By Derek Lofland.
The NFL playoff picture is starting to take hold in the different conferences, but those pictures could not be more different. In the NFC we know all six playoffs teams, but other than the Saints having the No. 1 seed and the Packers being a Wild Card, there is not much to report. We’ll have to wait until after Sunday before we know who will be playing where.
In the AFC we know the seeding for the four division winners, but seven teams remain alive for two wild card spots. My record for the season is 155-85.
As always, here is the playoff picture as I see it:
NFC clinched: New Orleans (NFC South / First Round Bye), Minnesota Vikings (NFC North), Arizona Cardinals (NFC West), Philadelphia Eagles (Playoff Spot), Dallas Cowboys (Playoff Spot) and Green Bay Packers (Wild Card).
1) New England Patriots (10-5) at Houston Texans (8-7) - If you look at recent history, “The Hood” (Bill Belichick) does not rest his starters. Only once has he had less than 20 passes in a season finale. Ironically, that happened in 2005, when the New England Patriots were 10-5 and could not improve their seed or earn a first round bye. This is different than 2007, the Patriots played their starters in Week 17, but they also had a Wild Card Round bye.
This year they will have to play in the Wild Card Round, similar to 2005. I expect Belichick to try to win the game to secure the third seed, but I do not expect him to exhaust his starters. I can see a half of football and a half of rest if they play well and have a decent lead. If the Texans can survive the first half, they should be able to pull out a win with some of the Patriots regulars on the bench. Winner: Houston