As we currently stand, these are the current playoff standings, followed by how I believe they’ll look at seasons end.
Current AFC Picture
1st Round Byes: 1. Cincinnati Bengals (5-0), 2. Denver Broncos (5-0)
3. New England Patriots (4-0) vs. 6. Buffalo Bills (3-2)
4. Indianapolis Colts (3-2) vs. 5. New York Jets (3-1)
Predicted AFC Picture
1st Round Byes: 1. New England Patriots (14-2), 2. Cincinnati Bengals (13-3)
3. Denver Broncos (11-5) vs. 6. New York Jets (9-7)
4. Indianpolis Colts (8-8) vs. 5. Buffalo Bills (10-6)
This week was further proof that the AFC is just bad overall. This was highlighted by the Monday night game between San Diego and Pittsburgh. Both teams did not look good, but both are in contention for the playoffs.
The Jets will regress. To those that think they’re going to challenge New England for the division, don’t get your hopes up. Their wins are against the disaster that is the Miami Dolphins, the struggling Colts, and the Browns. They also lost to the Eagles who had been playing terrible at the time. The reason I have the Jets in the playoffs is simply by default. No one else has impressed, so since the Jets have a head start, they are the favorites to get a wild card spot. The good thing for them is their schedule stays easy. They’ll play 6 more games against teams from the two worst divisions in the NFC East and AFC South.
The Bills also have an easy schedule ahead. The biggest difference is they play the Bengals instead of the Browns, and the Chiefs instead of the Raiders. While their schedule is slightly more difficult, I still give the edge to Buffalo. Tyrod Taylor has looked better than Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills have also suffered more injuries than the Jets. The advantage will go to the team that fairs better in their head to head match ups, and right now I’d pick the Bills.
While I have the Broncos and Colts winning their divisions, I would not pick them to beat the Jets or Bills in the wild card. The Colts have looked bad, and Peyton Manning has been poor in the winter. This year may be even worse, because he already looks hampered.
The Raiders and Browns may both be in contention for the playoffs. The Browns are coming off a win against the Ravens, and the Raiders put up a valent effort against the Broncos. With few teams challenging for the playoffs, both teams shouldn’t be ruled out. The way Josh McCown has looked, the Browns especially shouldn’t be overlooked.
Current NFC Picture
1st Round Byes: 1. Atlanta Falcons (5-0), 2. Green Bay Packers (5-0)
3. Arizona Cardinals (4-1) vs. 6. Minnesota Vikings (2-2)
4. New York Giants (3-2) vs. 5. Carolina Panthers (4-0)
Predicted NFC Picture
1st Round Byes: 1. Green Bay Packers (14-2), 2. Atlanta Falcons (12-4)
3. Arizona Cardinals (12-4) vs. 6. Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
4. New York Giants (9-7) vs. 5. Carolina Panthers (11-5)
The NFC is the stronger of the conferences. While the NFC East looks weak, every other division has at least two playoff contenders. The Packers are the favorites, but they have a lot of challengers. The biggest question right now is, who will emerge to challenge Green Bay?
I believe the Falcons will be the team to emerge. They have started off undefeated, and have finally found a young and talented running back in Devonta Freeman. Freeman is giving the Falcons a running game they haven’t seen in years. With Julio Jones playing out of his mind, and the defense looking capable, the Falcons are dangerous.
I’ve said since before the season that I think the Giants will make the playoffs. They in no way are a challenge to go deep in the playoffs, but they have played like the best team in the division. The Eagles haven’t looked bad the past few weeks though, and with Romo and Dez’s return getting closer the Giants need to keep winning games now and hold their lead.
The last wild card team was a tough one. There are a lot of things to like about the Minnesota Vikings. Adrian Peterson is running wild, and Teddy Bridgewater should play better at some point. The Seahawks have been there and done that. They look like a different defense with Kam Chancellor back in action. With Marshawn Lynch returning from injury, the Seahawks should figure it out. The one thing they need to do though is improve their offensive line, or else they may not figure it out.