October 19, 2011
The absurdly premature playoff picture presents one man's projection for the NFL playoffs, at each given week in the season -- even if that week is unreasonably early.
• We start in the NFC, where pretty much everything became more difficult to project this weekend. Two positions remain untouched: the Green Bay Packers at the top and the Detroit Lions in the first wild-card spot. Everything else got monkey-wrenched.
• The San Francisco 49ers have shoved the Saints out of the two-spot. Beating Detroit on the road is as impressive as anything anyone's done all year, and not only that, the schedule looks kindly upon the 49ers. They still have five of their six NFC West games remaining, and Cleveland and @Washington are should-wins, too. Things set up pretty nicely for the 49ers.
• The Saints, for the first time, are out of a bye position. I know, I know -- they're tied for the NFC South lead with Tampa Bay, which just beat them. It stands to reason that the Buccaneers would get this spot, but I still need to see some consistency from them. I don't think that's asking too much after you squeak by the Colts and lose 48-3 to the Niners. I still think the Saints, long term, are the better squad.
• How does one pick a winner of the NFC East? Including the Redskins here was clearly a mistake, but Dallas was impressive in defeat against New England, and the Giants regrouped to beat the Bills. The Giants are up a game-and-a-half, but check out their upcoming schedule. They get to moonwalk through Miami, and then have this six-game stretch: @New England, @San Francisco, Philadelphia, @New Orleans, Green Bay, @Dallas. The schedule isn't nearly as stiff for Dallas. You're my man, Tony Romo(notes).
• The Bucs grab the last wild-card spot without much real competition. The Redskins played themselves out of contention, and it's really hard to see two playoff teams coming out of the East, which eliminates the Giants. I guess the Falcons could make a case at 3-3, but it wouldn't be stronger than Tampa Bay's. Suggesting the Chicago Bears wouldn't be entirely crazy, either.
• The big move in the AFC is the Ravens snatching the two-spot away from the Texans. It would've been a lot more fun to see that game with Andre Johnson(notes) and Mario Williams(notes), but that's the way the cookie crumbles. I can think of no reason why another team would deserve their spot.
• The Texans don't slide too far, though. I've still got them winning the AFC South. Even without Andre Johnson and Mario Williams, they went into Baltimore and matched them blow-for-blow for more than three quarters. Johnson will be back soon. It's a little trendy to pick the Titans at the moment, and they do have the division lead, but I'm not going to do it. The Texans are a more complete team.
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