New England's 45-3 demolition of the Jets didn't happen because New York was whipped at the line of scrimmage. The teams were essentially even in running the ball. The difference came in that, while Brady was carving up the Jets' vaunted defense to the tune of 21/29 for 326 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, Sanchez was playing like...well, a second-year player on the road, throwing three picks. One of them was a horrible misfire in the middle of the field when the Jets were threatening to cut the score to a manageable 24-10 in the third quarter.
The Patriot and Steelers wins help clear up the playoff picture, so let's move on with some revised projections...
AFC East: New England
AFC North: Pittsburgh
AFC South: Indianapolis
AFC West: Kansas City
Wild-Cards: Baltimore, NY Jets
Byes: New England (1) and Pittsburgh (2)
1st Round Matchups: (3)Kansas City vs (6) NY Jets, (4)Indianapolis vs. (5) Baltimore
As you can see, I'm not quite sold on Jacksonville just yet in the South, so I'm still leaning Indy even though they're going to have to back their way in. The Ravens' head-to-head win over the Jets gives them the edge in seeding, although at the 5-6 spots, it probably doesn't matter all that much. You will note that if the seeds do work out this way it sets up Round 3s in both Patriots-Jets and Steelers-Ravens if the wild-cards can handle their business on the road. That's an AFC Divisional Round that would draw some ratings.
NFC East: NY Giants
NFC North: Green Bay
NFC South: Atlanta
NFC West: St. Louis
Wild-Cards: New Orleans & Chicago
Byes: Atlanta (1) and Green Bay (2)
1st Round Matchups: (3)NY Giants vs (6) Chicago Bears, (4)St. Louis vs (5) New Orleans
The Bears work their way into the projections, though I still have them losing the finale at Lambeau Field that tips the division Green Bay's way. Chicago's got the head-to-head win with Philadelphia that gives them an edge in that race, plus the Bears have a one-game lead. The tiebreakers don't go as well for the Bears if the Giants, whom they lost to, end up missing the division crown, but NYG gets Philly at home here down the stretch.
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.