Predictions to the playoffs barring catastrophic injuries to more than one impact player
Playoffs by seed:
1) 49ers: solid defense, running game, and now an option to throw with a smart coach who doesn't panic. This team is built for the long haul and will plow through the NFC
2) Lions. Defense improved, passing game is great, Shwartz will be looking to run to keep Stafford Healthy and fresh for postseason
3) Eagles: Giants falter horribly, and Vick Stays healthy and finds rhythm with maclin pass rush puts a stop on pass-happy NFC East
4) Panthers: Much improved team that takes a huge stride and plays solid defense to lead to a playoff berth behind Newton and Running game
5) Packers: After being swept by the Lions they are relegated to the wild card; teams learn to bend don't break against Rodgers. Runnign game is non existent and teams drop 7-8 most plays. No QB can pick through that
6) Seahawks: Pete Carroll puts the team together and ends up needing Tarvaris Jackson or Russell Wilson 6 weeks in; teams can't adjust to quarky/ mobile QB play soon enough to stop a late playoff push behind the Defense and Marshawn Lynch
Last wild caard alternate NFC: Giants: They have just enough to be a fringe playoff team and with a hot streak and momentum can win
1) Ravens/ Steelers season series winner: The only place where I can't decide what team wins conference. Both teams are aging, but both are fundamentally sound enough to win 12-13 games, and have the depth to run through injuries
2) Houston: Defense and running with a passing game when they want it. Should be good enough for a first round bye with Johnson healthy and the O line staying healthy
3) Bills: Dethrone the aging Patriots whom are victimized by Belichek's seeming complacency with the TE being No1 receiver. They will run and play D.
4) Broncos: Playoff team last year with Tebow; Even if Manning isn't 100% still have enough defense/ running game to make a playoff run with mediocre WRs that Manning at 80% will make look like pro bowlers
5) Jets: Defense is still good enough to hold up the team, and Tebow will be starting by week 4 and he just wins somehow. Greene get back on track and the running game opens up the option offense. The Pats are weak defensively, opening the door for the new Tebows
6) Steelers/ Ravens loser: Lets be honest, these teams play way too good of defense to miss the playoffs with the AFC as weak as it is. After both teams beat Cincy, the loser of the division finishes 10-6
Alternates: Last wild card alternate AFC: Chargers: solid enough team, can they run the ball?
Patriots: They have become predictable on offense with a weak running game, and teams will figure out how to bend but not break against the pass, the defense is nowhere near good enough for a FG battle
Saints: They made the playoffs last season by virtue of a weak division and some lucky penalties. Brees steps back and the defense that was less than mediocre is now horrid. They can't put up 50 every week, and they can't compete on the road.
Falcons: Just not enough there to consider them a playoff team. Running game is weakening by O-line and defense cannot withstand a 60 minute game.
Cincy: Very good team, good running game, decent passing game, just not quite good enough in a brutal division with the Jets making a push. Dalton takes a small step backward as AJ Green begins to get double coverage and the (probable) loss of Benson hurts.
Cowboys: Romo can't play QB, he can pass the ball. Not much to speak of for running game or defense. Romo just can't carry a team
Bears: Cutler can't help but throw the ball to marshall too much and throws 20+ INTs. They move away from the running game to try to keep Forte "fresh" and the Defense can't pick up the pieces this year.
Titans: Locker will have to start by week 5 and Johnson will rack up the yardage but can't put the ball in the end zone. The defense can't carry the Team through constant FG battles.