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We’re getting close to January, and there is still much to be decided. Mathematically, every team is still in the race (even the Browns and Buccaneers, but we can forget about them). Several 6-4 teams are tied with each other for wild card slots. Two 10-0 teams remain, though only one of them is in complete control of home field advantage. The Broncos completely screwed up their division lead (again) while the Bengals continue to cling onto their lead. With every seed still up for grabs, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, November 24:
After several close calls, New Orleans finally cruised to another blowout, a 38-7 win in Tampa. With their magic number for the division at two, New Orleans is in good shape. If they can get by New England, they have a good shot at 16-0. With only Minnesota to worry about down the stretch, New Orleans is virtually a lock to secure at least a bye.
Minnesota destroyed Seattle at home 35-9 on Sunday. They’re looking good, with the Cardinals being their toughest remaining opponent. If Minnesota steps it up down the stretch, and New Orleans gets problems from the likes of New England and Dallas, we could see Minnesota take over home field advantage late in the season.
Dallas barely eked out a 7-6 victory over the Redskins of all teams, while the Packers took out San Francisco 30-24. Both teams have had close games lately, but Green Bay has been scoring more. Coupled with Green Bay’s Week 10 victory, the Packers could easily be earning a trip to New Orleans or Minnesota.
The Cardinals are riding three straight wins, while the Eagles just beat out Chicago to recover from a loss to San Diego. The Cinderella team that made the Super Bowl last year is even better this year, while the Eagles are fighting off the Giants and Packers (and the Falcons are only one game back). Philadelphia racked up a careless 12 men on the field penalty against Chicago when Michael Vick wandered onto the field; such mistakes will cost them dearly against Arizona.
The Colts barely survived 17-15 in Baltimore. They would have lost if Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff hadn’t missed on an incredibly easy 30 yard field goal, which drifted wide right. But still, when your biggest remaining threats are Denver and Houston, you can pretty much rest easy for the rest of the season.
Seriously, after sweeping the Steelers, the Bengals lose to the Raiders? After giving up a touchdown to tie it with less than a minute left? And then fumbling the kickoff return? And giving up a field goal to lose it? This momentum shift for the Bengals does not bode well (except for everyone else in the League, of course). Cincinnati is very fortunate to hold onto the No. 2 seed after just beating out San Diego and New England in the strength of victory tiebreaker.
Pittsburgh lost in overtime to Kansas City quite unexpectedly, while the Chargers destroyed the Broncos 32-3. However, the Steelers did beat the Chargers 38-28 at home in Week 4. Though the Chargers have won five straight. It’ll be a close game which could go to either team; the Chargers are hot and would play at home, but the Steelers will be hungry for redemption after the Chiefs game.
The Steelers move down after somehow losing to the Chiefs; maybe Matt Cassel wanted to show he wouldn’t be completely inept against the Steelers again. In any case, the Jaguars sneak into the picture to force a divisional round rematch from 2007-2008. The Pats did everything they could to blow yet another huge lead and let the Jets back into it, but NY screwed it up and the Pats won 31-14 instead. The Jaguars defeated the Bills 18-15 to make it three straight victories. Still, the Patriots should dominate the match with their superior passing, as long as they don’t try to run the ball directly into a crowd like against New York on plenty of plays.
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, NFL Playoffs, Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers