NFL Week 17: Latest Playoff Picture

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NFL Week 17: Latest Playoff Picture
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Nine teams have clinched playoff spots as we head into the final week of the 2011 NFL season.

Let's take a look at the current postseason picture.  

 

NFC 

1. Green Bay Packers (14-1)

2. San Francisco 49ers (12-3)

3. New Orleans Saints (11-3)*

4. New York Giants (8-7) 

5. Detroit Lions (10-5)

6. Atlanta Falcons (9-5)*

*MNF matchup

So much for the susceptible Packers.  Aaron Rodgers answered any (idiotic) critics that came about after the loss to the Chiefs with five touchdown passes in Green Bay's rout of the Bears on Sunday night.

Have fun beating them in Lambeau.

The 49ers picked up a quality win in Seattle, one of the toughest places to win in the NFL, and after losing two of three, they've emerged victorious the last two weeks. Is their defense up for a Packers-sized challenge?

The Saints play tonight, and Drew Brees needs 304 yards to break Dan Marino's single-season passing yards record. The guy is on a unprecedented tear (16 touchdowns with no interceptions over his last five) and I don't see it stopping anytime soon. Especially if he's playing indoors.

Victor Cruz carried the Giants to a huge win in the Big Apple Bowl, and the defensive line terrorized Mark Sanchez all afternoon. The NFC East title will be decided this Sunday, when the Dallas Cowboys come to town.

Good for the Detroit Lions and their fans. They clinched their first playoff appearance in 12 years. Watch out for this streaky club. They're playing tremendously on offense, and not many teams have the type of premier talent that resides in the Motor City.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons will be in the postseason for the third consecutive year, and they're another club that no one wants to play in January. So much balance on both sides of the ball.

 

AFC 

1. New England Patriots (12-3)

2. Baltimore Ravens (11-4)

3. Houston Texans (10-5)

4. Denver Broncos (8-7)

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4)

6. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)

The Patriots weren't spectacular against the Dolphins, but as usual, Tom Brady led a terrific second-half comeback win. What else is new? Still, I'm not sold on this club in January because of the defensive deficiencies. 

Although it wasn't easy, the Ravens took care of the inferior Browns and are in the No. 2 spot heading into the season finale against the Bengals. Win, and Joe Flacco gets his first home playoff experience.

The Texans aren't exactly building momentum heading into the postseason and T.J. Yates is the reason. He was totally ineffective against a poor Colts defense on Thursday. Then again, the "top-notch" defense wasn't great, either. Dan Orlovsky was behind center, not Peyton Manning.

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Tim Tebow was exposed by the Bills in Buffalo on Saturday, as he threw four interceptions in a game that he can't forget soon enough. The best rushing team in the NFL averaged only 3.8 yards per carry against one of the most porous run defenses, and the Broncos allowed 160 yards on the ground.

Ben Roethlisberger didn't play against the St. Louis Rams, and as expected, it didn't matter. Pittsburgh handled its business. The Steelers will need to beat the Browns and get a Cincinnati win over Baltimore to get that No. 2 spot. However, they've got enough playoff experience to win on the road in January. 

Cincinnati controls its own destiny for the final postseason spot and is begging its fans to come out for the Ravens game this weekend. If they get a solid performance from Cedric Benson and Andy Dalton can find A.J. Green frequently, they'll have a great chance to win. If not, a handful of teams could sneak in, like the Jets or Titans. 

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