NFL Playoff Picture Coming Into Focus

Week 10 has passed.  Every team has now played more games than games left.  It’s at this point that the playoff picture takes form.  Were starting to see the true contenders, and we’re also able to cross a lot of teams off.

If the season were to end today this is what the playoffs would look like in the AFC:

1. Pittsburgh

2. New England

3. Kansas City

4. Tennessee

5. Jacksonville

6. Buffalo

Pittsburgh & New England would get the first round bye.  Not a big surprise.  Kansas City would play host to Buffalo.  Tennessee would host Jacksonville in an AFC South showdown.  Something no one could envision at the start of the season.  With four wins a piece, Baltimore, Oakland, Miami, and the N.Y. Jets would all be on the outside looking in.

The NFC playoff picture would look like this:

1. Philadelphia

2. Minnesota

3. New Orleans

4. L.A. Rams

5. Carolina

6. Seattle

No one could have predicted that halfway through the season the top four playoff teams in the NFC would be Philly, Minnesota, New Orleans, and the L.A. Rams.  Philly & Minnesota would have the first round bye.  New Orleans would host the NFC playoff stalwart Seattle.  The top rated offense of the L.A. Rams would host the top rated defense of Carolina.

After looking at the schedules and other factors (experience, playing style etc.), I have made some predictions what the final playoff picture will look like.  Here it is:

1. New England Patriots: After a shaky start, the Patriots seem to be rounding into form. Don’t get me wrong their a flawed team defensively, but are you really going to bet against them?  It’s not hard to imagine that they will win out and once again have home field throughout the playoffs.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers have a cupcake schedule the rest of the way minus their match up with the Patriots mid December.  That’s the only thing that keeps them from the number 1 seed.  Once against the Patriots remain the Steelers kryptonite.

3. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs remaining schedule isn’t exactly a murderers row.  I could see them going on a nice winning streak to end the season.  The game they dropped to the Steelers in Arrowhead will prove costly, and keep them from getting a first round bye.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Yes, Im picking the Jaguars to take the AFC South.  I’m reluctant to make this prediction because of their major glaring weakness, Blake Bortles.  On the hand, they have one of the easiest schedules remaining, which includes games against the Browns, Cards, Colts, Texans, and Niners.  They also have one the best defenses in the league and a solid running game, something that’s important come December.

5. Tennessee Titans: I feel their is not much difference between the Jags and Titans.  The only reason I’m choosing the Jaguars to win the AFC South over the Titans has to do with the remaining schedule.  If these two teams meet in the playoffs it’s anyone’s guess who will advance.

6.  Baltimore Ravens:  I don’t think the Ravens are a good team by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see them squeaking into the final playoff spot.  Their remaining schedule is much easier than the other teams in the hunt for the final playoff spot.  If they do grab the final wild card spot they will be the team that everyone else will secretly fear.

On The Outside Looking In:  The Bills currently hold the final wild card spot, but I can’t see that sticking.  Their remaining the schedule is tough.  They have two face the Patriots twice and travel to Arrowhead.  The Raiders are another team that will make a run at the final spot, but ultimately end up short.

The NFC is a little more interesting.  The NFC North is still up for grabs. Ditto NFC South.  Can the Eagles handle the pressure down the stretch?  Will the upstart Rams be able to hold off Seattle for the NFC West?  Here how I think it plays out:

1. Philadelphia Eagles:  The Eagles tough remaining schedule will trip them up a little, but not enough to lose the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.   

2. New Orleans Saints:  The Saints have been one of the biggest surprises all season.  After losing their first two games they have ripped off seven straight wins.  The most surprising thing about the those wins is how much of it was a result of their running game and defense.  I think the Saints are just able to win a competitive NFC south and grab a first round bye.

3. Los Angeles Rams:  The Rams remaining schedule is brutal, five out of their last seven games will be against teams that are currently in the playoff picture.  With that said, I still believe this team is good enough to win the AFC West and possibly make a deep run in the playoffs.

4. Minnesota Vikings:  I don’t like that their is a quarterback controversy.  I don’t like that controversy is over two quarterbacks that are mediocre.  I do, however, like the Vikings defense.  Their schedule down the stretch will be tough, but I still like them to take a wide open NFC North.

5. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers will ride the league’s #1 defense and a cupcake schedule to a wildcard spot.

6. Seattle Seahawks: Once again the Seahawks will make the playoffs, and once again they will be the wildcard team that no one wants to face.

On The Outside Looking In:  Atlanta has been up and down all season.  I think they make a push towards the playoffs, but ultimately end up short because of tough NFC South.  The loss of Zeke will hurt the Cowboys going forward and end up costing them a playoff spot.  The Lions have an easy remaining schedule, but I don’t trust them for a second.

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