Next week, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Indianapolis Colts in a seemingly innocuous season finale.
A closer look, however, will show this to be the most important game of the week. In fact, the future for a number of teams rests on the outcome.
First, the Jaguars. If they win this game, they will hand the Colts Stanford QB Andrew Luck. That means for the next 10-12 years, they will have to face Luck at least twice per season. A win for the Jags would also mean a drop from the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to as low as tenth overall depending on the outcome of a slew of games these next two weeks.
Now, the Colts. A win in this game would likely cost them Luck. By my count, this would keep one person in the organization happy - Peyton Manning - and even that is a stretch as he won't be playing for too many more seasons and must understand the business of football by now.
Eyes in Minnesota and St. Louis will also be fixated on this riveting 2-13 vs 4-11* matchup. Within the last two seasons both the Vikings (Christan Ponder, 12th overall in 2011) and Rams (Sam Bradford, 1st overall on 2010) have spent high first round picks on franchise quarterbacks. While it's likely too soon to pass final judgment on how good these two are, it is widely believed, although not by this author, that Luck is the best quarterback prospect to come along in 20 years. Would either team be willing to take their chances with Luck?
*Assumes Tennessee will handle business in Week 16 against the Jaguars.
Lastly, the rest of the league. There might be a couple win-and-in games in Week 17 but the chances of a team which needs to win their last game just to get into the playoffs advancing very far is low. There are definitely counter-examples to this - like Green Bay just last season - but I'll stick to my thesis that the Jax-Indy game will be more meaningful a decade from now. Put more bluntly, no team winning a win-and-in game this season will advance to the Super Bowl.
As a gambler, I'm extremely curious what the line will be. It's a game that neither team wants to win and will be a great example of winning the war but losing the battle... or something like that. Where's Cadillac Williams when you need him?