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Just one week remains in the season, and plenty remains to be determined. The last Wildcard spot in each conference is up for grabs, as are all four NFC divisions. After being in contention for #1 for some time, the Saints could still miss the playoffs entirely. The Patriots could finish anywhere from #1 to #4. The NFC East and North will each be decided by win-and-you’re-in games, including one involving the Cowboys for the third straight year. Four teams are fighting for the AFC #6 spot as well. Much is on the line in the season’s final week, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, December 24:
With a difficult home loss to Arizona, the Seahawks face the possibility of dropping all the way to #5 after Week 17. However, they can still break out at any moment, and Seattle remains one of the best, if not the best, home-field advantages in all of football.
With a very well-earned home win over the Saints, the Panthers are in control of the #2 spot. That defense can hold down just about anyone, and if Cam Newton can break the offense out into a rhythm, a Super Bowl bid remains a good possibility.
A valiant bid for the Saints in Carolina came up just short, while the Eagles had their way with a Chicago squad that could have wrapped up their division with a win. After a very rough home start, Philadelphia has really picked things up, and remains a viable offensive threat. New Orleans will always be that and more, but being away from home has definitely been their Achilles Heel this year.
In the aforementioned blowout loss to Philly, Jay Cutler was okay for the Bears, but there was definitely room for improvement. When you have a chance to close out the division and blow it that badly, it’s really tough to do much of anything afterwards. With the way San Francisco has played all season long, Chicago will have a difficult time, even at home.
Denver easily handled Houston to hold onto their spot atop the AFC. However, Von Miller is out for the year with an ACL tear. That isn’t good in the least for Denver’s defense, but even before the season’s over, Peyton Manning has set the record for most TD passes in a season, and could easily break the season passing yardage record against Oakland. Peyton has too many weapons around him to stop Denver’s offense, and not many offenses in the league can keep up with him, regardless of how Denver’s defense looks.
New England picked up a 41-7 blowout win over Baltimore, a real accomplishment for any New England team, and they did it in Baltimore, no less. It’s a great sign for their hopes for a bye, but the defense is still riddled and the rookies and other receivers, while performing admirably, don’t have much playoff experience between them. The pressure of sudden death hasn’t been the kindest to the Patriots in recent years.
Despite being shut out in Buffalo, Miami moves up into #6 because San Diego has moved into position alongside them and Baltimore, necessitating a conference record tiebreaker. Cincinnati slaughtered Minnesota, which coupled with Baltimore’s later loss, clinched the division for Cincinnati. The Bengals are also still perfect at home, one of only three such teams left (with New England and New Orleans). Cincinnati has all the momentum they need, especially with Bully-gate still on the minds of analysts and the general public.
Indianapolis stopped Denver at home earlier in the season, and now they have the chance to do the same to Kansas City. With a 23-7 win in Kansas City this Sunday, as loud as it gets there, the Colts gave that possibility plenty of credibility. Kansas City started the season as a defensive team, then became an offensive team, and now can’t seem to put the two together in a good way. Indy has definitely seized whatever momentum KC had going for themselves.
|AFC||Bengals def Dolphins||Colts def Chiefs|
|NFC||Eagles def Saints||49ers def Packers|
|AFC||Broncos def Colts||Bengals def Patriots|
|NFC||Seahawks def 49ers||Panthers def Eagles|
|AFC||Broncos def Bengals|
|NFC||Seahawks def Panthers|
Tags: Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFL Playoffs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks