The competitive balance in the NFL has been a bit skewed in 2013. There is a significant gap between the top teams and the rest of the pack, making the final seven weeks of the season tough to predict in terms of the playoff picture.
Even with the gap between the best teams and the next tier in the standings, it's tough to count too many teams out of the postseason at this point.
Consider this; since 1990, when the current playoff format was first in place, 18 teams with a losing record through nine games have made the postseason. In 2012, two such teams snuck into the playoffs. The Cincinnati Bengals had a 4-5 record through nine games and the Washington Redskins had a 3-6 record through nine games, but both made the playoffs.
Five teams currently have a 4-5 record, all of which are in the AFC, which will be the easier conference in which to sneak into the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and San Diego Chargers are all one game under the .500 mark. Of the five, the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens appear most likely to crack the postseason, but it's been the Browns that are trending upward in the AFC North. The Chargers, Dolphins and Titans have all cooled considerably after hot starts.
Remember, though, the Redskins also made the playoffs a year ago after starting the season 3-6. It would take quite the run, but currently four NFL teams hold the same 3-6 record. In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders are 3-6, though both will likely have a tough time getting into the postseason. The Steelers are the more plausible, because they play a lot of the teams they need to pass in the standings.
Over in the NFC, the two 3-6 both reside in the NFC East. Washington has a 3-6 record for the second year in a row, and the New York Giants also have a 3-6 record after a disastrous start. The fun thing about the NFC East is a 3-6 record puts those teams only two games out of the division lead. The Giants have won three straight games, play against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers in Week 11 and still have three division games on the schedule. Could this be another late season run from the Giants?
With the amount of scenarios outlined above, it stands to reason we could see a team which currently has a losing record make a surprising run to the postseason. After all, it has happened before.