Tuesday, December 27, 2011

If the NFL Playoffs Started Today (Week 16)

Most fantasy football leagues are done. Champions have been crowned full-time fantasy players start concentrating on baseball. I actually enjoy Week 17 battles, which are generally ruled by the lesser known players. This year, almost every team has something to play for in Week 17. The exceptions are the Texans, Packers, Lions, and Falcons who have nothing to gain by playing their starters. Something in me thinks that Jim Schwartz will have his starters out there against the second-team Packers anyway. Here is how the standings look after Week 16. I've included every team with a possibility of making the playoffs.

NFC
1. Green Bay 14-1 (DET)
2. San Francisco 12-3 (stl)
3. New Orleans 12-3 (CAR)
4. New York Giants 8-7 (DAL)
5. Detroit 10-5 (gb)
6. Atlanta 9-6 (TB)
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7. Dallas 8-6 (nyg)

AFC
1. New England 12-3 (BUF)
2. Baltimore 11-4 (cin)
3. Houston 10-5 (TEN)
4. Denver 8-7 (KC)
5. Pittsburgh 11-4 (cle)
6. Cincinnati 9-6 (BAL)
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7. Oakland 8-7 (SD)
8. Tennessee 8-7 (hou)
9. New York Jets 8-7 (mia)

Yes, there are still four teams vying for the last two spots in the AFC. If Oakland wins and Denver loses, the Raiders win the AFC West. Both teams host AFC West rivals in late games. The Bengals hold the keys to their own destiny for the sixth seed. They will have to go through the Ravens to get it, and Baltimore needs to win to keep their AFC North lead over the Steelers, who head to Cleveland. If Cincinnati should lose, the Titans can make the playoffs by beating the suddenly very beatable Texans. If the Bengals and Titans lose, the Jets can still make the playoffs by beating the Dolphins in Miami. If all three teams lose, the Bengals are in. The Jets and Titans play in the early game, so Cincinnati will know if the game is meaningful by the time they play in the late afternoon.

There is less intrigue in the NFC. The Cowboys and Giants will play in the Meadowlands for the right to represent the NFC East, which I think is the worst division in football this year. The Saints can still get the second seed by beating the Panthers and having the 49ers lose to the Rams, which seems unlikely. The Rams are in the race for the first draft pick, but it would be interesting to see if they wanted Andrew Luck since they already have Sam Bradford. By the way, St. Louis has only scored 26 points over the last four weeks, although Bradford was shut down and played in just one of those games.

The current Wild Card games would feature the Falcons heading to New Orleans (where they got pasted last night) and the Lions going to New York. Drew Brees has nine TD's in his last two games and could be considered for the top pick. The Saints might have a tough time against the 49ers (if they can beat the Falcons again), but the Packer secondary might be ripe for some points in a potential New Orleans-Green Bay NFC Championship. I also like the Lions to put up some nice points against the Giants before heading to a third meeting with Green Bay.

I think Cincinnati would relish another shot at the Texans. The Bengals lost on a last second TD two weeks ago and would just need to convert some of those first half field goals into touchdowns for a fairly convincing win. The bloom may be off the rose for the Broncos who were beaten badly in Buffalo. The Bills had lost seven straight coming into the game and Tim Tebow had his worst game as a pro. While it would not be an easy win for Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger should be rested and ready to go.

Here is your top 20 list for the day:

1. Aaron Rodgers (1)
2. Drew Brees (2)
3. Tom Brady (3)
4. Frank Gore (4)
5. Ray Rice (5)
6. Calvin Johnson (12)
7. Rob Gronkowski (6)
8. Jordy Nelson (10)
9. Arian Foster (7)
10. Rashard Mendenhall (11)
11. Ben Roethlisberger (14)
12. Matthew Stafford (NR)
13. Michael Turner (8)
14. Jimmy Graham (16)
15. Marques Colston (NR)
16. Mike Wallace (NR)
17. Tim Tebow (13)
18. Eli Manning (NR)
19. Cedric Benson (NR)
20. Antonio Brown (20)

Fell out
Tony Romo (9)
Dez Bryant (14)
Roddy White (16)
Willis McGahee (17)
Shonn Greene (18)
Matt Ryan (19)

Also considered
Ahmad Bradshaw
Andre Johnson
Torrey Smith
Wes Welker
Joe Flacco
Santonio Holmes
Plaxico Burress
Julio Jones
Marques Colston
Pierre Thomas
Jake Ballard
Brandon Jacobs
Darren Sproles
Kevin Smith
Julio Jones
A.J. Green