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More than half way through, the playoff situation is starting to take shape. The Colts are in reasonable command in the East (ick) over Cincinnati. The Vikings and Saints are still dueling for first in the West. The Wild Card races are the most interesting by far. At 5-4 after starting 5-0, not playing this week was the best thing that could have happened for the Giants, who are now tied for the wildcard slot despite the second longest current losing streak in the NFL (Giants have four to Detroit’s six).
Aside from that four-way tie, the Chargers and Broncos are now tied for first in the AFC West while the Raiders and Chiefs are languishing in obscurity once more; I wonder who could have seen that coming? Maybe everyone. With several close races down the home stretch, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, November 17:
New Orleans remains unbeaten, but one can only wonder how long that stock will continue to rise. With yet another close game against a blowout-giving team (28-23 over the Rams), it’s only a matter of time before the Saints drop one at this rate. If not during the regular season, the better teams (see Vikings) will surely jostle up the Saints in the playoffs.
New Orleans is fortunate they won, because the Vikings actually did beat a team convincingly as expected (27-10 over Detroit). The ending to the Steelers game was the only low point for Minnesota this season, and even that game was mostly played well. At this pace, I’m starting to like Minnesota to knock off Indianapolis come February 7.
Dallas didn’t look too well. Fortunately for everyone’s favorite cheerleaders, Philadelphia lost to the hot San Diego Chargers. This is an interesting junction for Dallas; if they drop one more game, they could find themselves booted out of the playoffs. If they pick it up, they will keep home field advantage. Atlanta has been back and forth lately, and they could use a pick-me-up to stay in the race in their own right, which won’t be so easy with a Saints match-up still looming, which is not to mention the 37-21 loss in Dallas in Week 7.
This would be a touted rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game. The two have not faced off since and won’t until at least the playoffs, so both will be looking to one up each other in another match. The 6-3 Cardinals have won two straight while the 5-4 Eagles have lost two straight. Those were tough losses to Dallas and San Diego, too. Arizona will have the edge in momentum.
… next section. But seriously, the Colts do deserve some credit for the recent performances, I suppose. With Peyton Manning at the helm, they have all the tools needed to win another Super Bowl. With the Patriots now behind them, there’s a good chance the Colts will go 16-0. And if we get lucky, those 18-1 shirts will have a new owner.
How ‘bout them Bengals? They completed a very rare season sweep of Pittsburgh by the unassuming score of 18-12, to take a one game lead in the AFC North (two games with the tiebreaker). Not only does Cincinnati continue to impress and move into line for a bye, but they’ve at least psychologically locked up the division.
With the Bengals moving up, the Broncos move down. Seriously, the Redskins? 27-17? They couldn’t even beat Detroit. Detroit felt like following in the Giants’ footsteps, apparently, and is now in line to face their arch nemeses, in a match that we’ll see next week, right down to it being in Denver. Denver won 34-23 in San Diego on Monday Night in Week 6, but now the tides have turned, and San Diego could take charge of the division rather easily if Denver continues to stumble.
Both teams lost heartbreakers to key rivals Sunday to remain on track for a Foxboro meeting in January. This could all come down to who can first resurrect the offense and defense that made them a superpower. But at this point, it’s nearly impossible to tell who’ll come out on top. We’d all love to take the Pats, so maybe we should just go for it. Or punt. Whichever one works better.
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, NFL Playoffs, Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers