We’re nearing the three-quarter pole of the season, and here’s what we know: there are a handful of good teams, a smattering of awful teams, and a whole raft of pretty-decent-but-maybe-not-decent-enough teams. The postseason is in sight, and that means it’s time to start the playoff projections.
Heading into Week 13, only three teams are officially done: the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers, and the New York Giants. We shall speak of them no more.
Only one team, the Philadelphia Eagles, can clinch a playoff berth with a win this weekend. In fact, the Eagles could get into the playoffs without running a single play; if Washington defeats Dallas on Thursday night, Philly is officially the NFC East champion. Beyond that, it’s all jockeying for position.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the playoff scenarios:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2, next game: at Cincinnati)
2. New England Patriots (9-2, next game: at Buffalo)
3. Tennessee Titans (7-4, next game: vs. Houston)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5, next game: at New York Jets)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4, next game: vs. Indianapolis)
6. Baltimore Ravens (6-5, next game: vs. Detroit)
7. Buffalo Bills (6-5, next game: vs. New England)
8. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6, next game: vs. Pittsburgh)
9. Los Angeles Chargers (5-6, next game: vs. Cleveland)
10. Oakland Raiders (5-6, next game: vs. New York Giants)
Breakdown: This week will do nothing but bunch up the wild-card contenders, what with the Chargers and Raiders getting a couple of near-guaranteed wins against already eliminated teams. Jacksonville and Tennessee can keep the pace in the slapfight that is the AFC South, and the Patriots and Steelers can cement their strongholds on their respective divisions. We’ll know a lot more about how the AFC playoff picture looks by next Tuesday.
1. Philadelphia (10-1, next game: at Seattle)
2. Minnesota Vikings (9-2, next game: at Atlanta)
3. Los Angeles Rams (8-3, next game: at Arizona)
4. New Orleans (8-3, next game: vs. Carolina)
5. Carolina Panthers (8-3, next game: at New Orleans)
6. Atlanta Falcons (7-4, next game: vs. Minnesota)
7. Seattle Seahawks (7-4, next game: vs. Philadelphia)
8. Detroit Lions (6-5, next game: at Baltimore)
Breakdown: This week, all eyes will be on the NFC South, what with the Saints and Panthers battering each other and the Falcons looking to step over the carnage with a win over NFC North-owning Minnesota. All three of the Southern crew need a win; we’re not quite at win-or-go-home level, but we’re not far. The Seahawks need to get a big win over Philadelphia, since the Rams have an easier go against the Cardinals. Bottom line: the NFC is a thick mess, and will be for the next few weeks.
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