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NFL morning after: Filling in the playoff picture

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Ten NFL Sundays down and seven to go, and I know who’s making the playoffs.

OK, I might be wrong about a few, and in seven weeks you might remind me of this column and point out all the places where I was wrong and make me eat my words. But I actually think that as you go through the NFL standings right now, you can get a pretty accurate picture of how the final standings are going to look seven weeks from now. Let’s go through it:

NFC East: Dallas. Despite Sunday night’s massacre in New Orleans, I still favor the 5-5 Cowboys over the 5-5 Eagles, largely because the Cowboys have already won at Philadelphia. The Cowboys and Eagles meet in Week 17 in Dallas, and I think the Cowboys will complete the season sweep and seal the division title on the last day of the season.

NFC North: Detroit. The Lions’ win over the Bears gives Detroit a one-game lead, and considering how easy the Lions’ schedule is, plus the fact that the Packers are down to Scott Tolzien at quarterback, we can pencil in the Lions to win the North.

NFC South: New Orleans. The 7-2 Saints, whose offense looked amazing on Sunday night in Dallas, will hold off the 6-3 Panthers.

NFC West: Seattle. After San Francisco lost to Carolina on Sunday, the Seahawks have a two-game lead over the 49ers, and Seattle has a head-to-head win over San Francisco as well. This is Seattle’s division.

NFC wild cards: Carolina and San Francisco. The 49ers and Panthers are currently a game ahead of the pack at 6-3, and I’ll be shocked if they don’t end up as the two NFC wild card teams. The 5-4 Bears, Packers and Cardinals are all in the mix, as are the 5-5 Eagles, but the Panthers and 49ers are pretty clearly the two best in the wild card chase.

AFC East: New England. The Patriots lead the Jets by two games in the standings and will win this division for an amazing 11th time in Tom Brady’s 12 years as their starting quarterback.

AFC North: Cincinnati. The Bengals missed a golden opportunity to put the division away on Sunday in Baltimore, but they’re still a game and a half ahead, and they’re going to win this division.

AFC South: Indianapolis. The Colts looked terrible against the Rams on Sunday, but Indianapolis is still two games ahead of Tennessee, and Houston and Jacksonville have no shot. It’s the Colts by default.

AFC West: Denver. This is the only division that I don’t think the current first-place team will win. I expect the 8-1 Broncos to sweep the 9-0 Chiefs, winning this week in Denver and then winning in Kansas City in Week 13, and Denver will win this division.

AFC wild cards: Kansas City and New York Jets. The second-place team in the AFC West will be the top wild card team, so let’s pencil the Chiefs in for that spot. The biggest question mark on the board is the sixth and final AFC playoff spot: As of right now the Jets would get it, and I think they’ll hold onto it holding off the Dolphins, Chargers, Browns, Ravens and Titans.

A lot can change in the next seven weeks, especially if a key player is injured. (It’s worth noting that before Aaron Rodgers went down, I thought the Packers had a very good chance of getting to the Super Bowl, and now I’m picking them to miss the playoffs.) But I’m feeling pretty confident that I’ve got this whole playoff picture figured out. Here are the rest of my observations from Sunday:

Another terrible game for Trent Richardson. With five carries for two yards in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, Richardson now has 88 carries for 250 yards, an average of 2.8 yards a carry, in seven games as a Colt. It’s looking more and more like the Browns fleeced the Colts when Indianapolis shipped a first-round draft pick to Cleveland in the Richardson trade.

Another terrible game for Ray Rice, too. Rice had 18 carries for 30 yards in the Ravens’ win over the Bengals on Sunday. He’s now averaging 2.5 yards a carry this season. That’s a stunningly bad average for a three-time Pro Bowler who had never averaged less than 4.0 yards a carry in any season of his career before. Rice has no room to run behind a terrible Baltimore offensive line.

The Seahawks’ secondary is sensational against tight ends. One of the things that really stands out when you watch Seattle is the way strong safety Kam Chancellor and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner cover tight ends. On Sunday Seattle played one of the best tight ends in the league, Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, and totally kept him in check: Gonzalez didn’t catch his first pass until it was basically garbage time, with the score 26-3 Seattle in the third quarter, and Gonzalez finished the day with just three catches for 29 yards.

Clay Matthews looked like Art Jimmerson at UFC 1. Matthews is playing with a massive club on his broken right hand. He’s a tough guy for wanting to be out there, but he looked like he was struggling and had a quiet day in the Packers’ loss.

That’s the Tavon Austin the Rams thought they were drafting. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Austin looked like one of the NFL’s more disappointing rookies, averaging just 6.7 yards a catch. On Sunday, Austin had touchdown catches of 81 and 57 yards and threw in a 98-yard touchdown on a punt return as well. I still have my doubts that Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is the right guy to find ways to get Austin the ball in space consistently, and it’s worth pointing out that Schottenheimer only called four plays for Austin (three passes, one run) all game on Sunday. But there’s no doubt that Austin has game-breaking talent.

Welcome back, Jake Ballard. It was nice to see Ballard catch a pass for the Cardinals on Sunday in his first live game action since the Super Bowl almost two years ago. As the Giants’ starting tight end in that Super Bowl, Ballard suffered a major knee injury in the game and hadn’t been able to get all the way back to 100 percent healthy for more than a year. Both the Giants and the Patriots released Ballard, but he signed with the Cardinals last week and is already contributing to the offense.

Giovani Bernard has some learning to do. Bernard, the Bengals’ rookie running back, is a superb young talent who’s a threat to break off a long gain every time he touches the ball. But he needs to learn that there are times when you just need to lower your shoulders and run straight ahead, and one of those times is when you get the ball on fourth-and-2 in overtime. Bernard tried to dance around after catching a swing pass from Andy Dalton, and he ended up losing 11 yards. Those 11 yards helped the Ravens greatly when they won the game with a 46-yard field goal on the next possession.

What happened to Colin Kaepernick? The 49ers’ quarterback was awful against the Panthers on Sunday. Since throwing for 412 yards in Week One, he’s only reached 200 passing yards once. On Sunday he completed 11 of 22 passes for 91 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception.

Did the Jaguars just cost themselves the No. 1 pick? It’s nice that Jacksonville won a game and assured itself of avoiding the fate of the 0-16 Lions of 2008. But did the Jags cost themselves the chance to draft their franchise quarterback of the future (maybe Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater) with the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft? Actually, I don’t think so. Looking at the rest of the schedule, I think there’s still a good chance the Jags will finish 1-15. And while the Buccaneers are currently winless, they have a few winnable games the rest of the way and should finish more like 2-14 or 3-13. The Jaguars are so far out of the playoff race that they can’t even see the leaders, but they’re still in the pole position in the race for the No. 1 overall pick.

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Cowboys couldn’t get Lynch, likely will take a QB Friday

BIRMINGHAM, AL - DECEMBER 30: Paxton Lynch #12 of the Memphis Tigers passes against the Auburn Tigers in the first half of the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on December 30, 2015 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

They went 1-2, as expected, but there was no run on quarterbacks late in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft.

The Broncos traded up from No, 31 to No. 26 and selected Paxton Lynch, but no other quarterbacks were taken.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Cowboys tried unsuccessfully to make a trade back into the first round to beat the Broncos to Lynch. So, the Broncos have their quarterback of the future and probably won’t be further involved with trade talks involving Colin Kaepernick and Sam Bradford.

The Browns hold the first pick of Friday’s second round, at No, 32, and could also be looking to draft a quarterback. The Cowboys hold pick No. 34 and on Thursday were true to owner Jerry Jones’ earlier words that they’d pursue a quarterback, just not in the first round.

By most pre-draft rankings, Connor Cook is probably the next quarterback off the board. Cardale Jones, Dak Prescott, Christian Hackenberg and Jacoby Brissett, in some order, are in the next group. Whether Cook goes early on Friday or is around for 20 more picks is anyone’s guess.

The wheeling and dealing Browns will probably field calls about their pick and could move it to a team that wants to come up — and not necessarily for a quarterback. Other teams that could potentially be in the quarterback market in the second round are the Chiefs (Nos. 37 and 59), Saints (47), Bills (49) and Jets (51).

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Seahawks take Germain Ifedi to end round one

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The PFT simulated draft had the Seahawks taking guard Germain Ifedi at pick No. 26. They slid down to No. 31, and they still got him.

Ifedi becomes the last pick in round one, beefing up an offensive line that needs plenty of help.

It’s actually bad news for Ifedi, because it’s better to be the first pick in round two than the last pick in round one. The difference on the four-year contractual value isn’t significant, but the Seahawks now have the ability to use the fifth-year option to keep Ifedi away from the open market. Because the franchise tag is never used on an interior offensive lineman (the formula makes it left tackle pay), Ofedi would have been much better off over the long haul with a four-year deal.

The Seahawks will be better off with more help on the offensive line, especially at the inside. More and more teams are loading up the interior pass rush. Ifedi can help slow down the push up the middle that quarterback Russell Wilson will be facing.

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First round ends with Myles Jack still available

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2015, file photo, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack in action against BYU during an NCAA college football game in Pasadena, Calif. Jack is one of the top defensive players available in the NFL Draft, which starts April 28 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File) AP

Six of the 25 players that took the NFL up on invitations to attend the draft in Chicago remain available at the end of the first round with UCLA linebacker Myles Jack headlining the group.

Jack was expected to be one of the first players off the board for much of the pre-draft process and it wasn’t hard to find people who thought he was the best player in this year’s class, but concerns about the health of his knee triggered a free fall on Thursday night.

Jack admitted Wednesday that he might need to have microfracture surgery and said he understood that the questions about his knee could trigger a drop in the draft. That drop will extend into the second day, where he’ll join Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith as defensive playmakers available for teams willing to roll the dice that things will work out medically.

Jack will have some company during his second night in the green room. Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland also went unpicked and reportedly has a medical question mark of his own due to an enlarged aorta. A pair of Alabama defensive tackles — Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson — will also be back for Round Two.

Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd and Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones round out the group of draft attendees that didn’t hear their names called in the first round. The Browns will be on the board with the No. 32 pick when the draft resumes on Friday night.

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Panthers take defensive tackle Vernon Butler at No. 30

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Dave Gettleman can’t get enough hog mollies.

Despite having a pair of young starting defensive tackles, the Panthers General Manager added another one, using the 30th pick on Louisiana Tech big man Vernon Butler.

The Panthers just picked up the fifth-year option on 2013 first-round Star Lotulelei, and want to extend 2013 second-rounder Kawann Short.

But Gettleman loves having depth up front, and now the Panthers can put Butler alongside free agent pickup Paul Soliai and give the defending NFC champs one of the most solid interior lines in the NFL.

They have bigger needs, but they like big bodies, and this gives them another one.

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Cardinals pick Nkemdiche at No. 29

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The Cardinals selected Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche with the 29th pick of the first round.

Nkemdiche, 21, is regarded as one of the most talented players in the draft, but there were concerns about his consistency on the field and his behavior off of it. He fell out of a fourth-floor window last December in Atlanta, and that’s just one thing he discussed with teams on his pre-draft tour.

He had three sacks and seven tackles for loss last season.

The Cardinals clearly don’t mind taking players some teams consider character risks and have hit on Tyrann Mathieu, a third-round pick in 2013 who’s become a productive player and stayed out of trouble. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said after the pick that Nkemdiche is “a top-10 talent” and that Cardinals coach Bruce Arians “is the kind of coach” who can get the best out of Nkemdiche.

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Elway says Broncos are out of the Kaepernick chase

0612-colin-kaepernick-getty-4 Getty Images

They met with him twice. There won’t be a third session.

With the Broncos trading up from No. 31 to No. 26 to acquire quarterback Paxton Lynch, they’re out of the running for quarterback Colin Kaepernick. General Manager John Elway has confirmed the fairly obvious reality to Mike Klis of 9News.com in Denver.

The development leaves Kaepernick without a clear destination for 2016, unless the Jets decide to abandon the pursuit of 2015 starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and swing a deal for Kaepernick.  And it means that Kaepernick likely will remain with the 49ers for at least another season.

The question becomes whether Kaepernick wants to be there. At some point, he needs to realize that he has no other options, and that he should focus on being the best player he can be.

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49ers trade back into first round, draft Joshua Garnett

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Joshua Garnett #51 of the Stanford Cardinal celebrates with the fans after Stanford defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes 45-16 in the 102nd Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2016 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers acquired a second first-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft, and with it they selected Stanford guard Joshua Garnett.

San Francisco’s pick was No. 28 overall, acquired in an on-the-clock trade with the Chiefs. The 49ers sent their second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks to Kansas City to make the deal.

The 49ers wanted to bolster their offensive line, and they’ve done so with Garnett, who has a chance of starting as a rookie. Stanford coach David Shaw, working the draft for NFL Network, acknowledged that Garnett has to improve in pass protection but spoke highly of Garnett’s toughness and competitiveness.

Some thought the 49ers would look for a quarterback in this draft, but that search appears to be done. The 49ers will go with Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick, and Garnett will help protect one of them.

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Packers nab Kenny Clark with 27th pick

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26:  Defensive lineman Kenny Clark #97 of the UCLA Bruins prepares to take the field before the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers used their first-round pick on a defensive player from UCLA, but they didn’t stop linebacker Myles Jack’s drop down the draft board.

Green Bay used the 27th overall pick to add defensive tackle Kenny Clark to their defensive line.

Clark has a wrestling background that he put to good use while tussling with opposing offensive linemen during his collegiate career. He was particularly strong at stopping the run, which should come in handy for the Packers after B.J. Raji opted to take at least the 2016 season off rather than re-sign with the team this offseason.

Clark won’t turn 21 until October, so there should still be a lot of room for growth in the years to come. He had six sacks and 11 tackles for loss during his final year in school and further development as a penetrator would make this pick look even better down the line.

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Broncos jump up to grab Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch

MEMPHIS, TN - OCTOBER 17:  Paxton Lynch #12 of the Memphis Tigers throws a pass during a game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Memphis, Tennessee.  The Tigers defeated the Rebels 37-24.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Denver Broncos seem to have moved on from the idea of Colin Kaepernick.

Denver moved up five spots in the draft in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks to select Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch with the 26th overall pick in the first round.

With trade talks stalling with the San Francisco 49ers over Kaepernick, the Broncos began to look elsewhere for potential quarterback solutions in the wake of Peyton Manning’s retirement.

The Seahawks picked up a third-round pick, No. 94 overall, from Denver to slide back five selections to the 31st and final pick of the first round.

With Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian the only quarterback currently on the roster, the Broncos had to be aggressive when Lynch and Connor Cook remained on the board late in the first round. Teams such as Dallas and Cleveland held early second round picks and could have been looking into similar trades to get the quarterback they needed as well.

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Steelers select CB Artie Burns at No. 25

BOCA RATON, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Artie Burns #1 of the Miami Hurricanes rushes during a game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at FAU Stadium on September 11, 2015 in Boca Raton, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Steelers selected Miami (Fla.) cornerback Artie Burns with the No. 25 pick in the first round.

Burns was also a college track star and is an early entry to the draft. He was a two-year starter at cornerback who had six interceptions last season.

The Steelers did not hide their interest in many defensive backs but saw Karl Joseph, at No. 14 to the Raiders, and Keanu Neal, at No. 17 to the Falcons, come off the ahead of most projections. Then the Bengals took cornerback William Jackson at No. 24.

Burns ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at the Scouting Combine. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin called Burns “a good piece of clay to mold in 2016.”

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Bengals take cornerback William Jackson at No. 24

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles is tackled by Steven Taylor #41 and William Jackson III #3 of the Houston Cougars in the first quarter during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bengals can’t get enough first-round cornerbacks.

With the 24th overall pick, they just took Houston’s William Jackson III.

That adds to a secondary that includes former first-rounders Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard.

Jackson has the kind of size-speed combination that made the Bengals notice, but they also were able to beat the cornerback-needy Steelers to the punch, since the entire world knew.

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Laremy Tunsil’s strange night continues

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 26: Offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss looks on during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tackle Laremy Tunsil’s slide down the draft board stopped when the Dolphins took him 13th overall, but a night that started out badly thanks to a video of him smoking pot going public kept getting stranger.

After Tunsil was picked, his Instagram account appeared to be hacked in a similar fashion to his Twitter account with screenshots that purported to show conversations between Tunsil and a member of the Ole Miss athletic staff regarding payments to Tunsil from the school. Tunsil was asked whether he took money while he was in school at a press conference Thursday.

“I made a mistake,” Tunsil said, via Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “That happened. I’d have to say yeah.”

Kellenberger reports that an NFL staffer stepped in and stopped the press conference as follow up questions came Tunsil’s way. Tunsil was suspended seven games by the NCAA last year for receiving improper benefits while in school.

Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier said in a press conference that the team feels “very comfortable” with all the information they have about Tunsil. He added they’d heard rumors about the pot video and that it occurred two years ago.

There have been other fake statements and tweets attributed to Tunsil bouncing around on a Thursday evening that has him in the news for different reasons than most people expected.

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Vikings continue run on wideouts, taking Laquon Treadwell

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The Vikings have had plenty of receivers who can run but can’t catch. They now have a guy who can’t run, but who definitely can catch.

Mississippi receiver Laquon Treadwell is the 23rd pick in the draft, and the third straight receiver selected.

Treadwell slid due to a relatively slow 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. But he makes the contested catches and possibly gives the Vikings the kind of sure-handed, reliable, third-down option they haven’t had since Cris Carter.

The move comes at a time when the Vikings are hoping to get the most out of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as the team moves back indoors, where Bridgewater has performed significantly better in his two NFL seasons.

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Josh Doctson goes to Washington at 22

<> at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 29, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. Getty Images

With a run on wide receivers late in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft, Washington traded down one spot before selecting Josh Doctson of TCU at No. 22.

In the trade down from 21 to 22, Washington picked up Houston’s 2017 sixth-round pick. Houston picked another wide receiver, Will Fuller, at No. 21. Baylor receiver Corey Coleman went 15th.

Doctson wasn’t a player many were expecting Washington to take. With Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in Washington, wide receiver wasn’t viewed as a position of need.

But Doctson is a very good receiver, one some analysts thought should have gone ahead of Coleman and Fuller. Doctson should form instant chemistry with Kirk Cousins and be ready to impress immediately.

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Texans trade up to take Will Fuller 21st overall

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 31: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches the game winning touchdown over Will Hayes #32 of the Temple Owls in the fourth quarter on October 31, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Redskins were scheduled to pick 21st overall in the first round with the Texans right behind them, but the two teams have swapped spots.

The Texans took Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller with the pick and gave the Redskins a 2017 sixth-round pick to move up one spot. It would appear that Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan was able to do a good job of convincing Texans counterpart Rick Smith that Houston’s desired player would be going to Washington if the Texans didn’t make the deal.

Fuller’s arrival continues the offensive overhaul that’s gone on in Houston this offseason. He’ll join quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller as new faces in an offense that was short on pizazz outside of DeAndre Hopkins last season.

Fuller’s game had plenty of pizazz when he was in South Bend. He’s got all the speed you could want in a wideout and is a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands. He sometimes has problems getting the ball in his hands, but will likely have plenty of chances to take the top off defenses with Hopkins gathering attention elsewhere.

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