NFL Playoff Picture: Teams Heading into Postseason on Bad Note

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVDecember 24, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 23:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears watches from the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Bears defeated the Cardinals 28-13.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Making the playoffs isn't a cakewalk in the NFL—it takes a collective effort and some win streaks to become one of the 12 teams to make the cut. But that doesn't always mean you're heading into the postseason on the right foot.

For these teams, they took care of business early on but are sputtering as of late and need to shore up some major problems before they take the field in January.

While home field advantage is put on a pedestal and winning your division means at least one home playoff game, momentum is as big of a factor as any. Just ask the 2007 and 2011 New York Giants. If your team can get rolling, it usually doesn't matter whether they're playing home or away.

Let's get right down to it and check out the teams who will be limping into the playoffs.

Chicago Bears

The struggling Chicago Bears haven't secured a playoff spot yet, but they'll do so in Week 17 by beating the Detroit Lions and watching the Green Bay Packers beat up on the Minnesota Vikings. But that doesn't mean all is well in the Windy City.

The Bears avoided losing their fourth straight game Sunday by defeating the Arizona Cardinals, 28-13. But we're talking about the Cardinals, a team who lost 58-0 two weeks prior.

Lovie Smith's crew has struggled mightily against the NFL's better teams, losing to Houston, San Francisco, Seattle and Green Bay all in the last month-and-a-half. 

Earlier in the season, Chicago was one of the Super Bowl favorites in the NFC and had high hopes for January. And though they could still be in the mix come playoff time, they won't last long since they're ending the season so poorly. 

Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens may have put the hurt on the New York Giants at home on Sunday, but that was more of an indication of the Giants' weaknesses than the Ravens' strengths.

Make no mistake, the Ravens are struggling. Before the Giants win, Baltimore had lost three straight games. One of those was a 34-17 loss to Denver, a team they'll likely face in the playoffs if they want to make a deep run.

Their defense just hasn't been the same this season, as they're 17th in opponents' passing yards and 24th in opposing teams' rushing yards (per ESPN). Even though potentially having Ray Lewis back for the playoffs could shore up some run-stoppage problems and on-the-ball calls, the problems are deeper than just that

The Ravens may be able to extinguish the hopes of AFC Wild Card teams Cincinnati and Indianapolis fairly easy, they won't be a match for the class of the conference. They aren't playing inspired enough football to compete with the Houstons, Denvers or New Englands. 

Indianapolis Colts

It's hard to say that the Indianapolis Colts are entering the postseason on a 'bad note', when it's miraculous that they're entering the postseason altogether. But this list bears no pardoners. 

Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has been magnificent this season despite his interception problem, and their defense has been stifling to say the least. But the schedule-makers didn't do them any favors by scheduling the division-rival Houston Texans twice in the last three weeks of the season.

The Colts will likely enter the playoffs having lost two of three, and their one win in that span wasn't exactly convincing as they defeated the hapless Kansas City Chiefs, 20-13.

Luck and company couldn't put the Chiefs away and undoubtedly would've lost the contest if the Chiefs had any sort of passing attack whatsoever. Running back Jamaal Charles went for 226 rushing yards and a score, but it wasn't enough.

That type of defensive performance just won't cut it against one of the AFC's better teams.

It's commendable that the Colts made the playoffs and overcame not only the NFL's worst record last season, but the loss of head coach Chuck Pagano for almost the entire regular season. But their storybook season will likely end in two weeks as they aren't playing strong enough football to hang with the best of them.