With 3 weeks left on the NFL schedule, I think my team is officially out of it, but there are a lot of playoff spots up for grabs and a lot of team still in contention. I’m going to give a quick rundown of what the playoff picture looks like.
The Pats, Texans and Broncos are all locked into the playoffs and appear to be the top 3 seeds. The Colts have a strong hold on the top Wild Card spot, as one win will all but guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. Their final three games include a game versus lowly Kansas City but also two versus the Texans. With that in mind, if the Colts win out and Houston also drops to Minnesota, the Colts can actually win the AFC South as well.
The final 2 playoff spots look to come out of the AFC North. The Ravens can and should win the division, but with their final three games coming vs Denver, vs the Giants and at Cincinnati, it won’t be easy for them. For Pittsburgh to overtake them for the division, they need to win out at Dallas, vs Cincinnati and vs Cleveland and hope for the Ravens to lose 2 games, one of which has to be the Cincinnati game. The Bengals on the other hand need to beat Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, hope the Ravens drop to Denver and the Giants and then they will be playing for the division title in vs Baltimore at home in week 17.
The last Wild Card spot meanwhile looks to belong to either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati who each need two wins in order to clinch. Their week 16 match-up will eliminate one team’s playoff hopes. If things go really strangely, the Jets can actually still find a way into the playoffs but they need to win at Tennessee, vs San Diego and at Buffalo and hope a lot of other cards fall.
The Falcons are the only team guaranteed a playoff spot at this point and after them it is a bit of a mess.
West – The 49ers finish their season at New England, at Seattle and vs Arizona, so by no means can they be considered a favorite for their division at this point. Seattle meanwhile plays at Buffalo, has the home game vs San Fran then stays home vs the Rams. It looks like the match-up in Seattle could determine the division and if Seattle wins out, they could even contend for a first round bye as they have the head to head tiebreaker over Green Bay thanks to a controversial win. San Fransisco also holds the head to head tie breaker over the Packers for home field advantage.
North – The Packers play the Bears this weekend and if the Packers win, they win the NFC North. If the Bears can win this game, however, they put themselves and even Minnesota back in the division hunt with the Vikings playing the Packers in week 17.
East – The hot and cold Giants hold their fate in their own hands, but with games at Atlanta, at Baltimore and vs Philadelphia, it won’t be easy for them, as winning two out of three games still doesn’t guarantee them the division. The injury to RG3 could be costly to the Redskins if he indeed misses time, which I don’t see how he doesn’t. But Washington plays at Cleveland, at Philadelphia and vs Dallas and if the Giants drop just one game and the Skins can win out, they win the division thanks to a better division record than the Giants. Dallas meanwhile, needs to win out vs Pittsburgh, vs New Orleans and at Washington and they too will have a shot to overtake the Giants if they lose a game, based on division record.
If the Giants, Packers and Niners can win their divisions, the Bears and Seahawks will be in the drivers seat for the two wild card spots. If one of them slips, the week 17 match-up between the Redskins and Cowboys could put one of them in the playoffs even if the Giants do hang on to the division. The Vikings are still in the race for a wild card spot as well.
This week a couple losses can end the playoff chances for many teams and can clarify the playoff picture. However things could go the other way and the cards could all fall in place for a very interesting final two weeks. I know I’ll be doing my best to follow it all.