Shutdown Corner Playoff Projection – Broncos own the AFC; Panthers make the postseason

Anwar S Richardson

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.

Please explain how the NFC East race will finish; that division gives me a headache.
Imagine how Cowboys owner Jerry Jones must feel right now. Dallas should have the best team, but the Cowboys’ defense is putrid. Can you remember the last time Dallas struggled over the past few years and Tony Romo was not to blame? Has it ever happened? Philadelphia is poised to take over this division with Nick Foles under center. I am giving Dallas one more week before I apologize to Eagles coach Chip Kelly for doubting him.

You have the Broncos over the Chiefs for the AFC West. So obviously you think Denver wins this week.
To be the man, you have to beat the man. Kansas City has played extremely well, but this is Denver’s division right now. Once Kansas City proves it can handle Peyton Manning, the Chiefs will get the top seed. Until then, the Chiefs have something in common with Eli Manning - both are Peyton's little brothers.

You think the Broncos win at Arrowhead in a couple of weeks?
If Kansas City beats Denver 31-0 on Sunday, that would make any current prediction look ludicrous. Let’s see what happens this weekend before we go there.

Could we really get a Peyton Manning-Tom Brady AFC title game? Say it's going to happen.
Oh, it should happen. New England is poised to receive a first-round bye, which will increase the Patriots’ chances of appearing in the title game. We all know Tom Brady can win games in the postseason. However, Peyton Manning has struggled in the postseason, and his body is taking a lot of abuse during the regular season. If Manning can hold up, Denver has a great shot.

What chances do you give the Panthers of winning the NFC South? Because if they do, we're talking about a possible No. 2 seed for them.
Carolina has a small chance with two games remaining against New Orleans, but there is no way I am betting against Sean Payton right now. Payton is turning in another masterful coaching job, and I cannot see Carolina defeating New Orleans at home. If Carolina makes the playoffs as a wild-card team, that is still a major accomplishment.

You see any chance of Arizona ever popping up in this projection? They are 5-4 after all.
Is Carson Palmer still Arizona’s quarterback? Yes? Then the answer is no. Palmer has thrown 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season. Arizona recently defeated the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, but the Cardinals are not good enough to earn an NFC wild-card spot.

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

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