The NFL playoff picture is notoriously muddled, in regards to the AFC wild card. But the NFL playoff picture is technically designed to get teams to the Super Bowl. In the actual race to Miami, things look even more complicated, which seemed impossible a month ago. The Saints, Colts and Vikings were head and shoulders above everyone else all year. But as the NFL playoff picture is nearly settled, the top teams now all have a lot of questions and problems heading into 2010.
The Saints and Vikings still remain the top two teams in the NFC, but it may be harder for them to lead the playoff picture than they thought. New Orleans still hasn’t clinched the top seed yet, and may have to beat the suddenly rolling Panthers to do it. But Minnesota can make that unnecessary, by continuing their own late slide.
The Vikings have badly lost two prime time games on the road, and if they do the same against the lowly Bears tonight, then all bets are off. Brett Favre and Brad Childress’s battle aside, the Vikings are cooling off, and might even lose a week of rest.
A loss by the Vikings would put the Eagles into the No. 2 seed – even though they could still slide down to sixth. The Eagles and Cowboys play for the NFC East title next week, as the result will alter the NFL playoff picture significantly.
With the Saints and Vikings struggling, the winner of the Eagles-Cowboys game could be proclaimed the new favorite in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Cardinals and Packers are quietly preparing to sneak up on everyone.
The NFL playoff picture otherwise revolves around the AFC wild card. But like in the NFC, the AFC’s top team now faces a lot of questions. The Colts gave up on a perfect year, and will now face the distractions that Jim Caldwell was trying to avoid.
All of Indianapolis will wonder if the Colts took their foot off the gas – as they often do. Even while perfect, the Colts weren’t the hottest team in the AFC. That honor now goes to the Chargers, who have won 10 straight and will get the first weekend off.
Now that the Colts have question marks, the Chargers look to be proclaimed the AFC favorite – especially since they’ve beat the Colts in January the last two years. But the Patriots are still lurking, hoping that their good old days are almost back – and the Bengals are riding a lot of emotion.
While the bottom of the NFL playoff picture gets settled, the teams on top have a lot to worry about. The road to the Super Bowl now looks pretty murky, and much more wide open than it did in November. It took a while, but the NFL playoffs may be chaotic and unpredictable after all.
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