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NFL Playoff Picture: A Breakdown

"You guys all bet against a 10-3 team who was playing a team that finishes 8-8 every year... doesn't make sense."  - Arizona head coach Bruce Arians

“You guys all bet against a 10-3 team who was playing a team that finishes 8-8 every year… doesn’t make sense.” – Arizona head coach Bruce Arians

MARQUETTE, MI – 12/16/2014 – With the Green Bay Packers upset loss in Buffalo over the weekend, the playoff picture has done anything but clear up as the season has come down the stretch.  With a few teams being eliminated from contention, such as the San Fransisco 49ers, it has cleared up some, but who can predict what will happen once the final bell tolls on week 17?  Nobody.  That’s who.  Well I’m here to give you a breakdown of each team’s chances to make the playoffs who are still in contention. 

NFC – 9 Teams

  • Arizona Cardinals (11-3)
    • Remaining Schedule:  vs. Seattle; @ San Fransisco
    • The only team in the NFC to clinch a playoff berth, and they’re on their fourth string quarterback after the loss of Drew Stanton last week.  Name the last 11-3 team that nobody gave a chance to win the conference?  Can you do it?  Me neither.
  • Detroit Lions (10-4)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ Chicago; @ Green Bay
    • The home schedule is done for, and with an impressive 7-1 record, the Lions have to do what they’ve struggled to do in recent history in order to lock up the division and make the playoffs:  win on the road.  In particular, the match-up that comes in week 17 in Lambeau Field, where the Lions haven’t won since 1991.  Still, the Lions are capable of ending that curse this season.  With their smash-mouth defense, and do-enough offense, they match up well with the Packers.  A win in Chicago next week should be enough to get the Lions into the playoffs as a wild-card at the very least.
  • Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
    • Remaining Schedule:  vs. Indianapolis; @ Washington
    • Well they won’t finish 8-8, so there’s that.  Coupled with their big win in Philadelphia this past Sunday, the Cowboys control their own destiny going into the final two games.  Oddly enough, the Cowboys have absolutely dominated on the road (7-0) and been average at best at home (3-4).  The Cowboys have been notorious for blowing it down the stretch, and with DeMarco Murray undergoing hand surgery on Monday, we’ll see what the offense can do (possibly) without him.
  • New Orleans Saints (6-8)
    • Remaining Schedule:  vs. Atlanta; @ Tampa Bay
    • After their complete and utter undressing of the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, the 6-8 New Orleans Saints control their own destiny for a playoff berth and hosting a playoff game.  Despite an defense that ranks near the bottom of the league, they’ve stepped up when they’ve needed to; holding Aaron Rodgers down back in October and embarrassing Jay Cutler on Sunday.  The Saints need this win on Sunday against Atlanta to go to the playoffs once again.
  • Seattle Seahawks (10-4)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ Arizona; vs. St. Louis
    • Only one game back of the Cardinals in the NFC West, and winners of 7 of their last 8, the Seahawks appear to be back on top of their game.  However, they’ve only played one top-5 offense in that span, and have feasted upon four bottom-10 defenses as well.  Still, there is not a single team in the NFL that is relishing a trip to Century Link Field in January, should they overtake the Cardinals.
  • Week 15 was not what the Packers needed heading into the final two weeks of the season, as they fell 21-13 in Buffalo.

    Week 15 was not what the Packers needed heading into the final two weeks of the season, as they fell 21-13 in Buffalo.

    Green Bay Packers (10-4)

    • Remaining Schedule:  @ Tampa Bay; vs. Detroit
    • From thinking home-field advantage to sixth in the conference.  The Packers are the latest NFC North victim of the Jim Schwartz-led defense.  After their disappointing performance in Buffalo, the Packers now need to win out and get some help from Arizona, San Fransisco, or St. Louis to get home field advantage in the playoffs.  Obviously, they need to win in week 16 and 17 before worrying about that.  Particularly week 17 against Detroit.  It’s going to be the defacto NFC North Championship.
  • Philadelphia Eagles (9-5)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ Washington; @ New York Giants
    • It doesn’t look good in Philadelphia.  Losers of their last two, they do have two very winnable divisional games against the Redskins and Giants. Simply put:  The Eagles need a Cowboys loss and to win out to make the playoffs, unless the Lions/Packers/Seattle lose out and they win out to claim the wild-card.
  • Carolina Panthers (5-8-1)
    • Remaining Schedule:  vs. Cleveland; @ Atlanta
    • You read that right.  The 5-8-1 Panthers could finish 7-8-1 and host a playoff game.  They may have to do so without Cam Newton, and that bodes poorly.  They need a Saints loss to have a prayer though.
  • Atlanta Falcons (5-9)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ New Orleans; vs. Carolina
    • It’s simple:  Win out, or take your top-10 pick and go home.

 

 

AFC – 12 Teams

  • I'd still bet money that these two quarterbacks will meet on January 18th, 2015.

    I’d still bet money that these two quarterbacks will meet on January 18th, 2015.

    New England Patriots (11-3)

    • Remaining Schedule:  @ New York Jets; vs. Buffalo Bills
    • With their 41-13 beat down of the Dolphins on Sunday, the Pats clinched the division title and are all but assured a first round bye.  Winning out would give the Pats home-field advantage, but a win coupled with a Denver loss this upcoming week would give them home-field with the ability to rest their starters in week 17.
  • Denver Broncos (11-3)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ Cincinnati; vs. Oakland
    • Their 43-21 loss @ New England back in November is all that stands between the Broncos getting home field and them having to potentially go to Foxborough should they make it that far.  With a tough game coming up this weekend, the Broncos need to bring their A-game.  Peyton Manning hasn’t been the same as of late, and that has to be concerning for the Broncos. They should finish as the two seed in the AFC.
  • Indianapolis Colts (10-4)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ Dallas; @ Tennessee
    • Basically two games back by virtue of their week-1 loss in Denver, the Colts will most likely finish with the #3 seed.  Andrew Luck has come into his own this season, but still has a propensity to turn the ball over (21) each game.  But with two very winnable games left (The Cowboys aren’t much at home), the Colts could go into the playoffs with six consecutive (albeit scary at times) wins.
  • Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1)
    • Remaining Schedule:  vs. Denver; @ Pittsburgh
    • Who says a tie doesn’t have its benefits?  The Bengals control their own destiny in the AFC North, and week 17 appears to be on a collision course for the division championship.  They’ve already lost to Pittsburgh once this year 42-21, and will need to go on the road to pull this one out.  The good news for the Bengals is that they’ve already swept divisional rival Baltimore so have the tie-breaker with them, although (with the tie-game against Carolina) a tie is unlikely.
  • Every AFC North team is .500 or above... will the Bengals survive a difficult schedule down the stretch?

    Every AFC North team is .500 or above… will the Bengals survive a difficult schedule down the stretch?

    Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)

    • Remaining Schedule:  vs. Kansas City; vs. Cincinnati
    • Team enigma is primed to take the division from Ohio.  The Steelers have absolutely destroyed teams like Indianapolis, Baltimore, and Cincinnati.  Then again, they have losses to Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and the Jets.  It really makes no sense, but with a receiver like Antonio Brown and a running game through Le’Veon Bell combined with the experience of coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers are always a threat.
  • Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ Houston; vs. Cleveland
    • Winners of 4 of their last 5, the Ravens are rolling.  With the easiest schedule left in the division, the Ravens may just be lucky enough to jump both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to claim the division title.  They’ll need to keep using Justin Forsett and Joe Flacco will have to continue his high level of play to give the Ravens a chance.
  • Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ Pittsburgh; vs. San Diego
    • They’ll need to win out to get in.  With a tough trip to Pittsburgh this week and perhaps a “win & in” situation against their division rival Chargers, the Chiefs will need Jamaal Charles to turn it up down the stretch and quarterback Alex Smith to continue his no-turnovers approach to football
  • San Diego Chargers (8-6)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ San Fransisco; @ Kansas City
    • The schedule makers didn’t like San Diego in the preseason.  Ending the season with New England, Denver, San Fransisco (who nobody thought would be 7-7 at this point), and Kansas City makes it difficult for them to end with a strong final push.  We’ll see what Phillip Rivers can do the last two weeks.  They’ll need some help, but if they can get a Baltimore loss combined with winning out, they could be playoff bound.
  • Buffalo Bills (8-6)
    • Remaining Schedule:  @ Oakland; @ New England
    • After holding Aaron Rodgers & Peyton Manning to a combined 350 yards, 0 TDs, and 4 ints the past two weeks, does anybody want to host Buffalo come playoff time?  They could actually make it too.  They’ll need a lot of help, but they could.  A San Diego, Kansas City, and a Denver loss this week could give them an easier task of beating the Patriots in week 17.  They’re tops in the league when it comes to pass defense, and are a consistent offense  away from being one of the best teams in the league.  That’s right… the Buffalo Bills.
  • Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, & Cleveland Browns (7-7)
    • They all need miracles that I don’t see the need to delve into.

 

 

Carl's Picks... who's Carl?  I'M CARL!

Carl’s Picks… who’s Carl? I’M CARL!

CARL’S PROJECTIONS

NFC

  1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
  2. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
  4. New Orleans Saints (8-8)
  5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
  6. Detroit Lions (11-5)

OUT:  Dallas Cowboys (11-5) [Lose tie-breaker w/ Phi should Phi win out]

 

AFC

  1. New England Patriots (13-3)
  2. Denver Broncos (13-3)
  3. Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
  5. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
  6. San Diego Chargers (10-6)

OUT:  Cincinnati Bengals (9-6-1), Buffalo Bills (9-7), & Chiefs (8-8)

 

 

Well there you have it.  That’s how it’s going to play out.  Disagree?  Shoot me an email:  carl @sunny.fm

 

-Carl Leander Johnson