This week I got to see the Falcons whip the Jaguars, the Ravens flake at San Diego, punchless Pittsburgh lose out West, and the Bucs sink to a new low against Dallas. I missed all the Sunday day games, and since I don't feel like talking about the games I did see, this week I'll take a look at the playoff picture. In addition, I'll take my first shot at a top 10 for the 2012 draft.
1) New England (v. MIA; v. BUF)
2) Baltimore (v. CLE; @CIN)
3) Houston (@IND; v. TEN)
4) Denver (@BUF; v. KC)
5) Pittsburgh (v. STL; @CLE)
6) NY Jets (v. NYG; @MIA)
7) Cincinnati (v. ARI; v. BAL)
8) Tennessee (v. JAX; @HOU)
9) Oakland (@KC; v. SD)
10) San Diego (@DET; @OAK)
Barring monumental upsets, the Patriots will win their last two and clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That’s because Baltimore collapsed at San Diego and is no longer in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed. The Ravens and Steelers both have a game remaining against the Browns, but Pittsburgh’s other opponent is St. Louis while Baltimore gets Cincinnati, a team fighting for the final playoff spot.
The difference in the #2 and #5 seeds this year is that the #2 gets a first round bye while the #5 gets to travel to Denver to face Baby Jesus’ Broncos. The only scenario where Denver doesn’t get in is if they lose their last two games and San Diego or Oakland wins both of theirs. Denver locks it up with a win next week at KC regardless of what happens this week with any of the teams involved. Given the way these teams are currently playing, I don’t see Denver losing a potential division-clinching game to the Chiefs at Mile High. I don’t care if you’re as experienced as the Steelers or Ravens, the last team I want to face in week 1 of the playoffs is the Broncos at home.
I've got the final seed coming down to the Jets or Bengals. Neither has an easy two weeks ahead. The Jets face the Giants this week, a team fighting for a spots on the other half of the bracket, and then get to travel to Miami and face a team that always plays them tough. Going back to ’08, the Jets are 3-4 against the Dolphins. The beat up Bengals host the Cardinals, owners of the league’s third longest current win streak (4 games) and victors of 6 of 7 overall. During that streak the Cardinals have beaten the Eagles, Cowboys, and 49ers, so besting the Bengals certainly isn’t out of the question. Arizona is still mathematically alive, so this week it’s going to come down to who wants it more.
I say Cincinnati goes 1-1 at best and could very easily go 0-2, which would allow the Jets to still get that last seed by winning 1 of their last 2. The Giants are still playing for the NFC East, but I’ve got to think Rex Ryan can get his team to beat an overmatched Dolphins team in a must-win game. New York takes the last seed, Cincinnati has something to build upon for next season, and San Diego’s late run was all for naught.
1) Green Bay (v. CHI; v. DET)
2) San Francisco (@SEA; @STL)
3) New Orleans (v. ATL; v. CAR)
4) Dallas (v. PHI; @NYG)
5) Atlanta (@NO; v. TB)
6) Detroit (v. SD; @GB)
7) Seattle (v. SF; @ARI)
8) Chicago (@GB; v. MIN)
9) NY Giants (@NYJ; v. DAL)
10) Arizona (@CIN; v. SEA)
Damn, there goes 16-0. What a letdown from the Packers this week. Aaron Rodgers continues to lose protection, and that will obviously be something to keep an eye on as the regular season winds down and the postseason picks up. Still, they’ll get the #1 seed barring a complete collapse. The #2 seed currently belongs to the 49ers thanks to a playoff-like performance against the Steelers on Monday Night Football. Seattle might be the hottest team in the league, but the 49ers are a team on a mission. I like them to avoid another letdown and finish the year as the second seed.
New Orleans now must win out and hope for a 49er loss in order to get a first round bye. I love the scene surrounding this team heading into the playoffs. They’re pretty healthy, aside from Jimmy Graham’s back, and will be playing their last two at home before hosting at least one playoff game. Dallas currently holds the #4 spot, but who knows what’s going to happen with the NFC East in these last two weeks.
The Eagles finally resemble the team everyone thought they’d be, and while it’s too late for them to get in on the postseason action, they can sure play spoiler for the Cowboys. Dallas is likely to have their fate a little better defined by the time they take the field Saturday as their game kicks off at 4:15 while the Giants and Jets play at 1:00. I think Dallas loses this week and the Giants win. That would have them all tied up at 8-7 with a week 17 showdown in New York looming. Going back to ’08, the Giants own a 5-2 series record and won their last matchup two weeks ago on the road in comeback fashion. Garrett and Eli v. Garrett and Romo in a stressful situation? I’m taking the Giants.
The Falcons need one more win to clinch a spot in the postseason, and they’ll get that win next week against the Bucs if they can’t upset the Saints in the Superdome. Detroit sports the same 9-5 record, but I really don’t like their remaining matchups. Not only do they get to face the surging Chargers, but they get to close out with the champs. Maybe Green Bay dials it down after clinching the #1 seed against Chicago, but I wouldn’t count on it. Just one win and they’re in, but that win is far from in their pocket. I’m really leaning towards San Diego taking this one and don’t have faith in the Lions beating the Packers, regardless of how long the Packers’ starters play. If things play out this way, it isn’t necessarily all bad for Detroit. I don’t think Seattle, Chicago, or Arizona goes 2-0. That means the only team Detroit truly has to worry about would be the loser of the Cowboys/Giants equation. Really, if Dallas loses this week, the Lions are in. The best Dallas could do at that point would be to go 9-7, which means they beat the Giants next week, which means they win the NFC East. The Giants, even if they win this week, would then finish no better than 8-8 by losing to Dallas in the finale, allowing Detroit to retain that 6th seed despite losing their last two.
My Playoff Bracket
Ok, so here’s how I see the playoffs shaping up:
1) New England
6) NY Jets
1) Green Bay
2) San Francisco
3) New Orleans
4) NY Giants
Wild Card Round
#6 NY Jets @ #3 Houston
#5 Pittsburgh @ #4 Denver
#6 Detroit @ #3 New Orleans
#5 Atlanta @ #4 NY Giants
I imagine that the Broncos will be the lone home dog in this round of action, but as I mentioned before, I’d hate to face them and the mojo they’re riding. I think this game will rival ATL/NYG for the most exciting of the wild card round, and while Tebow may have friends in high places, I’ll take Pittsburgh’s experience to pull them through to the next round.
I think the Saints end up with the easiest game of the week. It will be their third home contest in three weeks, and they should have no problem dictating their point total against the Lions. I’m really buying into the Saints playing 3 straight home games being a big boost to their playoff chances.
I believe Houston will do a good job of running the ball and stropping the run against the Jets. I’ll definitely go with Foster and Tate at home v. Green and LT in this one. TJ Yates will outplay Mark Sanchez as well.
The Falcons/Giants would be a really intriguing matchup. Atlanta is tough when playing to their potential, as seldom as that happens, and you know New York is going to be nuts with the Giants hosting a playoff game. I’ll take the road team in this one with the Falcons’ passing game being the difference – Roddy White, Juilio Jones, Tony Gonzales, and even Harry Douglas. Pick your poison New York.
#5 Pittsburgh @ #1 New England
#3 Houston @ #2 Baltimore
#5 Atlanta @ #1 Green Bay
#3 New Orleans @ #2 San Francisco
This would be one heck of a menu of games. My predictions:
- New England wins its first postseason game since ’07
- Baltimore ends Houston’s first playoff experience
- Green Bay ends Atlanta’s season for the second straight year
- New Orleans is the round’s lone road victor
#2 Baltimore @ #1 New England
#3 New Orleans @ #1 Green Bay
- Ray Rice does it to the Patriots again; Ravens move on
- Saints get their revenge; beat Packers on the Frozen Tundra
Super Bowl XLVI
Baltimore v. New Orleans
Sticking with my initial season prediction here – Saints beat the Ravens to capture their 2nd title in 3 seasons.
MVP – Drew Brees
VERY Early Draft Projection
The final draft order is not quite set, but I’ll make an attempt at an eventual top 10:
1) Indianapolis – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
2) St. Louis – Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
3) Minnesota – Matt Kalil (T, USC)
4) Cleveland – Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
5) Tampa Bay – Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
6) Jacksonville – Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
7) Miami – Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
8) Buffalo – Riley Reiff (T, Iowa)
9) Washington – Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
10) Carolina – Quinton Coples (DE, UNC)