Churchill’s Picks, Playoff Projections
The NFL has a slate full of games Sunday that carry playoff implications. We set the possibilities earlier this week right here, but in a matter of hours all the questions will be answered.
Rather then explaining my picks this week, here they are, then we’ll take a look at what the playoff matchups would look like if the key games went the way I suspect they will.
Obviously, I see the Seattle Seahawks edging out the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field and finally securing the division title, the No. 1 overall seed and thus a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout their trek through the NFC Playoffs. None of the four divisions in the NFC have been decided, and there is very little decided in the AFC, either, in terms of seeding. Only three of the day’s 16 games have no playoff meaning and two of those impact the No. 1 pick in the 2014 Draft — Houston-Tennessee and Washington-New York. There are two quarterbacks starting in big situations that began the season on the bench, including Dallas’ Kyle Orton and Eagles’ new No. 1 QB, Nick Foles. The Saints are the one team limping its way into the playoffs, but they do need a win to clinch a spot.
Here is how the rest of the picture would appear, first in the AFC:
1. Denver Broncos
2. New England Patriots
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Kansas City Chiefs
6. Miami Dolphins
Wild Card Round
Miami at Cincinnati
Kansas City at Indianapolis
Lowest-seeded Wild Card Round winner at Denver
Highest-seeded Wild Card Round winner at New England
1. Seattle Seahawks
2. Carolina Panthers
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Green Bay Packers
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. New Orleans Saints
Wild Card Round
New Orleans at Philadelphia
San Francisco at Green Bay
Lowest-seeded Wild Card Round winner at Seattle
Highest-seeded Wild Card Round winner at Carolina
The only Divisional Round games that cannot occur are the No. 3 seeds, Cincinnati and Philadelphia in the above scenario, facing the No. 1 seeds, Denver and Seattle. The potential matchups for that round are ridiculously intriguing, including San Francisco, New Orleans or Green Bay at Seattle or Carolina.
If the Arizona Cardinals beat the 49ers Sunday, however, the Saints and Niners swap seeds, which would guarantee a 49ers-Seahawks three-match, patent pending, provided San Francisco gets out of Wild Card week.
It all starts with the morning games Sunday, including Ravens-Bengals where Cincy can clinch the No. 3 seed. The Broncos-Raiders afternoon game is far from meaningless, though, as long as the Patriots win at home over Buffalo. If Oakland surprises the visiting Broncos, New England would then be the No. 1 seed and carry home field advantage.
The final playoff spot in the AFC is truly up for grabs; If Miami wins, they are in. If they lose and Baltimore wins, the Ravens are in. If both Baltimore and Miami fall and the Chargers defeat the Chiefs, who are playing for nothing Sunday, San Diego gets the sixth and final playoff berth.
– Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
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