NFL Playoff Contenders: How Did They Get Here?
And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in the NFL Playoff picture
And you may ask yourself: Well... How did I get here?
As we enter the final week of the NFL regular season some teams have already qualified for the playoffs while others are still hoping to get in, even in the face of dwindling mathematical possibilities. How did everyone get where they are? Here's a quick rundown.
Houston Texans. First things first, the Texans have had a solid year. You don't get 12 (possibly 13) wins without being a very good team. That being said, they got absolutely skunked in their three losses to Green Bay, New England, and last week at home to Minnesota, when they could have locked up home field throughout the playoffs. Sunday's game at Indy with #1 seed still on the line will be very telling.
Denver Broncos. Let's not beat around the bush, the Broncos are where they are for two reasons: Eli Manning and they play in the absolute worst division in football. They're also only 2-3 against playoff-bound teams. That being said, they have a solid defense and will definitely be a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs, especially at home.
New England Patriots. Their high-octane, up-tempo offense aside, this year's Patriots don't seem all that different than last year's Patriots or the year before that. They have the ability to absolutely demolish some opponents, but when they don't they leave themselves open to excruciating defeats. Their four losses this year have been for a total of 11 points, 7 of which came in that crazy game with San Francisco. The Super Bowl is always within their grasp, but beware that one "nip and tuck" game.
Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have been intermittently mediocre on offense and defense all season long, yet here they find themselves in the playoffs and looking at possibly an 11-win season. They ignored Ray Rice, fired their offensive coordinator, lost old-but-still-scary Ray Lewis, and are a team that no one is talking about. Who cares that their two signature wins over Cincy and New England came in the first three weeks of the season, unexplainable teams like this should scare you s**tless.
Indianapolis Colts. Two big reasons: Andrew Luck and a team that rallied behind coach Chuck Pagano. The third reason should have been a weak schedule but the Colts played and beat some pretty good teams. They remain the feelgood story of the season.
Cincinnati Bengals. They punched their playoff ticket and #6 seed with a win at Pittsburgh last week. No apologies necessary. In fact, because of the Bengals the AFC is no muss, no fuss with any other stragglers hoping to get into the playoffs.
Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons have to go down as the most suspect runaway conference champion ever. It can be argued that they won a lot of their games because their opponents expected them to kinda suck more than they did. If they win a playoff game (just one), those thoughts will fade quickly.
Green Bay Packers. Like a lot of teams the Pack have battled injuries all season long. Unlike any other team, they have a phenomenal QB that many thought was having an "off year" by his standards. All Aaron Rodgers has done is throw 35 touchdowns and only 8 picks for a QB rating of 106.2. He's the reason they are where they are. He's in for a brawl in Minnesota this coming Sunday. The question is, how much does Green Bay want that #2 seed?
San Francisco 49ers. They beat the Packers at Green Bay and New England at New England, which looks good on any resume. They've had their low points too. And there's not a team out there that doesn't want to wallop ultra-arrogant coach Jim Harbaugh.
Washington Redskins. RG III. Alfred Morris and a good D has helped, but Robert Griffin III has been the difference from day one. It's amazing to think that they could still miss the playoffs. If they're in, is there any team that wants to play them?
Seattle Seahawks. If you win every single game at home you have a very good chance of making the playoffs. Those replacement refs and that Russell Wilson guy were pretty influential too.
Minnesota Vikings. NFL MVP Adrian Peterson. The guy has done it all. Question is, does he have one last big game in the tank? Vikes beat the Pack on Sunday and they're in. A loss and they'll need a whole lot more than Purple Jesus to make the playoffs.
Chicago Bears. The Bears have managed to win nine games despite having Mike Tice as an offensive coordinator. In that way they are pure magic. A Vikes loss and Chicago win against Detroit (no given) and they are in.
Dallas Cowboys. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten have been huge, but are they enough to make up for Tony Romo in a must-win game in late December?
New York Giants. The Giants are already filling out their organ donor cards. Funny thing is, if they manage to beat Philadelphia (a big "if") they could still sneak in with losses by Minnesota, Dallas, and Chicago. The reasons they are where they are many: lackluster pass rush, erratic Eli, nicked-up Nicks, grounded ground game, poor play-calling, the list goes on and on.
Enjoy Week 17, all!