2010 NFL Playoff Picture: If the Season Ended Today Where Would Your Team Stand?

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2010

2010 NFL Playoff Picture: If the Season Ended Today Where Would Your Team Stand?

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    Winning and losing, losing and winning.  It's been quite a tricky formula for most NFL teams to work out this season.

    The Jaguars in the playoffs and the Colts missing out?  Who would have thought?

    Expecting the unexpected has definitely become the theme of this year's regular season.  Big-time affairs continue to delight and disappoint fans, and even though the playoff scenario looks as plain as day, realistically it is as hazy as a fine day in China.

    So what would the postseason look like if January football were to kick off today?

    Pretty shaken up. 

    As long as we are discussing it though, here's a look at who would and wouldn't miss out on the big dance this season, along with a quick discussion on where each team stands right now heading into the postseason.

The Next Year Hopefuls

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    Some teams in this category were always picked to struggle this season, while others, such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos, were picked to succeed.

    Next year is always a chance to turn over a new leaf though, so 2011 is perhaps their time to shine.



    Buffalo Bills (2-9)

    Cleveland Browns (4-7)

    Cincinnati Bengals (2-9)

    Denver Broncos (3-8)



    Dallas Cowboys (3-8)

    Minnesota Vikings (4-7)

    Detroit Lions (2-9)

    Carolina Panthers (1-10)

The Teams Living on a Prayer

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    I told you to expect the unexpected, and if Week 13 marked the end of the regular season, many top-tier teams could still be in the running, but would likely miss out and be left regrouping in the upcoming offseason.



    Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

    San Diego Chargers (6-5)

    Miami Dolphins (6-5)

    Tennessee Titans (5-6)

    Oakland Raiders (5-6)

    Houston Texans (5-7)



    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4)

    Green Bay Packers (7-4)

    Seattle Seahawks (5-6)

    Washington Redskins (5-6)

    San Francisco 49ers (4-7)

    Arizona Cardinals (3-8)

AFC Wild Card: New England Patriots

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    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Current Record: (9-2)


    Where They Stand Right Now

    Despite the label "best team in football," the New England Patriots still sit behind the New York Jets in the AFC East with a 9-2 record. They are a very impressive team even with the departure of Randy Moss two months ago.

    As disappointing as a Wild Card spot may seem to faithful Foxboro fans, don't be disheartened at all.  The Wild Card spot may in fact act as an advantage for New England, especially considering that they may be offered a weak matchup in the early goings.

    Better than a weak matchup though, New England really has nothing to be frightened of.  The Jets do pose a very realistic threat in the postseason, but judging by the Patriots' first-ranked scoring offense through 13 weeks, they should be just fine.

    Tom Brady has thrown for 2,703 yards and 23 touchdowns this year, and with Bill Belichick's determined defense, the postseason shouldn't be quite as short-lived as it was in 2009.

AFC Wild Card: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Current Record: (8-3)


    Where They Stand Right Now

    Just like New England, the Steelers have also fallen victim to some close division play this season, with the Baltimore Ravens matching Mike Tomlin's men win for win every week.

    Sticking to the theme of not being disheartened, the Steelers' typical end-of-season play is yet again favorable in 2010.  Last season saw Steel City miss out on the big dance in a rare turn of events, but it appears this time around, the Steelers are looking to capitalize on every chance possible.

    Unfortunately though, if the season were to end today, Pittsburgh would only occupy a Wild Card spot. Is this concerning?  Probably not, but if the Steelers wound up meeting the Patriots in this big game, it's fair to say that this matchup could be quite mindblowing.

    The Steelers now face several tough games toward the end of the year, and if they aren't careful, they  may lose pace with Baltimore.  We'll watch how this develops, but it's testy times for one of the NFL's biggest competitors.

NFC Wild Card: New Orleans Saints

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Current Record: (8-3)


    Where They Stand Right Now

    The Saints have had a very up and down year so far that has fortunately taken a swerve for the best in recent weeks.

    To think that the Saints fell to the Cleveland Browns in October is almost unimaginable at this point in time.  What is important entering the 13th week of football, however, is that the Saints have a legitimate shot at the Wild Card round with an 8-3 record in hand.

    If Patriots and Steelers fans aren't happy with a Wild Card label, New Orleans fans should be.  Yes, the top of the NFC South would be much more preferred, yet at the same time, outplaying the Atlanta Falcons this season seems like an impossible task to accomplish.

    What has been impressive about the Saints this year? The fact that the reigning Super Bowl champions haven't given up.  Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year" Drew Brees is experiencing another stellar season under center, and his 3,321 yards and 23 touchdowns have been much appreciated by Saints supporters.

    Plenty of time is left for New Orleans to still outmuscle Atlanta, but a Wild Card spot isn't all that bad.

NFC Wild Card: New York Giants

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Current Record: (7-4)


    Where They Stand Right Now

    Hanging on by the bare skin of their teeth has been the New York Giants' way in recent weeks after suffering consecutive losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles in November.

    Tom Coughlin has always been questioned as a head coach, but the rosy-cheeked, gray-haired main man has redeemed himself this season.  A win against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week sees the Giants remain in Wild Card contention, and just like New Orleans, this is a decent seeding considering how great the Philadelphia Eagles look.

    Unlike the teams previously mentioned, however, the Giants haven't completely sold themselves just yet.  New York has endured many hiccups this season, most prominently a turnover ratio that has plagued Big Blue when games are on the line and points need to be scored.

    Still, New York is no stranger to the Wild Card game, and in many years past the Giants have either managed to make it, or managed to fail in the scheme of things. 

    This season should act as another prime example of whom the Giants really are this season, but should they pull it off, pencil them in as a sleeper pick come January.

    Eli Manning needs to step up his game if the Giants are to make anything of this opportunity though, and with the Giants' running game still looking shaky, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to determining which Giants team will show up in the next five weeks.

AFC East Division Leader: New York Jets

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Current Record: (9-2)


    Where They Stand Right Now

    If it were all said and done this weekend, the New York Jets would stroll into the playoffs atop the AFC East with a 9-2 record in hand, and a bundle of confidence.

    Promising?  You bet your house it is.  However, the Jets have had one or two shaky moments this season that made people question Rex Ryan's coaching calls, along with the Jets' overall talent in 2010.

    The first example of this was in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens.  The Jets offense looked flat against Baltimore, and as a result New York fell 10-9 at home in the Meadowlands.  Secondly, the Green Bay Packers then exposed New York's offense yet again, highlighting how "hot and cold" Mark Sanchez really can be.

    They say it takes a true competitor to come back in the face of adversity though, and we must credit New York for that.  Santonio Holmes has single-handedly lifted the Jets recently, but if New York does wind up winning the AFC East, the Super Bowl really becomes a likely outcome.

    Five weeks to go, big games ahead.  If it all ended today though, the Jets are a team you don't want to face in the playoffs.

AFC North Division Leader: Baltimore Ravens

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Current Record: (8-3)


    Where They Stand Right Now

    Everyone may not be praising the Baltimore Ravens, but give credit where credit is due, John Harbaugh's team has coped extremely well under the pressure of the Pittsburgh Steelers this season.

    The promising aspects of the Ravens game are simple.  They are doing the simple things to win, and are doing so in a team effort, rather than relying on one man or another as the weeks progress.

    At the end of the day though, Joe Flacco has been the best.  Last season, criticism swirled around No. 5's head, but now folks recognize the true talent of the Ravens quarterback, as his 2,722 yards and 18 touchdowns look great on paper.

    So if it were to all come to a close today, the Ravens would take home the AFC North...barely.  With this in mind though, Baltimore always knew it was going to be a hotly contested division, and the Ravens' fifth-ranked point scoring defense has meant the difference between second and first up North.

    Hopefully the postseason doesn't wind up quite as disappointing as last year. After all, Baltimore was many people's pick to make the Super Bowl this year.

AFC South Division Leader: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Current Record: (6-5)


    Where They Stand Right Now

    Shock, horror and disbelief has surrounded the Jacksonville Jaguars' latest surge to the top of the AFC South, mainly due to David Garrard's year-round brilliance and the Indianapolis Colts' recent collapse this past month. 

    Think back to preseason football. Labeling Jacksonville as a potential failure in 2010 now seems like a distant memory.  After a poor draft campaign in April, the Jaguars' 6-5 record has managed to stand up to division tests this season, while at the same time slugging on as the games progress.

    Bringing everyone back to reality for a moment though, the Jaguars aren't 100 percent perfect just yet.  Last weekend against the New York Giants, Jacksonville encountered some rocky shores losing 24-20 in the Meadowlands, and now must regroup to maintain a stranglehold on the South division.

    When it's all said and done, don't let this small nitpick deter you.  Jacksonville has kept it simple all year round but has managed to win on a number of occasions.  The Colts still pose a threat, yes, but Jacksonville are favorites at this point in time.

AFC West Division Leader: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Current Record: (7-4) 


    Where They Stand Right Now

    Surprise, surprise, the Kansas City Chiefs are on top of the AFC South after 12 weeks of football.  If you thought the Jaguars' rise to fame was epic, think again, because the previously 4-12 Chiefs of 2009 are currently 7-4 in their division.

    In Kansas City's case, the old adage of "the quarterback is the most valuable player to a team" has certainly become true.  Matt Cassel was a little rusty in 2009, but his 2,307 yards and 22 touchdowns earn him a spot with the league's best this season.

    Away from No. 7, the rest of the Chiefs roster has also pitched in a helping hand.  Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki may have been "sleeper" picks to some, but prior to season kickoff, not many people were aware of the talent these two possessed.

    Finally, the coaching has also come through for the Arrowheads.  Todd Haley was always a quiet man since taking over the Chiefs in 2009, and even though he is still short for words this year, the two-year main man has made the right calls all season long.

    The Jaguars have a tough test in maintaining their division lead, and so do the Chiefs, with the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers breathing down their neck.  It's a tough job, but the Chiefs haven't come this far for nothing.

NFC East Division Leader: Philadelphia Eagles

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Current Record: (8-4) 


    Where They Stand Right Now

    Toughest schedule in the NFL?  Please, that's nothing the Philadelphia Eagles can't handle.

    Yes, the Eagles have pulled off the seemingly unimaginable this season, working their way toward an 8-4 record under an unlikely starting quarterback, and better yet earning their way to the top of the NFC East quite easily.

    It would be easy to sit here and say that the Eagles' winning ways have been a team effort, but let's be honest, Michael Vick has meant all the difference. 

    In Week 1 under Kevin Kolb, Andy Reid's offense struggled at home against the Green Bay Packers, and it wasn't until Kolb took a concussion that Philadelphia actually looked competitive in the game.

    Here we are 13 weeks down the track, and Vick is still around. 

    How has he been going?

    Great, considering the amount of pressure that was on No. 7's shoulders entering 2010.  With 2,243 yards and 15 touchdowns under his belt, Vick has earned himself a spot in the MVP debate and more than likely an appearance in postseason football.

    Lincoln Financial Field is loving it, and after a Thursday Night win over the Houston Texans, the Eagles continue to lock up the East.

NFC North Division Leader: Chicago Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current Record: (8-3)


    Where They Stand Right Now

    The NFC North was always meant to be the Green Bay Packers' division this season.  The Chicago Bears had different plans on that idea.

    A solid Jay Cutler?  A strong Bears defense?  A coaching staff that isn't feeling the heat for once?  This is quite a new development.

    Believe it or not though, the Chicago Bears would make the playoffs if the season were to end today.  Currently sitting at 8-3, Chicago's season has been reasonably solid all year long, after Jay Cutler rid himself of any 2009 passing woes and has a minor shot at a Pro Bowl nomination.

    Stepping away from under center for one minute, the Bears defense needs a mention here.  Acquiring Julius Peppers was always a very favorable move during the offseason, but the big man's six sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception on the year have meant the difference between winning and losing in many games.

    Still sharing the love around, the Bears receiving corps has also stepped up and delivered.  Devin Hester and Johnny Knox currently have a combined 1,110 yards and four touchdowns on the year, and have really offered Jay Cutler an extra target in the passing game.

    It's all good news at a crucial time in the year for Chicago, and for once The Windy City is quite stable when it comes to the NFL.  Big games await, but there's nothing to be worried about if you're a Bears fan.

NFC South Divsion Leader: Atlanta Falcons

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Current Record: (9-2)


    Where They Stand Right Now

    The Atlanta Falcons are the best team in football right now, because Matt Ryan's team has been pinpoint perfect for much of the regular season.

    Knocking off the Green Bay Packers at home last week was one thing, but a solid 9-2 record on the year is another.  Also, the Falcons have the seventh-ranked point-scoring offense and defense in football, proving their worth as a serious playoff contender.

    If the Chicago Bears were a surprise in the NFC North, the Falcons weren't.  Many experts predicted the Falcons to excel this season, and although the New Orleans Saints were still a threat, nothing could overrule that Michael Turner's healthy return would boost Atlanta immensely.

    And that's just what has happened.

    Confidence is flowing through the veins of every Falcon, and more to the point, it is great to see young Matt Ryan making clutch plays on any given Sunday should the opportunity beckon.

    Any team that matches up with the Falcons in January should make it says a prayer or two beforehand, because this team's all-around play, led by Mike Smith, has been stellar against top-tier opponents all season long.

NFC West Division Leader: St. Louis Rams

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Current Record: (5-6) 


    Where They Stand Right Now

    Will the real St. Louis Rams please stand up?  It appears they already have.

    Looking at St. Louis on paper right now, perhaps it could be said that the Rams may be the only team to reach the playoffs under .500.  No matter though, St. Louis still provides a possible upset chance should they make the postseason, especially in the early goings.

    Where has this rejuvenated 2010 St. Louis Rams side come from?

    Sam Bradford's fingertips, to be exact.  2,466 yards and 17 touchdowns later, the Rams No. 1 draft pick in April has provided the much needed spark for Steve Spagnuolo's team that has been notably missing since the Kurt Warner days of old.

    To be a party pooper for one moment, however, the NFC West isn't the prettiest of divisions.  It appears that whoever takes home the crown this season is destined for a rough ride in the playoffs, even though an upset factor could very well happen.

    St. Louis has its work cut out, and let's face it, the postseason would be an uphill battle.  Still, the Rams do have a much more stabilized team this season, which spells a very promising future in 2011 if nothing much occurs this year.