Will J McGarty
As 2015 came to a close, so to does the regular season of the National Football League (NFL). After 17 long, grueling weeks, the league’s postseason kicks off with the AFC and NFC Wildcard round, which was played last weekend, and the Divisional round to begin this weekend.
Before getting into individual playoff match ups, here are the teams that have survived four violent months of professional football.
There are six teams from each Conference.
From the NFC, there are the Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals as Division winners and the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers as Wild Cards.
From the AFC, there are the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans as Division leaders and the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers as Wild Cards.
Looking at these teams, some come as no surprise and are staples for January football. The New England Patriots have only missed the playoffs once since 2003, and the Broncos, Bengals and Packers have all reached the playoffs every year since 2011. On the other hand, this is only the third time in Texans’ franchise history that the team has made the postseason and only the third time since 1998 that the Cardinals have entered the postseason.
Besides the Steelers with only three consecutive wins, every team in the playoffs has went on winning streaks of four weeks or more this season. That translates to an entire month of wins in the NFL, a very difficult feat to accomplish.
The leaders in consecutive wins this season were the Carolina Panthers with 14, the Patriots and Chiefs with 10 and finally the Bengals with 9 consecutive wins.
Lastly, every playoff team has been beaten by another playoff team during the regular season except for the top seeded Carolina Panthers.
In the AFC Playoff picture, injuries have already dictated the success of teams. The once feared New England Patriots, who at one point looked unbeatable, has lost the top seed in the AFC because of a multitude of injuries.
Pittsburgh is entering the postseason without either of its running backs, and Cincinnati is without its star quarterback Andy Dalton.
Only Denver seems to have a healthy team, with quarterback Peyton Manning returning from his foot injury just in time for the playoffs.
The NFC on the other hand is down to a three-team race. Despite the hot streak of the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings and the talents of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, both teams do not stand a chance against the offensive juggernaut in the Arizona Cardinals, the back-to-back NFC Champions Seattle Seahawks, and the top seeded Carolina Panthers.
However, like the AFC, injuries can play a key role. Like the Steelers, the Seahawks will be without its two star running backs. Arizona lost All-Pro defensive back Tyrann Mathieu for the season with a knee injury.
Still, the great part of postseason football is the unpredictability. Recent history has shown streaking teams make a lot of noise in the postseason.
Both Kansas City and the Redskins are on multi game winning streaks and look to continue them.
Despite injuries, New England never seems to be out of a season as long as Tom Brady is throwing the ball. And while teams like the Cardinals and Panthers look unbeatable, the Packers and Redskins have got into the postseason pulling off upsets and late game miracles.
One game. At the end of the day, the team that moves on is not the best team all season or the best team for a series. It is the best team for a three and a half hour period in the afternoon or evening.
Whether it be a team with multiple rings like the Steelers and Patriots or a team with no rings like the Bengals and Panthers, what matters is the best team when the clock hits zero.