The not-at-all premature playoff picture: Week 16

In: Dolphins, Chargers, Bears, Cowboys
Out: Jets, Broncos, Vikings, Buccaneers

AFC First-Round Byes:
Tennessee Titans
Pittsburgh Steelers

Other AFC Divisional Winners:
Miami Dolphins
San Diego Chargers

AFC Wild Cards:
Indianapolis Colts
Baltimore Ravens

NFC First-Round Byes:
New York Giants
Carolina Panthers

Other NFC Divisional Winners:
Chicago Bears
Arizona Cardinals

NFC Wild Cards:
Dallas Cowboys
Atlanta Falcons


• Ironically, in Week 17, the closest possible time to the playoffs, is when the premature playoff picture becomes its most useless. There are no long-term projections involved. It's paint-by-number. It's really just a prediction of the Week 17 games, and here's what I think is going to happen. You can generate your own playoff picture right here.

• In the AFC East, I say New England beats Buffalo early, but still gets locked out of the playoffs when the Dolphins beat the Jets later. It'd be a bit of a shame that New England doesn't make the playoffs with 11 wins, but it does nothing to tarnish the accomplishment of winning 11 games with Tom Brady on the shelf. It also made Matt Cassel a hell of a lot of money.

• I've got San Diego beating Denver. This probably does not shock you.

• I say Carolina nails down the two-seed with a win over New Orleans, and of course, the Falcons will beat the Rams. But how crazy is it that Atlanta is even in play for a first-round bye in the playoffs? Before the season started, 4-12 was an optimistic projection for the Falcons. And if you could stretch your mind far enough to see them in the playoffs, it would have been with a 9-7 record built on smoke and mirrors. Incredible.

• After the heartbreak of last week and the general trying nature of the season, I don't see Philadelphia putting up some superhuman effort against the Cowboys. They win, they're in. Sorry, Tampa.

• If you'd have asked me on Saturday, I'd have predicted a Houston win over Chicago and not thought twice about it. But then they came out against the Raiders and played like the game was taking place during naptime. I've gotta go with Chicago now. And I don't see Minnesota beating the Giants, no matter what the Giants opt to do this weekend in terms of resting players.

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