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Just two weeks remain in the NFL season, and only four out of 12 teams have clinched a playoff spot; only the fourth-seeded Colts have clinched a division. While mathematical possibilities still remain, many teams are comfortable with a spot, but seeding remains a hotly contested issue, especially with Denver losing and New Orleans and Carolina fighting for a bye. Seven team (four in the NFC, three in the AFC) remain in the hunt despite not holding a spot at the moment, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, December 17:
Seattle marched into the Meadowlands and blanked the Giants. As a result, the Seahawks are just a tie away from clinching the #1 seed. Not many people wouldn’t see that as a distinct possibility at this point, and with the tremendous home-field advantage in Seattle, the Hawks are a definitive favorite to return to the Meadowlands in February.
New Orleans fell to St Louis in a tough upset on the road, falling back into a tie in Carolina. However, the Saints are still as potent as anyone, and remain unbeaten at home. That being said, feeling the pressure to beat Carolina again and retain the second seed could wear down the Saints enough to knock them out of contention.
Despite scoring 30 points, the Eagles allowed 48 to a Vikings squad without Adrian Peterson. However, given recent years, the fact that Dallas now controls their own destiny is great news for the Eagles. San Francisco easily handled the Bucs to keep hold of #6. With a stout attack on both sides of the ball, one Eagles slip-up (which can definitely happen, especially at home) and San Francisco will be moving on.
Chicago won in Cleveland (to move into the NFC North lead, coupled with Detroit’s loss Monday) despite Jay Cutler’s early troubles. That could bring Chicago a lot of heat for not going with Josh McCown the way he’s been playing lately. Chicago will need all the help they can get to crack Carolina‘s defense, and even Josh McCown would have problems with that. Cutler has had a rough time even when healthy.
Despite an embarrassing loss (at home no less) to San Diego, the Broncos remain #1. Denver still has plenty of weapons on offense, so they shouldn’t get any pity. Denver might want to have a healthy Wes Welker back just to make sure, but they’re fortunate enough to be favorites even without any particular receiver at 100%.
Despite a loss in the waning moments to Miami, New England remains #2. When they have a halftime lead and 4th quarter lead, it looks like the Patriots don’t know what to do with it. They still had a chance to win at the end, but couldn’t get into the end zone (a missed field goal earlier by Stephen Gostkowski meant a lot for New England). Injuries may be slowly taking their toll, but they still don’t mean much for New England even if they are.
A loss in Pittsburgh isn’t particularly surprising for Cincinnati, but they have had their issues on the road (3-5 for the season). Baltimore already beat Cincinnati at home this season, and is just a game behind in the division, but Cincinnati will have some major issues against the better teams on the road, and AFC North divisional games are always close no matter the stadium. Even if they make it through this round, Cincinnati will have little left.
Indianapolis easily took down the lowly Texans to keep their hopes of avoiding the Chiefs in the first round, but it’s still a tough road ahead. Kansas City put up 56 points against lowly Oakland, but allowed 31. The Chiefs don’t have the best defense anymore, but still more than enough if they keep putting up points. Indianapolis can’t afford to take Kansas City lightly.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL Playoffs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks