Many times the divisions throughout the NFL have a team that stands out halfway through the season. A team that seems to best the others by record and ability. The 49ers are one this year. The Texans are another. But what really makes for an interesting race in the second half is the battle for the wild cards.
This year will be no exception as late-season drama is almost certain to unfold. In the AFC and the NFC, there are at least three or four different teams that are in a position for a playoff push, but there are only so many spots.
Let’s take a look at which teams could make the wild card playoff spots, and which teams will.
In the AFC we mainly have three teams right now. The Indianapolis Colts, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. That means there has to be one odd man out. In this case, it will likely be the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the injury to Ben Roethlisberger keeping him out this week and possibly next, they just have too much to overcome.
The Colts will make this year’s first AFC wild-card spot, as they currently hold a 7-4 record. They simply find ways to win games, and they have all year. Andrew Luck has had a phenomenal rookie season, and the defense has taken many steps forward from a horrid 2011 showing.
The Cincinnati Bengals will grab the last spot. Andy Dalton has been on fire the last three games, throwing nine touchdowns to zero interceptions. The defense has re-entered the top 10 overall ranking and is helping the Bengals keep the momentum growing each game.
In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers should make the playoffs no matter what. They still have one more matchup against the Bears, and could take the division with a win. Regardless, both the Bears and Packers will make the playoffs this year.
That leaves the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Washington Redskins to battle for the one playoff position left.
I don’t think it will be either of the NFC East teams, as they both hold 5-6 records. The Seahawks are too unreliable. They simply can’t win away games. The Vikings showed a lot of weakness in their game against the Bears, and their only strong point seems to be star running back Adrian Peterson.
Then again the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an inconsistent defense, and the schedule ahead isn’t easy.
It’s really a toss-up between Tampa Bay and Seattle for me, but I’ll take Seattle with a slightly easier schedule. They play well enough to win close games, and should get three more wins. They have a better conference record than Tampa Bay, which may be the deciding factor in this race.
So Colts and Bengals for the AFC, with the Packers (possibly Bears) and Seahawks taking it for the NFC.
Are those picks right? Only time will tell.