The NFC Playoff picture has changed dramatically in just one week. Injuries and some surprising losses have moved projected playoff participants to the brink, allowing teams like the 49ers a realistic shot at the postseason. Based upon my current projections, the top five seeds in the conference are clearly defined. The sixth and final spot will boil down to a four team jam. Who’s the last team in?
Remember, I’ve picked the remaining games based upon how I feel about each team RIGHT NOW. As was the case this week, injuries, suspensions, swine flu attacks, or poor play will require some chart tweaking. While the AFC may boast the superior conference, December should be an exciting month of NFC football. I’m still trying to devise a scenario where a Divisional Round game will be played outdoors in the northeast. To this point, I’ve had no such luck. There’s still time but I need the Vikings and/or Saints to start losing. Needless to say, my hopes are hanging by a thread. OK, enough with the appetizers, let’s bring out the main dish. Here are my week 13 NFC playoff projections.
You can access the chart here.
For now, the Saints and Vikings hold onto the first and second seeds, respectively. Barring some disastrous injury or unexpected losing streak, that is unlikely to change.
With the injury to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Michael Turner’s continuing ankle problems, I changed my week 13 pick to a Philadelphia victory in Atlanta. That victory propels the Eagles to an 11-5 record and into a tie for the conference’s third seed. Both Arizona and Philadelphia are projected to finish with identical conference records, so the third seed boils down to records in common games. Both teams faced off against the 49ers, Bears, Giants, and Panthers. The Cardinals finished 2-3 in those games while the Eagles finished 4-1 (both projected records). Therefore, the Eagles claim the third seed. If Kurt Warner isn’t healthy in the coming weeks, the Cardinals could finish a whole lot worse than 11-5. However, unless they lose three out of their remaining five games, the Cardinals won’t be in danger of losing the NFC West title.
At 10-6, the Dallas Cowboys would finish in fifth place and travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals in the Wildcard round. The NFC East is the most volatile division in the NFC. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Giants can all still win the division. While there’s a possibility of all three teams reaching the postseason, it’s likely that only two NFC East members will advance. Philadelphia and Dallas may very well meet on the final week of the season with the division title on the line.
Standing room only here. According to my current projections, four teams will be tied at 9-7 for the sixth and final playoff berth. Here’s how the crème de la crème will rise to the top of the 9-7 bunch. The Giants and Falcons are eliminated from the tiebreaking scenarios based on their conference records (7-5 and 6-6, respectively). Both the 49ers and Packers finished with identical conference records at 8-4. Green Bay snags the final playoff spot with a Week 11 head to head victory over the 49ers at Lambeau Field. The Packers would then travel to Philadelphia to battle the Eagles on the opening weekend of the 2009 playoffs. With four teams tied at 9-7 and three additional teams separated by just two games, an unexpected win here, or a stunning loss there, could turn the entire playoff pecking order upside down. This is why every game in December is so critical to the playoff picture.
It should be noted that the Bears are correctly stated as the 12th best team in the conference. They’ve been passed by the Seattle Seahawks based on conference record. I’m not adding Seattle to the chart because they’re not making the playoffs. Although, neither are the Bears. Watch out for the Carolina Panthers. If they win out, they’re in. OK, I’m kidding, but only about watching out for them. They really could get in by winning out.
There you have it. Through 12 weeks of NFL football that is where we stand. It’s possible that only two or three of my projected playoff participants actually make the postseason. December will be wild. Check back tomorrow for the AFC breakdown.
*I’m posting this before the end of the 3rd quarter of the NE/NO Monday night game for two reasons. 1. It looks like the Saints are going to win. AND 2. I’m trying desperately to jinx the Saints and hope to initiate a desperate 4th quarter comeback by the Patriots. UPDATE: The jinx failed miserably.