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Just a month remains in the season, yet only the 11-1 Seahawks have even clinched a spot. Other races are getting closer, particularly the Wildcard race in the AFC, where nearly everyone is still alive. And while the 49ers continue to hold onto a spot, several teams are right on their heels as well. Just about every team is playing for their lives right now, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, December 3:
With an especially good win over New Orleans, Seattle has two games over them and Carolina (three over San Fran) with four games to play, and holds just about every tiebreaker you could want. San Francisco is the best bet to ruin their #1 dreams, but even that is unlikely. Seattle is easily the Super Bowl favorite at this point in time.
No team will be faulted for losing in Seattle, but New Orleans would have liked things to be a bit closer and put up more than seven points. But with New Orleans’ elite roster, they’re still a favorite to at least make it back to Seattle, provided they can keep Carolina (tied at 9-3) at bay.
Detroit won for the first time in a decade on Thanksgiving, mauling Green Bay 40-10. Meanwhile, San Francisco kept pace with the competition by taking out a game St Louis in a big rivalry game. It would behoove Detroit not to become overconfident after beating up on a broken down Green Bay team, because San Francisco has the skills to stop Detroit before they get started, and the Niners will use them.
Dallas overcame a 21-7 deficit to defeat Oakland, while the Panthers recorded a franchise record eighth straight win, ending Tampa’s winning streak in the process. Carolina now has easily the most stringent defense in the league at 157 points allowed (second-best Seattle is 186). Everything will need to go perfectly for Dallas to have a chance, and with Carolina’s defense and winning momentum, that probably won’t happen.
Denver reestablished dominance in the AFC with a 35-28 win in Kansas City (five touchdown passes from Peyton Manning, four to Eric Decker). Denver’s offense is reason enough to pick them in the AFC, but their defense will need to get better, particularly with New England only a game behind and holding the tiebreaker.
New England once again looked terrible in the first half and turned things around in the second half. This time, they had to do it against Houston, now the worst team in the NFL. It’s nice for New England to know that they can overcome that adversity, but they’re rolling the dice way too often, and will crap out sooner or later if this trend continues.
Despite Mike Tomlin cheating (accidental or not), Baltimore defeated Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night 22-20. The Colts held off Tennessee 22-14, being held to field goals five times. That won’t cut it against the better teams in the AFC, but the Ravens are merely 1-5 on the road, and if the Colts can figure out a definitive running identity in these next few weeks, they should be fine for the moment.
Kansas City lost a close game to divisional rival Denver, this time by one possession. Cincinnati won a tough road game in San Diego, but after being embarrassed in their last three games (albeit two against Denver), you can bet Kansas City’s defense won’t be in the mood to let the 17 points Cincinnati scored in Kansas City nearly hold up against them.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL Playoffs, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks