With the College Football Season taking its seasonal hibernation between the regular season and bowl season, we take a look at the current NFL Playoff Picture with two weeks to go in the regular season. Like every year, few things are set in stone even this late in the season, and we’ll give our prediction of how everything will look come playoff time.
Last week turned out unexpectedly for the AFC’s top two teams, the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. Denver had their 10-game winning streak against AFC West opponents snapped against the San Diego Chargers, while Tom Brady and the New England Patriots ran out of late game heroics versus the Miami Dolphins. While this means nothing has changed at the top, the Pats will be kicking themselves for not stealing home-field advantage back from Peyton Manning as they won the head-to-head matchup in late Thanksgiving.
On the other side of the AFC playoff picture, things are just as tense, with 3 teams – the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and the unexpected San Diego Chargers fighting for a playoff spot.
Unfortunately for Baltimore, they will be getting New England’s A game because a Patriots loss and Bengals win would send the Patriots down to the 3-seed in the East, as Cincinnati defeated the Pats 13-6 earlier this year.
Miami ends the season facing two division rivals, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, both of which they expect to beat.
The Chargers also end their season versus two rivals, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, both at home. Kansas City has already locked up the 5-seed in the AFC, so it is unlikely San Diego will see the Chiefs’ starters in the season finale.
Baltimore Ravens (8-6) Miami Dolphins (8-6) San Diego Chargers (7-7)
vs. New England at. Buffalo vs. Oakland
at. Cincinnati vs. NY Jets vs. Kansas City
Predicted Finish (9-7) Predicted Finish (10-6) Predicted Finish (9-7)
If things end up this way, the Miami Dolphins will leap the Baltimore Ravens and find themselves in the playoffs.
The NFC is a little less hectic at the top, with Seattle in the driver’s seat at 12-2, but the divisional race in the North and East will have fans glued to their TVs for the next two Sundays. As it stands now, Philadelphia owns the NFC East lead even after being upset by an Adrian Peterson-less Minnesota Vikings, and the Chicago Bears lead the NFC North after their come-from-behind win over the Cleveland Browns.
The Bears will play in two of the biggest games during the last two weekends versus the Eagles this Sunday before finishing with their arch-rival the Green Bay Packers in week 17, a game that could very well decide the winner of the NFC North.
The Packers are one of the many teams who still control their own destiny, meaning that if they win the rest of their games, they go to the playoffs no matter what else happens. However it won’t be easy; a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and then the matchup with the Bears awaits the Pack. If Green Bay gets MVP Quarterback Aaron Rodgers back, they should feel much more confidant about getting into the playoffs.
In third-place is the Detroit Lions, who, albeit suffering a few heartbreaking losses in the past few weeks, are still not out of the playoff picture. With games against the lowly New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, the Lions should feel confident that they can win out. Unlike the Packers and Bears, they will need some help from other teams to help them get back in the fold. However much crazier things have happened.
Chicago Bears (8-6) GB Packers (7-6-1) Detroit Lions (7-7)
at. Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh vs. NY Giants
vs. Green Bay at. Chicago at. Minnesota
Predicted Finish (9-7) Predicted Finish (8-7-1) Predicted Finish (9-7)
What makes the race for the NFC East so electricfying is that it is truly anyone’s race. If things shake up like this than it will actually be the Detroit Lions to sneak into the playoffs as they defeated the Bears twice this season.