With week 10 of the 2016 NFL season behind us, it’s time to start figuring out who makes the playoffs. No one has clinched their spot yet, but it’s hard to see the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys not making it. Other divisions are too close to call, but it’s safe to assume that the AFC West and NFC East will both be sending a Wild Card team, and maybe both WC teams in each conference.
AFC Playoff Picture
One thing we’re certain of: The New England Patriots will win the AFC East, and probably finish with the #1 seed in the conference, although their fragility on defense could become a problem, especially on their visits to Denver and Miami, always a tricky trip for them.
We might have three AFC West teams in the postseason. It’s a tossup right now between the Raiders (7-2), Chiefs (7-2) and Broncos (7-3) to win the division. The San Diego Chargers aren’t bad team and can’t beat anyone on any given day, but they’ve probably lost too many times earlier in the season to keep up. The Chiefs and the Broncos still have to play twice, while Kansas City also have a game in San Diego to close out the season.
And that’s bad news for the Dolphins. They are 5-4, but getting in on the wild card is going to be difficult, even if they’ve finally found a recipe to win. The AFC South is likely going to the Houston Texans again, who don’t have a single “scary” game left on the schedule. They’re very unimpressive on both ends of the football, but unless something unexpected happens for the Titans or Colts, it Houston’s spot to lose.
And the AFC North seems to be too difficult to read. I still think the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite falling one game behind the Ravens, will finish first. However, it’s gotten complicated despite their impressive offense. The Bengals seem to be out of it for the first time in the the Andy Dalton era, and the Browns are the Browns.
NFC Playoff Picture
Things are a lot more complicated and open in the NFC. The East has four teams with five wins or more. The Dallas Cowboys at 8-1, barring some unforeseen collapse, should win the division, although don’t count out the New York Giants at 6-3, winning close games and showing impressive defense. The Redskins and Eagles will battle for the wild card spot.
The NFC West belongs to the Seahawks, who at 6-2-1 look like it’s going to be impossible to push them out of first. Their offense is clicking without a strong running game, and their defense, despite the changes over the last few years, remains elite, the best in the NFL. Both the Rams and the Cardinals can still make the Wild Card game, but they’re not good enough or close enough to overtake the Seahawks.
In the NFC North, everything is open. The Detroit Lions lead the group while both the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers are in free fall. That doesn’t mean anything because it’s not that big of a lead, but the Lions seem to have what it takes to make another playoff appearance, which seems to be a once-in-two years occurrence for them since 2012.
The NFC South isn’t very good, but the Atlanta Falcons, at 6-4, seem to be a cut above. You can never trust the Falcons to hold on to a lead, but their improved offensive line, along with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman should be enough to hold on to their 1.5 game lead over both the Saints and the Buccaneers. The Panthers blew their chance of fighting for a playoff spot, unless they’re coming with a 2014-style finish, with their loss to the Chiefs this week.