Todd Lokken from Strategic Fantasy Football forecasts the NFL playoff picture for the 2005 season.

December 14, 2005 (PRLEAP.COM) Sports News
As the NFL 2005 playoff race moves along, one can see that this year’s NFL playoffs will still have a few surprises in the mix. Todd Lokken of Strategic Fantasy Football takes a look at each division, along with the conference wild-card spots.

In the NFC East, the New York Giants lead the way at 9-4. Look for the Giants to go 2-1 the rest of the way, with wins over Washington and Oakland, while losing to Kansas City. The Giants at 11-5 will win the NFC East. Dallas is up next at 8-5, and Lokken forecasts Dallas to beat Carolina and St. Louis, and lose to Washington to wind up 10-6 and in the wild-card hunt. Washington is currently 7-6, and should go 2-1 in the last 3 (beating Philadelphia and Dallas, losing to the Giants). A 9-7 final record will not be enough to get the Redskins into the playoffs.

In the NFC North, the Chicago Bears appeared to be a lock for the playoffs about a month ago. However, a hot streak by the Minnesota Vikings and a glaring weakness exposed on the Bears has put the team in jeopardy of actually missing the playoffs. The Bears currently sit at 9-4, and Lokken sees them losing their last 3 to Atlanta, Green Bay, and Minnesota to finish at 9-7. 9-7 will not win the division, nor will it get the Chicago Bears to the playoffs. On the other hand, the hot Vikings should finish 2-1 and equal the Bears 9-7 record. The Vikings will lose to Pittsburgh, beat Baltimore, and then beat the Bears on New Year’s Day to clinch the division on tiebreakers.

A look at the NFC West, Seattle could potentially finish at astonishing 14-2 (winning its last 12 games). Regardless, Seattle has already clinched the division, and is in the playoffs. No other team in the NFC West has a chance.

Up next is the NFC South, where a three teams a battling for essentially two playoff spots—a division winner, and most likely the other NFC wild-card team (along with Dallas). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers are currently tied at 9-4, with the Atlanta Falcons close behind. Lokken sees Tampa losing to both New England and Atlanta, while beating New Orleans on the last day of the season to wind up at 10-6. The Panthers are expected to go 1-2 also, losing to both Dallas and Atlanta while beating the New Orleans Saints. This should bring the Carolina final record to 10-6, matching the Buccaneers. Finally, the Atlanta Falcons should win their last four to wind up at 11-5, thereby winning the division.

Therefore, in the NFC, we have Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Carolina fighting it out, and based on tiebreak scenarios, look for Dallas and Tampa Bay to be the wild cards for the NFC.

In the AFC, the picture is a little clearer. In the AFC East, New England sits at 8-5, and should win their last 3 to finish up at 11-5. This will sow up the division, as no other team is close to even a wild-card slot.

Turning to the AFC North, Cincinnati has a two game lead at 10-3, and Lokken sees Cincinnati beating Detroit and Buffalo, and then losing its final game to Kansas City to finish up 12-4. Cincinnati will win the AFC North. Pittsburgh, two games behind at 8-5 and coming off of a crushing of the Chicago Bears, needs help to make the playoffs. However, a soft schedule should put the Steelers in the playoffs, as they should go 3-0 against Minnesota, Cleveland, and Detroit.

In the AFC West, Denver is in control with a 10-3 record. The Broncos should win against Buffalo and Oakland, while losing its final game against San Diego. The 12-4 record will put Denver into the playoffs. San Diego, currently sitting at 8-5, has a very tough road ahead. Starting with a must win game against Indianapolis, the Chargers then go to Kansas City, and then home against Denver. Look for San Diego to somehow go 2-1, and give them a 10-6 record. Lokken says San Diego beats Indianapolis this weekend (ending the Colts’ perfect season), loses to Kansas City in week 16, and then beats Denver in week 17. Finally in the AFC West, Kansas City is in the hunt also with an 8-5 record, and should win their final 3 (against the NY Giants, San Diego Chargers, and Cincinnati Bengals) to finish up at 11-5.
Lastly, there is the AFC South, where Indianapolis has clinched everything with its perfect 13-0 start. Look for the Colts to start cruising and resting players, and for that reason, Todd Lokken says the Chargers should beat the Colts this weekend. The Colts will also most likely lose to Seattle in week 16, and then beat the hapless Arizona Cardinals to wind up the season 14-2. Jacksonville, the only other team in the playoff hunt (despite losing its starting quarterback), currently sits at 9-4. The Jaguars should have no problem beating San Francisco, Houston, and Tennessee in their final 3 games to finish up at 12-4.

That leaves one AFC wild card in the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars at 12-4; Pittsburgh and Kansas City will tie at 11-5, with the wild-card going to Kansas City based upon a better conference record.

The NFC division winners: Seattle, Minnesota, New York, and Atlanta. NFC wild cards: Dallas and Tampa Bay.

The AFC division winners: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Denver, and New England. AFC wild cards: Jacksonville and Kansas City.

"It should be a fantastic playoffs", says Lokken. When asked for a Super Bowl winner, Lokken replied, “Well, I just don’t see anyone beating Indianapolis”.

Strategic Fantasy Football provides fantasy football analysis and strategy for players of fantasy football. For more information, contact Todd Lokken at 847.985.8566.