Folsom Lake College's Online Newspaper
by Eric Paolini
The Playoff Outlook
After ten weeks into the NFL season the playoff race is starting to shape up. The higher echelon teams are separating themselves from the future wild card teams. And the leagues worst teams are clearly defined. At this point in the season there is enough of a sample size to start judging the teams for the rest of the season and the playoffs.
Here is a breakdown of the NFL teams that still have playoff chances.
1 Houston Texans (9-1)
This team makes sense. They are solid across the board and besides being on the receiving of Aaron Rodger's 2012 emergence they have looked good all season long. They are the safest bet because they have the team with the fewest holes. Especially with Andre Johnson looking like the Andre Johnson we all know last week. Of all the top playoff contenders they sit atop the list. That being said, a Patriots upset in the AFC championship game would not really surprise me.
2 Baltimore Ravens (8-2)
How is this team 8-2?! I have considered the Ravens fraudulent since week 5. This is a 5 or 6 win team that has 8 wins. Joe Flacco is inconsistent and never makes you confident he can get something done. He's a competent quarterback who needs a good running game and defense to truly succeed. That running game and defense is not in place this year. Even without the injuries they've had on defense, their defense is not that good. This is setting up for an early playoff exit.
3 New England Patriots (7-3)
This Patriots team could knock out the Ravens in the playoffs and give the Texans some fits. They now have a running game that is successful with Stevan Ridley. Their biggest weakness is pass defense. Teams are able to do whatever they want against them. But with the trade for Aquib Talib and they way he played last week vs. the Colts that may be manageable. However, the Rob Gronkowski injury makes things a little more difficult. Their other top tight end, Aaron Hernandez, is still battling his injury. While they still have other receiving weapons for Tom Brady to through to the loss of Gronkowski certainly hurts. But knowing the Pats, someone will step up to fill the void.
4 Denver Broncos (7-3)
They struggled early which was to be expected with the changes they made in the offseason. Peyton Manning looks like the Peyton Manning of old. They have been dominate in their last 5 games and there's no reason to expect any different with their schedule the rest of the way. Unfortunately for the Broncos, Willis McGahee was put on the recallable injured reserve. While the possibility for him to return is there, it certainly hurts the Broncos. But like the Patriots, if you have to take away an important weapon, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning can overcome it.
5 Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
Even with the thrashing they took last week from the Patriots this team should still be able to make the playoffs. The AFC is not very deep with good teams. Things get ugly after the first few teams. The fact that they are competing for a playoff spot after last year's horrendous season should be reason enough for Andrew Luck to win rookie of the year. While I think they get into the playoffs I do not think they will win a game. They are beyond and reasonable expectation somebody could have at the beginning of the season.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
It's been a tough year for the Steelers injury wise. They began this season without their best running back, have played all year with Troy Polamalu on the sidelines, James Harrison has missed games, and because of the injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and now Byron Leftwich they may have to start Charlie Batch at quarterback. Their defense has been terrific and will need to be leaned on to maintain the teams playoff chances until Roethlisberger is ready to return. They are a better team than what they have put forth so far due to the injuries. The numbers of injuries they have had to deal with may make this a lost season for the Steelers.
7 Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)
Remember when I said the AFC gets ugly? Here we are. The Bengals are the Cowboys of the AFC without the heartbreak. To put it nicely, they are streaky. I prefer, inconsistent. They have two dominant wins the last two weeks after a four game losing streak. While BenJarvus Green-Ellis is not the addition some may have expected, the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green tandem is a sight to behold. Each week the tandem of second year players torch defenses. If they get into the playoffs what team do you get? The team that beat the Giants 31-13 or the team that lost to the Browns 34-24? Either way I think you'll see them in the playoffs. Sorry Steeler fans.
8-12 Chargers, Titans, Jets, Bills, and Dolphins (all 4-6)
Why include teams that are sub .500? Because technically they still have some hope. But they get lumped together because they are not good teams. Phillip Rivers has become mediocre at best. Maybe a new opportunity can reinvigorate his career or simply a new coach. Norv Turner should be fired. If I made decisions for the Chargers I would give Rivers another year and send Norv packing the second week 17 is over. Rex Ryan and Chan Gailey could both be justifiably fired after this season as well
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