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Just three games left and the playoffs can get underway. The Texans and Broncos continue to roll. San Francisco is slipping away from a bye. And the Cowboys suddenly aren’t looking their best. Indy’s magic number to clinch Andrew Luck is down to two, so that should be interesting to see what happens with Peyton Manning. The Bears are fading into obscurity without Jay Cutler, and the Lions are taking advantage to get back into the race. Plenty happened in the last week, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, December 13:
Green Bay just isn’t going down any time soon.
After a rough loss to Arizona, San Francisco is barely clinging to a tiebreaker lead over New Orleans. That loss of a lead for the bye will weigh heavy over San Francisco, and while their defense is still doing well, they’ll have to be at 100% if they hope to get through the tough NFC competition.
New Orleans has a very good offense, while the Lions‘ defense (particularly Ndamukong Suh) is undisciplined at best. While the Lions have a good offense themselves, anything less than perfect focus will kill their defense against the Saints.
New York hasn’t been the best lately, even giving up 34 points in a win over Dallas. Atlanta, while not as good as the past few years, has still been the more constant team this year. If the Giants can’t settle into a comfortable routine, Atlanta will be able to make them fail.
With New England playing out of the conference, Houston‘s squeaker of a win in Cincinnati has them back at #1. However, the last three games of their seven-game win streak have all been won by one possession, unlike the previous four. Houston will need to be able to break away from opponents if they are to have a chance of making it far into the playoffs.
Baltimore settled into #2 with an easy victory over the hapless Colts. They bring an elite defense to bear, and Joe Flacco has been arguably the most underrated quarterback in the NFL this season. Add to that a 7-0 home record, and Baltimore will be difficult to stop.
New England has managed to win five straight, but their defense is atrocious. While the Jets don’t have the best passing game, but Plaxico Burress has been a pretty good threat. And they can rush the ball with the best of them. Even Tom Brady has been less than perfect lately, and with the “defense” New England has, they’ll need Tom Terrific at his best to avoid another home playoff loss to the Jets for the second straight year.
Tim Tebow is the king of the comeback in Denver, but that magic can’t last forever. The Bears beat themselves thanks to Marion Barber, and the Steelers have the second-best defense in the league behind San Francisco. Pittsburgh is a professional team that knows how to prevent teams from gaining too much hope late.
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFL Playoffs, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers