NFL Playoff Picture 2012: Latest Projections for Entire Field
The NFL playoff picture in the AFC may be pretty clear, but the NFC is as confusing and garbled as it was two months ago.
As we head into Week 17 and the final slate of regular-season games, let's take a look at how the playoff picture will look when everything is said and done, starting with the AFC.
AFC No. 1: Denver Broncos
An easy home win Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs will give the Broncos an 11-game winning streak and a 13-3 record, which will give them the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Broncos will need some help to grab this seed, however. As of now, they are behind the Houston Texans because the Broncos lost the head-to-head matchup between the teams. But since the Texans will lose to the Colts in Week 17, the Broncos will earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
AFC No. 2: New England Patriots
As the Texans fall to 12-4 with their loss to the Colts, that will open the door for the Pats to grab the second first-round bye.
After Bill Belichick's squad smashes the Miami Dolphins at home, it will improve to 12-4. Because the Pats beat the Texans when the teams played in Week 14, they will snag the other bye.
AFC No. 3: Houston Texans
The Texans entered Week 17 as the No. 1 team in the AFC, but with a loss on Sunday they will fall to No. 3.
AFC No. 4: Baltimore Ravens
With the Patriots beating the Dolphins, it doesn't even matter if the Ravens win or lose on Sunday. The team is bound to be No. 4 in the conference.
AFC No. 5: Indianapolis Colts
A huge win at home over the Texans will propel the Colts to an 11-5 record, which will clinch the No. 5 seed.
AFC No. 6: Cincinnati Bengals
With the Colts winning, it doesn't matter if Cincy wins or loses against the Ravens. The Bengals will still have the No. 6 seed.
Now let's take a look at that ridiculous mess known as the NFC playoff picture.
NFC No. 1: Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan and company have already locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Now there's time to rest up in Week 17 and sit the starters against Tampa Bay.
NFC No. 2: Green Bay Packers
I see the Packers going on the road and beating the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The Packers are hot, and Aaron Rodgers is going to have a field day against a poor Minnesota pass defense. Coming off a game in which he threw for 342 yards and and scored four touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans, Rodgers will pick apart Minnesota's secondary.
The Packers are playing like they did the year they won it all. The team is getting hot at the right time, and will beat the Vikings as they continue to roll.
NFC No. 3: San Francisco 49ers
With the Packers winning on Sunday, that means that the 49ers can't move up to the No. 2 seed and take a first-round bye.
The 49ers will certainly beat the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sunday, but because the Packers win, San Francisco will stay remain third in the conference.
NFC No. 4: Washington Redskins
Another seed that is up for grabs, I have the Redskins beating the Dallas Cowboys for a second time on Sunday and clinching the NFC East.
The Redskins beat the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving and ride a six-game winning streak into a home matchup against Dallas.
Washington's stingy run defense ranks fifth in the NFL and will be able to completely shut down Dallas' rushing attack once again. The last time these teams met, the Cowboys ran for just 35 yards.
Tony Romo is hot right now, but he is not hot enough to single-handedly win a game against a Redskins team that is arguably the hottest in the league.
NFC No. 5: Seattle Seahawks
San Francisco will beat Arizona as expected, which means that Seattle can't win the division. However, the Seahaws will still take the top wild-card spot and will be No. 5.
NFC No. 6: New York Giants
This is where it gets really interesting. The second wild-card spot is open for five teams to take, but I see the New York Giants lucking out and taking it. Let's break down what has to happen for this to be the case.
The first pivotal game is the Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have fallen apart, losing 10 of their last 11 games. The team is in shambles, and starting quarterback Nick Foles (I never thought I would write those words this season) is out for the game.
The Eagles are ice-cold and plagued by injuries, and the Giants should have no problem winning this game at home, where the team is 5-1 in its last six games.
The next major contest is between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.
The Bears won the first meeting, but this game is in Detroit. Chicago only won by six, and that came because of a 4-0 turnover margin that favored Chicago. I can't see that happening again in Detroit.
Who will earn the No. 6 seed in the NFC if the Redskins beat the Cowboys?
Detroit's passing game is going to be much better this week. Matthew Stafford is a better quarterback at home, and you can bet that Calvin Johnson is going to gain more than have more than the 34 receiving yards he had in the first game.
I see Detroit winning a close one and ruining Chicago's playoff hopes.
We already know that the Packers will have beaten the Vikings, so Minnesota will be out. The Cowboys will have lost to the Redskins, so they will be out as well. That leaves the Giants.
It's a crazy scenario, but it is the most likely one. The G-Men will claw their way back into the postseason once again.
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