Speaking of which, playoff stuff

Speaking of which, playoff stuff
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Hear that?


That’s the grinding, crunchy sound of the NFL’s 2018 season reaching a crescendo.  It’s never easy in the NFL, but after 15 weeks, most of the playoff teams have been identified…well, some.  Okay, not many.


As of this writing, five of the NFL’s 32 teams have officially qualified for playoff berths, with three official division winners in the NFC.  That’s all.  The AFC North intrigue continues, with the Browns, Ravens and Steelers still in play for postseason spots, with the Ravens and Steelers still in position to claim the division title.  The Bengals have just been eliminated from the chase, but they have the capability to make things interesting for the rest of the AFC North.  Speaking of which…


The Bengals have divisional games remaining against the Browns and Steelers; if they win even one of those contests, the prospects for each team changes radically.  Short of doing the math, we can surmise that the Browns would be eliminated and the possibility of the Steelers’ demise would increase greatly.  The only healthy offensive skill position starter of note for Marvin Lewis’ troubled team is running back Joe Mixon, so the chances of the Bengals winning a single game, let alone two, remain slight, if that.  Speaking of which…


Heading into a long-odds, must-win game in Los Angeles this week, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh seems unconcerned about the record amount of rushing attempts by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.  While it’s been undeniably successful to this point, we again ask – is it sustainable?  Most fans and pundits agree that quarterbacks of this type rarely last long in the NFL, given increased contact levels and speed of the game.  Jackson seems  likely to continue his ways; it’s what he’s used to, although his college passing numbers certainly indicated more of a proficiency throwing the ball than he’s shown.  Win or lose, Jackson’s game will be under a lot of scrutiny this offseason.  Speaking of which…


The Browns are determined to stay focused on the postseason, not the offseason – a radical departure from years past.  Even if they falter, the almost-rebuilt Browns have improved beyond the projections of most realistic analysts and fans, and – this is coming from a rival team fan – it’s been a lot of fun to watch.  In a sport that’s trending more towards recognition of individual parts as opposed to the whole (got a better cliche?), the Browns have exhibited continuity and teamwork in the wake of former coach Hue Jackson’s ouster, and it shows on the field.  Be prepared, AFC North – barring some real offseason buffoonery, these guys aren’t going anywhere.  Speaking of which…


Here’s a list of the Steelers’ 2019 free agents, and it’s notable for who’s not included, as the Steelers seem to have already locked up their veterans contractually for 2019 at minimum.  These possible departures are almost all for roster depth, so fans will be happy to note that their excellent starting offense will most likely remain intact.  Depending on the offseason stance of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has increasingly spoken of retirement, the Steelers could conceivably stand pat and retain more of the above-listed free agents, or move in another direction, as the defense could stand improvement, particularly in the secondary.  How they finish the 2018 season will be notable as well.


Enjoy the week!


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