FIVE matches between playoff teams on the weekend, all loomed as much watch football. They did not disappoint. High scoring, action-packed games shook up the seedings, but nothing changed the playoff landscape quite like the MVP favourite going down. With the Eagles quarterback tearing his ACL, the anarchy of the NFC race still may have a twist or six left before seasons’ end. While the AFC doesn’t boast as many SuperBowl threats to their conference foes, the hunt for a wildcard spot is still worth watching.
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1st: Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) – vs. Patriots, @Texans, vs. Browns
2nd: New England Patriots (10-3) – @Steelers, vs. Bills, vs. Jets
3rd: Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) – vs. Texans, @49ers, @Titans
4th: Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) – vs. Chargers, vs. Dolphins, @Broncos
5th: Tennessee Titans (8-5) – @49ers, vs. Rams, vs. Jaguars
6th: Buffalo Bills (7-6) – vs. Dolphins, @Patriots, @Dolphins
BOLD = clinched playoff spot
THE AFC race is easily the lesser interesting one of the two conferences. With Pittsburgh and New England likely to surge to a top two seed the only spots up for debate are probably the wildcard berths. Jacksonville may have something to say about who owns a first-round bye though. A Patriots loss and Jags win would see them move into second, based on a better win percentage against conference foes over Tom Terrific and friends.
Image from bigcatcountry.com
A wild weathered game against the Colts played into Buffalo’s hands allowing them to breathe life into their unlikely postseason campaign. A Chiefs win over the Raiders gave them the advantage atop the AFC West against LA, who at 7-6, is coming to town next week. The inconsistencies of the Titans continue to ruin their chances of taking out the division crown against a rampant Jags outfit, and Tennessee still has their work cut out for them in the last fortnight of the season.
1st: Philadelphia Eagles (11-2) – @Giants, vs. Raiders, vs. Cowboys
2nd: Minnesota Vikings (10-3) – vs. Bengals, @Packers, vs. Bears
3rd: Los Angeles Rams (9-4) – @Seahawks, @Titans, vs. 49ers
4th: New Orleans Saints (9-4) – vs. Jets, vs. Falcons, @Bucs
5th: Carolina Panthers (9-4) vs. Packers, vs. Bucs, @Falcons
6th: Atlanta Falcons (8-5) – @Bucs, @Saints, vs. Panthers
BOLD = clinched playoff spot
WITH Philadelphia clinching a playoff spot in an epic win over the Rams, you could still make the argument that they remain a class above the rest. I beg to differ, and am of the opinion that the battle to win the conference is wide open. The Vikings loss to the Panthers halted them from holding onto the top seed, but don’t rule out Minnesota finishing first if they win out.
THE aforementioned Carolina Panthers are back in the mix for their own division title after their 9th W of the year. Coupled with the division foes fighting it out, three teams from the NFC South are sitting at 8-5 or better. I still think three’s a crowd and that one of Carolina, New Orleans or Atlanta will miss the playoffs this season, just don’t ask me to pick who as the tumultuous season continues to flip logic on its head.
Image from theadvocate.com
In The Hunt
Baltimore Ravens (7-6) – @Browns, vs. Colts, vs. Bengals
Los Angeles Chargers (7-6) – @Chiefs, @Jets, vs. Raiders
BALTIMORE’S remaining foes own a combined 8-30 record, so it’s highly likely that they will win out from here and make the playoffs. None of their other conference foes at 7-6 have a super hard schedule either, complicating things slightly. The wild, wild West is going to be one to watch with the Chargers and Chiefs in the box seat to win the division and it’s unlikely that the loser will make a wildcard.
Seattle Seahawks (8-5) – vs. Rams, @Cowboys, vs. Cardinals
Detroit Lions (7-6) – vs. Bears, @Bengals, vs. Packers
Green Bay Packers (7-6) – @Panthers, vs. Vikings, @Lions
THE fate of Seattle rests squarely on their shoulders. If their defeat the Rams this upcoming weekend they will move into the fourth seed and control their destiny. Lose, and they will need things to fall their way if they want to see the postseason. A Week 9 win over Green Bay on Monday Night Football is worth its weight in gold right now for the Lions, giving them the advantage in a tie-break scenario. Both of the NFC North residents will likely have to win out from here if they want to even think about the playoffs.
Image from mlive.com
Miracles Do Happen
Oakland Raiders (6-7)
Miami Dolphins (6-7)
THESE two 6-7 teams face two very different fairytale situations. If the Raiders can overcome the Cowboys on the weekend, their prize is the NFL’s best in a visit to Philadelphia. Good luck with that. Miami however, aren’t entirely out of it. Their upset over the Patriots has them sitting in an interesting situation needing victories against the Bills, Chiefs and then Bills again if they want to complete the comeback. Hmmm…
Better Luck Next Year
Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
New York Jets (5-8)
Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)
Arizona Cardinals (6-7)
Washington Redskins (5-8)
Houston Texans (4-9)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9)
Chicago Bears (4-9)
Denver Broncos (4-9)
Indianapolis Colts (3-10)
San Francisco 49ers (3-10)
New York Giants (2-11)
Cleveland Browns (0-13)
MATHEMATICALLY the Cowboys can still make the playoffs, don’t kid yourself though, it’s over Dallas fans. With the Seahawks and Eagles looming, even the return of ‘The Chosen One’ can’t save them from missing out this year. After flirting with success throughout the year the Bengals and Jets finally had the door slammed back in their faces.
Banner from profootballfocus.com