NFL Week 15: A Look at the Race for the Playoffs
They are coming.
That wonderful sound you all hear is the thunderous roar of the NFL Playoffs. Week 15 is approaching and teams are still vying for 11 playoff spots as the Cowboys have been the only team to punch their ticket to the postseason.
Let’s take a look at where the standings currently sit and take a look at who is still in the hunt:
***X – clinched playoff berth, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched home-field advantage
- x – Dallas Cowboys (11-2)
The Cowboys are riding on the backs of rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. Currently with a two game lead over Detroit for the top seed and a two game lead over the Giants for the NFC East, the Cowboys can clinch the division and a first round bye with a win over Tampa Bay on Sunday night.
- Detroit Lions (9-4)
The Lions are in prime position after yet another fourth quarter comeback directed by Matthew Stafford. Currently thinking about the possibility of getting a first round bye and one round closer to the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl appearance has to be enticing. The Lions can clinch the NFC North this week with a win AND a Packers loss on the road in Chicago. While the latter seems unlikely, we might see a winner take all game in Week 17 between the Packers and Lions to reign supreme in the North.
- Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1)
Losing Earl Thomas for the season is a huge blow to the back end of arguably the best secondary in the NFL. That was on display in the Seahawks’ blowout loss at Green Bay this past Sunday. A win over a disoriented Los Angeles Rams team will clinch the NFC West and secure at least one home playoff game for Seattle.
- Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
No clinching scenarios for the Falcons this week as they are tied atop the division with Tampa Bay. This is a division race that is sure to come down to the wire. The loser in that race might miss out on the playoffs with the surging Redskins lurking just outside the final wild-card spot.
- New York Giants (9-4)
If you are a Giants fan and needed a high profile and resume boosting victory…wait sorry this is NOT the College Football Playoff. In any event, the Giants are the only team to beat Dallas and they have done it twice. Still with an outside shot at the division, the Giants can actually clinch a playoff berth with a win over Detroit and some help. That would include a loss by Washington and losses or ties from Green Bay and Minnesota.
- Tampa Bay Bucs (8-5)
This team won’t quit. The Bucs have not made the playoffs since 2007 but sit within the top 6 and can also take the division away from Atlanta. While they are hot, they’ll have to stave off playoff hungry teams like Washington, Minnesota, and Green Bay from jumping them.
In the hunt:
Washington (7-5-1) – Dangerous team with a hot QB, solid running game and emerging defense. Washington could very well sneak in.
Minnesota (7-6) – The likeliest way I see the Vikings getting in is by winning their final 3 and hoping that’s enough to win the North or steal a wild card spot.
Green Bay (7-6) – Green Bay is very capable of winning out and winning the division due to tiebreakers and Detroit having a tough end to their schedule.
Arizona (5-7-1) – This would take a miracle.
New Orleans (5-8) – Same
Carolina (5-8) – They haven’t been eliminated yet?
Philadelphia (5-8) – **sigh**
- New England Patriots (11-2)
Best team in the NFL hands down with the greatest quarterback and greatest coach. The Patriots are rolling through the league without Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola. Yet, they haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet. While I can’t fathom a possibility where the Patriots miss the postseason, they can clinch the AFC East and a first round bye with a win at Denver this week.
- Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)
Andy Reid is some coach. Sweeping the Raiders gives the Chiefs the inside track to the division crown. They can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Tennessee.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
Three division games to close out the year for the Steelers. Basically, the north comes down to them or Baltimore. A win this week and a Baltimore loss to Philly will tilt the advantage in favor of Pittsburgh by A LOT.
- Houston Texans (7-6)
Easily the weakest team in the playoffs right now. Brock Osweiler has struggled and there is no JJ Watt. The Texans better count their blessings they are 4-0 in a weak division because that could be their saving grace when it comes to winning the AFC South.
- Oakland Raiders (10-3)
Tough break losing to the Chiefs and Derrick Carr’s injured pinky may be a big deal down the road. A win over San Diego this week will clinch a spot in the postseason tournament but by the end of the year, they could be 13-3 and still lose the division to Kansas City.
- Denver Broncos (8-5)
How is this for an end to a schedule: home against New England, at Kansas City, home vs. Oakland. Yikes. Still, a great defense could be a good thing for the Broncos to get the playoffs but don’t be shocked, with a brutal schedule and questionable offense, if the Broncos lose 3 in a row and miss out on the postseason.
In the hunt:
Miami (8-5) – Denver has a tough schedule, Miami has a manageable one. But can Matt Moore fill in for Tannehill and get Miami to the postseason?
Baltimore (7-6) – They have the Eagles at home then go on the road to Pittsburgh. The division will likely be decided next week.
Tennessee (7-6) – The Titans essentially have to win out or just finish with a better record than Houston due to their 1-3 division record. The have to go on the road against Kansas City this week and that is no easy task.
Indianapolis (6-7) – What a mess around Andrew Luck, yet they can still win this poor division in the South.
Buffalo (6-7) – Yeah, I don’t think so. Let’s see if Rex Ryan is granted another year.
Cincinnati (5-7-1) – Mathematically still alive but…I don’t see it.
San Diego (5-8) – The “Los Angeles” Charges should be looking at 2017 at this point.