Monday, December 5, 2011

If the NFL Playoffs Started Today (Week 13)

With tonight's battle between the Chargers and Jaguars unlikely to have any playoff relevance, I can get a jump start on the week by posting this after Sunday's action. Here are the current playoff standings. The rest of the team's schedule is in parens with home game in caps. The Packers and 49ers have clinched their divisions.

NFC
1. Green Bay 12-0 (OAK, kc, CHI, DET)
2. San Francisco 10-2 (ari, PIT, sea, stl)
3. New Orleans 9-3 (ten, min, ATL, CAR)
4. Dallas 7-5 (NYG, tb, PHI, nyg)
5. Chicago 7-5 (den, SEA, gb, min)
6. Atlanta 7-5 (car, JAX, no, TB)
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7. Detroit 7-5 (MIN, oak, SD, gb)
8. New York Giants 6-6 (dal, WAS, nyj, DAL)

AFC
1. New England 9-3 (was, den, MIA, BUF)
2. Baltimore 9-3 (IND, sd, CLE, cin)
3. Houston 9-3 (cin, CAR, ind, TEN)
4. Denver 7-5 (CHI, NE, buf, KC)
5. Pittsburgh 9-3 (CLE, sf, STL, cle)
6. Cincinnati 7-5 (HOU, stl, ARI, BAL)
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7. Tennessee 7-5 (NO, ind, JAX, hou)
8. Oakland 7-5 (gb, DET, kc, SD)
9. New York Jets 7-5 (KC, phi, NYG, mia)

It looks like someone is going to back into the NFC playoffs. The top three seeds won and the next five teams all lost. I think the 49ers are safe in their number two seed. Although they do play three road games, they are against their terrible division opponents. Seattle and Arizona have won five games each and three each at home, but it was hard not to like the way San Francisco took care of business against the Rams this week. I could see the Saints losing this week at Tennessee and even at Minnesota (they did lose at St. Louis earlier this season).

The Wild Card match ups in the NFC did not change, but the Bears lost another key offensive piece. I had the misfortune of hearing Mike and Mike on ESPN complaining that the Bears screwed Matt Forte by not paying him before he got hurt. I would never watch Mike and Mike willingly, but they were on in the gym. Football players get hurt and Forte already has a contract. In any case, his injury is a very bad one for Chicago and I think they will fall out of the playoff race. They could be replaced by the Lions, who are no great shakes either. With two games left against the Cowboys, the Giants still have a shot at the playoffs. That's remarkable when one considers how many injuries that have befallen their defense. I don't think both NFC East teams will make the playoffs, so Detroit will sneak in by the two sweetest words in the English language: de and fault.

In the AFC, the top five teams all won and the Ravens slipped by the Texans for the second seed. Based on their remaining schedules, I think Baltimore will hold onto the division crown over Pittsburgh, so the Steelers will punch a ticket to face the AFC West champion. The Ravens beat the Texans, so they have the tie-breaker. New England holds an edge over the Ravens and Texans based on strength of victory and conference win percentage, respectively. In other words, every seed is in play.

Cincinnati has proved not as good as their division betters. They could really help their playoff spot by beating Houston this weekend. That should be a good game. The teams are currently slated to meet in the first round of the playoffs, so it could also be a great playoff preview. The Houston running game is impressive, but the loss of Andre Johnson to a hamstring pull is a bad injury for the team. The Texan offensive line will be put to the test.

Lastly, let me spend a few words on the Broncos. Tim Tebow seems to be the most compelling figure in the league. He is certainly charismatic, but I am not really interested in what he does off the field. I feel the same about all players, be they sinners or saints. I will note that during the Broncos five-game winning streak, they have not beaten a team that is currently in the playoff field. I imagine they will pull off another win against the offensive-less Bears, but their Week 15 game against New England will be the key. The Lions had a couple of comeback wins in the beginning of the season, but they have since fallen back to earth. I have a feeling that the same thing will happen to Denver against quality competition.