With six or seven games remaining in the NFL season depending on the team, there’s plenty of parody this season to suggest some absolute shockers down the stretch and some absolute disappointments. Heading into Week 11 of the 2016-2017 season, here’s how the playoffs would look if they started today:
NFC – Cowboys (8-1), Seahawks (6-2-1), Falcons (6-4), Lions (5-4), Giants (6-4), Redskins (5-3-1)
AFC – Patriots (7-2), Chiefs (7-2), Texans (6-3), Ravens (5-4), Raiders (7-2), Broncos (7-3)
There’s plenty of teams on the cusp who could absolutely not only disrupt the current wild card picture but maybe even dethrone the current division leaders. Here’s who I think just might make their way back into contention down the stretch.
ON THE BRINK (NFC):
Minnesota Vikings (5-4) – No AP. No franchise QB. No problem…for a while. The Vikings began the season 5-0 before dropping the last four in a row starting with a Monday Night Football loss to the awful Chicago Bears. However, they still have an elite defense and if that offense can get it going at all – look out. The NFC North is still a three-team race and the Vikings have games against the Lions (Week 12) and Packers (Week 16) to take back their spot atop the “black and blue” division.
Prediction: IN – NFC North Champs
Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) – Carson Wentz is the present and the future. The rookie came out real strong early but has come back down to earth of late. If they can find a way to get passed the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 11, their next two are against sub-.500 teams (Packers, Bengals) before a brutal final quarter of the season begins with three of the final four games inside the NFC East. Win two out of next three and they may find their way back into the wild card hunt with a top-notch defense to carry them.
Prediction: IN – Wild Card
Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1) – They’re in quite a hole as the current ninth seed in the conference. Too much help is needed to realistically make a playoff push with the division pretty much spoken for by Seattle. The Cards defense is good enough to keep them in games and they have an elite running game with David Johnson. However they beat an awful Niners team by a field goal in Week 10 and lost to a 3-5 Panthers squad two weeks ag0 by 10 points. Who is this Arizona team that was a Super Bowl favorite in the pre season? Not sure they even know.
Final IN: Cowboys, Seahawks, Vikings, Falcons, Giants, Eagles
Final OUT: Redskins, Lions
Washington and Detroit can score with anyone. However their defenses and tight division races will be their undoing. Not to mention the Lions have been in this position before and just can’t seem to hold on when it counts. Sorry Motown.
ON THE BRINK (AFC):
Miami Dolphins (5-4) – Winners of four straight to salvage their season, the ‘Fins just might get their hands on a wild card spot with a very favorable strength of schedule down the stretch. Very winnable games against the Rams and Niners respectively are coming up, sending Miami to Baltimore for a Week 13 matchup against the Ravens who should still be in first place in the AFC North. Three of the last four are against .500 or worse teams that should set the Dolphins up nicely for their first playoff birth since 2008.
Prediction: IN – Wild Card
Tennessee Titans (5-5) – One of the best running teams in football that no one seems to talk about much. The rise of Marcus Mariota at QB and their high-flying offense has also been a nice story in the NFL this year and that just might equate to not just a wild card birth but maybe…possibly…a division crown stolen out from under the Texans in the final week of the regular season at home. That defense scares no one, however, and that conversely could be what keeps them at best an 8-8 team in the end.
Prediction: IN – AFC South Champs
Indianapolis Colts (4-5) – Andrew Luck is healthy. That alone makes them alive and well just a couple games out of the division and one game out of the wild card. That defense, however, is awful once again and you can’t expect needing 30+ points every week to carry you to the post season. Sitting as the eighth seed right now, there just might not be enough help to get in.
Final IN: Patriots, Chiefs, Titans, Ravens, Broncos, Dolphins
Final OUT: Raiders, Texans
Oakland could find a way in if that defense can somehow come together which I just don’t see happening. The Texans aren’t going anywhere with Brock Osweiler at QB and a paltry offense that won’t keep pace with games remaining against powerhouse offenses like the Raiders, Colts, Chargers, and Titans despite how solid their defense has been most the season.