The cream always rises to the top and that’s exactly what’s happening in the NFC right now. Eight teams are currently above .500 and only two or three teams other than that have a chance of making the playoffs. Atlanta has a four-game lead in the NFC South and should coast to a division title and a first-week bye. San Francisco should also have an easy time winning the NFC West and also look likely to grab a first-week bye now that Colin Kaepernick is leading the charge.
Chicago and Green Bay will battle down to the end for the NFC North title. Both teams have similarly difficult schedules, so it’ll probably come down to the wire. Their game in Week 15 might be the difference maker, with Green Bay having won the first match-up. Regardless of who wins the division, the other team will likely make the playoffs.
The Giants currently have a two-game lead over Washington and Dallas, but their schedule prevents them from encouraging their fans to put their deposit down on playoff tickets. Washington has their flaws and a tough schedule down the stretch, but RG3 keeps them in any game. Something tells me the Cowboys won’t die either, but they always seem to get in their own way. I see the Giants coming out on top in the division, but there’s an outside chance whoever comes in second could still grab one of the Wild Cards.
Minnesota is falling apart and won’t be in the Wild Card conversation at season’s end. Tampa Bay is right there, but they’ll have to win three games and they have to travel to Denver, New Orleans, and Atlanta, which doesn’t bode well for them. Seattle can’t play every game at home, where they’re 5-0 as opposed to 1-5 on the road, but their bigger issue is that they’re about to lose their top two cornerbacks for the rest of the regular season.
So where does that leave New Orleans? They can’t afford to lose more than one more game and they have to travel to Atlanta, New York, and Dallas. They probably dug themselves too large of a hole, but a win tonight against Atlanta would give them the confidence they need going forward. One team usually comes on late in the season to make the playoffs and then makes a run. Is New Orleans ready to make it happen?
Survivor Pick of the Week:
DENVER over Tampa Bay
Maybe I haven’t used Denver in this space because I’ve been waiting for them to lose or maybe it’s because I’ve been saving them for later in the season when their schedule gets a lot easier. I’ll let you decide. Either way, things look good for the Mannings boys this week as they go against the worst passing defense in the league. Even if it’s a high-scoring game, I expect Denver to score at will and don’t see them having any trouble if they need a score at the end of the game.
Other alternatives would include these home teams: Chicago (who should be able to beat a Seattle team who’s 1-5 on the road), the N.Y. Jets (who may be in turmoil, but have a strong enough defense to dominate a Cardinals team that hasn’t won since Week 4), and Detroit (who don’t have the most ideal match-up against Indianapolis, but the Colts are only 2-3 on the road). Chances are you’ve already used Baltimore (who should dominate a Pittsburgh team without Big Ben), Green Bay (who will look to respond against Minnesota after last week’s terrible performance), and Dallas (who as bad as they may be, should be able to beat down the lowly Eagles).
Thursday Night Pick:
New Orleans +3.5 over ATLANTA
There’s plenty of fanfare around the Falcons, but does anyone outside of Atlanta have blinding faith about how good they are? They’ve won all their home games this year, but looks how close the games have been:
- Denver by 6 (Although it might’ve been a lot if Peyton Manning didn’t have an abysmal first quarter)
- Carolina by 2 (The Panthers should’ve gone for it on fourth and one with Cam Newton instead of punting)
- Oakland by 3 (They’re the Raiders, but even that came down to the last possession)
- Dallas by 6 (An ugly game that the Cowboys let get away from them in the fourth quarter)
- Arizona by 4 (The Cardinals would’ve won if they had any kind of offense)
That’s not exactly mowing down the competition. Eventually you run out of breaks in these situations. The Saints can normally be hammered by a good running game, but the Falcons haven’t had much of a running game all year. Michael Turner is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry and he’s being phased out for Jacquizz Rodgers, who isn’t exactly lighting things up on the ground himself. The Saints have been better with Joe Vitt at the head and only lost last week because Drew Brees threw two pick sixes. They’ll keep this within a field goal if not win it outright.
Last Week: 6-10