches in the league to one of the worst, Freddie “Soups” Kitchens is not a good coach, nickname courtesy of Lock It In’s Cousin Sal. I like giving coaches time to learn the ropes before declaring if they’re good or not. But with Soups, it’s apparent he’s not head coaching material. I’m not even sure if he’s coordinator material. Baker has regressed, and some of that is on Baker, but I put most of it on Soups because he hasn’t put his QB in a position to succeed.

Instead of getting the ball, forcing it if you need to, into Odell Beckham’s hands, he’s having Odell act as a decoy. That would be fine every now and then but doing it as the main principle of your offense is dumb. Not getting the ball to your elite level receiver is a football crime, whenever opposing teams are happy with your decision that’s a bad sign.

It’s only going to get worse for Soups because next season the Browns will have a new coach and be among the league’s best offenses.

*As a disclaimer I do have Odell on two of my three fantasy football teams, and while some of my annoyance with Soups is due to Odell’s down season. That does not take away from the fact that he’s bad at coaching.

DC’S SUPERMAN PROBLEM

DC is in a bit of a pickle. While they rushed their superhero team-up movies, they did very well with their standalone films with “Wonder Woman”, “Aquaman” and “Shazam!”, the latter might be the best of the group. They’re rebooting “Batman”, which is like “Spider-Man” in the sense that no matter how many reboots there are people will go see it. (For the record, Robert Pattinson is going to be an awesome Batman) The problem for DC is Superman, they just can’t find a way to make this character interesting.

Kind of a big problem, especially when you consider Superman is among the most iconic superheroes.

There are rumors that DC wants J.J. Abrams to take charge of the Superman franchise and possibly cast Michael B. Jordan as the Man of Steel.

Abrams is a good choice and Jordan would be a great Superman. I’d also like to see fanboys and the triggered type lose their damn minds because a fictional character, in a fictional world, is being played by an African-American. Their rage and irrational reactions would fuel me as the Sun does for Kal-El.

But in order for the Abrams-Jordan Superman to work, DC would have to let them pick an actual interesting Superman story. No more perfect Superman, bring some humanity to him. Make Superman Interesting Again!

TOP 5 SAD NFL FAN BASES

Really tough competition this week for the top five spots, a lot of teams worked really hard to crush the spirits of their fans. The No. 1 and No. 2 spots remain unchanged, while the Browns move up to No. 3. The Jags and Bears were knocked out of the top 5, the Bears got another win and have an outside shot at the playoffs. While the Jags lost to the Bucs but there was good news as the team announced that Minshew II is the starter for the remainder of the season. Now, on to the rankings

Others receiving votes: Panthers, Falcons, Jags, Raiders, Lions, Bears

No. 5 Carolina Panthers (distance from fourth, Worland to Salt Lake City)

A month ago it was being floated that the Panthers could move on from Cam Newton because of how well Kyle Allen was playing. (I might have even dabbled in this take) Flash forward to today, head coach Ron Rivera is gone and that take looks more and more ridiculous because Allen is a solid backup and not a franchise QB.

Like Cam or not, when healthy he’s among the best QBs at the goal line because of his size, vision and rocket for an arm. He’s a cheat code in that aspect and when you factor in that the final year of his contract pays him $20 million, that’s a steal. Carolina would be foolish for getting rid of him.

No. 4 L.A. Chargers (distance from third, Worland to Las Vegas)

You know how Seattle has a talent to win close games? Well, the Chargers have a talent at blowing games in creative ways and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

No. 3 Cleveland Browns (distance from second, Worland to Antarctica)

Poor Cleveland fans. They started to believe again, only to have the Browns savagely destroy any and all hope.

No. 2 New York Jets (distance from first, Worland to the nearest point of the Andromeda Galaxy)

Got the brakes beat off them by, checks notes, the BENGALS??? And, Adam Gase is still the coach. Yeesh.

No. 1 Washington Redskins

Another win!? Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen’s plot to drive their fan base mad successfully marches on.

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