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MJD

The somewhat premature 2010 playoff picture: Week 12

MJD
Shutdown Corner

The NFL's Week 12 has forced a load of reconsideration here at the Premature Playoff Picture. The Bears have to be reconsidered after taking down the Eagles. The Falcons have to be reconsidered after an elite effort against the Packers. The Colts have to be reconsidered after a very non-elite effort against the Chargers. How will it all shake out? Can you handle the suspense?

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• Good news if you don't like the choices for top seeds in the AFC: This week, we have what basically amounts to two playoff games for those spots. Pittsburgh and Baltimore get at it on Sunday night, and then the Jets and New England clash on Monday night. The winners will be in those spots next week. I don't remember there ever being a better Sunday night/Monday night combo.

• For this week, though, in both instances, I went with -- stop me if you've heard this before -- the better quarterback. That's good news in particular for the Pats, because Tom Brady(notes) is playing some of the best ball of his life. They're at home and they've been maybe just a smidge more impressive than the Jets in recent weeks ... I think they win this game.

• Chargers or Chiefs? That's maybe the toughest call to make in the entire playoff picture. It's just hard to find an edge here. Both teams put the hammer down last week. The rest of the way, both teams play Oakland, Denver, and each other. San Diego also has San Francisco and Cincinnati, while KC also has St. Louis and Tennessee. They each have three on the road and two at home. Looking at tiebreakers (skipping the remaining head-to-head matchup for a moment), both teams are 1-2 within the division, while the Chargers are 5-3 in the conference against KC's 4-4. The winner of the game between these two teams is pretty likely to win the division. That one's next week, in San Diego.

• Colts or Jaguars? They both sit at 6-5 right now, and Jaguars fans (theoretical as they might be) must get so sick of hearing this, but I have to go with the team that has Peyton Manning(notes). Experience is with Indy, and even with all the injuries, I believe talent still is, too. The remaining Indy vs. Jacksonville game is in Week 15.

• It's hard to argue too much with Atlanta right now. The one big question mark is the secondary, and they just held Aaron Rodgers(notes) and the Packers to 17 points. That's a full touchdown under their season average. The Falcons are 9-2, relatively healthy, and have even given off a strong "clutch" vibe on a couple of occasions. They're here because they've earned it.

• If we are to avoid a 7-9 team in the playoffs, one of the following things will have to happen: St. Louis will have to win three games in their last five against Arizona, New Orleans, Kansas City, San Fran and Seattle; or Seattle will have to win three in their last five against Carolina, San Fran, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. Both teams could be 7-8 heading into their Week 17 game. I'll be rooting like hell for a tie.

• And finally, the Bears. What can I say? I was wrong, and I'm a dope. Their defense is among the league's best, and the offensive line has come together at the right time. I still think the Packers will find a way to win the division, and I still think Jay Cutler(notes) will kill them in a couple of games, but here they are. A playoff team.

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