Every season a few teams make a run in the final weeks of the year to sneak their way into the postseason. Sometimes, those teams need help, and there’s usually at least a couple of teams more than willing to choke and fall out of contention. So, in 2013, which teams are most likely to choke their way out of the playoff race?
The Lions actually have a relatively manageable closing schedule, playing the Ravens, Giants and Vikings in the last three weekends of the regular season. Still, the Bears are tied with the Lions atop the NFC North, and the Green Bay Packers are close behind. Are we really willing to trust the Lions to finish strong enough to make the postseason?
In a word, no. The Lions have been woefully inconsistent in 2013, and it’s not a trend they will buck in the last few weeks of the season. With just three games to go, there’s a strong chance either the Packers or the Bears will win out, and one loss could completely derail the Lions. There’s no doubt they’ve made strong improvement over the course of the season, but they’re not there just yet.
I realize the Cowboys aren’t in the playoffs right now, but they trail the Philadelphia Eagles by just one game, and they play the Eagles in the final week of the season. Since Dallas has already toppled the Eagles this season, the Cowboys effectively still control their own playoff destiny, making them fair game for this dubious list.
As it’s been pointed out by various news outlets, Tony Romo is just 12-17 in December, compared to his record of 24-5 in November. That translates to a reputation of choking in clutch moments, and with a razor thin margin for error, the Cowboys can’t afford to drop a single game. Although they may be in position to claim the tie-breaker against the Eagles, they have to be able to remain close enough to force a tie in week 17, and that’s not a task I trust the Cowboys with. Once again, Dallas looks like they’ll fall just short.
The Ravens are currently tied with the Miami Dolphins at 7-6, and the Ravens hold the head-to-head tie-breaker. With so much going for the Ravens, why are they making an appearance on our list of dreamers that will fall short?
The Ravens face a brutal closing schedule, and they simply lack that talent to win games they’ll need to make the postseason. The Ravens close against the Lions, Patriots and Bengals; while the Dolphins close the season out against the Patriots, Bills and Jets. Keep in mind the Dolphins have to finish the season ahead of the Ravens, meaning they simply need to win one more game than the Ravens to sneak in. Considering the difficulty of the two teams’ seasons, it looks like the Dolphins may be able to cruise to a 2-1 finish, putting a lot of pressure on the Ravens to do the same. With Baltimore’s schedule in mind, I’m not sure that’s a possibility for the Ravens.