NFL Hash Marks: Points taken - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

NFL Hash Marks: Points taken

Colts-Raiders and Lions-Cowboys are two of the NFL's Week 16 games involving teams trying to make the playoffs or improve their position. (Source: AP/Charlie Neibergall/Denis Poroy/Rick Osentoski/Roger Steinman) Colts-Raiders and Lions-Cowboys are two of the NFL's Week 16 games involving teams trying to make the playoffs or improve their position. (Source: AP/Charlie Neibergall/Denis Poroy/Rick Osentoski/Roger Steinman)

(RNN) - The NFL moves (mostly) to Saturday for the next-to-last week of the regular season. But Friday is Festivus, so grab your aluminum poles and let's begin.

#AiringOfGrievances - Fans should have a lot of problems with the Titans' Mike Mularkey and the Eagles' Doug Pederson. The head coaches went for two-point conversions Sunday in the final minutes with their teams trailing by one.

Both failed, but that's beside the point. Pun intended. PAT kicks are a lock, statistically speaking - about a 94 percent success rate. Two-point conversions have been successful about 48 percent of the time in the last five years.

So Tennessee and Philly gave up a near-certainty, giving them a chance to turn the game in their favor over many plays. Trying to "win now" takes a single, low-percentage play and makes it the most important of the game. And these scenarios only happen when two teams have played evenly over the course of 57-plus minutes.

Going for two should be used sparingly and only in case of emergency - treat it like the threat of nuclear war.

#LloydChristmas - It's another edition of NFL Network's Thursday Night Football on Saturday. Followed by Thursday Night Football on Sunday. In the afternoon.

Here at Hash Marks, no one is going to criticize a little #Branding. But confusing casual viewers so they don't know when to tune in seems worse than angering a guy called SeaBass.

OK, wrong SeaBass. Probably him too, though.

#Browns - The bad news? You're 0-14. The good news? Your opponent this weekend has this guy tossing the ball indiscriminately around the field.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET Saturday

The Birds are fighting for an NFC South title, while the Cats are technically-but-not-really in playoff contention. Their path involves Washington tying a game.

Atlanta (9-5) is expecting receiver Julio Jones back from injury, giving QB Matt Ryan an even better chance to pad his stats again on Carolina's (6-8) NFL-worst pass defense. The two teams met in Week 4, and Ryan threw for 503 yards and four TDs.

That week also saw the Panthers' Cam Newton leave the game with a possible concussion from a borderline illegal hit, something he has complained about this season. Let's look at the film.

The refs could have thrown a flag on some of those.

Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. Saturday

Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin have held so many meetings in the opposing backfield, they're thinking about installing a conference table. The Raiders (11-3) duo has combined for 18 sacks this season, including 11 in the last six games.

That's a problem for any QB, but the Colts' (7-7) Andrew Luck should be more worried than most. His porous offensive line has given up 40 sacks this season, 29th in the league.

Luck and Derek Carr of the Raiders are in the top 10 in passing TDs, so this could be a deep ball-tossing, high-scoring game.

The Raiders are in the playoffs and still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Indy is a game back of the AFC South lead and need a scenario to play out that includes Jacksonville winning a game … better Luck next year.

Thursday Night Football (on Sunday): Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:30 p.m.

The Ravens (8-6) would own the AFC North tiebreaker with a second win this season over the Steelers (9-5). If they lose, they would need several teams to lose one or both of their remaining games to get in as a Wild Card.

Pittsburgh would lock up the division with a win. Their path to the playoffs with a loss (assuming they beat the Browns next week, which feels safe) would require a Ravens loss in Week 17 or the Dolphins losing out or the Chiefs losing out.

Le'Veon Bell had a season-low 32 yards rushing in Week 9 against the Ravens, unless you count the three weeks he was suspended. He's ripped through the opposition since, gaining at least 131 scrimmage yards per game.

Baltimore was the No. 1 defense in multiple statistical categories two weeks ago. Then it gave up a combined 54 points and 824 yards to the Eagles and Patriots. Cornerback Jimmy Smith's injury may have played a role in the drop-off, but the D is likely going to be missing him again, so no help there.

Monday Night Football (still Monday): Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys, 8:30 p.m.

The Lions (9-5) could grab a playoff spot this week with a win and a Buccaneers or Packers loss, or they're in if multiple teams (Bucs, Washington, Panthers) lose. The Cowboys (12-2) are in. Thanks for keeping it simple, 'Boys.

Much of the talk on Matthew Stafford has been about his injured finger, but his heart grew three sizes this week when he and his wife delivered gifts to the families of fallen police officers. And offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter made racoon-skin hats for the entire state of Michigan … not really, but no one would be surprised if a guy named "Jim Bob Cooter" did that.

The Cowboys' Dak Prescott removed doubts that he's hitting the "rookie wall" with a 32 for 36, 279-yard passing effort Sunday.

The Lions D has allowed 19 points or fewer in seven of its last eight games, one of the reasons Stafford could lead eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter this year. They've given up only 99 yards per contest on the ground, but they haven't faced a rushing attack like Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott and his massive friends on the all-star O-line.

In other good guy news, Ezekiel Elliott tossed $21,000 in the Salvation Army kettle after jumping in it himself during the game Sunday. The nonprofit said donations had spiked after his TD celebration, and it gave them a fun promotional idea.

The NFL rules police didn't even fine him for the elebration. Rumor has it, they received three visitors - one from the past, one from the present and one … ah, you get it.

Hash Marks, formerly NFL of the Week, is a preview/analysis of games and a satirical look at the entire NFL Universe - the players, coaches, owners, fans and media. For more sports and other news, follow @MattQuillenRNN on Twitter.

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