The NFL season has reached its ¾ mark and is heading down the homestretch for the playoffs. So, this seems like as good as time as any to review the teams that look to have a shot at the playoffs. For this analysis, I didn’t only look at the record, but also tried to assess the “Have they beaten anyone any good?” question, because let’s face it, there are a lot of bad teams in the NFL this season.
In baseball parlance, I’m calling a “quality win” a win against a team that is currently playing 0.500 or better. We’ll also look at the remaining schedule to see how many “quality” teams are left to play.
Dallas – currently 8-4, owns tie-breaker with Eagles due to their win in November. Actually, when you look at the Cowboys, the only other QW they have is against ATL. Their remaining schedule is brutal with SD, NO, and PHL. Another December swoon (which started yesterday in their loss to NYG) and I think Wade Philips is toast.
Eagles – as much as I love them (and hate them), they are also at 8-4, but the only QWs they have are NYG and yesterday’s demolition of the injury-depleted Falcons – so I’m not even sure how to count that one. Tough games against NYG, DAL and DEN remain, with only a home game against the almost-eliminated Niners as one that “ought” to be a win. Have I mentioned how that other-universe-ish loss to the Raiders in October is gonna bite them?
Giants – at 7-5, they might have saved their season with a good win vs DAL yesterday. They have another make or break against the Eagles this week, a couple of winnable games and then a finale against the may-not-be-playing-for-anything Vikings. In addition to the ‘Boys, they have 3 total QWs (the most in the division) due to beating DAL twice and ATL. With the tough PHL and DAL games ahead, I can totally see them grabbing a playoff spot, with one of the other two teams shut-out.
Minnesota – so, Vikings fans, did last night’s clunker against the Cardinals make you worry? The Vikes have 3 QWs (GB twice and BAL) but haven’t had one since Nov 1st. At 10-2, they’ve got an easy enough schedule after a tough game with CIN this weekend and making the playoffs – and even getting a bye shouldn’t be a big deal. After that?!?
Packers – At 7-4, the Packers have shown that if they can keep Aaron Rogers on his feet, they’re pretty good – though their only QW is against DAL a couple of weeks ago. Their position relative to the Giants will be determined with their game against BAL tonight – though they have a tough schedule remaining. They’re going to need help I think to make the playoffs. Man, that inexplicable loss to TB may haunt them.
Saints – is there anyone in this division except the Saints? We all watched with horror as the Redskins found a truly I-wouldn't-believe-it-if-I-hadn't-just-seen-it way to crap away a game they’d won, but I’m not worried about the Saints. They have more QWs than anyone in the NFL – MIA, ATL, NE, PHL, NYJ and NYG, which is pretty remarkable. I actually wonder if the loss might have done them well, since they wouldn’t have any “undefeated” distractions. With homefield almost certainly going through the Superdome, these guys are gonna be tough to beat if they stay healthy.
Atlanta – at 6-6 they’re still a viable playoff team, but with their injuries, they’re done. Their only QW is against the also 6-6 Dolphins, and after yesterday's wipeout, they’re going nowhere.
Cardinals – another 1-team division, with the Cardinals cruising at 8-4. They have QWs against JAX, NYG and MN and are starting to look more like the Superbowl team they were in January and less like the mess that started this season. The win vs the Vikes may play out for a bye if the Vikings stumble as the only game they have left against a team with a winning record is a final week match-up with the Packers. Would the Packers throw a game (if they were already eliminated) to screw Brett and Vikings — oh, you know it!
To me, I think the playoff picture will pan out with the Saints as #1 seed, and the Vikings will hold onto #2 (I think they’ll win a game or two and the Cardinals won’t win out even when they should). I have a weird feeling that the winner of next week’s Eagles-Giants game will win the NFC East. I think that Dallas’ schedule will sink them, though if the Pack loses to the Ravens tonight, they should be able to squeak in as a WC. If the Pack wins, I think that last spot is a toss-up.
AFC musings tomorrow!