At Mid-Season Who will be our Playoff Teams?

The first eight games of the season have not sealed the Vince Lombardi trophy for the Green Bay Packers as some have suggested. If you ask the team I’m sure they will remind you that last season they entered the playoffs through the wildcard playoffs on the back of a 10-6 record. Furthermore, the New England Patriots will be quick to remind them that even a perfect 16-0 run to the playoffs doesn’t seal you the big game. All the first eight games have done in the context of this season is eliminate nine of the thirty-two teams from the playoff bracket. In the AFC the bottom sides in the four divisions (Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts) and the Jacksonville Jaguars have no chance of getting a playoff berth in my opinion. In the NFC the NFC West’s horror trio of the Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals and the NFC North’s Minnesota Vikings will miss the boat this year. Mark Payne picks his playoff teams at the mid-season point


New England Patriots (AFC EAST WINNERS)
The Bills might top the division at the moment, the Steelers may have won against the Patriots last week but the Patriots will come out on top. They are a side that offers consistency at every position, the Jets and the Bills don’t go into every game as favourites the Patriots do and that’s why they’ll top the division.
Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC NORTH WINNERS)
Warren Sapp emulated Alan Hanson by blurting out a criticism of a team likely to go on to success early in the season. The ageing defence have been solid but it is Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace that are leading the Steelers to the title, the Ravens will be there or there abouts but don’t have the offensive strategy to win the AFC North this year.
Houston Texans (AFC SOUTH WINNERS)
Andre Johnson is coming back and the team has found a way to win without him. For opponents of the Texans this is a worrying proposition. The Titans have looked strong in the AFC South but their heavy defeat to their divisional rivals shows that there is still room for improvement.
Oakland Raiders (AFC WEST WINNERS)
The AFC West is all up in the air at the moment. As soon as one team appears to have grabbed the bull by the horns they capitulate, first the Raiders led before McNabb’s injury then Philip Rivers botched snap against the Chiefs means that Kansas City’s finest are on top. Despite the improvements the Chiefs have made, if Carson Palmer  has done the expected homework in his bye week the Raiders have more than enough to come out on top. Just don’t expect a deep run this season.
Cincinnati Bengals (WILDCARD)
After a 1-2 start the Bengals have won four straight to sit second in the AFC North. The relationship between Dalton and AJ Green will only improve throughout the year and if Cedric Benson can put his dark past behind him the team can put running plays on his back.
New York Jets (WILDCARD)
Sorry Bills fans but I can’t help but feel Rex Ryan’s boys will pip you to the playoffs. Plaxico Burress has given Mark Sanchez a quality second receiver behind Santonio Holmes with experience of getting it done at the highest level. The defence is solid and with the experience at the running back position this side will only get stronger.


Philadelphia Eagles (NFC EAST WINNERS)
This is a pick I would not have made two weeks ago but the Eagles have transformed since then, the rout of the Cowboys on Monday Night Football the high watermark of the season. All the pieces are falling into place for the Eagles, Vick is finding time in the pocket and passing well, LeShaun McCoy is second only to Adrian Peterson in rushing yards while on the defensive side of the ball mid-season dunce

Green Bay Packers (NFC NORTH WINNERS)
If the Packers don’t win their division, something will have gone horribly wrong. The connection between Rodgers has a superb receiving corps to aim at. The soft underbelly of this side is the defence but it rarely gets exposed due to the offences efficiency.

New Orleans Saints (NFC SOUTH WINNERS)
A very similar side to the Packers; the Saints should cruise to their division as well. A strong passing offence with the ability to run the ball with Sproles and Ingram. They pass the ball well but will need to address their defensive frailties. They take the ball away less than the Packers and as a result to much pressure is placed on the offence.

San Francisco 49ers (NFC WEST WINNERS)
The side most likely to make the playoffs. As good as the Niners have been the NFC West has been bad. The run game and defence have been the driving force for their improvement. The workload for the improving Alex Smith has been small, in the playoffs he may be forced into some pressure throws. Only then can we truly assess the quality of this side.

Dallas Cowboys(WILDCARD)
They’ll be in a tight run in with several sides including divisional rivals the New York Giants but the highly impressive Demarco Murray will take enough pressure off the inconsistent Romo to make it to the playoffs. This is a side with quality in the receiving corps as well with Des Bryant, Miles Austin  and perennial pro-bowl tight end Justin Witten.

Detroit Lions (WILDCARD)
This is a side that deserves a playoff berth. Suh and Vanden Bosch have given the defence a notoriety that hasn’t been seen since the Steelers Steel curtain in the 1970s. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson provide the most deadly passer receiver duo in the league though they lack strength in depth and a running game.


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