With three to play, plenty of playoff spots are up for grabs
With the NFL regular season hitting the final stretch, there is still a lot to sort out when it comes to the playoff picture. As of right now, the few certainties are that the Ravens have clinched a playoff spot, the Chiefs have clinched their division, the Saints have clinched their division and that one below-average football team will host a playoff game.
When looking at the AFC, Baltimore should be the number one seed come playoff time. Baltimore has a two-game lead and the tie-breaker over the Patriots with three games to play. The Ravens have been the best team in the AFC since week five and should remain at the top come playoff time.
New England can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Bengals this weekend. While they are still the number two seed, they cannot afford to lose another game if they want a first-round bye. They have just a one-game lead over the team they just lost to, the Chiefs.
Kansas City locked up their fourth straight AFC West title last Sunday with a win in Foxborough. With the Texans losing to the Broncos, the Chiefs now hold the three seed and are only a game out from securing a first-round bye.
When the Texans beat the Colts in Week 12, many assumed that it was a given the Texans had locked up the AFC South. They are still technically in first place, but are now tied with Ryan Tannehill’s surging Tennessee Titans at 8-5. The Texans and Titans will clash twice before the season ends, so the AFC South is still up for grabs.
At the moment, the two wild-card spots in the AFC are currently occupied by the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers. It seems odd, but Buffalo still has a chance to win the AFC East. The Patriots have faltered the last two weeks, so the Bills may sweep in and take the division title.
The Steelers have been a feel-good story all year after all of the talents they lost coming into the season. Led by third-string quarterback Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges, the Steelers are playing winning football. With what Pittsburgh has overcome, Mike Tomlin is near the top of the list for Coach of the Year candidates. Really the only other team that is realistically in the wild card race is whoever finishes in second place in the AFC South.
Despite having the best record in the league, the San Fransisco 49ers have not clinched a playoff spot yet. After an impressive win in New Orleans last week, they should be the number one seed in the NFC come playoff time.
Surprisingly, the Green Bay Packers are currently the number two seed in the NFC. Green Bay will most likely have to win out to keep their first-round bye. The crazy part is Green Bay is just as likely to drop to the 6th seed as they are to clinch a bye.
After a tough loss to the 49ers in the game of the year so far, the Saints find themselves in the third spot in the NFC. New Orleans’ best hope for getting a home-field advantage is if Seattle is able to take the division from the 49ers.
The winner of the NFC East will get the fourth seed, which will come down to the 6-7 Cowboys, or the 6-7 Eagles. I’ll be honest, neither of these teams deserves a playoff spot, and they really don’t deserve to host a playoff game.
The NFC wild-card race is really between three teams. Currently, the Seahawks and Vikings occupy the two spots, with the Rams a game behind the Vikings. The Seahawks still control their own destiny as a win of the 49ers in Week 17 would put them back in first place in the NFC West.
Buckle up for a wild ride in the final three weeks of the NFL season.