Here Come the Playoffs: Several teams had an opportunity to improve their positions for the playoffs. Some succeeded, some didn't. Particularly notable was the way the Texans dropped the last two games to lose home field advantage in the AFC, the last one to what will be a very dangerous Indianapolis team. The Ravens lost for the third time in their last four games to limp in with the number four seed, finally getting a home game but having to play the aforementioned Colts. The Green Bay Packers failed to capitalize on a chance to gain a first round bye, instead losing to the Vikings to set up a rematch in the first round of the playoffs. In the big game of the weekend, the Redskins defeated the Cowboys, sending the 'Skins to a home game in the first round of the playoffs and the Cowboys to the golf course.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) (Last week: NR): The Bengals ended the season with seven wins in their last eight games, including a season-ending victory against the Ravens, to make the playoffs. This is a very dangerous team that has a chance to upset the struggling Texans in Houston. Defensively, Cincinnati is tough and doesn't tend to give up many big plays. Houston is going to have to get ready to play a game that didn't look necessary a couple of weeks ago.
9. Washington Redskins (10-6) (9): The Redskins held their spot by defeating the Cowboys in a winner take all match-up Sunday night. That's the good news. The bad news is they have to play what is probably the most underrated team in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks. RGIII will have his work cut out for him against an opportunistic defense, while the 'Skins defense will need to contain rookie Russell Wilson. The only advantage Washington has will be that Seattle will be traveling to the east coast for the game.
8. Houston Texans (12-4) (6): The Texans are reeling after ending the season with losses in three of their last four games, scoring a total of thirty-six points in the games they lost. It was almost a foregone conclusion a month ago that the Houston would have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Now they have to defeat a tough Bengals team to keep their season alive.
7. Green Bay Packers (11-5) (5): The Packers blew a great chance to get a bye and home field for the divisional playoff round. Now they need to defeat the Vikings in the rematch to earn a trip to San Francisco. They should have the edge, playing a January night game at Lambeau field. But the defense needs to do a better job of containing Adrian Peterson if Green Bay is going to avoid a second consecutive home playoff loss.
6. Indianapolis (11-5) (8): Andrew Luck has led the Colts to five wins in their last six games as they roll into Baltimore to take on the struggling Ravens. There is little doubt that this team is the story of the season in the NFL. Just a year after going 3-13 and letting Peyton Manning go to the Denver Broncos, the Colts have gone 11-5 and just barely missed out on winning the AFC South. In addition, they overcame losing their head coach to leukemia treatments. This is a tough team that may very well end up meeting Manning's Broncos in the second round.
5. San Francisco Forty-Niners (11-4-1) (7): Even though the 'Niners have stumbled a bit since benching Alex Smith, they still held off the Seahawks and gained the second seed in the playoffs. With Atlanta's recent playoff difficulties, the 'Niners may be a win away from hosting the NFC championship game. I like this team a lot.
4. Atlanta Falcons (13-3) (4): Even with a meaningless loss last week, the Falcons are still a good team and probably just need one win to get the playoff monkey off their back. The only problem is that it may very well be against the Seattle Seahawks. If I'm a Falcons fan, I'm really rooting for the Vikings against the Packers.
3. New England Patriots (12-4) (3): It's hard to believe it, but the Patriots are running a little bit below the radar. With a bye week to prepare for the playoffs, I sure wouldn't be counting out the Belichick - Brady machine. I can't wait for the AFC playoffs. There are a number of truly good teams in the AFC.
2. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (2): Pete Carroll has a terrific team, probably the most dangerous one in the playoffs outside of the Broncos. Great rookie QB, a defense that won't give in and a lot of confidence. So let's see, ranked second heading to the playoffs. Am I predicting a Seahawk appearance in the Super Bowl?
1. Denver Broncos (13-3) (1): Peyton Manning, good running game, strong defense, home field in the playoffs. What more can I say? Can we see another big Brady-Manning game that decides who goes to the Super Bowl? I hope so!