We don't have to get into a whole preamble here. We've looked at each contending team's remaining schedule, locked in the wins and losses, seeded them from there and worked out the road to Super Bowl XLV with an eventual winner.
Now is it a living lock to unfold this way?
Am I sitting in a 55,000 square foot mansion derived from all the betting millions I've won?
Certainly not. But this is a pretty solid good breakdown, you'll like it, and all homerism notwithstanding, you may even agree with our outcome.
1) New England 14-2
That's easy. Figure they'll win out at home against a Rodgers-less Pack, away at the Bills, and even with a shadow group at home against the horrible Dolphins.
2) Pittsburgh Steelers 13-3
Also pretty easy. Figure they'll pound the reeling Jets at home even without Troy the Destroyer in the defensive backfield, crush the Panthers at home, beat the Browns on the road in Week 17.
3) San Diego Chargers 10-6
Follow the logic. They Win AFC West by winning out against Bengals and Broncos on the road. That leaves them with an 8-4 conference record. They top the Chiefs by the way who also figure to finish 10-6 by virtue of head-to-head point totals as both will finish 3-3 in the division and slip by Colts at this stage by virtue of the thrashing they laid on Indy in Indy a few weeks ago. (Confusing? Of course it's confusing, it's the NFL playoffs, but it's the best I can figure my way through all the myriad tie breakers, and what has providence over what.)
4) Indianapolis Colts 10-6
With most of their offensive parts back in place win out against Jags at home, at the Raiders, Titans at home. Only way they don't get the conference is if they beat the Jags by less than three on Sunday as both figure to finish 3-3 in the division. If they win by three, it'll probably get settled by conference record where the Colts finish 8-4, the Jags 7-5.
5) Ravens 11-5
First Wild Card. Lose to Saints at home, win at Browns, win at home vs. Bengals Week 17.
6) Jaguars 10-6
Second Wild Card. Slip by Chiefs by virtue of 8-5 conference record vs. 7-5 for K.C., after losing to Colts, beating Redskins at home, beating Houston on the road Week 17.
Out: The Jets, because they simply can't right themselves from this season-ending slump, and, well, because they're the Jets.
1) Atlanta 13-3
I like New Orleans in week 16, but figure Atlanta wins out otherwise against Seattle and Carolina, grabs a first round by and home field from there in one hell of a complicated tie breaker with New Orleans who may also finish 13-3
2) New York Giants 12-4
They get all over Vick & the Eagles tomorrow with their biggest win of the season and then ride that wave past a wobbly Rodgers in Green Bay & a disoriented Redskins team in Washington Week 17.
3) Chicago Bears 11-5
Beat Minny, Jets, lose to rival Green Bay in the tundra Week 17 proving they are no real contender, but a playoff participant nonetheless.
4) St. Louis Rams 9-7
I have them winning out home against K.C. w/o Cassel, home to San Francisco, with a punctuation in Week 17 at horrible Seattle who still has a shot at the end road despite giving up almost 100 points more than they've scored. Even at 8-8 the Rams should still get in.
5) New Orleans 13-3
Life's still a bitch with things flip flopped from my original depiction here, but even with a few flaws the Saints are back to playing at a very high level and I look for them to win out at Baltimore, at Atlanta, home to Tampa in Week 17. Yes that's a pretty brutal end of the season road but no more brutal that the task of stopping Brees when New Orleans gets rolling.
6) Philadelphia Eagles
Lose in New York, romp at home vs. Minny and Dallas to close out the season.
Out: Tampa, despite finishing the season at 10-6, four or five wins more than anyone could've expected heading into 2010.
San Diego at home over Jacksonville 35 -21. Three weeks ago we thought the Chargers were one of the top three teams in the league. The loss at Oakland threw us off, but they're dangerous, especially at Qualcom.
Colts at home over Ravens 31-21. In the end it's Manning vs. Flacco and that's really no competition at all. Ray Lewis can pregame huff and puff all he wants, the Colts will find a way to outscore them in Indy.
Eagles all over the Bears at Chicago 28-14. Just because they're the better team.
New Orleans over the Rams in St. Louis 42-14. See above and multiply by three.
Giant fans stop whining about Philip Rivers and watch New England predictably pummel the Chargers in frigid Foxborough 38-14.
On the other side of the conference semi's we're feeling a Colts/Peyton Manning redemption ride to the A.F.C. finals if only by the slimmest of margins, 27-24 over the Steelers and Q.B. Big Ben Rothlesberger who finally gets a little pay back that stings for all of his off season transgressions.
Is there Karma in football? This is as good a place as any to find out.
New Orleans invades Giants stadium feeling pretty certain they are the better team, or at least have the better quarterback. They're right on both accounts as Brees manages the frigid conditions, Eli turns it over twice and the Saints get out of New York with a 24-21 over the Giants.
Atlanta is home to Philly in one of the great, or at least most bizarre homecomings in a long time. There are a lot of Dirty Bird believers out there but Andy Reid and his long ball offense click in the relatively benign weather conditions in Atlanta and come out on top 35-28.
It's been great end run for Peyton Manning who debunked midseason doubters but he won't be able to keep pace with Brady and the juggernaut Patriots in the AFC season finale.
Pats 31 - Colts 17.
In one of the wildest NFC finals in memory, the Eagles Michael Vick and New Orleans Drew Brees take a pair of mediocre defenses to task and with the clock running down in the fourth the game is tied at 31.
Unfortunately for the Saints it is Philly who has the ball last and Vick is too much for exhausted New Orleans defenders, riping off a pair of long runs to set up David Akers last second field goal from inside the 40 and it is the Eagles at long last who make it back to the promised land a year after jettisoning long time field leader Donovan McNabb to Washington.
Final: Eagle 34 - Saints 31
The Eagles and Pats are set to enthrall the football masses. Ninety five million people watched the Giants - Pats in 2007 but the audience figures to be even bigger this time around with White Knight Tom Brady going up against the recently rehabilitated, whirling dervish out of Philly, Michael Vick.
Both teams roll out offensive juggernauts, though the Pats look to move the ball far more methodically then the quick strike Eagles.
Each have relative success in the first half as Brady commandeers a pair of long drives ending in 14 points while Vick and Co. do the same off a 65 yard pass to DeSean Jackson setting up a short McCoy run for six, tying it up in the two minute drill with Vick taking off several times before rifling a twenty yard strike up the middle to T.E. Brent Celek for paydirt only ticks before the first half clock expires.
The second half is only more of the same with both offenses moving the ball at will. With the game tied at 35 though and the clock winding down, Vick, looking downfield from his own 30, is hit from behind by mammoth defensive lineman Vince Wolfork and fumbles with the Pats recovering.
A pair of Danny Woodhead runs up the middle later and journeymen Shane Graham comes on to kick a last second 35 yard field goal that just makes it thru the uprights in a truly thrilling 38 - 35 Patriot victory that turns out to draw more than 100 million viewers.
That's it for today, don't mortgage your house,