Chargers will surprise
Los Angeles Times
The stunner here is the Chargers. I think they are going to sneak into the postseason, despite their six-game losing streak, by winning their final two games at Detroit and Oakland and relying on the Dolphins to beat the Jets in Week 17.
So I have the sixth-seeded Chargers playing at Houston in the first round, and Baltimore at Denver in the other AFC wild-card game. In the NFC, I see Detroit and Atlanta being the wild-card teams. So that put the Lions at San Francisco, and the Falcons at the Giants.
If those turn out to be the matchups, the four teams I see emerging from those games are San Diego, Baltimore, San Francisco and the Giants.
Steelers most dangerous
The four teams with the best chances of reaching the postseason as wild cards are the Steelers, Jets, Falcons and Lions.
The Steelers are the most dangerous of these teams as long as Ben Roethlisberger's ankle injury doesn't limit him too much. The other wild-card spot in the AFC could come down to the Jets or Bengals, though there are five other teams with legitimate hopes.
In the NFC, the Falcons can clinch a wild-card spot with a victory over the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday (unlikely), or a victory over the Bucs in Atlanta one week later (likely). The Lions may have a hard time beating the Packers in Green Bay on the final week of the season, so they need to beat the Chargers at home on Sunday to get in.
AFC is wide open
With two weeks left in another wildly unpredictable NFL season, the playoff picture in the NFC is mostly developed. Meanwhile, the AFC still has seven teams vying for a pair of playoff spots.
Barring a crazy collapse, we can assume that the 9-5 Falcons and the 9-5 Lions will be the two wild-card challengers in the NFC. They're not winning their respective divisions, and I can't see a quartet of 7-7 teams catching one for a wild card. Go ahead and lock them in.
It's wide open in the AFC, with both the AFC West and the second wild-card spot up for grabs. The second-place team in the AFC North will be the No. 5 seed. Look for the 8-6 Jets to ground and pound their way to the No. 6 seed.
Lions, Falcons hang on
The Lions and Falcons, already at nine wins with no shot of winning their divisions, should hang on in the NFC. No other NFC second-place team has more than seven victories.
The Lions will have their hands full with the Chargers this week, but, even if they lose that game, the Packers will have the NFC home-field advantage sewn up by the regular-season finale against Detroit at Lambeau and play a lot of reserves. If the Lions do finish 9-7, look out for the Cardinals.
In the AFC, it's going to be tight. The pick here is that the Steelers will be the top wild card, while the Jets and Bengals collapse and the typically hard-charging Chargers come back from the dead, win their final five games and sneak in at 9-7.