With just one week of the regular season remaining, the race for the NFL’s end of season playoffs is hotting up, here’s a look at who’s in, who’s out, and who’s still fighting…
Notes: Division Titles Secured (4 – Broncos, Patriots, Bengals, Colts), Playoff Places Secured (5 – Colts, Broncos, Chiefs, Patriots, Bengals), Spots Available (1), Teams still in with a chance of qualification (4 – Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers, Steelers)
The New England Patriots (11:4) wrapped up their fifth consecutive AFC East title and their eleventh since the turn of the century with an emphatic 41-7 victory over the Ravens. Even if they had fallen to defeat, they still would have captured the division due to the Miami Dolphins (8:7) surprise 19-0 defeat against the Buffalo Bills (6:9). The New York Jets (7:8) also continued their decent season under rookie quarterback Geno Smith as they beat the Browns 24-13.
Predicted Final Standings: Patriots (12:4), Dolphins (9:7), Jets (7:9), Bills (6:10)
The Cincinnati Bengals (10:5) breathed a huge sigh of relief as their 42-14 win over the Vikings, combined with the Baltimore Ravens (8:7) loss at home to the Patriots, means they have captured their first division title since 2009.
The Ravens' four consecutive victories ahead of their meeting with Tom Brady and co had closed them to within one win of the Bengals, and victory would have ensured that it all would have come down to next weekend’s meeting between the two sides. Despite defeat, last year’s Super Bowl winners can still make the playoffs, as can the Pittsburgh Steelers – who beat the Packers 38-31 to move to 7:8; The Browns loss against New York all but wraps up another miserable season in Cleveland.
Predicted Final Standings: Bengals (11:5), Steelers (8:8), Ravens (8:8), Browns (4:12)
The Colts kept themselves in contention for a first round bye in the playoffs, while also striking a physiological blow against their potential first round opponent. If the season were to finish today, Indianapolis would face their 23-7 victims of last weekend, the Chiefs, in the wildcard match of the playoffs.
However, with their final match coming against the Jacksonville Jaguars (4:11), they could still bypass that match all together, and steal the conference’s number two seeding from under the nose of the Patriots. Elsewhere next week, the Titans will face the Texans in a dead rubber match, with Tennessee aiming to inflict a fourteenth straight defeat on Houston.
Predicted Final Standings: Colts (11:5), Titans (7:9), Jaguars (4:12), Texans (2:14)
The Denver Broncos took advantage of the Kansas City Chiefs defeat against the Colts to claim the Western title for a third straight year. Peyton Manning regained his NFL record for touchdown passes in a season from Tom Brady, with his 51st scoring throw of the year coming in a 37-13 win over the Texans.
Although the Chiefs can still tie with the Broncos at 12:4 (should Kansas win and Denver lose on the final weekend), Denver’s two wins over Kansas City earlier in the year would still ensure them winning the division. The San Diego Chargers (8:7) are also still in the playoff hunt after defeating the Oakland Raiders 26-13. The Chargers will qualify if they beat the Chiefs on final day, and both the Dolphins and the Ravens fall to defeat.
Predicted Final Standings: Broncos (13:3), Chiefs (11:5), Chargers (9:7), Raiders (4:12)
There’s now only one of the six AFC playoff places left to play for. That will go to the Miami Dolphins, the Baltimore Ravens, the San Diego Chargers (all currently tied at 8:7) or the Pittsburgh Steelers (7:8).
The Dolphins are in prime position, with the best inter-conference win:loss ratio, and will qualify if they beat the Jets, regardless of results elsewhere. If they lose, that opens up the door for the Ravens, who face a challenging match against the Bengals.
If they too fail to win then the Chargers can qualify by beating the Chiefs. If all three teams fail to win, the Steelers could yet achieve the unthinkable and sneak into the playoffs at 8:8. With the four division titles already claimed by the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts, seeding’s and first round bye’s are all that remains to be played for.
The Broncos have guaranteed themselves one of the top two seeding’s, and can wrap up home field advantage for throughout the playoffs if they win their final game against the Raiders. The Patriots will secure the second seed if they beat the Bills on the final day.
Predicted Final Standings: Broncos (13:3), Patriots (12:4), Bengals (11:5), Colts (11:5) // Chiefs (11:5), Dolphins (9:7) – Wildcard Matches: Bengals vs Dolphins & Colts vs Chiefs
Notes: Division Titles Secured (0), Playoff Places Secured (3 – Seahawks, Panthers, 49ers), Spots Available (3), Teams still in with a chance of qualification (6 – Saints, Eagles, Bears, Cardinals, Packers, Cowboys)
The Dallas Cowboys ensured the race for the Eastern division would go down to the final day as they came from behind to beat the Washington Redskins 24-23. But the Philadelphia Eagles offered up an ominous warning to their rivals as they thrashed the Bears 54-11 to put one foot in the playoffs. If the Eagles avoid defeat in their trip to Dallas next week, they will qualify.
However, if the Cowboys win, and join the Eagles at 9:6, they will progress due to their superior head-to-head record. It’s worth noting that the Cowboys have won all five of their divisional clashes thus far this year, and with home advantage could still edge through. However, with quarterback Tony Romo likely to be missing through injury, they will have to do it the hard way.
Predicted Final Standings: Eagles (10:6), Cowboys (8:8), Giants (7:9), Redskins (3:13)
After leading the division at 6:3, the Detroit Lions have contrived to throw away their chance of claiming their first ever NFC North title. Five defeats in six was completed by a 23-20 loss against the Giants last weekend and, although they can still finish at 8:8 – ahead of the Green Bay Packers (7:7:1) or the Chicago Bears (8:7) – they cannot finish above both.
This is because the Bears and the Packers face each other on the final weekend, and one of them will definitely finish better off than the Lions. In a winner take’s all scenario, either the Bears or the Packers will progress to the playoffs, while the loser will be eliminated.
Predicted Final Standings: Packers (8:7:1), Lions (8:8), Bears (8:8), Vikings (4:11:1)
The Carolina Panthers stunned the New Orleans Saints last weekend, as their 17-13 win put them in pole position for the NFC South. The Panthers (11:4), who have won ten of their last eleven matches, now know that victory over the Atlanta Falcons next weekend will guarantee them their first division win since 2008.
This year will also mark only their fifth playoff appearance in their 20 year history. If the Panthers lose their final game they will open the door for the Saints (10:5) who can then qualify by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers are guaranteed at least a wildcard spot, regardless of the results – if the Saints lose their game, they could miss out altogether, if results elsewhere go against them.
Predicted Final Standings: Panthers (12:4), Saints (11:5), Falcons (4:12), Buccaneers (4:12)
The San Francisco 49ers (12:4) joined the Seattle Seahawks (13:3) in the playoffs last weekend as they defeated the Falcons 34-24. The Seahawks missed the opportunity to win the division title as they fell to defeat against the Arizona Cardinals, who could yet make it three Western teams in the playoffs. Seattle will win the title on the fourth attempt if they defeat the St. Louis Rams on final day. If they don’t, the 49ers can win the division with victory over the Cardinals, and send Seattle to the wildcard round of the playoffs.
The Cardinals chances of making the playoffs are slight, despite their impressive 10:5 record. They must beat the 49ers and hope the Saints lose to the Buccaneers. Even if they fail to make the playoffs, the Cardinals will be one to watch next year in a very strong division.
Predicted Final Standings: Seahawks (13:3), 49ers (12:4), Cardinals (10:6), Rams (7:9)
The top two seeding’s and the first round byes will be taken by the Southern and Western division winners. If Seattle and Carolina win, as expected, they will be the top two seeds in that order.
In fact, if Seattle wins, they are guaranteed the number one seed. If they don’t, the Panthers, Saints and 49ers could all take top spot if results go their way. Either the Eagles or the Cowboys, and the Packers or the Bears, will take seeds three and four.
The Cardinals are the only team that can disrupt this: if they win and the Saints lose they will take seed six.
Predicted Final Standings
Seahawks (13:3), Panthers (12:4), Eagles (10:6), Packers (8:7:1) // 49ers (12:4), Saints (11:5) – Wildcard Matches: Eagles vs Saints & Packers vs 49ers
Full List of Week Sixteen Results
Dolphins 0 (at the) 19 Bills, Saints 13 (at the) 17 Panthers, Vikings 14 (at the) 42 Bengals, Broncos 37 (at the) 13 Texans, Titans 20 (at the) 16 Jaguars, Colts 23 (at the) 7 Chiefs, Cowboys 24 (at the) 23 Redskins, Browns 13 (at the) 24 Jets, Buccaneers 13 (at the) 23 Rams, Cardinals 17 (at the) 10 Seahawks, Giants 23 (at the) 20 Lions, Patriots 41 (at the) 7 Ravens, Raiders 13 (at the) 26 Chargers, Steelers 38 (at the) 31 Packers, Bears 11 (at the) 54 Eagles, Falcons 24 (at the) 34 49ers.
Week Seventeen Fixtures
Panthers (11:4) at the Falcons (4:11), Packers (7:7:1) at the Bears (8:7), Texans (2:13) at the Titans (6:9), Browns (4:11) at the Steelers (7:8), Redskins (3:11) at the Giants (6:9), Ravens (8:7) at the Bengals (10:5), Eagles (9:6) at the Cowboys (8:7), Jaguars (4:11) at the Colts (10:5), Jets (7:8) at the Dolphins (8:7), Lions (7:8) at the Vikings (4:10:1), Bills (6:9) at the Patriots (11:4), Buccaneers (4:11) at the Saints (10:5), Broncos (12:3) at the Raiders (4:11), 49ers (11:4) at the Cardinals (10:5), Chiefs (11:4) at the Chargers (8:7), Rams (7:8) at the Seahawks (12:3).
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/1a2u3KU