NFL Playoff Picture After Week 10

Here are the updated standings at the 9/16 pole, starting in the AFC (please note that teams are ranked in at least approximate correct order 1-16 in both conferences):

1. Indianapolis
2. Cincinnati
3. Denver
4. New England
5. Pittsburgh
6. San Diego
1 game out of 6th: Jacksonville, Baltimore, Houston
2 games out of 6th: Miami, NY Jets
3 games out of 6th: Tennessee, Buffalo
planning for 2010: Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland

At this point the Colts have a near mortal lock on a bye seed being 4 games up in their own division and 3 games over a New England team they just beat and Denver/San Diego. After last Sunday night’s win they seem well on their way to getting the top conference seed locked up. The Bengals and Patriots look real good for winning their division. Cincinnati already has series sweeps over Pittsburgh and Baltimore and will therefor win any divisional ties, and their remaining schedule is almost all games they’ll be favored in. New England has to avoid going into a funk after the way the Indianapolis game played out but the rest of the division is pretty mediocre. Denver is currently scored the leader in the West but that will change if the Chargers beat them this coming Sunday which I think will happen. I can see Denver falling out of the playoff picture if someone currently on the outside gets hot. The Steelers will need luck to win the North but should be okay for making the playoffs if they avoid getting swept by Baltimore (and maybe even if then), as the other remaining schedule includes Kansas City, Cleveland, and Oakland along with Green Bay at home and finishing at Miami. Of the teams currently on the outside the Ravens are obviously the team to keep an eye on, but I wouldn’t sleep on Houston or Miami. Its not an easy schedule for the Dolphins but their style of play usually means they are in the game and they are due a couple good bounces. I am less sold on Jacksonville and the Jets seem to be in free fall. Tennessee winning out to 10-6 I would consider more likely than a Jets resurrection.

NFC:

1. New Orleans
2. Minnesota
3. Dallas
4. Arizona
5. Philadelphia
6. Atlanta/Green Bay
0 games back of 6th: Green Bay/Atlanta, NY Giants
1 game back of 6th: San Francisco, Carolina, Chicago
2 games back of 6th: Washington, Seattle
Planning for 2010: Tampa, St. Louis, Detroit

New Orleans, Minnesota, and Arizona all seem to have clear leads in their divisions while the NFC East is a legit 3 team race. Philadelphia and New York actually have one more division win than Dallas but a 1 game worse overall record at this juncture. The wildcard picture is a jumble with 6 teams currently either 5-4 or 4-5. I put Atlanta and Green Bay tied for 6th as they both have 4-3 conference records, but even this is splitting hairs as no one at 5-4 has a wonderful or lousy conference record. An important thing to keep in mind as the season progresses is that division ties are broken first and the 4 2nd place teams are considered for the 5th seed, and those teams only. Then the 3 remaining 2nd place teams and the 3rd place from the 5th seed division are considered for 6th. So while Atlanta is currently 2nd in the South, Carolina has stormed back to within one game of them and could overtake them if the Falcons lose another division game down the stretch. I ranked Seattle and Washington as still being alive (6 degrees of Jim Zorn?) but I think that is likely just a formality until they take more losses.

Anyhow, my plan is to continue to update this every Tuesday the rest of the season. Enjoy the games!

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