Reaching the NFL playoffs is not just about getting in position to make a run at a championship. For many it’s about saving jobs. Which prominent names have lots to gain or lose over the next two weeks?
Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears
Phil Emery has stated he’s looking for specific things in regards to evaluating whether or not quarterback Jay Cutler deserves a new deal to stay with the Chicago Bears beyond 2013. It’s fair to say he said the same thing about Lovie Smith, who went 10-6 last year. Why did Smith get canned? He didn’t make the playoffs. Fair say that the only thing that will guarantee Cutler an extension next year if the Bears don’t make the playoffs is if he puts up elite numbers over the final two weeks. Given last week was his first start in a month, that is a lot to ask even against some B-level defenses like Philadelphia and Green Bay. Winning is the best cure, for him and his doubters.
Jason Garrett and Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys
Getting trampled in arctic Chicago was one thing, but blowing a 26-3 lead in the second half to a Green Bay Packers team without Aaron Rodgers was quite another. Everything went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys and the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo. The tandem continues to showcase how pitiful they become in the month of December, blowing another division lead and staying on course to their third-straight 8-8 finish. Jerry Jones expressed supreme confidence in the both of them earlier this season but after two crushing losses the signs are beginning to show that he’s getting fed up with it all. If Dallas doesn’t recover to win the NFC East both Garrett and Romo could be in serious trouble.
Jim Schwartz – Detroit Lions
Patience is something the ownership of the Detroit Lions has grown accustomed to, so it’s clear head coach Jim Schwartz is on ice when rumors began to creep up that his job was on the line. One can understand why. His team’s remarkable inconsistency and undisciplined play has overridden their obvious talent. Going into week 15 everything was in their court. They had control of the NFC North and hosted a Baltimore Ravens team at a raucous Ford Field where they have scarcely lost all year. Yet, it typical Lions fashion, they found a way to blow it. Suddenly Detroit needs a lot of help to even reach the playoffs. Failure to do so would lay the blame at the feet of Schwartz, who has squandered far too many opportunities during his tenure in Motown.
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
A LOT of things need to go right for the Pittsburgh Steelers to make the NFL playoffs. If they do it would be one of the most eye-popping runs to January in recent memory considering many thought they were dead in the water at midseason. The situation regarding Ben Roethlisberger is somewhat different from others on this list. He has played exceptionally well this season despite rumors that he was interested in a trade earlier in the year. It wasn’t the first time such a subject was brought up either. Missing the playoffs but having a good season stat-wise might compel the Steelers, who need to do some rebuilding to trade their two-time Super Bowl winner in exchange for help in the 2014 draft. At the same time, if Big Ben manages to pull off a stunning rally to the playoffs, it would likely kill any idea of such a move happening.