It's the crucial penultimate week of the 2009-10 NFL season, with massive encounters that will go along way into determining the murky playoff picture in both conferences, especially the wildness of the AFC.
With the Chargers dominant Christmas Day display over an injury riddled Titans squad in Nashville, the picture is just slightly clearer in the AFC than it was one week ago. Nine teams were still vying for at least the two wild cards spot at the culmination of Week 15, with six teams sporting a 7-7 record. That is now down to five with Tennessee's defeat, but the two teams at 8-6 clearly control their own destiny.
One of those 8-6 teams, the Baltimore Ravens, look to end the defending Super Bowl champions repeat title bid in Pittsburgh today. In arguably the key game of the weekend, John Harabaugh's side look to score a season sweep over a Steelers buoyed by Ben Roethlisberger's last second heroics in their thrilling 37-36 win over the Packers. Both of these maligned secondaries will be both potentially put to the sword today, as superstar safeties Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu are out of this vital contest.
The other 8-6 AFC team, the Denver Broncos, have an even more difficult task today, as they try to contain a Philadelphia Eagles side that is the inform team in the NFC. It will be an emotional return to the city of "Brotherly Love" for Broncos hard hitting safety Brian Dawkins, who was a stalwart in the defensive backfield for the "Green Birds" for 13 long seasons.
Deflated after allowing JaMarcus Russell of all quarterbacks to throw a winning touchdown on them, Josh McDaniels and Mike Nolan's defense will have to play their biggest game of the season in order to stop a collapse from a torrid 6-0 start. And it won't help Broncos fan's nerves anymore that both wide receiver Eddie Royal and linebacker Spencer Larsen are ruled "out" for this important game.
The other 7-7 teams besides the Steelers hoping these 8-6 sides falter are the Texans and Dolphins, who have their "Win or die" contest in Miami at 1, and the Jaguars, who look to help themselves by preventing the Patriots from clinching the AFC East today.
Late Night Open Thread
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