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Six weeks are gone in the NFL schedule, and plenty of teams are still shifting around, especially in the AFC. New England recovered enough to topple New Orleans with five seconds left. The Jaguars, Giants and Buccaneers are still win-less, while only divisional rivals Kansas City and Denver remain unbeaten. Both Dallas and Philadelphia are vying for control of the NFC East; both have won three conference games and lost three non-conference games so far. Despite losses, Baltimore and Cleveland remain in contention with Cincinnati for the AFC North. Houston is still in a nosedive, and is now down Matt Schaub, which drew cheers from the Houston crowd. With injury bugs starting to make their way around the NFL in general, it’s almost anyone’s ballgame now, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, October 15:
The Saints lost a tough one in New England, partly because they could have done more on offense in the final few minutes, and partly because they were facing Tom Brady. Tight end Jimmy Graham hurt himself during the game and was held without a catch, which would be poisonous to New Orleans if the trend keeps up. Still, with Drew Brees slinging the ball around to various weapons, the Saints remain in good shape.
Seattle moved into a tie for the NFC lead with New Orleans by holding off Tennessee at home. Defense and Marshawn Lynch continue to keep Seattle rolling, as well as one of the toughest home-field advantages in football. Especially if Seattle can end up wrestling #1 away from New Orleans, it’ll be difficult to stop them.
Chicago has a great defense, but Detroit is as physical as they come, and has already won this game. Detroit powered past Cleveland even without much contribution from Calvin Johnson. For Chicago to come through, and on the road, they’ll not only have to contain Johnson, but they’ll have to keep up the quick pace to keep the Lions’ ferocious front line out of the plays as much as possible.
San Francisco was a little iffy in the early part of the season, but have really picked things up as of late. Meanwhile, two of Dallas‘ three losses have been to the two remaining unbeatens, Denver and Kansas City. (And they’re a perfect 3-0 in the conference). However, San Francisco still has an excellent defense and has scored at least 32 points in each game in their three-game win streak. Dallas will need a complete balance of offense and defense in this game.
Now that Kansas City has a divisional game under their belt, they get the tiebreaker over Denver based on points scored and allowed within the conference. The Chiefs have given up just 65 points in six games, and have scored 152, a mediocre offense when the whole league is involved, but second in the AFC behind Denver. When you win your first six games, you’re always a threat, as the AFC may come down to the chiefs and Broncos.
Thanks to a hard-fought win over the lethal Saints without and big non-Brady names, the Patriots are 5-1 and have reaffirmed their ability as a team. True, the Saints offense could have played better in their last few drives with a lead, but New England’s defense gets a lot of credit as well for making the stops, especially after Brady’s late interception. No matter what the makeup of the Patriots’ roster, a huge effort is required to stop them.
Having their bye week early has Miami in the last Wildcard spot. They’ve put up some good efforts, but have struggled to keep their opponents at bay as of late. Cincinnati followed up their impressive upset over New England with an OT win in Buffalo to take over the AFC North. Cincinnati is also one of the four AFC teams yet to lose at home, which puts them in good company.
Peyton Manning visiting his old team? That’ll provide not only ratings, but great football. We all know what the Broncos have done so far, and the Colts have been impressive in their own right (despite a Monday night loss in San Diego), defeating both Seattle and San Francisco. You can never count Indianapolis out, especially after what Dallas did to Denver, but with the Broncos’ prolific offense, it’s hard to imagine anyone stopping them right now.
Tags: Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL Playoffs, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks