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Subject:  Playoffs? ... wh... PLAYOFFS??? Date:  11/24/2020  2:49 AM
Author:  n8larson Number:  106296 of 106435

That's right, cue "Jim Mora voice". This is an extra-early pre-call for the NFC stretch run, which I do every year with 3 or 4 games left. Why this early run at it? Because the http://www.espn.com/nfl/playoffs/machine is up and humming already, for one. And I think each of these 6 teams will win 10 games (the NFC East winner can't). But mostly because from where I sit, MIN's loss to DAL just about cements the NFC's 7 entrants. The order is the only mystery that remains. If the Rams had coughed up a 37-0 loss in Tampa, that might also have whispered, "wait one more week" to me. So here's the remaining games grid, with a few key games bolded (letter case indicates HOME or @road, as always):

# Team W-L-T Wk12 Wk13 Wk14 Wk15 Wk16 Wk17
~ ~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~
1 NO 8-2 @den @atl @phi KC MIN @car
2 LAR 7-3 SF @ari NE NYJ @sea ARI * Beat SEA Wk10, #2 seed over GB due to NFC win%
3 GB 7-3 CHI PHI @det CAR TEN @chi
4 * Placeholder. PHI has a half-game lead over literally all 3 other NFC East teams. Just whoever. Bring on a 5-win division champ!
---------W---I---L---D------C---A---R---D---------
5 SEA 7-3 @phi NYG NYJ @was LAR @sf
6 TB 7-4 KC ---- MIN @atl @det ATL
7 ARI 6-4 @ne LAR @nyg PHI SF @lar
=============================================================
8 CHI 5-5 * They have QB issues and still face GB twice. That's all you need to know.

So let's take care of the top and bottom right away. NO has only one game left vs. a winning team (KC), and they only have one NFC loss, so all they have to do is win the other 5 and the #1 is locked. I left out the 4-6 teams because SF is too banged up, and GB has 4 home games left, and MIN and DET aren't going to finish 5-1 to have a chance. With the 3 NFC West entrants here holding a 2-3 game lead over those teams AND getting the NFC East and AFC East dregs (all 3 have already played BUF and MIA), there's basically no chance for an NFC North team to grab the 7. Speaking of GB, though, they're an interesting case... even though they'll win the division, everyone they have left has won at least 4 games, and with the possible exception of Detroit, has the potential to pull one out if A-Rodge has an off day. CAR will be coming off that weird late bye for their Week 15 tilt, too. Unrelated: I think whoever takes the 5 seed is going to be liking that spot, because they get (annual autotext:) "whoever the NFC East coughs up this season" to open*. Not much of a home field advantage without fans in the seats.

To my favorite division: Sure, the MNF win over TB put LAR squarely in the hunt for the 2/3 seed (and they also have 4 home games left). But as a SEA homer I kinda like their chances here too, because LAR and ARI still face each other twice, and because like NO, SEA *also* only has 1 game left against a winning team. That 1 game is at home vs. LAR, and we already know SEA will put a much better team on the field when LAR visits "the Loo" than in Week 10 (LAR 23-SEA 16 in LA), presuming both starting CBs and both 1,000-yard RBs from last year don't get injured *again*. DE Carlos Dunlap, acquired from Cincy mid-season by trade, has played in 3 games and is already 2nd on the team in sacks. If they can avoid honking one against their next 4 opponents (who are collectively 2-25-1 when not playing each other, which would be pretty weak even without the 0-10 Jets in there), SEA should arrive at for the final two in decent shape in the playoff picture.

-n8 (so yeah, baby. Playoffs.)
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