December 14, 2011
With three weeks left in the season there are still 21 teams in NFL playoff contention. Who’s going to make it and who will be left at home wondering why they didn’t get the breaks to fall their way? After looking at the remaining schedules, here is what I project the NFL playoff seeds to look like.
No. 1 Baltimore Ravens – (13-3)
Key game: Week 17 at Cincinnati
Whoever ends up as the top seed will have to win their last three games. If the Ravens win the first two, a trip to Cincinnati will be a challenge with the Bengals likely playing for a wild card spot.
No. 2 New England Patriots – (13-3)
Key game: Week 15 at Denver
The Patriots need to win out to secure a first-round bye. Tom Brady and company haven’t had a lot of success in Denver but don’t expect them to lie down in the final minutes against Tebow like the Bears just did.
No. 3 Houston Texans – (13-3)
Key game: Week 17 vs. Tennessee
This game should mean a lot to both teams who play tough defense and like to run the ball. I like the home team in that type of game.
No. 4 Oakland Raiders – (10-6)
Key game: Week 15 vs. Detroit
Let’s hope the NFL sends its best conditioned officiating crew to Oakland on Sunday. With the way these teams can draw the flags and turn the ball over, this has the makings of a wild affair.
No. 5 Pittsburgh Steelers – (13-3)
Key game: Week 15 at San Francisco
The Steelers could steal the division title if the Ravens slip up. If not, they will be on the road in the first round against the winner of the AFC West.
No. 6 New York Jets – (11-5)
Key game: Week 16 vs. New York Giants
The battle for bragging rights in New York will impact multiple teams in both conferences. A win for the Jets will come close to locking down the final NFL playoff spot.
Outside looking in:
Cincinnati Bengals – (9-7)
Key game: Week 17 vs. Baltimore
If the Bengals can pull one out against Baltimore, they could sneak into the playoffs if the Jets lose a game.
Denver Broncos – (9-7)
Key game: Week 16 at Buffalo
They can still win the West if they lose against the Patriots. But if they lose at Buffalo they are in trouble. The streak of miracle finishes can’t last forever and I think their playoff hopes are dashed by the Bills.
Tennessee Titans – (9-7)
Key game: Week 17 at Houston
If the Titans can pull one out against the Texans, they could sneak into the playoffs if the Jets lose a game.
San Diego Chargers – (6-10)
Key game: Week 15 vs. Baltimore
The Chargers are still alive but must win out and get a ton of help.
No. 1 Green Bay Packers – (16-0)
Key game: Week 16 vs. Chicago
Green Bay should have the top seed locked up so this game will really only matter to them if they want to finish a perfect season. Unless they decide they would like to put the final nail in the Bears coffin.
No. 2 San Francisco 49ers – (12-4)
Key game: Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh
A win over the Steelers on Monday Night Football would silence a lot of doubters and put them in great shape to earn a first-round bye.
No. 3 New Orleans Saints – (12-4)
Key game: Week 16 vs. Atlanta
If the Saints can run the table they could end up with a first-round bye. If not, they will be the third seed.
No. 4 Dallas Cowboys – (9-7)
Key game: Week 17 at New York Giants
All signs point to this game being winner-take-all in the NFC East.
No. 5 Atlanta Falcons – (11-5)
Key game: Week 16 at New Orleans
The Falcons are just about locked into the fifth seed. But a win in New Orleans and another Saints loss could give the NFC South to Atlanta.
No. 6 Detroit Lions – (9-7)
Key game: Week 16 vs. San Diego
With road games at Oakland and Green Bay, the Lions must win this game at home. One more win could be all it takes to get the final wild card spot.
Outside looking in:
Chicago Bears (9-7)
Key game: Week 16 at Green Bay
The Bears have a chance to end the Packers perfect season and salvage theirs with a win on the road.
New York Giants (8-8)
Key Game: Week 17 vs. Dallas
With a win the Giants should be NFC East champs. A loss and they will be watching the playoffs on TV.
Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Key game: Week 16 at Cincinnati
Don’t look now but the Cardinals are making a run. Three wins, including a tough game on the road in Cincinnati and Arizona could come out of nowhere to make the playoffs if they get a little help.
Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
Key game: Week 15 vs. New York Jets
They were pronounced dead weeks ago but three wins and a lot of help would make the Eagles NFC East champions.
Seattle Seahawks (6-10)
Key game: Week 15 at Chicago
Wins over the Bears, 49ers and Cardinals give them a chance to sneak in.