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MJD

The absurdly premature 2010 playoff picture: Week 9

MJD
Shutdown Corner

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• I'm not sure how it happened, but the NFC's gradual shift from inferior conference to superior conference seemed to complete itself this week. I see five NFC teams that have a legit shot at winning the Super Bowl: the Giants, Eagles, Packers, Saints and Falcons. Meanwhile, I don't know if there's any team in the AFC you'd point at and say, "Yes, over the past two weeks, they have been Super Bowl impressive." The closest to that? The Oakland Raiders.

• Speaking of the Raiders, we might as well start there. I have the Chargers winning the AFC West, and Raiders fans ... well, I'm not their favorite person to begin with, so I'm expecting some hate mail on this one. Fair enough. Bring it on. But let me say this: I buy the Raiders (and have for weeks now) as a good team. I do not buy the Raiders as a playoff team. I know Jason Campbell's(notes) been winning games, but I'm not close to believing that he's a good quarterback. All those big completions that won the game on Sunday? Those happened because of Jacoby Ford(notes). The throws looked like they'd come from any other Raider quarterback of the last five years.

• I owe the Chiefs an explanation, too, and it's similar to the one I gave regarding the Raiders. In fact, they're pretty similar teams, complete in just about every way except for the quarterback and wide receivers. Matt Cassel's(notes) better than Campbell, but that's about as much as I'm willing to say for him. I think the Chargers are coming on. It's going to require a hell of an effort to hold them off.

• I still have the Steelers and Colts as the top two seeds, but to tell you the truth, it feels a little bit like I'm clinging to them irrationally. Both of their grips are extremely tenuous right now.

• The last AFC wild-card spot came down to the Patriots vs. the Titans. I let the schedule make the call, and the Titans' slate seems just a tiny bit softer. Of all the 6-2 teams in the league, I am most skeptical of the Patriots.

• Did you know that the Packers are five points away from being undefeated? Of their three losses, two went to overtime, and one was on a last-second Bears field goal. I'm feeling pretty good about the Pack right now. I'd feel comfortable putting either Atlanta or New Orleans in that second first-round bye spot, but I'm digging the Packers enough to keep them there.

• Speaking of the Saints, I gave them back the NFC South. It's not because I think there's anything wrong with Atlanta, really, I just feel like the Saints are about to go on a run. Their next four are Seattle, Dallas, Cincinnati and St. Louis. Atlanta's next four are Baltimore, St. Louis, Green Bay and Tampa Bay. If, at the end of that stretch, New Orleans isn't the division leader, I'll be surprised, and immensely impressed with the Falcons.

• I'd like to note that I'm not considering the Bears for absolutely anything, despite their 5-3 record.

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