We are at the halfway mark of the football season, and while many things have stayed the same since our last look at the playoff contenders, a lot has also changed. Some teams have taken control of their divisions while others have fallen from grace. Some are hanging on by a thread and others seem hell-bent on having the number one draft pick. Let’s go division to division and see who is heading to the postseason.
We will start in the NFC South because, quite frankly, it’s my favorite division and that’s where I want to start. New Orleans is holding on to a one game lead in the South at 5-3 with both Atlanta and Tampa at 4-3. Carolina rounds out the group at 2-6, and while I think the Panthers are a better team than their record shows, the loss to Minnesota last week all but eliminated them from the playoffs. I still like the Saints to win the division here, but they will certainly have to play better than they did against St. Louis. Four weeks ago I said that New Orleans would be the only team to make the playoffs from this division and I still stand by that. Tampa is worse than their record shows, and I feel like there are better teams than Atlanta to grab one of the wild card spots.
The NFC West is an easy one – San Francisco has completely dominated this division and is really the only team worth talking about. The Niners are an impressive 6-1, and that is after finishing the hard part of their schedule. They still play Arizona and St. Louis twice, and with Seattle and Washington in the mix, look for them to seal up division and a first round bye in the playoffs. Every year one team does really well in the regular season only to bow out early in the post season, and San Fran has that type of feel to me. I don’t see them making it to the NFC Championship game.
The next two divisions get a little more complicated, and the waters are still a little muddied as to who is coming to the dance, but I do expect there to be four playoff teams from the NFC North and NFC East. In the NFC North, Green Bay at 7-0 is the crème de le crème of the NFC. They seem unstoppable both on paper and on the field, and barring some kind of injury they should have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. We all know how Lambeau can be in December, making them a favorite to play back to back Super Bowls. Detroit at 6-2 and Chicago at 4-3 will be in the race to make the post season, but I still see the Lions edging them out.
Here is the portion of the blog where I will now eat some crow. After week four I said that the Eagles were a long shot to make the playoffs and that I thought Washington would win the division. Wrong, wrong, wrong, was I. I now am picking the Eagles to win the NFC East and the Redskins to finish dead last. Right now the Giants lead at 5-2 with everyone else sitting at 3-4. The Dallas and Philly game last week was the turning point for me. The Cowboy could have almost put a nail in the coffin on the Eagles and left them sitting at 2-5, and Dallas would have only been one game behind New York. Instead the Eagles beat the wheels off of them and, in my opinion, turned their season around. While the Cowboys aren’t completely out of the picture, they just don’t seem to have “it.” The Redskins look completely out of sorts – they might win two more games, and I say “might.” So I’m taking Philly to win it and New York still keeps the wild card.
Moving on to the AFC there is a much tighter race for the second half of the year. With no real favorite sticking out, there a lot of teams are still in the mix. Starting in the South again, four weeks ago I said this division was a two-horse race. It is now a one-show pony. I like Houston to win this one. While Tennessee is really only one game behind the Texans, they are much worse than their record leads on. The Texans have won two of their last four despite losing Andre Johnson, and they will only look better when he returns in a couple of weeks. Chris Johnson has been a non-factor for the Titans, and I don’t see him turning it around anytime soon, while Jacksonville and Indianapolis are looking ahead to the draft next year.
The other three divisions are a little more complicated. In the West things have played out a little differently than I had expected. To start, I said the Kansas City Chiefs wouldn’t even sniff the playoffs. “What’s that? As a matter of fact I will have another plate of crow.” The Chiefs have won four in a row and are now the better-looking team in a three-way tie for the division. Oakland was hit hard with the injury bug, losing Jason Campbell for the season and Darren McFadden looking to sit out another week in a walking boot. Coming out of their bye I do think they bounce back from the 28-0 beating they took from Kansas City. The Chargers go as Phillip Rivers does, and as long as he keeps struggling so will the team. As for Denver, let’s just say, “it is what is,” right Foxxy? By the way, is there anything more fun than making up things that are greater than Tebow? I think not. Here are a few just for giggles: Kim Kardashian’s marriage > Tebow, NBA Lockout > Tebow, the last five Nicolas Cage movies > Tebow, and eating crow > Tebow. With all that being said, I now like the Chiefs to win the division, but it will be a close race between them and Oakland.
The North has another tight battle for first going on. Pittsburgh (6-2) and Cincinnati (5-2) have both won four in a row, and Baltimore is also right there respectively at 5-2. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually like the Bengals out of this division. Pittsburgh has a much tougher schedule the rest of the season. The Steelers will still take the wild card, but I have to give the nod to Cincy. The Ravens are just erratic – one week they look brilliant, while the next week they are confused and sloppy. It’s hard to trust a team like that down the stretch.
Gone are the days of New England and New York’s dominance of the AFC East. There is a new sheriff in town, and nobody circles the wagons (still don’t know what that means) like Buffalo Billy does. The Bills are 4-0 at home and have only lost two games by a combined score of six points. The Pats are still the Pats at 5-2, and the Jets are still are part of the picture at 4-3. I am still taking New England to win the division, and I am changing my tune to the sweet sounds of Buffalo Billy to take the other wild card spot.