This week we will begin to see the playoff picture focus, and learn which teams we will be cheering for in January & February. Unfortunately, this will not include the Miami Dolphins. For a brief moment it appeared to be a possibility this season, but aside from statistically becoming impossible it is all but finished. Some teams have already clinched, some are right on the brink, and still a few can smell playoffs but aren’t there yet.
Not that anyone should be surprised, but we already know that the New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, and Atlanta Falcons are in and now only have to worry about seeding. A win for the Texans would put them one step closer to clinching the 1 seed, but the Colts are rooting big time for the Patriots this week. The Texans & Colts will play each other twice over the next 3 weeks, and although it has seemed since week 1 like the Texans control the AFC South that may not be the case.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos have put themselves in a great spot after their win on Thursday night. Right now they are the 2 seed and with a loss from the Patriots and Ravens they would be in pretty good shape to stay there. A win by the Bengals and Steelers will all but seal the deal for the rest of the AFC, because there is little chance 2 games up that both those teams would lose out and either the Dolphins, Jets, or Bills would win out.
A loss by both the Bengals & Steelers although unlikely, coupled with a win from Baltimore would seal the AFC North for the Ravens. If the Ravens can win, a loss by either of the other 2 puts Baltimore officially in the playoffs.
The NFC is far more intriguing this season, with the Falcons being the only sure thing right now for the playoffs. Atlanta has looked great at times and so-so other times. they have a chance to clinch home field advantage for the playoffs this week, but it is contingent on them winning, and losses from Green Bay, Chicago, and SF. The irony is that Atlanta might be the best road team in the NFL.
The Dolphins may not be threatening for the playoffs, but they can certainly threaten the 49ers this week. San Fransisco is beginning to show weaknesses that they can’t afford to show this late in the season. Seattle is right behind the 49ers and a loss to Dolphins could put San Fran in a tough situation for coming weeks. The 49ers still have to play the Pats and Seahawks over the next 3 weeks.
For a while it seemed pretty obvious that the NFC East would belong to the Giants, but now that could change. The Giants loss to the Redskins Monday night did 2 things. It put the Giants with a losing taste in their mouths on a tough path for the remainder of the season still needing to play the Saints, Falcons, Ravens, and Eagles (I know the Eagles don’t count as tough, but for some reason the Giants always struggle with them). The other thing Monday nights game did was give RGIII and the Redskins a little more energy.
I don’t know if Robert Griffin III needs any added motivation, as a rookie he is already hungry to prove himself, but now he has a chance to take a 5-11 team from last year and bring them to the playoffs. Washington has a winnable schedule remaining, certainly not an easy one, but still possible. I worry each time he takes off running that he may get knocked out with some of the hits he has taken, but after watching that option work on 3rd & 1 Monday against the Giants, that may be the most dangerous play in football right now.
This year it is hard to predict what will happen. Every game Sunday could result in an upset (some more than others). It will certainly be entertaining, which as a football fan, this season definitely has been thus far. The playoff picture will show with more clarity each week, but there are certain things I think we should start hoping for.
Although a large majority of NFL tend to despise the Patriots, which is fine, but the best thing that could happen to the AFC is for them to finish the season as the 2 seed and Denver finish as the 4.
This would allow the following to happen:
The first week of playoffs would have the Ravens vs. the Steelers and the Broncos vs. the Colts. On wild card weekend there is no better situation of games. A win by Baltimore and Denver would set up divisional weekend with the Patriots again facing the Ravens in the playoffs and the Broncos against Houston. These are all severe hypothetical scenarios, but unless your team is in the playoffs, is there be a better AFC Championship game than Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning?