The notion that players and teams aren’t trying to win games is disproven on a weekly basis in the always-unpredictable NFL.
Contemplate what took place in Week 16.
The last-place San Francisco 49ers won at Arizona on Saturday afternoon.
The last-place New York Jets knocked off the Cleveland Browns.
The last-place Cincinnati Bengals won at Houston.
The last-place Los Angeles Chargers escaped the basement in the AFC West by beating the Denver Broncos.
The last-place Carolina Panthers escaped the basement in the NFC South by winning at Washington.
After a 0-13 start, the Jets have won two straight games. The Bengals have also prevailed in back-to-back contests and the Bolts have won three in a row.
This “tanking” theory by some sounds great for those with agendas and sporting tin foil hats. But where has it truly transpired? A year ago, the Miami Dolphins were supposedly “Tanking for Tua” and while they wound up getting the former University of Alabama standout, it was more a matter of circumstances. A year ago, Brian Flores’ club lost their first seven games but not only rebounded to go 5-4 down the stretch, they knocked off a pair of division champions in the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. The latter was the most impressive win for the ‘Fins given Bill Belichick’s team was vying for one of the top two seeds in the AFC playoffs and that Miami drove the field late in the game to win at Foxborough.
In Week 17, there are any number of match-ups where a team with a losing record already eliminated from the postseason could spoil a club’s playoff aspirations. The Jaguars have won one game all season, a Week 1 conquest of the Colts. Now they take their 14-game losing streak to Indianapolis. Earlier this season, the Texans took Tennessee into overtime before succumbing. Now the Titans head to Houston on Sunday. And could the Bengals spoil things for the Ravens on Sunday? And that’s just the AFC.
Elsewhere, could the 5-10 Panthers and 6-9 defending conference champion 49ers make life difficult for the Saints and Seahawks, respectively, in both teams’ pursuit of the top seed in the NFC playoffs?
Even with 24 teams making the playoffs this season, there’s still plenty to solve when it comes to who will be doing what in the first round of the postseason. And for those clubs having forgettable seasons who figure to go out with a whimper rather than a bang on Sunday? No tanks!