Bye Week Review, Playoff Predictions

The Steelers have a bye this week, which is both terrible and awesome. It’s terrible because we don’t have a Steeler game to watch this Sunday. It’s awesome because it gives everyone a late-ish season chance to rest up and get healthy for the home stretch, plus we get a week to just sit back and enjoy every other team going to war against each other without a huge emotional investment.

Speaking of all those other teams, in this post we’re going to go around the league and check in with everyone to see how their season is progressing. (Also this was written before the Broncos and Jets played on Thursday night so their records will be missing a game. Whatev)

NFC EAST

Giants (6-3): The G-men have quietly been one of football’s most reliable teams this year. Eli Manning is playing well and they have a division lead that they won’t easily give up. They made a huge statement in a comeback win over the Patriots. Not the sexiest team, but maybe a dark horse when January comes around.

Cowboys (5-4): Look, even if they do make the playoffs, you have to win at least 3 (probably 4) games in a row to win a Superbowl. Would you trust Tony Romo to win 4 straight? This will be another disappointing season for Jerry Jones. I think we can all support that.

Eagles (3-6): The downward spiral continues. Andy Reid’s job may be on the line at season’s end. Cutting him loose would be a mistake (in the opinion of everyone not located in Philadelphia) but this team was supposed to win the Superbowl this year. Now they won’t even make the playoffs.

Redskins (3-6): Rex Grossman is busy being Rex Grossman. This team is going 5-11 at best, which just might put them too low on the draft board to take the QB their franchise so desperately needs. Will the Redskins ever escape mediocrity?

NFC WEST

49ers (8-1): This team is for real. Alex Smith is playing like the QB he was touted to be in 2005 when he was taken first overall in the draft. Jim Harbaugh will deservedly win coach of the year for taking a team people aren’t even sure still exists, and carrying them to a first round bye in the playoffs.

Seahawks (3-6): Thanks for beating Baltimore, you guys. We apprecaite the bail-out, really. But the Seahawks aren’t going anywhere this year. Or next, most likely. They’ve played themselves out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Cardinals (3-6): Kevin Kolb is hurt but some guy named John Skelton has quarterbacked the Cardinals to two wins, including an upset over the Eagles. Going to make for some awkward moments when Kolb gets healthy.

Rams (2-7): Huge statement win against the New Orleans Saints. Their win against Cleveland, however, leaves a slightly different taste in one’s mouth.

NFC SOUTH

Saints (7-3): Having beaten the Falcons, the Saints are a few wins away from clinching the South. They’ll accomplish that with relative ease. Drew Brees is beginning to challenge Johnny Unitas’ immaculate touchdown streak (Brees has tossed a TD in his past 37 games, 10 behind Johnny U.) and if I could give one team a chance to beat the Green Bay Packers, it would be the Saints. Unfortunately, if they meet again, it would be in Green Bay in January. Good luck.

Falcons (5-4): Mike Smith gambled on a 4th & 1 in overtime against New Orleans. He lost. I love ballsy calls, but losing that one cost the Falcons the game and likely their chance at overtaking the division. It’ll be an uphill battle to make the playoffs with Chicago and Detroit already ahead in the standings.

Buccaneers (4-5): Basically played themselves out of the playoff picture over the past few weeks. They’re not likely to make up a lot of ground on the teams ahead of them. They also picked up Albert Haynesworth for some reason.

Panthers (2-7): Another high draft pick for the Panthers. How about a standout defender to help the rebuild?

NFC NORTH

Packers (9-0): I can’t really picture a scenario in which the Packers lose another game. Aaron Rodgers is playing better than I remember seeing Brady or Manning play, and he’s doing it all with that blue-collar attitude that always seems absent in the pretty boys. Not only are they unstoppable, it’s tough to root against them. If they tighten up the defense just a little bit, it’ll be a 19-0 season in Titletown.

Bears (6-3): The Bears have quietly built up a solid record and they’re in great position to get a wildcard spot. It’s a shame how they’re treating all-galaxy running back Matt Forte. Devin Hester may have put himself in Canton this season. All he does is score touchdowns.

Lions (6-3): After their hot start, the Lions have sputtered slightly, raising some red flags that have shaken people’s faith. But they’re still 6-3 with plenty of time to right the ship and maintain a spot in the playoff hunt. It’s not unlikely that both NFC wildcard teams will represent the NFC North.

Vikings (2-7): Yeah, they might as well call it a season. Nothing good is going to happen for them from here on out. They have a lot of tools in place, and they’ll add a high 1st round draft pick at an impact position next April. We’ll see what 2012 looks like for the Vikings.

AFC EAST

Patriots (6-3): That loss to Pittsburgh might come back to bite them when seeding is getting all sorted out. They’ll still win their division, but then again, when has that ever been noteworthy?

Jets (5-4): Well, Rex Ryan challenged the rest of the league to try beating the Patriots like his team could. The Steelers responded with a dominant win over New England. The Jets responded by getting swept in their season series. Nice job, Rex. Mark Sanchez is still really bad.

Bills (5-4): Here’s a team that came back down to Earth. They aren’t out of the hunt just yet, but if they can only manage to keep a game above .500, it’s going to a tough mountain to climb to get into the playoffs.

Dolphins (2-7): Had a legitimate shot at fixing a ton of problems by drafting Andrew Luck, but instead they played spoiler for a few teams and put themselves basically out of the running.

AFC WEST

Raiders (5-4): What a race in the technically-competitive AFC West. It’s impossible to predict how this division race will end when no one is sure if any of the teams are even good. The Raiders barely hold first place. We attribute this to the passing of Al Davis.

Chargers (4-5): Every year we’re told that this team is too talented not to win the Superbowl. Every year they don’t win the Superbowl. Sure, they have some good players, but Philip Rivers acts like he’s still the high school QB and Norv Turner needs to lose his job very badly. Even if they make the playoffs this year, it’ll be the same old story for the San Diego Chargers.

Broncos (4-5): Tim Tebow is awful at throwing footballs, but you know what he’s great at doing? Winning. Eventually defenses will adjust to this option-running offense, but for the time being, Tebow just wins. One way or another, he wins games.

Chiefs (4-5): Tyler Palko and Jon Baldwin will be playing at Heinz Field. So they’ve at least got that comfort level in two weeks.

AFC SOUTH

Texans (7-3): Schaub’s out for the season. Matt Leinart and the running game should be able to hold the division lead, but their championship aspirations have crumbled. At least they can finally make it to the dance this year, which Texans fans will surely look on as a victory after so many years of mediocrity.

Titans (5-4): If Houston really does fall about without their quarterback, the Titans have a chance to push for the AFC South title. They’re also starting to get a little bit better at the right time. If Chris Johnson recaptures his mojo for the rest of the season, they could get into the playoffs as a wild card.

Jaguars (3-6): Snooze. This is the exact same season the Jaguars have played every year for the last however long.

Colts (0-10):

AFC NORTH

Steelers (7-3): Despite a season sweep by the Ravens, the Steelers have done everything else they could do to get back on top. Expect the Steelers to make the playoffs. However, they’ll be dependent on Baltimore dropping a few games to get a home game in January. Houston’s season being slightly in jeopardy is good news too, since they’re the only other team the Steelers have lost to. There are winnable games coming up for Pittsburgh, and 12-4 is a reasonable expectation.

Ravens (6-3): Followed up a huge emotional win over Pittsburgh by somehow losing to Seattle. They’ve finally slain the dragon that is the Pittsburgh Steelers, but dropping games against teams like Jacksonville and Seattle are not things a championship football team does. If Cincinnati can manage a win against them (and don’t rule it out), they could find themselves in wildcard position in January. We hope they play us in the playoffs.

Bengals (6-3): Don’t know how they did it, but the Bengals built a solid defense and the Dalton-to-Green passing offense is working for them. Andy Dalton isn’t playing like a rookie, and the Bengals are going to challenge for a playoff position. If they lose to Baltimore it basically ruins their chance at a division title, and a win leaves the door open for Pittsburgh to control their own destiny. Work to do for the Bengals, but don’t count them out.

Browns (3-6): They have some nice young players who are going to be good in the coming years, but with the Steelers and Ravens always battling for the division title and the surprising emergence of Cincinnati, the Browns are the odd man out in the AFC North. Their best hope is the the Steelers and Ravens teams that routinely dominate the North will get old and fall back into mediocrity and the young Browns and Bengals will take over as the new premiere rivalry in the AFC.

Haha, just kidding.

Brian’s playoff predictions:

Wildcard Weekend AFC NFC
Patriots (13-3) Packers (15-1)
2 Ravens (12-4) 49ers (14-2)
3 Texans (11-5) Saints (12-4)
4 Tebows (9-7) Giants (10-6)
5 Steelers (12-4) Bears (11-5)
6 Titans (10-6) Lions (10-6)

A Texans/Titans matchup would be pretty fun, and I’ll give the upset to Tennesse with Matt Schaub out of the lineup.
Someone has to win the AFC West and it might as well be Tim Tebow. I like to think his “always run and never ever complete any passes” plays right into the Steelers’ hands and St. Timothy’s magic runs out.
The Saints would blow the Lions out of the water, but that’s okay because oh my god Detroit made the playoffs.
Bears @ Giants would be a great game with an old-school feel to it. At some point though, Matt Forte is going be ground into a fine powder and Eli Manning will do what Jay Cutler can’t: win in January.

Divisional Weekend AFC NFC
1 Patriots Packers
2 Ravens 49ers
3 Steelers Saints
4 Titans Giants

Later, Tennessee.
Sorry Steeler fans, but nothing this season has made me think the Steelers will win against the Ravens in Baltimore. The Ravens finally complete the hat trick against Pittsburgh in a huge, emotional slugfest of a football game that goes down in legends forever.
Eli Manning is one of two QBs to ever beat the Packers at home in the playoffs. He won’t do it again.
The 49ers and Saints revive a dead rivarly with a spirited, high-scoring playoff affair. The battle-tested, playoff-experience Saints send the 49ers home.

Championships AFC NFC
1 Patriots Packers
2 Ravens Saints

The Belichick/Brady duo gets back to their winning ways in the postseason with a dominant win against a Ravens team that celebrated too much over a divsional win. Baltimore will be burned out and the Pats will take advantage in Foxboro in a game no one in Pittsburgh will watch.
The Saints and Packers play the best offensive football game in NFL history. Brees and Rodgers go toe-to-toe and neither team’s punter even bothers making the trip to the game. The Saints may be the only team that can keep up with the Packers, but more than likely Charles Woodson will return a tipped ball interception for a TD in overtime. 55-52 Packers.

The Patriots and Packers meet in the Superbowl in a disappointing game compared to the shootout NFC Championship. I still can’t see any way the Packers lose a game (that 15-1 prediction is just because it feels weird to predict 16-0) and Aaron Rodgers becomes the first QB since, well, Tom Brady to win back-to-back Superbowls.

There you have it. The rest of the season, as predicted by Brian. Does he have a clue what he’s talking about? Time will tell!

Go Bye Week.
Then Go Steelers. 

Brian Schaich

About Brian Schaich

Brian studied computer engineering long enough to know he just wanted to talk about sports all day for a living, so that's what he does.

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