The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

DECEMBER    2006

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







Pigskin Predicts

By Jerry Keys

With ten weeks in the books, everyone is beginning to speculate rather or not their NFL team will be playing football in January '07.  Last year's Super Bowl participants, Pittsburgh and Seattle; have seen hard times this year.

In recent years, the AFC has looked to be the dominant conference, winning seven of the last nine Super Bowls.  The strength appears to be shifting back to the NFC.

The most dominant team in the 2006 season up until now is the Chicago Bears.  The Bears are the only team in the NFC with a record above 6-4 (Bears are 9-1 after 11 weeks of play).  The Bears only loss is to Miami (coincidentally the 1985 Bears, Super Bowl champs, went 15-1 and suffered their only loss to who else, but Miami).

Jerry Keys

The NFC East appears to be a two-way battle between the NY Giants and Dallas.  With devastating injuries to Clinton Portis and Donovan McNabb, Washington and Philadelphia's playoffs dreams are all but dashed.  The NY Giants and Dallas each have formidable opponents remaining on their schedule.  The key game for each will be their December 3rd re-match, this time at NY.  The Giants won their first meeting, in Dallas.  A Giant win, all but guarantees the NFC East title.

The NFC North has pretty much already been decided.  The Bears will win the North and the only looming question is, by how many games will they win it.

The NFC South has turned into a very competitive division (as predicted by most) with one game separating Carolina, Atlanta, and the darlings of the '06 season, New Orleans.  None of these three teams look poised to run off a three or four game winning streak to break away from the pack.  The deciding factors come Week 17 could very

well be head to head match-ups and divisional records.

The defending NFC Super Bowl participant, Seattle, has stumbled throughout the season, mainly in regards to injuries to star running back Shaun Alexander and QB Matt Hasselbeck.  Seattle should still pull out the NFC West with their two competitors, St. Louis (losers of five straight, both season games against

Seattle) and San Francisco (winners of three straight to post a 5-5 record at this point, and their win against Seattle was with Hasselbeck not in the game).

The AFC East looks again to be New England territory, even after the resurgence of the NY Jets.  Miami was a very popular pick at the beginning of the year and are showing signs of turning things around but after a 1-6 start, they would have to run the table for the next nine weeks to even have a chance of a wild card berth; and that just isn't going to happen.

Last year's glam pick, Baltimore, did not enjoy a successful campaign in '05 but are making up for it this year, behind ex-Titan QB Steve McNair.  With a three game lead over Cincinnati (and a win in their first head to head match-up), only a total collapse would cost them the AFC North crown.

As usual, Indianapolis has run away with the AFC South title.  Just like with Baltimore, they have a three game lead over their second place opponent, Jacksonville, and own the victory in their first of two head to head clashes.

The AFC West is beginning to look like San Diego territory.  They have one game each left with their two opponents, Denver and Kansas City, and they are both home games.  The San Diego offense is reminiscent of the old "Air Coryell" years, 25 years ago but sadly so is their defense.  QB Phillip Rivers and RB LaDainian Tomlinson cannot carry the load forever and do not be surprised if they suffer a letdown in the

final weeks of the year.

The final seeding for the NFC should be as follows:  #1-Chicago (currently 9-1, should finish season 13-3), #2-NY Giants (6-4, 10-6), #3-Carolina (6-4, 10-6), and #4-Seattle (6-4, 9-7).  As for the two remaining wild-card spots, they will be two of the following five teams:  Dallas, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta and San Francisco.

The #5 seed is all but destined to fall to Dallas (6-4 and gaining momentum), and the #6 seed will not fall to San Francisco (5-5) due to erratic hot and cold performances, nor will it fall to Atlanta for the very same reason (losers of three straight and their next opponent on November 26, New Orleans, can sweep the season series and own any tie-breaker if they were to tie for the #6 seed).  And Philadelphia just cannot get it done without their star QB McNabb.

The #6 seed will fall to New Orleans, the team that was so adversely effected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina just one year ago.  With a win over Atlanta next week, they will pretty much have the #6 seed given to them, making it theirs to lose.  The #5 seed Dallas should close out the season at 10-6, currently 6-4, and the #6 seed New Orleans should finish at 9-7, currently at 6-4. 

The three teams left out in the cold should finish out the year as follows:  Philadelphia (5-5, 7-9…if they are lucky; without McNabb, a 5-11 finish would not be out of the picture), Atlanta (5-5, 8-8), and San Francisco (5-5, 6-10).

As for the AFC seeding, the #1 goes to (gee what a shock!) Indianapolis (9-1, 13-3), #2-San Diego (8-2, 12-4), #3-New England (7-3, 10-6), and #4-Baltimore (8-2, 10-6).

And the remaining #6 slots will be fought over by seven teams (all with records between 6-4 and 4-6 after Week 11).  Just like in the NFC, the #5 seed is virtually wrapped up.  Denver has a 7-3 mark and should finish with an 11-5 record.  The #6 seed is entirely up for grabs. 

The frontrunners are Kansas City and Jacksonville at 6-4, followed by the NY Jets and Cincinnati at 5-5, and still hanging on to a slither of hope, the 4-6 teams of Miami, Buffalo, and defending champs Pittsburgh.  Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Cincinnati have brutal remaining schedules, Miami, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh have near brutal schedules, but the NY Jets appear to have the least intimidating one of all.

With Kansas City QB Trent Green back from the injured reserve, I would have to take them as the #6 seed.  Any long time reader of my column knows I am a die-hard Steelers fan and in my heart, I would love for them to beat Baltimore both times, return the favor to Cincinnati, wallop Cleveland on the Thursday night game in December, and whip up on Tampa Bay and Carolina from the NFC South.  Be tied with Kansas City for the best record for the #6 seed (after Jacksonville and the NY Jets slip to a 9-7 record), and win the #6 seed due to head to head match-ups.  Yeah…pretty much a one in a million shot huh!  They won their last eight games last year.  They can do it again.  Of course last year the streak ended with a Super Bowl win, this year, the eight game winning streak could just merit them a #6 seed in the playoffs, if they were lucky.

For the match-ups in the NFC Wild Card week:  #6 New Orleans at #3 Carolina, and #5 Dallas at #4 Seattle.  The two lower seeds would advance.  The divisional playoffs would pit the #6 New Orleans at #1 Chicago and #5 Dallas at #4 NY Giants.  The NFC Championship Game will have the NY Giants visiting Chicago.

For the AFC match-ups, the wild card round would be #6 Kansas City at #3 New England and #5 Denver at #4 Baltimore.  With victories by both lower seeds, the divisional round would have #6 Kansas City at #1 Indianapolis and #5 Denver at #2 San Diego.  Look for an AFC Championship Game between Denver and Indianapolis.  Anyone for a Peyton vs. Eli Super Bowl match-up?  Just might be! 

P.S.  Yeah, I thought Detroit was a team to beat in the playoff hunt in '06, just not "the team everybody beat".  Chalk this one up to my two-year thoughts on Arizona becoming a contender (2004-05).