Dom Bonvissuto
Tuesday December 2nd, 2008

Tis the season for Grinches and clinches. Five teams -- the Chiefs, Bengals, Lions, Rams and Seahawks -- have already been eliminated from playoff contention while five more -- the Giants, Titans, Steelers, Broncos and Cardinals -- can lock in their postseason plans this weekend.

But rather than run you through all the "X can clinch with a win AND Y's loss or tie" scenarios, we'll just point you here. Why? Because it's a bugger typing all those out, let's be honest. And besides, you're not reading this for that. You're here for one thing: To find out how we'll top our "Broncos will be the AFC No. 2" and "the Saints will win the NFC South" predictions from the past two weeks.

We stopped smoking oatmeal long enough to figure out two things: 1) The AFC field is virtually set; and 2) So is the NFC. If your team is on the outside looking in today, you're pretty much SOL. (Unless you cheer for the Cowboys -- more on them later.) Hopefully, these projections will look a little better in the rearview than our first two efforts. If not, be sure to let us know.

New York Giants (11-1)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 1 seed. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Philadelphia (W), at Dallas (L), vs. Carolina (W), at Minnesota (L). Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 13-3; No. 1 seed. Extra Point: At gunpoint, we'd guarantee the Giants would be the NFC's top seed.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 2 seed (win tiebreaker with Carolina on head-to-head). Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Carolina (L), at Atlanta (L), vs. San Diego (W), vs. Oakland (W). Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 2 seed (win tiebreaker with Carolina on conference record). Extra Point: In our projections, the Bucs would win the NFC South over the Panthers on the fourth tie-breaking criteria (conference record) after splitting head-to-head, division record and record against common opponents. Translation: It's gonna be a tight race, but both should get in.

Minnesota Vikings (7-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 3 seed (win tiebreaker with Arizona on conference record) Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Detroit (W), at Arizona (L), vs. Atlanta (W), vs. NY Giants (W). Final Projected Record: 10-6; No. 4 seed. Extra Point: It's been our projection all along that the Vikings will benefit from a Week 17 game against a resting Giants team.

Arizona Cardinals (7-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 4 seed Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. St. Louis (W), vs. Minnesota (W), at New England (L), vs. Seattle (W). Final Projected Record: 10-6; No. 3 seed (win tiebreaker with Minnesota on head-to-head). Extra Point: The only real drama left for the Cards is their seed -- a hot streak and No. 2 is in play; continued cold play and No. 4 would look likely.

Carolina Panthers (9-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 5 seed. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Tampa Bay (W), vs. Denver (W), at NY Giants (L), at New Orleans (L). Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 5/6 seed (tiebreaker would be strength of victory). Extra Point: It's imperative the Panthers hold serve at home the next two weeks before a difficult road trip to end the season.

Atlanta Falcons (8-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 6 seed (win tiebreaker with Dallas on conference record). Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at New Orleans (L), vs. Tampa Bay (W), at Minnesota (L), vs. St. Louis (W). Final Projected Record: 10-6; out. Extra Point: Some hope for Falcons fans: Both of Atlanta's final two road games are in domes.

Dallas Cowboys (8-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Pittsburgh (W), vs. NY Giants (W), vs. Baltimore (W), at Philadelphia (L). Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 5/6 seed (tiebreaker would be strength of victory). Extra Point: Seed likely wouldn't matter for the Cowboys, who would probably be the favorite in a matchup against the NFC North or West winner. If the Cowboys were to stumble, however, it'd be better to do it against either of the AFC teams for tiebreaking purposes.

Washington Redskins (7-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Baltimore (L), at Cincinnati (W), vs. Philadelphia (W), at San Francisco (W). Final Projected Record: 10-6; out. Extra Point: Sunday's game against the Ravens is a virtual must-win for the Redskins, who benefit from a relatively favorable final three games.

Philadelphia Eagles (6-5-1)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at NY Giants (L), vs. Cleveland (W), at Washington (L), vs. Cowboys (W). Final Projected Record: 8-7-1; out. Extra Point: Too little, too late for Donovan McNabb and company.

Chicago Bears (6-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Jacksonville (W), vs. New Orleans (W), vs. Green Bay (L), at Houston (L) Final Projected Record: 8-8; out. Extra Point: The Vikings are far from a sure thing to win the division, so with three straight home games, the Bears could still make a run for the North.

New Orleans Saints (6-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Atlanta (W), at Chicago (L), at Detroit (W), vs. Carolina (W). Final Projected Record: 9-7; out. Extra Point: All hope was more-or-less lost with last Sunday's loss to the Bucs. Sorry, Saints fans.

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Tennessee Titans (11-1)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 1 seed. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Cleveland (W); at Houston (L); vs. Pittsburgh (W); at Indianapolis (L). Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 13-3; No. 1 seed. Extra Point: A loss to either Cleveland or Houston could possibly benefit the Titans, as it would mean Jeff Fisher's bunch wouldn't be able to cruise-control through its final two games against playoff competition.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 2 seed. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Dallas (L); at Baltimore (W); at Tennessee (L); vs. Cleveland (W) Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 2 seed (win tiebreaker with NY Jets on conference record). Extra Point: A dominating 8-1 conference record right now bodes well for the Steelers in a tiebreaker scenario with the Jets, who are just 6-4.

New York Jets (8-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 3 seed. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at San Francisco (W); vs. Buffalo (W); at Seattle (L); vs. Miami (W) Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 3 seed. Extra Point: The loss to the Broncos means the Jets have little room for error if they want to avoid playing the best wild-card team (likely the Colts) as the No. 4 seed.

Denver Broncos (7-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 4 seed. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Kansas City (W); at Carolina (L); vs. Buffalo (W); at San Diego (W). Final Projected Record: 10-6; No. 4 seed. Extra Point: Ever tried using your off hand to control the remote? That's easier than predicting how the Broncos will play. Doesn't matter, however, as the weak AFC West division is all but wrapped up.

Indianapolis Colts (8-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 5 seed (wins tiebreaker with Baltimore on head-to-head). Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Cincinnati (W), vs. Detroit (W), at Jacksonville (L), vs. Tennessee (W). Final Projected Record: 11-5; No. 5 seed. Extra Point: Owning victories over both the Ravens and Patriots gives the Colts a huge advantage if they find themselves in a tiebreaker situation.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: No. 6 (wins tiebreaker over New England on conference record). Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Washington (W); vs. Pittsburgh (L); at Dallas (L); vs. Jacksonville (W). Final Projected Record: 10-6; No. 6 seed (win tiebreaker with New England on conference record). Extra Point: Win any one in a brutal three-game stretch and the Ravens will have a great shot. To control its own destiny, Baltimore will need to win two during the next three weeks.

New England Patriots (7-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Seattle (W); at Oakland (W); vs. Arizona (W); at Buffalo (L). Final Projected Record: 10-6; out. Extra Point: The schedule is very favorable for the Pats, and four straight wins to close the season is very doable. A frigid Ralph Wilson Stadium on the Sunday after Christmas will likely determine New England's playoff fate.

Miami Dolphins (7-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Buffalo (L), vs. San Francisco (W), at Kansas City (W), at NY Jets (L). Final Projected Record: 9-7; out. Extra Point: Knock off the Bills in Toronto this weekend and the Dolphins could enter Week 17 in control of their playoff future.

Buffalo Bills (6-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out. Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Miami (W), at NY Jets (L), at Denver (L), vs. New England (W). Final Projected Record: 8-8; out. Extra Point: The Bills would need to run the table and even then they'd likely need some help. Not gonna happen.

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