Well, here we go.
This season is ending a bit different than I would have anticipated. The prospect that both Jacksonville and Miami could make the playoffs this year is a pleasant surprise – and a way to help make up for the disappointment of the worst Bucs season in 18 years.
The reality, however, is that it will take a bit of a Christmas miracle for both teams to find a way into the playoffs.
Both are two of six AFC teams with identical 7-7 records fighting for the wild card spots that right now belong to the 8-6 Broncos and 8-6 Ravens.
There is an opening there for either one of the Florida teams, but it will take a lot of doing, including taking care of business down the final stretch of the season. And that’s where I have guarded optimism.
Jacksonville’s next two games are on the road against New England and Cleveland. Ouch. How about that land of Sunshine team? Two straight games in very cold and hostile locations. New England has yet to clinch a playoff spot so the Jaguars won’t get any favors from the Patriots who are undefeated at home so far this year. Even the hometown newspaper concedes it may be a tough feat for the Jags to win this game. Key point – If Peyton Manning torched the Jaguars for four touchdowns last week, how well will Tom Brady fare? The Browns are obviously a bit of an easier opponent to worry about, but Cleveland has actually been playing better in the last couple of games.
Miami’s final stretch isn’t much better, although the team gets both of its final games at home in Land Shark Stadium. The Dolphins square off this weekend against a Houston Texans team trying hard to save head coach Gary Kubiak’s job and get a playoff berth. Then the Dolphins close out the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2009 Super Bowl champs. The only thing going with the Fins in that game is if the Steelers lose this weekend to the Ravens then their season is probably over and they will have little to play for in the final week of the regular season.
Of course neither game will be a gimme for the Fins. I’m not sure the Fins offense can keep up with the Texans offense, while Pittsburgh has actually turned into a passing team that features a tough good quarterback.
So how about it Santa? How about a playoff berth for one of the Florida teams? You don’t even have to put it under the tree.