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NFL Playoff Picture: Aaron Rodgers Holds The Key For The Packers

We're one week closer to the end of the season and the NFL Playoff Picture is still clear as mud. Here's a breakdown to help you sort it out.

I'm disappointed that my predictions for SB Nation Arizona's look at the NFL Playoff Picture have the entire NFC holding serve, but how clever can I really get? There are so many teams still in the playoff hunt that the final three weeks of the season won't be anything but interesting.

Here's my attempt at trying to sort out this mess.

Several more teams were mathematically eliminated from the hunt last week, but our precious Cardinals are still alive -- at least for a few more days.


Current Division Leaders:

Atlanta Falcons (11-2) - Took care of business against Carolina. Could possibly lose to Seattle at Qwest if they're caught looking ahead ... but probably not.  

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

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

Chicago Bears (9-4) - Depending on the seriousness of the Aaron Rodgers injury, the Bears could have just backed themselves into a division title. I'll assume Rodgers comes back, but that Detroit loss by Green Bay is going to give Chicago the second tie breaker (record within the division).

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

Prediction: 10-6, NFC North winner (wins within division tie breaker against Green Bay)

Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) - If they can take care of the Giants this week then they'll probably get the division and a bye in the playoffs. Don't think it will be that easy.

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

Prediction: 11-5, NFC East winner, first round bye

St. Louis Rams (6-7) - Despite getting spanked by the Saints, they still lead the NFC West. Matt Cassel's uncertain status leads me to believe St. Louis will take down the Chiefs this week. That might be enough to push them into the playoffs.

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

Prediction: 8-8, NFC West winner

Current Wild Cards:

New Orleans Saints (10-3) - Will need to win out and then succeed on some ridiculous tie breaker to win the NFC South. As hot as they are, I don't see them winning out. Road game in Seattle will be a fine consolation.

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

Prediction: 12-4, wild card

New York Giants (9-4) -So they got by Minnesota, but I'm still of the opinion that they'll lose a game they shouldn't -- Washington in the last week of the season is all that's left. Don't think they can pull that off.

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

Prediction: 11-5, wild card

In the hunt:

Green Bay Packers (8-5) - The loss to Detroit and the loss of Rodgers throws a serious wrench in the big plans I had for Green Bay last week. They'll need a road upset of the Patriots to get back on track.

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

Prediction: 10-6, out of playoffs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) - Won the Washington game that I didn't necessarily think they could win. Now they have two more victory possibilities and then a date with New Orleans to try and get in the playoffs. Good luck.

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

Prediction: 10-6, out of playoffs

Seattle Seahawks (6-7) - Would have been nice for them to actually show up in San Francisco. Nothing indicates they'll show up against Atlanta or Tampa Bay, either.

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

Prediction: 7-9, out of playoffs

San Francisco 49ers (5-8) - Beating St. Louis could give them a real chance to win the division. Still don't see it.

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

Prediction: 6-10, out of playoffs

Hanging by a thread:

Arizona Cardinals (4-9) - Pretty simple scenario for the Cards to find their way into the playoffs: win out, have SF lose to San Diego (and Arizona), have St. Louis and Seattle lose their next two and then have the Seahawks/Rams tie in Week 17. It's a lock.

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

Prediction: 5-11, out of playoffs

Not even math gives them a chance:

  • Washington Redskins (5-8) - Eliminated on a botched hold for an extra point. Fitting.
  • Minnesota Vikings (5-8) - There will be no final magic for Brett Favre. Good.
  • Dallas Cowboys (4-9) - Lost year finally succumbs to math. 
  • Detroit Lions (3-10) - Embracing their spoiler role in the NFC North with win over Green Bay. 
  • Carolina Panthers (1-12) - The Cardinals might be bad enough to get them a second win.  


Current Division Leaders:

New England Patriots (11-2) - Only way I see these guys losing the rest of the way is if they have home field clinched going into their final week matchup with the Dolphins. It's probable.

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

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

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) - Even if they win out, New England has to lose twice for the AFC Championship game to be guaranteed at Heinz Field. That won't be happening.

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

Prediction: 13-3, AFC North winner, first round bye (lose home field to Patriots due to head to head loss)

Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) - This week's game with St. Louis can be a serious game-changer for the Chiefs in the AFC West. My money's still on the Chargers -- somehow, someway.

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

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

Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5) - They continue to impress, although nobody notices they are doing anything.

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

Prediction: 10-6

Current Wild Cards:

New York Jets (9-4) - Realizing they can barely score a point, I think they'll be able to force Jay Cutler to throw them roughly 70 picks and then beat Buffalo a week later to clinch a playoff berth. It'll be a short stay, though.

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

Prediction: 11-5, wild card

Baltimore Ravens (9-4) - Took a gift victory from the Texans and will now probably win out. Unfortunately it still won't be enough to win their division.

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

Prediction: 12-4, wild card

In the hunt:

San Diego Chargers (7-6) - They took down the Chiefs, but they still need at least one more team to beat Kansas City and they need to win out. I'm telling you, it happens.

Remaining games: 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 (7-6) - If they can keep up the performance level they showed in a win over the Titans then 10-6 is very doable. However, if they again get punched in the mouth by a team with a winning record then it's probably over. Haven't beaten a team with a winning record since Week 2 (Giants).

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

Prediction: 10-6, AFC South winner

Hanging by a thread:

Oakland Raiders (6-7) - Tom Cable is a competent coach and Jason Campbell has been a decent QB, while Darren McFadden has broken out this season. Very watchable Raider team, but probably dead.

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

Prediction: 7-9, out of playoffs

Houston Texans (5-8) - One of those scenarios where the team has a chance, but they really have no chance at all. They'll finish close to or at .500 -- again. How do Texans fans put up with this?

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

Prediction: 7-9, out of playoffs

Miami Dolphins (7-6) - Nice win over the Jets, but all it's really going to do is shine a light on the fact that they lost to a team quarterbacked by Jake Delhomme.

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

Prediction: 9-7, out of playoffs

Tennessee Titans (5-8) - My desire not to Google the scenario in which the Titans can still win the AFC South matches the effort level they've provided in the past six weeks.

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

Prediction: 5-11, out of playoffs

Not even math gives them a chance:

  • Cleveland Browns (5-8) - The idea that Jake Delhomme is still getting NFL starts is baffling to me.  
  • Denver Broncos (3-10) - John Skelton owns these guys. 
  • Buffalo Bills (3-10) - Buffalo fans are impressively loud for a team that is just horrible. 
  • Cincinnati Bengals (2-11) - Could play their way into the #1 pick. Question is, do they dump Carson Palmer for a QB?