The 2013 NFL season has been one of the more unpredictable in recent memory, but with Week 12 around the corner, the cream of the crop has risen to the top – foreseeable or not – and the NFL playoff picture is becoming more lucid each week.
The AFC West is an easily the best division in the AFC and therefore, easy to pick. With two teams at 9-1, it will be decided in the next two weeks as the Denver Broncos face the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. If the Broncos go 2-0, they will win the division and home field advantage, while the Chiefs walk into a Wild Card spot with possibly 12, or even 13 wins. If the Broncos lose, the situation will be reversed. Either way, the AFC West will have two teams in the playoffs this year – making the other Wild Card spot in AFC a hotly-contested position.
The AFC East may be the most predictable division in the NFL. The New England Patriots win it – always. However, the division becomes more interesting considering the Wild Card spot. Both the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are 5-5 and they still must play each other twice, as well as the Patriots once. With more experienced teams in the race for the AFC’s last Wild Card spot, the smart money is on neither of these unproven teams making the playoffs.
The AFC North has been the most contested division in the AFC for years. The Cincinnati Bengals will win with a three-game lead, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have seemingly found their groove, wining three of their last five games. Though they are only 4-6, the Steelers have the talent, and more importantly the quarterback, to make a late season push with a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way.
The AFC South is undoubtedly the worst division in the AFC. Thanks to the remarkable free fall of the Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts will undoubtedly win and make their second-straight playoff appearance. The only other team in the division with even a chance of making the playoffs is the Tennessee Titans at 4-6, but with a difficult schedule they will inevitably fall behind.
While the AFC is fairly cut and dry this year, the NFC is anything but, and will almost certainly be decided on the last day of the season – most likely by tiebreakers.
The NFC East may be worst division in football, but it is also the closest playoff race in the league. The Philadelphia Eagles lead the division, but the Dallas Cowboys are only a game behind. To make things more exciting, the New York Giants have seemingly found some rhythm, winning four straight, and could make a patented late-season push, being only a game behind the Cowboys. No matter what happens, there will only be one team representing the NFC East this year, and they will be a quick exit.
In the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks have run away with the division that was supposed to be the best in football this year, and look to be Super Bowl favorites along with the Broncos. That being said, the NFC wild card race becomes interesting here. The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals are both 6-4 and they play each other twice in the last two weeks of the season. While the 49ers have struggled at times this season, their defense will inevitably lead them to win this tight Wild Card race.
The NFC North’s playoff outlook has been drastically altered by quarterback injuries this season. The loss of Aaron Rodgers has almost decimated the Green Bay Packers‘ chances, and the Jay Cutler injury brings up all sorts of questions for the Chicago Bears. For those reasons, the Detroit Lions will finally win this division and make their first playoff appearance in two years. The question is, can either the Bears or Packers get it together enough to make a run for the Wild Card?
The NFC South is back to normal, after the return of Sean Payton. Per usual, the New Orleans Saints will win this division and fight for home field advantage. The other intriguing contender is the Carolina Panthers at 7-3, who, after defeating the Patriots, are the front-runner for an NFC Wild Card spot. However, they still must to play the Saints twice – making the NFC Wild Card race absolutely crazy.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.