NFL Playoff picture left wide open for teams to claim post-season spot

A playoff prediction to one of the most unpredictable seasons

by Emmanuel Bernal
Staff Reporter 

The tables continue to turn in National Football League.  When the third issue of The Chaparral was released on Oct. 17, the power ranked teams were the San Diego Chargers that were at a healthy 4-1 and at the top of their division;  The Buffalo Bills looked unstoppable, and were bringing down the top teams in the league in impressive fashion.  Meanwhile the Denver Broncos seemed to be looking for a back door exit to the 2011 season with a 1-4 record. Now entering the final quarter of the season the Chargers have lost six straight games, the Bills winning seems like a distant fad, and Tebow Time has rallied the Broncos to an unbelievable five straight wins in a race to the AFC West title.

It feels as if it was just last week that our favorite teams were anticipating starting the engine of a great season, coming from an offseason that was mind-boggling to the fans and stressful for the league members with the Lockout. But now we’re coming down to the wire of the 2011 season and the race to the playoffs could not be any more wide open. With five games left in the season here is a prediction of how the standings will finish and what teams will be gearing up in January for the playoffs.

NFC North: Green Bay Packers

This is more of an obvious statement than a prediction, as the whole season has pretty much boiled down to who can beat the Green Bay Packers.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing football like he is ten years ahead of the rest of the league, and the defense is leading the league in interceptions.  The road to the Super Bowl will have to go through Green Bay, Minnesota.

NFC South: New Orleans Saints

Atlanta Falcons seem to be hitting their stride, but it might be too late as the Saints have already defeated them and simply are the better team.  The Saints could end as the number two team if San Francisco loses a game or two, and as of now seem to be the biggest contenders for the Green Bay Packers.

NFC West: San Francisco 49ers

This team is one or two weeks away from sealing the deal in their division. The rest of the teams in the west have a losing record and are well out of the playoffs, as the 49ers are at a healthy 9-2 record. This team has not allowed a rushing touchdown all season, which is unheard of.  Defense wins championships, and the 49rs have been playing that way all season.

NFC East: New York Giants

Very bold prediction, as the Giants are playing ugly football at the moment.  But it is just like the Giants, to play mediocre or less during the month of November, only to hit December straight on and sneak their way into the playoffs. The Cowboys lead the divison, and these teams still have two games remaining against each other. The unpredictability of Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo Is what gives the Giants an edge.

Wild Card:  Atlanta Falcons

It may not be enough to win the division, but their rolling on all cylinders at the moment and it could take them all the way to the playoffs.

Wild Card: Detroit Lions

This spot would have been reserved for the Chicago Bears if it were not for the injury to Quarterback Jay Cutler.  But though the Detroit Lions hit a slump this season, their star powered offense is too much to handle for their remaining opponents and they should ease their way into the next round.

AFC East: New England Patriots

Although they might be number two in the conference, they will slowly but surely move their way up to the number one seed eventually.  Their passing defense is barely existent, but they still have Tom Brady throwing the ball on the other side.  New England will be just fine.

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens finally got over the hump in their division by beating the Steelers twice in the season. The top ranked defense in the league for several years is finally getting its payoff as Quarterback Joe Flacco is hitting his career prime. Look for this team to go deep in the playoffs.

AFC South: Houston Texans

The Texans have given themselves enough room in the division to feel comfortable as they deal with Quarterback injuries.  The Quarterback Carousel in Houston now has them down to their third string. They may still find their way in, but it is unfortunate to see this happen to a good team.

AFC West: Denver Broncos

Head coach John Fox took everything that is conventional about football,   gave it one read through, then crumbled it up and tossed in the trash when he installed Tim Tebow as Quarterback.  Denver is running the ball more than any other team in the league, and that includes a big role for Tebow.  If you’re a Denver fan he has you pulling your hair out for three quarters of ugly football, only to find a way to win in the last quarter. The Raiders blow their division lead, and the Broncos find themselves in the playoffs.

Wild Card: Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers always find a way to muscle their way into the playoffs. They may go in as a wild card, but no team wants to run into these guys in the playoffs.  Coming off a defeat in the last Super Bowl, they have been waiting for January since the day they got off the bus from that final game.  Steelers are another team that finds themselves deep into January this season.

Wild Card: New York Jets

Gang Green does it again. Just when everyone rules them out, head coach Rex Ryan rallies his troops for another march at the Lombardi trophy. Quarterback Marc Sanchez continuously struggles in the regular season, only to have an almost perfect rating in the playoffs.  The Jets can be a dangerous team on an any given Sunday, and if they arrive at the playoff, this team reaches its highest potential.

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