NFL Playoffs Analysis: Super scramble for postseason

On a day when the Giants blew a 21-point fourth-quarter lead, the Detroit Lions snapped a 26-game road losing streak, the NFC West Division-leading teams fell to 6-8, and Tim Tebow ran for a 40-yard touchdown and passed for a 33-yard touchdown in his first NFL start, it was fitting that even the teams from the most recent Super Bowl had to scramble to maintain their equilibrium.

This has been the most unpredictable of NFL seasons. Call it parity or mediocrity, but only the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Steelers have secured playoff spots in the 12-team field. The New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts must wonder if they have fallen into a fever dream. They probably still remember what it felt like to cruise toward the Super Bowl. It was just a year ago, after all, that their division opponents put up little fight, that their playoff position was guaranteed, that they were already well into their meticulous plans to rest their most critical players.

But Super Bowl hangovers can linger, especially when compounded by ennui and injuries. On Sunday, in the most critical slate of games of a topsy-turvy NFL season, the Colts and Saints found themselves in oddly unfamiliar territory, playing must-win games in December.

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