Saturday, December 15, 2012

Who's Headed to New Orleans?

This has been an incredibly entertaining NFL season, and with just three weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff picture is still quite foggy.  Here’s what we know:

1) The Texans, Patriots, Broncos, and Falcons have clinched spots in the playoffs . 

2) The Chiefs, Jaguars, and Raiders will be battling for the first pick in the draft.  The Chiefs play at Raiders, v. Colts, and at Broncos to close out the season.  There’s a more than decent chance they lose all three, and if that happens, they’ll clinch the #1 overall selection.  All three teams need a QB terribly, but does anyone think Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, or Tyler Wilson is wise use of a top three pick?  What a bad year to be in need of a QB.

3) The Packers, Colts, Cowboys and Redskins have a pulse, but the Bears, Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers may be losing theirs.  With a ton of competitive games on this week’s slate, no one is getting a free pass to the postseason. 

4) The Colts, the team that picked #1 overall in this past draft, is one victory away from clinching a playoff spot.  They play the Texans in two of the next three weeks, and even if they lose both of those, they can get that golden ticket by beating the Chiefs in KC. 

5) I think we’ll have to wait at least another week to find out who’s winning the NFC West.  The Niners are up on the Seahawks by essentially 1 ½ games but travel to New England while the Seahawks play the Bills on a neutral site.  If both games go as Vegas believes they will, next week’s SF/SEA matchup at CenturyLink Field could decide it.

6) Green Bay clinches the NFC North with a win at Chicago.

7) Baltimore is in with a loss by either the Bengals or Steelers. 

What do I think will happen?

Atlanta won’t collapse and thus will be the conference’s #1 seed.  I expect the Packers to put the Bears in panic mode by beating them at Soldier Field and then take care of business against the Titans and Vikings to close out the regular season.  The Bears win just one of their two remaining games (at Arizona and Detroit) and end up missing the playoffs.  I think the Giants beat the Eagles in week 17 which means they’ll need to beat either the Falcons this week or the Ravens next week to clinch the East, regardless of what Washington does.  San Francisco falls at New England and Seattle and ends up going from a first round bye to the #5 seed.  With RGIII out this week, I’m leaning towards the surging Browns in that one.  If Washington loses at Cleveland, they’ll need to beat both the Eagles and Cowboys in the last two weeks and have Chicago go 1-2 the rest of the way.  It happens.

1) Atlanta
2) Green Bay
3) Seattle
4) NY Giants
5) San Francisco
6) Washington

The Patriots win out, and the Texans lose one game, which will give New England the #1 seed.  Houston doesn’t fall far, as they get the #2 seed over Denver based on head-to-head win tiebreaker.  Baltimore is limping to the finish line and needs one more win to clinch the North.  That’s not a given considering the way they’re playing and that those last three games are v. Denver, v. NYG, and at Cincinnati.  With Indy looking like the #5 seed, the 6th and final spot will likely come down to the Steelers and Bengals.  I like the way the Bengals are playing on defense, but I worry that their offense will struggle to put up points against their remaining two opponents – Pittsburgh and Baltimore – considering they were outscored 68-30 by those two teams in their matchups earlier this season.  I’m going with history and the Steelers.

1) New England
2) Houston
3) Denver
4) Baltimore
5) Indianapolis
6) Pittsburgh

Wild Card
Seahawks v. Redskins – RGIII runs into a defense he can’t exploit; Hawks advance.
Giants v. 49ers – Third time is the charm; Niners put a beating on the champs.
Broncos v. Steelers – Rematch of last year’s shocker; Broncos win again.
Ravens v. Colts – Ravens advance as Jim Caldwell calls plays against his former team.

Falcons v. 49ers – The #1 seed and home team Falcons pull off the upset
Packers v. Seahawks – The world course corrects; Packers get rightful revenge.
Patriots v. Ravens – It’s not close this time; Patriots host championship.
Texans v. Broncos – Denver wins on the road, avenges week 3 home loss.

Conf Champ
Falcons v. Packers – Packers playing better ball at this point; Falcons fall short again.
Patriots v. Broncos – Patriots beat Broncos again and advance to Super Bowl…again..

Super Bowl
Patriots v. Packers – Repeat of Super Bowl XXXI
Same teams…Same place…Different outcome
Brady and Rodgers light up the Superdome
Patriots 37-31

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