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Eagles, Cowboys among NFC's danger-zone teams

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With our playoff picture page in full swing, I've started thinking about the playoffs a little earlier than usual this year. So I might as well share a few of those thoughts.

It will be a hard year to catch up in the NFC

A 3-3 record in the AFC isn't the same as 3-3 in the NFC. Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are going to have to pass a lot of teams like the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers to make it into playoff position. This could be a season, like 2008 in the AFC, where even 11 wins doesn't guarantee you a playoff spot. Ten wins figures to be the absolute minimum.

Do the math, and you see why a team like the 2-4 Detroit Lions already are in deep trouble. They would have a much better chance at climbing out of that hole in AFC (where the schedules are much easier, too.)

The San Diego Chargers, for instance, have a great chance make the playoffs at this stage. The Chargers have two avenues to get in (division champion and wild card) and only one real competitor in the division. The 3-3 Miami Dolphins also have a great chance. That's significantly higher than NFC East teams like the Eagles, Cowboys and Washington Redskins because the AFC is not as deep.

The low seeds in the AFC are wide open

For the sake of argument, let's just say the New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens get in the playoffs. They are in strong positions, and they have the talent to do so. The other three AFC playoff spots are wide open. Teams like the Tennessee Titans have a chance to dream despite being outscored by 89 points this season. The same theory holds true for the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills, at least for now.

This is a good year for the Pittsburgh Steelers to get off to a slow start. It's a great year for the Dolphins to sneak into the No. 6 seed.

Texans are in a very strong position for home-field advantage

The Texans play in the worst division in football. They already are a game and a tiebreaker over the Ravens, who have all sorts of injury problems. Houston owns the tiebreaker over the Denver Broncos. The Texans have a two-game lead on the Patriots, which is a significant gap with just nine games left (their Monday night game against New England in Week 14 looms large.)

We have a ton of football left to play, but the Texans already are big favorites to nab the AFC's top seed.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.
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