Four divisions are undecided with one game left on the Week 16 schedule. And while the Falcons are a long shot to overtake New Orleans in the NFC South, the other three open races are very much up for grabs -- the AFC West (Broncos/Raiders), AFC North (Steelers/Ravens) and NFC East (Cowboys/Giants). Who do you think will come out on top in each division?
I don't love the way Baltimore is playing right now, and some injuries are mounting, but after sweeping Pittsburgh and going 5-0 in the division I figure they find a way against the Bengals to secure the long-coveted bye and home game. It won't be easy, though, for sure.
The Giants are riding an emotional high, and though they're a rollercoaster, up-and-down team like everyone else in the NFC East, I've thought for a while they had the best talent and I love what Eli Manning has become. I also generally don't like the Cowboys in must-win type scenarios. That has more to do with their issues in the secondary and some injuries on offense in this case; Tony Romo will probably be just fine, but this is the kind of game Dallas has seemed to lose the past few decades.
And I think the Chargers deliver a blow to their rival Raiders while the Broncos find just enough Tebow Time to get past former teammate Kyle Orton and secure a trip to the postseason. Denver had better right its defense quickly, and it won't be easy. But after climbing from the depths as they have, I say they go ahead and finish the job.
I'll start in the NFC East with two teams that have yet to prove they really want to get into the playoffs, although both could be very dangerous in postseason play. I am rolling with the Giants because they're at home and they've shown that when they're dialed in, they're really tough to beat. I also think Tony Romo's hand will limit him, regardless of how tough he is and how much he tries to recover.
In the AFC West, I like Denver, because all the Broncos have to do is win and they're in. The magic returns this weekend. The North is tricky because the Ravens are playing a Cincinnati team that will play them tough, because it is also trying to get in. So I am rolling with the Steelers, who could play host to one of their AFC North rivals in the postseason, depending on what happens with reeling Houston.
I like the Ravens to win the AFC North, but the Steelers could do more damage in the playoffs. The Broncos will be motivated by the fear of losing to Kyle Orton and the Chiefs, so I do think they will rally to win a close game. And I like the Giants at home to win the NFC East. Would it surprise me if I was wrong on all three counts? With the inconsistent way these teams play, absolutely not. But I will stick with my picks.
The toughest division to handicap is the AFC West because both teams -- Raiders and Broncos -- are flawed, and their deficiencies have been exposed in recent weeks. Denver in particular has struggled getting Tim Tebow on track and the Chiefs' defense has all the tools to make life difficult for him. The Raiders are just as baffling, considering their porous two-minute defense and undisciplined play. Their penchant for penalties is troublesome, but they are more talented than the Chargers, which is enough to get a win.
The Giants should enter the matchup against the Cowboys full of confidence following their win over the Jets. With Tony Romo ailing, it appears the stars are aligning for the G-Men.
I don't know who wins the NFC East, but the team that does should concede its spot to a more deserving NFC team. Certainly, the NFC East division winner shouldn't get home-field advantage, right?
Oh, you don't agree? It's amusing that when the teams in the NFC West were struggling, these were the kind of arguments we would hear about playoff re-seeding and the inequity of home-field advantage. But when it's the Cowboys and Giants slinking into the playoffs from the worst division in the NFC, those arguments suddenly no longer have merit.