‘Tis the season to be dreaming of the playoffs

Chris Duprau

This time of year is a sporting fan’s dream. It’s not just the fact that college basketball is hitting full tilt, or that the NBA actually seems fun to watch this year. It’s that the home stretch for the football playoffs have begun and as long as you’re not a Dolphin or 49er fan, your team is probably still in the hunt to make the post-season. (Yes even the Giants are still alive and kicking.)

With so many teams still vying for spots, though, and only six to go out in each conference, how the heck is one to know who going to make it into January?

Well that’s where I come in. All aboard the Dupes train and hold on tight as we figure what will happen during the rollercoaster end to the regular season.

To begin we’ll look at the AFC, which has separated itself into four distinct groupings. At the top are the Pats and Steelers who both stand at 11-1 right now. Though they haven’t clinched their division or a spot in the playoffs yet, it would take a Yankee ALCS-like collapse for them not to achieve both.

(How great is it to throw the words “Yankee” and “collapse” around? I may try and do it every week.)

The only drama left is who’s going to get home field. Pitt’s schedule is tough, but Big Ben keeps on throwing, the Bus keeps on pounding and they keep on winning. Still Brady is getting Brett Favre-like status in the sense that “you don’t bet against this guy” so expect the Pats to sneak into the No. 1 seed.

The second tier belongs to the Peyton Manning. Wait, I meant the Indy Colts and those San Diego Super Chargers. These are two of the three contenders for the third spot and are fighting to see who’ll be forced to go to New England in Round Two. The fun part is they play each other in two weeks. Nice job by the schedule gods.

I’ve always like the Chargers, and they’re playing well, especially their defense which picked off Jake Plummer four times last week. (Jake usually only throws two picks a game). I just can’t go against Peyton right now. It would be like saying Mike Tyson would lose to Buster Douglas…oh wait, that happened. Hmmm, let’s set back and watch this unfold

Tier three belongs solely to the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets. I have a lot to write in this column so I’ll just say they’re in, they’re the No. 5 seed and Curtis Martin blows my mind.

The final tier is what I call the AFC rest. It looked like a team would need 10 wins minimum to even think about this last spot, but some teams have fallen and some teams have come out of nowhere and are now in contention. Buffalo (yes Buffalo), Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver and Jacksonville are all within a game of each other. Baltimore hurt themselves big time by snagging defeat from the jaws of victory last week against the Bengals.

On the bright side we finally saw what Carson Palmer can do, and what he does he does well.

There is also nothing better then seeing Jon Kitna go crazy on the sideline. Has anyone ever fit the stereotype of the always-cheering bench guy better than him?

The games Jacksonville was winning at the beginning of the year they’re losing now.

Denver has Jake Plummer at quarterback, which would make any fan nervous, and Drew Bledsoe is playing like he’s on the ’96 Pats again. What the heck is going to happen?

I’m going on gut here, but Denver will probably get in due to their conference record and strength of remaining games. I’d love to see either Buffalo or Cincy get to the next level, but there are too many things that have to happen, and we’ve already had a lunar eclipse and a Red Sox World Series this year, only so many crazy things can happen.

The NFC has a couple of bright spots, but other than that this conference is uglier then me after the tequila worm.

The Eagles are really, really good. (I contemplated cutting my hands off while typing this.) They crushed the Pack and have the No. 1 seed locked up tighter then the Falvey Library. (Try and get in without a Wildcard; they’ll attack you.)

The Falcons probably have the No. 2 spot locked up, despite their decision not to play in the Tampa game. Mike Vick is like a young Jedi who doesn’t know how to control his powers. The force is strong in him though, and he is one of the slim hopes available against the possibility of an Eagles Superbowl.

After those two, it gets really ugly. The Pack and Minnesota are both 7-5 and both coming off bad losses. These two teams are actually in decent shape. One will win the NFC north and one will get the first wild card since they already have a one-game lead. The thing is though didn’t you expect a lot more out of these teams this year. Heck, both these teams lost to the Giants.

Neither St. Louis nor Seattle seem to want to win the NFC West. Seattle, which I expected the world from this year, blew a 17-point lead to the Rams with six minutes left and blew a 10-point lead to the Cowboys with two minutes left. Somehow, someway, I have to believe they’ll win the West. They just have too many weapons. That and Mike Holmgren’s job depends on it.

The sixth spot I thought about eliminating, because no one deserves it. Six 5-7 teams are chasing the 6-6 West division loser. There is a more-than decent chance the playoff team will be 8-8. I’m going to go out on a limb with this one, and it’s more of what I could call a “hope” pick. With the way they’re playing, I have to go with the Carolina Pathers.

Even with all the injuries they’ve had, they’re still in this and playing well now. They have St. Louis this week and could be tied for the wild card lead following the game.

If I were a true believer, I’d pick Big Blue for this spot, but Eli just isn’t there yet. He will be, just not yet (or so I hope).

Okay, that was a lot of information in a short amount of space – abbreviated picks this week. Sorry about picking the Falcons and Pack last week. My bad.

Right now I’m at 16.5 – 10.5 – 1. I’m taking the Bills over the Browns. Colts giving -10 to the Texans, and my pick of the week is the Jets to cover and maybe upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh, getting an even six.

Happy holidays, everyone, and enjoy the rest of the season.