With just three weeks left in the regular season, the playoff picture is starting to come into view. Or is it?
We hear about the supposed "playoff picture" all the time, but it's only spoken of in figurative terms. What does it really look like? And can we really learn anything by looking at it?
I have no idea. But I am determined to find out. That's why I've purchased some paint, a few brushes and a huge canvas. I'm going to paint the playoff picture, and I encourage you to follow along.
Let's start on the perimeter of the playoff picture with the teams currently just out of the postseason race. Take your paintbrush and add a bit of Denver Broncos orange to the canvas. Now add an even brighter, almost neon orange to match the hue of Mike Shanahan's leathery skin.
The Jets will be represented by a few strokes of green, as they are a very young team that has experienced great growth this season. Don't forget to include some black and brown in with the green, though, as the new growth will continue to wilt and die in the cold December air.
Next we want to apply some electric blue paint to the canvas. This is for the Carolina Panthers, and it's a team color that probably seemed like a great idea in theory back in the mid-'90s when the Panthers came into the league. Just like how picking the Panthers to win the Super Bowl seems like a great idea in theory every preseason.
For Minnesota, paint in a bit of Vikings purple. Purple is a royal color, which is fitting for the royal butt-whipping the Vikings will surely receive if they somehow slip into the playoffs.
Now we'll put a few deep red strokes on the fringes of our playoff painting for the Kansas City Chiefs. But make sure it is a deep, smoldering, intense red to match the extra intensity and effort Larry Johnson puts forth for a black coach.
With the perimeter complete, grab a thicker brush to begin working on the background of our playoff picture: the current wild-card leaders.
Begin with a swath of steel gray paint. This is for Cincinnati's steely determination to come back from the brink of elimination to make the playoffs. It's also for the gray cement and stainless steel fixtures of the standard jail cell the inside of which many Bengals players have seen.
Now throw in a dash of blood red paint for the bright red jerseys of the New York Giants dyed red, of course, with blood from the Giants stabbing each other in the back.
Next we add some black paint. Atlanta Falcons' black to be precise, and a black that represents the cold, dark death that inevitably awaits all of Michael Vick's coaches.
For the Eagles, let's leave some white space. White is for the clean slate Philadelphia has with Jeff Garcia at the helm. But it can also be used to represent the white flag Eagles fans wave at the slightest hint of defeat.
Pick your brush back up now and add some charcoal gray to the canvas. This represents the gritty, rough-and-tumble style of the Jaguars. It's also the color of the suit Jack Del Rio wore on Sunday in order to be respectful at the funeral of the Indianapolis Colts.
Finally, let's finish our playoff picture by working on the foreground. This is the focal point of the piece where we will place the postseason locks.
Begin by adding a dash of red, white and blue, which represents both America and the team colors of the New England Patriots. Yesterday's debacle aside, the Patriots are winners, and winning is as American as apple pie, mom and having your mom sleep with an NFL head coach.
For the Cowboys we will add a few brushes of tan to the playoff picture. Tan is the color of putty, and Bill Parcells is trying to mold Dallas into something that has the potential to be scary good come playoff time, much like what Jerry Jones once did to his face.
We'll now work on the Seattle Seahawks. Grab your brush and actually, no, we're not going to paint the Seahawks. We're going to completely ignore them. They are less than a year removed from destroying the rest of the NFC in the playoffs and are currently just a game out of a first-round bye despite playing most of the season without their two offensive stars, yet most everyone has completely overlooked them. And who am I to break ranks and give them the respect they deserve? So don't bother adding the Seahawks to the playoff picture. Or, if you have to, put something on the fringe of the canvas where the frame will cover it.
Moving on, add in a brush of bright, almost pristine white trimmed by blue. Those are Colts colors colors that speak to their outstanding regular seasons and sad, depressing postseasons. Also put in a line of brown paint below the white and blue to signify the dirt ground into the backs of the Colts' jerseys when they are run over by opposing running backs.
With Indianapolis taken care of, grab some gold paint and create some cloud-like objects near the top of the canvas. The gold is for the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL's gold standard for defense. But it means so much more. Gold also represents streets of gold the heavenly thoroughfares God's Linebacker will surely strut and dance on for all eternity, as well as the gold Baltimore's players use to retain high-priced criminal attorneys.
The Saints will be represented by the color "hite." I have no idea if hite is a real color, but as of Sunday night, Wikipedia listed it as one of the Saints' official team colors so I'll take it as fact. (I really respect and relate to Wikipedia because about half of what I write is completely made up, just as about half of what's on Wikipedia is made up.) Anyway, hite it is for New Orleans real color or not because no one has any idea if the Saints are for real either.
Now it's time to add the Chicago Bears to the playoff picture. Create a dark, nutty brown color on your palette and smear a clump onto the canvas. This is for the rough, tough, ground-control game Chicago plays, but mostly for what Rex Grossman has dropped on the field in recent weeks.
And to finish the painting we'll add a large, arcing swath of yellow across the middle to represent the San Diego Chargers' logo. This yellow arc also represents Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo urinating into a cup.
OK. We're finished. The playoff picture is complete. Let's take a step back and take a look at what we have created. Hmm. I see. Uh well, it's actually quite unsightly and confusing. Basically all I see is something that looks sort of like a huge mess with a Chargers logo on top of it. What's worse is that I think all the paint I used for the NFC teams was toxic. Honestly. The NFC is making my eyes bleed.
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN the Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" will be in stores soon.