Playoff berths at stake as NFL says farewell to Madden

·3-min read
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says his team's game Monday against Cleveland could be the final home game of his 18-year career (AFP/JAMIE SQUIRE)

Seven teams will try to clinch playoff berths Sunday on the penultimate weekend of the NFL season, when the league also bids farewell to legendary coach and commentator John Madden.

NFL games will feature a moment of silence in tribute to Madden, the former NFL player, coach, television commentator and videogame pioneer who died on Tuesday at age 85.

"Nobody loved football more," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

"There will never be another John Madden and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today."

Six teams have already clinched playoff berths -- Kansas City in the American Conference (AFC) and Green Bay, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Arizona and the Los Angeles Rams in the National Conference (NFC).

Philadelphia and San Francisco will try to claim NFC spots while Buffalo, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New England and Tennessee can capture AFC berths.

Green Bay, with the NFL's best record at 12-3, would clinch the NFC top seed and a first-round playoff bye with a home victory over Minnesota (7-8) and a loss by Dallas (11-4) to visiting Arizona (10-5).

Packers' 38-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Green Bay fans won't have to wait long about a decision on his future once the season ends, whether he stays, joins a rival or retires.

"It won't be something where I'll drag it out for months and months," Rodgers said.

"I'm not going to hold the team back from anything. And once I commit -- and if it's committing to move forward here -- it will be a quick decision."

He's not the only star quarterback pondering his future as 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger says Pittsburgh's Monday home game against Cleveland is likely is final Steelers' home game.

"Looking at the bigger picture, I would say that all signs are pointing to this could be it," Roethlisberger said. "If it's indeed my last regular-season game here, it's going to be one of the most important games of my career.

"What better way to have a last potential regular-season game than Monday Night Football against a division opponent? It's just special."

"Big Ben" has guided Pittsburgh, 7-7 with one drawn, to two Super Bowl titles and the Steelers have never endured a losing campaign in his 18 years with the club.

- Many paths to playoffs -

In the NFC playoff fight, San Francisco (8-7) would clinch a playoff spot with a home victory over Houston (4-11) and a home loss by New Orleans (7-8) to Carolina (5-10).

The Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) will grab an NFC berth with a victory at Washington (6-9) and losses by New Orleans and Minnesota.

Six of seven AFC playoff berths are unclaimed but the Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) can capture one, and win the AFC Central division crown, with a home victory over Kansas City (11-4) while the Chiefs need a victory and a loss by Tennessee (10-5) to visiting Miami (8-7) to clinch the AFC top seed and a first-round playoff bye.

A Tennessee victory would hand the Titans the AFC South division crown. They could also win the division if the Indianapolis Colts (9-6) lose at home to Las Vegas (8-7) while the Colts would reach the playoffs with a triumph.

New England (9-6) can seal a playoff appearance with a home victory over NFL-worst Jacksonville (2-13) and a loss by either Las Vegas or Miami.

Buffalo (9-6) would secure a playoff berth with a home victory over Atlanta (7-8) and either a loss by Baltimore (8-7) to the visiting Los Angeles Rams (11-4) or losses by Las Vegas and the Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) to visiting Denver (7-8).

Sunday's other games find defending champion Tampa Bay at the New York Jets, the New York Giants at Chicago and Detroit at Seattle.

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