Add two more teams to the garbage heap. Both the Jets and Cowboys lost, pretty much disqualifying them from playoff contention. The Cowboys are 5-6, the first wildcard team is 8-3, the Panthers, and the second wildcard team is 7-4, The Falcons. Behind them, is another 7-4 team, Seahawks, and a 6-5 team, the Lions. With only 5 games left, the Cowboys would have to be near perfect to catch up, and with how they are playing they may not even get to .500. As for the Jets, they fell to 4-7, and the two wildcard teams are 7-4, the Jaguars, and 6-5, the Ravens. The Bills are right behind them at 6-5. The Chargers are still in the mix at 5-6. Being two games out os a playoff spot, and having one of the toughest schedules from here on out, knocks them off the list. That leaves 16 teams still in contention. Like I said last week, I am no longer ranking teams I deem out of contention.
NFC- Giants, Niners, Bucs, Bears, Washington, Cardinals, Packers, Cowboys
AFC- Browns, Bengals, Broncos, Colts, Texans, Raiders, Dolphins, Jets.
Just a note, some people may argue that the Bengals and Raiders have the same record as the Chargers, so why are they out while the Chargers are in. Well, I am going off more than just record. The eye test tells me the Bengals and Raiders are not good enough to make a push. The Chargers are 5-2 since starting 0-4, and those two losses are against the 9-2 Patriots and the 7-4 Jaguars. The Raiders are 3-4, and the Bengals are 4-3 over that same span. The Bengals are ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category. They also still have to play the Steelers, Lions, and Vikings. If they happen to beat the Steelers, which they won’t, perhaps I can resurrect them from the dead and rank them again. But they will not beat the Steelers, so it doesn’t matter.
There are only 5 games left for every team, which means one loss could be killer. No is the time of year where the remaining schedule becomes key. An inferior team could make it into the playoffs over a better team just because they have an easier schedule.
16. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)- Last Week- 12(-4)
The Chiefs are a mess. I hate to say it, but a lot of blame has to rest on Andy Reid. Andy is a great coach until things start going wrong. His biggest weakness as a coach has always been his failure to adjust. When something isn’t working, he becomes stubborn and falls back into bad habits. I personally think they should make the change to Patrick Mahomes, but that doesn’t seem to be in Andy’s gameplan. They may become only the 4th team in history to start 5-0, and then miss the playoffs. They have a manageable schedule from here on out, getting to play the Raiders, Dolphins, Jets, and Broncos, but they have been losing to bad teams like the Giants, so that doesn’t matter.
15. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)- Last Week- 15
The defense is good, but the offense is bad. They are 18th in scoring, and last in passing yards. They are in the playoffs right now, but I do not think that will hold up. They are treading water at the moment. However, after playing the Lions next week, and the Steelers the week after, they get to play the Browns, Colts, and Bengals. So coasting against bad teams may be enough to get to 9-7, which may be enough to get one of the wildcards.
14. Buffalo Bills (6-5)- Last Week- 17(+3)
The Bills found life. Sure it was against the imploding Chiefs, but the Bills were imploding themselves and will take the win. They are still very much in it for a playoff spot. They do have to play the Patriots twice, but they also get to play the Dolphins twice, and the Colts. If they can win one of those Patriots games, they should make the playoffs. Even if they lose both, that still may be enough.
13. Detroit Lions (6-5)- Last Week- 9(-4)
The Lions lost the NFC North on Thanksgiving when they fell to the Vikings, but they can still get the wildcard. They are one game out of the wildcard, but they also lost to the Falcons earlier, so they are more like two games out. But they do not have a tough schedule ahead of them. They play the Ravens, Bucs, Bengals, Bears, and Packers. Meanwhile, the Falcons play the Panthers, the Saints twice, and the Vikings. The Falcons are better than the Lions right now, but Lions can ride an easier schedule into the playoffs.
12. Tennesee Titans (7-4)- Last Week- 13(+1)
The Titans are probably going to make the playoffs, The AFC is very weak this year, and even if they lose the division to the Jaguars, they should take the first wildcard. They play the Texans, Cardinals, and 49ers, before closing the season off with two tough games against the Jaguars and Rams. I think they get to 10-6 off that schedule, which gives them that first wildcard spot.
11. Seattle Seahawks (7-4)- Last Week- 11
The Seahawks next 3 games are brutal. They play the Eagles, Jaguars, and Rams. The Eagles and Rams will be tough because they are two teams well suited to expose the Seahawks secondary that is now without both Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. After that, they end the season playing the Cowboys, in Zeke’s first game back, and the Cardinals. They need to go at least 3-2 over this stretch to make the playoffs. They do still have a shot to win the division if they beat the Rams. But like I said, with the injuries on the defense, that will be tough. Though like the Lions before, they may benefit from the Falcons brutally hard stretch to end the season.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)- Last Week- 14(+4)
The Chargers are playing very well right. They still have a losing record, but digging yourself out of a 0-4 hole is tough. So tough, only one team has ever started 0-4 and made the playoffs, and only two teams ever started 0-4 and ended up with a winning record. The last team to make the playoffs after starting 0-4, the ’92 Chargers. I think the Chargers will do it again. They are playing better than any of the other teams in the hunt for that last wildcard spot, and are only 1 game out of the wildcard spot. More importantly, they get to play the Browns, Chiefs, Jets, Washington, and Raiders to close out the season. Those teams have a combined 20-35 record, and the only team with a winning record is the Chiefs, who are 1-5 in their last six games.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)- Last Week- 7(-2)
The defense is very good, but Blake Bortles is bad. They will make the playoffs, and depending on which team they draw in the playoffs, they may even win a game because of how weak the AFC is. But they have no real shot at the Superbowl with Bortles at QB. There number one goal in the offseason has to be to get a QB. It is the only thing this team seems to be missing. They end the season with games against the Colts, Seahawks, Texans, 49ers, and Titans. I see 3-2 at worst over that stretch, and at worst, they get the first wildcard.
8. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)- Last Week- 10(+2)
The Falcons seem to have turned it around and are playing closer to the team we saw last year. Not as good, but they are now a viable team. Their biggest problem is the brutal schedule I already mentioned. The Saints twice, the Panthers again, and the Vikings. Their remaining opponents are 39-18. I think of the teams competing for that second wildcard, they are by far the best. But, no one has as hard of a schedule as the Falcons have to remain. You’d think they have to go at least 3-2 over this stretch. The Bucs is one win. Can they split the remaining games?
7. Carolina Panthers (8-3)- Last Week- 8(+1)
That defense is very good, and the offense has talent. Their problem, Cam Newton still isn’t playing well. They are 8-3 despite Cam Newtons inconsistent play, but they need him to play well. He is either great or awful. There is no midground. He was overthrowing passes left and right against the Jets. While the Jets didn’t make him pay, other teams might. They still have games against the Saints, Vikings, and Falcons, and two other games against the Steelers and Bucs. They currently have are two games ahead in the wildcard, and even have a chance to win the division if they beat the Saints, but they are not yet a lock, though It is hard to see them missing the playoffs.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2)- Last Week- 6
The Steelers have a had a few games recently where they struggled to beat bad opponents. They had close games with the Colts and the Packers. Still, they have pretty much locked up the AFC North, and once they get into the playoffs, they have the talent to go all the way. Not that it really matters, but they close the season out against the Bengals, Ravens, Patriots, Texans, and Browns. They get to at least 12-4 off that schedule and clinch a first-round bye. They have the best RB in football, and the best WR, with a talented young defense to go along with it. On paper, they are a very good team, but they need to handle their business better.
5. New Orleans Saints (8-3)- Last Week- 3(-2)
The Saints are a little banged up, and now we have again seen the defense struggles against a good QB. This doesn’t mean the defense is bad, but they will have to play some good QBs if they want to win the Superbowl. On the bright side, this offense is very good. Their RB duo is as dynamic as it gets, with Rookie Alvin Kamara and Melvin Ingram both playing like pro bowlers. The talent and experience of Drew Brees on top of that gives them as good a chance as anyone to go all the way. They still have to play the Falcons twice, and the Panthers once more. They by no means have the South locked up yet, and a loss in any of these three games could cost them the division. I like their chances of winning it, but it will be a tough road.
4. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)- Last Week- 5(+1)
Case Keenum is playing great. I have not been a believer, but right now, he is very good. Will that carry into playoffs, it is hard to tell, but the team around him is great. They all but sealed the NFC North with their win over the Vikings on Thanksgiving, and currently have a first-week bye in the playoffs. They also have wins against two of the 8-3 teams on their heels, the Rams and Saints. They play the Falcons and Panthers the next two weeks and then close the season out with 3 winnable games against the Bengals, Packers, and Bears. A win over the Panthers would give them a very good chance of holding onto that first-week bye.
3. Los Angeles Rams- (8-3)- Last Week- 4(+1)
The Rams may have lost to the Vikings, but I still think they are the second most dangerous team in the NFC. Their biggest weakness though, red zone efficiency. Their offense becomes pedestrian when they can no longer stretch the field. This tells me that either Goff does not have the arm strength to get the ball, or the recievers aren’t good enough to get open in tight space. They still score a lot, so it isn’t too big of an issue. Their remaining schedule features two tough games that are key to both winning the division, and final seeding, and another semi-tough game. They Play the Eagles, Seahawks, and Titans. They also get to play the Cardinals and the 49ers. Even if they beat the Eagles, it will be tough to get the number 1 seed because the Eagles have two games on them, and the Vikings have a game and a head to head win. But home-field advantage doesn’t matter as much for them.
2. New England Patriots (9-2)- Last Week- 2
The Patriots are the Patriots. They are the easy favorites to make it out of the AFC. They pretty much have the AFC East wrapped up as if that was ever a question, and they have a very good chance of at least getting a first-week bye. Whoever wins the first seed, will come down to who wins Steelers-Patriotsiots game in a few weeks. Besides the Steelers, they also play the Bills twice, and the Jets and the Dolphins. I can’t see finishing any worse than 12-4 off that schedule, and it is more likely 13-3 and even 14-2.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)- Last Week- 1
Best. Team. In. The. NFL. That is what the Eagles are. They have a tough two-game stretch out west against the Seahawks and the Rams, but then end the season playing the Raiders, Giants, and Cowboys. They are going to make the playoffs, and will most likely have at least a first week bye. At this point, it is about getting home field throughout the playoffs. No team is as complete as the Eagles are. They are dominating every game they play. They have scored at least 20 points in every single game. They haven’t let a team be within 10 points of them, for 5 weeks. They are the best-run defense in football. Watch out NFL.