Nov 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) celebrates with tackle Donald Penn (72) his touchdown scored against the Carolina Panthers during the first half at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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There are still five games left in the seasons. The playoff picture is far from complete. So here are the 2016 NFL predictions for which teams make it.
The breakdown will be as follows. First will be determining who the AFC divisional winners will be. Then the NFC divisional winners. Finally comes the wild card participants. As everybody knows the selection process is never easy due to so many tight races. Each winner will be explained as to why they were chosen over another candidate.
AFC West: Oakland Raiders
Probably the best story of the season. The Oakland Raiders have finally pulled themselves out of the cellar and look like a winning organization again. They have an MVP hopeful at quarterback in Derek Carr, a talented cast around him and a strong pass rush led by Khalil Mack. It’s a team that has found ways to win all year. It’s a tough division but they can finish the job over the next couple weeks.
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers
As always the AFC North division is a slug fest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. So why do the black and gold get the nod? Their offense is playing better. Yes the Ravens have the better defense but their offense looks lost at times. Pittsburgh can score points in bunches with an array of air and ground weapons around Ben Roethlisberger.
AFC South: Houston Texans
It really is anybody’s race to win in the AFC South. So why are the Texans the team that will pull out the victory? One major key. They are undefeated in divisional games. Houston is a perfect 3-0. Anybody knows that the easiest way to make the playoffs is by winning as many of those six matchups as possible. Not only do the Texans have the best record in the South but also the best record in head-to-head games. That is crucial.
AFC East: New England Patriots
As if there is any sort of excitement around the AFC East. There hasn’t been for over a decade. The New England Patriots have Tom Brady. They have Bill Belichick. On top of that they have the best record against the division. This team is a machine that continues to run despite constant changes. Buffalo and Miami may keep them honest but at the end of the day the result will always be the same.
Nov 24, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell looks on during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Lions win 16-13. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, the Seattle Seahawks are like a box of chocolates. You never knows what you’re going to get from week to week. One week they look like the team that went to back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013 and 2014. The next they’re getting embarrassed by a supposedly inferior opponent. Nevertheless they still have a great defense and the ever clutch Russell Wilson. Odds are they will figure it out.
NFC North: Detroit Lions
This was a tough decision only because the Detroit Lions have a long history of disappointing expectations. Besides that all their wins this season have been decided by a touchdown or less. That’s not a big margin for error especially with Minnesota and Green Bay lurking in the background. Still, they have Matthew Stafford who is playing the best football of his career and a plucky defense that comes up with enough plays to win.
NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Normally in December it’s the teams that are playing the best defense that emerge from the smoke victorious. In the NFC South that has been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They haven’t surrendered more than 17 points in a game for a month now and just got done humbling the Seahawks. Coupled with the rising play of Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, this is a team that is poised to surge their first division title since 2008.
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
It’s not quite in the bag yet but no team in the NFL is playing better right now than the Dallas Cowboys. Every phase of the game is clicking. It doesn’t look like they’re ready to cool off. The only team that can stop them from winning the NFC East is the Giants who have the only victory against Dallas this year. Given the way their offense is playing though, it’s hard to imagine this team wilting down the stretch.
Nov 28, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy during a NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
AFC Wild Card
Kansas City Chiefs (5th seed)
Is it possible that the defending championship finish with a winning record and still miss the playoffs? That may be the price the Denver Broncos pay thanks to their overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs who own the best divisional record in the AFC West and are always strong towards the end of the regular season. Forcing their old rivals out would be frosting on the cake.
Miami Dolphins (6th seed)
Ever so quietly this once lost football team has found unity, and they’re playing some inspired football. Adam Gase has the Miami Dolphins humming and they are poised to finally overcome their late-season woes to reach the playoffs. They won’t be able to overcome New England but at 7-4 they should be able to claim the final wild card spot.
NFC Wild Card
New York Giants (5th seed)
Offense hasn’t been the problem for the Giants the past few years. Always it was the defense that couldn’t hold up their end. That seems to have changed. Both sides of the ball are contributing and head coach Ben McAdoo is showing plenty of swagger in his game management as well. This team is playing with more confidence each week.
Green Bay Packers (6th seed)
This is one those teams that just seems to find a way into the playoffs every year. Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy haven’t missed a postseason since 2008 and they have a good enough defense to fluster opponents. With an easy slate of games down the stretch there is no reason to think Green Bay can’t win out to clinch a wild card.