Fire up the Bold Prediction Machine! This week in my prognostications, I will attempt to set the field for the NFL playoffs this year.
Get out your brackets!
And, as much as I would love it, it is not that time for the NCAA tournament brackets to be filled out. No, the NFL playoffs and the for the Superbowl is just about 8 calendar weeks away. This year, it’s looking likely that we won’t see either team from the previous year try and make another run at it, as the Carolina Panthers are abysmal and, in my opinion and based on some quick math, will be on the outside looking in when the season comes to a close. The Denver Broncos, on the other hand, have a better chance of making the playoffs, sitting at 6th in the Conference, but I am not convinced that phenomenal defense of yore is alone going to give them a repeat chance at the hardware. So let’s start off with the AFC picture:
AFC – The Byes
This section is going to start off with a bold prediction. The Kansas City Chiefs will not lose another game this season. They have Tennessee coming up after long rest, and close the season out with two division games against Denver and at San Diego. San Diego is not very good and I don’t expect them to play spoiler for anything, either. This would put Kansas City at 13-3 for the year and qualify them for the AFC West title and a BYE.
The Patriots are the other BYE in the AFC this year. Go figure right? The Patriots are a perennial playoff team and, despite me joking with Tim that Miami looked ripe to take the division a few weeks ago, they will be at the top of the AFC once again. I am putting the Patriots in the playoffs also as a 13-3 team. I believe Baltimore is always a hard match up for Tom’s Terribles and they may drop one because Baltimore has something important that they aren’t quite guaranteed to play for in an AFC North title. Even Miami and Denver, two team who also get good runs at the Patriots, will have playoff spots to play for.
AFC – The Remaining Divisions
The AFC South – My pick to come out of this division is going to be the Indianapolis Colts. They have not looked that great all year, but neither has the rest of the division. The big test is this week against Houston at home. The Colts are a huge 6.5 point favorite against the Texans after wiping the floor with the Jets. (I admit I may like the Colts against the spread this week too.) They have talent spotted throughout this roster, they have Andrew Luck, and now they are in the hunt for something. The Colts will finish 9-7 this year and it will be good for the division title.
The AFC North – I could really see this division going two ways. I am giving Pittsburgh the edge over Baltimore however, based on ease of schedule in games remaining. Baltimore has to play the Patriots and does not get the benefit of seeing the Browns for a third time. The Steelers get Buffalo, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Cleveland to close out and I think they win each of them. Pittsburgh wins the division at 11-5.
AFC – The Wild Cards
The Baltimore Ravens – I give Baltimore a close race for the AFC North, and think they will probably win 3 of their last 4. Even if they win just two, I have them competing with the Dolphins for that final Wild Card slot, and I just don’t think Miami can win enough games, facing three divisional opponents.
The Oakland Raiders – This is tough to call because the Raiders are playing great football lately. The Chiefs do have the tie-breaking edge after Thursday night’s game. I wouldn’t be shocked, however, if the Raiders won the division and Kansas City took the high Wild Card slot. Does anyone know if the two BYE teams can come out of the same division?
Actually, that isn’t possible. It would result in one of those teams being a forced Wild Card, even if each has better records than the rest of the AFC playoff teams
Close Teams on the Outside: the only two teams I can see squeaking into the playoffs despite my judgement are the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins.
NFC – The Byes
It disgusts me to say, and I can barely get the word’s out of my mouth without tasting last weekend’s dry heaves, but the Dallas Cowboys are, and are going to end up, the best team in Football. Right now, they are my pick to win the Superbowl. I desperately want to pick against them in the last game against the Eagles, but that’s hard for me to consider, even if they sit starters, because we’d probably still see Tony Romo play. I only have the Cowboys losing one more game to the Giants this week. I think every good team still has a crutch, and for the Cowboys, that is the Giants and that secondary. Cowboys finish the season 14-2 and earn a BYE.
I am trying to find a way to keep the Seattle Seahawks out of a BYE slot, but I can’t. Even with some of those head scratching games–the brutal tie to Arizona and the shocking lack of anything against Tampa Bay–the Seahawks are still one of the best teams in the NFC. Seattle gets the nod over Atlanta because even if the Falcons win out, that pesky tie is still a factor. Another team mathematically capable of getting it happens to be the Detroit Lions, but their path to it goes through Green Bay, who is vying really hard down the stretch just to make a playoff spot. At this point Seattle is almost guaranteed the BYE. They finish 11-4-1 to secure it.
NFC – The Remaining Divisions
The NFC South – I thought for a little bit here that this division was locked up weeks ago. The Falcons got off to a fiery start and showed again why they had maybe the best QB/WR duo in the league. I am still picking the Falcons to win this division down the stretch, but I think the stake is so tough and the Buccaneers seem to be playing really well, that it’s almost a toss up. And in all of this, the Super Bowl runner-up of last year still has a chance to play spoiler for one of these teams. Falcons win the division at 10-6.
The NFC North – This division is seemingly locked up already and the team at the top is two games better than the next two. I am down on the Vikings and I think they miss out on a berth this year. That leaves the Lions and the Packers trying for the top spot. I am not going to hedge my bets here and say that it could go either way (because I think Seattle takes down Green Bay today), so I am going with the Detroit Lions to win this division at 10 – 6.
NFC – The Wild Cards
The Green Bay Packers – It’s a close call in the NFC North, but as I said, the Packers will go down against Seattle this week with no running game and an entire offense dependant of beating Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, and put themselves a bit too far behind Detroit. I still think the team is worthy of a playoff spot, but it’s going to be at 9-7 as a wild card.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Sophomore season for Jameis Winston is taking this franchise to a good place. He is an all around weapon, he has great weapons around him, and this team is playing out of their minds lately. They’re getting into this playoff with a 9-7 record.
Close Teams on the Outside: Sorry Giants fans, it’s not your year. Though it is very close for this final Wild Card berth, I still have yet to see the Giants define the team they want to be. They have a solid, young and emerging secondary, they have Eli Manning and Odell, but they’re capable of losing to teams like the Redskins and the Lions. Just know, and be happy, that I have them beating the Cowboys this week.
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