NFL Playoff Picture 2012: Predicting Final Standings After Week 17

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 23: Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers is all smiles after his sack of Jake Locker #10 of the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field on December 23, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Tom Lynn /Getty Images)
Tom Lynn/Getty Images

Playoff positioning in the NFL isn't as important as it seems. Sure, it is nice to have bragging rights over everyone else, for at least one week, that you had the best record in the regular season, but if you lose your first playoff game what does that matter?

Besides, what happens in the regular season doesn't guarantee you anything. It has been three years since a team with a first-round bye won the Super Bowl. Matchups and hitting your stride at the right time are more important than anything else. 

As we approach Week 17 of this NFL season, there are still some spots left to be determined, as well as a division winner to be crowned. In anticipation of the final weekend of the regular season, here are our predictions for the way the conference seedings will look next Monday. 

 No. 1 seed: Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
 No. 2 seed: Green Bay Packers (12-4)
 No. 3 seed: San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
 No. 4 seed: Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
 No. 5 seed: Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
 No. 6 seed: Washington Redskins (9-7)

*Records listed are predictions for Week 17

What we know for sure

As things stand right now, we know that the Falcons have locked up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the postseason. We know that Green Bay, San Francisco and Seattle are all in the playoffs, but the seeds have yet to be determined. 

What we expect from Week 17

As you can tell, we expect the top of the standings to remain exactly as they are right now. The Packers should have little problem disposing of Minnesota, though I would have said the same thing last week when the Vikings went to Houston. 

The 49ers left an opening for Seattle to take the NFC West title, but a game against Arizona at home will give Jim Harbaugh's crew their second consecutive division title. That will leave Seattle as the No. 5 seed in the postseason, forcing them to go on the road, where they are just 3-5. 

After that, things get very interesting. The Cowboys-Redskins game on Sunday night will provide us with the final division winner, and plenty of teams will be interested to see what their fates hold based on who loses. 

Right now, I think the Cowboys will go into Washington and steal a victory. I am not sure how well Robert Griffin III will be able to move around in and outside the pocket, taking away a critical element of the Redskins offense they need to have success. 

On top of that, Tony Romo is playing as well as he ever has. Since that Thanksgiving Day loss to Washington, he has thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception. You can't blame him for the loss against New Orleans, as he threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns. 

Hope is not lost for the Redskins, who would need losses by Minnesota and Chicago to lock up a playoff berth. Since I already mentioned what I think the Vikings will do, it is time to talk about the Bears going to Detroit. 

As bad as the Lions look right now, the Bears aren't that much better. Their defense was overrated at the start of the year because they forced a lot of turnovers; then we saw how vulnerable they are when they aren't doing that. 

Last week against Arizona, the Bears could only muster 297 yards of offense. They picked on the disastrous Arizona quarterbacks to steal a win. 

The Lions haven't done much right this season, but they still have Calvin Johnson. Megatron makes a lot of the bad things this team does seem okay because he is so good and impossible to defend. His final triumph in 2012 will be breaking the 2,000-yard barrier and leading the Lions to an upset win over the Bears. 

 No. 1 seed: Houston Texans (13-3)
 No. 2 seed: Denver Broncos (13-3)
 No. 3 seed: New England Patriots (12-4)
 No. 4 seed: Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
 No. 5 seed: Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
 No. 6 seed: Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

*Records listed are predictions for Week 17

What we know for sure

All of the playoff teams in the AFC are set, with the top four teams jockeying for position. The Colts and Bengals are locked into the No. 5 and 6 spots, respectively. 

What we expect from Week 17

The AFC will play out in a more straightforward fashion than the NFC. The top three teams as they stand right now will all win, locking them into their spots.

Houston will clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win at Indianapolis. Denver will run its winning streak to 11, giving it the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, with a win at home against Kansas City. Despite a scare against Jacksonville last week, New England will have no problems with Miami. 

The Ravens, who still have a shot at the No. 3 seed with a win and New England loss, won't be able to take care of business against Cincinnati this week. Something about the Bengals just seems different right now. They are playing with more confidence.

The Bengals defense has been overshadowed by the play of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, but they rank eighth against the run, 10th against the pass and have given up fewer points than the vaunted Ravens and Steelers in their own division. 

As great as the story would be for the Colts to win in Chuck Pagano's return to the sidelines, I just don't see the team being able to compete with the best the AFC has to offer right now, especially with the Texans having so much to play for. 

The Colts had a chance to make a statement two weeks ago in Houston, but they could only manage 272 yards of offense, and their defense gave up 178 rushing yards. Expect a healthy does of Arian Foster for the Texans in this game. 


 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
 No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth
 No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (9-6)
 Chicago Bears (9-6)
 Dallas Cowboys (8-7)
 New York Giants (8-7)


 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
 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

Dallas: at Washington

New York: vs. Philadelphia


Houston: at Indianapolis

Denver: vs. Kansas City

New England: vs. Miami

Baltimore: at Cincinnati

Indianapolis: vs. Houston

Cincinnati: vs. Baltimore


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