Making Sense of the NFL Playoff Race, Part 1

Let’s get this out of the way. I lost in the fantasy football playoffs. No more of those posts. I would just like to thank RG3, Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris, Stevan Ridley, AJ Green, and the Broncos D/ST for being pretty awesome this year.

Anyways, let’s look at real football.

About a month ago, the Atlanta Falcons lost to the Houston Texans, completing a circle that showed a chain of teams beating other teams:

Circleoflife

Start at the Tennessee Titans and move clockwise to see the pattern of a team beating the following team. So the Titans beat the Detroit Lions, 44-41, the score being under the first team’s logo. To extend this example, the Lions beat the Seattle Seahawks, the Seahawks beat the New England Patriots, and so on.

The point of this graph is to show how much of a mess this season has been for predicting games. It’s also a solid argument for parity in the league…or is it?

If the playoffs started today there would only be one new team in from the AFC, the Indianapolis Colts. On the NFC side, there are only two new teams, the Chicago Bears (who might not even get in) and the Seahawks. Granted, if the Bears don’t get in, it would be another team that did not make the playoffs last year, whether it’s the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, or the Minnesota Vikings.

AFC Headlines

Patstexans

As usual, the Pats are ending the season by cruising into the playoffs. The once laughable secondary seems to be ok, pending Aqib Talib’s injury. On the offensive side, the Patriots have scored 37+ points five of the last six games. Two of which were without arguably their most important receiver, Rob Gronkowski. At this point, they’re looking like frontrunners for the Super Bowl. But, of course, there’s a team on the NFC side that would change that.

The team on the losing end of Monday’s game has some growing problems on defense. Before going into them, one has to say something about J.J. Watt. Not only has he been amazing on the field, ranking second in sacks and first in passes deflected, he’s been a saint off the field. Outside of Watt, the Texans defense has been questionable, giving up 43 points to the Chad Henne-led Jacksonville Jaguars, and 34 to the Lions. The Patriots offense has been unstoppable, so they’re partially forgiven on that.

While some people within the Texans organization claimed the game against the Patriots was the biggest in franchise history, the team really needs to look at the upcoming games against the Colts. The Colts have been on a roll themselves, with fans getting on their knees for Andrew Luck. I really don’t understand the Luck MVP talk. And here’s why:

• Kevin Kolb

• Carson Palmer

• Phillip Rivers

• Sam Bradford

• Christian Ponder

These are players who have a higher QB Rating than Luck. And I didn’t even mention Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, or Mike Vick. In fact, there are only five QBs (one being Mark Sanchez, teehee) with a worse rating than Luck. For those arguing that Luck at least can run the ball, RG3, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Russel Wilson, Vick, and Aaron Rodgers all have more rushing yards.

Such beauty, such grace.

“Intangibles” you say? Well you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. Sure, they already have seven more wins than last season, but they also still have allowed more points than they have scored. Luck is definitely “clutch” or whatever you want to call it for sure, but you don’t want your QB to throw three interceptions to have to put you in the comeback win mode in the first place.

*Exhales*

The Denver Broncos. Damn. It helps when you’re in a division with the Raiders, Chargers, and Chiefs. Then again, it helps when you’re in a division with the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills. Anyways, looking at their schedule, this team could win out. The Peyton Mannings will have to go on the road against the Ravens, which has some serious playoff implications. But the game between the Broncos and Ravens is a tale of two teams. The Broncos are hitting their stride, with Peyton clicking with breakout star Demaryius Thomas, and an incredible kick returner in Trindon Holliday, who is 13-0 this season.

That’s actually an interesting bit of information. Holliday started out on the Texans, who started out 5-0 and eventually released Holliday right before their loss to the Packers. Denver then picked him up that same week after losing to the Patriots, and are now on a eight game win streak. More like WINdon Holliday. Ew. Sorry,

All hail Holliday!

The Ravens, on the other hand are in a bit of trouble. They made the right move this week by firing their awful offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron. You may know him better as that dude who forgot Ray Rice was on the team and instead likes trying to force passes to Torrey Smith. Luckily for the Ravens, all of the AFC North had an awful week…

The Steelers and Bengals decided that they didn’t want to try to get into the playoffs. Their loses mean the Jets are still mathematically in the playoffs chase. COME ON. Maybe Big Ben was just shaking off some rust or they just ran into an angry Norv. The Bengals certainly ran into something, and that was a Cowboys team that was fighting for someone.

Cincy plays Philly this week, while the Steelers will find themselves in a brawl with the Cowboys. Dez Bryant’s health will be a huge factor there. Then comes Week 16, which will be a huge game between the two. Think Ravens-Steelers, but with offense. On the final week of the season, the Bengals and Ravens face off in another tough game for both the striped kittens and creatures of Edgar Allen Poe fame.

And I’m serious when I say this, but the Steelers need to look out for the Browns in this final week.

So when it comes down to it, the AFC North will be the only division sweating it when it comes to the end of the season in terms of getting into the playoffs. Everyone else will be fearing another era of Brady-Manning dominance.

********

Check out the NFC in part two.

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