After sixteen weeks, the 2014 NFL Regular Season come to a close, and unfortunately the New Orleans Saints have failed to qualify for the postseason. No one can deny that the Saints fell far short of even the most conservative expectations this season. The silver lining this week is that the Saints still have one game left to play, which gives Who Dat Nation one last chance to see our beloved Saints on the field before the long, arduous offseason begins.
As the 2014 season comes to a merciful end for the Saints and their fans, we look back on not only what could've been, but what should've been. Like most "dream teams", this team became the thing of nightmares. Let's all hope 2014 was the aberration instead of 2013. Now let's take a look at the Saints' final game as well as all of the pivotal matchups in the final week of the 2014 NFL Season.
Last week I went 8-8
Sunday, December 28th - Early Games
Baltimore keeps their playoff hopes alive with a home win over Cleveland. The Ravens will be scoreboard watching the SD/KC game.
Kansas City crushes San Diego's playoff hopes with a late, game-winning field goal. The Chiefs will be scoreboard watching the Baltimore game.
Houston's rushing attack will have no problem running at will against Jacksonville, but the Texans still fall short of the playoffs.
Colts(10-5) at Titans(2-11)
Indy rebounds from a crushing loss in Dallas by winning a routine "playoff tune-up" in Tennessee, where the Titans eagerly await the arrival of Jameis Winston.
Despite falling for the classic trap game in Oakland last week, Buffalo rebounds with a solid defensive effort in New England before losing by a field goal. With the win, New England clinches home-field advantage and the #1 seed in the AFC.
Cowboys(11-4) at Redskins(4-11)
With Dallas more than likely locked into the NFC's #3 seed, expect the Cowboys to rest their top stars and ailing players in a virtually meaningless game in Washington.
Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr will have big games in a matchup that will be vastly different from their Week 6 game in Philly.
The Jets' laughable passing game will secure their 13th loss of the season in Miami.
Minnesota's offense will have little trouble against this Chicago defense.
Saints(6-9) at Buccaneers(2-13)
I honestly wouldn't be surprised by any way this game unfolded. The Saints have the NFL's top offense and the NFL's worst defense. Those type of rankings will result in the type of season the Saints produced in 2014. Tampa has absolutely no incentive to win this game from a front office/coaching perspective, but these are grown men on the field, and many will be playing for their jobs. Even though Tampa wants to keep the first pick in the draft, expect the Bucs to play hard. Since the Saints are "road warriors" inexplicably to end the season, I'd also expect them to play better away from the Dome than they do inside of it.
Ultimately, I expect the Saints to win this game 35-17 and end the season at 7-9 for the third time since the 2007 season.
Sunday, December 28th - Late Games
Denver secures the AFC's #2 seed with a win over Oakland.
Cardinals(11-4) at 49ers(7-8)
Can Arizona actually muster enough offense to win a playoff game at the NFC South champion? San Francisco and Jim Harbaugh part ways with one last win, 23-0.
Rams(6-9) at Seahawks(11-4)
Seattle will clinch the NFC's #1 seed with a win at home, 26-13.
This game won't be much to look at, but due to the circumstances, it should be compelling. Don't expect much from either rushing game, and even less from either defense. This game will come down to which quarterback wins the day, and that quarterback will be Matt Ryan. Thanks to a Matt Bryant field goal in the final moments, Atlanta wins 23-20.
Green Bay is only averaging 12 points-per-game against top five defenses this season, including a 19-7 loss in Week 3 at Detroit. As much as this game means to both teams, it may mean just a little more to the Lions. This game is a referendum on their season. The Packers are a known commodity under Aaron Rodgers, and for Matthew Stafford to finally make the next step and take his team on the path to postseason success, which has been so elusive to Detroit, they need to win this game, otherwise doubt may just set in at the worst possible time. Detroit's time to grab the "brass ring" is now, and thanks to their defense, Lions win 20-14.
Sunday Night Football
Expect both passing games to put on a show, but Le'Veon Bell will be the difference maker that ultimately brings the division crown to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh wins 27-21.
There you have it, the final week of the 2014 NFL regular season. Let's all hope 2015 fulfills the promise that 2014 laid to waste for New Orleans. Leave us your picks, comments, and insight below.