Well, here we are.
The NFL regular season will end Sunday night, sometime shortly before the fiscal cliff deadline, and 20 of the 32 teams will go home to fire coaches, talk excitedly about the draft and wonder what the Bengals are doing that they aren’t.
It’s been a season that has given us replacement refs, real refs, the most liberal definition of simultaneous possession yet authored, the rebirth of Peyton Manning, the demise of Andy Reid, the emergence of Russell Wilson, the look-away ugliness of the Steelers’ bumblebee uniforms, Chuck Pagano’s inspiring story and Mark Sanchez losing a fumble after running into a teammate’s backside.
Just imagine what the playoffs could produce.
Like a last look at the Christmas tree before trying to unwrap the lights to pack them away, let’s enjoy Week 17:
CAROLINA at NEW ORLEANS: What comes after three in a row? Four in a row. Panthers 31, Saints 27.
CHICAGO at DETROIT: Trying to come up with a word for this one. Here’s one: Underachievers. Lions 29, Bears 25.
JACKSONVILLE at TENNESSEE: The less said, the better. Titans 24, Jaguars 14.
HOUSTON at INDIANAPOLIS: What has never happened in Indianapolis? A Houston victory. Colts 26, Texans 20.
CLEVELAND at PITTSBURGH: Sounds like Browns coach Pat Shurmur can start packing his office after the team gets home Sunday night. It’s that time of year. Steelers 16, Browns 14.
BALTIMORE at CINCINNATI: In case you hadn’t noticed, the Bengals are in the playoffs – for the second straight season. Mind blowing, I know. Ravens 23, Bengals 17.
NEW YORK JETS at BUFFALO: The Tim Tebow era in Jets history ends with an icy chill. Seems somehow appropriate. Bills 24, Jets 17.
PHILADELPHIA at NEW YORK GIANTS: It didn’t take long for the Giants to look old and worn out. Did they really win the Super Bowl last season? Giants 23, Eagles 17.
TAMPA BAY at ATLANTA: Over the past five seasons, only one team (New England with 59) has won more games than the Falcons (56). Over the same five seasons, no team has won fewer playoff games than the Falcons (a big fat zero). The Falcons get off the schneid this season. Falcons 37, Bucs 13.
OAKLAND at SAN DIEGO: Extreme Makeover, the NFL version, begins a new storyline in San Diego on Monday morning. Chargers 28, Raiders 21.
KANSAS CITY at DENVER: Peyton Manning, MVP. Broncos 31, Chiefs 10.
MIAMI at NEW ENGLAND: In Tom Brady we trust. Patriots 28, Dolphins 14.
ST. LOUIS at SEATTLE: The Seahawks scored 140 points in their first eight games this season. They’ve scored 150 points in their past three games. That’s the most points scored in a three-game stretch since 1950. Seahawks 35, Rams 21.
GREEN BAY at MINNESOTA: No matter how many carries it takes, the Vikings are going to get Adrian Peterson the single-season rushing record, topping Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 yards 28 years ago. It’s an exceptional achievement, especially in light of Peterson’s knee injury last December.
Say what you will about O.J. Simpson but he ran for 2,000 yards in 14 games. Just reminding everyone. Packers 26, Vikings 23.
ARIZONA at SAN FRANCISCO: The 49ers are officially off the scariest teams in football list. 49ers 27, Cardinals 13.
DALLAS at WASHINGTON: Cowboys-Redskins. Sunday night. RG III. Tony Romo. Jerry Jones. Daniel Snyder. One playoff spot at stake. The NFL has a pretty good screenwriter. Redskins 26, Cowboys 24.
Last week: 10-6