Here are my picks for the AFC and NFC Wild Card playoff spots.
No. 5 Seed: The Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have found ways to win games all year long.
Games many people would argue should never have been won, when they look at the schedule at this point in the season.
Andrew Luck has taken a team reeling from the loss of Peyton Manning last year and created an opponent that no one wants to face in the coming playoffs.
Indianapolis’ story may be the best feel-good sports story so far this year. The Colts have battled through their coach's illness and have played with visible hunger in close games. They’ve also shown a ton of heart this season.
No. 6 Seed: The Cincinnati Bengals
After seeing the Bengals falter against the Dallas Cowboys last week, I thought they would not make the playoffs. However, that was without taking into account the Pittsburgh Steelers’ embarrassing home loss against the San Diego Chargers.
Cincinnati has some problems on both sides of the ball, but no other team is able to take this spot away from it right now, especially with the Steelers' all-around issues.
I don’t expect the Steelers to come out of their game against Dallas with a win. Even if they do, the Bengals will still retain the last AFC playoff spot with a victory against their rival next week.
A win over the Eagles certainly didn’t hurt.
No. 5 Seed: The Seattle Seahawks
They own a perfect 6-0 record with home-field advantage. However, they are just 2-5 away from Seattle, and one of those wins came against the Carolina Panthers.
Does their win in Chicago two weeks ago represent a change in that trend?
I don’t know, but I do have confidence in them taking this spot in the playoffs. That’s if they don’t catch the San Francisco 49ers in the next few weeks.
Despite everything, they need to figure out how to continue beating good teams on the road after the Chicago game.
No. 6 Seed: The Chicago Bears
I have them squeaking into the playoffs after giving up a division lead to the rival Green Bay Packers.
A win against the Packers this week could change some things, but I don’t think it will happen.
The Bears rely on a very good defense that causes a ton of turnovers. The offense can be inconsistent with Jay Cutler’s injuries and a lackluster offensive line.
That doesn’t sound like a great playoff recipe, because it’s not. The defense can only take them so far, and I think this spot will be the farthest that they get this year.
With each week, the playoff picture is getting clearer. Whether or not these teams will ultimately make the 2012 playoffs depends on how they play the last few weeks of the season.
As it always does.
However, as things start to get interesting, it’s certainly not too early to start guessing.