The NFL loves to brag about having six or seven new teams in the 12-team playoff field every season, and maybe it'll work out that way again in 2010. The recent history is pretty compelling in that regard.
But consider this: There's a very plausible scenario in which five of the six playoff teams in the AFC will be repeat qualifiers, with only the Steelers representing the new blood. That would be Pittsburgh, the 2008 Super Bowl champion and a playoff team in six of the past nine years. Some new blood.
As for the rest of the AFC field, New England is already in the playoffs, while the Ravens and Jets would qualify if the season ended today. Then there are the Colts and Chargers. They're on the outside looking in at the moment, but both have a doable path to the postseason, and frankly, I like their chances. Jacksonville and Kansas City, of course, hope they have something to say about this.
In the NFC, there is more variety this season. We can't have more than three repeat playoff qualifiers in the NFC, because the Vikings and Cowboys have been eliminated, and the Cardinals soon will be. But New Orleans and Philadelphia look like solid bets to return to the postseason, and Green Bay is still alive and could get back into the playoffs as well.
The Falcons and Giants would be "new'' teams that have made the playoffs as recently as 2008, while the Bears, Rams, Bucs or Seahawks would qualify as legitimate newcomers (no playoff berths at least the past two years) should they make it.
With three weeks to go, only nine teams have been eliminated, and there's still probably some playoff-race surprises in store. But then again, maybe not. Maybe eight of the 12 teams in the NFL playoffs will be repeaters, the highest total in years. Would that fall under the heading of unpredictable predictability?
Now on to this week's rankings...
NFL Power Rankings, Week 15