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What Would the NFL Playoffs Look Like If They Started Today?

Doug OlsenCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2011

What Would the NFL Playoffs Look Like If They Started Today?

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    If the NFL season ended today how would the playoffs look?

    Pick your favorite storyline.

    The magical Tim Tebow would have led the Denver Bronco's to a home game in the first round.

    Rex Ryan would be squaring off with his old friend Bill Belichick.

    The Green Bay Packers would look to finish off a perfect season.

    The high-powered offenses from New Orleans and Detroit would give it a go in another shootout.

    There is sure to be plenty of drama and plenty of excitement. Here is how things would look if the postseason started tomorrow.

     

     

AFC: First Team Out- Tennessee Titans

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    If the playoffs started today, the Tennessee Titans would be stuck in the dreaded seventh spot, falling just short of the playoffs.

    The Titans have had a solid season but do not really seem like a serious playoff contender just yet.

    Tennessee earned an impressive Week 2 win over the Baltimore Ravens, but lost all four of their subsequent matchups against our "would-be" playoff teams, excluding a victory over the then Kyle Orton-led Denver Broncos.

    The story of the season in Nashville was the unbelievably slow start of running back Chris Johnson.

    He has turned things around recently but 2011 will ultimately go down as a disappointing year after Johnson held out for a monstrous new contract.

    With Matt Hasselbeck banged up and rookie Jake Locker possibly taking the reins, the Titans are not likely to advance very far even if they do fight their way into the playoffs.

6. New York Jets vs. 3. New England Patriots

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    If these playoff seedings hold up, the opening round would feature one of the league's hottest rivalries, the New York Jets versus the New England Patriots.

    Rex Ryan is on record, again, saying that his team will be the eventual Super Bowl champs. The first step would be knocking out their hated divisional rivals.

    The best thing that the Jets have going for them is playoff experience over the last several years.

    Mark Sanchez is not the head of a dynamic passing game and Shonn Greene isn't lighting the world on fire.

    However, these Jets have had postseason success and will believe that they can make another run.

    Their biggest problem would be that the Patriots still have a guy named Tom Brady.

    Sure, the New England defense has been atrocious, but they are capable of scoring a ton of points.

    We would see another matchup between Wes Welker and Darrelle Revis, but who is going cover Rob Gronkowski?

    This would undoubtedly be a hard-fought battle. The result would ultimately come down to whether, or not, Sanchez is able to fully exploit the weak Patriot secondary.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. 4. Denver Broncos

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    America would love to see a showdown between the historic Pittsburgh Steelers and the latest sensation, Tim Tebow's Denver Broncos.

    This is not the same Steelers team that many are used to. Sure, the defense is the same, led by playmakers such as James Harrison, Lamar Woodley and Troy Polamalu,

    However, the offense is much more wide open.

    Ben Roethlisberger has been slinging the ball around and utilizing the emerging young weapons that he has at wide receiver.

    Pittsburgh's three losses have come at the hands of the top two AFC teams. They will be anxious to get some revenge, especially against Baltimore.

    There is little to add to the current Tebow hysteria.

    The Bronco's fight, heart and six game streak have been incredible to watch. They have transformed from a dismal 2-6 squad to a legitimate playoff team.

    As magical as Denver's current run has been, the Steelers are too talented and too experienced to fall to these Broncos.

2. Baltimore Ravens: Bye

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    The Baltimore Ravens have battled and won some big games this year.

    With a win in the "Harbaugh Bowl" and a regular season sweep of the hated Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens have shown a propensity for coming through in big matchups.

    Their record also shows the importance of potential home-field advantage. The Ravens' three losses have all come on the road against lesser opponents.

    The years keep going by but this defense remains largely the same. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs are not exactly young guys, but they still play at an extremely high level.

    On the offensive side, Joe Flacco is steady enough, but Ray Rice is the catalyst and a true playmaker.

    Baltimore will be a tough out in the playoffs given their talent, experience and veteran leaders.

1. Houston Texans: Bye

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    The Houston Texans' season has been marked by two story lines, one positive and one negative.

    The good news is that the defense has vaulted from one of the worst a year ago to one of the league's best under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

    The offense on the other hand, has been hit hard by injuries.

    Arian Foster was on the shelf to start the year and then just as he was returning Andre Johnson injured a hamstring.

    Then, as Johnson was ready to comeback, the Texans lost Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart for the year.

    Now with T.J. Yates starting at quarterback and Johnson dealing with more hamstring troubles, this team will have to rely on Foster and the league's top offensive line.

    It hasn't been the easiest road, but Houston has capitalized on the absence of Peyton Manning to take their first ever division title.

     

NFC: First Team Out- Chicago Bears

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    The past several weeks have hit the Chicago Bears hard.

    When Jay Cutler went down, the Bears were forced to turn to Caleb Hanie as their starting quarterback, but there was still reason to believe.

    After all, a stout defense and the running of Matt Forte is enough to win some games.

    Then, things went from bad to worse when Forte suffered a knee injury which has him sidelined until possibly Week 16.

    The Bears have been faced with the daunting task of a playoff push without their top two offensive players.

    If Caleb Hanie and the Chicago defense are able to will themselves to the postseason, Cutler may be able to get back on the field, but that's a tall order.

     

6. Detroit Lions vs. 3. New Orleans Saints

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    This potential NFC matchup would feature a compelling rematch between two of the league's more dangerous offenses.

    Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have been rolling, winning five straight. The Detroit Lions, on the other hand, have won just two of their last five.

    These two teams met during Week 13 and the Saints proved to be too much for Detroit to handle.

    The Lions have shown that they are a team on the rise and will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

    However, Brees is a Super Bowl winning quarterback capable of leading this pass-happy offense back to the promised land.

5. Atlanta Falcons vs. 4. New York Giants

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    It's difficult to know exactly what to make of a potential showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants.

    The Falcons have been a solid, yet unspectacular team, while the Giants continue to be enigmatic under head coach Tom Coughlin.

    Atlanta brings a steady, balanced approach. Their defense is good, not great, while the offense has been strong.

    It's time to see if Matt Ryan is able to step up in a postseason situation and carry his team to a win.

    For the Giants, Eli Manning continues to prove that his preseason self-assessment was not so crazy after all.

    If the Giants are able to get their running game on track they will be a dangerous team nobody wants to face come playoffs.

    Given the state of the two franchises one would assume that Atlanta has an edge, but the Giants will always be dangerous.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Bye

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    The San Francisco 49ers have been the surprise team in the NFL this year.

    Under first year head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Niners have played their way to a 10-3 record and an NFC West title.

    The defensive unit, led by Patrick Willis, has been flat out dominant. Possibly the most staggering statistic in football is that through 13 weeks the 49ers have not allowed a single rushing touchdown. 

    On the offensive side, running back Frank Gore has been his usual self. He is a productive runner, but nagging injuries have persisted.

    Quarterback Alex Smith has taken a significant step forward this season and looks capable of leading a deep playoff run.

    With the New Orleans Saints also sitting at 10-3, San Francisco would love to finish strong and lock up a first round bye.

    Coach Harbaugh will have to find the appropriate balance between using Gore to push for the No. 2 seed and allowing his star back to get healthy.

1. Green Bay Packers: Bye

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    What more is there to say about the Green Bay Packers?

    This team is 13-0 and looks like an absolute juggernaut.

    Aaron Rodgers, like Albert Pujols, is a machine. The Packers' quarterback never seems to make a mistake. He reads defenses appropriately and hits the target virtually every time he drops back.

    Star receiver Greg Jennings will likely miss the rest of the regular season with a sprained knee, but this offense should survive just fine without him.

    Home-field advantage is just one win away now; a formality than can be wrapped up this week against the Chiefs.

    The Packers' pass defense has been poor and their rushing attack, at times, nonexistent. However, they have endured and overcome these problems all year long.

    It will be exciting to see if the Packers can do one game better than the 2007 New England Patriots and finish the season a perfect 19-0.

     

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