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The Redzone: Should old acquaintance be forgot?

The NFL regular season finishes with a full slate of divisional fixtures on New Year’s Day. Steven O’Rourke thinks familiarity will cost some playoff hopefuls.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) shake hands after the Packers' Thanksgiving Day win in Detroit.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) shake hands after the Packers' Thanksgiving Day win in Detroit.
Image: Paul Sancya/AP/Press Association Images

NINE OF THE 12 playoff spots may already be filed, but there is enough jockeying for position to keep this weekend’s fixtures interesting.

Let’s start with the NFC where things are a little clearer.

NFC North

Their perfect record may be gone but Green Bay has already clinched the division and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

They will be joined in the postseason by the Detroit Lions who will be playing their first meaningful January fixture since 1999.

NFC South

The record-setting Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have already made the postseason but could clinch a first-round bye with a win at home to the Carolina Panthers and an unlikely San Francisco 49ers loss or tie against the St. Louis Rams.

The Atlanta Falcons have also secured a wildcard spot in this division though their form suggests they could be done in week one of the postseason.

NFC East

This one is quite simple. When Dallas travels to New York for the late game on Sunday, the winner takes it all.

Neither team’s form suggests this will be a classic but, for drama alone, it should be worth staying up for.

NFC West

The West has had a decent year by recent standards and could even see their divisional champions clinch a first round bye. Compare that to last year when the Seattle Seahawks limped into the playoffs with a losing record.

A win for the 49ers will see them get that first round bye, as will a loss for the New Orleans Saints.

Projections:

1. Green Bay Packers
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. New York Giants
5. Detroit Lions
6. Atlanta Falcons

***

Things are less clear in the AFC both in terms of who will make the playoffs and who will enjoy home advantage and bye weeks.

AFC North

Baltimore and Pittsburgh have already secured playoff spots. However, there is still a lot to play for.

The Ravens, for example, can top the division with a win or Steelers loss and can even secure the number one seed with a win and New England loss.

The Steelers, meanwhile, need to beat Cleveland and hope that the Ravens lose in Cincinnati to clinch the division.

They can also secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win and a loss for both Baltimore and New England.

Both the Steelers and Ravens could be joined by the Bengals in the postseason if Cincinnati manages to overcome the Ravens or both the Jets and one of either Oakland or Denver loses.

AFC South

The Texans have already secured the division and their first ever playoff appearance but will still have a bearing on the AFC playoff race as they host a Tennessee Titans side with postseason hopes of their own.

To reach the playoffs, the Titans must hope for one of the following scenarios:

  1. Both Tennessee and the Jets win and both Cincinnati and Oakland lose
  2. Both Tennessee and the Jets win and both Cincinnati and Denver lose
  3. Cincinnati and the Jets lose and Tennessee, Oakland and Denver all win

Simple really.

AFC East

The Patriots are already in the postseason but can top the AFC and secure homefield advantage with a win over Buffalo at Gillette Stadium.

They can also secure the number one seed if they, Baltimore and Pittsburgh all lose.

The New York Jets, meanwhile, know that their playoff hopes rest in the hands of others. The Jets must beat the Dolphins and hope for defeats for Cincinnati, Tennessee and one of Oakland/Denver to clinch a wild card spot.

AFC West

Three weeks ago, the Denver Broncos looked to have this division sewn up. However, an ill-timed poor run of form means that a postseason place is far from guaranteed.

To win the division the Broncos must beat the Kansas City Chiefs led by Kyle Orton, the man replaced by Tim Tebow as starting Denver quarterback, or hope that Oakland lose to San Diego.

For the Raiders to win the AFC West, they must beat the Chargers and hope that Denver comes up short against the Chiefs.

Oakland can also secure a wildcard spot if they win and both Cincinnati and Tennessee lose or with a victory, a loss for the Bengals and a win for the New York Jets.

Projections:

1. New England Patriots
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Houston Texans
4 Denver Broncos
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
6. Tennessee Titans

Steven O’Rourke is the Offensive Co-ordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club, winners of the IAFL DV8s national title in 2010 and 2011. Tullamore are always recruiting new players so, if you’d like to play football and not just read about it, Steven would love to hear from you.

About the author:

Steven O'Rourke

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