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Things are getting really interesting. The four best teams in the AFC will all face each other next week, A team may win the NFC West with a losing record, something no division has ever experienced before. And defenses are starting to figure out Michael Vick a little bit. And the Colts and Packers are on the outside looking in, for the time being. With Carolina’s best chance to avoid the #1 draft pick (and why would they want to?) being beating Arizona, they’re still a pretty good lock for #1 at no better than 2-14. With even the 3-8 Cardinals very much alive for a playoff spot, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, November 30:
Atlanta defeated Green Bay 20-17 in a game that lived up to all expectations. Atlanta is just cruising along. Matt Ryan just doesn’t lose at home (except that one game in his rookie season), and the Super Bowl is technically a home game for the NFC, so Atlanta is a huge favorite from the NFC.
Despite not faring too well against winning teams this season, Chicago halted Michael Vick and the Eagles 31-26 with some great offense of their own. Largely under the radar, Chicago has compiled an 8-3 record, and could very well prove to be a dark horse contender for the Super Bowl.
The Giants just held off Jacksonville in Jersey 24-20, while Philly lost to the aforementioned Bears. Yes, the Eagles have home-field advantage and yes, they beat the Giants in this game 27-17, but the Giants also came up with a good defensive blueprint in that game for the Eagles. Though Philly should still win, New York should make things very interesting when the Eagles’ opponents tweak the defensive strategy over the rest of the season, which seems to be centered around Vick’s left flank.
After so many close calls, the Jets finally gained a decisive victory, 26-10 against their non-Pats arch nemeses, T-Ocho and Cincy. The Jets are 9-2 and control their own destiny, but are 4-2 at home and 5-0 on the road, which means they might actually prefer #5. The Sanchize’s arm has gotten pretty good, especially in the two minute drill, which for the Jets is the one minute, no timeout drill. Wherever the Jets end up in the standings, expect them to be an AFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl.
The Ravens kept control over their division with a 17-10 victory over Tampa. Baltimore already proved their strength in Week 4 by winning in Pittsburgh, so don’t look for them to have too much trouble in their first game of the post-season. Baltimore’s toughest opponents remaining, Pittsburgh and New Orleans, are home games, so get used to seeing Baltimore with a bye.
KC slaughtered Seattle on the road 42-24, while Pittsburgh just barely won in Buffalo in OT 19-16, in a game they should have lost multiple times. Kansas City is a better team, and has a prolific rushing game like Fred Jackson does. If a team like Buffalo can take Pittsburgh to the brink, so should Kansas City. Kansas City is one of four teams left (KC, New England, Baltimore, Atlanta) that hasn’t lost at home, so if the Chiefs are to win, they’ll really want to use that to their advantage, despite Pittsburgh’s struggles against Buffalo.
The Jags lost to the Giants, while the Patriots absolutely destroyed the Lions behind a strong second half. Jacksonville has given up 294 points, 28th in the NFL. New England has scored 334 points, best in the NFL. That’s what Tom Brady will do for you. Maurice Jones-Drew may be better than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but Tom Brady is definitely better than, wait, who again?
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFL Playoffs, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams