OPINION BY TRISTAN SASSE
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, many teams are still in the hunt for a playoff berth. Some teams are in familiar territory, while others are new on the postseason scene. Either way, the goal stays the same: to become a Super Bowl champion.
Starting in the AFC, three teams have already clinched a playoff spot. Below you’ll find the current seeding in the conference, record, and remaining schedule for teams still alive at a postseason opportunity.
- New England Patriots | 11-3 | vs. BUF; vs. NYJ AFC East Champion
- Pittsburgh Steelers | 11-3 | @ HOU; vs. CLE AFC North Champion
- Jacksonville Jaguars | 10-4 | @ SF; @ TEN AFC South Leader
- Kansas City Chiefs | 8-6 | vs. MIA; @ DEN AFC West Leader
- Tennessee Titans | 8-6 | vs. LAR; vs. JAX Wild Card (Second in AFC South)
- Buffalo Bills | 8-6 | @ NE; @ MIA Wild Card (Second in AFC East)
In the Hunt
- Baltimore Ravens | 8-6 | vs. IND; vs. CIN Second in AFC North
- Los Angeles Chargers | 7-7 | @ NYJ; vs. OAK Second in AFC West
- Oakland Raiders | 6-8 | @ PHI; @ LAC Third in AFC West
- Miami Dolphins | 6-8 | @ KC; vs. BUF Third in AFC East
Eliminated from Playoff Contention
- New York Jets | 5-9
- Cincinnati Bengals | 5-9
- Denver Broncos | 5-9
- Houston Texans | 4-10
- Indianapolis Colts | 3-11
- Cleveland Browns | 0-14
No. 1/No. 2 – The Patriots continue to be a juggernaut in the AFC East with a ninth-straight conference title and the Steelers prove to dominate the AFC North. As long as New England wins their final two games, they will be the top seed in the AFC once again. The Patriots win the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh based on head-to-head winning percentage. If New England falls to the two seed, they may not be upset. The Patriots are 15-1 on the road the past two seasons.
No. 3 – The Jaguars continue to be a surprise this season. A week ago, Jacksonville clinched their first playoff berth since 2007. The Jaguars are currently 10-4 and have the second largest point differential in the NFL, not bad for a team that finished 3-13 in 2016.
No. 4 – After a tough stretch against subpar teams midway through the season, Kansas City is one victory away from winning back-to-back AFC West conference titles for the first time in franchise history. As long as the Chiefs win the division, they’ll get to play the first round of the playoffs at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City is 28-11 at home since 2013.
No. 5/No. 6 – Meanwhile, the Titans and Bills are currently playing for the final two spots in the AFC playoff picture. Tennessee hasn’t made the postseason since 2008, while Buffalo will attempt to stop the longest active postseason drought in major North American professional sports. The Bills last made the playoffs in 1999. Additionally, Buffalo’s final two games are AFC East matchups on the road, while the Titans will face two 10-win teams to close the season. Ending these postseason droughts won’t be an easy task for either team.
No. 7 – Baltimore is currently in seventh in the AFC playoff race. The Ravens finish the regular season with two home games (vs. the Colts and Bengals). With one of the easier remaining schedules, Baltimore may sneak into a wild-card spot.
No. 8 – The Chargers are in eighth place but have a great chance to win their final two games (at NYJ and vs. OAK). Even if Los Angeles wins out, they will need help from multiple other teams to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
No. 9/No. 10 – Lastly, Oakland and Miami need everything to go right to make the postseason. With tough games to close the regular season, neither team has a legitimate chance to qualify for the playoffs.
No. 11 through No. 16 – The Jets, Bengals, Broncos, Texans, Colts, and Browns have all been eliminated from playoff contention.
Next, in the NFC, only two playoff spots have been clinched. Seven teams will fight for the final four spots.
- Philadelphia Eagles | 12-2 | vs. OAK, vs. DAL NFC East Champion
- Minnesota Vikings | 11-3 | @ GB; vs. CHI NFC North Champion
- Los Angeles Rams | 10-4 | @ TEN; vs. SF NFC West Leader
- New Orleans Saints | 10- 4 | vs. ATL; @ TB NFC South Leader
- Carolina Panthers | 10-4 | vs. TB; @ ATL Wild Card (Second in NFC South)
- Atlanta Falcons | 9-5 | @ NO; vs. CAR Wild Card (Third in NFC South)
In the Hunt
- Detroit Lions | 8-6 | @ CIN; vs. GB Second in NFC North
- Seattle Seahawks | 8-6 | @ DAL; vs. ARI Second in NFC West
- Dallas Cowboys | 8-6 | vs. SEA; @ PHI Second in NFC East
Eliminated from Playoff Contention
- Green Bay Packers | 7-7
- Washington Redskins | 6-8
- Arizona Cardinals | 6-8
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 4-10
- San Francisco 49ers | 4-10
- Chicago Bears | 4-10
- New York Giants | 2-12
No. 1 – Philadelphia is guaranteed a first-round bye, but the season-ending injury to Carson Wentz could shatter a Super Bowl run. Luckily, the Eagles have Nick Foles as their backup quarterback. Foles has the record for the highest touchdown-to-interception ratio in a season in NFL history (27-2 in 2013). Last week, Foles threw four touchdown passes in his season debut against the Giants.
No. 2 – Minnesota has also clinched a playoff spot and will make a late push toward the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Vikings finish the season with two NFC North division games. Additionally, Minnesota is 9-1 in their last 10 games and 3-0 in the division during that 10-game stretch.
No. 3 – The Rams are currently at No. 3, but ending the season at Tennessee and versus the Jimmy Garoppolo led 49ers won’t be an easy task. One win in the final two weeks would clinch a playoff berth for LA for the first time in 13 seasons. Los Angeles currently has the highest point differential in the NFL and won’t be afraid to put up points in a hurry in the final two contests.
No. 4 – New Orleans ends the regular season with two NFC South matchups. A win this week would secure the Saints’ first postseason game in four years, but they’ll have to get past the defending NFC champion Falcons first.
No. 5 – The Panthers also finish the final two weeks against NFC South opponents. Carolina is also one win away from the postseason. The last playoff game for the Panthers was a Super Bowl 50 loss to the Broncos.
No. 6 – Rounding out the current playoff standings is the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons will finish the season at New Orleans and against Carolina. After making it to the Super Bowl a season ago, it won’t be easy to get back into the playoffs this year.
No. 7 – The Lions are currently one spot out of a playoff berth but have a legitimate shot to win at Cincinnati and against Green Bay in the final two weeks. If Detroit finishes strong, the reigning NFC champion Falcons could fall out of the playoff standings with a brutal schedule down the stretch.
No. 8/No. 9 – The final two teams in the hunt are the Seahawks and Cowboys, both at 8-6. They will face off in a head-to-head matchup this weekend. While neither team controls their own destiny, the loser of Sunday’s game will most likely be knocked out of playoff contention. Each team will also hope for losses by the Falcons and Lions to keep their postseason chances alive.
No. 10 through No. 16 – The Packers, Redskins, Cardinals, Buccaneers, 49ers, Bears, and Giants have all been eliminated from playoff contention.
Ultimately, with two weeks remaining, 19 of the 32 NFL teams still have an opportunity at postseason play. Many teams need everything to go in their favor to advance to January football, while others control their own destiny. With a rollercoaster ride of an NFL season, anything can happen.
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