With six or five games remaining in the NFL regular season (depends which team), the playoff picture is getting a little bit clearer, but it’s still hard seeing who can make it beyond the teams that have truly set themselves apart from everyone else: The Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders.
Both the NFC East and AFC West could end up sending three teams into the postseason. Both the Seahawks and the Patriots have no one and nothing to worry about when it comes to claiming their division title this season, something the Patriots have gotten used to. The AFC North is surprisingly bad this season due to the Bengals collapse and the other problems for both the Steelers and the Ravens, all while the usual suckiness of the NFC South and AFC South won’t prevent one of their mediocre-at-best teams make the postseason.
AFC Playoff Picture Right Now
Of the four division leaders, the New England Patriots are the only ones that are actually safe. They might be the only team in this conference (Except for the Denver Broncos too) you feel wouldn’t stop winning even if their current starting quarterback got injured. The Raiders are in an excellent spot, but both the Broncos and the Chiefs, who own the wild card spots, are in the division top spot picture. At least one AFC West team will be a Wild Card team too.
In the AFC South, the Texans losing in Mexico City opens up an opportunity for both the Indianapolis Colts and even the Tennessee Titans. However, if Andrew Luck’s injury keeps him out for more than one week, it’s probably over for Indianapolis. The Titans have a bad defense and poor play calling, but a talented, rough offense that could take advantage of how bad Brock Osweiler is playing.
The AFC North is probably a two horse race at this point, with the Bengals having their worst season in the Andy Dalton era. I think the Ravens have a slight edge in the long run over the Steelers thanks to their defense and kicker, but it’s too close to call. This will be a division sending one team to the playoffs. The AFC East could have a second team if the Dolphins keep up with their current style and pace, but they need either the Broncos or Chiefs to really start slipping. Possible, but unlikely.
NFC Playoff Picture Right Now
The NFC East isn’t over yet. Yes, it’s going to take a massive collapse by the Cowboys (winning 9 in a row) so either the New York Giants or Washington Redskins can grab the top spot, but it’s still possible. The Eagles are only going to get a wild card at best, but it’s looking like three NFC East teams in the playoffs thanks to the Giants defense and the Redskins offense. The only division capable of disrupting that “harmony” is the NFC North, with two 6-4 teams that are fighting for the top spot. The Lions are kings of the fourth quarter, the Vikings might be out of the tailspin they were in.
The NFC South is also open. How? Don’t trust the Atlanta Falcons, ever, even with the one game lead they have over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers and Saints, despite their problematic defenses, are still in the picture, but probably not good enough to actually pull off a late season comeback. As for the NFC West, it’s a done deal: The Seattle Seahawks, even without a running game, look like the best team in the NFC, maybe the NFL right now, and no Arizona Cardinals to bother team until the season is over.