peytpred

Predicting the final NFL playoff order

With four weeks remaining in the 2013 NFL regular season, here's how we see things wrapping up on Dec. 29. 

AFC

1. Denver Broncos (14-2)
2. New England Patriots (12-4)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
4. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
6. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

No way Denver loses to Tennessee or San Diego at home or to Houston or Oakland on the road. They should hang on. New England still has to travel to Baltimore, though, which could make Week 17 meaningless for both the Broncos and the Patriots. The Bengals should beat the Colts this weekend to gain a significant edge, and Indy still has to travel to Kansas City. The Chiefs' remaining schedule isn't a lot easier, but they're locked in as a No. 5 seed. That last wild-card spot really is a toss-up, but the Ravens have the edge right now and they've been here and done this. The schedule isn't easy, but I don't see anyone else being better than 8-8.

The resultant playoff matchups leave a fair bit to be desired. Cincy-Baltimore is a nice old-school rivalry, but neither team looks like a Super Bowl threat. Same applies to Indianapolis and KC. Then again, we've been tricked plenty of times before. 

NFC

1. Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
2. Carolina Panthers (13-3)
3. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
4. Detroit Lions (9-7)
5. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
6. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

I wouldn't be surprised if Seattle dropped a couple games — one this weekend in San Francisco and another when they're on cruise control later. But I have a feeling the red-hot Panthers will sweep the shocked Saints to win that division and capture the second first-round bye. New Orleans limps into the playoffs as a No. 5 seed but draws a winnable matchup with the Lions, who win the NFC North by default with Chicago and Green Bay in disarray. I can see San Francisco losing in Arizona and maybe even in Tampa or at home to Seattle, which would result in the Niners missing the playoffs. Philly, which should be able to finish 3-1, sneaks in with the tiebreaker over the Cards. It's all about peaking at the right time.

A Philly-Dallas wild-card game would be a hell of a lot of fun, as would New Orleans at Detroit. Both would be rematches of recent playoff tilts, and both would likely feature plenty of offense. Those games would also be interesting because Carolina is very beatable despite how hot it is.

Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.

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