Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 NFL Playoff Picture Coming into Focus

Week 16 of the NFL season is in the books and with it the majority of playoff spots that were once up for grabs, now have been locked in place. All that is left to determine in Week 17 is the NFC South champion, NFC North Champion, AFC North Champion and the AFC number 6 seed.

How did all these seeds get locked up? Lets recap:

1) Philadelphia Eagles Buttfumble their chances: About a month ago you couldn't find a person who thought the Eagles were going to roll into the playoffs even with Mark Sanchez at the helm. Heck, some people were going as far as to say Sanchez was going to avenge his critics and become a superstar since he was no longer on the Jets. Guess what? There is a reason why the Jets dumped this guy, he flat out stinks. Sanchez sunk the Eagles chances with three horrendous performances in a row to send the Eagles (9-6) out of the postseason. His two turnovers against the Redskins, including an interception that iced a Skin's comeback spelled doom for Philly.

While Sanchez shoulders plenty of blame, the Eagles defense wasn't any better allowing the Seahawks, Cowboys and Redskins to tear them up for three straight weeks.

2) How Bout them Cowboys! Thanks to Philadelphia's collapse, the Cowboys surged to the top of the standings. The Boys took care of the Colts 42-7. Dallas (11-4) still has a chance at the number 1 seed, but they will need to defeat the Redskins and hope that both Seattle and Green Bay lose on Sunday.

3) NFC likely going through Seattle: The Sehawks destroyed the quarterback-handicapped Cardinals on Sunday, 35-6. Now Seattle is in full control of the NFC West, and likely in control of their own playoff fate. If the Hawks win on Sunday against the lowly Rams, they will have home field through the NFC playoffs for the second straight year. Opposing teams had a nightmare of a time going through Seattle last year, and Seattle is playing the best football of any team in the League right now. The Seahawks are the odds on favorites to go all the way.

4) NFC North comes down to one game: The Packers host the Lions in a crucial NFC North Championship. Both are 11-4, but the Packers have a strong advantage having this season finale at home, and with Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback. The Lions are a good team, but they have been known as a
soft team in big spots. If the Lions want to get rid of the soft label, win this game. Won't happen. At least the Lions get the wild card.

5) NFC South comes down to one sloppy game: Unlike the NFC North where two teams are 11-4, the NFC South comes down to the 6-8-1 Panthers and the 6-9 Falcons. Both have had horrible seasons, and both could see their head coach get fired at years end, but a win on Sunday would get one of these teams into the postseason. The Falcons are home for this game, expect Atlanta to play for embattled coach Mike Smith.

Current NFC picture
1) Seattle (11-4)
2) Detroit (11-4)
3) Dallas (11-4)
4) Carolina (6-8-1)
5) Green Bay (11-4)
6) Arizona (11-4)

Predicted NFC picture
1) Seattle (12-4)
2) Green Bay (12-4)
3) Dallas (12-4)
4) Atlanta (7-9)
5) Arizona (11-5)
6) Detroit (11-5)

Meanwhile the AFC picture crystallized this week thanks in big part to the Bengals-Broncos match-up. After blowing a 20-7 lead, the Bengals came back from 28-27 down to beat the Broncos 37-28. Peyton Manning was awful on Monday night, throwing four picks, and still doesn't look like the same guy who was setting passing records on a weekly basis.

1) AFC North: The win for the Bengals means Cincinnati will make the postseason, avoiding the possibility of being out of the postseason entirely.  While Cincinnati has an outside shot at the number 2 seed (not likely since Denver plays Oakland), the Bengals will play for the AFC North in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

The winner likely gets the number three seed in the AFC, with the loser ending up as the number 5 seed. Both the Steelers and Bengals have been widely inconsistent this year, but the Steelers experience should carry them to the top of the North. Then again, the Bengals have been discounted all year, so watch out.

2) New England had a relaxing Week16: For New England, they clinched the AFC East a long time ago, but thanks to the Bengals victory they clinched home field throughout the AFC playoffs. That is huge since New England had to travel to Denver last year for the AFC Championship, this time around the Broncos would have to go to Foxboro.

3) Should we be worried about Denver? Yes. The Broncos have not played well of late. The lost to the Bengals on Monday, and barely got past the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers in weeks prior. Manning has been dealing with both the flu and a thigh injury. If Manning doesn't play well down the stretch the Broncos Super Bowl chances are going down the drain. 

4) Should we be worried about the Colts? Like Denver, yes. The Colts too have been madly inconsistent. Andrew Luck was horrible against Dallas, in fact he didn't even finish the game. Luck has turned the ball over six times in the last four games, and the Colts have had issues getting off to fast starts in these games. The Jaguars, Redskins and Browns all had leads on Indy in their respective games. Only Cleveland had the best chance to beat them of that trio. The Colts might be the one home team that gets whacked in the first round.

5) The sixth seed comes down to San Diego and Baltimore. The Ravens have not played well lately, especially defensively. They blew a big lead to the Chargers and got smoked by the Texans in recent weeks. In fact the Chargers own the tie-breaker against the Ravens.

While San Diego hasn't played well at home lately, they have been road warriors. They beat the Ravens a few weeks back, and, recently erased a 21-point deficit to San Francisco, winning 38-35 in overtime. If the Chargers get in, they will be the one team nobody will want to play in the playoffs.

Current AFC picture
1) New England (12-3)
2) Denver (11-4)
3) Cincinnati (10-4-1)
4) Indianapolis (10-5)
5) Pittsburgh (10-5)
6) San Diego (9-6)

Predicted AFC picture
1) New England (13-3)
2) Denver (12-4)
3) Pittsburgh (11-5)
4) Indianapolis (11-5)
5) Cincinnati (10-5-1)
6) San Diego (10-6)

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