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Just two games remain for each NFL team. Seven teams have clinched spots so far, five of them division leaders. Both Wildcard races are still filled with suspense, especially in the NFC, where five teams in two divisions are 8-6. The playoff picture is starting to take shape, but plenty could still be overthrown in the last two weeks, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, December 18:
It was hard to believe that Atlanta could blow anybody out, but they did. Atlanta not only destroyed the defending champions, the team that eliminated them last January, but they pitched a 34-0 shutout. Such a convincing win will certainly buy the Falcons plenty of credibility as they look to lock up the NFC’s #1. With the team they’ve put together, that elusive playoff win is a real possibility .
Any team that goes into New England and gets the win, especially with the first half San Francisco had, has very good abilities. San Francisco showed defensive skills to start, and their offense plowed ahead for the win even after New England’s furious comeback. With last year’s nemesis the Giants struggling, San Francisco has to be one of the NFL’s favorites this time around.
The Vikings have taken advantage of Chicago’s struggles to move back into the playoff race, but Green Bay has the division locked up and has been winning almost nonstop for months. There’s no way Green Bay will go out this early and not get back into the Super Bowl hunt.
Seattle finally won big on the road, but is was a de facto neutral territory in Toronto against the “home” Bills. Meanwhile, RG III and the Redskins have won five straight, most recently 38-21 in Cleveland (and that was without their star quarterback). Washington has too much momentum for Seattle right now, not to mention Robert Griffin III is getting some extra rest heading towards the postseason.
A 29-17 win over a game Indianapolis squad keeps Houston a game ahead in the race for the AFC’s best. New England’s loss also takes the pressure off Houston, who have the one-on-one tiebreaker over Denver. Considering that along with Houston’s talent, Houston is once more the definitive top dog in the AFC, though Denver poses a real, perhaps even a probable threat.
One big reason for that is that Denver has now won nine games in a row. Peyton Manning is one of the best investments Denver has ever made, even doubling off the reeling Ravens 34-17. If Houston does fall before the Super Bowl, it will most likely be Denver that does it.
The Bengals are taking advantage of Pittsburgh’s struggles to move into the playoff race, winning in struggling Philadelphia to do so. Still, New England has 506 points on the season, leading the NFL’s second-best Denver by 97. To stop that, you need to have something special, but it’s questionable whether or not Cincinnati has what it takes to keep pace for a whole game.
Baltimore is still in the lead in the AFC North, but they’ve lost three in a row. The last time the Colts lost somewhere other than New England or Houston was more than two months ago. Simply put, the Colts aren’t losing to teams having a rough time. That spells bad news for Baltimore.
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, NFL Playoffs, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins