Through seven weeks of the National Football League season, this is what the current playoff picture looks like throughout the league:
Current AFC Picture
1st Round Byes: 1. Cincinnati Bengals (6-0), 2. Denver Broncos (6-0)
3. New England Patriots (5-0) vs. 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)
4. Indianapolis Colts (3-3) vs. 5. New York Jets (5-1)
In The Hunt: Buffalo Bills (3-3), Oakland Raiders (2-3), Miami Dolphins (2-3), Houston Texans (2-4), San Diego Chargers (2-4)
Predicted AFC Picture
1st Round Byes: 1. New England Patriots (14-2), 2. Cincinnati Bengals (13-3)
3. Denver Broncos (11-5) vs. 6. Buffalo Bills (9-7)
4. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) vs. 5. New York Jets (11-5)
The New York Jets had another good showing, this time against the Washington Redskins. Chan Gailey’s offense put up 34-points and the defense looked like its usual self. With Chris Ivory leading the league in rushing despite missing a game, and Brandon Marshall looking like one of the game’s top receivers, the Jets offense might be good enough to make this team a threat to the New England Patriots. Ryan Fitzpatrick has gotten off to good starts in the past though, and has never been able to stay consistent through the season. If they want to challenge New England they will need to start by beating them this week.
It looks pretty likely that the Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, and Denver Broncos will win their divisions. The other three playoff spots are where it gets interesting. The Indianapolis Colts stayed competitive against the Patriots, but are only at 3-3 due to early season troubles. The Houston Texans beat the Jacksonville Jaguars this past week and sit just one game back. If the Colts do not pick up the pace they will have Houston nipping at their heals all year. However, do not expect a second playoff team out of this division.
At the moment, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills are the only teams legitimately competing for the final wild card spot. I would bet the San Diego Chargers insert themselves into the race, but past that no one looks intimidating. If the Bills can get healthy, I think they will beat out Pittsburgh. The Steelers offense will be prolific once again with Le’Veon and Big Ben when he gets healthy, but they still have questions in their secondary and on defense as a whole. The Steelers still have two games left against the Bengals, and their schedule as a whole is tough. The Bills only play two more teams, Jets and Patriots, that have winning records.
Current NFC Picture
1st Round Byes: 1. Green Bay Packers (6-0), 2. Carolina Panthers (5-0)
3. Arizona Cardinals (4-2) vs. 6. Minnesota Vikings (3-2)
4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) vs. 5. Atlanta Falcons (5-1)
In the Hunt: New York Giants (3-3), Dallas Cowboys (2-3), St. Louis Rams (2-3), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3), St. Louis Rams (2-4), Seattle Seahwaks (3-4)
Predicted NFC Picture
1st Round Byes: 1. Green Bay Packers (14-2), 2. Arizona Cardinals (12-4)
3. Carolina Panthers (11-5) vs. 6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
4. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) vs. 5. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers had a statement comeback victory against the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers are still undefeated, but I still do not view them as an elite team. At some point they are going to need more production from their running game. The toughest part of their schedule is coming. They have to play the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons twice, Indianapolis, and they have to play the Dallas Cowboys, in Dallas, when Tony Romo and Dez Bryant should be back.
I’ve been sticking with the New York Giants as the NFC East pick from the beginning of the season, but it ends now. The Philadelphia Eagles beat down the Giants on Monday night, but Sam Bradford looked pitiful in the process. With every team looking bad in the NFC East, the impending return of Romo and Bryant is the only thing that could change these standings around.
The Seahawks are losing ground in the playoffs race. A win against the San Francisco 49ers helps by getting them to 3-4, but they still have to make up ground on the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota plays the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, and Oakland Raiders over their next four games. They should be favored in every one of them.
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