The playoff picture is beginning to take shape. Some teams have already clinched home field advantage and others have locked up their division guaranteeing a playoff berth. Then, we have those teams fighting for the wild card spots in which there are only two in each conference. Dallas Cowboys fans are hoping to be one of those teams sitting at 8 – 6 on the season and welcoming the return of Ezekiel Elliott to help propel the Boys’ into the postseason for a second consecutive season. But like other bubble teams, they need to win out and get some help along the way.
The Seattle Seahawks are currently on the outside looking in and this weeks match-up against those Cowboys will have an immediate effect on the playoff picture. The loser is out! This is a must-win game as both teams are 8 – 6 and neither would be in the tournament if the season ended today.
The defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons are holding down the 6th seed at the moment but can actually win their division if they’re victorious in the final two regular-season games against division rivals New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. Despite the Falcons ups and downs this year, they do in fact control their own destiny. But it won’t be easy as both the Panthers and Saints are marching towards the playoffs themselves and each team still has a lot on the line. So Atlanta will get the best from their NFC South contenders over the next couple of weeks.
The Lions have the same record as Seattle and Dallas and perhaps the easiest road to get in the postseason. They take on a descending Cincinnati Bengals team this week and finish up at home against the Packers who are out of contention and without Aaron Rodgers. However, even if they win out, Detroit still needs a few teams in the NFC to lose their remaining games as tie-breakers come into play. I doubt there will be any change in the NFC playoff picture since Seattle, Dallas and Detroit have already lost to Atlanta this season.
As for the AFC, here’s a brief rundown. It’s probable that the Steelers and Patriots will have a bye in the first round. That is unless the Jaguars finish with the same record as Pittsburgh as Jacksonville creamed the Steelers at Heinz Field earlier this year. The Jags will likely win their division but the Titans may have something to say about that. Tennessee defeated Jacksonville in week two and they’ll meet again in the season finale. However, the Jags play the 49ers this weekend who just beat the Titans in week 15 on a game-winning field goal. So if Jacksonville takes care of business in San Francisco, they’ll have clinched the AFC South with their 11th victory. But the Titans can still get in the tournament as a wild-card team if they can finish the regular season with two straight victories bringing them to 10 – 6 on the season.
The Ravens are in decent shape as they face the Colts and Bengals at home in the last weeks of the 2017 regular season. We know the Titans are a bit iffy right now and the Buffalo Bills finish their season on the road in New England then Miami. So the Ravens have the best shot to pop the bubble and get back into the playoffs after a long layoff of success. One major roadblock does exist as the Titans bested the Ravens in early November so if it comes to a tie-breaker Tennessee will earn a playoff berth.
Last but not least, the Los Angles Chargers still have an outside shot. Way outside but still a chance. They need the Chiefs to lose out and the Bolts must win their final two games. L.A. has the Jets this week traveling across the country for an early 1:00 pm game. Then, they play AFC West rival Oakland Raiders whom they should beat since Oakland apparently forgot how to play team football. The Chiefs get the Dolphins at Arrowhead this week then head to Denver in Week 17. Kansas City swept the season series against the Chargers so they must win their last two games and K.C. has to lose both in order for the surging Chargers to make the postseason. This is why every game counts and controlling your own destiny as the regular season winds down is so important.
Now that we’ve got our playoff scenarios in order, it’s time to pick and predict the outcome of each game on the week 16 schedule.
Ravens 23 – Colts 20
Vikings 31 – Packers 30
Panthers 31 – Bucs 17
Bears 19 – Browns 17
Bengals 20 – Lions 16
Chiefs 23 – Dolphins 13
Patriots 42 – Bills 22
Saints 34 – Falcons 24
Chargers 27 – Jets 16
Rams 28 – Titans 23
Jaguars 21 – 49ers 18
Redskins 24 – Broncos 20
Giants 27 – Cardinals 24
Seahawks 20 – Cowboys 17
Steelers 19 – Texans 14
Eagles 30 – Raiders 22