Crunch Time: The NFL Playoff Picture is Heating Up
Well, we have finally made it! Ten weeks into the season, it has come to the point where we start to separate the professionals from the amateurs. It is crunch time in the NFL playoff picture. Each week starting now, I will break down the playoff picture in each conference, looking at the teams that have the best chance to make a run and the teams that don't. This process will continue for the remainder of the regular season until the playoff picture looks complete. So, without further ado, the unofficial playoff rankings, according to yours, truly!
Looking at the entire picture, it seems pretty much wide-open. However, out of the two conferences, the NFC is probably the weakest, but, except for Detroit, every team has a shot at making it into the playoffs, but there can only be seven teams from each conference.
As of right now, this is what the NFC playoff picture looks like:
NFC Playoff Picture:
1) Green Bay Packers (8-2): 1st NFC North
As of right now, the Packers are my favorite to win the Super Bowl. Now that Aaron Rodgers is back on the field, I see the Packers continuing their success this season. Will they be able to continue their winning ways when they take on Matthew Stafford and the Rams next week?
2) Arizona Cardinals (8-2): 1st NFC West
After a tough loss last week, the Cardinals find themselves in the second spot. Despite the loss, they are still in a prime position, as they are expecting Kyler Murray and DeAndre to return to the field for their upcoming game against the Seahawks.
3) Dallas Cowboys (7-2): 1st NFC East
Since the NFC East is terrible, Dallas should have no problem clinching the division as the next closest team in Philadelphia at 4-6. After a dominating win last week against the Falcons, Dak and the Cowboys are setting themselves up for a top-four seed come playoff time.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3): 1st NFC South
The reigning Super Bowl champs, sitting at 6-3, are still in a good position, but they have dropped their last two games. Tom Brady looks sluggish in his previous outing against the Washington Football Team. They expect Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski to return to the team this week, barring any setbacks.
5) LA Rams (7-3): 2nd NFC West
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the Rams being the favorite to win the NFC. Now, they are in the midst of a two-game losing streak. Matthew Stafford has had back-to-back underwhelming performances after a solid start in his debut for the Rams. The Rams have some things to figure out on offense before next week when they travel to the Frozen Tundra.
6) New Orleans Saints (5-4): 2nd NFC South
A healthy New Orleans Saints team would certainly make a run at the championship. They still possess a championship-caliber offense with Alvin Kamara, and their defense is top-notch. However, I'm not too sure that the QB duo of Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill will be enough to put them over the hump.
7) Carolina Panthers (5-5): 3rd NFC South
Out of the three wildcard teams at the moment, the Carolina Panthers are the team that I think could make the most noise. They have Super Cam back on the team for starters, and they also have one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey is starting to get back to his full potential now that he is healthy, which is scary for opposing teams. Oh, and not to mention, they have a legit defense with Shaq Thompson and Hasaan Reddick at the helm.
In the Hunt:
Minnesota Vikings (4-5): 2nd NFC North
If the Vikings can continue to win games, I think they have a perfect shot at sneaking into that seven spots. They have one of the best offenses in the league, and their defenses can play when they need to. The only problem is that they tend to blow leads late in games.
San Francisco 49ers (4-5): 3rd NFC West
A win against the Rams on Monday puts the Niners in a great position to do some damage. Despite dealing with injuries all year, the Niners have persevered, but now they get George Kittle back on offense, which is bad news for everyone else.
Atlanta Falcons (4-5): 4th NFC South
My Atlanta Falcons were still in good shape despite the shellacking in Dallas last week. They have a tough match this Thursday against the red-hot New England Patriots, but they have some favorable matchups on the horizon.
Philadelphia Eagles (4-6): 2nd NFC East
The most improved team at this point in the season has to go to the Philadelphia Eagles. After an abysmal first seven weeks of the season, the Eagles have won two out of their last three.
On the Bubble:
Washington Football Team (3-6)
A win last week against the Bucs gives Washington an outside chance. Playing in a weak division might provide them with the edge.
New York Giants (3-6)
Like Washington, the Giants are in the NFC East, which means they will most likely play each other.
Seattle Seahawks (3-6)
After a disappointing showing last week, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks can't make any more mistakes moving forward.
Chicago Bears (3-6)
The Bears aren't playing for a playoff spot. I think they are all about creating chaos. Maybe that could lead somewhere.
Looking at the AFC, it's very competitive. Like the NFC, mostly everyone still has somewhat of a shot at making it into the playoffs. Like the NFC, some teams are in the bubble and need something to happen. Unlike the NFC, there are a lot of teams in the hunt for one of the three wildcard spots.
Looking at the AFC, this is what the playoff picture looks like:
AFC Playoff Picture:
1) Tennessee Titans (8-2): 1st AFC South
As of right now, the Tennessee Titans are the hottest team in the league. They are currently riding a six-game winning streak, in which they have beaten five playoff teams in that stretch. Not to mention, they are doing this all without Derrick Henry, who is out for the season. A key component to their success has been the play from their defense. Once Henry got hurt, the defense became the backbone of this team. Mix that in with a solid offense; this team is a must-watch the rest of the way. Also, how can not like the head coach? Mike Vrabel is a true Football Guy
2) Buffalo Bills (6-3): 1st AFC East
The Bills got a much-needed win to stay in first place in the AFC East. Josh Allen and company don't have it easy the rest of the way, as they still have to play the Patriots twice. Many people picked the Bills to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the year, but their play, as of late, hasn't backed that claim up.
3} Baltimore Ravens (6-3): 1st AFC North
The Baltimore Ravens hold the third spot and are currently sitting atop the AFC North. Despite losing to the Dolphins last week, the Ravens are more than capable of bouncing back. Considering how congested the AFC North is at the moment, they're going to need to do just that.
4) Kansas City Chiefs (6-4): 1st AFC West
Who would've thought the Kansas City Chiefs would be in this position after the way they started the season. If last week's dominating win didn't show you anything, you could be in for one hell of a show on Sunday when they take on the Cowboys.
5) Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1): 2nd AFC North
The Pittsburgh Steelers currently hold the first wildcard after playing a dreadful game of football last week. I mean, seriously, how can you look that bad against the Detroit Lions?!? Yes, they didn't have Big Ben, but I mean, come on!! This team has to start playing better, or teams like Cincy or Cleveland will overtake them in the North.
6) New England Patriots (6-4): 2nd AFC East
Out of the three current wildcard teams, the Patriots are playing the best football. Besides the Titans, the Patriots are the hottest team in the league, having won 5 out of their last six games. If Mac Jones and company continue to find their groove on offense, who knows how high they'll jump. They simply have to get past my Atlanta Falcons!
7) LA Chargers (5-4): 2nd AFC West
Holding the seventh and final playoff spot, the LA Chargers are in good shape, but they have to start to get into a rhythm. Justin Herbert is going through his second slump of the season; head coach Brandon Staley faces another uphill battle in his first year as a head coach. Heading into the bottom half of their schedule, the Chargers know they have to get back to their winning ways, as the division title is still up for grabs.
In the Hunt:
Las Vegas Raiders (5-4): 3rd AFC West
The Raiders are first in line at the moment, but that soon could change. I'm not sure if the Raiders can continue to function without the skills of wideout Henry Ruggs. The receiver is currently awaiting trial as a result of a DUI resulting in a fatal accident.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4): 3rd AFC North
The Bengals are in the midst of a two-game losing streak. A team that had so much upside three weeks ago has dug themselves into a deep hole. It alls falls into the hands of Joe Burrow, as his team is well-rested, and they must rebound. It starts with a win this weekend against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Indianapolis Colts (5-5): 2nd AFC South
The Colts are curious; they currently sit at .500 but have some challenging games coming. The Colts have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, with Jonathan Taylor having a career year running the football. Despite some formidable opponents on the horizon, I think the Colts are determined to make some noise late in the season.
Cleveland Browns (5-5): 4th AFC North
The Browns are beaten and battered but still find themselves in the mix for a playoff spot. After getting destroyed last weekend in Foxborough, the Browns must find a way to bounce back. Luckily they have the Lions this week, but as we learned last week, anything can happen.
Denver Broncos (5-5): 4th AFC West
Finally, the last team I will mention will be the Denver Broncos. Denver has an outside chance to make the playoffs, and they are still in the thick of things in the AFC West. The best opportunity for the Broncos to make the playoffs may be to win that division, which isn't exactly an easy task.
On the Bubble:
Miami Dolphins (3-7)
New York Jets (2-7)
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7)
Do I really need to talk about any of these teams? Yes, they technically still have an outside chance, but let's face it, they ain't making it!!
Eliminated From the Playoffs:
Houston Texans (1-8)
Detroit Lions (0-8-1)
Check out the NFL Week 11 Preview right here:
Jake Klausner covers all things sports for ThePyrrhic.com. Keep your eyes peeled for NFL Analysis, World Series Recaps, and more from Jake.
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