We're down to the last quarter of the 2012 season, and there are some teams currently in the playoff picture that have surprised us all. With four games left, we're taking a look at the current wildcard teams. Are they contenders or just pretenders? Let's take a look.
The Colts are almost certainly in the playoff party. They hold a game lead over both the Steelers and Bengals, and those two teams still have to play each other once. The Colts are in, but they're not ready for the big time yet. Andrew Luck makes too many mistakes, and the Colts' defense is a porous unit. They've made a quick rebound after last season, but they need another year or two for a deep playoff run.
The Steelers will have Ben Roethlisberger back soon, if not this week, and they've shown in the past an ability to sneak into the playoffs and make some noise. With Roethlisberger back, the offense should jump back to proficiency, and that defense is as scary as ever. They could do something special if they get in.
The Bears have teased us all season long, but the Packers have finally caught up to them. The Bears are two games ahead of the seventh place Redskins, and when Jay Cutler plays well, the Bears can beat anyone in the league. The problem is, when he's playing poorly, the Browns would be a tough out. This is an interesting call, and the Bears could be a team to watch, especially if you enjoy chaos.
Verdict: Contender -- sort of...
Russell Wilson has put together a very impressive rookie resume, but his work isn't done just yet. The Redskins, Cowboys and Vikings are all just a game back for the sixth and final NFC playoff spot, meaning the Seahawks need to keep winning. They have a very manageable schedule to make it in, but as with the Colts, rookie quarterbacks tend to make mistakes late in the season, and their offense won't win many shootouts. As with the Colts, I think they're in the party, but that's about all.