Sports

Here’s what the NFL playoff picture looks like going into Week 13

We’re officially in the late season now and if you thought the NFL Playoff picture was any clearer, well, you’d be wrong. There’s a ton of movement at the top of both conferences, and some late-surging teams with the chance of taking a big name down.

Here’s where we stand.

No. 1: Baltimore Ravens (8-3)

Remaining opponents: Browns, Steelers (twice), Packers, Bengals, Rams
Projected finish: 12-5

The Ravens have been inconsistent, but weirdly less inconsistent than much of the rest of the AFC. For my money they’ll lose to the Packers and Rams, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if this teams drops four games and finds themselves fighting for a wild card.

No. 2: New England Patriots (8-4)

Remaining opponents: Bills (twice), Colts, Jaguars, Dolphins
Projected finish: 12-5

Bill Belichick has this team surging right now and I think winning the AFC East feels almost destined at this point.

No. 3: Tennessee Titans (8-4)

Remaining opponents: Jaguars, Steelers, 49ers, Dolphins, Texans
Projected finish: 11-6

Any faith in this team has evaporated now. Losing to the Texans was bad, getting blown out by the Patriots made me think the Titans are toast. They’re making it in to the playoffs because of the soft schedule, but I don’t think they can go much further unless something changes, fast.

No. 4: Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)

Remaining opponents: Broncos (twice), Raiders, Chargers, Steelers, Bengals
Projected finish: 11-6

The door was left open far too long for the Chiefs. Now they’re back. Benefitting from late season collapses from much of the AFC, Kansas City now finds itself with a beneficial back-end schedule and all the chances to make a run.

No. 5: Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)

Remaining opponents: Chargers, 49ers, Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs, Browns
Projected finish: 10-7

With a slate full of remaining trap games I’m really not confident in putting the Bengals up there, but there’s a ton of talent on this young team and they’re playing well. I think they can sneak in if they can show consistency.

No. 7: Buffalo Bills (6-4)

Remaining opponents: Saints, Patriots (twice), Buccaneers, Panthers, Falcons, Jets
Projected finish: 10-7

The Bills have become incredibly inconsistent and their plummet down the table reflects that. I can’t see the Bills beating the Patriots, or the buccaneers unless they get this back on track.

No. 6: L.A. Chargers (6-5)

Remaining opponents: Broncos, Bengals, Giants, Chiefs, Texans, Raiders
Projected finish: 9-8

The Chargers at once point looked like favorites to dominate the AFC, but recently they’ve been faltering along with the rest of the conference. It feels like they’re out of gas, and that’s a damn shame.

Who can make it in from the bubble?

As it stands there are five teams that have a realistic shot of making a run:

  • Broncos (6-5)
  • Raiders (6-5)
  • Colts (6-6)
  • Steelers (5-5-1)
  • Browns (6-6)

All within striking distance, the team I could see pushing their way in is the Colts. They’ve been largely ignored and playing well lately. Don’t write them off yet.

NFC Playoff Picture

No. 1: Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

Remaining opponents: Seahawks, Bears, Rams, Lions, Colts, Cowboys
Projected finish: 14-3

Despite the embarrassing loss to Carolina in Week 10, the Cardinals have a really beneficial schedule down the stretch that sees only the Rams and Cowboys as legitimate tests. I think they cruise to a 14-3 record and the No. 1 seed.

No. 2: Green Bay Packers (9-3)

Remaining opponents: Rams, Bears, Ravens, Browns, Lions
Projected finish: 14-3

I’m willing to write off the loss to the Vikings as a blip on the radar. They’ll make the playoffs, and are one of the favorites in the conference.

No. 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)

Remaining opponents: Falcons, Bills, Saints, Panthers (twice), Jets
Projected finish: 13-4

After a few weeks of turmoil the Bucs are back on track. Everything is still working for Tampa Bay, and I think it’s going to be another deep playoff run for Tom Brady and Co.

No. 3: Dallas Cowboys (7-4)

Remaining opponents: Saints, Washington (twice), Giants, Cardinals, Eagles
Projected finish: 12-5

Dallas is reeling after back-to-back losses and needs to get back on track. Luckily, they play in the NFC East. Washington is fast becoming a threat, but I’m not ready to buy in yet.

No. 5: Los Angeles Rams (7-4)

Remaining opponents: Jaguars, Seahawks, Cardinals, Vikings, Ravens, 49ers
Projected finish: 12-5

The Rams’ debacle on Monday Night Football in Week 10 showed a vulnerability this team had that a lot of people didn’t expect. I don’t know if they have enough gas to make it to the end — but Los Angeles has a good enough record to coast in.

No. 6: San Francisco 49ers (6-5)

Remaining opponents: Seahawks, Bengals, Falcons, Titans, Texans, Rams
Projected finish: 10-7

San Francisco has become a sneaky, dangerous team taking advantage of teams in disarray and making their mark. I’m loving what this team is doing and think they’re probably the Wild Card team nobody at the top of the conference wants to see early.

No. 7: Minnesota Vikings (6-5)

Remaining opponents: Lions, Steelers, Bears (twice), Rams, Packers
Projected finish: 10-7

The Vikings have decided to call competent games, making this a real chance they could win a lot more down the stretch. This is a really easy back end to the season, now we just see if they can take advantage. Losing to the 49ers was a big blow, but I see them still making it in.

Who can make it in from the bubble?

In the NFC there are reasonably five teams that can make a run:

  • Washington Football Team (5-6)
  • Falcons (5-6)
  • Saints (5-6)
  • Eagles (5-7)
  • Panthers (5-7)

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine a team making it in from the bubble, but there’s something I can’t shake about Washington. They’re playing really good football and the Vikings could falter down the stretch and give them a window.

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