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The postseason picture continues to unravel as there are just 3 weeks left in the season. Shockingly we still have two undefeated teams in the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints. Both of those teams have clinched division titles and first round byes in the playoffs. However, there are many other teams that do not have that type of comforting feel about the postseason destiny. We break down the NFL playoff picture again heading into week 15.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) – The Eagles offense was just unstoppable in their big win over the Giants and they now sit alone atop the NFC East. With the Cowboys struggling, the Eagles appear to be big favorites to win the division. Philadelphia really only needs one more win against Dallas to clinch the division, but the way the offense is playing they have the possibility of running the table.
Dallas Cowboys (8-5) – The December woes continue and with meetings with both New Orleans and Philadelphia still on the schedule, things do not look good. The Dallas offense seems to be moving the ball, but just not putting it in the endzone. With the Giants on their trail and having beaten them head to head, the Cowboys will most likely have to win at least two of the last three.
New York Giants (7-6) – Despite the constant big plays by the Eagles, the Giants showed a lot of character and had a strong offensive showing on Sunday night. However, the week 14 loss to Philly really set their playoff chances back and took destiny out of their hands. The good news for Giants fans is that their next two games are very winnable before the season finale against Vikings; who may end up resting Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson in the last week. Giants fans should be rooting for New Orleans to seal up that one-seed. At least one of the two wildcard teams will come out of the East. But, the Giants are going to need some external help from the opponents of the Cowboys and Packers.
Washington Redskins (4-9) – Out
Minnesota Vikings (11-2) – Clinched Division. The Vikes are just two back from New Orleans for the one-seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. However, New Orleans would win the tiebreaker over Minnesota in the result of a tie for the one spot.
Green Bay Packers (9-4) – The Packers got a lot of ground support from running back Ryan Grant in their 21-14 win over the Bears this weekend. The win marks the 5th straight by the Packers as they are the leading team in the running for a wild card position. Green Bay also gets the struggled Pittsburgh Steelers followed by the Seahawks next on the schedule which should help pad their cushion for a playoff seat. They still have a shot at winning the division, but it’s looking more and more like they are going to have that first wildcard spot. The Pack are looking like one of the hotter teams in the NFC down the stretch.
Chicago Bears (5-8) – Out
Detroit Lions (2-10) – Out
New Orleans Saints (12-0) – New Orleans clinched the division and first round bye with their squeaker over the banged up and fading Atlanta Falcons. The Saints can secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win and a Minnesota loss.
Atlanta Falcons (6-7) – QB Chris Redman had an excellent showing in place of Matt Ryan throwing for over 300 yards in a near upset win over the Saints. The Falcons really needed the victory, but fell short 26-23. The Falcons absolutely have to win out to have a chance at the postseason now. However while most will write them off, every game remaining is very winnable.
Carolina Panthers (5-8) – Even at 5-8 somehow through a bizarre scenario of miraculous events the Panthers are still mathematically in the picture. The only thing that have to do now is win out and do it against the possibly 3 of the best teams in the NFC. It is likely that the Vikings could put them out of their misery next week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-12) – Out
Arizona Cardinals (8-5) – The Cardinals looked like a solid playoff contender just two short weeks ago. However, they looked like the complete opposite against the 49ers on Monday night. Arizona still needs another win and a 49ers loss before they will clinch the division. If they continue to play like they did on Monday Night, the Cardinals may find themselves back in an underdog role in the playoffs; or even worse yet, missing the postseason all together.
San Francisco 49ers (6-7) – San Francisco did exactly what they had to this week against the Cardinals as the kept them selves in the playoff hunt with a 24-9 victory. The 49ers defense played extremely well forcing Kurt Warner to a couple of picks. The Niners are two games behind the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West with just three games left to play. They own the tiebreaker over the Cardinals having beaten them twice this year. Their only realistic shot at the playoffs would be to catch the Cardinals for the division. They would need a lot of chips to fall into place in order to get in as a wildcard this year.
Seattle Seahawks (5-8) – The Seahawks are another team that is somehow mathematically in the equation, but rather have no chance at actually making those events happen. Seattle was destroyed by Houston 34-7 last week and they have some major issues to resolve over the off season.
St. Louis Rams (1-12) – Out
New England Patriots (8-5) – The Patriots got off to a sluggish start last week against the Panthers and showed a lot of trouble stopping the run throughout the game. With Miami knocking on the door, the Patriots can not afford any more less than impressive performances. The good news is the schedule looks very manageable as it reads Buffalo, Jacksonville, and ends with Houston. It is most likely to assume two wins would get the Patriots into the playoffs as that would make Miami have to run the table. However, 3 straight wins would guarantee them the division.
Miami Dolphins (7-6) – Do not look now but the Dolphins are getting it done having won 4 of their last 5 as they held on to hold off the Jaguars 14-10 this past Sunday. The very interesting factor to this scenario is that a loss by the Patriots and a win by the Dolphins would actually put Miami ahead in the tie breaker scenario given their conference record. Miami also has a winnable remaining schedule where they will likely be favorites in each of their final 3 games. A couple of scenarios could play out depending on the Jets and Patriots outcomes over the next 3 weeks, but the Dolphins appear to need at least 2 wins in most probable cases.
New York Jets (7-6) – The Jets are right in the middle of the interesting AFC East battle that looks very similar to the 2008 regular season. New York beat up on Tampa Bay last week 26-3, but they have the most difficult schedule out of the division teams remaining. Atlanta next week will be interesting, but the last two games with the Colts and Bengals is frightening for their hopes at the postseason. The Jets would lose both tie breakers against Miami due to their head to head sweep and the Patriots due to a worse record in the division. Therefore, the division may be a long shot but a couple more wins could still find a wildcard spot if everything falls into place.
Buffalo Bills (5-8) – Out
Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) – Cincinnati could have really strengthened their chances to clinch the division last week, but appeared rather out-matched by the Vikings as they lost 30-10. Also, if they do not regroup quickly they could drop two straight considering they take on the red hot Chargers this weekend. The Bengals hold the tie breaker over Baltimore so just one more victory will clinch the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens (7-6) – The Ravens exploded against the Lions last week to win by 45 points as Ray Rice had a huge performance racking up 166 yards on the ground. Baltimore is right in the thick of the wild card position battle and if they can continue to play well their schedule will allow a few more wins. However, they still may need the Jaguars to misfire to increase their postseason chances. The Ravens could also win out and hope the Bengals lose out to win the division. However, the most likely chance for the playoffs maybe through the wildcard position and it appears that they will have to at least be 9-7 to have that opportunity.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7) – Let’s just forget the playoffs talk. The Steelers were beating by the Browns of all teams who had just one victory previously. Pittsburgh now has the NFL’s longest losing streak at 5 straight losses. The defending Super Bowl Champions could at least find a way to go out with some dignity. Pittsburgh must win out to better position them selves for a possible wildcard position given they already out of the division race.
Cleveland Browns (2-11) – Out
Indianapolis Colts (13-0) – Clinched Division and home field advantage throughout playoffs. The Colts appear to have nothing to play for now that the home field advantage is wrapped up. However, this team is still undefeated and the chance to end the season that way is very rare. In fact, only 4 teams have accomplished that feat in NFL history so do not expect the Colts to back off.
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-6) – The Jaguars lost a close battle with the Dolphins this week, but they would still be in the playoffs if the season ended today. However, with the Ravens playing well there is hardly any room for mistakes. The problem is how do you avoid any mistakes when you have the Patriots and Colts next on the schedule? The Jaguars would win any tie breaker scenario considering they have the best conference record of teams battling for a wildcard position. However, it depends on which team they would be up against considering they lost to Miami and beat the Jets which are two teams fighting for wild card positions if the season ended today. Jacksonville will likely need to get at least two more wins and need some bad luck from Miami and possibly Baltimore.
Tennessee Titans (6-7) – Chris Johnson led the Titans in a dynamic win over the Rams last Sunday 47-7. Johnson racked up 117 yards on the ground as well as 69 yards receiving with numerous big plays throughout the games. Also, both Kerry Collins and Vince Young were effective behind center. The Titans are still starring at an unconquerable mountain for the postseason needing to win out like the Texans, but they could really build some momentum to end the season as they have the chance to score some respectable wins over the next 3 games.
Houston Texans (6-7) – The Texans destroyed the Seahawks as QB Matt Schaub threw for 365 yards in the routing. Despite little chance of the postseason, Houston will likely be a team that plays a huge role in shaping out the AFC playoff picture as they play some teams that are right in the thick of the mixture. Houston could still win out and have a shot at the postseason giving a few more helpful scenarios as well. With 4 different teams already at 7-6 and the Broncos at 8-5, the Texans would have to get to 9-7 to have a chance at breaking any tie breakers.
San Diego Chargers (10-3) – San Diego captured a big time victory over the Cowboys 20-17 this week and really put a strangle hold on the AFC West. In the most probable scenario, the Chargers will most likely win the division with just one more victory. However, the Chargers may be one of the more dangerous teams in the NFL at this point in the season and they are known for playing well in December. If San Diego can manage just 2 more victories, they will get a first round bye in the playoffs.
Denver Broncos (8-5) – The Broncos suffered a setback this week in a loss to maybe the best team in the NFL as they fell to the Colts 28-16. Denver is in position to grab the first available wild card position and they are playing at a level which they should be able to maintain that position. Also, 2 of the last 3 games are against Oakland and Kansas City which should guarantee the Broncos will be in the postseason. However, they still have to get the job done and win the games. If they can just manage 2 out of the next 3 they will be hard to chance at 10-6. However, if the Ravens get hot the Broncos would lose tie breaker scenarios with them due to the head to head factor. As for any other tie breakers teams involved with the Broncos, it would fall by their final conference records as to which team won the tie breaker. Of course if they win out, they guarantee a playoff position.
Oakland Raiders (4-9) – Out
Kansas City Chiefs (3-10) – Out