I want to give an updated look at the NFL’s playoff picture heading into Week 15 of the 2017 season. With three weeks remaining, some divisions have already been clinched while the race for remaining spots is set to come down to the wire. Let’s go through the NFC and AFC, respectively.
(1) Eagles 11-2
(2) Vikings 10-4
(3) Rams 9-4
(4) Saints 9-4 (head-to-head over CAR)
(5) Panthers 9-4
(6) Falcons 8-5 (head-to-head over SEA)
In the Hunt: Seahawks (8-5), Lions (7-6), Packers (7-6), Cowboys (7-6)
The Eagles are in obvious trouble without Wentz (ACL) for the rest of the year. I still think they’re really good in the trenches on both sides of the ball; they won’t exactly be an easy out if Foles isn’t a disaster. The Vikings are legit, but how much can we trust Case Keenum in January? The Rams are clearly for real, but they’re still so young. The Saints, Panthers and Falcons are all scary NFC-South representatives with Super-Bowl experience. I’m still not convinced the Falcons make it (play NO and CAR last two weeks), but all three teams have potent offenses and improved defenses that make them a feared opponent.
In The Hunt
The Seahawks are banged up, and things just don’t seem the same in Seattle. But Russell Wilson is a legitimate MVP candidate and knows what it takes to get to the big game; them and the Packers are the scariest contenders in my opinion. I’m not sure how Aaron Rodgers is going to play coming off eight missed games, and the Packers finish the year with the Panthers, Vikings and Lions. The Lions are pretenders to me; albeit a softer remaining schedule, I don’t see them as a playoff team this season. The Cowboys have been inconsistent, but they just need to get through Oakland before Ezekiel Elliott comes back for the Seahawks and Wentz-less Eagles to close out the season.
(1) Steelers 11-2
(2) Patriots 10-3
(3) Jaguars 9-4
(4) Chiefs 7-6 (head-to-head over LAC)
(5) Titans 8-5
(6) Bills 7-6
In The Hunt: Ravens (7-6), Chargers (7-6), Raiders (6-7), Dolphins (6-7)
The AFC is more top-heavy than the NFC, but there’s a couple dark horses that could threaten at the top. The Steelers are locked in to the AFC North championship, but their game against the Patriots Sunday is more important than anything; home-field advantage is huge for them. The Patriots have definitely showed weaknesses this season, but are somehow still 10-3. There’s not much to be said about them besides they are the clear favorite, no matter what. The Jags are built for the playoffs — they have an elite defense paired with a great running attack. Blake Bortles or not, they’re going to be a tough out. The #4 spot is intriguing; the Chiefs have absolutely collapsed after starting 5-0. A loss at home to the Chargers would give LAC the keys to the division. The Titans have been terrible, and I think they can lose two out of their last three to open the door for a team currently on the outside looking in. The Bills are somehow the 6 seed, but I think that changes, as well, especially if Taylor is out.
In the Hunt
I love the Ravens and Chargers to sneak into the 5 and 6 spots, and it would no doubt be the best thing for the league. The Ravens are as tough as anybody on defense, and their run game is coming along strongly with Alex Collins. The Chargers have two of the best pass rushers in the game, dominate the turnover battle, and have an extremely dangerous offense. It would be a shame if they don’t get in over teams like the Titans and Bills, who have no legit chance at a Super Bowl run. I think the Raiders and Dolphins are likely cooked. The Raiders have been extremely underwhelming and poorly coached, while the Dolphins just aren’t consistent enough on both sides of the ball.