Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The (big) Playoff Picture

It was a wild weekend out west (where the hell was Will Smith?), especially in the AFC, with both the Chiefs and Chargers losing pivotal games.

Coupled with Pittsburgh's upset of the Bears (Upset? Bears? Really?), the Steelers are holding on to that sixth slot in the AFC, while Kansas City and San Diego are in tough spots. Those AFC West teams are in trouble and will now need help to play more than 16 games this season.

In the NFC, the Chicago Bears, which, to this reporters' disbelief, are not coached by Mike Ditka, are holding on to that number two spot and a first-round bye. The Dallas Cowboys are holding strong at that sixth and final playoff slot, while the Vikings, Falcons and Redskins are on the outside looking in (as the cliché goes). The Seahawks have already wrapped up the NFC West and hold a two-game lead over Da Bears for home-field advantage throughout.

So that's where things lie, but I'm nowhere near convinced that the top teams in the standings will be the best teams come playoff time.

Let's not talk about the Colts right now because they could probably beat their opponents with seven guys on the field. But in the NFC, Seattle is the top team and I'm still having a hard time taking them seriously.

Sure, they just kicked the royal hell out of Philly and SF in back-to-back weeks, but USC would've done the same thing. They escaped losses to Dallas, New York Giants and at San Francisco. Yes, the 49ers, who maybe should become the 3ers with the way their daunting offense puts up points, were within a two-point conversion of beating the Hawks. With home-field throughout though, they could be tough.

And the Bears. Da Bears? No. You're not good. The defense is, but you're not. Sure you're 9-4, and sitting pretty in the NFC, but the Chicago White Sox could probably score more points than your current offense. It's actually painful to watch. The defense in Chi-town is great -- no jokes here -- but the common belief that defense wins championships doesn't mean that the offense can go scoreless. The books say that you need to score to win and the Bears' offense scores less than Napoleon Dynamite.

Now that I can't take the top-two NFC teams seriously, I suppose I should make some mildly intelligent claim that there is a team to beat in the NFC. But truth is, this year there really isn't. There are a couple of good teams, but no great ones. Look for Carolina to put it together these next couple of weeks and make a good run. And Seattle, playing in the rainy Northwest, could be a challenge.

In the AFC, aside from Indy, Denver is looking really strong. Broncos' coach Mike Shanahan ran for 300 yards last week against Baltimore because of that incredible offensive line. Meanwhile, QB Jake Plummer has befriended Adam Morrison and is being considered for the MVP and the "Spanish Pornstar look-alike" award. Denver and Indy would make for a good AFC Championship game.

Stay tuned...

In other news: Milton Bradley was traded to the Oakland A's today for a minor-leaguer and the rights to Monopoly, Clue and Risk.

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