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Sorry Six: Now's not the time for contenders to play bad football

There’s nothing sorrier than a good team coming up small when the spotlight is brightest. And this week, the penultimate one in the 2017 NFL season, saw half a dozen teams flounder when they should have flourished. Ladies and gentlemen, a most extraordinary Sorry Six.

First off, let’s look at the Atlanta Falcons. They had a legitimate win-and-you’re in scenario, needing only a victory at hated New Orleans to clinch a playoff berth and set up a division title defense. Instead, they played small, conservative ball all Sunday afternoon, and let the Saints—and their fans—dunk on them all day.

The Dallas Cowboys needed help to reach the playoffs, yes, but first they needed to help themselves. They didn’t do that, as Dak Prescott’s two interceptions helped doom the Cowboys against a beatable Seattle. All the good feelings in Dallas over the last two years have soured, and Cowboys fans have to be nervous.

But that’s nothing compared to the fury of Oakland Raiders fans—if indeed there still are any. This time last year, this was a potential Super Bowl contender. Now? They’re out of the playoffs, out of hope, and soon, out of town.

The Tennessee Titans have played this entire year with smoke and mirrors, hoping no one would notice quite how bad they really are until, oh, the playoffs started. Well, the Titans and Marcus Mariota are getting exposed, and it ain’t pretty. The Titans are still win-and-you’re-in, but does anyone trust Tennessee in the playoffs? Nope.

Tennessee’s division rival, the Jacksonville Jaguars, already locked up the AFC South title, so there wasn’t much to play for Sunday except pride. And all that pride in Jacksonville’s vaunted defense vaporized thanks to – Jimmy Garoppolo and San Francisco? That can’t be right. Jacksonville, you haven’t been to the playoffs much, so let us remind you: thinking you can turn on a momentum switch you’ve turned off is an easy route to an early exit.

And finally, the Detroit Lions. Look, the year started on an ugly note, as Matthew Stafford threw a pick-six on his first pass after signing the richest contract in NFL history. So credit Detroit for hanging in for as long as they did. But like Dallas, they needed to win to stay alive. Unlike Dallas, Detroit lost to a vastly inferior foe, the woeful Bengals. Detroit begins yet another offseason of wondering what went wrong. At least they’re used to the question by now.

That’ll do it for this week. Congrats to all our teams that made the list, and even more congratulations to those that didn’t. Till next week, remember: never be sorry.

The Cowboys will have a lot of time to think about what went wrong in 2017. (Getty)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.