Breaking down the final six weeks for every NFL team

As we enter week 12 of the National Football League season, teams are approaching the point of the regular season where playoff jockeying is coming at the fore-front.

This is the time of the season where the most often used cliché are at the fore-front:

“Our backs are against the wall”

“Separating the contenders from the pretenders”

“Taking it one game at a time”

While we hate them, truthfully, that is the essence of the last six to seven weeks of the season.

Right now, I can probably name three or four elite teams that have a real chance at a championship, and then there are another four to five teams that are on the cusp of being elite, but can still be major players down the stretch.

A few things are certain:

-10 wins will not be the typical barometer for a playoff team, especially in the AFC, which started out strong, but has looked a lot weaker as of late. Nine win teams will sneak in. Look for Miami, Pittsburgh, the Jets, Browns and Chargers as likely nine win playoff teams.

– The NFC West will almost certainly get two teams in the playoffs, as will the AFC West. The NFC North could potentially have three 10 win teams, yet only one could make the playoffs. That would be unprecedented.

– If there was a season where teams can overcome three or four game losing streaks and still be in contention for a playoff berth, it would most surely be the 2013 season. Pittsburgh, Baltimore,Carolina, New York and Miami have all had three or four game losing streaks this season and are very much still in contention (or currently own a playoff spot). As of today, I will break down the current teams that are virtual locks to make the playoffs as well as the rest of the teams that are battling for divisional crowns and Wild Card positions.

AFC East

New England (7-3) just came off a demoralizing loss against the Carolina Panthers after a controversial non-pass interference call on Rob Gronkowski. Despite the loss, the Patriots have a relatively favourable schedule after their week 12 showdown against the Denver Broncos: vs DEN, @HOU, vs CLE, @MIA, @BAL, vs BUF. Aside from the Broncos, every team featured in that slate has a losing record. A 12-4 record seems like a very strong likelihood or 11-5 at the bare minimum. What may turn out to be an impediment towards their chances at another division crown is injuries to their defensive front and linebacker corps and a defensive backfield that has struggled with inconsistency. I see the Patriots as a team that has enough horses on offence to be a Super Bowl contender, especially with Brady finally finding his elite-level form.

Verdict: 12-4. In the playoffs, but you knew that already with Tom Brady at quarterback.

The New York Jets (5-5) have alternated wins and losses every week this season. Their lack of consistency on offense has put some strain on a defense which has performed above expectations. This team will not make it to the playoffs unless they can get on a roll and win two or three games in a row. Their remaining schedule looks like this: @BAL, vs MIA, vs OAK, @CAR, vs CLE, @ MIA. Again, the way this team is playing, it is difficult to pin-point a sure-fire win or loss. The great aspect about the Jets this season is that they have won games in which they were underdogs, such as week seven against the Patriots and week nine against New Orleans. I see the Jets as a middling playoff team that will struggle in their final games of the season against tough hard-nosed defensive fronts in the Panthers, Browns and Dolphins.

Verdict: 8-8. No playoffs. Love what Rex Ryan is doing and he deserves a contract extension. Geno Smith should not be admonished either. He was a second round pick for a reason, but he has talent. The locals need to be patient with him as I think he’ll be a good one. There’s just too much inconsistency overall with Smith and his receivers.

The Miami Dolphins (5-5), mired in one of the biggest off the field controversies since the bounty-gate and having lost four games in a row between week four and eight, are still alive after winning two of their last three games against the Chargers and Bengals. The team has suffered through inconsistencies with their offensive line and at quarterback, with Ryan Tannehill struggling with his accuracy. From a schedule standpoint, the Dolphins have a mixed bag of tought matchups with below .500 teams: vs CAR, @NYJ, @Pit, vs NE, @BUF, vs NYJ. It is hard to believe that the Dolphins have not played the Jets yet, but those two remaining games, coupled with the win against the Bengals, put the Dolphins in a very good position to control their own destiny heading into the final six weeks although their schedule is not favourable.

Verdict: 9-7. No playoffs. It is a virtual toss-up as to who will take the final playoff spot. Currently, the Dolphins own it, but they have been too inconsistent and I tend to side with teams that are on somewhat of a winning streak at this point.

The Buffalo Bills (3-7) are playing solid football and have been close in most of their games. They just beat a good Jets team quite handily . Of all the teams in the division, they have the easiest schedule with three of the last five games against teams that are under .500: BYE, vs ATL, @TB, @JAX, vs MIA, @NE. At 4-7 having lost already against the Steelers and only split versus the Jets, two teams they would likely be chasing for a final Wild Card spot, the Bills can only align themselves as spoilers for the rest of the season.

You love the way Kiko Alonso has played all season and their front four of Mario and Kyle Williams along with Marcell Dareus have complimented each other extremely well. Injuries have derailed them on the offensive side however.

Verdict: 6-10. No playoffs. Team has played very tough for first-year head coach Doug Marrone. E.J. Manuel’s knee injuries have slowed him down this season. I love their young playmakers in Goodwin, Graham and Woods though. This will be a tough out next season.

AFC North

The Cleveland Browns (4-6) have played much better since the demotion of Brandon Weeden, but they are clearly still a few keys players and years away from true playoff contention. Like the Bills, they have proven  to be resilient and  play above the level of their stiffer competition. Their resume of one possession losses includes games against the Ravens and Chiefs, where their 4-6 record could easily be reversed. Looking at their schedule there are some tough matchups coming up: vs PIT, vs JAX, @NE, vs CHI, @NYJ, @PIT. As it stands, I cannot see the Browns reeling off six straight wins and winning the division, but they will definitely be a team, with their great defense and terrific play of Joe Haden, that can win a game where they are the underdogs.

Verdict: 7-9. No playoffs. Like the Bills, Cleveland is an overachieving team has played hard for their rookie head coach. Next year could be their season to contend.

The Baltimore Ravens (4-6), desperately needed the game against the Bears. Having lost four of their last five games, the offensive line is reeling considerably and Joe Flacco is playing some of the worst football of his career. The defending champions have quite an up-hill battle with a remaining schedule that has them facing three almost sure-fire playoffs teams in their final six games, with two of them as potential borderline participants: vs NYJ, vs PIT, vs MIN, @DET, vs NE, @CIN. In previous years, the Ravens would matchup well against the Patriots and Lions, but with a weaker defense this season and a sputtering offense, I cannot see them out-scoring them. This should be considered a rebuilding year for the team from the Charm City, as they re-tool after many defections from their Super Bowl run.

Verdict: 6-10. No playoffs. Ray Rice looks out of shape and slow and Flacco has not been worth his contract. The defense has stepped up, but I see too much inconsistency in this offense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6) are one of those “Don’t look now” teams, who typically start really slow, but gain traction on teams in a weak division and eventually sneak into the playoffs. The Redskins were that team last year, and the Steelers are playing good enough football, even after a 55-31 loss against the Patriots, to be considered a legitimate Wild Card participant. Their schedule, is very friendly in the last six fixtures of the season: @CLE, @BAL, vs MIA, vs CIN, @GB, vs CLE. The only team that has a record over .500 is the Bengals and they have the most inconsistent quarterback in the division. With Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown playing terrific football, virtually carrying the Steelers by helping them win four of their last six games, and a defense that is showing some signs of life (they absolutely shut down Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in the second half of their week 11 game), my gut is telling me they can sneak into the tournament. The game against the Dolphins, if both teams have not lost by then, could be the deciding matchup that swings the table in one or another’s favour.

Verdict: 10-6, In the playoffs. Yes, I have the Steelers running the table after an 0-4 start to the season. This would be more of a gut-feeling call, but this team has played well enough to show that they still possess the veteran leadership and coaching needed to overcome adversity.

The Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) are the best team in the division, with a quarterback that has had three straight below average games with a quarterback rating of 55, 52 and 62. Despite Andy Dalton evoking thoughts to Bengals fans of the Jon Kitna era of the early 2000’s, the Bengals are in good shape. Their defense is still stout despite the loss Leon Hall and Geno Atkins. Their defensive line depth is as good as any in the league and Vontaze Burfict will hit anything that moves, legally or not. The schedule is very favourable for the Bengals in the next five weeks: BYE, @SD, vs IND, @PIT, vs MIN, vs BAL. On paper, I could see them at the most, going 3-2 and cementing their spot in the tournament (I have Pittsburgh running the table, so they would have to lose against the Steelers and Colts).

Verdict: 10-6, Playoffs. A collapse here and the Bengals missing the playoffs, would be brutal for the Marvin Lewis regime and the future of Andy Dalton as their clear-cut franchise quarterback. Can’t see that happening. The bigger issue is avoiding a third straight lackluster playoff performance.

AFC South

The Indianapolis Colts (7-3) are leading their division by three games with a division that harbours the Texans and Jaguars with combined 3-17 records. This race is virtually over with the Colts having a good schedule to finish the regular season: @ARI, vs TEN, @CIN, vs HOU, @KC, vs JAX. Of course, with the way they have started off games, very slow out of the gate, an upset against the Texans or Titans would not be out of the question. I believe as great as Reggie Wayne is, his absence is being greatly exaggerated. They must establish a running game with Donald Brown or Trent Richardson, as this will be the back bone towards a potential championship season. Ultimately, this team will go as far as Andrew Luck takes them.

Verdict: 11-5, In the playoffs. With a  home playoff game, where the Colts have always had good success, they can ride that momentum depending on the matchup they get.

The Titans (4-6), who have beaten the Steelers and Chargers are actually in a decent position with regards to playoff standings. Let’s take a look at their remaining six games: @ OAK, @ IND, @ DEN, vs ARI, @ JAX, vs HOU. Tough games against the Broncos and Colts, coupled with having four games on the road and finally Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, means it will be very difficult for the Titans to make a playoff push. Mike Munchak, despite many of the locals seemingly wanting him gone, has done an admirable coaching job with a team that should still be considered rebuilding.

Verdict: 7-9, No playoffs

The Texans and Jaguars at 3-17 combined are virtual locks to miss the playoffs and can only play spoiler at this point. For the Jaguars, it was expected, however the Texans have been a major disappointment this season. Poor quarterback play from Matt Schaub in the first half of the season, coupled with an inconsistent defense and offensive line have been their undoing.

AFC West

The Denver Broncos (9-1) have all but cemented themselves as the number one seed in the AFC. Last week against the Chiefs was the first game in which they did not score at least 28 points and their last two games are the only ones in which they did not achieve at least 30 points. The offense has too many weapons and Peyton Manning is playing beyond his mind. The remaining schedule does not matter as this team is far too dominant, but we’ll still show it regardless: @NE, @KC, vs TEN, vs SD, @Houston, @ Oakland. At worst, I see two losses, most likely in their next two games, but I am willing to say that the Broncos run the table and finish 15-1. Of course, once they get to the playoffs, we have to deal with other factors such as inclement weather, but as of right now, their status as the behemoth of the NFL is very much valid.

Verdict: 15-1. In the playoffs as the overall number one seed. Best offense and their defense is showing signs of consistency. Von Miller needs to make a bigger impact for Denver to truly contend.

The Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) have been out-gained in 6 of their 10 games this season. As good as their defense has played to start the season, they have slowed down somewhat in the four games. Conversely, their schedule becomes much more difficult, which is key considering many could argue that their 9-1 record was mostly predicated on a soft schedule. Speaking of schedule, let’s take a look at the final six games for the Chiefs: vs SD, vs DEN, @ WAS, @OAK, vs IND, @ SD. I could definitely see a scenario in which they finish 2-4 in their next half-dozen games if you consider how poorly they have played against competition that most pundits would consider less than stellar. Obviously, their great start is one that will enable them to get in the playoffs, but a strong finish is not a guarantee.

Verdict: 11-5. In the playoffs on the backbone of their 9-0 start, but a difficult schedule has me thinking they could be a one and done team in the postseason.

The San Diego Chargers (4-6), alternated wins and losses during the first four weeks of the season and went on a mini two-game winning with a notable win against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. After an easy victory against the Jaguars the following week, the Chargers have lost three straight heartbreaking losses by six, eight and four points respectively. Now, they end the season with four of their next 6 games against teams who I deem virtually locks as playoffs participants: @KC, vs CIN, vs NYG, @ DEN, vs OAK, vs KC. With their current record, they would pretty much need to run the table. Unfortunately, they don’t really face any of the potential wild card teams and you know there is no chance they are winning the AFC WEST. Great bounce back season by Philip Rivers and Ryan Mathews has impressed me, but this hill is too uphill for them to come back.

Verdict: 6-10. No playoffs but the team is looking solid for the future.

The Oakland Raiders, who I had as possibly the worst team in the league, have exceeded expectations. A very solid rushing offense a defense have allowed them to stay in games, but from the looks at their remaining schedule and their current 4-6 predicament, the buck stops here. Let’s look how their next six games line up: vs TEN, @Dallas, @NYJ, vs KC, @ SD, vs DEN. At 4-6, unless a team has the type of veteran pedigree of players who have been or played in multiple playoff games, and a schedule filled with below .500 teams, which the Raiders do not have, running the table in the final half-dozen is virtually impossible. Record aside, this has been a productive season for Oakland,  who have already equalled their win total from last season, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Verdict: 6-10, No playoffs. Matt McGloin or Terrelle Pryor. None of them scream to me franchise quarterback. I commend Dennis Allen on a solid coaching job. They have been in almost every game except the Eagles meltdown. This is while rostering players who were given up on like Charles Woodson, Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter, who have all paid dividends.

NFC East

The Dallas Cowboys (5-5) have been in this situation before. Inconsistency has killed them this entire season, whether it is from the offense or defense. With their current record and having three of their next six games against divisional opponents, the Cowboys can control their fate (the season finale against the Eagles could clinch the division for either team). We know how they typically fare in those situations and it has always been a struggle to find an ending to the season where they make the playoffs. Looking at their schedule in the final six games, there are virtually no guarantees: @ NYG, vs OAK, @ CHI, vs GB, @ WAS, vs PHI.

The bottom line: The lack of leadership from a head coaching  and a player standpoint, coupled with injuries and a bad defense (despite the talent), does not bode well for the Jerry’s team. Romo and Bryant are having great statistical season’s, but otherwise, they cannot close out games. An often used cliché to label is team is to say that they lack an identity. For the Cowboys, that is as good an assessment as you will find. What exactly do they do well? Thirteenth in passing yards, 28th in rushing yards, 32nd against the pass and 29th against the run. Brutal.

Verdict: 8-8. No playoffs. The Cowboys will be kicking themselves for blowing games against the Lions and Broncos. Another season without a playoff appearance will likely lead to personnel changes in Big D.

The Washington Redskins have been an enigma all year. If you have a team that is first in the league in rushing and seventh in attempts on the ground, typically they would not be top 10 in passing attempts. This is occurring because, a) The Redskins are behind in a lot of their games and must abandon the passing game and b) in games where they do have a lead, they opt to go with the passing attack as opposed to relying on their terrific running back in Alfred Morris (the game against the Vikings was a great example). When you study the Redskins, it becomes increasingly clear that Kyle Shanahan is a poor play-caller.

As someone who has watched every snap of Robert Griffin III this season, there are still apparent signs of rust. All the time spent during the offseason in rehab for his knee as opposed to refining his skills as a quarterback, has been a detriment to his overall game. Too many miscues offensively by him and a defense that was amongst the worst in the first quarter of the season have left them in a hole. At 3-7, their schedule consists of the following: vs SF, vs NYG, vs KC, @ ATL, vs DAL, @ NYG. They don’t matchup well against the likes of the 49ers and Chiefs, which already there is two losses. Nine defeats will surely bury a team that is also struggling with locker room issues and questions about leadership and who should take the blame for the misfortunes.

Verdict: 5-11. No playoffs with a team that is looking like a mess on and off the field.

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the hottest teams in the league thanks to the continued growth of Nick Foles as a quarterback and a no-name defense that has played very well over the last three weeks. LeSean McCoy has been the best running back in the NFL this season and contributions from Desean Jackson and surprisingly, Riley Cooper have kept their offense afloat for most of the season. Their six-week remaining schedule looks like this: BYE, vs WAS vs ARI, vs DET, @ MIN, vs CHI, @ DAL. Only the Vikings have a sub .500 record, however they do face their toughest games at home against the Cardinals, Lions and Bears in week 13, 14 and 16 respectively. As long as Foles continues his current run of nearly flawless quarterback play (16 TD’s, 0 INT’s and a 127 quarterback rating), the Eagles may continue to soar.

Verdict: 9-7 No playoffs, falling just shy, with tough games against the Cardinals and Lions and the assumption that Nick Foles comes back down to earth.

The New York Giants (4-6) have won four games in a row and are very much in the NFC East race sitting two games back of the Eagles, having beaten them in week eight. Eli Manning has reduced his interceptions to only two in that timeframe (15 during their 0-6 start!) and the defensive line and secondary have been stout. Their remaining schedule contains only two teams with records above .500: vs DAL, @ WAS, @SD, vs SEA, @ DET, vs WAS. With three games within the division (one versus Dallas and two against the Skins), the Giants have a terrific opportunity to finish the season with an above .500 winning record, which can come in handy during tie-breaker situations. While it is hard to believe in this team finishing the season on a 10 game winning streak, the Giants are very accustomed to having their “backs against the wall” (hate that cliché) and going on a long run into the playoffs and/or Super Bowl. With the defense playing well, the NFC East being mediocre and the offensive line and running game protecting Eli and creating running lanes, no one should be shocked if the Giants make the playoffs.

Verdict: 9-7. In the playoffs due to the schedule softening up and being the hottest team in the division. I still believe they have the best defense in the division in a conglomerate of brutal one’s. This will be the deciding factor in who comes out on top.

NFC North

The Green Bay Packers (5-5) are doing everything in their power to keep pace in the NFC North until Aaron Rodgers’ return from a collarbone fracture. Relying on Scott Tolzien at the quarterback position is not a recipe towards long-term success. Due to many of their injuries, they are coming off a three game losing streak, against the Bears, Eagles and Giants. Their next six games consist of: vs MIN, @DET, vs ATL, @DAL, vs PIT, @ CHI. Three games against division opponents, with a very realistic chance to finish 3-3 in the division. No doubt, the NFC north is still up for grabs, but for how long? The next game against the Vikings is an absolute must-win or else they will fall in too big of a whole prior to their thanksgiving battle against the Lions. This all rests on Rodgers’ health. If he can come back against the Lions, I will very much like their chances with their defense getting healthy and still playing solid football. If not, they are virtually done.

Verdict: 9-7. No playoffs. Rodgers won’t be back this week and I have doubts about him coming back against the Lions on a short week. If I am wrong, the Packers are very much in the race,. A loss against Vikings would reduce their margin of error considerably.

The Chicago Bears (6-4) are in the opposite situation of the Packers. A backup quarterback that the entire teams loves, is providing very similar production to what one would expect from Jay Cutler. Josh McCown has played very well in his three game appearance for the Bears to the point where some are questioning offering a long-term deal to the former Vanderbilt Commodore. Looking at their schedule, four of their final six games are on the road: @STL, @MIN, vs DAL, @ CLE, @PHI, vs GB. Only the Eagles are above .500,  but none of those matchups should be considered ‘gimme’ victories. While they have not missed a beat offensively, they are struggling on defense with injuries to Charles Tillman, Henry Milton and Lance Briggs.

Verdict 10-6. No playoffs. The two losses against the Lions will hurt tremendously and will be the difference as to why they end up missing out of the playoffs, for a second straight year.

The Minnesota Vikings are 2-8 and are decisively outside of the playoff picture. They are playing for next year and running casting for their next quarterback.

The Detroit Lions (6-4) are in the proverbial driver’s seat for the NFC North crown. The two teams that are chasing them are starting backup quarterbacks for at least this week and possibly beyond and they have a decent schedule down the stretch: vs TB, vs GB, @ PHI, vs BAL, vs NYG, @ MIN. With four of their final six at home, the Lions have positioned themselves to make a run at the playoffs. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have never looked better and their defensive line is terrorizing quarterbacks on a weekly basis.

As mentioned earlier with the Packers, the return of Aaron Rodgers will be key especially considering both teams face off next week on Thanksgiving. Having already beaten the Bears twice, that is a massive coup for the Lions, who would take the tie-breaker scenario should it come to that.

Verdict: 10-6, in the playoffs. Cannot stress enough how those two victories against the Bears will pay dividends at the end of the season. I like this Lions teams and if their secondary holds up, they can beat any of the elite teams in the NFC.

NFC South

For the purposes of time consumption, it is fair to assume that the Buccaneers and Falcons are deep in the water and have all but squashed any chances they had of making the playoffs.

The New Orleans Saints (9-2) have allowed the third best passing defense in the league this season. That is a tremendous improvement on a defense that was historically bad in 2012. Drew Brees and Sean Payton returning will get much of the credit, as they should, but we must recognize the efforts of a defense led by a ferocious pass rush with Cam Jordan and Junior Gallette. After a close matchup against the Falcons who despite their 2-8 record, were always a nemesis for the Saints, the win leave the them a game over the Panthers (assuming Carolina beats the Dolphins). Let’s take a look at their remaining schedule (W-@ ATL, @ SEA, vs CAR, @ STL, @ CAR, vs TB). Those two games Carolina and against Seattle will be a tough 4 game stretch and will be crucial towards their quest towards a potential number one seed, let alone winning the division.

Verdict: 12-4, In the playoffs. This is assuming losses on the road to Seattle and a split between the Panthers, where they have two games remaining.

For the Carolina Panthers (7-3),  unless an unforseen collapse happens, they will see playoff football for the first time since 2008 thanks to their current six game winning streak. Cam Newton has matured as a quarterback who previously would always look for big plays, but is not dissecting defenses with an underrated short passing game. Enough analysts have raved about Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy so if you still are oblivious to the Panthers and their defense, please start watching their games.

Let’s take a look at their final six games: @MIA, vs TB, @NO, vs NYJ, vs NO, @ATL.

A relatively easy schedule which would see them facing four teams with sub .500 records, an 11 win season is far from inconceivable. The Panthers have curbed any belief that they are not a true contender after great performances against the 49ers and Patriots.

Verdict: 12-4, In the playoffs. This defense is absolutely legitimate and Cam Newton detractors cannot help but bask at the way he has played.

NFC West

The St. Louis Rams (4-6) have turned somewhat of a corner  despite a running game that only materialized over their last four games and the loss of their quarterback to an ACL injury. Their recent victory against the Colts and taking the Seahawks to the final play of the game before ultimately falling short is reason for Jeff Fisher to be optimistic. Their front four has been led by Robert Quinn and Chris Long who have combined for over 10 sacks in that same time frame. I’ve also been very impressed wiht Zac Stacy who, at 5’8″ and a stock 230 lbs, has a very similar running style to the man he replaced in Steven Jackson. Unfortunately, with their current record  and their schedule not being in their favour with five of their final six games against teams above .500 (vs Chi, @SF, @ ARI, vs NO, vs TB, @ SEA), the Rams are virtually out of the playoff picture unless they win the table.

Verdict: 5-11, No playoffs. The Rams are in a tough of a hole. There is not enough consistency on offense couple with a rough schedule, which means a ninth straight season without a playoffs appearance.

The Arizona Cardinals have the second best run defense in the league and have won three games in a row, albeit against the Falcons, Texans and Jaguars. Regardless, they have found themselves tied with the 49ers with a record of 6-4 and a very realistic chance at the playoffs. Their schedule, however, could bring them back to .500 and potentially below that mark by season’s end: vs IND, @ PHI, vs STL, @ TEN, @ SEA, vs SF. You love the way Karlos Dansby, Calais Campbell and Daryl Washington, especially since his return, have helped make this run defense the most feared in the division (A division in which the Seahawks and 49ers have been the kings of run defense). You also have to love when Carson Palmer makes mistake-free football, although that happens very rarely. It will be hard to count on that again for a long six game stretch tough.

Verdict: 9-7. No playoffs. Valiant effort and a good season which should lead to further development of their young offense. Bruce Arians has done good work this season, but the division is just so tough.

The San Francisco 49ers definitely lack something from last season. Whether it is the loss of Aldon Smith for personal reasons during a four game stretch or the regression of Colin Kaepernick, teams are not lining up against the 49ers fearing a traitorous battle in the trenches. The 49ers would be best suited to rely on Frank Gore and their running game, but looking at their next six matchups (@ WAS, vs STL, vs SEA, @ TB, vs ATL and @ ARI.) the 49ers have a daunting task facing some of the better run defenses in the NFL. This will mean that Colin Kaepernick must improve on his 83 passer rating and completion percentage that is just below 60 percent. Alleviating some pressure off him by simply handing the ball off the Frank Gore would not be a bad strategy either.

Verdict: 11-5, In the playoffs. Games against Seattle and at Arizona, who played them very tough at home, could easily be toss-up games.  The rest of the schedule has them facing teams with a combined record of 12-39. Yikes!

The Seattle Seahawks could easily lay claim as the best team in the NFC. They have the best pass defense and after two games in a row, against the Rams (week eight) and Buccaneers (week nine) , where their defensive front was gashed for a combined 300 yards plus, they have returned to their dominant run-stopping ways. Russell Wilson has continued to impress in his sophomore season, creating plays for himself and his bevy of diminutive, but tough receivers. With the return of Percy Harvin and their running game as punishing as it continues to be, Seattle has all the pieces for a very long run. Just for good measure, let’s look at their schedule over the next 5 games: BYE, vs NO, @SF, @ NYG, vs ARI, vs STL. That game against the Saints on Monday night, could settle home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Verdict: 14-2. In the playoffs. Hard to find where that second loss may be. They have been so good on the road this season, which was previously their nemesis. Their current record, will most likely allow them to stay in the friendly confines of “C-Link”.

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