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NFL Playoff Scenarios: 10 Things You Need To Know About NFL Playoff Picture

John LorgeSenior Writer IDecember 19, 2010

NFL Playoff Scenarios: 10 Things You Need To Know About NFL Playoff Picture

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    NFL playoff scenarios are becoming much more clear as we approach the final two weeks of the NFL season.

    New England, Pitt, and Atlanta have clinched positions in the playoffs, but there is still plenty up for grabs.

    Here are 10 things you need to know about the NFL playoff picture.

    Follow me on Twitter @JohnLorge

10. Really, NFC West? Really?

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    The NFC West went 0-4 this weekend.  Division leaders St. Louis and Seattle are in a tie at 6-8.  Facing each other in Week 17, if either team wins out, they make the playoffs.

    If St. Louis beats Seattle and both are 7-9, the Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Seattle wins and both are 7-9, the Seahawks own the divisional tiebreaker.

    At 5-9, the San Francisco 49ers are still in a position to win the division.  They need to beat St. Louis next week, Arizona the following and also have Seattle lose one.

    Whoever comes out of the division will have home-field advantage, but on paper, they won't have the better team.

9. Jacksonville Is Still in the Hunt

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    If both Jacksonville and Indianapolis finish 10-6, the Colts will own the common opponent tiebreaker, but Sunday's loss to Indy hasn't eliminated the Jags from the playoffs.

    If the Colts lose to the Titans, the Jags just have to beat Houston to own the divisional tiebreaker.  If the Colts lose to Oakland, Jacksonville will need to win out.

    It looks almost impossible for the Jags to sneak in as a Wild Card with the Jets win over Pittsburgh today.

8. Tampa Bay's Playoff Hopes Are Fading Fast

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    The Bucs bucked their trend of beating every team with a losing record this season with their overtime loss to the Lions.

    If they tie the Saints at 10-6—which would include beating them in Week 16—Tampa owns the tiebreaker.

    The Bucs would lose a strength-of-victory tiebreaker against any of the other NFC playoff hunters.  They need the Giants and Packers/Bears to finish with fewer than 10 wins.

7. If the New York Giants Win, They Are In

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    We've seen college and pro football teams have terrible hangover losses this season and after a heart-breaker to the Eagles, the G-Men could be next.

    NY needs to maintain long-term focus.  While an NFC East title seems shot, the Giants are still in control of their playoff destiny.

    Going into Green Bay won't be easy next week, but if Aaron Rodgers is out, or gets re-injured, it will make things a little easier.

    Win and you're in.  It's that simple.

6. Kansas City Keeps San Diego in the Rearview

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    All of the talk out West is about the Chargers, a team that has won six of its last seven.  But even though KC was shut out by San Diego a week ago, the Chiefs are still in control of the AFC West.

    The Chargers are poised to finish 10-6 with Cincinnati and Denver on the schedule, but it doesn't look much tougher for KC, which hosts Tennessee and Oakland with an undefeated home record.

    San Diego owns a tiebreaker at 10-6 and KC wouldn't make it as a Wild Card. So if San Diego wins, the Chiefs must as well.

5. The Jets Are Better as Underdogs

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    Rex Ryan wants his team to have a "we're better than you and everybody knows it" attitude. But the truth is his team plays better as underdogs.  With a makeup of a young QB, troubled receivers and a past-his-prime running back, they fill that role better, anyway.

    After two divisional losses, nobody was expecting New York to go in to Pittsburgh and come out victors.

    The Jets' AFC East hopes are dwindling, but they have ownership of the Wild Card race.  It won't be easy going into Chicago or hosting Buffalo, but now that external expectations have been lowered, the Jets should be able to ride the momentum.

    We saw what they did on the road in the playoffs last year, and heading into Indianapolis or San Diego/Kansas City wouldn't be too daunting of a game.

4. Green Bay's Season Is Slipping Through Its Fingers

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    A loss to New England takes the Packers down to 8-6.

    The good news is that their next two games are at home.  The bad is that they don't know when Aaron Rodgers will be back.  The ugly is that they face the Giants and Bears in the next two weeks.

    A win on Monday night or in any of their next three games will clinch the division for Chicago.

    If the Packers beat the Giants, they will own the head-to-head tiebreaker if both teams finish 10-6.

3. Peyton Manning Is in Playoff Mode

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    After throwing 11 interceptions in three consecutive losses, Peyton Manning regained his rhythm, completing 73 percent of his passes for 548 yards and four touchdowns without a pick in the last two games.

    Manning has averaged 50 pass attempts in losses this season.  After last week's win, he admitted that's way too high and that his winning formula is closer to 35.

    Manning's targets are always rotating, but this deep into the season, he is on the same page with everyone from Reggie Wayne to Javarris James.

    If the Colts win out, they guarantee an AFC South title and playoff berth, but we don't need to tell Peyton that.

2. New Orleans and Atlanta Will Give Us a Playoff Preview

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    The last time the Falcons and Saints met, they gave us a playoff-caliber overtime battle—and that was in September.

    Looking to even the score and break the Atlanta home-winning streak, New Orleans still has an outside shot at winning the NFC South.  By outside, I mean Atlanta would have to lose to Carolina the following week.

    This isn't a must-win for New Orleans playoff plan, but a slump in December isn't great for the big Mo.

    The Falcons have already clinched and a win against the Saints may have them resting players against Carolina.

1. Could Michael Vick Be Returning to Atlanta?

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    Beating the Giants put Philly in control of the NFC East and winning out against the Vikings and Cowboys should give the Eagles a Wild Card bye as the second-best team in the NFC.

    The Eagles will then have to beat the Giants, Bears or Saints at home, and if things go as planned, they will move on to the NFC Championship.

    There is a chance they wouldn't meet the Falcons in that game, but Atlanta hasn't lost a home game this year and Matt Ryan has only lost one game at home in his career—making an Eagles-Falcons matchup all the more likely.

    It would mark Michael Vick's second return to Atlanta.  Last year, he ran and passed for a touchdown, but it was as a Wildcat gimmick in a 34-7 blowout.

    No matter the fan reaction, it's hard to imagine Vick not playing at the top of his game given a chance to beat his former team.

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