The defending champs might need a Wild card invite this year.
The NFL Playoffs are getting down to the nitty gritty with five games left to go. Almost all of the best teams in the NFL are facing big games down the stretch that will affect their seeding on the journey to this year's Super Bowl in Dallas, TX.
If you're in the AFC West or South or the NFC West you best win your division if you want to make the playoffs. Otherwise they're won't be any room at the inn.
The fact is there are going to be some very good teams going on the road the first week of the playoffs this year.
It is possible a team with the best record in the entire NFL, say the Jets or the Patriots if they end up tied atop the AFC East, will be playing as a Wild Card that first week. Meanwhile the NFC West may give the NFL their first sub-.500 playoff team. Won't that be an interesting development.
With that in mind, let us take a look at 12 teams still in the Wild Card hunt in each league.
I know, I know.
Why have a team with the best record in an article on Wild Card teams?
Because unfortunately for some of the best teams in the league they are stuck in a division with the other best teams. In this case the New York Jets. One teams is going to win the East and the other is going to have to go on the road the first weekend even if they end up tied with the second best record in football.
This week's showdown with the Jets is critical if the Pats want to their division.
They lost their first game with New York in the second week of the season and if they lose this weekend they will essentially go two games down to the Jets since New York will own the tiebreaker.
Read the first slide.
The same story is true for the Jets.
The only difference is if they end up tied the Jets loss to Green Bay will help them in any tiebreaker scenario if it comes down to conference losses. But the fact remains, one of these two teams is going to have to go on the road during the first weekend while the other one most likely will be home resting.
The Steelers and the Ravens have a similar situation to the Jets and the Patriots. They are tied on top of the AFC North with Baltimore and they will also face off this coming weekend.
The main difference is that the Steelers face a tough remaining schedule with a game with the Jets and the resurgent Cleveland Browns also on their schedule.
The Ravens are also one of the best teams in the league.
They also might have to go on the road the opening weekend of the playoffs. A win at home this weekend will also give them basically a two game advantage over the Steelers. They'll probably need it, with games against the Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns remaining on their schedule.
Other than their showdown in two weeks with the surging San Diego Chargers for first place in the AFC West the Chiefs have a very easy schedule the rest of the way. And other than a blowout loss at Denver they've played well all season.
Todd Haley is one of the brightest young coaches around and Matt Cassell is starting to come into his own. If they don't win the AFC West they have an outside chance of taking a Wild Card Spot away from one either the Ravens or the Steelers.
Just like in the AFC the best teams are in the same division. Atlanta is tied with New England and New York with the best record in football, but the defending Super Bowl Champs are only one game back and Tampa Bay is two games back.
Atlanta will have to play both of those teams in the remaining weeks. On the other hand their other remaining games are two against the Carolina Panthers and one against the Seahawks.
With steady Matt Ryan at the helm they should easily make the playoffs but they will probably need to win one of their games with Tampa or New Orleans to clinch the division.
The defending champs have been on a tear of late with their defense playing as well as the offense.
They should win the next two against Cincinatti and St. Louis before facing the gauntlet. A tough interconferance match-up with Baltimore followed by season ending showdowns with NFC South rivals Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Winning the division will be tough and a Wild Card berth might be the best the Saints can hope for.
There is no rest for the weary when it comes to the NFL. The Bears are coming off a resounding success against the Philadelphia Eagles and are now in first place. Next week they should win easily against the Detroit Lions.
Then they will be treated to games with New England, the New York Jets and road games with division rivals Minnesota and Green Bay. Quite simply one of the most difficult schedules remaining in the NFL. Good thing that offensive line has come together. Otherwise we'd have to take out life insurance on Jay Cutler.
That was a tough loss to the Falcons this last weekend. The kind of loss that can break a team late in the season. Fortunately for the Packers they've learned from adversity over the years.
And they've got San Francisco and Detroit on the schedule the next two weeks.
That is as close to cupcakeville as you'll get on an NFL schedule. After that they have to face the Giants and the Patriots before closing out at home with the division leading Chicago Bears in what could be a make or break game.
Could this be the year we go Manning-less in the playoffs. It's hard to say, but baby brother Eli might have the easier path into the playoffs at this point.
The Giants have a relatively easy schedule with two games against the imploding Washington Redskins (wonder which Hall of Fame coach will get that job next), at Minnesota, at home against the Eagles and on the road against Green Bay.
At least they control their own destiny.
Last week they were proclaiming the Eagles as the best team in the NFC. Now they're fighting for their playoff life.
Such is the NFL. The big problem is that Chicago showed teams how to beat Michael Vick. Something other teams seemed to have forgotten since Mike was last in the league. Simply make him stay in the pocket and put pressure on him. Of course that is a lot easier when you have a front seven like the Bears do.
At least they have a favorable schedule the rest of the way.
Two with the Cowboys, Houston, Minnesota and a showdown on the road with the Giants most likely for first place in two weeks.
If Michael Vick wasn't hogging all the limelight in NFC people would be raving about Josh Freeman's breakthrough year.
The former K-State Wildcat has grown into a legitimate NFL starting quarterback. Freeman has been overlooked and so have the Bucs who have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs if they can win their remaining games with NFC South rivals New Orleans and Atlanta.
Tough, but not impossible.