NFL Playoff Projections
Issue   |   Tue, 10/29/2013 - 22:54

Eight weeks into the 2013-2014 season, it is time for playoff predictions for each of the eight NFL divisions. Who are the dark horses though, and who may go on a late season run taking take the league by surprise?

NFC East: Cowboys (4-4), Eagles (3-5), Redskins (2-5), Giants (2-6)

Let’s start with what was predicted to be the most competitive division in football, but now looks to be the worst division.

None of the teams in the NFC East are above .500, and none of them seem poised for a strong playoff campaign.

One team must make the playoffs, however, and it is looking like an 8-8 record will suffice. The Cowboys look the least lackluster, with wins over everyone else in the division, a close loss to the Broncos and two one point losses to the Chiefs and Lions.

Meanwhile, the Eagles QB situation is looking iffy once again, but the Redskins and Giants appear to be on a slight upswing with both coming off two straight wins. Could the Giants possibly manage some late season magic once again after an 0-6 start? We’ve seen crazier things.

Predicted Division Winner: Cowboys

NFC North: Packers (5-2), Lions (5-3), Bears (4-3), Vikings (1-6)

Unlike the NFC East, this division is not a joke. The Packers have avenged a 1-2 start with four straight victories following their bye week. However, along the way they have lost several players. Keep in mind the 2010 Super Bowl Champion Packers battled through injuries, but Aaron Rodgers still led them to the promised land.

The Lions have played inconsistently, but we expect them to play better against an easier second half schedule.

The Bears are without QB Jay Cutler for a month, which leaves them with a big question mark. The Vikings are just about done. Not only has QB Josh Freeman made their passing offense worse; he has also made Adrian Peterson worse.

Predicted Division Winner: Packers

Wild Card: Lions

NFC South: Saints (6-1), Panthers (4-3), Falcons (2-5), Buccaneers (0-7)

This division may have the best team in the NFC (Saints) and the worst team in the NFC (Buccaneers). The Saints have looked dominant this season, with the return of their head coach, Sean Payton. Drew Brees is as elite as ever, and the Saints have a clear stranglehold on the division. The second place Panthers are on a three game winning streak, but it will be challenging for them to catch the Saints.

The Falcons have put together a shockingly dismal campaign thus far this season, falling to 2-5 following a trip to the NFC Championship last season. No team in the NFC has been as miserable as the Bucs though, who are still winless. While Mike Glennon may be a slight upgrade from recently released QB Josh Freeman, the Bucs are still struggling to move the ball with any consistency. Doug Martin’s shoulder injury that could end his season doesn’t help.

Predicted Division Winner: Saints

NFC West: Seahawks (7-1), 49ers (6-2), Cardinals (4-4) , Rams (3-5)

In 2010, the Seahawks won the West with just a 7-9 record. That record won’t cut it anymore in this division. College coaching heroes Pete Carroll from USC and Jim Harbaugh from Stanford have put this division back on the map. Carroll’s Seahawks and Harbaugh’s 49ers are deservedly back in the Superbowl conversation for the second straight year. This is undoubtedly a two-team battle for the division. The Seahawks owned the first matchup, 29-3. We expect the 49ers to win the second matchup at Candlelight Stadium in Week 14.

Interestingly (and frighteningly) enough, both teams have star WR’s coming back from injury — Percy Harvin for the Seahawks and Michael Crabtree for the 49ers. Regardless of which team wins the division, both teams are playoff bound. Do we even need to talk about the Rams and Cardinals in a division with two Super Bowl Contenders?

Predicted Division Winner: 49ers

Wild Card: Seahawks

AFC East: Patriots (6-2), Jets (4-4), Dolphins (3-4), Bills (3-5)

Moving on to the AFC, we begin with a pretty unimpressive East division. While the Patriots are 6-2, Tom Brady is playing worse than he ever has. Five of their six wins have come against teams .500 or below, and while they will probably end up winning the division we doubt they make it too far in the playoffs. The return of superstar TE Rob Gronkowski from a forearm injury should give them a slight boost, but this team can’t be expected to have much postseason success.

The Jets are quite inconsistent, as they beat the Patriots with a last-second field goal just a week ago, but lost by 40 points this week to the Bengals. The Dolphins have lost four straight following a 3-0 start, and the Bills have some young talent, but it is clear that they are yet to piece it all together.

Predicted Division Winner: Patriots

AFC North: Bengals (6-2), Ravens (3-4), Browns (3-5), Steelers (2-5)

The AFC North is normally a tight race halfway through the season, but the Bengals have run away with the division thus far.

The Bengals have simply found ways to end games with 4 victories by 7 points or less. They know the Ravens, Browns and Steelers are not going to give up, however. We expect a bit of a collapse from the Bengals and resurgence from the Ravens.

Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis has shown in the past that he can coach teams into the playoffs, but he hasn’t proved that he can do anything once he’s in the playoffs. We’ll see…

Predicted Division Winner: Bengals

AFC South: Colts (5-2), Titans (3-4), Texans (2-5), Jaguars (0-8)

This division is dominated by one team. The Colts have already beaten arguably the three best teams in the league (the Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos), and they appear to be geared up for a deep postseason run this year. Last year’s first overall pick in the 2012 draft, QB Andrew Luck continues to improve, as he looks more and more like an elite quarterback each week.

The Titans are the second best team in this division, but they’ve dropped 3 straight, falling to 3-4. The Texans and Jaguars are absolutely abysmal and are out of playoff contention early.

Predicted Winner: Colts

AFC West: Chiefs (8-0), Broncos (7-1), Chargers (4-3), Raiders (3-4)

By far the best division in the NFL, the AFC West will go down to the wire. Going into the season, the Broncos were the clear favorite, following a successful 2012 campaign and additional offseason acquisitions.

With Andy Reid as Head Coach and Alex Smith as the new signal caller, the Chiefs are the surprise of the season coming off a dismal 2-14 season last year. Smart, efficient, low-risk offensive play call and the best defense in the NFL have propelled the Chiefs to be the lone unbeaten team.

Don’t count out the Chargers either. A resurgent Philip Rivers, a healthy Antonio Gates and a new cast of receivers have revitalized the San Diego offense.

The Raiders aren’t too shabby either. Sophomore QB Terrelle Pryor has the Raiders playing their best football since the days of Rich Gannon. However, a maximum of three teams can make the playoffs from this division (or any division), and we think the Raiders will fall just a bit short this year. There’s no doubting the fact that the Chiefs look great. They’ve been leading in the beginning of all their games, however, leaving the crucial question: how will they play from behind? We believe we will have to wait until Week 11 to answer this question when they face the Broncos. We think the Chiefs won’t be able to lean on their low-risk game plan against the Broncos’ record shattering offense.

Predicted Division Winner: Broncos

Wild Card: Chiefs and Chargers