Right now, the playoff picture is fairly clear. The Cincinnati Bengals are looking to shake it up.
In the AFC, it looks like the Patriots and either the Ravens or Steelers are going to get the first round bye. I would put my money on the Ravens, who currently are sitting in the driver’s seat, to claim that privilege, especially with Big Ben not playing great due to injury and will likely sit this week. He’s a tough dude, but a human can only play through so much.
As far as the other spots go, it looks like the Texans will get the #3 spot, facing the Jets at the moment. the other division winner is looking like the Broncos, who close the season against the Bills and Chiefs. They will likely face the Steelers.
I’m ready to declare that in the AFC, all but two teams are safe. The Texans, Ravens, Patriots and Steelers are safe. I like the Broncos’ chances, but I am not sold on the Jets.
First, the Broncos. They have two very winnable games to close out the season (at Bills and at Chiefs.) The Raiders could get in by winning out and a Broncos and Chargers loss. The Chargers could get in by winning out as well as the Broncos dropping both of their final contests. The Chiefs have a 1% chance of making it.
The Jets have a tough finish to the schedule, including the New York Giants, who also need a win, and the Miami Dolphins, who are playing well after their horrid start. These are two very losable games. In fact, I expect the Giants to take them down this Sunday. However, I believe they will take care of business against Miami in week 17. The Jets generally play well under pressure and the defense should shut out the anemic offensive attack of the Dolphins.
While the Arizona Cardinals have been playing well as of late, even without starting QB Kevin Kolb, there hasn’t been as much hope in Cincinnati in years even though the attendance numbers don’t show it.
Andy “Red” Dalton and AJ Green have combined to be the most exciting rookie tandem in the league with the potential to both be stars. The Bengals have made a living this year of beating every team they are supposed to on their weak schedule. Well, that poor schedule continues this week and they get the 7-7 Cardinals, a team that they should beat.
Expect that trend to continue.
After that, the Bengals get the playoff bound Ravens in Cincy. This game could go one of two ways:
1. The Ravens and Steelers both win or lose their games this week and the Ravens need to win against the Bengals to claim the division. We all know how the Ravens have been this year in games where they need to take care of business and should win. Combine that with Dalton, a rookie with poise beyond his years, and you will see a Ravens loss.
2. The Steelers lose this week with Big Ben out of the lineup and the Ravens win against the hapless Cleveland Browns as well as New England coming home with a victory against the Dolphins. The Ravens essentially have nothing to play for and Cincinnati wins, maybe not in a cakewalk, but a win nonetheless.
There are a lot of ifs that need to go the Bengals way, but if they can win strongly in at least one of their final games, the tiebreaker could switch to the Bengals favor. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them enter the playoffs in Dalton and Green’s rookie year.
The NFC race is even more solidified than the AFC. The Packers have a solid clamp on the first round bye and likely will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The 49ers aren’t too far behind and should lock up the other bye barring a slip up against the surging Seahawks or the Rams. They are currently tied with the Saints, but hold the tiebreaker.
The Saints command the 3rd seed and finish up the season at home against the Falcons and Panthers. Barring a meltdown, they will take the division and will take a first round bye if they win out and the 49ers lose one of their remaining games.
The Lions and Falcons are sitting pretty comfortably at the sixth and fifth spots, respectively. However, the Cowboys are the only NFC team that I see in grave danger of losing their playoff spot as the fourth seed.
The Cowboys will clinch the division by winning out or an Eagles and Giants loss and one win. The ‘Boys just simply need to win out. If they lose out, they are almost assured of missing the playoffs due to the cluster at the top of the division.
The Giants would get in the playoffs by just winning out. Their destiny is still in their hands. They could also get to the playoffs with a week 17 win against the Cowboys and a loss by the Eagles in week 16 or 17. I like them against the Jets and again against the Cowboys, but wouldn’t be surprised either way. The Giants are my playoff pick here, even though Tony Romo is currently playing well.
The Eagles still do have a chance though. If they win out, the Giants lose to the Jets and the Cowboys lose to the Giants, they will claim the division and head to the playoffs. While the situation is very formidable, the stars need to be lined up just right and it may just be too little, too late for Philly.
It’s going to be a fight till the end, with the NFC East race particularly intriguing to watch. Have a happy holidays from the guys at Fantasy Guideline!