NFL Playoff Picture: Plotting The Chicago Bears Collapse

The season is winding down and although the Cardinals are basically dead, SB Nation AZ takes a look at the playoff race in each conference.

Now that we're into the final four weeks of the NFL season, I've decided in my infinite wisdom to prepare a look at the playoff picture. You know you wanted more hot, steamy Scott Howard NFL chat. In case you're not an NFL expert (like me, obviously), I'll remind you that there are four division winners and two wild cards in each conference -- a happy medium between the too-few playoff teams in Major League Baseball and the over-abundance of teams in the NBA and NHL.

The Cardinals are involved! Sort of. 

NFC:

Current Division Leaders:

Atlanta Falcons (10-2) - Completely in charge of the NFC. Whether they get to play the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome will depend in large part on their home contest with New Orleans in Week 16.   

Remaining games: @Carolina, @Seattle, v. New Orleans, v. Carolina

Prediction: 13-3, NFC South winner, home field advantage throughout NFC playoffs.

Chicago Bears (9-3) - Nobody has a tougher schedule down the stretch. It would show incredible resolve for this team to be able to hang on. 

Remaining games: v. New England, @Minnesota, v. New York Jets, @Green Bay

Prediction: 10-6, out of playoffs (head to head loss to Giants)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) - They can probably still win the NFC East if they lose to the Giants in two weeks. But I wouldn't advise it. 

Remaining games: @Dallas, @New York Giants, v. Minnesota, v. Dallas

Prediction: 11-5, NFC East winner

St. Louis Rams (6-6) - As everyone predicted, the Rams are the NFC West leaders. Their last two road wins were a joke (Broncos/Cardinals).  

Remaining games: @New Orleans, v. Kansas City, v. San Francisco, @Seattle

Prediction: 7-9, out of playoffs

Current Wild Cards:

New Orleans Saints (9-3) - The champs will have to earn their way into the playoffs with the schedule they've got coming. 

Remaining games: v. St. Louis, @Baltimore, @Atlanta, v. Tampa Bay

Prediction: 12-4, wild card

New York Giants (8-4) - For some reason, I can't shake the feeling that this team is going to drop an inexplicable game down the stretch. Minnesota or Washington seems appropriate. 

Remaining games: @Minnesota, v. Philadelphia, @Green Bay, @Washington

Prediction: 10-6, wild card

In the hunt:

Green Bay Packers (8-4) - All four of their losses are by three points. This team is better than their record. 

Remaining games: @Detroit, @New England, v. New York Giants, v. Chicago

Prediction: 11-5, NFC North winner, first round bye (head to head win over the Eagles)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) - Three of their four games are against teams with worse records, but I just think this team is going to have to wait until next year ... when they will be the team I predict to take a major step back.

Remaining games: @Washington, v. Detroit, v. Seattle, @New Orleans

Prediction: 9-7, out of playoffs

Seattle Seahawks (6-6) - I'm just as unimpressed as you are, but this is probably a playoff team. 

Remaining games: @San Francisco, v. Atlanta, @Tampa Bay, v. St. Louis

Prediction: 8-8, NFC West winner

Hanging by a thread:

Minnesota Vikings (5-7) - Favre will find a way to put Vikings fans out of their misery this week against the Giants. He's a hope crusher. 

Remaining games: v. New York Giants, v. Chicago, @Philadelphia, @Detroit

Prediction: 6-10, out of playoffs

Washington Redskins (5-7) - The great Donovan McNabb experiment rolls on while the team's playoff life will not. 

Remaining games: v. Tampa Bay, @Dallas, @Jacksonville, v. New York Giants

Prediction: 7-9, out of playoffs

Dallas Cowboys (4-8) - I was just as surprised as you were to find out they are still alive. Here's the breakdown -- it's a .1% chance.

Remaining games: v. Philadelphia, v. Washington, @Arizona, @Philadelphia

Prediction: 6-10, out of playoffs

San Francisco 49ers (4-8) - Still only two games out in the NFC West and they've got games with both the Rams and Seahawks. But no Gore = probably no chance. 

Remaining games: v. Seattle, @San Diego, v. St Louis, v. Arizona

Prediction: 5-11, out of playoffs

Arizona Cardinals (3-9) - Yup, there's still a chance. Unfortunately, John Skelton can only win games for his team (he won't) and not force teams he's not playing to lose (they won't).

Remaining games: v. Denver, @Carolina, v. Dallas, @San Francisco

Prediction: 4-12, out of playoffs

Not even math gives them a chance:

  • Detroit Lions (2-10) - They fought, they scrapped, they lost a lot.
  • Carolina Panthers (1-11) - Andrew Luck and a new coach. Congrats.

AFC:

Current Division Leaders:

New England Patriots (10-2) - After their blowout win over the Jets, the NFL is on notice. Home field advantage should be theirs. 

Remaining games: @Chicago, v. Green Bay, @Buffalo, v. Miami

Prediction: 13-3, AFC East winner, home field advantage throughout AFC playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) - The AFC playoffs are destined to be Pittsburgh visiting New England for the AFC title, right?

Remaining games: v. Cincinnati, v. New York Jets, v. Carolina, @Browns

Prediction: 12-4, AFC North winner, first round bye

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) - Matt Cassel's body picked a really bad time for an appendectomy. Dwayne Bowe can't afford any more zero catch games. Fortunately, there is no more Champ Bailey on the schedule.

Remaining games: @San Diego, @St. Louis, v. Tennessee, v. Oakland

Prediction: 10-6, out of playoffs (see tie breaker scenario for San Diego)

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5) - Who the hell knows? The Colts might just give this division to them. Somehow I still doubt it. 

Remaining games: v. Oakland, @Indianapolis, v. Washington, @Houston

Prediction: 9-7

Current Wild Cards:

New York Jets (9-3) - They can't beat teams with winning records, but the idea that they're going to completely collapse is overblown.

Remaining games: v. Miami, @Pittsburgh, @Chicago, v. Buffalo

Prediction: 11-5, wild card

Baltimore Ravens (8-4) - No matter how much they bore me, they're probably making the playoffs. Good for whiny ass Anquan, I suppose. 

Remaining games: @Houston, v. New Orleans, @Cleveland, v. Cincinnati

Prediction: 11-5, wild card

In the hunt:

Oakland Raiders (6-6) - Unfortunately, I don't think the Chiefs will fall apart enough for these guys to overcome their tough schedule. Nice wins over the Chargers, though. Janikowski may have lost them the playoffs and the Cardinals the #1 pick in Week 3.

Remaining games: @Jacksonville, v. Denver, v. Indianapolis, @Kansas City

Prediction: 7-9, out of playoffs

San Diego Chargers (6-6) - Going to have to beat Kansas City, win out, and probably get help to take the division.

Remaining games: v. Kansas City, v. San Francisco, @Cincinnati, @Denver

Prediction: 10-6, AFC West winner (the way I figure it, they get the division based off the fourth tie breaker, which is conference record. Head to head will be even, division record should be 3-3 each, and common opponents should end up 6-2. Get all that?)

Indianapolis Colts (6-6) - Can these guys wake up? I think they can and will. Probably ambitious to think they'll win  four straight, but I'm not one to count out Peyton Manning. 

Remaining games: @Tennessee, v. Jacksonville, @Oakland, v. Tennesee

Prediction: 10-6, AFC South winner

Hanging by a thread:

Houston Texans (5-7) - Schedule down the stretch really isn't that bad, but they need a ton of help and they're still the Texans. 

Remaining games: v. Baltimore, @Tennessee, @Denver, v. Jacksonville

Prediction: 7-9, out of playoffs

Miami Dolphins (6-6) - They probably should have considered winning some games at home so they could avoid needing a miracle to make the playoffs. 

Remaining games: @New York Jets, v. Buffalo, v. Detroit, @New England

Prediction: 8-8, out of playoffs

Tennessee Titans (5-7) - They've lost five straight and don't seem to give a shit. It's over, but math says they belong here. 

Remaining games: v. Indianapolis, v. Houston, @Kansas City, @Indianapolis

Prediction: 5-11, out of playoffs

Cleveland Browns (5-7) - Really interesting team to watch. If they'd turned a few of those close ones, they'd have a real chance. But they didn't.

Remaining games: @Buffalo, @Cincinnati, v. Baltimore, v. Pittsburgh

Prediction: 7-9, out of playoffs

Not even math gives them a chance:

  • Denver Broncos (3-9) - So bad that Josh McDaniel got fired.
  • Buffalo Bills (2-10) - Have played too well to get the #1 pick, but not well enough to be relevant. Tough spot.
  • Cincinnati Bengals (2-10) - Mess of veterans on a really bad team. Fun times in Cincy.

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