Sports department for the student run radio station 90.3 WRST at UW-Oshkosh
By: Alexander Crowe
Station Manager at WRST-FM Oshkosh
Before the San Francisco 49ers take on the Washington Redskins tonight on ESPN, these are the current playoff pictures for the NFC and AFC respectively.
1st – Seattle Seahawks 10-1
2nd – New Orleans Saints 9-2
3rd – Detroit Lions 6-5 (Tied with Chicago Bears but hold tiebreaker)
4th – Dallas Cowboys 6-5 (Tied with Philadelphia Eagles but hole tiebreaker)
5th – Carolina Panthers 8-3
6th – Arizona Cardinals 7-4
There’s quite a bit more to this than looks the eye. For starters, the San Francisco 49ers are currently 6-4, and with a win tonight they move into a tie with the Arizona Cardinals for the final playoff spot. In addition to them, both the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles are tied with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys respectively for the top spot in their division. Additionally, in the NFC North, the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers have yet to win a game since Rodgers broke his collarbone in a loss to the Bears, yet they remain just a half game behind both the Lions and the Bears after tying the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
As for the Eagles, they’re a team on the rise as well. Nick Foles has provided a spark for the team, and they’ll refreshed and rested coming off their bye week next weekend when they’re set to take on the Arizona Cardinals. After that, they’ll be playing host to the Detroit Lions. If they win both games, expect Philadelphia to be making the playoffs one way or another. Those are two huge games against opponents that are both heavily involved in the playoff race. If they can’t find a way to win, they may sink to the bottom of the “in the hunt” list and find themselves on the outside looking in when the playoffs start.
Perhaps the most dangerous team in the NFC right now is the Carolina Panthers. Their defense has been shutting teams down, and they’re currently riding out a seven game win streak, including back-to-back wins over the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots. They’ll be taking on another streaking team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this weekend before flying to New Orleans to take on the Saints in the Metradome. These next two weeks are where we’ll find out what kind of team Carolina really has, and whether or not they’ll be a contender in the postseason.
1st – Denver Broncos 9-2
2nd – New England Patriots 7-3
3rd – Indianapolis Colts 7-4
4th – Cincinnati Bengals 7-4
5th – Kansas City Chiefs 9-2
6th – Tennessee Titans 5-6
It’s no secret that there’s a huge gap between the 5th seed and the rest of the teams vying to make the playoffs in the AFC this season. After starting the season 9-0, Kansas City has lost two straight games and currently hold the 5 seed in the AFC playoff race, meaning if the season ended today they would be playing their first playoff game on the road in Cincinnati. Kansas City is still a legitimate team and a real threat to its opponents, however they have to get things together on defense if they want to make a deep postseason run. Their season has been built on the success of their running game and their defensive play, not the play of Alex Smith. If they get into a situation where Smith is relied upon to win them games, it’s simply not going to happen. If they can get back into a dominant state of defensive play, however, the Chiefs will make a deep run into the playoffs as a wild card team.
The Denver Broncos are a really hard team to figure out. They can beat the other contenders in Kansas City, but then lose games on the road in Indianapolis and in New England. The loss in Indy in understandable. Manning was back in his old stadium, one that he played the very first game in. He was going up against his old fan-base and received a welcome that could bring a tear to anyone’s eye. The loss yesterday in New England, however, is one that cannot happen. Manning needs to be the leader of this team, yet twice on national television now he has failed to show up to the game. The Broncos can use their run game and defense for a little bit, but as we all saw last night, that’s not going to work in the postseason. Once head coach John Fox returns to the team and they get in a groove again, the Broncos shouldn’t have any sort of problem scoring points with Manning running the show, though, and the Denver Broncos are still a good pick to win it all.
There are slew of teams fighting to get the final playoff spot this year in the AFC. With the Chiefs at 9-2, they’re a pretty solid lock to win the first available Wild Card spot, unless they take the division from the Denver Broncos. Either way, it looks like there will be only one playoff spot left for all the rest of the teams in the AFC, and there are a lot. The Titans hold that spot right now, but after beating the Chiefs yesterday the San Diego Chargers look ready to make a run into the playoffs. Also sitting at 5-6 right now is the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens. The most likely to make it out of those remaining teams is the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re currently on a three game win streak, and have an interesting schedule coming up. Their next three games are against the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and Cincinnati Bengals, all teams that are fighting for a playoff spot as well. Pittsburgh’s fate is in it’s own hands as of now. If they can win those three games, and put together a win streak before the postseason, they could be looking to make a deep playoff push. After all, we’ve seen Wild Card teams get hot and win it all more than a few times.
While speculating is fun, the fact of the matter is that nobody knows exactly who will make the playoffs until Week 17 of the NFL season. In the NFC, the North, East and South Divisions are all up for grabs. In the AFC, the West is the only conference in which the leader has less than a two-game lead on the other teams in the division. Things are heating up in the NFL, and the next month proves to be exciting to say the least.
Get ready NFL fans, this is where the season starts to heat up. 32 teams fighting for 12 playoff spots with less than six weeks to make it. I don’t know about you, but this is why I love the NFL.