As Week 14 of the NFL season concludes and with the crucial final three games of the regular season ahead of us, the playoff picture is becoming clearer by the day.
There are the obvious teams such as the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos who have already clinched themselves a playoff spot by winning their division. In addition, the San Francisco 49‘ers and the Indianapolis Colts are poised for a playoff birth. However, that is only half of the 12-team playoff field, leaving the defending champions from the past two years, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants on the border.
Down to the final three games of the season, each game becomes increasingly important. At this point, the difference between a field goal hitting off the post and putting it directly through the uprights could be the factor that either eliminates your team or pushes them into the playoffs.
Every sports fan knows that the end of the season is the most important. Not only does it decide which seed your team will earn, which team they will play and if the game will be played at home or away; but it also plays a huge factor in momentum and if your team can get on the right page in order to make a run at a championship.
Now, with six teams already locked in, the real question is, who will those other teams be? The factors that you must incorporate while making your predictions are the team’s strength of schedule, home field advantage, their prior success in December (right before the playoffs) and if they recently have been on a win streak.
Once you take all of those factors into account, there is only so much you can predict. After all, one slip gone wrong in the snowy weather could cost a team their season. However, if you omit any injuries to key players, the playoff picture may look something like this.
In the NFC (National Football Conference), the Atlanta Falcons will win the conference earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Behind them, the Packers will also earn a first round bye along with some home field advantage. The Wild-Card will consist of the 49‘ers at home against their division rival, Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins will be at home versus their division rival, the New York Giants.
The AFC (American Football Conference) will be led by the Texans, tightly contested by the Patriots. Beyond them, the Broncos will look to host the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Baltimore Ravens will most likely be hosting the Colts.
If all of these teams were to make the playoffs, it would truly be incredible for two reasons. First, that I accurately predicted the entire playoff bracket, but more remarkably that three rookie quarterbacks (Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson) would lead their teams to the playoffs.
In the end, no matter who reaches the playoffs, it has already been an astounding season and will only get more exciting moving forward.