Other notable things in doing the projections are that even though I've stayed with Baltimore to pull out the AFC North, Cleveland's prospects as a live dog are diminishing with each passing game. The Browns, who host both Baltimore and Pittsburgh to close the season, have now lost to Buffalo and Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks. I've still kept my pick of them upsetting the Steelers in Week 17 intact, but confidence in that is waning fast. I also kept San Diego to win the AFC West. Kansas City cleared its toughest test by winning at St. Louis last week and the Chiefs control their own destiny. Home games against Tennessee and Oakland remain and I have no idea which one they'll lose, but I just suspect that KC is the kind of young team that will get its heart broken in the crunch.
Here's how I see the matchups. With only one more installment of the playoff projections left, I'm going to also add how I see it playing out in January & February. The Super Bowl picks are chalk, with the bracket-rattling going on underneath the two top teams.
1st Round: (3) San Diego vs (6) Pittsburgh, (4)Indianapolis vs (5) NY Jets
Byes: (1) New England (2) Baltimore
1st Round Winners: San Diego, NY Jets
Divisional Round Winners: NE over NY Jets, SD over Balt
Conference Championship: NE over SD
1st Round: (3) Chicago vs (6) Green Bay, (4) St. Louis vs. (5) New Orleans
Byes: (1) Atlanta (2) Philadelphia
1st Round Winners: Green Bay, New Orleans
Divisional Round Winners: Atlanta over Green Bay, New Orleans over Philadelphia
Conference Championship: Atlanta over New Orleans
Super Bowl: New England over Atlanta
Image from chicagotribune.com
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in the NFL, coverage of college basketball. and bowl commentary in college football. 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.