The final Sunday of the NFL’s regular season is in the books and we now know who will be in the post-season. The 49ers punched their ticket with a win over the Rams, while the Steelers and the Raiders made a surprise entry in the AFC. As has been the case all season, it’s time to look back on what we learned from the final weekend of the NFL Season.
The Raiders Overcame the Odds
Few teams in the NFL faced as many challenges as the Raiders off the field. From the dismissal of Coach Jon Gruden to the incident with former No. 1 pick Henry Ruggs, the Raiders had plenty of distractions. The team also struggled with injuries and an up-and-down season. But while the 2019 and 2020 Raiders started hot and faded down the stretch, this 2021 version reversed that trend. After sitting at 6-7, nearly out of the playoffs, the Raiders won four straight—including a big 23-20 win in Indianapolis in Week 17 and an overtime win over the Chargers last night. The Raiders finished 10-7, earned the No. 5 seed and will face the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. Along the way, they might well have earned the full-time gig for interim coach Rich Bisaccia.
You Can’t Count Ben Roethlisberger Out
The Steelers seemed to be enduring a lost season. At one point in time, they sat at 1-3, in last place in the AFC North. But as the season moved toward its finish, and Roethlisberger began celebrating his last run as a starter, the Steelers kept themselves alive. On Sunday, as they beat the Ravens to finish 9-7-1, the chance at a post-season berth came into view. The Raiders and Chargers made them sweat it out, but somehow it seems fitting that in what should be his final season Big Ben has made a return trip to the post-season.
The Colts Are In For A Long Off-Season
Win and you’re in. It’s a simple formula that puts the post-season destiny in the hands of the team, something nearly every team wants. For the Colts, heading into Sunday, it was win and they were in. Better still, the Colts were facing the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars, a team coming off a 50-10 loss to the Patriots. A team that lost to the New York Jets a few weeks back. It seemed like a lock. But, as Chris Berman always said, “That’s why they play the games.” The Colts were dominated from the jump, losing 26-11 to the Jaguars to finish 9-8 and out of the playoffs. It was a remarkable turn for a team that at one point sat at 9-6 after wins over the Patriots and Cardinals—both playoff teams—on consecutive Saturdays. Carson Wentz struggled, as did the Colts’ offensive line. The defense also failed to produce a turnover. So, the Colts will now send a First-Round pick to the Eagles while they sit at home for the playoffs wondering how they let the season slip right through their fingers.
The Playoffs begin with Super Wild Card Weekend, six games over three days ending with the final Monday Night Football game of the year. Each Friday during the playoffs I’ll be previewing the games and making picks, so check back Friday for the Wild Card Weekend Preview.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.