It’s already Week 17 of the 2012 NFL regular season, but the talk has shifted to the playoff picture and which top seeds would end up being bounced early in the postseason.
Each of the following teams earned their place at the top of each conference, but lackluster play recently and an easy schedule has given these teams false hope leading into the postseason.
Expect each of these teams to be eliminated in their first game of the playoffs.
While the Atlanta Falcons have been one of the most dominant teams in the NFL in 2012, going 13-2 over the first 16 weeks of the season, the Falcons are riding the success of their fifth-ranked passing attack.
When Atlanta faces a team with a dominant secondary—a pair of cornerbacks and safeties like the Seattle Seahawks have—it needs to turn to its rushing attack. Too bad for the Falcons that they’re ranked 28th in the league running the ball, averaging just 88.8 yards per game.
When all else fails, the Falcons will be forced to lean on their defensive unit, but once again, that is a lackluster part of the team. The passing defense is ranked 23rd in the NFL (243.7 yards per game) and 21st in the league against the run (121.8 yards per game), making the unit one of the worst in playoff contention.
If the combination of quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White fail, the Falcons will be bounced from the playoffs early once again.
Despite the 12-3 Houston Texans being the cream of the AFC crop for most of the season, a recent skid and a health issue with star running back Arian Foster (h/t USA Today) have exposed some glaring weaknesses that teams will play off in the postseason.
Without Foster carving defenses apart—or if a defense can completely shut the veteran runner down—it changes the dynamic of the Texans’ offense. No running game means the team can’t open up the passing attack for a big bomb to wide receiver Andre Johnson.
While there is no denying how talented J.J. Watt is and how important the front seven have been for Houston, the lack of elite secondary play has plagued the Texans this year.
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (13-2) Clinched NFC South & Home-Field Advantage|
|No. 2 Seed Green Bay Packers (11-4) Clinched NFC North|
|No. 3 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (9-6) Lead NFC East|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (9-6)|
|IN THE HUNT|
|Chicago Bears (9-6)|
|Dallas Cowboys (8-7)|
|New York Giants (8-7)|
AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-3) Clinched AFC South|
|No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (12-3) Clinched AFC West|
|No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (11-4) Clinched AFC East|
| No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (10-5) Clinched AFC North|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (9-6); Clinched Playoff Berth|
Atlanta: vs. Chicago
San Francisco: vs. Arizona
Green Bay: at Minnesota
Washington: vs. Dallas
Seattle: vs. St. Louis
Minnesota: vs. Green Bay
Chicago: vs. Detroit
New York: vs. Philadelphia
Houston: at Indianapolis
Denver: vs. Kansas City
New England: vs. Miami
Baltimore: at Cincinnati
Indianapolis: vs. Houston
Cincinnati: vs. Baltimore
Check back for more on the National Football League as it comes, and don’t miss Bleacher Report’s NFL page to get your fill of all things football.