2011 NFL Playoffs: Updated Predictions for Each Team
Now that we're nearly halfway through the 2011 NFL season, it's time for an update on the playoff outlook for each team.
Certain teams have separated themselves from the pack, while others have fallen behind and likely won't make up any ground.
We'll briefly assess each team and organize them into four categories: no chance, outside chance, wild card or division winners.
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Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5): Blaine Gabbert could be good in the future, but right now Maurice Jones-Drew is this team's only legitimate weapon.
Denver Broncos (2-4): Tim Tebow has energized the program, but they were lucky to grab an 18-15 overtime victory against the winless Miami Dolphins.
Minnesota Vikings (1-6): Probably the best one- or two-win team in the league, but their strong division will make a playoff berth all but impossible.
Carolina Panthers (2-5): Cam Newton is the future of this team, but they're clearly still in rebuilding mode.
Seattle Seahawks (2-4): Not as bad as Arizona and St. Louis, but their quarterback play just isn't good enough to pull off another 2010.
St. Louis Rams (0-6): Poor Rams. They are at least a year away.
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Buffalo Bills (4-2): One of the season's surprise teams, the Bills could get a wild card if they finish the season as strongly as they started it.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-2): Andy Dalton and AJ Green are developing a great rapport and the defense is stout, but they're probably still a year away in a tough division.
Oakland Raiders (4-3): If Carson Palmer returns to form and learns the offense quickly, and if Darren McFadden doesn't miss time with an injury, they could still win the division. But those are two very big if's.
Dallas Cowboys (3-3): One of the most talented teams in the league can't seem to be consistent. If they find a groove, they can still win the division.
Washington Redskins (3-3): They started fast, but they've looked more like they did last year as of late.
Philadelphia Eagles (2-4): A much-needed bye week could have helped this team solve some of its many problems. The talent must quickly translate into wins.
Chicago Bears (4-3): In a very tough division, but not out of it yet. A wildcard possibility is in sight if Detroit continues to lose.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3): A very young and inconsistent team that should have a better shot at the playoffs in the next couple of years.
2011 NFL Wildcards
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AFC: Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)
The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently second in their division behind the Baltimore Ravens, who beat them in week 1.
The Steelers are a perennial playoff contender, and at this point I'd be surprised if anyone else beat them out for the AFC wildcard slot.
NFC: Detroit Lions (5-2)
A fast 5-0 start for the Detroit Lions has given way to two straight losses, but if the Lions can get back on track, they are still in good position to secure the NFL wildcard slot.
They're in a tough division, though, and teams like the Falcons, Buccaneers, Bears and Cowboys are breathing down their necks.
2011 AFC Division Winners
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New England Patriots (5-1)
The New England Patriots have looked very impressive offensively this year, but their secondary needs a lot of work.
Still, expect them to be able to hold off the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets for the division crown.
Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
The Ravens have just one loss going into their Monday night game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and one of their wins was a big one against division rival Pittsburgh.
Ray Rice is having a Pro Bowl season, Joe Flacco is doing just enough and the defense is as stout as ever.
Houston Texans (4-3)
Not an ideal start for the Texans, but a weak division should give way to their first playoff berth. Arian Foster is finally healthy and is beginning to dominate.He wrecked the Tennessee Titans in a 41-7 blasting on Sunday.
Ben Tate rounds out a top rushing attack that should be accompanied by an extra-lethal passing attack once Andre Johnson returns to the lineup.
San Diego Chargers (4-2)
The Chargers get the benefit of a weak division, though they're currently being challenged by the Raiders and the Chiefs.
They're easily the most talented team in the division all-around, so if they can avoid underachieving, they'll win the division.
2011 NFC Division Winners
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New York Giants (4-2)
New York is the best team in a division loaded with inconsistent teams.
The Giants may not be the best squad in the NFL, but they should be good enough to beat out Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia.
Green Bay Packers (7-0)
The defending world champs are the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL, and the gap between them and the Lions is widening.
Aaron Rodgers is playing like a superhuman, and his receiving corps might be the best in the NFL. The defense isn't great, but it's good enough.
New Orleans Saints (5-2)
New Orleans has been somewhat inconsistent this season, but Drew Brees is still having a great season and the Saints have one of the best offenses in the NFL.
The defense needs some work, but that shouldn't keep them from beating out Tampa Bay and Atlanta.
San Francisco 49ers (5-1)
The 49ers might be the biggest surprise of the season, and Jim Harbaugh is really making a name for himself.
Alex Smith is playing better than he ever has, Frank Gore is leading a strong rushing attack and the defense is one of the scariest in the NFL.
That's a recipe for a division championship, especially when the other options are Seattle, Arizona and St. Louis.