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Just one short month remains in the season, and still, no team has clinched a playoff berth. That’s not a surprise in the NFC West, where it’s still quite possible the division winner will have a losing record. Only in the AFC West does the division leader have a lead more than one game. And if Carolina doesn’t win against Arizona in two weeks, they’ll have the #1 pick in the draft, which isn’t all that bad, really. While five of the six AFC teams pretty much known, with Jacksonville and Indy fighting over the last spot, nine teams still have a great shot at making a name for themselves in the NFC, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, December 7:
Atlanta extended their winning streak to six games with a tough win in Tampa. Only one of those wins (in St Louis) has been by more than one possession, so while Atlanta is still the team to beat, Matty Ice has been involved in some tight games, which means a prolific team could make one extra stop and defeat the Falcons. But with Atlanta conceivably staring at home-field advantage, that probably won’t happen with that atmosphere.
Chicago has won five in a row in their own right, including the latest, a 24-20 victory in a trap game in Detroit. Only four of Chicago’s games all season have been decided by multiple possessions, and Chicago is 3-1 in those games. But the real kicker might be that Chicago has only played three games against winning teams so far; they’re 2-1 in such games, but what happens if they face New Orleans or Atlanta down the road?
New York almost solved Michael Vick, but the Eagles still won. If you want to stop Michael Vick, your best bet is to injure him like the Redskins did. That, or like Chicago did, you need to fight fire with fire and put up major points. New York does host Philly in two weeks, so look at that as a litmus test as to how the Giants might handle Philadelphia in the playoffs, but as of right now, it’s highly doubtful the Giants will be able to figure out a method effective enough.
After thoroughly slitting Rex Ryan’s throat (figuratively, I’m sure), the Patriots are now back in control of their own destiny. At 379 points and 48 touchdowns, New Engalnd’s offense is more than enough to make up for their inconsistent defense. And with New England’s latest win, the most consecutive home wins by a quarterback is finally a record Old Man Favre doesn’t own. If the Patriots can hold onto home-field advantage (their only real threats are Green Bay and Chicago, and Green Bay is a home game), then they’ll easily reach the Super Bowl.
After a rough game in Baltimore, the Steelers moved back in line for bye. With Pittsburgh’s biggest remaining challenge hosting the Jets (and possibly a trap game in Cleveland), Pittsburgh shouldn’t have any real hurdles until the AFC Championship game in New England.
Baltimore lost a tough home game against Pittsburgh, while Kansas City won a similar home game against Denver. That makes KC a perfect 6-0 at home, and a pretty good author too. Baltimore is still a very good team, but only 3-3 on the road. Too bad, since it’s nearly impossible that Pittsburgh will drop the division now.
Jacksonville went to Tennessee and held them to just six points, while New York went to New England and got p3wned. Still, that was New (Jersey) York’s only road loss of the year, a loss everyone saw coming anyway (just not at that magnitude). Jacksonville has given up 300 points so far, by far the worst amongst the 12 playoff teams, and 24th overall. With New York’s sporadic, late-game, big play-making capabilities, they just might take Jacksonville down a notch.
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFL Playoffs, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams