Week 15 is upon us; there are only three weeks left in the regular season, and the playoff race is heating up. With only one team in each conference getting the bye, would-be contenders must get the highest seeding possible. The additional seventh spot is also critical if a team can bag that last place, it gives the coaching and front office staff more credit in the bank when they come to review the end of the season with their respective owners. These last three weeks will have so much riding on them. Let’s take a look at the latest pictures from each conference:
The NFC playoff picture changed dramatically last week. The Saints’ defeat to Philadelphia saw them lose the number one seed. The Packers are now in pole position due to their win over the Lions, plus Green Bay has the tiebreaker over the Saints. Green Bay plays the Packers in Week 15; New Orleans hosts Kansas City. It is a pivotal week in the battle for the one seed in the NFC.
The Rams still occupy the three seed in the conference. LA has the virtue of being on a bye as they take on the hapless Jets. The Rams’ record of 9-4 is good enough to see them atop the NFC West. Again, they currently hold the tiebreaker over Seattle who has the same record. Compared to the Rams, Seattle has a difficult test as they head cross country to play Riverboat Ron’s Washington Football Team. LA and Seattle will play each other in Week 16; therefore, Seattle has to win at Washington. LA is almost guaranteed to win against the Jets, which could set them up to win the division in Week 16.
Washington currently occupies the fourth seed by them leading the NFC East. The Football team has won four straight to propel themselves to the top of the division. Washington is a game ahead of the New York Giants. The Giants have the tiebreaker over Washington, however, the G Men’s schedule is notoriously difficult over the next three weeks. New York hosts Cleveland on Monday night, they then play the Ravens and finish at home to the Cowboys. Washington’s is a tad easier; they must win two of their final three games. It is almost impossible for an NFC East to take a wildcard spot, the only path to the playoffs is through the division.
In all likelihood, one of Seattle or LA will take the five seed. Tampa Bay could usurp one of them if they stumble. The Bucs are currently sixth. Bruce Arians’ team finish with two games against Atlanta as well as a trip to Detroit. Tampa should win out, that will get them to 11-5. Tampa Bay will be a wildcard team, the NFC South has gone, the question is which seed they will be and where that will take them.
Arizona is hanging onto the final wildcard berth. The Cards snapped a three-game losing streak, and Kliff Kingsbury’s team is now 7-6. The Cardinals play the Eagles this week before two massive divisional games against the 49ers and Rams. On the outside, the Bears and Vikings are chasing Arizona. Chicago plays Minnesota this weekend, it feels like a playoff game already. The winner has a clear path to 9-7, which could be good enough. If all these teams were to tie, the conference record could decide the final playoff place.
The Steelers’ recent troubles have opened the door for Kansas City to take the one seed. If they beat New Orleans tomorrow, the Chiefs should have the bye all to themselves. Pittsburgh can clinch the division with a win on Monday night, however, the Black and Yellow will need help from others if they are to take the top seed. Buffalo is inching ever closer to a division title, which will surely lock them into the third seed.
Now is where it gets a bit tricky. The Colts and Titans are locked at 9-4. Those teams split their season series 1-1. As it stands, Tennessee is currently on top of the division, although with three weeks left it could all change. Both teams have difficult teams left on their schedule, notwithstanding both will make the playoffs.
Currently, the Colts are the sixth seed, that could change depending on the Titans and Browns. Indy could end up fourth, fifth or sixth, one can say the same about the Titans and Browns. Cleveland’s schedule is more challenging than the Colts and Titans. They have to go to New York, plus they round out the year against Pittsburgh. Cleveland is not out of the woods yet, which could open a door for several teams.
At 8-5, the Dolphins occupy the last playoff spot. The Dolphins’ schedule looks difficult. They could lose all three games they have left. Miami takes on New England this weekend; the Patriots are on the bubble with their 6-7 record. A win against Miami can drag themselves back into contention. Miami can kill the Pats chances with a win. If Miami slips up, not only will it open the door for New England, it gives the Baltimore Ravens renewed hope. The Ravens are good enough to win out; then they will need help from Miami. The Raiders are also alive at 7-7; unfortunately for them, it looks like they’re trending in the wrong direction.
The Dolphins hold the key to the wildcard race. Although, one defeat and the playoff race could become a Royal Rumble over the last two weeks. Both conferences still have so much left to decide; it will be a thrilling conclusion to the NFL regular season.