Fifteen weeks ago, I had the Patriots, Bills, Ravens, Texans, Chiefs and Chargers representing the AFC in this year’s playoffs, and the Eagles, Giants, Saints, Packers, Bears and 49ers from the NFC. My fearless forecast saw the 49ers knocking off the Packers in the NFC title game and the Chiefs beating the Patriots in the AFC, with the 49ers knocking out the Chiefs in the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Obviously, my Chiefs, Chargers, Bills, Eagles and Saints picks were real stinkers, but my other seven clubs are still very much alive, and after this past weekend, the future suddenly seems a lot clearer. Here’s what I see, and I’d love to know what you all think, as well.
The AFC wild-card slots should come down to the Colts knocking off the Chiefs on Sunday and the winner of the Bengals at Steelers, which I believe will be Pittsburgh. The Ravens will back into the AFC North title and the fourth seed, and with the Broncos going back on their “Little Sisters of the Poor” tour after hammering the Ravens last Sunday, it looks like New England’s loss to the 49ers will cost the Patriots a first-round bye.
In the NFC, the Seahawks’ loss to the 49ers this Sunday will drop them into the cadre of current six-loss teams that includes the Vikings, Bears, Giants, Redskins and Cowboys. But looking at all their schedules, it appears to me the Redskins win the East and only Seattle and the Bears make it to 10-6 to claim the two wild-card spots. Based on the year I’ve had picking games, there are a lot of dangerous assumptions here, but assuming I’ve finally got the pulse of these teams, the playoffs should now be set.
Opening week would give us the Steelers at the Patriots and the Colts at the Ravens in the AFC, and the Bears at the Packers and the Seahawks at the Redskins in the NFC. It says here the Pats, Ravens, Packers and Redskins live to fight on and then things will get really interesting.
I expect the Texans to handle the Ravens and the Falcons to take care of the Redskins fairly easily, making the divisional-playoff marquee matchups New England at Denver and Green Bay at San Francisco, with both games having the ingredients to become instant classics. However, I have no doubt the 49ers and Patriots are the superior teams, but New England traveling to Denver does give me pause. Let’s assume class wins out and we’re left with New England at Houston and San Francisco at Atlanta in the conference title games.
I look for San Francisco and New England to have a little easier time in the conference championships than they did in the divisional playoffs and to give us the Super Bowl rematch we should all be hoping for after Week 15. Beyond that, I think I’m out far enough on the limb as it is, so I’ll save my Super Bowl pick until we get there.
At its heart, Pro Football Weekly always has been a small family shop driven by commitment and love. Over the years we have lost four of the five people most responsible for our existence and whatever small measures of success we’ve ever realized: my dad, Art; my grandmother, Mrs. A.; Bob Drazkowski; and Joel Buchsbaum. On Friday, Dec. 14, we lost the last of the PFW pioneers, my dad’s brother, Fred Arkush. Uncle Fred toiled in the circulation, distribution and administrative ends of the business in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and again from 1986-98. After my dad died in 1979, Fred became a cross between a second father and nurturing big brother to me and I know that nothing I’ve accomplished in my life would have happened without him. More importantly, without Uncle Fred, PFW never could have survived the early ’90s. Yet here we are and now our lives are a bit emptier and our hearts a bit heavier. It was his time and I believe he’s in a better place now, but I struggle with the belief he never got the credit he was due.
My hope is that each of you who have ever received even a moment’s enjoyment from PFW will join me in a good thought for him to comfort him on his journey home. He was a good man, a loving soul and he will be greatly missed.