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NFL

NFL Playoff Picture

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NFL Playoff Picture

NFL Playoff Picture
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Week 16 is here for the 2012 NFL schedule. The calendar is about to flip to January 2013 which means we have very meaningful football games these days. In a 16 game schedule all games have importance/meaning, but week 16 and week 17 = go time.

The teams that have played well throughout the season are in a position to jockey for better seeds, while several teams need to go into playoff mode now.

For 15 fan-bases these last two weeks are about playing spoilers and looking for positives for 2013, but there are 17 teams that are either in a playoff spot or are mathematically alive for January football.

There are only three week 16 games that have both teams eliminated from the playoffs, so this is a big ol' week. If the season was a golf major then week 16 would be moving day.

I looked at Super Bowl champions in the 2000's and they have a combined record of 19-5 in weeks 16 and 17. The 2009 New Orleans Saints had 13-0 turn into 13-3 before becoming champs, but that is the exception. Take the '09 Saints out and the 2000's champions combine for a 19-3 finish to the regular season. Go time.

There will be six teams in each conference that will qualify for the playoffs, a dozen in total. Currently seven spots are spoken for, but even most of those teams can still improve their playoff seeds.

Tie-breakers could come into play so I will note that the #1 tie-breaker is head-to-head (division record and This slideshow article will look at all the teams that are playoff contenders in both Conferences.conference record figure prominently after head-to-head).

@craigballard77

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AFC Playoff picture - already IN

AFC Playoff picture - already IN
Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE

In the AFC we have four confirmed teams. The Baltimore Ravens have seen 9-2 become 9-5, but when combined with tiebreakers we see the Ravens are in. In order for the Ravens to host their playoff game week one they will need to f,end off the charging Cincinnati Bengals. Those two play at Cincinnati in week 17.

The New England Patriots (10-4) lost in week 15 and as a result they dipped to the #3 seed in the AFC. The Pats are sure to host a playoff game, but they are now out of a position for a first round bye if the playoffs started today. The Patriots are at the Jacksonville Jaguars today, and they host the Miami Dolphins next week. The Patriots are one game behind the Denver Broncos (11-3) for the #2 seed, but thanks to their week 5 victory over the Broncos all the Brady Bunch would have to do is catch Denver to be vaulted ahead of them via head-to-head tie-breaker.

Speaking of the Broncos they will host a playoff game, and are currently in the drivers seat to be off week one of the playoffs. In week 3 the Houston Texans (12-2) beat the Broncos at Mile High, but overall Denver is 5-1 at home. The chances for the Broncos to pass the Texans are slim, but they are humming along on a nine game winning streak and still have the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs on their remaining schedule. Both games are in Denver so a 10th and 11th straight win from Peyton Manning and company is very likely.

Even if the Broncos do get to 13 wins the Texans would need just one victory in their final two games to secure their first ever #1 seed. If the playoffs started today the Minnesota Vikings and the Indianapolis Colts would both be in, and they are the week 16 and 17 opponents for the Texans. I would think that today's home finale (regular season only of course) vs the Vikings is their chance to seal the deal for the AFC's top seed.

@craigballard77

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AFC Playoff Picture - Wild Card Hopefuls

AFC Playoff Picture - Wild Card Hopefuls
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

The Indianapolis Colts are not officially in, but they are sitting at 99.8% chance so it does look good. Remarkable to think they were the worst team in the NFL one calendar year ago. Several scenarios result in the Colts being the #5 seed in the AFC, but they play the Chiefs today which is a great scenario in itself. The Colts are not that good on the road, but the Chiefs are terrible.

A massive game is taking place today at Heinz Field as the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) host the Cincinnati Bengals (8-6). In 2009 the Bengals swept the Steelers, but outside of that this series in owned by the Steelers. Take those two '09 games out and the Steelers are on a 20-4 run vs Cincy. A win in this game would give the Bengals back-to-back births for the first time since 1981-1982. A win for Pittsburgh would have them in great position to get the 6th and final playoff seed in the AFC as they would just need to beat the Browns at Heinz Field in week 17.

Going into this game the Bengals have a 63.8% chance to make the playoffs, while the Steelers are at 35.8 but this game will go a long way in deciding who will be the #6 seed. Currently that means playing at New England in week one of the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins (6-8) are the only other team that remains with a chance, if you can call it that. Their odds are at 0.6% (yikes) to get the 6th seed in the AFC. Miami would need to win today in their home finale against the Buffalo Bills, plus next week at New England to get to 8-8. The Dolphins need the Steelers to beat the Bengals today, and then need both of those teams to lose in week 17 to have their 8-8 be good enough to get the #6. I would say it is very likely that Miami beats the Bills today, and perhaps even get the Steelers to continue their dominance over the Bengals, but week 17 would have to be a win at New England, plus Cincy and Pittsburgh both lose at home. Long odds indeed.

@craigballard77

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NFL Playoff Picture

NFL Playoff Picture
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

The NFC is even a bit more interesting. Three teams are in. Several teams remain hopeful and in the hunt.

The Atlanta Falcons (12-2) are at Detroit tonight. A win would secure the top seed in the NFC. The Falcons look great to have a week one bye and host at least one playoff game. The Falcons have owned the #1 seed in the NFC this season, and they have several scenarios that end with them as the top seed.

The San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) travel to take on the Seattle Seahawks (9-5) tonight in a massive game. The Niners are currently the #2 seed in the NFC, but a Seattle victory would set up an interesting week 17 in the NFC West. If San Fran wins one of their two remaining games then they are the division champs, but they would need to turn their attention immediately to the Green Bay Packers (10-4) at that point as the Pack are right there as the #3 seed looking to become the #2 seed.

Even if the Seahawks lose today they would just need to beat the St. Louis Rams in Seattle in week 17 to secure a playoff spot.

There are four 8-6 teams tied for the 6th and final playoff spot in the NFC. The Minnesota Vikings are the tie-breaker champs currently so if the playoffs started today they would be in. They likely wish the playoffs did start today because their path is difficult. Today they are at Houston, and in week 17 they face the Packers. 2-0 in weeks 16 and 17 gets them in, but if they go 1-1 we will have to take a look at how the other week 16 games go to see what their scenario looks like. Coming into today the Vikings playoff chances are at 16.0%.

The Chicago Bears are my pick to sneak into the #6 seed. The Bears are in a 1-5 free-fall, and they do finish the season with both of their final two games on the road, but I will still take the Bears to get in. Week 16 is at the Arizona Cardinals, and week 17 is at the Detroit Lions. I think Brandon Marshall is going to be massive and lead the Bears to two wins. The Bears playoff odds are at 39.6 , but there are several tie-breaker scenarios that favor the Bears so 10 wins is very likely to get them in.

@craigballard77

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Crazy NFC East Picture

Crazy NFC East Picture
The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

The NFC East is a big ol' bowl of interesting. The defending champion New York Giants were the top dogs in the division all season, but a 2-4 skid has them alllll the way down to the #9 seed. The G-Men play at Baltimore today, and at home vs the Eagles next week. They have a 49.6% chance to make the playoffs. Finishing 2-0 would get them in (likely as the #6 seed, but 10-6 could win the division depending how the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins finish their seasons).

The Cowboys sit at 31.4% to get into the 2012 playoffs. Their 5-1 run has them in the thick of things. Tie-breakers are not kind to the Cowboys as the Vikings and Bears both are ahead of Dallas due to tie-breakers so the wild-card looks almost unattainable for Dallas, but they could win the division. Dallas hosts the New Orleans Saints today, and if they win this game that sets up a showdown at Washington in week 17.

A week 9 loss to the Carolina Panthers had the Redskins going into their bye week with head coach Mike Shanahan proclaiming their season was over and the remainder of 2012 would be spent playing for 2013 jobs. Five straight wins later and the Redskins are currently the division leader at 8-6 (with a pocketful of tie-breakers).

Today the Redskins are at the Philadelphia Eagles, and next week they host the Cowboys. A 2-0 finish would mean they are the NFC East champs and would host a playoff game in week one of the playoffs. The Redskins have a 66.5% chance to make the playoffs.

It is very likely that the NFC East winner will be the #4 seed.

@craigballard77

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Packers, and Predictions

Packers, and Predictions
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

The Green Bay Packers (10-4) are currently the #3 seed in the NFC. I would say it is likely that they will remain there. They are not going to be caught for the #3, but they do have a shot at the #2 seed.

Today the Packers have their home finale (for regular season I mean) against the Tennessee Titans, and in week 17 they are at Minnesota. The Packers should handle the Titans easily, and they have won five in a row vs the Vikings so we are likely looking at a 12 win Packers team.

Green Bay is an interesting team. They are on a 8-1 run, and I think that could stretch to 10-1 by the time the playoffs start. We know Lambeau Field will host a playoff game, the question is will it be week one of the playoffs or will the Packers catch the 49ers for the #2 seed.

The Eagles have had their second straight season to forget, but they can be spoilers to finish the season as they play the Redskins and Giants.

The Cardinals also have a chance to play the spoiler role and help shape the playoff picture as they finish their season with games vs the Bears and 49ers.

I think the AFC will unfold like this: 1- Texans...2- Broncos...3- Patriots...4- Ravens...5- Colts...6- Bengals

I think the NFC will unfold like this: 1- Falcons...2- 49ers...3- Packers...4- Redskins...5- Seahawks...6- Bears

Thank you for reading my work! Much appreciated...CLICK HERE for all of my NFL and Miami Dolphins articles

@craigballard77