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NFL: Week 12 Helps Clear Up Murky Playoff Picture

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NFL: Week 12 Helps Clear Up Murky Playoff Picture
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Time is flying.

I still find it hard to imagine that it wasn't too long ago when we were still wondering whether there would be a season at all, with the numbing lockout taking its place.

But lo and behold, not only did the season get underway, but we are merely weeks away from the beginning of the end—the playoffs.

After weeks of the strong separating from the weak, it's the time of the season where finishing blows are being handed left and right.

Week 12, for good or for bad, witnessed many of these crushing blows.

The Eagles were handed the blow by the Patriots. The man who received the blow for them was Vince Young, the very man who conjured the term "dream team." 

To this day, I maintain that if Young hadn't uttered those two words, the Eagles would be in a much different position right now. Young's words were blown up by the media and the soaring Eagles were put into a different type of slumber than what Young originally envisioned.

It's only fitting that they received their final rude awakening at the hands of Young, the instigator. To be fair, Young actually didn't play that bad, at one point leading the team to two consecutive scoring drives and a 10-0 lead.

But after that, the Patriots turned the tide and went on a 38-3 run, eventually winning the game 38-20. "Fire Andy" chants could be heard toward the end of the game, evincing Eagles fans' disgust with head coach Andy Reid.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers found themselves battling the Titans in one of the ugliest games of the week. Both teams could ill afford a loss, but the Buccaneers were the ones who couldn't keep up at the end. This game nullified the playoff hopes of the Buccaneers, who were one of this year's preseason darlings.

The Browns, Chiefs and Seahawks were also firmly put to rest this week. None of those teams, however, was considered a major contender for a playoff spot.

In the AFC East, the Jets and the Bills faced off in a game that neither could afford to lose. The Bills proved cognizant of their old ways and lost 28-24 in a game that went down to the final minutes.

It's safe to say whatever fairy dust the Bills had in the locker room at the beginning of the season is gone, probably having left for greener pastures in Denver.

Speaking of Denver, the Chargers were handed their seventh loss of the season and their sixth consecutive loss by, of all teams, the Tebow-led Broncos.

Haters watched yet again, perplexed and exasperated, as Tim Tebow pulled off another one of his signature victories, leading his team to triumph despite posting mediocre—even anemic—statistics.

The AFC playoff picture is now highlighted by a few significant battles.

The Broncos and Raiders are engaged in one of those battles. I envision Tim Tebow gallantly riding a wild bronco into a deadly black hole. Personally, I see him coming out alive.

In the AFC North, we have Pittsburgh and Baltimore battling it out, with the Bengals hanging on by a thread. At this point, it looks as if the Ravens will win, since they hold a 2-0 record against the Steelers this season.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Finally, we have the sixth wild-card spot (the fifth presumably going to the Steelers or the Ravens), which will come down to the Jets, Titans, Bengals and the loser of the Raiders and Broncos battle.

Here's the AFC Playoff Picture currently:

1. Houston Texans

2. New England Patriots

3. Baltimore Ravens

4. Oakland Raiders

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

6. Cincinnati Bengals

Very Much in the Hunt: Jets, Broncos, Titans

Over in the NFC, the playoff picture is highlighted by battles in the NFC East and NFC South.

In the East, we have the revitalized Cowboys, who have won four straight, going against the Giants. These two teams will play two games against each other in the last five weeks that will very much dictate who the division winner is.

In the South, the Saints have a one-game lead against the Falcons. Both teams have some tough games ahead of them, which will, along with their matchups against each other in Week 16, help decide who comes out on top.

Who wins the NFC East and NFC South?

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The NFC wild-card race is much more exciting than the one in the AFC. Four very strong teams will battle for the two spots.

The Lions and Bears figure to be two of those teams. The other two figure to be the losers of the battles in the NFC East and the NFC South.

Here's the current NFC Playoff Picture:

1. Green Bay Packers

2. San Francisco 49ers

3. New Orleans Saints

4. Dallas Cowboys

5. Chicago Bears

6. Atlanta Falcons

Very Much in the Hunt: Detroit Lions, New York Giants

There is still one game left this week featuring the Saints and the Giants that figures to be huge.

In the grand scheme of things, it also figures to be one more step towards sorting out the 2011 NFL Playoffs.

Already, you say? Well, as I said, time flies, doesn't it?

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