The Patriots demolition of the Jets on Monday night certainly sent a message to the AFC. It probably also silenced Jets fans for a day or two, but it really didn’t shake up the playoff race too much. It gives the Pats the inside track for the division and home field, but the Jets are still at the top of the Wild Card race and would have to totally collapse to miss the post-season. I don’t see a 6-6 team chasing them down. The real playoff questions are in the ugly western divisions and in the NFC where it looks like a 10-win team will probably go home. Here’s how I see it playing out…
- New England 13-3
- Pittsburgh 13-3
- San Diego 10-6
- Jacksonville 9-7
- Baltimore 11-5
- New York Jets 11-5
So, what are the talking points here? Well, I have two teams winning out. The Steelers and the Chargers. The Steelers have a favorable schedule, aside from a home game against the Jets, which I think they will win. Other than that, sweeping the last 4 doesn’t look too difficult. They lose the tie-breaker to New England with a head-to-head loss. The Chargers winning out is probably the biggest stretch I’ll make in this whole post. They were rolling, everyone handed the division over to them, and then came Sunday’s bomb against Oakland. I still think this is a horrid division, and the Chargers have the Chiefs this Sunday. They’ll win there, and ride the momentum to 10-6.
You’ll notice the absence of the Colts. I think many want to give them the division by default until a team takes it away, but even with a game remaining with the 1st place Jags, I don’t see them being able to get out of this hole. They give up way too many points, Peyton is losing confidence in the Wonder Bread Mafia and throwing picks at an alarming rate. Assuming they’ll beat Jacksonville just because is probably a mistake. If the Jags can handle Oakland at home this weekend, they should go on to win the division. The Colts will scramble to finish 8-8.
As far as match-ups go, I don’t know how many times both Wild-Card teams have been favored, but you could see that happen in the AFC this year. The Jets and Ravens, depending on how they finish, are certainly good enough to be road favorites, especially in Jacksonville. Interestingly enough, if the seeds did play out this way, and the wild-card teams won, we’d have the rematches of week 13 for the semi-finals. It’s getting ahead of myself to even pick the teams, so going game by game doesn’t make much sense, but a Patriots/Steelers AFC championship game seems like a pretty good bet right now.
- Atlanta 13-3
- Chicago 11-5
- Philadelphia 11-5
- St. Louis 7-9
- New Orleans 12-4
- Green Bay 10-6
I don’t have a ton of faith in the Falcons as a one-seed. I think they’ll hang on, though, despite a loss to the Saints coming down the stretch. I don’t think they’ll be NFC favorites by the time the playoffs start. I think the Saints bandwagon is going to be fully cranked up by that point, and we’ll be talking about back-to-back Super Bowl appearances for Breesus. The only stumbling block I see for the Saints coming in could be their game with Baltimore. If they were to get a win there, then I could see them taking the division away from Atlanta, but for now I’ll stick with the Falcons.
Am I serious with this 7-9 business? Yeah, I am. I think St. Louis and Seattle have a real good chance to both go 7-9 with the Rams sweeping the season series. The truth is, one of these teams probably will get to 8-8, but it shows you how bad the division is when 7-9 is a real possibility. The schedules aren’t in favor of the Hasselbecks or the Rams. Seattle has Atlanta and @ Tampa, which should be 2 losses. They have to go to San Francisco (and they’ve been terrible on the road). I think they could be 7-8 heading into a week 17 showdown with St. Louis. The Rams have to go through New Orleans, KC, and SF before facing the Seahawks in the finale.
The NFC East and final wild-card spot are the toughest slots to fill, and easily the most up in the air. I don’t like the Giants schedule. That is really what it came down to for me. They have a great win over Chicago for tie-breaking purposes, but I don’t think it will come into play. They have to go to Minnesota and Green Bay. I think they lose both of those games. And, I think there is a strong chance they also lose to Philly. Sweeps have been the nature of the beast in this series recently. The lone lay-up looks like the Redskins in week 17. The Eagles get Minnesota at home, which is huge, but their whole season could hinge on the game Sunday in Dallas. I think the Birds get 2 of 3 against Dallas and NY and end up at 11-5.
Again in the NFC you have powerful wild-cards. The NFC West champs are likely to host the Saints in the opening round. Thanks for coming. The Eagles get a rematch against Green Bay in this scenario, which I think would be a great game. Unlike in the AFC, I don’t see the top-heavy powers here. You could talk me into Chicago and Atlanta both losing their 2nd round games at home. That’s two extremely tough places to play, but it’s also two teams without much playoff experience to draw from. It’s Jay Cutler in the playoffs, a lot of things working there. So, while I think most people would say the AFC champion will be one of 2 or 3 teams at this point, the NFC is still pretty wide open. I think 5 teams will have a shot come playoff time.