NFL Playoff Picture
by Josh Golden
The 2017 NFL season is approaching its close, which means that teams are starting to find out their playoff destinies. The only two teams who currently have a playoff spot clinched are the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, both of whom clinched their division titles this past week with impressive wins against playoff hopefuls. Teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, and Buffalo Bills have a chance to break their gruesome playoff droughts while teams such as the New England Patriots continue to assert their dominance over the league.
In the AFC, the six playoff spots are currently held by the Steelers, Patriots, Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, and Bills, in that order. This Sunday, Tom Brady and the Patriots will look to avenge their Monday night loss to the Dolphins in Pittsburgh in a game where the winner will most likely hold home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If Roethlisberger and the Steelers go on to defeat the Patriots, not only do they clinch home field advantage, but New England would lose control of the first round bye, which would mean they need to win out in games at home against the BIlls and Jets and hope that Jacksonville either loses or ties against Houston, San Francisco, or Tennessee. In the AFC South, the Jaguars and Titans meet in a week 17 battle that the winner will most likely be crowned division champion, pending the Jaguars and Titans lose the same amount of games in the next two weeks or Jacksonville loses one more. In the west, the Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers are tied, with the two teams facing off this Saturday night in Kansas City, a game in which the winner will likely go on to win the division and the loser would need to win out to have a shot at a wild card berth. Speaking of the wild card, the Bills, Baltimore Ravens, and division losers of the AFC West and South will all be competing for the final two spots, with the AFC South loser holding a strong chance to play in January. Despite the Bills currently holding the last playoff spot, the Ravens control their own destiny since the common opponent tiebreaker will be implemented once the Bills face Miami on Sunday. Baltimore’s easy schedule down the stretch will likely take them to the postseason.
In the NFC, the playoff spots are held by the Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Rams, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, and Atlanta Falcons, in that order, with the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers on the outside looking in. The Eagles hold a one game lead over the Vikings for home field advantage but lost MVP favorite Carson Wentz due to a torn ACL last week. The Vikings have the same situation for a first round bye with the Rams, Saints and Panthers, only needing two more wins to get some rest during the wild card round. The Saints and Panthers are currently tied at 9-4 for the lead of the NFC South with Atlanta only one game behind. The Falcons will face both teams in the last two weeks of the season and the Saints won’t face the Panthers, meaning that only the Panthers don’t control their own destiny to win the division. In the NFC West, the Rams hold a one game lead over the Seahawks with a matchup between the two happening this weekend in Seattle. The two wild card spots are currently held by the Panthers and Falcons, with the Seahawks tied with the Falcons and the Packers, Lions, and Cowboys one game behind. With Aaron Rodgers likely coming back this week, the Packers are hoping to once again run the table and sneak into the playoffs, which could happen since the Falcons and Seahawks both have tough closing schedules, but most likely won’t since Green Bay has to face Carolina, Minnesota, and Detroit, all teams with winning records.
With three weeks remaining, there are still plenty of things that can happen, but not enough to figure out what’s going on in Cleveland.