Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
Well here we are, boys and girls – the season halfway mark. Although it felt like we just got started, it’s from this point on that teams will begin to separate themselves from one another. Now that baseball has taken its final breath, football undoubtedly becomes a primary focus. So let’s take a midseason look at how the playoff structure would look if the postseason began today (last updated on 11/2/13):
AFC Playoff Picture
1. Kansas City Chiefs, 8-0 (AFC West Champ)
2. New England Patriots, 6-2 (AFC East Champ)
3. Indianapolis Colts, 5-2 (AFC South Champ)
4. Cincinnati Bengals, 6-3 (AFC North Champ)
5. Denver Broncos, 7-1 (Wild Card)
6. San Diego Chargers, 4-3 (Wild Card)
In The Hunt
7. New York Jets, 4-4
8. Miami Dolphins, 4-4
9. Tennessee Titans, 3-4
10. Baltimore Raves, 3-4
While it is nearly unfathomable to foresee the 7-1 Broncos tossing their hat into the playoff ring as a mere wild card team, they do have a relatively challenging schedule in the coming weeks, including two games against the Chiefs, which alone could decide the West champion. Also, the Patriots host the Broncos in week 12 – which fueled by the Welker drama, and an already obvious elite match-up, just might be dubbed the game of the year.
The Colts appear to be entrenched in their divisional top spot, as do the Bengals and Patriots. And as long as Philip Rivers can maintain his resurrected high-octane offensive performance, the Chargers should be the third team to come out of the West. If these standings were to hold, the Chiefs and Patriots would lock up the top two seeds and first-round byes.
NFC Playoff Picture
1. Seattle Seahawks, 7-1 (NFC West Champ)
2. New Orleans Saints, 6-1 (NFC South Champ)
3. Green Bay Packers, 5-2 (NFC North Champ)
4. Dallas Cowboys, 4-4 (NFC East Champ)
5. San Francisco 49ers, 6-2 (Wild Card)
6. Detroit Lions, 5-3 (Wild Card)
In The Hunt
7. Carolina Panthers, 4-3
8. Chicago Bears, 4-3
9. Arizona Cardinals, 4-4
10. Philadelphia Eagles, 3-5
The Seahawks have looked very strong all year, despite the closer-than-it-should-have-been game against the Rams in week 8. Both they and the Saints have few soft spots in their respective games and should have no issues in locking up first-round playoff byes. The Packers are always a contender in the NFC North and for the time being, the Lions are the only real challenger. The Bears are without QB Jay Cutler, and their defense – while remaining strong in the takeaway category – is not the same shutdown unit we have grown accustomed to.
The NFC East is a mess, so it’s still a toss-up, but for now the .500 Cowboys remain atop the division. And barring a major change in the NFC tide, the 49ers should have no problem nabbing a wild card slot, while the aforementioned Lions or Panthers look poised to snatch that final spot.