Revisiting NFL playoff predictions for insight, context, perspective

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By Charles Glover, Jr.

As the final week of the regular season for the National Football League(NFL) approaches this weekend, this writer will revisit predictions made about the playoff teams at the start of the season. Most of the playoff spots are currently unsettled coming into the final weekend, bringing greater excitement and interest in the season finale for NFL teams.

Peyton Manning has led the Denver Broncos to the best record (12 - 3) in the AFC so far.

Peyton Manning has led the Denver Broncos to the best record in the AFC so far.

In the American Football Conference (AFC), the four divisions have already been decided. The winners of those divisions are:

AFC West – Denver Broncos (12 – 3)

AFC East – New England Patriots (11 – 4)

AFC North – Cincinnati Bengals (10 – 5)

AFC South – Indianapolis Colts (10 – 5).

One of the two Wildcard playoff spots is going to the Kansas City Chiefs (11 – 4), while there are several teams vying for the final playoff opening in the AFC. The Miami Dolphins (8 – 7), Baltimore Ravens (8 – 7), San Diego Chargers (8 – 7), and Pittsburgh Steelers (7 – 8) all have different scenarios in which they can make the playoffs if they win their last game this season.

Russell Wilson has led the Seattle Seahawks to the best record in the NFC so far.

Russell Wilson has led the Seattle Seahawks to the best record in the NFC so far.

In the National Football Conference (NFC) only three teams have clinched a playoff birth and none of the divisions have been decided yet. The current division leaders at this time are:

NFC West – Seattle Seahawks (12 – 3)

NFC South – Carolina Panthers (11 – 4)

NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles (9 – 6)

NFC North – Chicago Bears (8 – 7).

Based on conference records, the three teams that have clinched playoff births are the Seahawks, Panthers, and the San Francisco 49ers (11 – 4). The New Orleans Saints (10 -5) or Arizona Cardinals (10 – 5) can clinch the final Wildcard position with a win this weekend. The NFC North division winner will be decided on Sunday afternoon when the Bears face the Green Bay Packers (7 – 7 – 1). The winner of that game makes the playoffs. The same applies to the winner of the NFC East division deciding game between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys (8 – 7) on Sunday night.

This writer was very wrong in predicting the Houston Texans (2 – 13) and Washington Redskins (3 – 12) would make the playoffs this season as they have the two most dreadful records in the NFL this season. However, there is still a chance that 10 out of the 12 predicted teams will make the postseason this year. The final playoff spot will be decided in the final game of the NFL regular season.–OnPointPress.net–

 

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training specialist. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.

Mike Shanahan’s saga of failure continues, RGIII is benched

Robert Griffin III is benched by his coach and will consider his future and ways to improve.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The Washington Redskins easily win the title of the most dysfunctional team in the National Football League (NFL) with the news that they have benched starting quarterback Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season. The decision highlights more question marks about the future of a franchise that is performing so poorly that the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Oakland Raiders look like well-oiled machines in comparison. Not even Scandal’s talented Olivia Pope could fix this debacle.

Head coach Mike Shanahan’s struggles continue while the Redskins seem to be in turmoil.

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is on the proverbial hot seat as the Redskins endure the third losing season in Shanahan’s four-year tenure. The news yesterday that Kirk Cousins would start the remainder of the season raised eyebrows in the football world. Senior ESPN writer Ed Werder expressed surprise stating: “This is an unprecedented move to make when the starting quarterback is healthy.”

2nd year quarterback Kirk Cousins is the starter for the remainder of the season for the Redskins.

2nd year quarterback Kirk Cousins is the starter for the remainder of the season for the Redskins.

The change in the quarterback position sends a confusing message to a team struggling with leadership concerns and overall poor performance. The change also endangers the most valuable trade asset the team has, since Cousins is a second year quarterback who has looked good in the few games he has played so far. Shanahan stated “RGIII has taken too many hits and we want to protect him,” as the reason for making the change. If Cousins takes the same  hits as Griffin did while behind center, it will be interesting to see if he will retain the same kind of trade value.

The relationship between Shanahan and Griffin has been far from harmonious, which further complicates the situation. The perceived animosity between the two raises questions about Shanahan’s true motives. Is he trying to sabotage Griffin while designing a play to be fired as well? While speculation runs rampant that the coach is trying to get fired, the implication is that Shanahan does not trust Griffin to protect himself or the team to protect the star quarterback.

Jeff Fisher (l) and Vince Young (r) also experienced a tension filled relationship for the Titans.

Jeff Fisher (l) and Vince Young (r) also experienced a tension-filled relationship while they were with the Titans.

However, the rumors that Shanahan was not enamored with RGIII coming out of college brings to mind another coach/quarterback relationship that has mixed results:Jeff Fisher and Vince Young with the Tennessee Titans. In both situations, the star quarterback was beloved by the owner and earned Rookie of the Year honors while essentially saving the coach’s job. Also, the quarterback became a rising star in the league and quickly fell out of favor with the head coach. The Fisher/Young situation ended with neither being a member of the Titans, just five seasons later (2006-2011).

Shanahan’s questionable decision to bench RGIII also brings to mind his unceremonious firing from the Denver Broncos in 2008 after his decision to draft Jay Cutler to replace Jake Plummer despite Plummer leading the Broncos to the AFC title game in 2005. Shanahan’s decision backfired in spectacular fashion and the team disintegrated into a chaotic mix, sealing his ouster by owner Pat Bowlen.

As the disastrous Redskins season evolves, the Shanahan/Griffin union seems to be irreparably harmed. Of course, their deteriorating relationship has not been a secret since the season began. Also, questions still abound about Shanahan’s decision to play Griffin last year when he was obviously hurt and the impact that ultimately had on his need for surgery and RGIII’s performance this year. The Washington faithful have a hard time feeling confident that their team knows what it is doing. Die-hard Redskins fan Steve Taylor’s reaction to yesterday’s news sums up the fans’ collective mood:

“I feel as though the coach and his son need to be fired,” Taylor said. That sentiment is widespread among Redskins fans and it is hard for them to remain hopeful for next season. The trade that helped them acquire RGIII cost them what seems like a top five pick in next season’s draft. Maybe the Redskins fans will be able to at least take solace in their hated rival Dallas Cowboys collapsing in December again. Maybe.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant.