With one week left, the playoffs are really the only thing that matters at this point. Let’s get into the clinching scenarios.
AFC Playoff Picture
We have our six teams for the AFC: Houston, Denver, New England, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati (in that order, but subject to change).
Cincinnati and Indianapolis are locked into their respective Wild Card spots, so the only question is who each will play next week.
Houston, Denver, and New England are in play for a first-round bye and home-field advantage. The scenarios are pretty straightforward too, as each team has faced one another during the regular season.
If Houston wins against Indianapolis, they clinch a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Indianapolis clinches a first-round bye with a win against Kansas City and clinch home-field advantage with a win and a Houston loss.
New England clinches a first-round bye with a win and a loss by either Houston or Denver. They clinch home-field advantage with a win and losses by both Houston and Denver. It should also be noted that New England could drop to the #4 seed with a loss and a Baltimore win.
NFC Playoff Picture
There’s still very much to be decided. Let me start by saying that Atlanta, Green Bay, Seattle, and San Francisco have clinched. Let me also note that Washington and Minnesota are currently in the remaining two playoff spots. If they win, they’re in. Simple as that.
The problem is that both are playing playoff contenders, so their victories are anything but a lock at this point.
Now the three teams on the outside, Chicago, Dallas, and the New York Giants need to win in order to have any shot (Chicago could also tie and have a chance, but that’s unlikely). Like Washington and Minnesota, Dallas is in with a win as well, since they’re playing Washington for the NFC East.
After that, things get extremely muddled. So I’ll direct you to the NFL.com’s interactive playoff scenarios. Click on the team name to see all of the possible ways they can get in.
As far as NFL awards and possible coaching changes are concerned, I’ll cover each throughout the week, along with a playoff preview. Now let’s pick. went 12-4 last week, bringing my season record to 155-85. Here are my picks for the week.
Atlanta over Tampa Bay
The Bucs downward spiral from a solid start continues, while Atlanta seems intent on actually winning a playoff game this season. They’re peaking at the right time.
Buffalo over New York Jets
The result of this game likely won’t matter in the long run, as both teams should be making major changes regardless of the outcome. II originally had the Jets in this one, but the ongoing saga that is…well, the Jets has caught up with me. Buffalo ends their three-game losing streak today.
Cincinnati over Baltimore
Both teams are in the postseason already and may rest some starters for next week’s game, so it’s a toss-up. Going with the home team in the Ravens game suited me pretty well last week. This week, it’s Cincinnati.
Chicago over Detroit
Though the records say otherwise, this game could go either way. Detroit isn’t exactly an easy out, but Matthew Stafford has had a pretty horrid season under center. Jay Cutler and the Bears have endured their share of criticism this season, but with a postseason berth well in sight, only their best will do. I’m betting on them to deliver.
Tennessee over Jacksonville
Tennessee will be out for revenge after losing to Jacksonville a few weeks back, but after last week’s 48-point slaughter at the hands of Green Bay, this one could go either way. Jacksonville hasn’t won a game since the last Titans game, so I’ll go with Tennessee.
Houston over Indianapolis
Whether Houston’s loss to Minnesota last week was more of a Minnesota win or not is beside the point. They’re still one of the best teams in the league and will get home-field advantage with a win today. And with Denver the likely #1 seed in the event that Houston loses, every AFC playoff team will be rooting for the Texans to win.
New Orleans over Carolina
I’m not Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, but this would be the deciding game for Ron Rivera’s future. A win this week would show serious potential for the team heading into the offseason. Unfortunately, I can’t see Carolina beating this Saints team.
New York Giants over Philadelphia
Even with a win, the Giants playoff chances are slim, but I still expect Eli and company to take care of business in the hopes of sneaking in.
Pittsburgh over Cleveland
I was picking Cleveland in this one, but with the injuries to both Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy, third-stringer Thad Lewis will get the starting nod. Can’t see that going well.
Denver over Kansas City
Looking back on the preseason and all of the questions surrounding Peyton’s tenure with the Broncos, it’s incredible to think that they may have exceeded our highest expectations. They’ll extend their win streak to ten this week.
Minnesota over Green Bay
I’ve been picking against the Vikings non-stop the second half of the season, so hopefully they’ll accept this as I try to make amends (I still don’t think they’ll win, but hey…).
New England over Miami
It may be close, but New England will pull it out. No further explanation needed, really. The Pats still have an outside shot at earning home-field advantage, too.
San Diego over Oakland
Terrelle Pryor starting at quarterback for Oakland makes this game an interesting watch, but it should also tip the scales in San Diego’s favor.
San Francisco over Arizona
Even with Arizona’s good defense, San Francisco has the advantage in every aspect of this game.
Seattle over St. Louis
The Rams are coming off a pretty impressive road win against Tampa Bay, but this is a different animal. No one’s knocked off Seattle at home and I’m not banking on St. Louis to be the first.
Washington over Dallas
It’s going to be great, that’s all I really know for sure. But a few things factor in to this pick. The biggest has to be Dallas’s record in “win, and you’re in” games. They were blown out by Philadelphia in 2008 and they lost to the Giants last season. Not to mention Washington’s six-game win streak. Dallas absolutely has a shot to win it, but nothing compels me to pick them.
Record (Week): 13-3
Record (Season): 168-88