- Colts (14-1)- Poised to go undefeated, then Manning pulled
- Saints (13-2)-Looking mortal with 2nd straight loss
- Chargers (12-3)- 10 consecutive wins and have Colts #
- Eagles (11-4)-Hang on for 6th straight, showdown in Dallas
- Vikings (11-4)- Confidence diving with loss to Bears
- Packers (10-5)-Could do damage in playoffs
- Patriots (10-5)-Defense could be putting things together
- Cowboys(10-5)-Showdown in Dallas for NFC East title
- Cardinals (10-5)-Could be facing unique doubleheader
- Bengals (10-5)- Offense lagging behind 4th ranked D
- Steelers (8-7)- Finding ways to win and stay alive
- Ravens (8-7)- Let victory slip from their grasp vs Steelers
- Jets (8-7)- Could get boost into playoffs by resting rivals
- Broncos (8-7)- Likely out of playoffs with 2 wins after 6-0 start
- Texans (8-7)- Tough playoff odds as Pats need to win
Saturday, January 2, 2010
While the NFC playoff teams are set, determination of the AFC post season participants continues to be a complex math equation. All the division winners have been determined with the exception of the NFC East, where Sunday's winner of the Eagles and Cowboys game in Dallas takes the crown. Seven AFC teams remain in the hunt for the two wild card spots.
Although they have lost two straight and momentum heading into the post season, New Orleans has clinched home field advantage in the NFC by virtue of their 13 wins. Their secret to success has been to use their top ranked offense and turnovers to keep their defense off the field, but struggle somewhat against teams that protect the ball well.
The next best team in the NFC appears to be the Eagles, who have weathered injuries to string together 6 consecutive wins and continue an upward ascent. Conversely, the Vikings continue to falter in the late season after looking to be a powerhouse. They have relinquished control of a first round bye with three December losses to the Eagles, who can take the NFC East and the #2 seed with a win in Dallas on Sunday.
Standing in their way is a Cowboys team that is playing its best ball of the season and gathering fans on its band wagon. Tony Romo is playing well and looking to shake the rap of coming up small when the games get bigger. They have extra motivation provided by the memory of last year's season ending crushing defeat by the Eagles that lost the division title and a playoff spot.
The most likely scenario is that the Packers contest with the Cardinals this week will be a preview of the first round playoff match-up. Arizona has an outside shot at moving up to the #2 or #3 seed, but both teams may choose to show little to their opponent and try to keep players fresh. All NFC teams have the ingredients to make a run in the post season.
In the AFC, the Colts and Chargers are the clear top teams. Indianapolis players seemed disappointed that their rookie coach opted to pull Peyton Manning and rest other players last week, which likely cost their undefeated season. They have been down this road before with the dilemma of whether to keep momentum or players healthy heading into the post season. Colts and Chargers players are also aware that the Chargers have had their number in the past.
Currently, the Jets and Ravens control their own destiny. The Ravens face the Raiders, whose season ending upset last season allowed the Eagles to squeak into the playoffs. The Jets square against the AFC North Division Champion Bengals, who have little to gain with a victory. After being the beneficiary of good fortune last week against the Colts, the Jets could find a similar scenario this week to help them get into the playoffs.
Of all the potential AFC wild card teams, the Steelers may be the most dangerous. They have a history of playing well in the new year as evidenced by the Lombardi Trophy sitting on the Rooney's mantle. They can still get in, but oddly might need help from the arch rival Bengals, which provides one more reason for them to rest players.