Join Date: Feb 2010
Week 12 Rankings / Playoff Predictions
This is an update on my mid-season rankings. I feel that now, enough games have been played to create an accurate picture of the playoff contenders in each conference.
The six playoff teams in the NFC, ranked by strength:
1.) Green Bay
2.) Atlanta (with homefield advantage)
4.) New Orleans
5.) New York Giants / Chicago
6.) Seattle / St. Louis
- I think that, at this point, Green Bay is quietly making the case for best team in the NFC if their defense continues to play in a shutdown fashion and Rodgers continues to show his ability to be the top quarterback in the NFL. They had a lull earlier in the season, and a spate of injuries, but at this point I think they are beginning to stabilize into the Super Bowl favorite we saw at in the preseason. They will win the NFC North going away.
- Atlanta, to me, is an above-average, but not elite team. What makes them dangerous is their ability to play at an elite level at home. It's a cliche, but if they secure homefield advantage in the playoffs, they will easily be second only to the Packers as the NFC favorite, in my opinion. Without homefield advantage, however, I can see them losing in the divisional / championship round to a team like Green Bay at Lambeau or Philadelphia at the Linc. Because of the weakness of their remaining schedule, they will *probably* win their division; the question is whether or not they will attain the #1 seed.
- Philadelphia is a strong team with questions about the durability of its quarterback and questions about the consistency of the defense. They stand a good chance to win their division, as long as they sweep the Giants or sweep the Cowboys. If they don't win their division, the Giants will, and Philadelphia will have to settle for a wildcard spot.
- New Orleans is similar to Green Bay: a strong preseason favorite who only recently has begun to play up to its ability. Key components to the offense are now returning and will provide a surge for the Saints in the remaining weeks of the regular season. Because Atlanta will play such a weak schedule, I don't see the Saints winning the division, but they will undoubtedly secure a wild-card spot.
- New York is a team with a tough defense and a powerful, but sloppy offense. If they get their act together they could easily finish strong and win their division, but I feel that they will have to settle for a wild-card if they want to make the playoffs this year. If they struggle down the stretch, they will have to fight for a wild-card spot with the Bears.
- Chicago is a another team, similar to the Giants, with a tough defense and a rather sloppy offense. Is their defense tough enough to weather the mistakes made by their quarterback? I don't think they are, at least not in the playoffs. I think that the Packers are far superior to the Bears and will snatch the NFC North from them before the regular season is complete, leaving the Bears to fight for a wild-card spot with either Philadelphia or New York, or maybe a surprise team such as the Bucs.
- The winner of the NFC West shouldn't even be allowed into the playoffs. If the NFL was smart, it would force the NFC West winner to reliinquish its playoff spot to the inevitable 10-6 or 11-5 team in either New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, or Tampa Bay who will be left out of the fight for one of the last wild-card spots. Whoever wins the NFC West this year will only be granted the privilege of being blown out in the wildcard round. Right now, the least crappy team in the NFC West appears to be the Seahawks, but clearly, they'd be last in their division anywhere else. Sad. Look for the Rams to make a late season push and compete for the division, but it won't matter in terms of the playoff picture.
The six playoff teams in the AFC, ranked by strength:
1. New England
3. San Diego
4. New York Jets
6. Baltimore / Kansas City
- I have New England #1 simply because they have the best offense in the NFL right now. Belichick's defense is hardly as good as some of his old 2000s units, but it's well-coached and improving. As long as Brady keeps them in every game, their defense will be adequate. I think they win the AFC East, barring any meltdown vs. the Jets on MNF. If they don't win their division, they obviously at least secure a wildcard spot.
- Pittsburgh still has the best defense in the AFC, and possibly the NFL. After a blowout win over Oakland, they still look like serious Super Bowl contenders. My only concerns with this team are their offensive line, which is leaky at best and porous at worst, and their overall age (one of the oldest rosters in the NFL - teams with older players slow down later in the season). They win their division without question due to a weak schedule and probably secure a #2 seed.
- San Diego has the best quarterback in the NFL right now. Their defense is solid and has the ability to pressure the QB. If they can weather their storm of injuries, and iron our their terrible special teams, they will once again be the best overall team in the AFC. Because the Broncos are garbage, and the Raiders are mediocre, and the Chiefs are merely above-average, I think the Chargers will make a late-season push to win their division.
- The New York Jets are not the same team they were last year. Their defense is not the shutdown defense we were accustomed to seeing last year. It is merely above-average this year. However, their weaker defense has been overshadowed by the improved play of QB Mark Sanchez. I don't think they are nearly as strong as the Patriots, Chargers, or Steelers, but I do think they will either win their division or contend for a wild-card, depending on the results of their game with the Patriots.
- Indy is definitely not as good as they were last year. Injuries have rocked this team. However, they still have Peyton Manning, and he gives them a chance to win every game. Because the Tennessee Titans no longer have even a remotely competent quarterback, and because the Texans have the worst defense in the league, and because the Jaguars are mediocre, the Colts will win their division yet again, despite a likely 10-6 or 9-7 record.
- Baltimore is known for their tough defense but this year, like the Jets, their defense is not what it used to be. They are merely a solid team without their trademark shutdown defense. They can't overtake Pittsburgh for the division, but they can still contend for a wild-card, and will fight for the second wildcard spot (the one not taken by one of the AFC East teams) with one of the AFC West teams such as the Chiefs or maybe the Raiders.
- Kansas City has a solid squad, but neither an elite defense nor an elite offense. They have definitely improved over last year, but I still don't think they can go toe-to-toe with the Chargers over the rest of the season for the division title. They will have to fight over a wildcard spot to make the playoffs, but ultimately, one of the wildcards will be locked up by an AFC East teams, and the other will likely go to the Ravens. There is a chance, however, that the Ravens suffer some major letdowns due to their declining defense and the Chiefs sneak into the playoffs.