There’s only three weeks left before the playoffs, and as with most NFL seasons, a good chunk of the playoff picture is already clear. Thankfully, there’s enough suspense to keep me from binging on old Doctor Who episodes.
Right now, the AFC playoff picture is half-clear. The Patriots, Bengals and Broncos are a lock at this point. In the AFC South, the Colts and Texans are still battling for the division at 6-6. The loser of the division will have to contend with the 7-5 Jets, Chiefs and Steelers, and maybe the 6-6 Bills, for the wild card spot.
In the NFC, the Cardinals and Panthers are in as division winners barring a massive meltdown. There’s a three-way 5-7 tie for the NFC East title, with the losers likely sitting out the playoffs altogether. The Packers and Vikings will duke it out for the NFC North title, with the loser likely joining the Seahawks as a wild card.
So with 12 slots in the playoffs, only five teams are pretty much locks. Much better than old Who episodes, frankly. And now…on with the picks. (Winners in italics.)
Minnesota at Arizona: The Vikings’ hopes for Valhalla took a hit last week. They’ll take another one here.
Buffalo at Philadelphia: The Eagles finally put together a complete, dominating game against one of the league’s best teams. Has Buffalo even done that yet this season?
San Francisco at Cleveland: A fine candidate for the Netflix Game of the Week. Any of the classic Star Trek films will do, unless you want to see Johnny Manziel try to salvage his football career.
Detroit at St. Louis: Or maybe you haven’t caught up with The Man in the High Castle on Amazon. I haven’t either, but I hear it’s good.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay: Hey, the Saints nearly beat the Panthers! That’s actually something. If they can do that, maybe the Jack Sparrows aren’t such a big deal.
Tennessee at N.Y. Jets: A must-win for Gang Green. If they lose here, they have no business in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: And this is why the Jets have to win, because the Steelers will have a tough time with the Bengals.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville: You know, it’s theoretically possible for Jacksonville to make the playoffs. It’s also theoretically possible to warp space-time.
San Diego at Kansas City: I vote the Chargers as the most underachieving team of the 21st century. Do I have a second?
Washington at Chicago: I cannot accept, on principle, that Washington should somehow make the playoffs.
Atlanta at Carolina: What the heck is up with Atlanta? Such promise. The Angry Birds are merely sad.
Seattle at Baltimore: The other Angry Birds are even sadder.
Oakland at Denver: BROCK! (I think this will be my battle cry until he loses one.)
Dallas at Green Bay: Where have you gone, Tony Romo? Oh, right. Dang.
New England at Houston: If the Pats lose this, their delusion of being disrespected may come true.
N.Y. Giants at Miami: It’s time for the Giants’ late-season surge of competence. It’s been starting later each season.
Last week’s record: A very solid 12-4. (Oh, like you saw Philly beating the Pats? Liar!)
Season record: 117-75, which puts me right back in the mix compared to these guys.