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The 2009-2010 NFL season is already full of surprises. Who would have thought the lowly Bengals would be so mighty, or the mighty Titans so lowly? Old Man Favre looks quite young and Tom Terrific set records like nobody’s business. Rookies Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford are starting to fail their fans. Put all this together, and the playoff situation is starting to look quite interesting. With that in mind and without further ado, here’s a retrospective of what would happen if the playoffs started as of Wednesday, October 21:
The Saints have effectively silenced any critics who would have complained about the weakness of their schedule by shellacking the Giants this past week 48-27, even better than the opening week’s 45-27 defeat of the legitimately terrible Lions. With a possible divisional round game against the NFC South rival Falcons looming, the Saints will be working on their pass defense to counter Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ passing game, which makes up 69.9% of total offense, as well as their own passing game, taking up only 62.9% of an NFL best 430.0 yards per game.
Many people thought the Vikings would do well, but how many thought they would be in line for a bye? They easily took out the Browns, Lions, and Rams, and won close games against the 49ers by a field goal, Packers by a touchdown, and Ravens by a safety. Having to rely on the Ravens beating themselves with a missed field goal will cause the Vikings to take their game up a notch to avoid close calls like that again. With a probable divisional round match against the Giants (the team who ended Favre’s Packers career two years ago) coming up, look for Favre to use the Vikings in an attempt to exact revenge.
Speaking of ending Favre’s Packers career, here’s the game that did it (albeit in a different stadium). This time around, people will be expecting the Giants to pull out a victory. Each team has posted a shutout this year (Giants over Buccaneers and Packers over Lions), though the Giants did it on the road. Look for a chess match, with each team waiting patiently for an opportunity that they will strike at like a coiled snake when they see it.
The 49ers, much like the Bengals, are back in line for a playoff slot after some time off. Meanwhile, the Falcons will be looking to avoid the embarrassment of losing in this round (to the same division no less) two years in a row. With another year of experience (and a better record), Matt Ryan will look to exploit the San Francisco’s defense while Atlanta’s defense will be looking to exploit Shaun Hill in his first full season as a starter.
Kyle Orton has been surprising and dominant for his new team throughout the season so far, even though two of Denver’s wins were against Oakland and Cleveland. Gutting out an overtime victory over the much touted Patriots is no small matter. Denver will likely be salivating over a likely rematch in the next round against New England.
The Cardinals, Seahawks, and Titans have been no trouble at all, while the Jaguars (as usual) and Dolphins have provided interesting match-ups. Still, the Colts are back in their usual position atop the South and contending for a bye. 404.8 yards per game (326.0 of them passing) would be a useful stat to keep up for the Colts to continue their winning ways.
The Bengals have done better than any expert could predict, while the Jaguars have struggled to maintain a .500 record. Home field advantage and newfound skills would be too much for the Jaguars to overcome, especially since Bengal fans would be excited that their team is in the playoffs after a long hiatus.
It may not be in the championship round, but this is the match-up SoB’s experts picked to happen. Each team has racked up some close, disappointing losses (Jets and Broncos for the Patriots and Bears and Bengals for the Steelers) that will result in them wanting to prove themselves. With eerily similar stats in yardage and points, look for this to be a hard fought, close game amongst passers.
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, NFL Playoffs, Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers