The Cincinnati Bengals and head coach Marvin Lewis are poised to claim their first AFC North division title since 2005.
Here’s the current division breakdown after Week 13:
A trend that I will be watching as the playoffs draw near is the number of new teams making the playoffs after missing them the prior year. In 2008, for the 13th consecutive NFL season, five or more teams qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before (Arizona, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minnesota, Miami and Carolina). This year, the Bengals, Saints, Cowboys, Patriots, Packers, Broncos, and Jaguars are all strong contenders to make the playoffs after missing out in 2008.
NFC East–The Dallas Cowboys (8-4) are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) for the division lead. Currently, the Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles by virtue of their 20-16 win in Week 9. Now is “crunch time” in the NFC East. The Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys are all within one game of each other with four games to go. The interesting thing will be if the Cowboys and Eagles continue their current end of season trends—since 2006, Dallas is 5-9 in December and Philly is 12-3.
The Cowboys’ remaining games: SD, @NO, @WAS, and PHI
The Eagles’ remaining games: @NYG, SF, DEN, @DAL
The Giants’ remaining: PHI, @WAS, CAR, @MIN.
NFC West—The Arizona Cardinals (8-4) have a three-game lead over the San Francisco 49ers (5-7). The Cardinals can clinch the NFC West division title with a Week 14 win over the 'Niners on Monday Night Football.
The Cardinals’ remaining games: @SF, @DET, STL, and GB
NFC South—The New Orleans Saints (12-0) have already clinched the NFC South title. With a win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14, the Saints can clinch a first round playoff bye.
New Orleans’ next four games, making 16-0 look very possible, are: @ATL, DAL, TB and @CAR
NFC North–The Minnesota Vikings (10-2) have a two-game lead over the Packers (8-4), plus they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker after sweeping Green Bay this season. The Vikings can clinch the NFC North division title with a win over the Bengals and a Packers loss to the Bears.
The Vikes’ remaining games: CIN, @CAR, @CHI, and NYG
AFC East–By virtue of their current two-game losing streak, the New England Patriots (7-5) lead in the division has slipped to one game over the Miami Dolphins and NY Jets (both are 6-6). With New England’s rather easy schedule in their next four games (teams with a combined record of 21-27), I would think the Patriots can hang on for their first division crown since 2007.
The Patriots’ remaining games: CAR, @BUF, JAC, and @HOU
AFC West—The San Diego Chargers (9-3) have won eight games in a row and are currently one of the hottest teams in the NFL. However, the Chargers only have a one-game lead over the Denver Broncos (8-4), who are also playing at a high level. Look for this division race to go down to the wire.
San Diego’s remaining games are: @DAL, CIN, @TEN, and WAS – combined record of 25-22
The Broncos’ remaining games: @IND, OAK, @PHI, KC – two tough road games and two division games
AFC South–The Indianapolis Colts (12-0) have already clinched the AFC South division crown and equaled the 2006-07 New England Patriots’ NFL record consecutive games winning streak (21). With a Week 14 win over the Denver Broncos, the Colts can clinch home field advantage throughout the 2009 playoffs. With the division already sewn up, it will be interesting to see if Colts’ head coach Jim Caldwell continues former head coach Tony Dungy’s tradition of resting players rather than concentrating on a perfect season.
The Colts’ remaining games: DEN, @JAC, NYJ and @BUF
AFC North—The Cincinnati Bengals (9-3) currently have a 3-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens (both 6-6). With a win over the Vikings in Week 14, the Bengals can clinch their second division title under head coach Marvin Lewis (first in 2005).
The Bengals’ remaining games: @MIN, @SD, KC, and @NYJ
Other playoff contending teams' remaining schedules
ATL (6-6) NO @NYJ BUF @TB
BAL (6-6) DET CHI @PIT @OAK
CAR (5-7) @NE MIN @NYG NO
CHI (5-7) GB @BAL MIN @DET
DEN (8-4) @IND OAK @PHI KC
GB (8-4) @CHI @PIT SEA @ARI
HOU (5-7) SEA @STL @MIA NE
JAC (7-5) MIA IND @NE @CLE
MIA (6-6) @JAC @TEN HOU PIT
NYG (7-5) PHI @WAS CAR @MIN
NYJ (6-6) @TB ATL @IND CIN
PHI (8-4) @NYG SF DEN @DAL
PIT (6-6) @CLE GB BAL @MIA
SEA (5-7) @HOU TB @GB TEN
SF (5-7) ARI @PHI DET @STL
TEN (5-7) STL MIA SD @SEA
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)Posted in 2009 NFL Divisonal Breakdown, 2009 NFL Playoffs, 2009 NFL Season Tagged: 2009 NFL Division Breakdown, 2009 NFL Playoff Picture, 2009 NFL Playoffs, 2009 NFL Season, Football, Indianapolis Colts, Marvin Lewis, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Sports