NFL Playoff Preview: No Clear Frontrunners for Super Bowl

Zach Piatt

Sports Editor

One more week of regular season football in the NFL remains, which means the playoffs are right around the corner.

Normally in week 17 we have a pretty good idea of who’s in, who they’ll play, and where they’ll play. This year will be a little different because wouldn’t you know it, nobody seems to want to take over. The studs won’t be getting a week of rest this time around, they’re playing for a better spot in the playoffs.

The Patriots (12-3) have the best record in the league going into week 17 and are the only team that seems to have any interest in home field advantage. This being said, they tried to lose last week against the Jets, but eventually eeked out a 17-16 victory. New England is the number one team in the AFC behind the dynamic duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and will be the top seed in the playoffs.

The Indianapolis Colts are headed to the playoffs as AFC South champs for the second year in a row. The Colts are led offensively by Andrew Luck and his biggest target, T.Y. Hilton. Indy has also had a collectively strong defensive effort even without last year’s sacks leader, Robert Mathis. The Colts will be the fourth seed in the AFC.

The Broncos started the year with a lethal passing game led by Peyton Manning, but have leaned toward a run heavy offense in recent weeks. Either way, they’re in the playoffs. Denver can lock up the two seed and a first round bye with a win against Oakland.

Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will play to crown the AFC North champion. Rookie running back Jeremy Hill has provided a nice offensive spark for the Bengals, rushing for over 1,000 yards this season. Cincinnati will be the three with a win and a Broncos win, but could be the two if Denver loses. The Steelers have been led by the three Bs: Big Ben, Bell, and Brown. Ben Roethlisberger is second in the league in passing yards, Bell second in rushing, and Brown first in receiving. Pittsburgh will be the three seed with a win. The short end of this game will receive a wild card spot.

San Diego currently owns the final wild card spot and can clinch it with a victory. Baltimore can steal it with a win and a Chargers loss. Houston and Kansas City are hanging on for dear life. They have to win and will need some help in order to get in.

The NFC is much more competitive. There are five 11 win teams, all going to the playoffs, and only one has clinched their division. The Dallas Cowboys are NFC East champions this year. DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant have been huge assets and are a big reason Dallas is in the playoffs. Murray is leading the NFL in many rushing categories, and Bryant leads the league in receiving touchdowns. The Cowboys will be the three seed in the NFC.

The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks can clinch the NFC West title and home field advantage with a win. Under the leadership of third year quarterback Russell Wilson, Seattle has become a powerhouse in the NFL. With Wilson’s dual threat ability and “Beastmode” in the backfield, the Seahawks will be a tough team to beat. The Cardinals, however, could steal Seattle’s thunder. With a win and a Seahawks loss, Arizona would have a first round bye — bumping Seattle all the way down to a wild card.

Detroit and Green Bay will clash to determine the winner of the NFC North. The Lions have once again been led by the dominant combination of Matthew Stafford to “Megatron.” Detroit is currently in the second seed position, but can move up to first with a win and a Seattle loss. Aaron Rodgers and his receiving core have propelled the Packers to the playoffs. Green Bay can also get the one seed with a win and a Seattle loss, but will be second if the Seahawks are victorious. The loser of this matchup will be a wild card.

Another winner take all game will take place between the Panthers (6-8-1) and the Falcons (6-9). In case you’re wondering, no, those aren’t typos. The winner of the NFC South and fourth seed in the playoffs will be under .500. Winner goes to the playoffs, loser goes home.

Week 17 games start on Sunday at 1 PM and will end Sunday night.

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