By: Barry Barnes, Founder
As we approach the final week of the NFL season, it’s all about who advances and who misses. It’s all about the outcome.
Winless at 0-15, the Cleveland Browns are on their way to becoming the first team to finish a season without a win since the Detroit Lions found themselves in that situation in 2008.
However, the Browns will still be facing the Pittsburgh Steelers and should they produce a miracle upset, the victory will prevent them from being inked onto one of the shameful pages of the NFL history book.
Several pioneers from the NFL Regional Combine platform will have an opportunity to alter the course of their squad’s postseason hopes.
Browns DB Justin Currie brings an aggressive style of play to the Browns’ secondary, and they will move him all over the back end. Currie has the potential to make the plays needed to stop the Steelers.
The Browns will matchup against the Steelers at the same time the New England Patriots are playing. Currently, the Steelers equal the Patriots with a 12-3 record, however, the Patriots hold the tiebreaker due to winning their head-to-head matchup. The Patriots are the projected number one seed for the AFC.
If the Browns can edge out the win, the Patriots will lock in the top seed no matter if they lose to the Buffalo Bills or not.
On special teams, Browns rookie linebacker B. J. Bello will have the luxury of playing spoiler as well. Bello has six tackles this season, and he achieves one each week. He is capable of wrecking a couple plays for the Black and Yellow.
Clearly, Atlanta Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael has survived the changes head coach Dan Quinn made when he arrived in 2015.
Ishmael was not a part of the Falcons run to the Super Bowl last season due to injury. This season, Ishmael has been on call to execute the stops Quinn and the defense needed. With his 27 tackles, including a sack, Ishmael will be required to step up again, hopefully not for the last time this year.
The Falcons’ scenario is simple – win and they are in!
What is not simple – defeating a hot Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers club.
The Panthers are looking to put away the Falcons in hopes to win the NFC South division, if the New Orleans Saints lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ishmael is a big hitter and the Falcons will be fired up. Ishmael has taken over games before for the Falcons, and against the Panthers Sunday, a highly capable performance from the RC veteran would come at the right time.
The Buccaneers will not be sly with their play calling. Occasionally, the Bucs will sneak a trick play or two and Wester may have his number called again.
In Week 14, Bucs Leonard Wester scored his first NFL touchdown, which came against the Detroit Lions. Wester was targeted just once, but if the Bucs face a goal line situation, do not be surprised if they give their backup tackle the ball.
Bucs Alan Cross is a sure-handed tight end. Despite being undersized, Cross came up big for the Peter pirates this season.
The RC pioneer from the 2016 trials has four receptions for 47 yards, averaging 11.8 yards a catch. Cross could be another standout from the NFL Regional Combine whom the Bucs may call on to make a play that can spoil the Saints hopes of winning the NFC South. That is if the Panthers defeat the Falcons.
The Cardinals battled with the loss of some credible running backs this season like David Johnson, J.T. Logan and Adrian Peterson. So, it has been a running back by committee for the Cardinals and Elijhaa Penny has been an absolute gem since mid-season.
Penny has shown he can pick up tough yards and, against the Seattle Seahawks, gaining yards on the ground is always challenging.
Penny has only one rushing touchdown this season, along with his 85 ground yards. If the Cardinals need to get those tough yards to pick up a critical first down or punch it in from the goal line, Penny will be called on to disrupt the Seahawks chances to advance.
Seth Roberts and Jatavis Brown did not have the type of season many expected. Roberts was a touchdown machine for the Oakland Raiders (one touchdown this season) and Brown led the Chargers in tackles as a rookie last season. This season, Roberts struggled and Brown sustained a minor injury.
In this matchup, Roberts and Brown have the potential to voice the final say.
The Raiders are looking to play spoiler against the Chargers as the Bolts are trying to stay in contention with the Baltimore Ravens, in case they fall to the Cincinnati Bengals.
While Roberts will have his chance to deliver a blow to the Chargers, Brown will be performing in the hero role as a defensive leader for the Chargers. Brown is second on the team with 75 tackles.
Roberts can catch in the slot and Brown can cover underneath.
This will be fun!