Playoff Picture

By Zack Cimini

The regular season is almost already over, and it?s still impossible to figure out which team is the front runner. All signs point to the proven Patriots in the AFC, and the Eagles in the NFC. But Pittsburgh and Indianapolis look like they?re ready to take over the throne. In the NFC, Donovan McNabb and company have been due for a long time. All of the hard work Andy Reid has done with five straight eleven win seasons is finally going to pay off, or will it? The Panthers are one of the hottest teams in the league, and Mike Vick is the most dangerous quarterback on his feet.

So with three regular season games left, let?s take a look at how the season will likely finish.


Pittsburgh: It might be the best if Ben Roesthlisberger gets his first loss before the playoffs start. If not the Steelers could be in for an awakening when the playoffs come around. Ben has made great decisions with the football, but he has also been able to get away with throwing minimal passes. What?s going to happen when the Steelers surrender a lot of points to a team like the Colts, and are forced to have to throw the football? Another concern is the question marks with Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis. Staley has been banged up this season, and Bettis is contemplating retirement because of his ailing body. All in all the Steelers have had a great season, and it?d be a shame to see an early exit.

New England: The Patriots could end up getting complete home field advantage if the Steelers slip up, but the control is not in their hands because of their head to head loss. No matter what happens though, Brady and the Patriots know how to win games. With the addition of Corey Dillon paying dividends, it?s only going to add to the prolific January play of the Patriots. The concern for the Patriots is on the defensive side of the ball, where they?ve struggled especially in the secondary without Ty Law.

Indianapolis: If the Colts defense comes to play, than no one will stop the Colts regardless of where the game is held. Peyton Mannning has always been able to pick defenses apart, but it was always his interceptions that held him back. Now he is an unbelievable zone, but still hasn?t had a solid playoff run. With the tough teams in the AFC, now is the time for Manning to distinguish himself as he tries to add to the legacy of the greatest year of a quarterback.

San Diego: The Chargers will be the young guns of the playoffs, which could be an advantage or a strong disadvantage. If a team jumps on them early, it could sink their charge as fast as a Duracell battery. But if they come out and get on a team early, they could quickly build confidence that pushes them along. With the three headed monster in Brees, Tomlinson, and Gates, the Chargers shouldn?t have any problem keeping up with opposing offenses. The question is will Brees be able to keep his composure for a complete game.

NY Jets: The Jets are in the fifth spot right now, but better keep themselves afloat with at least a 2-1 finish. If not the Bills or Broncos could slip ahead of them. Chad Pennington is one of those quarterbacks that isn?t flashy but also knows how to win games. The Jets are also the one of the best teams at controlling the football. That means they win a lot of games ugly, but the key is a win. A lot of these AFC teams are use to getting on and off the field at a fast pace, so if the Jets can disrupt that than they could be a true sleeper.

Baltimore: The play of Kyle Boller will determine if the Ravens get in the playoffs. He has improved, and now has weapons Jamal Lewis and Todd Heap back. Baltimore is just one of those teams that you don?t know how they?re going to play on any given week. Their defense isn?t even a definite stopper anymore, as they?ve been susceptible to certain teams.

Others: Jacksonville, Buffalo, and Denver
Out of all of these teams Buffalo has the easiest remaining schedule. The two wild card spots are only a .5 game (Denver) and a 1.5 (Buffalo, Jacksonville) out for the three teams. Neither of these three teams are as strong as the current playoff outlook.


Philadelphia: Donovan McNabb came into this season with one agenda and that is to win a Super Bowl. Winning division titles and getting a first round bye is nothing knew to him. So when Philadelphia clinched the division a few weeks ago, it was an after thought for the Eagles. Staying focused as a team is what leads to success, and that is what the Eagles are doing. Slipups like last weeks game against Washington cannot happen, or a team like Carolina will be able to defeat the Eagles with ease.

Atlanta: If Vick can just pick up his style of play just a little more, it would benefit the Falcons so much more. He has so many dangerous arsenals but isn?t utilizing his arm like he can. Peerless Price needs more touches as a deep threat, and Alge Crumpler is one of the best tight ends in the league. The negative media against the Falcons will only ease the pressure off of them, and put it on the Eagles. For some reason the media thinks the Falcons are already a write off for an early letdown once the playoffs come.

Green Bay: The determination of the division title will most likely come in week sixteen, when the Packers square off against the Vikings. Neither team has played on a consistent basis and that?s what makes both teams dangerous. Brett Favre?s age is becoming a factor, and this could be his last chance to give Green Bay another title. There is no doubt that he will reevaluate if returning for another beating is necessary. He already has his Super Bowl ring, and has nothing else to prove.

Seattle or St. Louis: One of these teams has to win the division, and the signs point to Seattle right now. They have the best back in the NFL in Shaun Alexander, and also have no questions at the quarterback position. St. Louis is undergoing a transformation with Stephen Jackson at running back, and Chris Chandler subbing in for Marc Bulger. Even if Bulger can go out there, it may be too late. The good thing for St. Louis is that they own the tie breaker over Seattle and the fact that Seattle has a tough final three games.

Minnesota: As soon as Randy Moss is 100 percent this team turns into a serious threat. As soon as he went down the Vikings slide started, and you can just see this team ready to take off with him playing 75 percent of the time. If the Vikings can stay in this spot they could find themselves in a great situation to get to the NFC championship. They?d face the Rams/Seahawks in the wild card weekend, and if things work out the Falcons in round two. In the end Mike Tice could end up getting paid more money than a coordinator or being fired if they exit early.

Carolina: Carolina will end up being the scariest sixth seed in playoff history. Not only are they the reigning NFC champs, but they?re riding a five game winning streak that could be eight by playoff time. This team is getting healthier by the game, and only one could imagine how dangerous this team could be with DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis. But Jake Delhomme has managed to transform this team into a passing attack instead of rushing and it has paid off. Mushin Muhammed has stepped up big time as of late, and will need to continue it to go along with Keary Colbert and Ricky Proehl.


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