Think of the NFL playoff chase as more of a hunting expedition.
Teams who are firmly entrenched in the the playoff picture are on cruise control, hunting for the right combination that can take them far into the postseason.
For the teams hunting for just a playoff spot, the woods could be a little murky and dark. Maybe a little hard to navigate through, and therefore, they need to have some help making the big party. But once they get there, they find out they are just an afterthought.
For some teams, they are right there, on the edge waiting to be asked to go on the hunt, but their team makeup will tell you they just aren't ready to take a big leap.
These teams are built like a playoff team, look like a playoff team, but may not be ready to compete like a playoff team.
Lovie Smith has done a great job with the tools he has been given.
The defense is still the heart and soul of this team, but with injuries and the schedule down the stretch, this may be a team on the outside looking in.
This is the team everyone wants to succeed.
Good young talent and a defense Mike Zimmer has worked hard to revamp.
The questions you get with a rookie quarterback are how will he handle the playoffs and can he lead a team deep in the playoffs?
Right now, those questions are really left unanswered.
This team cannot get out of its own way, err, its coaches way.
Do you think if they miss the playoffs by a game, and we all know which game we are talking about, heads will roll?
Tony Romo has been the enigma of the NFL this season, and Jason Garrett looks like he will be drawn and quartered for some of the decisions he has made lately when it comes to attempting field goals and calling timeouts.
They started out hot and fast and have cooled off.
They also are the NFL's "bad boys" this season.
They play better defense with Ndamukong Suh, but when he's out of the lineup, they're penalized less.
Offensively, they're solid.
They may be a year away before they truly compete for a title.
Mark Sanchez is getting better or making better decisions.
The Jets are now back in the middle of the postseason hunt.
Can this be three trips in a row with Sanchez leading the way? That remains to be seen.
The defense needs to play up to its capability and show the true fire Rex Ryan wants to see from his pass rush and run defense.
When the Raiders had Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden healthy, they looked like a team that could really make some noise in the playoffs.
Both players have been injured and replaced by Michael Bush, who's a tank in the backfield and Carson Palmer, the man the team mortgaged the future on.
Will they make it to the postseason? A lot of that depends on quarterback play and the defense.'
And a guy named Tebow!
They are currently seventh in the playoff race in the AFC.
Can they sneak in? Yes.
If Chris Johnson continues to get better and the defense still plays at a top level, this can be a "sleeper" team.
The health of Matt Hasselbeck is key to their success.