By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The playoff picture is getting clearer. Who’s going to be celebrating a longer season, and who will have a lump of coal in their team’s stocking?
Welcome to Atlanta
When the Philadelphia Eagles traveled to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons, many fans weren’t focused on the playoff implications this game had. Instead, the focus was on number seven, Michael Vick, who had been the cornerstone of the Atlanta Falcons franchise, and now returned on the visitor’s side. Vick also scored for the first time since 2006, on both a rushing and passing touchdown, as fans, who initially booed him when he entered the game, showered him with cheers at the end.
On the other side, Atlanta took a deeper blow to their outside wild-card chances. With five offensive starters out, including QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner, they needed someon new to step up. Although Chris Redman through for a solid 235 yards, he also threw two costly interceptions. The running game could never get going, mustering only 61 total yards.
A Saintly Victory
Good teams find a way to win. Undefeated teams need as much help as they can get towards the later part of the season, with the pressure of remaining undefeated an extra factor. For the New Orleans Saints, a number of miracles allowed them to continue their march for perfection, squeaking by the Washington Redskins 33-30 in overtime.
The Saints used the following plays to ensure victory: a 23 yard field goal missed by Washington K Shaun Suisham, that could have put the game out of reach; a shanked punt by New Orleans P Thomas Morestead that the Saints somehow recovered on the Washington 41, gaining them 29 yards on fourth down; and a play so wacky, it deserves its own paragraph.
QB Drew Brees threw an interception to Kareem Moore of the Redskins. Moore was then stripped by WR Robert Meachem, who took the ball 44 yards for a touchdown.
New Orleans is now at 12-0, and still holds hopes of the perfect season, while Washington is just counting down the days to the 2010 NFL Draft.
With the regular season coming to a close soon, I have decided to make my current top six predictions for both the NFC and AFC.
AFC (with current record):
1. Indianapolis Colts (12-0): AFC South Division Champions, first round bye, home field throughout playoffs
2. San Diego (9-3): AFC West Division Champions, first round bye, home field for Divisional Round
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-3): AFC North Division Champions, home field for Wild Card Round
4. New England Patriots (7-5): AFC East Division Champions, home field for Wild Card Round
5. Denver Broncos (8-4): Wild Card
6. Miami Dolphins (6-6): Wild Card
NFC (with current record):
1. New Orleans Saints (12-0): NFC South Division Champions, first round bye, home field advantage throughout playoffs
2. Minnesota Vikings (10-2): NFC North Division Champions, first round bye, home field for Divisional Round
3. Arizona Cardinals (8-4): NFC West Division Champions, home field for Wild Card Round
4. Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): NFC East Division Champions, home field for Wild Card Round
5. New York Giants (7-5): Wild Card
6. Green Bay Packers (7-4): Wild Card
Contenders and Pretenders
The playoff picture is getting clearer, so who is in the snapshot?
The San Diego Chargers have now won seven games in a row, running their record to 9-3, the latest victory a 30-23 win over the Cleveland Browns. The San Diego Chargers are in the driver’s seat for the playoffs.
In a battle of hot streaks, the Indianapolis Colts outlasted the Tennessee Titans 27-17, running their record to 12-0. The loss all but ended Tennessee’s remarkable comeback attempt. Indianapolis has now won 22 regular season games in a row, a new NFL record.
The Denver Broncos are keeping their playoff hopes alive, winning two games in a row, the most recent against the Kansas City Chiefs 44-13. Denver is a game behind San Diego in the AFC West, but has a wild card berth in their sights.
Pretenders come in all shapes and sizes:
The Pittsburgh Steelers record in 2006, after their last Super Bowl win? 8-8. They’re on their way to repeating history after losing their fourth game in a row, this time to the Oakland Raiders 27-24. The Steelers need a huge run if they plan on qualifying for the playoffs as a wild card.
A mere month ago, the Houston Texans were 5-3, with a playoff berth on their mind. They’re now 5-7, after losing 23-18 to Jacksonville, and rumors are starting to float, with most aimed at Coach Gary Kubiak.
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