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Shutdown Corner Playoff Projection – Packers cannot make the playoffs without Aaron Rodgers

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It's never too early to project what the playoff bracket will look like in January.

Through the season we'll try to guess what the NFL playoff picture will look like when the season ends. To see which teams are for real, and which are going to collapse despite their great early season record. You might have been 6-2 at the halfway mark, but that doesn't mean you'll be standing on top of your division at the end. It's important to note this is our ever-changing prediction of how we think things will play out and not necessarily a current plugging-in of teams with the corresponding records.

Think of it as "bracketology" for the pigskin set.

(Check out last week's Shutdown Corner Playoff Projection here.)

The NFC playoff picture got a bit more wide open after Monday night, didn’t it?
The team with the healthiest quarterback wins? Green Bay, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis have sustained quarterback injuries this season, while Minnesota cannot figure out who its passer should be. Seattle and New Orleans are the NFC’s best teams, but the New York Giants (2-6) have an outside chance of winning the NFC East. Anything can happen, and probably will.

Can the Packers make the playoffs if Rodgers misses just three weeks?
No. Why? We all saw Seneca Wallace play this past Monday. He completed 11-of-19 passes for 114 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception during a loss against the Chicago Bears. Green Bay is without Jermichael Finley, who was placed on injured reserve this week, while Randall Cobb is still recovering from a leg injury. Wallace has a 6-15 record as a starter, and Green Bay is poised to fall further behind Detroit and Chicago in the NFC North.

What about the Bengals, do all their injuries come back to haunt them?
As long as Cincinnati is in the same division as Cleveland, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the Bengals should win the AFC North. It is impossible to replace Geno Atkins, while losing cornerback Leon Hall (torn Achilles tendon) and safety Taylor Mays (dislocated right shoulder) are big blows too. However, Cincinnati has a good cushion heading in the second half of this season.

Have the Patriots turned a corner after blasting the Steelers?
What most people fail to realize is New England continued to win despite injuries and Tom Brady’s inconsistent performances. It was just a matter of time before Brady got out of his funk, and four touchdown passes during a blowout win against Pittsburgh proved why you should never doubt his capabilities.

Who's Chicago's toughest competition for the six seed?
The Philadelphia Eagles – only if coach Chip Kelly sticks with quarterback Nick Foles. If Kelly really wants to continue this Michael Vick experiment, then Philadelphia does not have a chance to the make the playoffs. Foles will not throw seven touchdowns in every game, but he is definitely better than Vick. Carolina is playing well, but let’s see what happens after the next three games – San Francisco, New England and Miami.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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