New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers (Wild Card No. 1): If the Steelers the don’t hit the nine-win mark this season, that would give the team three straight non-winning years for the first time since the 1969-71 seasons. I don’t think that happens and it’s mainly because of Pittsburgh’s schedule. In the season’s first seven weeks, the Steelers only play one team that finished with a winning record last year and that team — Carolina — doesn’t look as strong as it did in 2013.
Tennessee Titans (Wild Card No. 2): Jake Locker got this team off to a 3-1 start last season before going down with an injury in Week 4, and that only loss came in overtime. The Titans weren’t beating bad teams either, they knocked off the Steelers and Jets, two teams that would finish 8-8, and a Chargers team that would eventually make the playoffs. If Locker stays healthy — and that’s an IF that Locker should probably get tattooed on his left hand as a constant reminder that he needs to stay healthy — then this team can sneak in the playoffs.
Just missed at No. 7: San Diego Chargers (In 2015, the NFL will likely be expanding to a playoff format that includes seven teams from each conference — an expansion that will come one year too late for the 2014 Chargers)
New Orleans Saints
Green Bay Packers
San Francisco 49ers (Wild Card No. 1): As long as the 49ers defense doesn’t collapse in the first few weeks without NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, San Francisco should be OK. It’s not going to be easy though, Smith will miss games against the Cowboys, Eagles, Broncos and Saints while Bowman will likely miss all of those games except for the Saints. Then there’s the Ray McDonald domestic violence arrest, that’s definitely not a distraction that’s going to help things.
Arizona Cardinals (Wild Card No. 2): If you watched the Texans last season, you may have noticed Matt Schaub seemed to throw a pick-six every week. Well, Carson Palmer is an expert at throwing pick-six’s too. As of October 2013, he had thrown the ninth-most in NFL history. What I’m trying to say here is that if Carson Palmer doesn’t spend all season giving away free points to the other team, then the Cardinals should be dangerous.
Just missed at No. 7: Atlanta Falcons.
AFC Wild Card Game
Bengals over Titans
Steelers over Colts
NFC Wild Card Game
49ers over Cowboys
Seahawks over Cardinals