Shutdown Corner - NFL

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.

The absurdly premature 2011 playoff picture: Week 6

• Two new faces in this week's A3P, one returning and one making their debut. We'll start with the debutantes, the Washington Redskins. They were on a bye this week, so it's not like I've changed my mind about their eventual mediocrity (nor did Deion sway me with his "Rex Grossman is consistent" argument). Sometimes, if you just sit on your hands and let everyone else wrap piano wire around their own neck, you can find yourself moving up in the world.

[Video: NFC East is up for grabs]

• The teams with the piano wire? The New York Giants, who couldn't hold off the mighty Seahawks; the Chicago Bears, who are clearly built for the sole purpose of ending Jay Cutler's(notes) life; the Atlanta Falcons, who let the Packers go on a 25-0 run; and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who just lost by 45 to an NFC West team.

• Speaking of the NFC West, this is the first time in recent memory the NFC West's representative hasn't been in the last division winner spot in the conference. The East, at least at the top, is now officially worse.

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• Which brings us to the Cowboys as division champions, which unfortunately for me, I have to justify somehow. I realize that this is an odd time to express this particular feeling, but I've got faith in Tony Romo(notes). I don't believe he's going to keep blowing games like he has been. And when he's not blowing games, the Cowboys are pretty good. This is a team that's beaten San Francisco on the road and Washington at home, and lost to the Jets and Lions by a total of seven points.

• Over in the AFC, we'll start with the returning Pittsburgh Steelers. I know they've had their problems, but the team I watched slap around the Titans on Sunday looks like a playoff team to me. Ben Roethlisberger(notes) and his receivers are still capable of shredding a defense. And the Steelers defense, while it isn't as dominant as it usually is, is still better off than a lot of teams, and it'll only get better as it gets healthier. Up next are Jacksonville and Arizona, then two measuring sticks against New England and Baltimore.

• Also, this was coincidental, but a Steelers/Raiders playoff matchup feels like it would be a nice tribute to the legacy of Al Davis.

[Related: Was Al Davis the 11th man on game-winning play?]

• Baltimore moved up to the No. 2 seed at the expense of the Texans. The Ravens sat out this week, and to me, there was no one else who even deserved consideration for that spot. If the Texans don't like it, there's good news for them: They can go get it back by beating Baltimore this weekend.

• Something else to look for over the next week or two: If the Bengals are able to beat the Colts at home this weekend, and then Seattle on the road, would they have to get a spot at 5-2?

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