Every week, we try to project what the playoff bracket will look like in January. To sift through who is for real and will make a postseason push, and who will fade out of the playoff picture down the stretch. 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.
After what Seattle did to New Orleans on Monday night, can anyone knock off the Seahawks? Who has the best chance to do it?
Anything can happen in the playoffs, so do not rule out New Orleans. Of course, after what we all saw on Monday, let’s eliminate the Saints from this discussion right now. Detroit is one team that could hang with Seattle. Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is a problem for any defense, and having running back Reggie Bush as a check-down option for Matthew Stafford is another huge asset. Detroit’s defense has played well against the run recently, plus this team is incredibly confident. If you are looking for an upset special, go with the Lions.
This potential Peyton Manning-Tom Brady showdown in the AFC championship game is too good to be true. So which team is going to screw it up and pull off an upset?
There should not be a team that messes up this showdown. Kansas City’s secondary was exposed by Denver in Week 13, while it is hard to imagine Indianapolis can go far in the playoffs. Cincinnati defeated New England earlier this season, but Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was injured and did not play in that game. This postseason showdown appears inevitable.
Can the Ravens actually make another playoff run?
Yes, but not because this team is great. The Ravens can do it because so many teams in the AFC are bad. That being said, Baltimore has a tough schedule. Minnesota, Detroit, New England and Cincinnati are Baltimore's remaining opponents. Baltimore could finish 1-3 in December and possibly miss the playoffs, however, it does not seem likely.
Still no 49ers, huh? Can they change your mind on Sunday?
Definitely. A win against Seattle will put San Francisco in the catbird seat, especially with Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Arizona remaining on its schedule. I expect San Francisco to lose, plus Philadelphia to defeat Detroit, which will leave both teams tied. Philadelphia is hot right now, and I refuse to bet against Nick Foles.
Is there a way for the Panthers to win the NFC South if they don't win at New Orleans on Sunday?
Of course. New Orleans will face Carolina again on December 22, and there is still plenty of time for the Panthers. If Carolina can split the season series, New Orleans must face Tampa Bay in the final game of the season, which gives Carolina a shot to win the NFC South. New Orleans did not play well against Seattle, but it is hard to believe the Saints will repeat that embarrassing performance again this season.
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