NFL Playoff Picture: Who’s in and who’s out after Week 15

With just two weeks left in the NFL’s regular season, teams are beginning to clinch their spots in the playoffs, while others are getting the short end of the stick and realizing that their season will soon be over. Week 15 had some unexpected results that could have potentially thrown a wrench in a couple of playoff teams plans. Let’s take a look at how the playoff picture looks after Week 15, and what could happen over the next two weeks

AFC STANDINGS

  1. Kansas City Chiefs: 13-1, 1st in AFC West, Clinched Division

After sitting behind the Pittsburgh Steelers for much of the season, the Chiefs quietly risen to the top of the AFC standings. The Chiefs can clinch the #1 seed with a win against the Atlanta Falcons this upcoming weekend, and they look poised to be the favorite to win the Super Bowl throughout the playoffs.

2. Buffalo Bills: 11-3, 1st in AFC East, Clinched Division

With the Steelers on the verge of collapse, the Bills have been one of the primary benefactors, as they slide up to the #2 seed. The Bills have already locked up the AFC East, so the lowest they can fall is the #4 seed. Their final two games are divisional battles between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, so assuming they win out, they will maintain hold of the #2 seed

3. Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-3, 1st in AFC North, Clinched Playoff Berth

After starting off 11-0, the Steelers have fallen apart in shocking fashion, handing the lowly Cincinnati Bengals only their third win of the season in last night’s Monday Night Football affair. The Steelers have already clinched their spot in the playoffs, but have the Cleveland Browns breathing down their necks over the final two games. The Steelers could lock up the AFC North with a win over the Indianapolis Colts next week, but it would have been a much easier task to pull off against the Bengals.

4. Tennessee Titans: 10-4, 1st in AFC South

The Titans remain lodged in a battle with the Colts for the AFC South title. The Titans have been blowing teams out of the water, while the Colts barely scraped by the Houston Texans. The Titans hold the tiebreaker with a better divisional record than the Colts (the Colts and Titans are 1-1 against each other), but they head into a daunting matchup with the Green Bay Packers in Week 16, which could prove to have a huge impact on the AFC South outcome.

5. Cleveland Browns: 10-4, 2nd in AFC North

The Browns easily beat the New York Giants this week, but last week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens still looms large in the AFC North. The Browns face an upward battle to have any shot to win the North, and look likely to stick around as a wild card team. They should have a pretty easy task going up against the New York Jets, but just ask the Rams how that went for them.

6. Indianapolis Colts: 10-4, 2nd in AFC South

The Colts have gone blow for blow with the Titans this season, and may finally be able to catch them this week. The Colts go up against the reeling Steelers, while the Titans take on the Packers. The results of these two games will have a huge say in who comes out on top of the AFC South.

7. Miami Dolphins: 9-5, 2nd in AFC East

The Dolphins managed to fend off the Ravens for another week and hang on to the #7 seed. The issue is, the Dolphins have a much more difficult remaining schedule than the Ravens, which could pose a serious problem. The Dolphins face against the Las Vegas
Raiders, who are all but mathematically eliminated, but could play spoiler for the Dolphins. The Dolphins are most likely going to have to win out to make their way into the playoffs

IN THE HUNT: Baltimore Ravens (9-5) and Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)

The Ravens will be holding out for the Dolphins to cough up one of their two remaining games, as they will by ready to pounce with their easy remaining schedule against the Giants and Bengals. The Ravens probably have to win out, but it isn’t unreasonable to think the Dolphins may slip up against the Raiders of Bills. As for the Raiders, they would need to win out, and have both the Dolphins and Ravens lose out. The Raiders will most likely be eliminated from contention, regardless of the outcome of their game with Miami.

NFC STANDINGS

  1. Green Bay Packers: 11-3, 1st in NFC North, Clinched Division

The Packers got some help from the Chiefs, who beat the New Orleans Saints, which gave the Packers a firm grip on the #1 seed. The Packers defeated the Saints earlier in the season and will hold the tiebreaker against them, so if they win this upcoming week against the Titans, the #1 seed is theirs.

2. New Orleans Saints: 10-4, 1st in NFC South, Clinched Playoffs

The Saints got Drew Brees back in time for their marquee matchup against the Chiefs, but it didn’t change the outcome, as the Saints lost a lot of ground in their quest for the #1 seed. If the Saints win this weekend, they will lock up the NFC South and be locked into the #2 or #3 seed, assuming the Packers win.

3. Seattle Seahawks: 10-4, 1st in NFC West, Clinched Playoffs

The Seahawks got an early Christmas present from the Jets when they took down the Los Angeles Rams for their first win of the season, as it handed the Seahawks the lead in the NFC West and a guaranteed playoff berth. The Seahawks and Rams will face off in Week 16, however, and the outcome will have huge repurcussions for the NFC West. The Seahawks can officially clinch the West, or be forced to play catch-up in Week 17.

4. Washington Football Team: 6-8, 1st in NFC East

Somebody has to win the NFC East, and despite falling short against the Seahawks this past week, the Football Team are still in poll position to do so. The Football team have a pretty easy schedule moving forward, finishing up against the Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles. If they win out they can claim the East, but it probably won’t go according to plan considering most of the East seems to be adverse to winning.

5. Los Angeles Rams: 9-5, 2nd in NFC West

The Rams suffered a massive blow in their pursuit for the NFC West title, but they can make it all back in one game against the Seahawks. If they win, they move back into the lead in the West and clinch a playoff berth. If not, they may be fighting for their life in Week 17.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9-5, 2nd in NFC South

The Buccaneers avoided a potentially catastrophic loss to the Atlanta Falcons this past week, and just need to win to get in this upcoming week. Surpassing the Saints for the NFC South title seems unlikely at this point, but the Bucs could surpass the Rams and get the easier wild card matchup against whichever team wins the NFC East, which would be an ideal situation for nay NFC Wild Card team.

7. Arizona Cardinals: 8-6, 3rd in NFC West

The Cardinals held off a spirited Eagles team to maintain a grip on the #7 seed. They also were fortunate to have the two closest teams behind them battle, which essentially resulted in the Bears knocking out the Vikings. The Cardinals currently hold the divisional tiebreaker over Chicago, but still have their final two games in division. The Cardinals face a depleted San Francisco 49ers team before taking on the Rams in Week 17, so there is still a lot up in the air for the #7 seed.

IN THE HUNT: Chicago Bears (7-7), Minnesota Vikings (6-8), Dallas Cowboys (5-9), New York Giants (5-9), Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1)

The hunt for the NFC playoffs be divided into two tiers: wild card and NFC East. For the wild card, the Bears provided a devastating blow to the Vikings playoff hopes, but still face long odds to pickup a playoff spot. The Bears most likely have to win out and hope for the Cardinals to mess up, while the Vikings are pretty much out of contention at this point. Then we have the NFC East, where every team can still somehow make the playoffs. At this point, predicting which team will make it seems like an impossible task. Only one team from this division won a game this past week, that being the Cowboys. The Football Team seem to have the easier path in, but everything is still up for grabs in the NFC East.

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