Shutdown Corner Playoff Projection – Saints lock up top NFC spot; Texans miss playoffs

Anwar S Richardson

It's never too early to project what the playoff bracket will look like in January, even after just one week.

Through the season we'll try to guess what the NFL playoff picture will look like when the season ends. To see through which teams are for real, and which are going to collapse despite their great early-season record. You might be 6-2 at the halfway mark, but that doesn't mean you'll be standing on top of your division at the end. 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

How does it feel to be the only guy in America who picked the Saints to win the Super Bowl before the season?

If the Super Bowl was being played this weekend, I’d be happier than a camel on Wednesday. There is still a lot of football left, but New Orleans is the NFL’s well-rounded team. Sure, Denver can put up a lot of points, but Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo shredded that defense this past weekend. I have asked readers for weeks to join me on this bandwagon. This is your last chance.

Is this Colts team for real? After seeing what Tony Romo did to the Broncos, can Andrew Luck beat them in the playoffs?

When a team wins at San Francisco and defeats the Seattle Seahawks, that is as real as it gets. Peyton Manning is putting up incredible numbers this season, but never forget a very important statistic - his playoff record is 9-11. Manning has a Super Bowl ring, but the playoffs have been his weakness. That means Indianapolis has a real shot in the postseason.

Not buying the Browns as AFC North champs?

You do know Brandon Weeden is back under center, right? Weeden’s teammates can try to talk themselves into believing in their quarterback, but he would still be on the bench if Brian Hoyer was healthy. Reality is going to set in very quickly with Weeden as Cleveland’s starter.

Is there any way the Patriots don't win the East? Can the Dolphins make a run, or did Sunday's loss expose too many issues?

Not only did Sunday’s loss expose several issues, but New England gets Rob Gronkowski back this week, and that is the nail in Miami’s playoff coffin. Actually, I think the New York Jets have more upside than Miami. Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith continues to improve, and New York’s defense has played well. New York has a better chance of making the playoffs than Miami.

Are the Texans and Falcons really finished? They were so good last year.

Matt Schaub is still Houston’s quarterback. Falcons receiver Julio Jones is done for the year. Game over.

Of these six projected division champions, which one is the shakiest?

The NFC North is very perplexing. One day Detroit beats Chicago, but then the Lions look helpless against the Packers without Calvin Johnson. Just when you want to believe in Chicago, the Bears lose two consecutive games. This is the most difficult division to figure out right now.

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