The #NFL Playoff Picture: Cloudy with a Chance of a Snowy Super Bowl
The Snow Bowl bonanza was on this past weekend as snow and ice hit several NFL games, some of which were great shootouts or a blowout (see: Chiefs demolition of the Redskins on the road).
Here’s some of the immediate reactions from the past week…first is Vikings’ All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson and his rant against Baltimore fans and NFL officials:
Seattle Seahawks lost a close division game on the road vs. the San Francisco 49ers, but Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman had this to say about the refereeing (per CBSSports.com):
“We expected to blow them out but they got the benefit of a few calls tonight throughout the game and that helps you especially on third down, we will see them again and it will be a different result.”
Here’s how the playoffs stand as of RIGHT NOW (per NFL.com):
So, as it stands, the Broncos will face the lowest-winning seed from the AFC and the Patriots will face the highest-winning seed in the same conference. In the NFC, the Seahawks will wait for a low-seed winner and the Saints will get the highest seed winner. Right now, that seems muddled with teams in the wild-card chase.
As of right now, the Wild-Card Chase looks like this:
- Ravens at Bengals: The Ravens are on a roll, but the Bengals have a stouter defense that gives up only 98 rushing yards per game). Flacco has a max contract, but I’m not impressed with their wins and losses, which could have gone either way. The Bengals are running the AFC North Division for a reason, so I give the Bengals a slight edge because their run defense should stop the Ravens’ Ray Rice in his tracks.
- Chiefs at Colts: The Chiefs and Colts are not top-caliber playoff teams. Both have run out of steam. Yes, the Chiefs beat down the Redskins on the road, but they were bad as it was. The Colts have had ups-and-downs all season and Andrew Luck has been sacked 29 times this season (via ESPN.com)! This won’t be a pretty game, but the Chiefs’ defense is really good. I pick the Chiefs.
- Niners at Eagles: Niners are not the team they were a year ago, with a new face at QB in Colin Kaepernick and weapons at his disposal. Their top wide receiver Michael Crabtree, fresh off an injury, didn’t do much versus the Seahawks last week. Eagles are rolling with Nick Foles at the helm of the offense, throwing an absurd 19 TD passes and 1 interception. I pick the Eagles at home in cold weather.
- Panthers at Lions: Panthers peaked too early and got smashed by the Saints in the Superdome, where it’s hard to win. Cam Newton looked downright human by the New Orleans Saints defense. The Lions can outscore anyone at will, but will face a tough Panthers defense with star linebacker Luke Kuechly manning the middle. The Panthers only give up 79.4 rushing yards per game and 216 in the air. Panthers in a comfortable win.
Who could surprise in the Wild Card Chase?
- Miami Dolphins have the best and most likely only shot at the playoffs. Why? Their schedule (and the schedule of the Ravens). Miami is at home vs. Patriots (10-3), at Bills (4-9), vs. Jets (6-7). Ravens are at Detroit (7-6), home vs. Patriots (10-3) and at Bengals (9-4). If Miami can win 2 of 3 and the Ravens lose 2 of 3 (which is possible), the Dolphins are in.
Who won’t make it down the stretch?
- Arizona Cardinals: They’re 8-5, just lost their potential rookie of the year defensive player in Tyrann Mathieu, and they go on the road to face 5-8 Tennessee Titans, at Seattle (11-2) and are home against the Niners (9-4). That’s a tough mountain to climb.
- Chicago Bears: They’re 7-6, hardly out of contention. They have a semi-favorable schedule to finish the season: at Cleveland Browns (4-9), at Philadelphia Eagles (8-5), then home against the struggling Green Bay Packers (6-6-1). If they win against the Browns and Packers, they have to hope that the Lions will also lose the majority of games down the stretch. Almost impossible, but you never know. But, the Lions face are home vs. Ravens (7-6), home vs. Giants (5-8), and go on the road against the Vikings (3-9-1). Chicago will be outside looking in.
- Dallas CowGirls, er, Cowboys: They have a favorable schedule, home vs. the Packers (6-6-1), at Washington Redskins (3-10) and home vs. Eagles (8-5). They have to at least win all their games to guarantee a playoff spot, plus hope for some help. What could help? They have to hope that the Panthers will lose two of three if not all their games, where the Panthers face the Jets (6-7) and Saints (10-3) in Carolina (6-7) and go on the road in Atlanta versus the Falcons (3-10). Or, they have to hope the Niners lose out too, and the Niners go on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9), home vs. Atlanta Falcons (3-10) and go on the road against the Cardinals (8-5). That’s a Hail Mary prayer. And, on top of that, Tony Romo may be great in November, but he’s struggled in December, where games really count. He has a lifetime record of 11-16 in December (per ESPN.com), far below his November record of 24-5 (also via ESPN.com). We’ll probably be seeing more of this:
- Green Bay Packers: They don’t have their all-star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and instead have Matt Flynn, who is regaining his magic touch in Green Bay. But, he is no playoff quarterback. And, their schedule is not friendly to a playoff run: at Cowboys (7-6), vs. Steelers (5-8), at Bears (7-6). With all their injuries, it’d be hard to beat the high-scoring Cowgirls, er Cowboys, and the Bears. They could beat the Steelers if Flynn gets hot. Their only chance at winning is scoring often, as none of these teams boast a top-notch defense. It’s gonna be a cold winter in Green Bay.
- San Diego Chargers: Sure, Philip Rivers has had a rebound year, but his defense hasn’t been good or consistent. Their schedule isn’t kind either, being in the AFC West, home of the Broncos and Chiefs. They face the Broncos on the road, at home versus the lowly 4-9 Oakland Raiders then the Chiefs come into town. Unless they find lightning in a bottle, their season is over.
- New York Jets: Um, no chance. They’re too inconsistent and their schedule isn’t favorable to a playoff run. They’re at the 9-4 Panthers, home versus the 4-9 Browns and on the road at Miami. This could be Rex Ryan’s last year in New York City.
- Tennessee Titans: I’ll put it this way: NO WAY. Yes, their schedule is favorable, but they’d have to hope the Ravens and Dolphins lose all their games and they win all of theirs. They face the 8-5 Cardinals in Miami, at Jaguars (4-9) and home versus Texans (2-11).
And here’s the weather right now in NYC, where this year’s Super Bowl will be played in February (just to give you an idea of the Northeastern weather during the fall-winter):