Is your team in the hunt for the playoffs?

A compilation of this years National Football League teams for 2012-2013. (Photo Illustration: Lindsay Breslin)

Photo: Illustration by Lindsay Breslin

A compilation of this years National Football League teams for 2012-2013. (Photo Illustration: Lindsay Breslin)

By Jared Bergstrom, Sports Columnist

If leaves cover the ground and the air is chilly, it must mean that the NFL season is in full swing.

Teams mark a mid-point on their calendar, which is usually around their bye week, to evaluate their performance in a season. And some teams make drastic changes to their team to try to get the upper-hand in their respected division; this may include trading away a good player for a better pick in the draft, cutting players, and just making roster changes.

AFC EAST:

New England Patriots – The Patriots are 6-3 and atop the AFC East at of the end of Week 10.  The Patriots have not performed up to expectations this year compared to prior seasons. Last year at Week 10, the Patriots also were 6-3 (with their bye week also), but the Patriots aren’t playing like the same team that made it to the Super Bowl last year. Despite the disappointing performance this year, the Patriots are already looking forward to the postseason. They don’t really have a tough rest of the season except for a couple of games against the Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49ers late in the season. But look for the Patriots to cruise the rest of the season and make the playoffs. The Patriots will likely win the division – probably hands-down.

Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins are 4-5 and are on a three-game skid. The Dolphins have now dug themselves a hole to climb out of because with the loss to the Bills, they dropped from 7th in the AFC (1st team out of the playoffs) to 11th in the AFC (5th team out of the playoffs). But the Dolphins still have to play the Patriots twice this season, and I believe depending on which Dolphins team shows up, they could beat the Patriots. Earlier this season, Miami had an impressive win over division rivals the New York Jets, which turned out to be the last win of a three-game winning streak. The rest of the Dolphins’ season looks to favor them, although they still have three games that will test them. But look for the Dolphins to be in the hunt at the end of the year, and if they can beat the New England Patriots, they could possibly win the division, too.

Buffalo Bills – The Buffalo Bills are 4-6 and coming off of an impressive win over division rival Miami Dolphins, 19-14. With the win, the Bills only moved ahead of the Dolphins in the playoff hunt by one spot, but if it comes down to a tie at the end of the year, the Bills would get the playoff spot due to the head-to-head win percentage against the Dolphins. And the Bills may have an easy schedule the rest of the season. The Bills only have two games against teams that have a winning record. So the Bills could end up battling for a playoff spot by the end of the year. And earlier this year the Bills lost a nail-biter to the Tennessee Titans, 35-34, which ended up being the Bills best game that they had played that was interesting. The Bills don’t have a tough stretch of games the rest of the season, but if they lose games that they shouldn’t, then I would say their playoff hopes are done.

New York Jets – The New York Jets came into this season with high expectations when they brought in quarterback Tim Tebow, but now Jets fans aren’t cheering J-E-T-S, they are cheering for Tebow to replace Mark Sanchez. The Jets are 3-6; they’ve lost some key players on both sides of the ball, and sloppy quarterback play has made the season worse. Last week, the Jets lost a disappointing game to division rivals the Miami Dolphins, 30-9. The Jets also don’t have a favorable schedule for the rest of the year, and they’ll finish with a record way under .500. The only good thing about that is that the team will be really high in the NFL Draft for 2013.

I project that the New England Patriots will win the division, but it will come down to the final game since they play the Miami Dolphins, who are in the hunt for the division title.

NFC EAST:

Several teams in the NFC East aren’t playing to their full potential this year.

“The biggest under performer to me so far is the Eagles, followed closely by the Cowboys,” said Dave Anthony, a Fairmont staff member and baseball coach. “Traditionally, the NFC East is one of the best divisions in football, but with the emergence of Robert Griffin III and Eli Manning’s late game heroics, it seems to be a two-horse race.”

New York Giants – The New York Giants are having a typical Giants season, winning games in dominating fashion. The Giants are 6-4, but are on a two-game skid. Eli Manning is having an MVP-type season, having already accumulated over 2,600 passing yards and 12 touchdowns.  I predict Manning will break Drew Brees’ passing yards in a season this season.

Dallas Cowboys – The Dallas Cowboys are having a backwards Cowboys season. Instead of choking late in the season, they’re choking early. Tony Romo once again has more turnovers than touchdowns; he had a career high four interceptions against the New York Giants. Maybe now that the Cowboys have lost every way possible this year, they can get on the “win-train” and be in the hunt for the division title like they were last year. But the Cowboys have to figure out how to limit the turnovers per game ratio, and the offensive line has to give Romo more time in the pocket to set up and look around the field.

Philadelphia Eagles – The Philadelphia Eagles are having some controversy at starting quarterback. With the number of turnovers that Michael Vick has produced this year (8 interceptions and 3 fumbles), he could lose his starting job to rookie quarterback Nick Foles from Arizona. The Eagles have a tough schedule ahead of them as they have four division games remaining. The Eagles are basically in the “win out or you’re not in” category because they’re under .500 and need to pile up the wins. But if you are an Eagles fan, don’t look for them to be in the playoff hunt at the end of the year.

Washington Redskins – The Washington Redskins are doing OK this year. I didn’t expect them to have many wins this season, and they don’t. The Redskins are 3-6 with Robert Griffin III at the helm, but the Redskins should have more wins than that. But giving up the lead late will destroy your season, and it has so far for the Redskins. If the Redskins get some wins over big teams, they could be in the hunt for a wildcard spot. The Redskins ended the season with five wins last year, and the Redskins can at least get more wins than that this year.

My projected winner is that the Dallas Cowboys will win the NFC East because they have the 3rd easiest schedule the rest of the year.

AFC NORTH:

Baltimore Ravens – The Baltimore Ravens are at 7-2. The Ravens have had some success this year, but their two losses were disappointments to their team, their fans, and their franchises. They should have beaten the Philadelphia Eagles, and they lost badly to the Houston Texans, 43-13. Other than that, though, they’ve been an overall good team. The Ravens will end up at least being in the wildcard hunt, but they’re also a big contender for the division title.

Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers are 6-3 and on a four-game winning streak. They’re looking good this year, including a big win against the New York Giants, 24-20. The Steelers have to play the division rival Baltimore Ravens twice in the remaining games of the season; they also still must face the Dallas Cowboys, which could be a hard-fought game. But other than that, the Steelers look like they could cruise into the wildcard hunt with a record well over .500.

Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are 4-5 and have a lot of momentum after beating the New York Giants last Sunday. The Bengals hope that the momentum carries over for the rest of the season, because with the win, they are right back in the thick of things for a wildcard spot. It wasn’t really a tough battle for the Bengals, as they routed the Giants 31-13.

Cleveland Browns – The Browns have once again reserved their spot in the basement of the AFC North. The Browns are 2-7 on the year and have secured their typical spot of being in the top 5 in the NFL Draft next season. The Browns are in the spoiler role now and probably won’t succeed in that either.

My projected winner for the AFC North is the Baltimore Ravens.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears – The Bears are 7-2 on the year and are first in the NFC North. The Bears has had some good fortune not to have played anybody hard this year. The Bears best opponent that they played and beat was probably the Indianapolis Colts, and that was the first game of the season. Although the Bears have 7 wins on the year they can thank the people who are in charge of making the schedules because this season is easy for the Bears.

Green Bay Packers – The Packers are 6-3 on the year, and are on a 4 game winning streak. The Packers look like they could cruse into the playoffs, because they play the a lot of easy teams that rest of the way. The Packers don’t have to worry about not making the playoffs because they hold a tiebreaker against a lot of teams. So the Packers are easily locked into the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings are 6-4 on the season, and look like they could be in the playoff race. But as the rest of their season looks they have to play 2 games against the Packers and the Bears. So after this week look for the Vikings to be out of the playoff hunt.

Detroit Lions– The Lions are 4-5, but don’t have a favorable season. They play games against 6 teams taht ahve a winning record. The Lions haven’t done anything this year, and they wont do anything either. The Lions are just terrible. But they will have a good selection in the draft next season.

My projected winner for the NFC North is the Chicago Bears.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans – The Texans are playing great football right now. Besides their stumble against the Packers, losing 42-24, they are otherwise perfect (8-1). The Texans have basically locked up the division for the second straight year. They still have to play four division games, but look for the Texans to have only 2 losses the entire year. “I believe the Texans are the best/most complete team in the NFL,” said Anthony. “They can score through the running or passing game and play great defense. Barring any injuries (like last year), they are my pick to win it all.”

Indianapolis Colts – The Colts are having a great year under first-year quarterback, Andrew Luck. The Colts are 6-3 and have a great shot at making the playoffs. The Colts still have to play three division games and a hard game against the New England Patriots. But the Colts are in a great position to go into the playoffs as a wildcard.

Tennessee Titans – The Titans are 4-6. They’ve actually beaten two teams that are in the playoff hunt. But if the Titans don’t put something together here quickly, you can forget about their playoff chances. The Titans have three tough games left and those could make or break their season.

Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars are 1-8 right now, and they can’t even buy a win with how bad they’re playing. The Jaguars are already out of the playoff hunt. Oh, wait – never mind! They’ve been out of the playoff hunt ever since the franchise was created. The Jaguars have only produced seven winning seasons in their franchise’s tenure. And once again, the Jaguars will finish with a losing record.

My projected winner for the AFC South is the Houston Texans. No surprise.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons are the only perfect team left in the NFL. And they must have a lucky horseshoe or rabbit’s foot somewhere because they have been extremely lucky this year, with 5 of their 8 wins coming from a 7-point or less margin. Even though the Falcons haven’t locked up the division, they only need a couple of wins because they are so far ahead of the second team in the division.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs are above .500 for the first time this year since their Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers. The Buccaneers, now 5-4, should be perfect but sloppy fourth-quarter play has kept them from that. Also the Bucs had Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin all over them earlier this year because when the Giants were kneeling the ball at the end of the game, the Bucs accidentally knocked down Eli Manning. But the Bucs are right in the thick of things for the wild card spot.

New Orleans Saints – The Saints have proved that they can’t win without a head coach. And, well, when you don’t have a good coach, then you can’t win. The Saints have to basically win out to try to make the wildcard.

Carolina Panthers – The Panthers just are terrible. And really they are just playing for a good draft spot. The Panthers are lined up to be in the top 5 in the draft next year.

My projection is that the Atlanta Falcons will win the NFC South.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos – The Broncos are having a great season. At 6-3, Peyton Manning is having a wonderful season statistically. Manning is averaging over 300 yards passing a game and is one of the frontrunners for MVP for the league. The Broncos are leading the AFC West by one game over second place San Diego Chargers. The Broncos have somewhat of an easy schedule to march into the playoffs.

San Diego Chargers – The Chargers are 4-5 and are going into a tough stretch of games as they have 5 games against teams that are over .500, so the Chargers have a mountain to climb. The Chargers are on the bubble to make one of the wildcards, but they can still capture the division title by beating the Broncos in the last meeting of the season.

Oakland Raiders – The Raiders are 3-6, and coming off of a heart-breaking loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 42-32. The Raiders have 8 games left to try to make the playoffs. But the one game that the Raiders will have problems with is the Cincinnati Bengals inCincinnati. It is Carson Palmer’s return toCincinnati since he was traded away to the Raiders last season.

Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs are 1-8, and are on a 6-game losing streak. The Chiefs are already out of the playoffs, so they should shut down their season and try to get the best possible draft spot that they can. The Chiefs have also been injury-prone at the quarterback position, with Matt Cassel being out three games earlier this year, and then Brady Quinn getting hurt in the next game. But the Chiefs haven’t been obliterated in all of their games; in 4 of their 8 losses, they lost by 10 points or fewer. The Chiefs are in a great position to get the 1st selection in the draft next year because they currently have the worst record in the NFL.

My projected winner of the AFC West is the Denver Broncos. The Broncos have proven that they are a legitimate contender to win the Super Bowl. Also Peyton Manning is having an MVP-caliber season after a lot of people wrote him off because of his numerous neck surgeries. But Manning is giving the Broncos exactly what they wanted – a shot to get into the playoffs.

NFC WEST

San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers are 6-2-1; yes, that is right, a tie. The 49ers tied division rival St. Louis Rams, 24-24. There is a lot of controversy around a tied game in the NFL. The last tie was way back when the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals tied 13-13 in Week 11 of 2008. And when the overtime ended in that game, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb didn’t know that games could end in a tie. But back to the 49ers … the 49ers are 2 games up on the second-place team, the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks are 6-4 and are coming off of an impressive win over the New York Jets, 28-7, and the Seahawks are going into a bye this week. But the Seahawks have had impressive wins over the Green Bay Packers, the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. The Seahawks can give the 49ers a run for their money at the end of the season, because they play the 49ers the second-to-last game of the season.

Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals are 4-5, and on a 5-game losing streak after starting 4-0. The Cardinals had big wins over the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and the Seattle Seahawks. But to counter that, they lost heartbreakers to the Buffalo Bills and the Minnesota Vikings. The Cardinals have five games left in the season that are against teams with winning records.

St. Louis Rams – The Rams are 3-5-1. Yes, they tied the San Francisco 49ers, 24-24. The Rams are kind of dead in the water, because even if they win out, there are too many good teams in the wildcard hunt. So the Rams should just shut down their season and try to get the best possible draft pick they can.

My projected winner is the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks will put up enough wins toward the end of the season and can beat the 49ers. The 49ers have a hard schedule the rest of the way and can’t get enough wins to put them in the playoffs.

THE PLAYOFFS

Division Winners

AFC NorthPittsburgh Steelers

AFC SouthHouston Texans

AFC EastNew England Patriots

AFC WestDenver Broncos

Wild Card 1 – Baltimore Ravens

Wild Card 2 – Indianapolis Colts

 

NFC NorthChicago Bears

NFC SouthAtlanta Falcons

NFC EastDallas Cowboys

NFC WestSeattle Seahawks

Wild Card 1 – Green Bay Packers

Wild Card 2 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers