In a week that was supposed to bring a little more clarity into the playoff picture, many fringe contenders responded by making it even more muddled. Entering this week, 24 teams are still mathematically alive for the postseason.
Of the four 6-6 NFC teams in need of a win last week, three did just that. The lone loser, Tampa Bay, now needs a miracle to get in. Essentially, the NFC playoff picture is down to the nine teams: the six currently who currently hold spots (Atlanta, San Francisco, Green Bay, New York, Seattle, Chicago) and the three teams chasing them (Washington, Dallas, Minnesota).
As far as the AFC is concerned, an eighth team was added the fray after losses by Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
That team is, wait for it…the New York Jets.
Yes, the injury-riddled, butt-fumbling New York Jets are 6-7 and will remain a game out of sixth place with a win this week. You can’t make this stuff up.
Now let’s pick. I went 10-6 again last week, bringing my season total to 132-76.
Bengals over Eagles
The Eagles kept it close for much of the game, but once the turnovers set in (Bryce Brown HAS to work on his ball security this offseason), Andy Dalton and company pulled away.
New York Giants over Atlanta
For a team almost expected to bow out of the playoffs after one game, this could be a huge statement game for Atlanta. But after losing to the Panthers last week, and the Giants scoring big against New Orleans, I can’t bring myself to pick Matt Ryan. Even at home.
Green Bay over Chicago
Huge playoff implications in this one. The winner takes the division lead, while the loser could be on the outside looking in when the week is finished. The Bears lost to Adrian Peterson and the Vikings last week, giving them even more motivation to knock off their arch rival. But I’m giving the nod to Aaron Rodgers and the Pack to take care of business and move one step closer to the postseason.
Washington over Cleveland
Robert Griffin III is not expected to start today, so enter fellow rookie Kirk Cousins. The Browns have won three in a row and look like a whole new team from the one we saw early in the season, but Washington has won four straight and should make it five today.
Minnesota over St. Louis
The formula worked last week for the Vikings: Adrian Peterson + a competent Christian Ponder + big plays on defense = victory. St. Louis is a quiet 6-6-1 this season and technically still alive in the NFC, but their respectable run defense won’t be enough to keep points off the board.
Miami over Jacksonville
Because “who cares?” is the lazy route to take, I’ll leave it at this: Miami’s defense gets the better of Chad Henne and the Jags.
New Orleans over Tampa Bay
Even a Saints team that’s a shadow of their pre-suspension selves isn’t an easy out. Tampa Bay learned first-hand at home earlier this season, and they’ll get a refresher in the Superdome.
Denver over Baltimore
I want to believe that the Broncos will lose before the postseason, but I can’t bring myself to pick against them this week. The Ravens defense is capable of frustrating Peyton Manning, but I’m unsure of Joe Flacco having success against the Denver defense.
Houston over Indianapolis
The Colts have two of their last three against Houston and can take the division with a sweep. What Andrew Luck’s done this season is worthy of Rookie of the Year, but helping his team take the AFC South would be MVP-worthy. Even he has his limits.
Seattle over Buffalo
Seattle’s record away from home is, well, bad (2-5), but Buffalo’s road record is the same. You can call Toronto a home game for Buffalo, but I still don’t see them bringing much to the table here. The Seahawks defense is still chomping at the bit after forcing eight Arizona turnovers last week.
Detroit over Arizona
Q: Who’s starting at quarterback for Arizona this week? A: Doesn’t matter. Unless it’s Kurt Warner from 2008, I’m not picking them (I’m sure they’ve given him a call, too).
San Diego over Carolina
Back to reality for Carolina: the team is still too inconsistent and the coach is likely still on his way out after the season.
Pittsburgh over Dallas
I picked Dallas to win a big game last week against Cincinnati and they delivered. Now we’ve reached the point in the show where they drop the next game to an easier opponent (in my opinion, anyways).
Oakland over Kansas City
I was surprised to see that Carson Palmer has thrown 22 touchdowns to 14 interceptions this season. Probably because those 14 interceptions have been so abysmal, I thought they were all that he did.
New England over San Francisco
Colin Kaepernick has played well since taking the starting job from that other guy who was playing well too. But like Alex Smith, I question his ability to make big plays when an opposing offense presses him to do so.
Tennessee over New York Jets
ESPN executives have to be excited about the Jets still being in the playoff hunt – three Tebow-less hours of two teams with nothing to play for certainly wasn’t their vision for this game back in April. I picked the Jets originally, but I’m switching to Tennessee because wouldn’t that be hilarious?
Record (Week): 11-5
Record (Season): 143-81