It is even possible that the league could expand this season’s playoffs to more than 14 teams if the coronavirus pandemic results in a rash in regular season games being canceled, but we’ll move on with that number for now.
Week 12 itself was extended by a few days, with a Ravens Steelers game being postponed to Wednesday after being postponed three times. After Pittsburgh’s victory, here are the car chases in the NFC and AFC, with a look to the future.
1. New Orleans Saints (9-2)
Remaining schedule (combined win percentage of opponents *: .473): Falcons, Eagles, Chiefs, Vikings, Panthers
2. Seattle Seahawks (8-3)
Remaining schedule (.364): Giants, Jets, in Washington, Rams, at 49ers
3. Green Bay Packers (8-3)
Remaining schedule (.438): eagles, lions, panthers, titans, bears
Remaining schedule (.564): at Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns, at Ravens, Cowboys
5. Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
Remaining schedule (.455): at Cardinals, Patriots, Jets, at Seahawks, Cardinals
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
Remaining schedule (.386): Vikings among falcons, lions, falcons
7. Arizona Cardinals (6-5)
Remaining schedule (.482): Rams, at Giants, Eagles, 49ers, at Rams
Remaining schedule (.464): jaguars, privateers, bears, saints, lions
Remaining schedule (.400): Lions, Texans, Vikings, Jaguars, Packers
San Francisco 49ers (5-6)
Remaining schedule (.527): Bills, Washington, at Cowboys, at Cardinals, Seahawks
Technically alive but not happening: Detroit Lions (4-7), Atlanta Falcons (4-7), Carolina Panthers (4-8)
NFC East Chaos: Washington Football Team (4-7), Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1), Dallas Cowboys (3-8)
NFC East gets its own category because all four teams were almost equally horrific – which is why everyone has the chance to win the division and get to number 4. The Giants have the upper hand for now, thanks to Washington, but the rest of the way they have the toughest slate in their division.
New Orleans was given an easy opportunity to beat a Denver Broncos team that were out of quarterbacks in Week 12 due to a coronavirus outbreak, and the Saints didn’t waste it. Their one-sided win kept at least a one-game lead over the rest of the field. If the packers can catch the saints in the standings, they’ll hold the tiebreaker after beating New Orleans in week 3.
The Seahawks are right in the running for the top seed and have the lowest plan strength of the NFC the rest of the way. The Rams’ loss to the 49ers threw them out of the NFC West lead and second place.
Tampa Bay’s hopes of winning the division were already shaky because it was swept by the Saints and the Bucs couldn’t keep up with the high scoring bosses, but Tom Brady and Co. are still in a good position to beat the Reach playoffs. The Cardinals fell into an AFC squad as well, but they have less excuse considering it was the 5-6 Patriots and suddenly Arizona is going in the wrong direction after losing three of its last four.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0)
Remaining schedule (.536): Washington, Bills, Bengals, Colts, Browns
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1)
Remaining schedule (.491): Broncos, at Dolphins, at Saints, Falcons, Chargers
3. Tennessee Titans (8-3)
Remaining schedule (.455): Browns, at Jaguars, Lions, at Packers, at Texans
Remaining schedule (.582): at 49ers, Steelers, Broncos, Patriots, Dolphins
5. Cleveland Browns (8-3)
Remaining schedule (.527): with Titans, Ravens, with Giants, with Jets, Steelers
Remaining schedule (.573): Bengals, Chiefs, Patriots, at Raiders, Bills
7. Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
Remaining schedule (.473): Texans, Raiders, Texans, Steelers, Jaguars
Remaining schedule (.382): at Jets, Colts, Chargers, Dolphins, at Broncos
Remaining schedule (.336): Cowboys in Browns, Jaguars, Giants in Bengals
Append to: New England Patriots (5-6)
Technically alive but not happening: Denver Broncos (4-7), Houston Texans (4-7), Los Angeles Chargers (3-8), Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1)
Eliminated: Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10), New York Jets (0-11)
The Steelers are unlikely to play 16-0. A trip to Buffalo on December 13th seems like a good place for a blemish, but Pittsburgh should be able to take home advantage in the playoffs.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs won a high profile matchup with Brady’s Bucs and will have another major test against an NFC South host in Week 15 when they travel to New Orleans. To overtake the Steelers for the top seed, Kansas City not only has to lose, but ideally at least once within the conference.
The Titans have made an impressive recovery from a week 10 loss to the Colts and retaliated in the rematch after a street win against the Ravens. Tennessee also has a tiebreaker against Buffalo for beating the Bills in week 5. Indianapolis is suddenly holding onto its last playoff spot and facing a resurgent Texas team in two of its next three games.
It hasn’t been nice for the Browns, arguably the worst 8-3 team in recent NFL history, and now their schedule is taking a tougher turn. The Dolphins seem to have an even more dangerous path, however, including a potentially crucial week 16 showdown with the Raiders. The staggering ravens, on the other hand, could quickly turn things around with the help of a soft schedule.