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Just three games remain in the schedule, and more teams are clinching spots. A record number of ACL tears for a season continues to grow as well, which is quite unfortunate for everyone involved, and shakes things up greatly for the teams that were counting on them. Four of the divisions are led by a game or less, which ramps up the tension and gives more and more attention to the tiebreaking scenarios. It’ll be a difficult December, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, December 10:
Seattle dropped their second game of the season, losing in San Francisco 19-17 in a divisional game the Niners had to have. Seattle can’t be blamed for the losing when putting up a great fight, and showed great poise in limiting San Francisco to four field goals instead of letting them score more than one touchdown. That defense will serve them well in January, not to mention that Marshawn Lynch can break loose at any given moment.
Ending Carolina’s eight-game streak keeps New Orleans at #2. Putting up 31 points against that defense also speaks further to their abilities on offense. If they can crack an elite-level defense again, the Saints will definitely deserve a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.
The Eagles have won five straight, and Nick Foles is looking great behind center. San Francisco knocked off Seattle, the best team in the NFL, which is always an eye-opener. The Eagles have cured their big losing skid at home, which will serve them well here. Breaking up Foles’ rhythm will be key for San Fran, as this one looks to come down to whether or not you believe defense wins championships these days.
Seeing as how the Saints don’t lose at home, we won’t hold the loss against Carolina. Their defense and a dynamic quarterback are still doing wonders for them. Detroit has slipped back into a tie with Chicago at 7-6. They can’t seem make any headway in a still-difficult division. Look for the still-powerful Panthers to take care of business against a reeling #4 team.
In addition to putting up 51 points against Tennessee (a usual Sunday for Denver), the Broncos’ Matt Prater set a new NFL record by hitting a 64-yard field goal. They have a great stadium for that, and one of the best offense we’ve ever seen in the NFL. Given that they can can hurt you from just about anywhere on the field, Denver is certainly an AFC favorite.
You don’t usually see a 10-3 team that could be said to be in dire straits, but New England had to come back from a double-digit deficit in the second half for a third straight week. And they lost Rob Gronkowski for at least the rest of this season with a torn ACL. As long as Tom Brady is around, they still have a chance, but their luck should run out sooner rather than later now.
Cincinnati has won three straight, and now has a two-game lead on Baltimore with three left. Baltimore took care of Minnesota in the waning moments to win their third straight and stay ahead in the tight Wildcard race. Baltimore never makes things easy, but the division seems to belong to Cincinnati, not to mention the Bengals have yet to lose at home this season.
The Colts are struggling, especially against non-playoff teams. They are 3-1 against playoff teams, but Kansas City used a 45-10 victory at struggling Washington to regain momentum and all but solidify their position. The Colts may have wins over Denver, San Francisco and Seattle, but they haven’t been able to replicate that magic lately. Kansas City can still snuff out the Colts given the right opportunity.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL Playoffs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks