We take a look at the current playoff scenario as it stands today and which teams would be in and who’s still in the hunt for a spot in the NFL postseason.
By: Andy Villamarzo
No. 1, New England Patriots (12-2): Is it really a surprise that the Patriots’ are the top seed in December? No, but it’s a surprise at which team is right on their coat tails and that’s the Oakland Raiders. If New England wins out, they’ll lockup the No. 1 at 14-2. The Patriots end the season with games against division rivals Jets and Dolphins, respectively.
No. 2, Oakland Raiders (11-3): If the Raiders want to overtake the Patriots for the No. 1 spot in the AFC, they’re going to need some help from either the New York Jets or the Miami Dolphins. If New England loses in the final two weeks, that could open up a chance for Oakland to finish first, otherwise the Raiders are just about locked as the AFC’s No. 2 seed, as long as they win out.
No. 3, Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5): In what can be labeled as a down year for the AFC North Division, the Steelers have once again taken their expected place atop the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and the winless Cleveland Browns. This Sunday’s huge divisional matchup against the Ravens has implications on where the Steelers will end up in the playoff picture.
No. 4, Houston Texans (8-6): The Texans’ playoff hopes could all but be decided in Week 17 against the surging Tennessee Titans, whom have the exact same record as Houston. Houston must first get by Cincinnati this weekend and it could be a winner takes all matchup with Tennessee in the final week.
No. 5, Kansas City Chiefs (9-4): In an ultra tough AFC West Division, that features three teams that could possibly go to the postseason, the Chiefs have a tough final two weeks ahead of them. Andy Reid’s group must play a rare Christmas night game against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, followed by a season closing matchup with the San Diego Chargers. Definitely not an easy road back to the playoffs.
No. 6, Miami Dolphins (8-6): Adam Gase’s bunch was one of the hottest teams in the NFL at one point and that hot streak has vaulted them into the 6th and final postseason spot heading into its final two weeks of the season. The Dolphins will have to win out to clinch a postseason berth, with a brutal winter game against the Bills and then hosting New England for the finale.
In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (8-6), Tennessee Titans (8-6), Denver Broncos (8-6), Indianapolis Colts (7-7), Buffalo Bills (7-7)
No. 1, Dallas Cowboys (12-2): This seeding is almost a done deal in the NFC Conference. Only a loss in the final two weeks will change this seed. If the Cowboys win their final two games, they’ll be the No. 1 seed outright. Dallas’ 26-20 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers helped strengthen the Cowboys positioning. Two losses in the final two weeks, combined with two New York Giants’ victories, would be the only way Dallas loses this seeding.
No. 2, Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1): The Seahawks are playing in one of the weakest seasons the NFC West has seen in awhile. With the Rams and 49ers combining for 5 wins between the two teams and the Cardinals falling off since reaching the NFC championship game, the Seahawks have run away with this division. They must win out, however, to keep their stranglehold on the No. 2 seed.
No. 3, Atlanta Falcons (9-5): It’s going to be an interesting final two weeks for the Atlanta Falcons, as they face two divisional foes in Carolina and New Orleans, whom are both vying for playoff spots. Also hot in the Falcons’ trail is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who remain just one game behind Dan Quinn’s club. The Falcons do control their own destiny and can end any playoff hopes the Panthers and Saints have BY defeating them in Week 16 and Week 17.
No. 4, Detroit Lions (9-5): The Lions have been the surprise of the 2016 NFL season and remain in control of locking up a division championship in a heavily contested NFC North. The Green Bay Packers have stared to heat up, however, and are only one game back of Detroit and a season finale between the rivals could decide who wins the division and who finishes as a wild card or left out of the postseason altogether.
No. 5, New York Giants (10-4): There’s virtually a lot the Giants would have to do at this point to lose out on reaching the playoffs in Ben McAdoo’s first season at the helm. The Giants have done so much right this season, including defensively, and a trip back into the postseason seems line overdue for this bunch. New York, barring a collapse on these final two games, will likely reach the playoffs as the NFC’s No. 5 seed.
No. 6, Green Bay Packers (8-6): Oh how far have these Packers come in the recent weeks. From critics calling for Mike McCarthy to step down as coach when the season ends to the Packers could be a viable Super Bowl contender. What a few weeks and some solid offensive and defensive play can do for you? Aaron Rodgers has looked MVP-level in past weeks and could finish in the top three in the voting for the league’s top player. Ty Montgomery has emerged as the team’s go-to running back and the defense is forcing turnovers. The Packers demise was greatly exaggerated.
In the hunt: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6), Washington Redskins (7-6-1), Minnesota Vikings (7-7), New Orleans Saints (6-8), Carolina Panthers (6-8)