In: Jets, Vikings
Out: Patriots, Bears
• This is much harder to do late in the season when it's based on real, tangible factors, as opposed to early in the season when it's based on whim, educated guess and bar arguments.
• I'm leaving Tennessee in the one-slot, because I think they're beating the Steelers on Sunday. The Steelers just played an emotional and crippling bruiser of a game, while Tennessee got a slap in the face and a wake-up call from the Texans. I say the Titans win this week, but please note that this is not an indication of which I think is the better team.
• Even though everyone who matters in the AFC East won on Sunday, it doesn't really make sense to pick anyone but the Jets to win that division right now. They've got the tiebreak advantage with divisional record, and nothing else is predictable enough.
• A Jets/Colts/Favre/Manning wild card-round matchup would look rather attractive to the television people, I'd think.
• For that second AFC wild card spot, Baltimore's the choice. The Ravens have a tough game against Dallas this weekend, yes, but they have a better conference record than the Patriots or Dolphins, and they beat the Dolphins head-to-head. If the Jets win that division, Baltimore would likely have the tiebreaks over the Pats and Fish for the wild card spot. They're no lock, of course, far from it. But they will be the best team available for that spot, and I don't think it's close. I'd consider it a shame if they missed the playoffs. BCS-like, really.
• I say the Giants bounce back and beat the Panthers this week, too. And how awesome is it that in Week 16, we've got games in each conference where two teams are playing for the No. 1-seed? That just doesn't happen. Bless you, schedule makers, and may Santa Claus shower you with joy and high-quality pornography.
• I guess I have to move the Vikings in at this point, but I don't think the Bears are done yet. The Vikings play the Falcons and Giants, while the Bears get the Packers and Texans. Put a gun to my head, and as the bracket reflects, I'll take the Vikings. But the Bears aren't dead.
• You were superb on Sunday night, Dallas, but I'm sorry, I still have to go with the Falcons and Bucs for the wildcard spots. It's a matter of schedule, and after an emotional week, and a tough physical win over a division rival ... it's going to be really difficult to bounce back and beat an angry Baltimore team that feels like it was violated last week. That Eagles game is very losable, too. I'm impressed that you've righted the ship. But you are not owed a playoff spot.